The delightful Fletcher DeLancey is here today. She writes sci-fi which is one of my favorite genres. She recently released Outcaste, the sixth book in her Chronicles of Alsea series. I read the first in the series and was blown away. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to read more.
Please welcome Fletcher DeLancey.
What do you do with female characters?
Here is an intellectual explanation for the lack of female characters in earlier science fiction stories. See if you can spot the teeny, tiny flaw in logic:
Prior to public recognition in the United States that babies are not brought by the stork, there was simply no sex in the science fiction magazines. This was not a matter of taste, it was a matter of custom that had the force of law. In most places, non-recognition of the existence of sex was treated as though it was the law, and for all I know, maybe it was indeed local law. In any case, words or actions that could bring a blush to the leathery cheek of the local censor were strictly out.
But if there’s no sex, what do you do with female characters? They can’t have passions and feelings. They can’t participate on equal terms with male characters because that would introduce too many complications where some sort of sex might creep in. The best thing to do was to keep them around in the background, allowing them to scream in terror, to be caught and then rescued, and, at the end, to smile prettily at the hero. (It can be done safely then because THE END is the universal rescue.)
I’m pretty sure you’ve nailed that logical flaw, but the man who wrote it did not. He styled himself a progressive because he did manage to produce a couple of powerful female characters in his later (much later) books, and actually hired a female editor for his magazine—yet he was still proud to receive an award for being a “Lovable Lecher.” Because sexual harassment is always a progressive improvement over not allowing women to be in the books or workplace at all.
The man’s name is Isaac Asimov, and he wrote the above words in an essay titled “Women and Science Fiction.”
Sad to say, Asimov’s attitudes are neither unusual nor a relic of the past. This is, after all, a genre famous for completely forgetting that it was invented by a woman—Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein—and instead claiming that the “father of science fiction” was HG Wells, who wasn’t even born until half a century after Shelley published Frankenstein. It’s a genre in which the last two years of Hugo Awards featured takeover attempts by white males angry at the intrusion of women and people of color into their manly bastion. (Those takeover attempts backfired. Badly.)
So it’s not a surprise that a lot of women don’t read science fiction. But it’s a big reason why I write it.
We need science fiction stories that center around female characters. Stories where the women in fact have passions and feelings, and participate on equal terms with the male characters. Stories where the focus is not on robots and phallic-shaped rockets but on people, relationships, choices both bad and good, mistakes and growth, plot twists and intrigue, and characters the readers can relate to.
In my Chronicles of Alsea series, I created a world in which sexism (and homophobia) doesn’t exist for the simple reason that both females and males can give birth. That fact, and the fact that Alseans are empathic—able to sense each other’s emotions, to varying degrees—levels the playing field and makes Alsea a place where all the usual crap women deal with just isn’t there. What does that leave? All the good stuff. The stuff that makes a ripping good story.
Outcaste is the sixth book in the Alsea series, but it’s also an entry point. Even if you’ve never tried any of the others, you can dive into this one and not feel adrift. It’s a story about an ordinary young woman named Rahel, who is special only in the way we all are: she has dreams, and she’s willing to work to achieve them. Rahel’s path takes her to dangerous places, but also leads her to supportive friends and invaluable mentors. She rises from the darkest alleys to the highest levels of hidden power—but her decisions are not always the best. When Rahel lands in a big mess through her own choices, she learns that people aren’t always what they seem, and forgiveness can come from the most unlikely places.
To the women reading this: you have really good reasons to not read science fiction. But I hope you’ll give mine a chance for two even better reasons: it’s written for you, and about you.
Okay, three reasons: it’s a ripping good story.
OUTCASTE (CHRONICLES OF ALSEA BOOK 6)
Rahel Sayana is desperate to escape the life her parents have planned for her. She runs away to the dangerous port city of Whitesun and becomes an outcaste: a person of no caste and few rights.
From backbreaking labor on the docks to fighting off bullies, Rahel learns the lessons that propel her to the life of her dreams. Happiness does not last. A planetary threat pulls her into the biggest battle in Alsean history, then into a treacherous game of power.
The loss of both her honor and caste sends her reeling, but Rahel has always made her own fate. She gambles everything on one final chance.
Will giving up her hopes lead to the highest honor of all?
Great news for I Heart Lesfic Subscribers. You can get a 20% discount by purchasing OUTCASTE from the Heartsome website and enter the code IHEART20.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Fletcher DeLancey spent her early career as a science educator, which was the perfect combination of her two great loves: language and science. These days she combines them while writing science fiction and fantasy.
She is an Oregon expatriate who left her beloved state when she met a Portuguese woman and had to choose between home and heart. She chose heart. Now she lives with her wife and son in the beautiful sunny Algarve, where she writes full-time, teaches Pilates, tries to learn the local birds and plants, and samples every regional Portuguese dish she can get her hands on. (There are many. It’s going to take a while.)
She is best known for her science fiction/fantasy series Chronicles of Alsea, now comprised of five novels and a novella. Among them, the Alsea books have collected an Independent Publisher Book Award, a Golden Crown Literary Society Award, a Rainbow Award, and been shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award.
Fletcher believes that women need far more representation in science fiction and fantasy, and takes great pleasure in writing complex stories with strong, believable women heading up the action. Her day is made every time another reader says, “I didn’t think I liked science fiction, but then I read yours.”
CONNECT WITH FLETCHER
Thanks so much Fletcher for stopping by today.