Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Heroine

There are a lot of things wrong, with the world. But one of the main things wrong, in my opinion, is that Sarah Connor isn't in it. I swear to God, I'd take the giant killer robots, and Arnie punching through my windscreen, and the little jug-eared guy from X-Files stabbing people through milk cartons with his knife arm, if it meant Sarah Connor was real.

Why can't she be real?

Or at the very least, why can't there be more of these dangerous, powerful sometimes wicked heroines in fiction? In movies, in books, in TV shows. Why is there only one Sarah Connor? One Ellen Ripley? I mean, I know they're originals. That sometimes you can't replicate something as golden as them.

But at least try. Kathleen Bradean has already mentioned Lisbet Salander. Who is definitely a good start. In fact- more than a good start. But I still find myself waiting for Sarah Connor, every time a new blockbuster movie comes out. Everytime I have to sit through a TV show that isn't written by Joss Whedon.

And I perpetually think about his reply, when people ask him why he writes strong women.

"Because you're still asking that question."

And he's right. Why do we ask that question? We should be asking all the other people why they DON'T write strong women. Not just Sarah Connor, cocking her shotgun over and over. But Sarah Connor on the floor of the asylum, scared shitless cos Arnie just rounded the corner. Sarah Connor who dreams of Kyle Reese and is deathly afraid of the future. A real person, like every single hero gets to be.

Like Salt, the new movie starring Angelina Jolie? Yeah, what a cool heroine. She doesn't do things cos someone killed her Daddy. She doesn't do things cos the hero tells her to. She does them because she chooses to do them. She chose her husband. She chooses to go after him. She chooses a whole bunch of things, imagine that!

Shame that the movie was original about Edwin Salt. Not Evelyn. They only rewrote it, because of Jolie's interest.

But if I sound bitter, or like I think the world isn't changing- I'm not. I know it's changing. It's already changing in and around Romancelandia, where heroines are getting tougher and cooler by the minute. Used to be it wasn't always okay to write about a heroine who's too dangerous.

But now I think it is. Now heroines can be something other than a virgin, and they're allowed to have drug addictions or be something other than completely perfect. Their hair doesn't always shine, and they don't always simper all over the hero, and though I've seen erotic romances and romances like that in the past that feature strong heroines, it wasn't as frequent as it is now.

And I'm thankful for that increase. Because of stuff like that, I got to write about Sol, and not be afraid. I made her tough, and dangerous, and mad as hell at the hero, even if he is totally hot and has an amazing ass. And I didn't worry as much as I might have done, if I'd written it thirty years ago and been surrounded by perfect virgin heroines.

Sol is not a perfect virgin. She'd definitely fall on her ass, if Arnie rounded a corner. But she'd also cock a shotgun over and over, while bleeding from her other arm. I loved writing her, and I loved writing her story, and though she's no Sarah Connor...well. Who is?

P.S. If you want to read Sol's story, it's called The Horizon, and it's out this Friday! My first release from Ellora's Cave- Eeep!

Find it here: http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-8613-50-the-horizon.aspx

ETA: And as Lisabet is wise and good, I'll follow her advice and add an excerpt:

“Humans,” the husky and metallic thing says. “Humans.”

He can still feel the flat of Sol’s shoe pressed to the sensitive place behind his knee. It doesn’t move, not even when the Cyber speaks to them. Like a hand on his arm, he fancies. Like a hand on his arm saying it’ll be okay, Quade.

He rests his head back against hers.

“Always fighting,” it says, and though it offers nothing more, those few words are easy enough to read. The contempt in them sizzles over his skin like burning threads. He’s sure he can feel Sol’s hair standing up on the nape of her neck.

“Yeah?” he hollers into the darkness. “Yeah, well this ain’t exactly a peace-loving activity you’re about to partake in!”

When it laughs—though what it does could hardly be called a “laugh”—long and grinding into the silence around them, Sol breaks. He feels it vibrate through her body and then up and out of her mouth. Chills his blood more than that terrible laughter.

“Why do you do this to us? Why?”

Feels like a verse from his heart’s truest song. But he has to try to sing another one, instead. Their lives depend on it. Their sanity depends on it.

“Yeah—and especially to me! She deserves it—she once cannoned a Jugg right out of the sky!”

It has the right effect. She even manages to twist her face around and spit hot, wet fury at the back of his neck.

