Posts Tagged ‘Doorway Between Worlds’

A special treat today – I have a guest post from Sue Archer of the Doorway Between Worlds blog. I’m a fan of the way Sue uses science fiction and fantasy to explore topics around communication, and it’s a pleasure to host her opinions on another topic here today, one that I’ve touched on in the past. So without further ado…

Female Superhero Movie Franchises: What Would Ellen Ripley Say?

When I was eight years old, my parents gave me a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I devoured the story, identifying with the plucky character of Lucy. I then went on to read A Wrinkle in Time, and got drawn in to the world of Meg Murray, who was geeky (like me) and who saved her brother from evil. And I knew: science fiction and fantasy were written for me. This was a genre where girls could save the world.

When I was ten years old, I played with She-Ra: Princess of Power dolls, because other dolls were downright boring next to ones who could use swords and magic. I watched the various incarnations of the Justice League and Marvel characters on television and pretended that I was a superhero like Wonder Woman.

When I was twelve years old, a movie came out that I wasn’t old enough to see yet. In this movie, an ordinary woman fought against the odds to save humanity from aliens. The movie went on to spawn several sequels, and the female lead became a hugely popular character.

Her name was Ellen Ripley. And the year Aliens came out? 1986.

Ripley

Fast forward twenty-eight years later. Count ’em: Twenty-eight. We are in 2014, and since Ellen Ripley, I have not seen another adult female character leading a movie franchise in the speculative fiction genre. (The closest thing so far is The Hunger Games, but it’s aimed at more of a teenage audience.) Frankly, I’m tired of waiting for another one. What happened?

The Wonder Woman That Wasn’t

There certainly hasn’t been a lack of trying by those who understand that this genre is for women as well as men. Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame was slated to helm a Wonder Woman film. Joss Whedon and Wonder Woman! Alas, that movie never got off the ground. And now we’re left with DC introducing Wonder Woman as a secondary character to Superman and Batman in their next superhero film. Apparently the studio thinks my favourite Amazon is just not strong enough to have her own movie. Which is ridiculous.

Superheroes Without Superpowers

I love the Marvel movies, but I’m disappointed that they aren’t making definite moves towards a female-led superhero film. Instead, we’ve had female characters who are part of a team: Black Widow, a female assassin in a bodysuit who has no superpowers; and Gamora—wait for it—a female assassin in a bodysuit who has no superpowers. Black Widow was done well, while Gamora had an underused backstory and was upstaged by a sarcastic raccoon and a talking tree. Neither of these women were leads. I’m tired of looking for small victories. When will we get a movie about Captain Marvel? Or another Marvel female character who is just as powerful as the men?

Men as Women

And I don’t mean a female character who is based off of a powerful male one. Marvel’s announcement of a female Thor being introduced in their comics annoyed me. I would have no issue with Sif taking up the hammer of Thor and wielding its powers as herself. But for the woman taking the hammer to be called Thor? This is insulting. Other characters have taken up Mjolnir in the past and gained the powers of Thor, but they kept their names. Why does the woman have to lose hers and be called Thor? It reminds me of Batgirl, Supergirl, and all of those other characters that were derived from male ones. Is Marvel afraid of developing a new standalone female character? That’s just sad.

Superwomen vs. Hollywood

I’ve heard all of the arguments about why a female-led movie franchise is not being made. And none of them make any sense.

Well, look what happened when we made Elektra and Catwoman. No one turned out, so clearly the appetite is not there for female-led movies. (It couldn’t possibly be because they were terrible movies.)

Women don’t go to see these kinds of movies, so we wouldn’t make any money. (Too bad that according to the MPAA, 42% of the domestic audience who came to see Iron Man 3 were women. Superhero movies in general are coming in at around 40% women in the audience. Not to mention you’re assuming men don’t want to see women superheroes. Not true of the men I know.)

We’ve already made plans for other movies, so you’ll need to wait a few years. (So change your plans. You could if you really wanted to.)

