Tag Archives: female bad asses

GGC12 Panels: Why Men Write Women Poorly, With Greg Rucka

This panel was inspired by a piece comic writer and novel author Greg Rucka wrote for i09 and can be found here. But it seemed like a good topic to address at Geek Girl Con, so he took the stage with Susana Polo to talk about his article, his method of writing believable, realistic women, and answer some questions.

When Polo started reading comics it was for one character. She says it takes a while for you to pay attention to the names of the authors on the comics. And one of the names that kept coming up was Greg Rucka. No Man’s Land, Batman, etc. Rucka is also the author of the Atticus Kodiak series.

Rucka says he wrote the i09 piece in response to being asked how he writes realistic female characters. There are two part to the question: 1) how does he, having a penis, write characters without a penis? And 2) why aren’t more people doing it. “How do we do it?” Rucka asks. “I try to treat all characters with respect…. Characters are never all one thing. That is bad writing.” To assume that is the same thing as saying Harry Potter is a scar. Characterization is a million things. They are built on their history, education, experiences, sexual orientation, etc.

But when it comes to men writing women, we have to acknowledge we live in a sexist society. Rucka says, for example, he can walk down a Seattle street at 3 am, and doing that is a different experience for him than a woman. So it needs to be acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you think about. “We ignore gender and characterization at our peril,” he says.

Of course, like any writing advice, Rucka reminds us, “Any writer who tells you this is how you do it, eye with suspicion.” One of the reasons writing works it that it’s an individual voice. There is no one right way.

His fourth Kodiak book is his first told from another character’s POV. That character is Bridgett Logan, Atticus’ ex-girlfriend, and a woman. In first person, everything is character because it is a character voice. Atticus might describe a chair as “sickly green” but Bridgett would call it “a piece of junk.” Bridgett is an Irish catholic girl from the Bronx who is a recovering junkie. Her perspective and narration are affected by those things.

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GGC12 Panels: Capes & Canes – Disabilities in Comics

Geek Girl Con was so much fun, I don’t even know where to begin. Autumn and I have a zillion photos and reams of panel notes, and Autumn interviewed some ladies from NASA. So we’ll be posting our Con Converge as quickly as real life allows. (Damn real life!)

Barbara Gordon as Oracle from her Wikipedia page

This panel was proposed and moderated by Katelyn Bruhn. The other panelists were Greg Rucka, comic writer and novelist; Jen Van Meter, comic writer; Teal Sherer, actress and producer, and star of the webseries My Gimpy Life; and Jill Pantozzi, writer who contributes to many sites including The Mary Sue. This is a long write up because it was so awesome and so much was discussed.

So what inspired the panel, among other things, was the backlash last year when DC announced that in the New 52 reboot of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon would reprise the role. She had been using a wheelchair after the Joker shot her through the spine and had become the Oracle. In the reboot, she would be walking again.

Pantozzi says she was mostly in the dark about new 52 but a friend from DC gave her a heads up that they were getting rid of Oracle and putting Barbara back as Batgirl. She found it extremely upsetting. “Oracle is a role model of mine,” she says. And to have a bad ass female character alone is unique in the Dc universe, let alone one in a wheelchair. And of course back then, she had no idea how they would do it. Would they magic the wheelchair away? Pretend it never happened?

Sherer says she felt basically the same way. There are so few characters out there with disabilities.“There’s this misconception out there that people with disabilities are broken and need to be fixed..Maybe she doesn’t want to be fixed.She released a youtube video dressed as Oracle to argue that side of it last year. (It’s hilarious and I suggest you watch it. On having to be Batgirl again: “Girl, I’m 30 years old!”)

Rucka says he’s curious now, a year later, how you feel about it and how it was handled? He’s quick to add not about Gail doing a good job, because that’s a given.

Pantozzi says Barbara Gordon is a good character no matter what. “[Gordon] as Batgirl is interesting but also, we have seen that story.”