“You’d sell the last living elephoto for five extra seconds, wouldn’t you, Quade? I hope they jam your pecker into a toaster when those five seconds come, you goddamn coward.”

“There’s no. Such. Thing! Hell yes I’d sell a nonexistent animal for my life! I thought you were going to say something worthwhile, like my grandmother or—”

“Or that plastic vagina you’ve got? Yeah, Marcs told me you had one. Said you called it Deidre.”

“Oh, you—”

“Think she’s going to come and rescue you? I bet she’ll cry when you’re blended into a pulp.”

“Yeah? And who’s going to cry for you? Some member of the imaginary zoo?”

“Marcs will cry for me—he won’t ever cry for you! He told me he hates you. All this time he’s been humping Deidre behind your back.”

“That goddamn shitter.”

Then…then. Then she bursts out with the laughter of the doomed. He’s not sure, but he thinks that might be his heart’s truest song. The sound of Solomon laughing, laughing hysterically into the void.

He laughs right back at her, until he’s exhausted with it. God, but they must look a pair to the Cybers. Wherever said creatures are.

“Think they’re going to say humans, humans, always laughing?” he manages, and she chokes out some more for him for that.

“That’s a great Cyber impression.”

“Thank you—I’ve been practicing. Got to get it right down in the back of your throat.”

“But that metallic twang—that’s genius.”

She rests her head on his shoulder, just a little. Rests there panting against him. And then after a while, he starts thinking she’s doing more than resting. She seems to be getting awful heavy against him.

“They make you wait, you know. So that you go mad,” she says, in the middle of all this heaviness. Her voice sounds weird too. Faint.

He jostles back at her.

“Hey—hey. Stay with me.”

“I never thought I’d go out like this. With you. I never thought yours would be the last voice I heard.”

He chuffs out a bitter laugh. “Yeah? Whose did you think it would be? Marcs? The roar of a lionel?”

He can almost see her eyes closing—those big, dark eyes. Her eyelids are the most perfect, smooth, pale things, like those pictures of seashells she once showed him. She’s not pretty, not even a bit, but she has some nice things about her.

Like her mouth. And her voice, coming out of the darkness of space at him. Hey, Quade—reading you loud and clear, apple butt.

“I thought it would be David Bowie. David Bowie, before my ship got cannoned into oblivion,” she says in some kind of falling-asleep voice. “I rigged the drive plates, you know. So that the ship would go up before they got to me.”

He wishes he could put a hand to some place on him. His chest, maybe.

“Why couldn’t you just let them get to me, Quade? Now we’re both going to die like this.”

“I couldn’t…” he begins. “I couldn’t…”

But he can’t fill in the because after that.

“Hey—Sol. Sol! Sing some Bowie with me, okay? How does that one thing go—this is ground control to Mayor Crom, I’m sitting on the floor…”

“You’re a dink.”

“And I’m having the most nuclear day.”

“That ain’t how it goes.”

“Then tell me. Tell me. Tell me every bit of everything you’ve ever known.”

Of course he says it because he wants to keep her talking. She seems to be falling asleep, and Lord knows you don’t fall asleep in a situation like this unless something’s powerful wrong with you. Like concussion, or the drugs they gave her, or maybe even…maybe even something she gave herself.

But he also realizes when he says it, that he says it because it’s true. He wants to know every stupid thing she ever thought up or found out.

“Once,” she slurs. “There were these things called horses. And they carried men on their backs, and they ran and ran and ran, they ran far away from this place…”

Oh Lord is she ever slurring down to nothing now. Panic gets him by the balls.

“Sol, Sol! Don’t leave me on my own out here!”

“They ran to you, I ran to you. I ran to you.”

He pulls hard against the binds around his wrists. So hard that he’s sure he’s about to yank the skin clean off, and even if that doesn’t happen, struggling free is only going to land him in the pit.

Though it sure does feel good to do it. He yanks and twists and only regrets a damn thing when there’s a sudden loose feeling and the surety that he’s about the plummet to his death swamps him. He’s about to die. He’s about to die because Sol’s unconscious and most likely going out like a light, hung here in the ship of death.

Quade is as surprised as the next person to find himself still alive a moment later. His left hand pops free, and the loop tightens around his right. It catches him, as surely as Sol’s hand would.

