Thursday, November 5, 2015

Writing, Movies, Feminism, and Beautiful Spirals

I ride a dragon now.  Dragons are cool.
Fiction and fantasy are really reflections of our world, only better. Even dark fiction or dystopias tend to hand us heroes who rise up above the blackness and are able to make choices that sort out the good guys from the bad guys—they can decipher good and evil, right from wrong. That’s not always true in our own world, and so it’s quite a relief to sit back and be transported to place where considerations over extremism, and Ebola and politics aren’t realities. Or, if they are realities, they’re going to be handled, in one way or another, by the characters.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow,
and tomorrow!
We also learn the most from stories, as examples of how to behave, or how we want to behave. When confronted with similar situations, while we can’t use magic, and probably shouldn’t use violence, we still look to our heroes for a means for how to act. How would Moraine or Kvothe or Hermione, or Aragorn, or Katniss deal with this particular scenario? Fantasy and fiction provide us with multiple perspectives for dealing with the realities of our own day-to-day lives.

As Tomorrowland told us, “Every day is the opportunity for a better tomorrow.”

I didn’t look around and start writing strong, independent female characters because I wanted to take a stand on feminist issues. I don’t know how, but my parents raised me to believe that everyone was equal, or at least deserving of equal treatment. It wasn’t one conversation, or one event with my parents.  It was the whole process, how they interacted with me, my siblings, their friends—how they lived their lives—that instilled the idea that the way I buttoned my pants didn’t automatically give me any privileges.  At the same time, I recognize that women around the world are not treated equally:

I am a feminist.

I think everyone should be.

Portraying women as something other than a pretty damsel in distress adds to the conversation. That doesn’t mean I denigrate men to raise up women. That’s also the wrong message to send.

Go ahead.
Say "chainmail bikini" one more time.
It's a process. In my earlier writing, I felt that if women were physically stronger, that would be enough. But that's just a superficial view.  By that I mean, that's how I wrote female characters. Simply physically stronger.

That's overly simplistic.

It’s not fiction’s or fantasy’s job to right all the world’s wrongs.  But we can be part of the discussion, and we certainly should be.  We're only one voice, on thread in an enormous social tapestry, but fiction writers can view problems, or see potential improvements years or decades into the future and present them as science fact. Even if the result is a far-fetched or impossible outcome, that doesn’t remove the potential for inspiration on many levels. If you ask astronomers, physicists, rocket scientists, etc. what inspired them, you often get back some science fiction or fantasy show or writer that caught their imagination and prompted them to pursue a career in that particular field. In return, the science that is developed, inspires new writers.

Inspiration and change spin outward in an often beautiful spiral.

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