Stories are wonderfully powerful things. They give us heroes to emulate, and inspire us to become astronauts, firefighters, doctors, and archaeologists with bullwhips and questionable professional ethics.
But not only do stories show us amazing people doing amazing things, they also show us that “people like us” can do “things like that”. Now, every little boy already knows this is true because he’s spent his whole life seeing men fight crime, men solve mysteries, men build wonders, and men explore the unknown.
And while we have been getting much better at creating these same sorts of stories for girls, we are still far, far behind where we need to be.
We need more diverse heroes.
A simple example would be the current trend of superhero movies. In the last decade alone, we’ve had a lot of male-lead live action flicks: Batman, Superman, Blade, Hellboy, Spider-man, Punisher, The Crow, Zorro, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Constantine, Hulk, Hancock, Jumper, Jonah Hex, Kick-Ass, Green Hornet, Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America, Dredd, and Wolverine (many of which have had 2 or 3 sequels already!)
And that’s not including team movies, like Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-men, Watchmen, and Fantastic Four, which generally push the popularity of their male stars.
But in this same ten-year span, how many female-lead superhero movies have there been? Catwoman, Elektra, and… Lucy? Does Lucy count?
That’s maybe three. A cheap knock-off that looked nothing like Catwoman, a spin-off character from Daredevil, and… Lucy.
Where are Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel? and Wasp, Black Cat, Power Girl, Hawk Girl…
Heck, where are Batgirl, Supergirl, and Spider-woman? I mean, when you’ve got a proven franchise, why not spin out the female-lead characters in those?
Sometimes, critics say that heroic movies with female leads don’t sell tickets, but we all know that’s not true. Just look at Frozen, The Hunger Games, Kill Bill, Alien, Lara Croft, Brave, Gravity, and (of all things) Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. All made huge bank, both recently and decades ago, with both known and unknown female lead actresses.
So, clearly we have a problem. But since I don’t have a movie studio, I can’t do much on that front.
But I do write books.
Over the last four years, I’ve published a lot of fantasy books with women lead characters, from Africa, India, Europe, Mars, and even exotic Baltimore!
There are two reasons I do this:
- First, I want to entertain people, I want to make people happy, and if I know there’s a segment of the reading world that could use more attention, then why not make those people happy? Happiness is a good thing.
- Second, I want to inspire others. Partly I want to inspire girls (like my daughters) to be heroic and clever and funny and amazing, because they are, and they should be. And partly I want to inspire writers to do better than me, because I have to assume that even on my best day, my best-written woman character isn’t going to be the best woman character ever written. Because I’m a dude.
So, with that said, I want to talk about my next book:
Did that corny title get your attention? Good. That tingling sensation means it’s working.
For years I’ve been promising myself I would write an old-fashioned fantasy book about elves and dragons. But I could never think of a story I actually wanted to tell in that sort of world. I didn’t want to do something cliche. So I waited for an idea. And then I got one.
ELF SAGA is about a group of heroes out to save the world. Epic fantasy tropes in tact so far, but here’s where I go off-script.
All of our heroes are women. All are from different countries and cultures. So yes, there is a European elf, a West African elf, an Indian elf, a Japanese elf, and a Native American elf. Supporting characters include two Arabian elves, an Native Australian elf, and a ton more of all of the above.
Is that a bunch of forced multi-culturalism? Yep. And it’s awesome.
And each of our heroes gets to be the main character during her part of the story, so that first-person “I” changes to another member of the team every hundred pages or so.
Some are sweet, some are mean, some are clever, some are tough. Because they’re people.
Some are straight, some are gay, and some aren’t interested. Because sex is great, when and where it matters.
By the way, there’s no villain in this book, no Big Bad. There’s no Dark Lord, no Chosen One, no Evil Empire. Instead, our heroines have a lot of complicated problems to solve, which will conveniently force them all to return home at some point to confront the demons from their pasts.
So what else does ELF SAGA have? Huge dragons, vicious unicorns, annoying faeries, living ships, dashing pirates, creepy witches, monstrous ghosts, talking anteaters, waking nightmares, killer mermaids, superhuman samurai, and… well, that’s all I have so far. I’m kitchen-sinking this one, folks, and it is a ton of fun.
Oh, and swearing. There’s a lot of swearing.
Inspirations include Farscape, Archer, Rat Queens, Supernatural, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hopefully, some of you will like it.
And with a little luck, it will be on sale this fall before Christmas.
Stay tuned for more news about ELF SAGA.