A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.
by A.C. Wise
Lauren Beukes made her fiction debut with Moxyland in 2009, but her first novel to garner widespread attention, and my recommended starting place for her work, is Zoo City, which won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle Award, along with being nominated for several other awards. In addition to presenting a fascinating world where characters’ past misdeeds manifest physically as animals bound to them for the rest of their lives, Zoo City does something fairly rare – it offers a genuine female anti-hero as a main character. Too often, female characters are held to odd standards, forcing them into boxes of pure good or pure evil, virgin or whore, with nothing in-between. Rarely do we get women who are as many shades of gray as Beukes’ Zinzi December – a finder of lost things, who also happens to be an email scammer/spammer, a former junkie, the cause of her brother’s death, and a character who genuinely cares about the welfare of others, going out of her way to look out for two teenage pop stars who everyone else seems determined to either tip-toe around or manipulate and use. In short, she has all the classic hallmarks of an anti-hero; she’s a complex, multi-faceted character who, despite her flaws, the reader roots for, and there are far too few examples like her in fiction. Based on Zoo City, I’ll be circling back to Moxyland soon, and picking up The Shining Girls, Beukes’ latest, which looks similarly intriguing, and which is slated to become a movie in the near(ish) future.
Susie Hufford is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College & a freelance writer.
Lauren Beukes’ new novel The Shining Girls is a repulsive, and yet strangely addicting, read. It can’t be denied that Beukes has talent, and her talent shines brightest in moments when she engages the psyche of serial killer, Harper Curtis, as he grotesquely pulls the wings off a bee or contemplates stabbing out a child’s eyes. Shining Girls is pitched by the publisher as a combination of The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it’s not clear if those two excellent books ever should have combined forces.
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If The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is half as creepy as this trailer, I wanna read it.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This one is for the ladies! In the past few years we’ve seen the rise of some pretty kick-ass (physical and otherwise) women in SF/F and Urban Fantasy, and I thought it might be fun for the ladies to weigh in on what they think of the evolution of women in fantasy, what “strong” means to them, and also include some examples of strong women in fiction that have caught their eye! I want the guys involved too, so please don’t be afraid to weigh in in the comments!
We asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
Linnea Sinclair is a former news reporter and retired private detective who yearns for more adventure than ‘Hold the presses!’ and stacks of case files can provide. The role of starship captain was her dream long before James T ever uttered “Beam me up!” Writing stories is her way of living that dream. When she’s not tinkering with a recalcitrant sublight drive, you can find her in southwest Florida (winters) or central Ohio (summers) living with her very patient husband, Robert Bernadino and their thoroughly spoiled cats!
I think that, to a great extent, SFF pioneered the stronger female character, so as far as the evolution of women in SFF, we’re to some extent “there” already. That “there” has now flowed over into other genres, like mystery, romance, and the cross-genres such as urban fantasy, SFR, etc.. But does this mirror changes in society or is society mimicking its favorite reads? I’m not qualified to answer that. I know there’ve been articles done on the influence of Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura on female fans’ decision to pursue the sciences. Wikipedia and Helium are two of many sites that reference the character’s impact on Dr Mae Jemison’s career. And I’ve received many emails from fans citing one of my female characters as “role models” for their own lives; one fan told me how she deliberately channeled Captain Chasidah Bergren (GABRIEL’S GHOST, SHADES OF DARK) in order to take control of a particularly difficult corporate meeting.
What I do hope to see is more women reading science fiction, and I think that will come from the genre promoting strong lead female characters.
As for my own list of fave kick-ass femmes (in no particular order as I’m right now two-finger typing around a large cat sprawled on my laptop keyboard…): Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr, Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares, Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax, Elizabeth Moon’s Kylara Vatta, Julie Czerneda’s Sira, Sara Creasy’s Edie Sha’nim, PJ Schnyder’s Kat Darah, Marianne de Pierres’ Parrish Plessis… then there are fabulous secondary female characters in books by R.M. Meluch, Ian Douglas, Jack Campbell…and that’s just for starters.
Totally out of the genre, I can recommend Laurie R King’s Mary Russell Holmes character. Brilliant!
- With all the hoopla over The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley, did you ever wonder if it was good? Strange Horizons has Graham Sleight’s take.
- Interviews and Profiles:
- Damien G. Walter launches the The ‘Zine Link-up Meme.
- Futurismic asks: Is patronage the answer for Profitable post-web publishing? [via Big Dumb Object]
- Author James Bradley has a wonderfully in-depth review of The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham: “Yet this disinterest is of a piece with the novel’s desire to unsettle not by transporting the reader to a world unknown to them, but by taking the world they know and exposing the assumptions at its core. Indeed despite the common criticism of Wyndham’s novels, that they are too polite, too bourgeois, too English (Brian Aldiss famously described them as ‘cosy catastrophes’) his visions of a ruined world do not suffer because of their muted ordinariness; rather they are unsettling precisely because of that ordinariness.” [via SciFi Scanner]
- Joseph Mallozzi reviews Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover.
- Joe Abercrombie likes District 9.
- Mark Charan Newton shows off the Benjamin Carre cover of his next book City of Ruin.
- EVENT: Forbidden Planet hosts a signing by Iain Banks (Transition) at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 3rd October 1 – 2pm.
- Jim C. Hines lists 20 Neil Gaiman Facts.
- Today’s Moment of Geeky Zen: Jonathan Coulton serenades Wil Wheaton at PAX 2009.