Rucka agrees and adds that Oracle was so successful as a story because the entirety of her journey was in the books. Readers got to see her before the wheelchair, and see the trauma of being shot and then disabled, and see her cope with it and accept it and move on. If DC were to say, Okay, we hear you, toss in another wheelchair-bound lady crime fighter, it would feel apologist.

Bruhn asks, How important is it that when we rejoin Barbara she is recovering physically and emotionally even though she’s out of the chair? Bruhn is a big Marvel fan, so she’s big on the idea that when you fix something with Tony Stark you give him another problem. It’s a constant battle.

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Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Mia Price is a lightning addict. As in, she’s addicted to being struck by lightning and has been hit seven times. Her body is covered in Lichenberg marks, which are red scars that look like lightning bolts, an effect of the lightning. The last time she was struck, her hair had been singed off.

As a writer, sometimes I come across a premise that is so awesome I am instantly jealous I didn’t think of it first. This is one of those cases. I started thinking about where I’d take the idea, and it’s no whether near were Bosworth takes it, but she takes it awesome places.

We join Mia after Los Angeles has just had a massive, 8.something Earthquake that has left the city in shambles. Towers have fallen, houses have been reduced to dust. Displaced people wander the streets and there’s not enough anything to go around. In the midst of this destruction, a prophet named Rance Ridley Prophet who hosts a show called The Hour of Holy Light, has taken advantage of the quake, and in fact, predicted it the day before it happened. But something odd happens to his followers, who dress in all white and walk around with strangely blank looks.

Meanwhile another group, The Seekers, tries to court Mia into joining them in order to save the world because she has The Spark. Plus there’s mysterious guy who’s watching her house, trying to warn her to stay away from both the Prophet and The Seeker.  She doesn’t know what to do, and only wants to survive while total chaos reigning in the city. It’s a mess.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth is compelling. It’s more realistic that so many dystopian books because it deals with the cataclysmic even and the direct aftermath. Mia and her brother Parker only attend school to get rations handed out to now-much-smaller student body at the end of the day. There are memorials and walls with photos of the missing and entire parts of Los Angeles reduced to Wasteland.

Mia is headstrong and smart, not easily taken in by anyone or their stories, though she does have a fierce need to protect both her brother and mother. She’s a practical protagonist, and not quick to accept the insane preachings from either side. When Jeremy tries to warn her to stay away from both groups and not get involved, she replies:

“You think I want to be involved in any of this? I don’t want people having prophecies about me, or giving me tarot cards, or trying to recruit me for Team Apocalypse.”

Team Apocalypse is the name of my next band. The narration is funny. There is a bit of romance but it doesn’t detract from the fast-paced plot or the constant questions Mia and the reader keep asking. I managed to figure out who Jeremy was pretty quickly, but I like how it’s handled nonetheless.

I’m also a sucker for crazy cult stories, true and fictional, and the Prophet was scary because it doesn’t feel that far fetched. Supernatural elements aside (of which there are only a few and lightly used), a religious leader using a natural disaster to gain followers and power isn’t exactly hard to believe.

Recommended for: People who enjoy books with dystopic elements set closer to present day. People who appreciate strong female leads who can take care of themselves.

Review: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is famous for her Temperance Brennan series, the one they adapted into the show Bones. It’s about a forensic anthropologist solving crimes using bones and smarts and some investigating. Reichs hereself is a forensic anthropologist and she pulls some of her plots from real life situations (although she changes them to suit the story/keep confidentially). Virals is her first young adult novel (it now has a sequel, Seizure). I’m a fan of Reichs’ work so I was excited to see what she did for the YA shelf. I enjoyed the book  but it had its pros and cons. Let’s jump in and discuss them, shall we?

A Quick Synopsis: Tory Brennan is a teenager who lost her mom in a car crash and moved in with her father, Kit, who didn’t even know he had a daughter until he became her legal guardian. He’s a scientist who works at an island lab for the University, and they live on Morris Island off the coast of South Carolina. Tory makes friends with the three guys her age, all of whom ride the ferry to the mainland for school together. They’re all science geeks in one form or another. One day they find an old dog tag, and that leads them to a body and a forty-year old missing persons case.While trying to find answers, the group comes across a secret parvovirus experiment being done by one of her father’s colleagues and they free the infected dog.

