Have you ever noticed that women in starring roles in SF/F are rarely mothers?
It’s more common in romance and mystery to be sure. I regularly see mentions of romances where the heroine is pregnant (generally in a scenario where she doesn’t want to let the hero find out that he is in fact the father), or where she’s a single mother raising a child (often a precocious youngster or an angsty teen). And over in mystery, one of my favorite current series (the Crowther and Westerman books by Imogen Robertson) features a heroine who’s a mother and a widow.
Science fiction and fantasy, though, it’s way harder to find women—or for that matter, men—who are both protagonists and parents. It’s not entirely unheard of, mind you. I can think of exactly one example on my own shelves off the top of my head that features a heroine who’s a mother: the Raven duology by Patricia Briggs. And while I haven’t managed to read Scott Lynch yet, I’m given to understand that he’s got a female pirate in his books who also has children.
But the simple fact that I have to work to think of examples is pretty much my point. By the very nature of the genre, it slants towards young protagonists. Some of this is age bias; Western culture doesn’t tend to imagine people older than, say, their mid-thirties in the starring roles of the sorts of plots likely to show up in an SF/F novel. There’s the question of SF/F plots frequently being action-heavy, and a lot of folks don’t tend to envision people in their forties or older in starring roles in an action-heavy plot. And there’s the question of love stories as well. While I do regularly see romances acknowledging that people who’ve already got a history with prior relationships and even children can in fact have interesting love stories, this is not nearly as common in SF/F.
All of which I mention because I myself am not a young author anymore, as I’m heading into my upper forties. Nor am I likely to ever be a parent. But despite this, I’m finding myself becoming more interested in writing about women who are mothers.
I’ve got two characters important to the Rebels of Adalonia books who have on-camera children. There’s Khamsin, who first shows up in Valor of the Healer, and who has a four-year old daughter and a son barely old enough to walk. And there’s Margaine, with a newborn daughter. Neither of these women are the main protagonists, but they are vital to the overall plot. In some ways they are interesting to me in ways that my heroine Faanshi can’t be, just because Faanshi’s still very young and doesn’t have the history of establishing a family that Khamsin and Margaine do.
One more woman vital to the overall arc of the Rebels of Adalonia books is Ealasaid, ruler of the country of Adalonia. Ealasaid is old, and therefore certainly has had plenty of time to preside over multiple generations of her family. She doesn’t quite fit into the pattern, since she’s an antagonist in the story rather than a protagonist. Nonetheless, she’s another important character who has in fact had her family life—and the impact her own choices as queen have had upon it—be a critical part of the story.
What about you, readers? What are your favorite stories, of any genre, that feature a protagonist or a major supporting character with children—mothers or fathers? Let me know in the comments!
Angela Highland, a.k.a. Angela Korra'ti, is the author of the Rebels of the Adalonia trilogy from Carina Press, and the Free Court of Seattle series as well. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter, or come say hi to her at angelahighland.com.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Heroines can be mothers too
Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Hi, I'm Angela Korra'ti, Anna the Piper online and Anna to my friends. I'm a computer geek, a writer, and an amateur musician, living in Kenmore, WA with my wife Dara, our housemate Paul, our cat George, and a whole helluva lot of computers and musical instruments.
I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer, writing under the names of Angela Korra'ti (for my self-pubbed work) and Angela Highland (for Carina Press)! Come find out more about my books at my official site angelahighland.com.
Other things I am, which I'll post a lot about: liberal, agnostic, feminist, queer-friendly, a stage 0 DCIS breast cancer survivor, and a GREAT BIG NERD.
And I'm an amateur musician, and I favor carbon fiber flutes, a blackwood whistle, a piccolo, and guitars as my primary instruments. I also play a little bouzouki and a little mandolin, and I'm taking fiddle lessons too! I'm a member of the Seattle-area monthly Quebecois tunes session and am learning a lot of tunes. Tunes recs welcomed!
I'm a big fan of Atlantic Canadian folk/trad, and a huge fangirl for Great Big Sea in particular. And I'm also passionately in love with the entire genre of Quebecois traditional music--and for the groups Le Vent du Nord, De Temps Antan, Genticorum, Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer, and La Bottine Souriante in particular! All this awesome music is inspiring me to improve my French, so sometimes French will show up in my status updates.