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What's New:

Miserere is now available at Audible.

My short story "Naked the Night Sings" is only one of the many fine stories in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.

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"Filled with show me now and tell me later prose, [Miserere] was one of the finest debuts of 2011 and remains a novel that I remember details from nearly three years later." Justin Landon, Tor.com

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Sunday
Mar182012

StellarCon 36 pics, and moar better older women in fantasy

I've been meaning to post these ever since author J. Thomas Ross graciously gave me permission to post some of the pictures she took at StellarCon 36. She did an awesome recap of StellarCon 36, so I will redirect you to her for more pictures of and a great summary of the con.

All of the photographs below are copyright of J. Thomas Ross, so please check with her before reposting:

I'm just posting pictures from a few of the panels that I was on. You can also see some of the other panelists who helped make StellarCon such a great experience for me.

Religion in SFF:

From left to right: Theresa Bane, Teresa Frohock, Diana Bastine, and Janine K. Spendlove

In Religion in SFF, we talked about how to weave religious beliefs into your writing without pushing doctrine.

One part of StellarCon that I really enjoyed but don't have pictures for was the SONAR presentations. J. Thomas has these pictures on her blog.

These were very informative and I'm so glad StellarCon made time for them. Although I know that cons are pushed for room space and time, I hope next year StellarCon finds a way to give each SONAR presenter a full hour. The presentations were just that good.

I got to attend the SONAR presentation on Women in Combat by Chris Berman. Chris talked about the differences between male and female pilots during WWII. The Russians had an elite team of female bomber pilots that were deadly. They were called (and I love this name) The Night Witches.

Chris carefully outlined male/female brain differences, and the differences in how men and women perceive various combat situations. One great example he had was that the fight or flight impulse in men is almost instantaneous. Women process information differently, and this impulse is delayed, which means a woman will assess the situation more completely before fighting or running.

If you want to read a little about The Night Witches, you can check out Chris's tribute to these magnificent warriors on his website.

From left to right: Davey Beauchamp, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Teresa FrohockNow who says librarians and teachers are a droll lot. We had so much fun on this panel, I'm surprised we didn't disturb the panel next door. One thing we all agreed upon: libraries are communities and you should get involved with yours today.

Next up is from one of my favorite panels: Strong Female Characters.

Left to right: Diana Bastine, Michael Z. Williamson, Teresa Frohock, and Chris Berman

I was really lucky to sit on quite a few panels with Diana Bastine, but it was the two panels on women that I found her insights to be very revealing. We talked about qualities other than kicking ass that made women strong, and we talked about the absolute dearth of strong older female characters. Diana pointed out (and rightly so) that older women are also hidden in society.

So our battlecry henceforth is: MOAR BETTER OLDER WOMEN IN FANTASY!

And we don't mean old ladies living in cottages, dispensing cookies and wisdom in equal measure. We want to see older women functioning in these utopian societies young women are building, because I got news for you girls, one day you'll be forty and old too.

While we're on the subject, I also want to point out that the audiences were comprised of people of all ages (please pay attention, publishers). Young people aren't the only ones who read fantasy. Fantasy is a genre loved by the young and old, and we would like to see more novels with characters that reflect this demographic. Not all protagonists have to be twenty-something for us to enjoy the novel.

Okay, rant over.

If you missed StellarCon 36, you have not completely lost out. I'm going to remind you one more time that J. Thomas has more pictures and an excellent write-up on her blog. She talks about some of the panels that she attended with Pat Rothfuss and Michael A. Stackpole. Check out her blog. I would like to thank her again for her kind permission to use the photos she took of my panelists and me.

If you missed it this year, stay tuned, because StellarCon 37 is coming next March.

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Reader Comments (10)

One of the things I noticed about the Strong Female Characters panel was how the male writers and female writers answered--quite differently! Williamson went on about how he had bad-ass broads beating up baddies, and tangented onto women in the military, and Chris also talked about women fighters. Whereas you and Diana brought up other things, like strength of character as opposed to strength of body. As if the male writers on the panel considered physical strength to be the point of it, where everybody else wanted to go on about how to make female characters that are characters as opposed to cardboard cutouts!

Also props to Diana for not shredding the earnest young man who asked about "quintessentially female characteristics." If I'd been on that panel, I'd have had a hard time refraining from dropping a lot of feminist theory onto his lap (starting with "gender essentialism").
March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCD Covington
Hey, CD!

I'm so glad you dropped in with those comments.

You’re right about the guys did talk about the physical characteristics too.

I think Chris made some good points about how a woman's ability to show and deal with her emotions prevented a lot of women from suffering from PTSD the way men did during WWII. He mentioned that the women allowed themselves to grieve and move on so that what was essentially seen by some as a "weakness" turned out to be one of the women's greater strengths. Women supported one another more than the men and they formed better teams. He also mentioned that the women were far more valiant than the men and more willing to place their lives at risk for the success of the mission.