The Good:

+ Reichs always weaves a suspenseful mystery and this is no exception. As a reader, I needed to know was going to happen and tried to piece together clues as I read along, just like in her adult series. It’s the same writing style and same level of mystery. Human remains are found and the question is who are they, how did they die, and is someone guilty?

+ Our heroine is a brave, butt-kicking girl who fits in with the boys and is the leader of their group. There’s no love triangle, either, although she does have a crush (not one of her gang) and it’s pretty clear Ben likes her. Tory doesn’t need guys to come to her rescue and she’s smart, funny, and likable.

+ The cast is well-rounded and well-developed. All three of Tory’s scoobies—Hi, Ben, and Shelton—are unique and interesting people. Frankly, a series of science geeks solving murders has all kinds of potential and doesn’t even need the supernatural wolf DNA element. Ben is the stoic man of few words, Hi is the nerdy, clumsy one with the pop culture references and quick jokes (though he’s also very smart) and Shelton is the cowardly computer geek. But they extend beyond those initial types and read like real people.

+ Solving mysteries with science! Science rules!

+ The main character’s name is Tory and we all know Toris are awesome people, even if they spell it with a “y.” *wink*

 What Bugged Me:  

+ 3rd Person Sections: Whenever a book is told in first person, I always feel cheated when there are sections from another perspective in 3rd. I feel like as a writer, you have to pick your perspective and accept the limitations it provides. If you need other voices to create suspense, you shouldn’t use first. I’m sure it works fine for some people, but it always bothers me and pops me out of the story. I realize in some cases, the person “telling” the story may have had these other parts relayed to them–although that’s impossible in at least one case–but I just don’t like it.

 + Tory Brennan is Temperance Brennan (she’s even a Brennan by her mom’s side, no relation, just so she can have the same name). They are exactly the same character. Not just their interests and personalities. They are identical right down to their quirky mannerisms (they both pace, tick points off on their fingers, etc). Even their knowledge of forensics and worldly artifacts. Reichs tries to lampshade this saying Tory has read all of Temperance’s books but still, how does the kid know how to dig out bones in reality? I’ve read the books too but I sure as hell wouldn’t know the proper protocol to use while digging up remains.  The one difference is that Tory is a teenager and doesn’t have access to labs (legally) or police forces, and has to commit crimes to get anything done. But that’s it. It’s like she took her existing model, made a few quirks to make it YA, and bam!

 + The supernatural DNA alternation makes no sense in Temperance Brennan’s world. Yes, it’s science fiction but it’s still supernatural. If this series were a separate entity, it’d be fine, but it’s not. Tory is the long lost daughter of Temperance’s nephew, a character shoe-horned into the universe on purpose. By extension, she’s rippled the fabric of her world building and created doubt that science will always be Tempe’s answer, and that’s weird. Why not just make it a different series? Why force the connection?

+ The constant Mac/Apple advertisement. No one has a computer in this series, it’s always a Mac. And only one person doesn’t have an iPhone, and he’s the guy with the ancient cell. I have a Mac and I like Macs (though I prefer my Android phone) but I hated hearing about Apple products so much. At least change it up and give Hy a Dell or something. And yes, sometimes brands are used to show something about the character. In this case, it just seemed like the only computer/cellphone outlet in the entire state of South Carolina was an Apple store.

All and all, I love the way Reichs builds and tells a mystery, and I will probably read its sequel.

Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

I think most of us have spent the past week absorbed in video games (Mass Effect 3 or Sims: Showtime), so it’s been quiet around these parts. Don’t worry, we’ve got a lot of good stuff on the horizon, including lots of Emerald City Comic Con coverage in three weeks. Now, onto the review:

Out of Sight, Out of Time is the fifth installment in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, which features the Gallagher Academy, a school for lady spies. You know how Harry Potter started as a fun, magical series about a school for wizards and gradually got darker as the kids got older and the threats they faced more serious (or at least more heinous)? This series has a similar progression and this book is the darkest so far, but it also means readers are far more attached to the characters.

