[LMB] Mature female protagonists, was AKICOTL: Commited MC couples in fantasy

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Sat Apr 22 09:19:38 BST 2006


There are a number of SF/F stories that start off the with protagonist
getting a message causing them to have to go somewhere, leaving the family
behind regretfully to deal with some obligation or responsibility or duty of
other.  I'm blanking on most of them of course at the moment... some of the
novels by Patrician Kenneally-Morrison have those sorts of plots, however.

Raven's Shadow and Raven's Strike (titles approximate) by Patricia Briggs
are sort of that--  the first one starts off  with  the first chapter or two
or three being essentially a prologue, and then it's most of 20 years
laters.

Dave Hartwell noted that Nancy Kress' first book, Prince of Morning Bells
(which I think he was the editor of) was notable for being a novel in which
the protagonist, a young woman startingout at the beginning of the book, has
a dream, has Real Life Stuff happen including marriage, and then has the end
of the book be something different than the standard... Robin McKinley did
something similar in her short story "The Stagman."  And, Michelle West in a
story in a DAW anthology, about the original mother of the Twin Kings, set
long long (but not longlonglonglonglonglong*) before Hunters Oath/Hunter's
Death/The Sun Sword, describes a character who faced with the situation of
being the unintended, inexperienced, young female heir of the ruler in a
violent, vicious time, looks for a solution for stability for the land and
personal survival for herself,

I've never gotten through Joseph Campbell's books about the Hero's Journey
and such, I have had strong negative reactions to focus on male life
patterns and total disregard/disdain/derogation of female lives and life
patterns, for as long as I can remember, and Campbell's work/attitudes
toward women, are rife with that arrogance and disdain and dismissal and
devaluation and derogation.

One of the changes effected by the 1960s and going forward with momentum
into the 1970s and beyond into the 1980s, was the examination and
exploration of life patterns of women historically and experimentation in
fantasy and science fiction.  When It Changed headed off into what was
mostly uncharted territory, with the lost colony of women speaking back to
the arriving Earth humans who retained two genders, male and female, saying
that they didn't -need- males, and why should they want them, after so long,
anyway?--as opposed to the old male fetish fantasy titillation stories about
some man finding a lost colony of all women, or nearly all-women (the planet
in the Lensman universe of EE Smith where the planet was trying to dispense
with men entirely, and all the women ran around starkers...) .  Alas, or
rather, alas for me reading it, it seemed to not only go off the chart, but
into what for me was total incomprehensibility in the last third of the
book, somewhere out into metaphysical discussion space that I couldn't
follow/was making no sense to me.... I don;'t know how I would react to it
today, trying to read it.  But the me of the early 1970s was just baffled
and bemused and decided that that it had gone off into incomprehensibility
that was devoid of meaning and comprehension for me, about 2/3rds of the way
into the book.

Caught in Crystal, which I mentioned before,  is another book which starts
long after the traditional novels and their foci end, with the protagonist a
widow with children, who called to deal with something that had she thought
been over with long before and wasn't, was in the situation of have to
travel with her children as part of the complement of travelers on the
iexpedition into investigation and danger. Frost, also mentioned before, is
another "afterwards" story, in which the woman, long retired from youthful
adventuring, and seemingly settled down, has her world shaken up and
destroyed, and has to start out from post-happy family disaster.

Lois did some examination with Paladin of Souls--Ista, however, had not had
happily ever after in her life:  she had had a stressful marriage, and
stressful widowhood, had never really had control of her own life, had never
really had independent life and choices of her own.  And widowed and mostly
superfluous, she starts out of a journey of change and transformation....

Cordelia when met in Shards is not a young woman, but on the other hand,
she's one who has had a great deal of control and independence to pursue her
own life--as a Survey captain she's part of the elite in that respect,
trusted and empowered and responsibility to boldly go where no one has gone
before, off the beaten track and explore new worlds, seek out new wormholes,
trailblaze sites for  new colonies....  Ista's the flip side, of someone who
had had a traditional life which had exploded.

Other works which deal with mature women, include Elizabeth Moon's
Hugo-nominated SF novel which I can;t thinkg of the name of right now, with
Ofelia who refused to leave the planet, and her Heris Seranno novels in
which Captain Serrano has found herself drummed out of the military.  It's
not clear what the age of the protagonist of Janet Kagan's Mirabile is, but
she didn't come off as something under the age of 35 or so, at a minimum, to
me when I read the stories that make up the book.

The mother of the protagonist in the first published of Patricia Wrede's
novels of the Enchanted Forest, starts off as an enigmatic character, living
close by the forest with her son, and one day handing him a sword and
telling him to go into the forest with it.  Huh, what?!   Who is this woman,
where did the sword come from, and HUH?!   And oh yeah, there are these nasy
vicious wizards, and she did WHAT that had the effect of --- to them??!!

----- Original Message [stuff below is content of message from Kalina
Varboanova] -----
From: "Kalina Varbanova" <kikibug13 at gmail.com>


On 4/22/06, Paula Lieberman <paal at gis.net> wrote:
>
> Ah, Zelazny's This Immortal, the protagonist is in a state of highly
> committed matrimony at the start of the book.

OH YES! Thanks for bringing it up; I LOVE that book!
Kalina




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