And this is the crux of it. The movie industry is made up largely of men who don’t really want to produce movies about female superheroes. So, unfortunately, I think I’ll be waiting for a few more years before I see what I want. (Some possible light at the end of the tunnel: There have been some recent rumours about an unnamed female-led movie in the Spiderman universe for 2017. I’ll believe it when I see it.)

What I’d pay money to see: Ellen Ripley facing down the leaders of The Company, also known as Hollywood movie execs. I can only imagine what she would say.

In the meantime, I’m off to watch my copy of Aliens.

Which female-led shows have you enjoyed? Who would you like to see on the big screen?

*

Thank you to Sue for the post. If you enjoyed it then please go read more of her views on the Doorway Between Worlds.

Advertisements

Yesterday Dylan Hearn, a writer from my ancient homeland of East Anglia, mentioned me in a blog hop post. I’ve not participated in this sort of thing in the past, but I enjoy Dylan’s blog, and I know it would be good for me to interact with the rest of humanity more, so I thought I’d join in. As ‘joining in’ just means answering some questions about myself and about writing, my two favourite topics, this should be pretty easy and enjoyable.

If you’re interested in reading some well written articles, particularly about self-publishing and indie authorship, then go check out Dylan’s blog.

And in the meantime, here’s some more about me…

1. What am I currently working on?

Oh jeez, so many things.

I’m writing articles on British history for a freelance client. These articles – mostly biographies of British monarchs – will end up on a tablet app. ‘Monarchs’ includes the Cromwells, because lets face it, Oliver was effectively king. Ironically for the writer on such an app, I’m a republican.

On Monday I finished a custom-written murder mystery party. I’m planning on doing more of these, so am working out how best to sell that as a service. Putting my business head on is way less fun than putting on my writing head.

I just started the second novel in a fantasy series set in ancient Rome. The second draft of the first novel is currently with alpha readers for comments.

I’ve got an old comic script that needs fixing for submission, and a short story I’m just planning, as well as half a dozen short stories that need edits before I send them out again. I always have at least a dozen short stories out with magazine editors, and sometimes I edit them between rejections. Remember, the only way to get acceptances is to accumulate lots of rejections, to persist and to learn from them.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For the Rome books, it’s the fact that I’m using ancient history as the basis of my fantasy, rather than the usual medieval mishmash. Plus some exploration of depression and identity, both of which interest me.

3. Why do I write what I write?

Fiction-wise, because it excites me and I think it will interest others. Isn’t that connection, sharing something exciting with people, what writing’s all about?

Freelance-wise, it’s a balancing act between how well something pays and how much it interests me. The more established I become, the more I’m able to pick jobs I’m passionate about, which isn’t great for my bank balance but is great for my enthusiasm and my sanity.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m a big planner. I usually use Dan Wells’s seven point story structure when planning fiction, not because it’s necessarily better than other structures, but because I need a framework to hang my ideas off. I’ll usually work out who my characters are and what the setting and main conflicts are, with the conflicts personally tied to the characters, then use seven point structure to map out a story dealing with those conflicts. For longer pieces there might be several seven-point structures revolving through each other, and then similar structures within each chapter.

I mostly write in Scrivener because I enjoy the flexibility it provides, in an armchair in the living room, with my monitor projected onto the TV via Chromecast. The slight time-lag is a pest, but it still means that I’m comfortable and looking ahead instead of down.

I organise and motivate myself using HabitRPG. It’s a great motivational tool/game. I’m currently a level 14 warrior riding a zombie panda and carrying a pirate’s cutlass.

My nieces helped choose the outfit.

My nieces helped choose the outfit.

