The Spirit of Dorsai – Gordon R. Dickson

“–But these old sci-fi books, they’re not very pro-women. They don’t have very many strong female characters.”
“That’s not actually true. I think what most people are thinking of when they say that is like the old school pulp stories. Those are like: hero good, villain bad, girl pretty, pew pew pew, and then hero saves the day. And for those kinds of stories, having nuance and subtlety isn’t a selling point. So you want to not let other characters be strong because you don’t want to take the spotlight away from the hero. They’re stories that are meant to be very simple, they’re meant to go a certain way. So, the hero is always going to get the girl in the end, and the hero is always going to defeat the villain. And it has to be the hero who defeats the villain, and the heroine has to be someone you want the hero to end up with. Those are like the rules you have to work inside of.”
“Yeah, and the rules say that the women are like damsels in distress.”
“Not necessarily. Like, it’s pretty common to have the damsel have a dagger, or have a blaster, and pretty common for her to actually be able to at least get a stab in, but the main thing is that you just don’t want to show up your hero too much.”
“I don’t know…I just want to see more empowered women.”
“Oh, no, if you’re like looking for the actual female characters in science fiction who are like really cool, who are either straight-up asskicking badasses or just, y’know, strong-willed and take no [redacted], there’s lots of those.”
“Well, yeah, like in Aliens–”
Aliens is like the go-to example, but that’s only because people are uncultured idiots who don’t read books. Mil-SF particularly has a lot of women soldier characters. There’s Honor Harrington. There’s Herris Serrano….there’s Cordelia Vorkosigan…there’s probably a lot more that I don’t know about because I don’t read a whole lot of Mil-SF.There’s a lot, OK, because once you’ve got power armor in your universe, there’s no real reason to keep women out of combat.”
“No, for real, that makes sense.”
“So, yeah, there’s lots. The thing is: you have to read the books to read of them…There’s even like this one book–it’s a short one though, it’s more of a novella–about this one woman who is ninety-three years old and is appointed district commander when her planet is being invaded. Amanda Morgan.”
“Yeah, and so she’s ninety-two or ninety-three and the men are off-planet, which is why they’re being attacked, so she plans so the battle is fought–and won–by the elderly who have to stay home and then the teenagers. And, it’s a short story, so it’s not all that in-depth, but my point is: there are plenty of heroines in sci-fi.”
“Yeah, so I’m a nerd. Sorry. I’ll tone it down in the future.”
“You’re like a mega-nerd.”
“I’m going to shut up and go away now.”
“You don’t have to!”
“I got books to read!”
Rated: Stone are my walls–and my roof is of timber–but the hands of my builder are stronger by far.

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