Stargate Monuments

marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus



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The more of these kinds of essays I read, the more I am utterly grateful that one of my first fantasy authors was Robin McKinley (And that she was not especially alone at any point). I NEVER had the question whether women could be protagonists, or writers, for that matter. I never had to cope with the background radiation of girls being the sidekicks at best.

And the more I read about peoples' othering experiences with not seeing themselves, the more I feel just how important that really was for me. And still is for everyone.

It's funny, I don't remember missing girls in the adventure things I read (and I loved Danny Dunn!). Maybe it's because one of my first SFF books was an Andre Norton, and I came early to A Wrinkle in Time also, so I had at least some of that from the beginning.

One of my favorites was Knee-Deep in Thunder by Sheila Moon. Now I can recognize it as ahead of the curve both for its female protagonist and for its non-Western-European mythological roots (Navajo) but at the time I just knew I loved it.

I think that may be one of the reasons I became somewhat fixated on Catwoman as a child, and always wanted to play superhero games with my friends where I got to be her (even though she was technically a villain) - because she was one of very, very few powerful, in-control female characters I'd found.

I'm slightly older than you and while I can look back at what I was reading and see the lack of good female characters, I don't remember ever noticing that the characters in the books I read growing up were mostly boys rather than girls. I'm not sure why. The two possibilities I can come up with are that no one around me tried to tell me that girls couldn't do what boys could and that maybe I found the boys in the books to be more like me than the girls I went to school with. I certainly didn't have much in common with the girls at school.

Characters in the 70's

Well, the books I recall most clearly from elementary were "Harriet the Spy" and "Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth". Both had girls as the protagonists (and 'Jennifer...' featured a black girl in a large supporting role, which was a big deal at the time.)

But I can also remember casting myself in the role of the protagonist no matter what their sex was - I identified with Frodo, with the protagonist of "Black and Blue Magic" (a favorite from third grade), with Sherlock Holmes (oh, how I identified with Holmes - to the point of dressing as him when I had a part as a detective in a 6th grade play) - I never saw myself as 'supporting cast'. I suppose that says a lot about my ego ::laugh::. Honestly, though - I assumed everyone cast themself in the lead when they read a book.

Of course, I look back now, and I find myself horrified at some of the stuff I adored (like Edward Eager's books, which are FULL of sexism that I don't recall noticing in the slightest when I was a child. I read them out-loud to my youngest, but heavily edit them.)

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