Orphaned and cast aside, she was fortunate even to survive her youth.
Embittered and toughened by the feudal world around her she became as hard and brutal as those who tried to take advantage of her.
Bereft of family and affection, she knew only strife and danger.
A simple act of kindness awakens her heart, yet she is a young woman with an untamed power that will either consume her, or prove to be the salvation of all.
A few years ago I wrote a popular blog about women in SF. The comments gave me plenty of food for thought, and I reflect upon them often.
One of the best parts of writing in a fantasy or SF scenario is that you don’t have to be beholden to history or even the current status quo.
Today we live in a society where, with few minor exceptions, the men still call the shots. This is slowly changing, but the balance is still a long way off. If you look at history, it’s been far worse. Women have been slaves, property, bargaining points… deprived of their own individuality. Kid yourself not that this still happens today in our supposedly ‘civilised’ society.
So. Consider for a moment, what would it be like if it were the other way around. This is something I’m looking at in my latest series of books.
In Shadeward: Emanation, there is a caste of women with unique powers. Passed down the female line, only women can inherit and manifest these abilities. It’s a primitive culture in many ways, relying on ancient lore, myth and legend to reinforce its dominant position. Unlike today, where the Bible, the Qur’an and many other ancient religious books emphasis male dominance, the books and tomes of these people emphasis quite the opposite. Women hold the law, women hold the rights of judgement and women hold the power. Their grip is inexorable.
Women have a gift… they aren’t equal. Men are, without doubt, an inferior sex.
What would it be like to live in such a society? Would it be better? Would it be worse? Would it just be… different? Would compassion and socialism be emphasised in such a society, how would the poor and destitute be treated? How would such a society respond to aggression? How would the old and young be treated? Would ambition be encouraged? Would we still see the hierarchical structures so common in our male dominated society, or would we see different forms of government?
Of course, there are those who disagree with their rule. A resistance organised primarily by men. In the history of my new world there was a rebellion, led by men… they were defeated. The women hold sway once more.
But there is also discontent in the caste. Some believe that equal rights should be pursued for men, despite the obvious superiority of women. Some challenge the status quo, believing that men must have compensations for the lack of obvious gifts…
There’s always a danger that SF is seen as a male dominated genre. There’s no reason why that should be, stories are stories, whether they are set in space, or set in ancient Rome, or in the gardens of a stately home in Edwardian England. True drama, genuine characters, conflict, adventure, romance and self-realisation should be just at home in SF as in any other genre.
I hope my story will be loved by all. I’ve not written it with any target market in mind, I’ve just tried to write the best story I could. I’ve tried to test my unconscious bias by flipping the gender of my protagonists throughout. Sometimes I’ve spotted something and edited it out before reverting the gender back… transgender authoring technique? And, of course, sometimes gender is far from the cosy two-state condition many still believe it is.
If you love complex characters, trying to find their way in strange, unusual yet wondrous world, fighting or aiding the structures around them, defying social conventions, or desperately trying to shore them up…
…I recommend Shadeward: Emanation to you. It launches on the 24th of October this year.