SF Monday: the escape of the protagonist

Didn’t finish this off yesterday, sorry.

It was always the mainstay of the old serial adventures, whether on the page, the airwaves or the silver screen: the cliffhanger moment where the hero/ine faced certain death and then managed to escape, usually by doing either thrilling derring-do or pulling we now would call a McGyver out of their hat.

To relive a classic moment involving both derring-do and C3PO’s impression of McGyver, feast your eyes on Canadian comedian Charles Ross, of One Man Star Wars fame, doing this version of the classic trash compactor scene:

(recorded at Sydney’s Cracker Comedy Festival 2008)

Amazing, isn’t it?

The other great escape in speculative fiction is moving from one lifestyle into another totally different. Many of my favourite SF novels, especially by women authors, involve a central character escaping from either explicitly abusive situations or from stifling conformity (or both), and in contrast to the classic Hero quest (where the young Hero is scooped up by a Wise Mentor who reveals his Quest) female protagonists usually have to rescue themselves in some way right at the start of the story before they can go on a journey of self-discovery.

How exciting it can be to discover these characters as a young reader, in a narrative that not only acknowledges real harm from the betrayal of trust or the frustration of wishes to pursue one’s own road, but that shows female characters leaving the “protection” of their families and not immediately falling victim to a gruesome fate. They may have great struggles and challenges, but they are not helpless victims who are easy prey out in the world away from their families.

One strong favourite is The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri S. Tepper, which is one trilogy written for young adults describing events in the Land of the True Game (there are two other trilogies describing the same broad events but with differing subplots, one through the eyes of a boy named Peter and another through the eyes of a girl named Jinian – each reveals slightly different discoveries and aspects of the great conundrum of the True Game but each is a stand-alone series as well). The Tarma and Kethry and Kerowyn novels by Mercedes Lackey are also strong favourites, although I find Lackey’s strong romantic focus a bit cloying in large doses – still, she doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are way too many abusive parents and manipulative lovers in the world, so I guess having true romances as well helps to sell the concept that not everyone in the world is a monster. I’m doling these out to my daughter as she seems to come ready for them, what others would Hoydenizens recommend for a thirteen year old tomboy with a sensitive streak?

P.S. I think I really want a shirt with this logo:

What Would Ripley Do?

Categories: arts & entertainment

Tags: , ,

13 replies

  1. I, too, want (make that need, dammit) that on a shirt.

  2. I agree with QoT. Awesome T-shirt.
    At that age I loved sci-fi but all I could get was white dude wank so I started to hate it. Ursula LeGuin has lured be back into science fiction, though I’m not sure whether you would think some of her books are appropriate.
    Other than that, Tamora Pierce is prolific and is ok on the feminism front. Also I found crappy romance books wonderful to read as comedies.
    hellonhairylegss last blog post..Are you an Arsehole?

  3. Not a series, but I also loved the Witches of Karres, by James Schmidt (written in the 50s sometime) which is written from a male protagonist viewpoint, but about three very talented sisters (the witches of the title) aged about 7-13ish who saved the day with him awkwardly helping.
    I also loved that Sheri Tepper series, and still dip into them from time to time.
    And while the protagonist is male, the Miles Vorkosigan series (by Lois McMaster Bujold) is written from a very feminist viewpoint. The hero Miles (being 4’9″ and with fragile bones in a culture which derides him as a mutant) is forced to solve many problems using strategies that feel very familiar to the female reader.
    The Honor Harrington series, by David Weber, are Horatio Hornblower rewritten as space opera with a female hero – a lot of fun, but I did find the space battles a bit boring after a while.

  4. I’d have to second Tamora Pierce.

  5. I love Anne McCaffery’s Pern series.
    Dragonsong and Dragonsinger especially. Menolly the gifted musician who runs away from her Hold which won’t allow her to play and overcomes many issues and gets Firelizards to boot.
    I still read them on a yearly basis.
    I remember as a total tomboy teenager lying on my Mum’s bed and her telling me about these books, the Dragons their riders and thread.
    I still have a major crush on Master Harper Robinton

  6. Oh yes, the Menolly books are next on my list to hand over.

    My niece (and coz’s niece) left her first comment on a feminist sci fi blog last night. *sniff*
    3rd down, “Sophie”
    Awwwwwwwww. Go, Sophie.

  8. Yay Sophie! (and Un Lun Dun sounds like a must)

  9. Another Yay for Sophie!

  10. Sophie rockth.
    When I was there in April, Kate told Sophie to go get the book she just finished to show me (knowing what reaction i would have)….could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw it was China Melville. I really like his books but ohh so not child friendly.
    Must track down and read it.
    Kate said it was good but she liked Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” a tad better.

  11. Deerskin – Robin McKinley. Fantasy rather than sci-fi, but a beautiful story about healing and finding strength and self-acceptance. Her titles are mainly for teen readers, and some a bit heavy on the love interest, but fabulous for horse and dog lovers in particular.

  12. …I should say, trigger alert, raep, for Deerskin. (It’s based on Perrault’s incest fairy tale – Donkeyskin.)

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