Women Writers, Women Characters and International Wom

March 8 is international women’s day and also the birthday of a very dear friend of mine (scroll down past the flowers).

Tonight I attended the book launch for Triangel by Elke Marion Weiß. I know Elke from her time as a lecturer for English and American literature at the University of Bremen. Yesterday’s reading took place at the “Bremer Krimibibliothek”, which is only fitting since Triangel is a crime novel, albeit an unconventional one, more Patricia Highsmith than Agatha Christie.

The fact that yesterday was international women’s day is probably also the reason for the flood of posts about female characters in the past few days. Because international women’s day means that it’s time to talk about those woman-related issues that are ignored the other 364 days of the year. Though it’s still better than the news magazine which decided to celebrate international women’s day by running a report about how difficult life is for families. Because all women are mothers, of course, and therefore all women automatically care about family issues. Really, journalists and politicians, “women” and “family” are not synonyms.

While on the subject of female characters, Seanan McGuire made an interesting observation in her big idea piece at John Scalzi’s site, namely that these days almost all female characters in speculative fiction have superpowers of some sort, but that they often have a lot less agency than female characters used to have.

It’s an interesting point and she is right, too, because these days female characters in speculative fiction, particularly in urban fantasy, are either superpowered arsekickers and nametakers or wilted wallflowers swooning over the hot guy who just happens to be a vampire/werewolf/demon/fallen angel and also their one and only chosen soulmate. Not that I don’t like superpowered arsekickers (I could do without the wilting wallflowers, though), but it is rather limiting if there are no other female characters out there.

Thinking of female characters in recent speculative fiction, who are awesome without having superpowers, three examples come to mind:

  1. Katie Chandler from Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. series who is so ordinary that her very ordinariness is her superpower, since it renders her immune to magic. In fact, this is probably part of the reason why I love that series so much (and am hoping to see the fifth book in some form at some point).
  2. Ellie Peirce from Kresley Cole’s Lothaire, a human girl from a deprived background, who not just manages to fight possession by an ancient death goddess, but also manages to bring the biggest, baddest, most evil vampire of them all (the titular Lothaire) to his knees. I blogged a bit about why Ellie is pretty damn awesome here.
  3. Celia West from After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn, who has not just has no superpowers herself, even though she is the daughter of two superheroes, but is also an accountant and still manages to bring down a supervillain – for tax fraud.

So there are a few female characters who manage to be awesome without having superpowers. There just should be more of them.

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