5. Nominate Tell everyone about three other writers

‘Nominate’ felt like an odd word to use here, as if being mentioned on my obscure little blog was some kind of award or honour. But here are some writer-blogger types whose blogs I enjoy, who I think you should read, and who might or might not want to join in with this whole blog-hopping thing:

Everwalker – She deconstructs the art of storytelling in smart, interesting ways, particularly in relation to mythology and fantasy. Also one of the nicest people I know in real life, and not just because I surround myself with the bitter and cynical.

Petros Jordan – While Petros does write, his blog is mostly about interesting and historical maps. I’d be fascinated to know more about his writing if he does following along with the blog hop, and almost anyone will find his blog fascinating. Seriously, old maps are so cool!

The War of Memory Project – H. Anthe Davis’s blog has interesting posts about genre tropes and his fantasy writing. (I keep assuming that H. is a ‘he’ because of the avatar, but that’s off a book cover, so H. – sorry if I’m getting your gender wrong!)

Doorway Between Worlds – I don’t know if Sue Archer actually writes stories, but I do know that she writes fun articles about what science fiction and fantasy can teach us about communication. So she gets to be fourth on my list of three.

 

Well, that saved me having to come up with a blog topic for today. Thanks Dylan!

Tomorrow, something else entirely.

You know what’s great about science fiction and fantasy writing? There are lessons for everything in life. Everything, I tell you.

Other means of communication

Let me start with the example that inspired this piece, Sue Archer’s Doorway Between Worlds blog. Sue works as a business analyst in the IT industry as well as being a big sf+f fan. So she’s taken those two interests and jammed them together, writing a blog that draws lessons in communication from science fiction and fantasy. That’s awesome. That’s grabbing people’s interest and attention and then showing them something valuable. By combining two different areas it sheds new light on both.

Many of us live by the words of wisdom given by Yoda. Many of us learned about the slippery path to oppression by watching Babylon 5. Many of us have taken heart from the humble courage of Sam in Lord of the Rings. Fiction itself is full of lessons.

Democracy in action

Now step back a moment and take a lesson from the community rather than the fiction it creates.

This year there’s been a lot of fuss around the Hugo awards. Unless you’re deeply embedded in the core of fandom then you may not be aware of this. I won’t get into the reasons, but some people are unhappy at what’s on the final ballot and how it got there.

No, the controversy isn't over their badass retro spaceship

No, the controversy isn’t over their badass retro spaceship

 

Thing is, all those finalist stories, they got there by people making the effort to vote. Because that’s how democracy works – the people who turn up win. With local and European elections in the UK next week, and a huge fuss over the rise of UKIP and the BNP, we really, really need to take this lesson on board. If you don’t like the alternative then you need to turn up and vote. Because in a democracy it’s the active voters who win, not the ones who throw away their polling cards because ‘I can’t make a difference’.

Learning from your craft

What’s more, my particular writing obsessions have relevance beyond crafting fiction. Like Sue, I’ve worked analysing and influencing businesses. The things that shape my craft, that I believe are important to readers and writers – trusting yourself and others; treating people like they’re smart; embracing change – they also apply in our professional and personal lives.

Yes, fine, I write for a living and am married to a fellow geek, of course sf+f is relevant to my professional and personal lives. But that’s not why the lessons cross over.

Take trust. In business, employees work far better if they are trusted to do the job right. This gives them the independence to take the initiative, the opportunity to grow, and a reason to commit to the organisation’s goals. I’m halfway through a big freelance project around this and all the best analysis shows that the same thing that works in writing – trusting your audience to work it out – also works in the office.

It applies in your personal life as well. How much better do you feel when the people around you – friends, family, partners – trust you and have faith in you? How much worse do you feel when they over-supervise, take over tasks, contradict your judgement?

Lessons on every level

Everything about science fiction and fantasy – the stories, the craft, the community – can teach us valuable lessons. As learning tools go it’s not to everybody’s taste, and that’s fine. But for those of us who love it, it’s an endless source of education and entertainment.

Now your turn. What have you learned from sf+f? Don’t be shy, I trust you to say something smart, so share it below.