When we last left The Gallagher Girls, Cammie Morgan had run away, knowing that she was a target and thus a danger to her friends and family. When this book opens, Cammie wakes up in a convent in Austria in October, with no memory of what’s transpired during the previous five months. She’s injured, scarred, her hair is short and dyed black, and she’s emaciated.

In her first few weeks back at school, she absentmindedly assembles a gun with no idea where she learned how, and she keeps losing chunks of time. And then to save Bex, she kills a man during what seems like a blackout. Like the rest of the series, Out of Sight, Out of Time is full of twists and unexpected turns. It’s about spies and the “trust no one” could be the motto. The stakes are higher in this book–the Circle that’s been chasing Cammie no longer seems to need her alive–and the real mystery is what Cammie did with her Summer, making it the most frustrating to Cam, though Rachel Morgan, her mom, insists she might be better off not remembering.

Carter navigates the unreliable first person narrator mine field expertly. We know something’s wrong–Cammie knows–but we see it clearly through people’s reactions to her (especially Bex). Actually one of my favorite things about the series is Cammie’s narration. She’s writing the books as covert operations reports, and she’s funny, expressive, and has a unique voice. All of the characters are well-defined people with strengths and weaknesses. You can tell when Bex is speaking versus Macey or Liz without a dialog tag. But I digress.

The first few Gallagher Girls books made me wish I could go to spy school. This one made me sort of glad it wasn’t a possibility. There have been dangerous situations and near-misses, but this one is the most frightening and the Circle is really pulling out all of the stops. I also like how the act of actually killing someone haunts Cammie, despite it having saved her friend’s life. Fiction can take the “self defense” part for granted and ignore the mental consequences of such an act, but this book doesn’t. This series is all about consequences, because as a spy, your every move can have them and they can be deadly.

Bonus points: Abby is back. I heart Abby. Zach is around a lot, which is swell. The girls use crossbows in P&E (that always makes me happy, given our blog’s name) even if Liz probably shouldn’t.

Recommended: Obviously if you’ve read the first four, you’re probably chomping at the bit for this one, so I don’t have to tell you twice. I will just tell you it is worth the short wait you have left. If you haven’t, I suggest you ignore the cover art–it’s cute, and this one is pretty cool, but in general it makes the books look campier than they deserve–and give them a shot. You’ll learn lots of cool spy slang and they’re really fun yet intense reads.

Hits Shelves: Tuesday, March 13th

This is a review of an ARC sent in by the publisher.

Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

"First, check your ammunition. Then, check your escape routes. Finally, check your hair." - Frances Brown

Verity Price loves ballroom dance so much, she’s moved to New York City to see if she can make it into a career, and works as a cocktail waitress to pay the bills. But as a Price girl, she’s also a cryptozoologist, a trained fighter, and a sworn protector of cryptids (monsters, ghouls, and the rest), so long as they don’t kill humans. Generations ago, her family broke from the fanatic Covenant of St. George, an organization whose motto is “if it ain’t human, kill it.” Since many cryptids are sentient and generally decent people, genocide didn’t really sit well with them.

One night, Verity runs across a member of the Covenant, Dominic, whose swallowed the Convenant Kool-Aid. Meanwhile, cryptids are vanishing. Lacking options, she has to work with him (or at least keep him from killing innocent people of all species), while trying to figure out what’s going on it the city.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire is everything fans could hope for: insanely detailed world-building, a thorough history of the Price family (including charts and quotes from relatives a the start of each chapter), and realistic character building. For example, Verity has piles of laundry on her couch and nothing in her fridge, and has to fight the Good Fight between shifts as a waitress. Oh, and there’s some very good sexual tension between Dominic and Verity. I admit, I’m a sucker for a bad guy who thinks he’s the good guy. Especially one who wears a duster.

