Andrea’s Rule

Andrea is my feminist conscience. She is also a friend. For the past decade or so, I have been tossing my story ideas at her to see what sticks, much as an undergraduate might toss spaghetti at the wall to see if it has been properly cooked[1].  This has proven useful over the years, because a lot of my ideas come out half-baked.  I think it’s even more important now that I’m actively doing battle with the Men are Generic, Women are Special trope in my stories.Asimov's Oct/Nov 2014

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has composed a brilliant little piece in the October Asimov’s about a woman struggling to live in the stuffy world of country club golf. I would love to be able to write that piece[2]. Sadly, I am handicapped not only by my inferior writing ability, but also by the annoying interference of a Y chromosome in my genome. I can’t really know how she feels, because I’ve never lived it. Then again, I’ve never been a three-armed alien from the planet Zzax[3], either.

The key, of course, to writing about things you’ve never experienced is research. To research women for my fiction, I read biographies and relevant SF novels and talk with my wife.  And when that turns into a possible story idea, I consult with Andrea.

One tip Andrea gave me has recently become the mantra for my recent stories.  I hereby christen Andrea’s Rule:  When you create a character, ask why it has to be male. Lacking a strong reason, make her female.  This one small act has taken a scimitar to my character design, shifted my plots, and overall made my stories less drab and boring.Andrea's Rule

One side effect of this action has been to make me notice when other writers make the decision to let more characters be women. In Robert R Chase’s contribution to the same Asimov’s, his commanding officer Lieutenant Jansons is a woman.  It’s a valid decision, but I was surprised when (two pages in) she was first tied to a pronoun, and it was feminine.  And perhaps, that’s the point.

As long as people like me are surprised by a generic woman, we need Andrea’s Rule.

[1] My wife would perhaps be a better choice, but she doesn’t really enjoy SF.  She does like spaghetti, but to date I haven’t thrown any of that at her, either.
[2] Not literally. That would be plagiarism, and I don’t do that.
[3] I have no stories pending about this alien.  If you want to write about her, please do.

Advertisements