In the wake of Orlando’s whimsy post earlier this week, and a thread dedicated to the Game of Thrones series on Feministe where many commentors expressed how the complexity of the women of Westeros was what kept them reading/watching despite the horrors that are inflicted upon Martin’s female characters, and reading this post by SF/YA/RW author Ann Aguirre on how the recent SFWA sexism clusterfuck is just more of the same-old same-old, I’ve been thinking about women’s characterisation in fiction a lot. The latest ADF sexism scandal seems to me to tie into the preponderance of fiction in which women are two-dimensional characters whose only narrative purpose is to affirm the male protagonists’ choices/actions by their approval/availability, or often by the bestowal of the woman’s availability by a male authority figure (or the triumph over a male rival by stealing “his” woman) - men who have never seen women presented as fully rounded people in the fiction they consume don’t know how to treat actual women as if they are fully rounded people either. Every other post on BitchFlicks and FlickPhilosopher reinforces the problem of under-representation of female characters in general, let alone as actual protagonists, as does the response to Anita Sarkeesian pointing out how the latest X-Box launch featured exactly zero female protagonists in the demonstrator games.
So, here’s a book with a female protagonist that I’m planning to purchase ASAP (can’t get it as an e-book – boo – it’s only in the US iTunes store – boo) because it’s been very popular for a few years but hadn’t crossed my radar – Grimspace by Ann Aguirre, which is the story of Sirantha Jax (told in the first person and present tense, which is rather outside my reading comfort zone, but isn’t extending one’s reading comfort zone exactly the point I’m pushing?).
By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago…
As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.
Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper.
Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime…
Once I get a copy and read it, I’ll tell you how I cope with first-person present-tense, OK?
Next: here’s an Open Call for any readers to pitch me guest posts for the Friday Hoyden slots on fiction that features female protagonists – classics, cult treasures, internet sensations – the whole ball of wax including webcomics, games and especially fanfiction that rewrites canonical female characters to be more interesting. I’m going to be giving fiction with female protagonists to everybody this year, and I need some recommendations for all age groups and favoured genres. If you’ve already posted it on your own blog and we can crosspost it, that makes things particularly easy. Send your pitches here.