Writer’s Craft #15 – Un?conventional
Working on the first draft of Part 10: Unholy Science, of my Okal Rel saga, I find myself confronting my teenage self over characterization of a female protagonist. When I was in high school it was unconventional for women in SF to be the heavy hitters. Lt. Uhura being a bridge officer in the original Star Trek was a cool thing. My generation wanted women to be the future Kirks and Spocks of SF. And so I created Vrellish women out of the thought experiment of a race in which females and males had the same levels of testosterone — being too scientifically minded not to do a lot of reading around the topic. In my fifties, however, I am more interested in confronting vulnerabilities in Demish characters. (Picture the Demish as neo-Victorians with definite male/female differences.) And so I saddle Ilse, in the bit below, with ‘girl’ issues, and find myself writing her very much as a woman, rebelling against the convention of making female SF protagonists XX Rambos, and daring to explore the strengths and weaknesses my teenage self would scoff at for being conventionally female. Is it breaking today’s convention to make a female protagonist conventionally feminine? Is so, I’d like to think I’m doing it on the basis of artistic curiosity. But maybe I just like to be unconventional. What do you think? How do you position your female characters on the conventional feminine/masculine spectrum?
I will not go to watch the duel, Ilse decided, and immediately knew she wouldn’t forgive herself if either Ka or Nyl died for lack of expert intervention. Still, she was sorely tempted by the desire to go to her room and lie on her bed, staring at the dull gray ceiling. She was working long shifts in sickbay treating battle-grounded relsha, and her pregnancy was setting in as ferociously as her first one, perturbing her hormones when she could least afford the emotional instability.