At which point, what he has to do next comes on him with a great and brilliant clarity. He has to reach up with his left hand and grasp the rope, before working his right hand free too. That’s what he has to do. Doesn’t matter if his limbs are tingling and swelling and feeling weird. Doesn’t matter if his vision is blurry—all there is out there is darkness anyhow.

He gets his left hand to the rope and hauls himself up. His body protests. The muscles in his left arm shriek. Sweat stands out on his forehead—the knowledge that he should really bench press a little with Marcs, next time he offers, jabs him in the ribs.

And then his right hand slides free like a baby out of its momma.

Now what he’s left with is the idea that they’re watching him do this whole thing. Though he kind of suspects they’d be laughing if they could see him now.

“Go ahead and laugh, fuckers,” he says, as he starts the next part of the process. The next part, his brain informs him, is clambering around Sol’s body.

It’s not as easy as his brain makes him think it is. He panics, briefly, that he’s too much weight for her bound wrists to take. She’s not as solid as she looks, and there are many things he doesn’t want to touch—the warm humps of her immense breasts, which press briefly into his cheek. The curve of her hip against his palm. Her wide-open eyes suddenly staring right at him.

He almost screams.

“What in the shit of shits are you doing?” she asks, and honest to glory, he has no idea how to answer that. His legs are, after all, around her waist.

“You wanna help me out instead of bitching?”

“I ain’t bitching, Quade. I’m flabbergasted. I can feel your man parts against my bellybutton.”

“Swing, Sol. Just swing, all right? Aim for the edge of this shitting pit.”

“That canned-ham butt of yours is playing murder on my shoulder sockets.”

A sweaty, frustrated laugh blurts out of him. He makes it last, into the side of her face, her hair.

“This isn’t going to work, you know,” she says, but by God she swings. He feels her legs kick up close to his ass. And then back. And then up. And then back.

Soon there’s something almost like fresh air in his lungs. His belly is lurching. They’re flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Though he still can’t get a handle on the edge of the pit.

“What now?” she cries.

And he thinks, Now we go for it, and just hope we land on something that ain’t spiky.

He lets go of her shoulder, briefly, and reaches into his back pocket for the lump that’s still there.

“No,” she says, when she catches a glimpse of it. “No!”


“God no, Quade, not yet—not yet!”

“We’ll make it. Hold on!”

She’s in the middle of screaming something in response when he drags himself up her body to the rope—and slices clean through it with the knife in his hand.


  1. Hi, Charlotte!

    First of all, congratulations on your new release!

    And thanks for mentioning "Salt". I was going to say something about it in my response to Kathleen's post. Definitely a kick-ass heroine. Nothing she can't do!

    You should have given us a teaser from "The Horizon", though!


  2. Charlotte - By writing strong women, you're part of the solution!

    Congrats on the new release!

  3. I think women writers need to be held just as accountable for not writing strong women, just as much as men. Of course, you need to hold decision makers afraid to invest in those types of characters responsible as well.

    I was about eleven when T2 hit theaters, and I was a little confused that Sarah Conner didn't have sex with the terminator at the end. That's what movies had taught me, the badass guy gets the girl at the end.

    None of the Alien installments post-Sigourney Weaver have been remotely enjoyable. I think Fried Green Tomatoes has some strong female characters, and of course the Resident Evil franchise.

    I went through some troubles while writing a western with one of my female characters. There aren't a lot of women in it, but this one is smart, deceptive, and murderous. I thought I was giving her respectable qualities for a western, but some thought I was just making the only women in the story a stereotypical harpy.

  4. Lisabet- Thanks! And yeah, I really enjoyed Salt for that very reason. Oh, and I've taken your advice and added an excerpt!

    Kathleen- I hope so! And thanks!

    Raleigh- I totally agree. It's often somehow doubly disappointing, when a female writer gives her female characters no agency. They don't have to be kick-ass all the time, or owt. Just able to make a few decisions, independent of the hero!

    And that's another difficulty facing writers who try to write strong women- the criticism of female characters is often far harsher than the crit of male characters. Qualities applauded in a man, are often attacked in a woman. A man is often labelled assertive. A woman is likely to be called a bitch, for the same actions.

  5. Charlotte,

    A great post. I genuinely enjoy watching strong female characters on film and reading about them in fiction.

    Good luck with your latest release.


  6. Ashley- Thanks! more and more I see people crying out for strong heroines, so I hope a tide is turning!


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