And the mice. Oh, the mice. Aeslin mice are a kind of cryptid. Generations of them have lived with the Price family for, well, generations, and a splinter colony has followed Verity to New York. They’re very religious and they take the history and happenings of the Price family as gospel. It’s convenient for historical purposes, since they keep intricate records of whole conversations and events, but inconvenient when they have holy festivals every other day. They’re adorable and “Hail!” everything, down to Verity needing to buy new uniform socks. I want a colony of Aeslin mice, although I doubt my cats would appreciate it.

Full of unexpected twists, lots of action, and suspense, it’s a wholly engrossing read. Half-way through, I was reading it on my regular bus and was so absorbed I actually missed my stop and didn’t even notice til I was a few stops passed it. It’s the kind of book you can’t stop reading but at the same time don’t want it to end.

Also: McGuire includes an ass-kicking read-a-long playlist that I didn’t see til I finished, but she has awesome taste in music. Make sure to flip to the back before you start reading if you enjoy that sort of thing.

Recommended if: You liked Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red series. You like bad-ass ladies who can kick ass in heels and never forget to bring a gun to a fight. Obviously if you’re a fan of October Daye. You’ve ever waited tables and know how hard it is to get your shift covered so you can save the world, again.

Hits Shelves: March 6th, 2012

Note: This review is of an ARC sent to me by the author.

Cross Dressing: Jeanne D’Arc

Note the curves in her armor to emphasize her femininity...

Thinking about the name Chicks With Crossbows, the first image that came to mind was a heroine that was some sort of a hybrid between stock characters in video games, fantasy novels, and action movies. I also thought of my mom who would occasionally do target practice in our backyard with her crossbow. Yes, you read that correctly. My mom would go into our backyard and shoot arrows at a target using her crossbow. It was pretty bad ass.

But when I tried to think of historical records of women using crossbows, I couldn’t think of one. Historically crossbows were used in war and wars were fought by men. Women did not typically go into battle because that was considered men’s domain. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any women who fought alongside men.

During the Siege of Orleans in 1428 Jeanne d’Arc – also known as Joan of Arc – was hit by an arrow fired by a crossbow. Crossbows are a fascinating weapon and, if Hollywood has it right, it looks like a horrible way to die if you’re hit in a vulnerable spot. Jeanne d’Arc was hit in the leg and that’s not so bad, I suppose, but it probably doesn’t make for a very successful day on the battlefield. Well, to be forthright, it’s not known beyond the shadow of a doubt that the arrow was shot by a crossbow, but that was the weapon of choice for many warriors on both the British and French sides, so we can surmise it was a crossbow that did the damage.

But it’s not the crossbow that I want to focus on, but Joan of Arc and her crime of cross-dressing. It’s probably no surprise that she wasn’t wearing a dress while in battle. It would have made her more physically vulnerable to weaponry and she would have been a much easier target for the English. But the fact that she wore men’s clothing became a central aspect of her trial because there were laws against that sort of deviant behavior. And those laws were supported by Biblical scripture.

Relying on Deuteronomy 22:5 – “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” – those overseeing her trial built a case against the 19-year old that was grounded in Christian dogma. Of course, the clothing that men and women wore had changed dramatically since the book of Deuteronomy was written, but such trifles were not to be bothered with.

Jeanne also wore men’s clothing while imprisoned by the English, an act that was viewed as not only sinful, but arrogant as well. The Chief prosecutor of her case, Pierre Cauchon, built much of his case around her violation of gender roles that had established women as modest and passive.

But Jeanne was not foolish; she utilized Christian dogma to support her donning of male garments. In the court record she stated that, “I believe this seems strange to you, and not without cause; but since I must arm myself and serve the gentle Dauphin in war, it is necessary for me to wear these clothes, and also when I am among men in the habit of men, they have no carnal desire for me; and it seems to me that thus I can better preserve my purity in thought and deed.” It has been speculated that Jeanne d’Arc was sexually assaulted while a prisoner of the British and that her clothing defiance was an attempt to protect herself. Regardless of her motivation, it was this perceived act of defiance that her enemies used as one of the reasons to sentence her to death when she was only 19 years old.

For more information on Jeanne d’Arc, including the transcript of her trial, please visit http://primary-sources-series.joan-of-arc-studies.org/PSS021806.pdf