Best. Hoyden. Evah.


Skate-Kourier thrasher teen superbus.

(The following book report is ending-spoiler-free.)

Quite a few people told me I should read Snowcrash because I love science fiction. Why did none of them tell me I should also read it because one of the main protagonists is a fabulous hoyden, in and out of thrilling adventures and sticky situations, who saves herself and her mates as often as they save her and doesn’t spend the entire novel angsting about boyfriends?

I haven’t read all that much cyberpunk because it has a genre image that is even more masculinist than most other ‘hard’ SF, so having read a few Gibsons and thought “interesting, but such a boyspace” this is the first Neal Stephenson book I’ve read, and it was published in 1992. ’92! I could have had this character running around in my head for more than a decade if one, just one, of the male SF geeks who has intermittently encouraged me to read this book over the years had mentioned just a little bit about Y.T. in their litanies of praise for the novel.

But they always told me about Hiro and the Metaverse. And Rat-Things. And maybe Uncle Enzo. All cool, no doubt about it (I’m a little bit in love with Uncle Enzo, actually), fascinating tech-spec stuff. I’ll have to reread it again in quite short order to get my head around all that better. Not one of them mentioned Y.T., let alone Juanita as the crucial-ally-hacker whose facial-expression-mimicking software was what made the Metaverse more than just a wankfest game!

You. Bastards.

Guys? Feminists and geekgirls dig female characters who don’t just want a boyfriend, ‘kay? Just like hacker-Hiros with swords have other goals than girlfriends, and sometimes have more urgent priorities than sex even, because there are cyberdragons to slay and geekprizes to be won, and that’s why you cyberpunk-guy-fans love him.

That’s the same way most women SF readers feel about Strong Intelligent Kick-Arse Women (SIKAWs). If you want a woman you know and like to read a book you have enjoyed, tell her about the SIKAWomen in the book. They don’t have to be bitchy ballbreakers, just SIKAWs who overcome external obstacles as well as the internal fears and anxieties, and who aren’t just a prize for the hero to win. You wish she would read the Vorkosigan series? Tell her about Cordelia, Elena and Katerina(oops) Ekaterin, not just Miles. The Night’s Dawn trilogy? Ione Saldana, Louise Kavanagh, Mama Skibbow, Syrinx, Alkad Mzu – take your pick.

SF books, particularly the ‘hard’ SF and cyberpunk subgenres, are full of male protagonists for geekboys to imagine being – hardarse action heroes, brilliant hackers, charismatic leaders. It can be hard for female fans to find female protagonists who can give us the same rush, so if you read a book with a SIKAW, don’t flick over her the way we femfans sometimes flick over yet another boyzone buttkicker as we read SF – make a note of her and tell a geekgirl! Then you might just develop a shared interest in the author’s work, and from there, who knows?

It’s an ungenderbalanced fanworld out there – as any SF convention will show. But you geekboys don’t do yourselves any favours in keeping the interest of the femfans. They won’t share your SF-space if they don’t know about and fall for the SIKAW characters. There are so many guys using Hiro Protagonist as their username, so much fanart out there about Hiro. You know how many images of Y.T. are out there? Perhaps my google-fu is weak, but this one above is the only one I could find. I’m very relieved that I like it.


Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies

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3 replies

  1. I don’t have anything particularly profound to add, but I came over to thank you for the comment on my blog. And I love this post! You’ve managed to mention pretty much all my favourites in the proper SF (not fantasy) and cyberpunk world in it. I’ll have to research my collection for more SIKAWs, but just as a taster, you MUST read Neal Stephenson’s historical trilogy loosely set in the time of Isaac Newton. The real hero is a woman who wanders history making changes at will, and changing the economy of several countries.

  2. Several e-friends on a mailing list have also recommended that Stephenson trilogy, Jennifer. I’ll have to chase them up. Opinion seems evenly divided on whether to read Cryptonomicon before or after the trilogy – what say you?

  3. Cryptonomicon is a good read, but shaggy – his research is too evident. My brother (a fairly geeky computer geek) loved the endless details about code-breaking in the 1940s and now – I found them interesting, but too long. The trilogy, though, even though there is a heap of research, I found un-put-downable. And Eliza (I remember her name tonight) is a fabulous character. So I wouldn’t bother with Cryptonomicon unless you’ve become a Stephenson junkie (which I am, but it’s not one of his better ones – the Diamond Age – also with a good strong female character – is better even though the ending is weak).

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