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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Women in Speculative Fiction: An Introduction

Women in Speculative Fiction

I talk a lot about kick-ass female characters. I adore them – they are the reason that I love good scifi stories. You know the characters I mean – the Buffy Summers’, the Samantha Carters, the Kitty Prydes… these are the characters who keep drawing me back to speculative fiction again and again. They are strong and don’t play the damsel in distress, and are what I would want to be like if I was ever in their place.

It’s been sad and baffling recently to hear how people are responding to Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron because of certain character traits and flaws that she has. I’ve been seeing this trend growing over the past year or so, and quite frankly I don’t get it. There are a certain group of people who seem to feel that if a female character is shown as anything but perfect, if she is given any sort of flaw whatsoever, if any other characters treat her poorly, or if she has a poor image of herself, then it is seen as being a poor depiction of females as a whole and (according to some people) extremely sexist. And god forbid a strong female character who is normally going around saving other peoples asses might possibly need someone to save her once in a blue moon!

Here’s the thing – just because a female character has any sort of flaw whatsoever, it doesn’t mean that this is a poor portrayal of strong women. Making a character completely perfect, without any flaw whatsoever, makes the character completely unrealistic. It’s the flaws that gives the characters depth, that allow them to grow and develop. It’s the flaws that makes them more human. It’s these flaws that allows us to explore their stories, and that give us fodder for discussion (not attack).

And no, I don’t see it as a knock on feminism or women in general.

So I want to celebrate strong female characters. I’m starting a new feature on my blog because I want to share my appreciation for strong female characters in speculative fiction – and these won’t all be characters I love, but will also include characters I can’t stand. I want to look at why they are wonderful, but also what their flaws are. I want to look at how their flaws work for them – whether it’s through allowing a story to be told, or how the flaw came to their advantage, or even how it allows for awesome and beautiful character development. And I want to look at why these may not necessarily be considered conventionally strong women, but also why I think they are strong and why I admire them.

So who am I planning on looking at over the next few months? Well… I don’t have that much planned out yet, but here are a few of the franchises that have characters I want to talk about:

  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Doctor Who / Torchwood
  • Dollhouse
  • Firefly
  • Game of Thrones
  • Harry Potter
  • Hunger Games
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Marvel
  • Stargate
  • Star Trek
  • Terminator

Starting next week, I’m going to be discussing a new character on a weekly basis. First up? Black Widow, of course.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:15 am May 13, 2015.
Category: Bookish Talk

  • Natalie McKay

    This is awesome, can’t wait to to read more!

  • allison

    Sounds cool. I just read a pretty good article about the Black Widow thing. I can’t find it now, of course.

    Also, thanks for the Night Circus rec – really enjoyed it and love your outfit at the Lentil Carnival even more now.