As to Diana's superb handling of the young man's question: she showed one of the biggest differences between older women and younger women with her measured answer. Most women would do what you talked about doing and retaliated with facts.

Diana's experience was why she answered the way she did. She knows (as I've learned) that it is very easy to fall into an argument unless one person remains rational, gentle even. I think she exhibited the very wisdom I've been trying to talk about. She answered the question and maybe she changed the young man's mind, maybe not.

What she did do was cut his rhetoric short without sacrificing her position and enabled the panel to remain a positive experience for all of the attendees.

Personally, I don’t argue. Some people are right, they are right, they are right, they are right, no matter how WRONG they are, they are right. You will NOT change these individuals’ minds no matter what you say, so why waste time and energy arguing with them? I don’t. I’ve got better things to do.

Diana and I have learned that when you answer anger or derision with anger or derision, you immediately cut off any and all potential of discussion, because the other person is simply going to become more defensive of their position. Then the two parties keep upping the ante until you’re almost at fisticuffs and the discussion explodes into profanity laced name calling.

My favorite Taoist expression is “pervade gently, imitate the wind,” and your point will be taken. If it’s not, that’s okay too. If I want the right to be wrong, I should give others the right to be wrong too.

I’m so glad you enjoyed the panel. It was one of my favorites, and I’m glad the con committee included the guys. I thought it made for a nice balance.
March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
I LOVE your comment, Teresa. In medicine, arguing with patients gets you nowhere, and even the most truculent of commenters can be swayed or impressed, at least, with a measured, unthreatened response. Looks like you had a lot of fun.
March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJan O'Hara
Hey, Jan, thanks for popping in. You don't know how many online SFF forums I've read that start out perfectly lucid before degenerating into a SNL parody of Point-Counterpoint.

Male SFF fan: "Jane, you ignorant slut."

Female SFF fan: "Dan, you pompous ass."

Within six more posts, you have George Carlin's Words You Can't Say on TV twisted into more variations than I've ever heard, and I used to hang around very violent people in addition to my first husband being in the Navy.

Let me tell you, my friends, that's quite a repertoire some of you have.

Of course, I never wasted that many words. I'd just hit them. Which, now that I mention it, is VERY, VERY BAD AND YOU SHOULD NOT STRIKE OTHER PEOPLE WITH YOUR HANDS OR OBJECTS, because then law enforcement becomes involved, and ... what were we talking about?

Oh, yes, being reasonable. Anger managment classes are very good. ;-)
March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
And as it so happens, Elspeth's Cooper's novel features such a character...
I want to thank you for pointing that out, Paul.

My novel also has two strong, older women; however, Elspeth and I are, quite unfortunately, the exceptions, not the rule. There should be more, both in our novels and in the real world. Older women deserve to be seen.
March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
I don't know if it's because I'm young(er... I'm over 35 now), or just because I have limited patience for foolishness ;) I spend a lot of time reading feminist blogs and thinking about our society and women's rights and lives, so for me, feminist theory is kind of like a fish's water. Words like "heteronormative" come out of my mouth fairly regularly.

Chris had a lot of interesting points, I thought. You could really tell he was passionate about the Soviet women fighters! On open displays of grief: there's a lot of interesting discussion about society viewing emotional displays (of any sort, except possibly anger) as weakness and "feminine," so boys are raised believing they can't display emotion or they're weak girls. Which results in, as Chris said and you mentioned, men not displaying grief and getting PTSD while the "weak" women didn't (to as much of an extent). It's really fascinating exploring the fuzzy border between nature and nurture. There's no doubt that some people are born less prone to displays of emotion than others, but they aren't all male. There's also no doubt that "boys don't cry" and other similar messages prominent in our culture help shape the way boys grow into men.

On the topic of older women in novels: my (unpublished and slowly seeking representation) novel has a woman in her mid or late 60s (an MC's mom) who's a fairly central figure, and another woman of similar age who's an important background figure until she shows up at the end. The MC is 30ish, and she's got a 5-yr-old daughter. The piece I'm working on now is set 25 years earlier, and it's the mom's story from when she was a councilwoman in her late 30s, with a young daughter. There's fighting involved in both, but they're both fighting to protect their children. (Mom doesn't succeed, unfortunately.)

I think the best advice to give to anyone who asks "How do I write realistic female characters?" would be to say "think about your mom, sister, cousin, neighbor, classmate, grandma, aunt, teacher. They all have more of a personality than 'love interest,' right? They have friends, jobs, families, hobbies, favorite music. You give your male characters these things, so give them to your female characters as well." Then give examples: I absolutely love Katara and Toph from Avatar: the Last Airbender. Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, the erstwhile villains, are also 3-dimensional. The female characters get as much development as the male characters. (I LOVE THAT SHOW. SO MUCH.) Or for literature, there's Deryn Sharp of Leviathan or Katniss in the Hunger Games (she's a very interesting protagonist, very deeply flawed and at times unlikeable, but also relateable). And Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, Alys Vorpatril, Elli Quinn, Elena Bothari...

