If you read nothing else today, read this by Kameron Hurley. It will take you a while so get a warm drink or a sugary lozenge and buckle up.
I remember being on the train in Chicago in a car with about a dozen other people. On the other side of the car, a man suddenly fell off his seat. Just… toppled over into the aisle. He started convulsing. There were three people between me and him. But nobody said anything. Nobody did anything.
I stood up, “Sir?” I said, and started toward him.
The entire article is about how we have a common and distasteful narrative of our lives and we struggle through sheer inertia and laziness to break out of it. It affects more than half the population in very negative ways. As we accept the normal narrative, we reinforce it. How a parent or mentor accepts these tropes has a direct effect on children and apprentices. It becomes necessary for us to upset these toxic memes and develop a new narrative that can be accepted. In this new narrative, any human can express themselves, any human can excel and position is based on merit. It works for all of us too as in the new narrative, the tyrants of the old narrative are forgiven.
It makes me wonder again how to write the stories I want to write. How I have struggled to write good narrative for my far-future heroine, Kesho Mbaye in my FRONTIER game. I struggle because I want to get it right; Kesho deserves more than a sidelining or to be the spoils of any male-pride display. She becomes an adult in a world that has been made free of the social tyranny of before and where the robber barons have been punished. Her life is hard but she knows she has the power to make the world a better place.
Kesho, a Zambian-born farmers daughter, rebuilds education in a post-apocalytpic Earth, scratching words in the sand and founding a series of international schools. She is mentioned first in helping her father as he tills the fields but as soon as she is able to cast off the shackles of societal duty, she does. And then she flies.
Kesha’s spiritual successor in the story is Masira Ba, another woman whose impact was to give humanity the first steps off the ruined earth and into futuristic space habitats. At no point do I mention her husband or the male influences of her life, I do mention the success of her sisters.
I want to make the default different. It’s hard to find an action movie without the hero being white or male or both. Even when the protagonist is female, there are often compromises and the writers forget they are dealing with humans and not just archetypes. Those of us who remember how awesome it was to see Ripley save the day in Aliens for the first time probably witnessed a sea change in the media. Yes, it took science fiction to do it but in the straight horror genre, she would have continued as the Lost Girl/Lady Survivor archetype. But give that archetype a machine-gun duct-taped to a flamethrower and you’ve just changed the narrative.
Thanks to @AngieMcKeown for pointing out the article to me.