[Before I open the kickass can of worms, please visit Grave Tells today, where awesome book blogger Kimba of Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer is representing me–or, rather, Susannah Sandlin–as a nominee for the website’s 2012 Reader’s Choice Award for Most Promising New Author. Stop by and join the discussion, and stay tuned for voting info!]
I’m over at the awesome SF Signal today (I love that site!), taking part in an interesting “Mind Meld” discussion on strong women in science fiction and fantasy. A number of authors are offering up their opinions, and it should be interesting throughout the day as the discussion takes place. Other participating authors are Linnea Sinclair, Jaye Wells, Lauren Beukes, Karina Cooper, Pip Ballantine, Kelly Meding, Teresa Frohock, Jess Haines, and Allison Pang.
Ask just about anyone who the typical urban fantasy heroine is, and you’re going to get answers like “kickass” or “wears leather” or “has tattoos” or “carries a (fill in the blank with exotic weapon of choice).”
And I do think there has been a lot of that, or at least there was in the early days of the genre, when Anita Blake was shooting monsters and taking names. I also think UF was one of the first non-romance areas of genre fiction where women authors became predominant, and there was a certain amount of glass-ceiling-breaking that needed doing. Sure, there have been very successful women writing sci fi and fantasy for years…but they’re in the vast minority. For too long, women characters in speculative fiction were either the damsels in distress, the weaker sidekick, or the evil queen bitches.
Until Laurell K. Hamilton kicked the door down. Sure, Emma Bull could arguably be called the “mother” of modern UF, as could Anne Rice or even Tanya Huff, but I’m looking strictly at female characters here. Anita was kickass way before she ever heard the word “ardeur.”
But now, as I look around at the heavy hitters among UF heroines, I’m not seeing much kickass. The stereotype continues…but is it real? I’m thinking it’s more habit to talk about UF kickass heroines than any reflection of reality.
Rachel Morgan. Strong, but she’s trying to survive as often as she’s kicking butt.
Sookie. No way is she kickass.
Mercy Thompson. Also a very strong woman, but she knows when to use her allies as backup and kicks ass with her brain as much as her martial arts skills.
Kitty Norville. Kitty’s gotten pretty kickass but she didn’t start that way; it has been an evolution.
What about Gin Blanco or Kate Daniels? Would you consider them kickass? (I haven’t read these series.)
Jane True, which I’m just starting to read….not kickass at all.
I’ve only read the first Jane Yellowrock book, but she’s one I’d definitely say is still in the kickass category. Am I missing others?
My impression is that the kickass heroine from a decade ago has matured–as the authors and genre have matured–into a well-rounded character who grows into her kickassitude instead of coming on the scene ready to conquer the world. I know my own heroine DJ is certainly no kickass heroine. She is a geek who tends to get her ass kicked, more often than not, although she’s growing and learning.
The Anita Blake model (bitter, tough cookie who covers her insecurity with her weaponry) seems to be dying out. Or am I missing something?