Ooh, I think a "favorite female characters" panel would be fun! *makes notes for my con for 2013* *shameless plug for ConTemporal*
March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCD Covington
Thanks for coming back, C.D.!

I consider myself a feminist as well (some may question that, but I really am). All of you—and I don't just mean you, C.D., because I've read through some of the feminist blogs too—all of you are very passionate and beautiful young women. Your views are very similar to the ones I had when I was young(er). ;-)

I also had your limited patience. ;-) So I understand exactly where you and all of your contemporaries are coming from. I loved a lot of the points you made in your second post, because I agree.

Yet ... here's the thing:

I no longer solely identify myself as a feminist, or as a cataloger, or as a mother, or as a wife, or as a worker, or as an author, or as a sister, or an aunt, or any of those things, because I am ALL of those things, a whole and complete as a person. That is where I have found true empowerment—by acknowledging all these aspects of myself.

As I grew older, I found men could be as abused and harmed by the very system that hurt me. Sometimes more so, because society shamed them into believing they should always be in control. If they once stepped outside of their delineated roles, they could be as ostracized as women. They had no outlet for release.

I’ve also encountered women who are more locked down emotionally than the most macho man. I think what I finally learned was that each individual is unique and I can’t lump everyone into a category.

I found that if I listened—all kidding aside, now—genuinely listened, people with opposing points of view and I could find some common ground to use as a stepping off place to better understand one another. These glimmers of understanding often broadened to open relationships with people I never thought I would associate with and enjoy them for the people they are.

I wish you all the luck with your work. You're passionate about it and that's what counts. More than anything, I'm so happy you came back with such a detailed post.

If you get a minute, you might be interested in this interview over at Writer Unboxed today. Justine Musk talks about feminism and writing: http://writerunboxed.com/2012/03/19/justine-musk/
March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
Firstly, thanks, Teresa for your gracious words. I had a wonderful time on all of my panels, but did especially enjoy the ones on women in genre fiction. I also want to thank CD for complimenting my "restraint" -- except that it wasn't really restraint at all because I interpreted the young man's question differently. As I understood it, he was trying to get us to discuss whether there were any strengths that were specific to women. I felt he was trying to steer the discussion back to the whole idea of "women in genre fiction," as opposed to how they (and their strengths) compared to men. And since I was completely out of my depth with all of the military-type examples, I was actually quite grateful to him for pulling the subject back to "women's strengths." I honestly didn't see his question as intending to be sexist or demeaning in any way at all. So you're both giving me much more credit than I probably deserve!! (But I appreciate it anyway.)

And to be completely honest, I'm not really any kind of expert on feminist theory anyway, so I wouldn't have been able to drop any of those wonderfully intellectual terms into the discussion in any case.... ;)
March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Bastine
Whichever wave of feminism we're on now (3rd I think) does talk about how patriarchy hurts men, too. Women being treated as fully human is still the focus, since, duh, feminism is about equal rights for women. But a lot of recent writers have discussed things like "women's jobs" like nursing, teaching, etc, which men have gotten into more and more--and sometimes still get a load of crap for it--and making them as valued as, say, doctors or lawyers, which are more traditionally associated with men (though women are starting to outnumber men in med school, and my pharmacy class was well over 60% female in 2005). It's a slightly different approach--looking at how society values different things and working to revalue the "women's" jobs, or to get rid of gender-based designations of jobs in the first place. After all, what's inherently male about brain surgery, or inherently female about teaching?

My mother-in-law went to college in the 60s and faced a lot of institutional sexism (she had to study chemistry to be taken seriously because biology was for girls); I faced less in the 90s, though one dinosaur didn't think women belonged in calculus classes. She doesn't wear skirts or dresses, possibly because of the way she interpreted feminism 50 years ago. It's a fairly first-wave thing to abandon the societally-imposed trappings of femininity. I love (longer) skirts, ridiculous high heels, and frills. The third wave is embracing free expression, though there's a bit of internal conflict about "fun feminism" and slams like "they just don't know any better."

In my career, I've had trouble because I don't play the submissive female games. I don't phrase things with hedge words and all nicey-nice. I'm direct. And there are a lot of people who have trouble with that coming from a woman, and not just dinosaurs. Women not much older than myself! I don't act the way people expect a woman to act, which disturbs them.

People naturally put people into categories; it's what we do. It's unfortunately not very useful, and can cause harm, more often than we'd like. I don't know if it's even possible to stop people from doing that. I wonder if it's possible even to get everyone to view others as individuals rather than monolithic lumps. Cynicism says no, but I wouldn't be working toward social justice if I didn't think the answer was (eventually) yes.
March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCD Covington
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