Bad-Ass Women

Late August through early October 2021 has proven to be a busy convention season for me. Most of the conventions have still been virtual, but I have cautiously returned to attending some in-person events. The first virtual convention I attended during this period was Bubonicon 52 Take 2 on August 20-21. Even if you missed it, they posted all of their panels on their YouTube channel in a playlist at: https://youtu.be/eIJoVSjxmlI.

Two weeks later on Labor Day weekend, I gave a science presentation and spoke on seven panels at the virtual CoKoCon. Sessions were held on Discord and Zoom. Unfortunately, these panels don’t seem to have been posted for later viewing, but the discussions were fun and lively. We discussed such topics as writing weird western fiction, keeping classic monsters fresh and new, and the differences between publishing in the small press and larger presses.

At both conventions, I was on a panel with a similar name. At CoKoCon, the panel was called “Bad-Ass Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” In that panel, the emphasis was largely on our favorite characters in the genres. At Bubonicon, the title was “Writing Bad-Ass Women” and the panel focused more on the process of writing strong women. The latter panel is available to watch here:

Most of us agreed that there haven’t been enough bad-ass women in science fiction and family, but that the situation is improving. As you can see, there were more men on the Bubonicon panel than women. Still, we all agreed that the process largely involves channeling those bad-ass women we have known in our lives and the ones we do admire in fiction and adapting those traits to our characters. At CoKoCon, I was the only man on the panel. Some of the favorite characters mentioned included Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek, Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies, and Dr. Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact.

I think it should be clear from the list that bad-ass doesn’t always mean “kick-ass.” These women aren’t all characters who emphasize physical prowess. They’re smart characters who think through solutions. An interesting favorite character mentioned at CoKoCon was Tank Girl from the comics and movie of the same name. Although I knew of the character, I didn’t know much about her. I’ve since read some of the comics and watched the movie and may discuss her further in a future post, but among her striking characteristics were her fearlessness and irreverence.

One of the reasons I volunteered for these panels is that I believe in writing bad-ass women into my stories. Whether it’s Marcella and Jane in the Scarlet Order Vampire series, Fatemeh Karimi and Larissa Crimson in the Clockwork Legion series, or Suki Mori and her daughter Suki Firebrandt Ellis in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series, I endeavor to model these characters on the many bad-ass women I’ve known and admired in real life. One area that was mentioned in both panels were the lack of older women mentor figures. A few were named and again, this is an area where improvement is beginning to happen. One of my favorite strong women leaders from my own fiction is Admiral Ayumba Mukombe in Firebrandt’s Legacy. After being on these panels, I’m certainly tempted to tell more of her story. You can learn more about Admiral Mukombe and the other characters from my fiction at http://davidleesummers.com/

6 comments on “Bad-Ass Women

  1. Uhura is one of my favorites because of the actress, Nichelle Nichols, and how she insisted her character become more than a fancy telephone operator.

    • Indeed. And, as I mentioned in the panel, one of the reasons I really like the 1970s animated series is that Uhura finally got to take the command seat for an episode.

      • I thought she actually did in the televised series, too. Everyone was going down the chain of command, and after Scotty they were going to call for some anonymous NPC when Nichols said, “Hey, my character is right here!”

      • In the live action, original, Uhura had some instances of serving as a strong second in command to Spock and Scotty, but she didn’t actually sit in the center seat until the animated series. She did, though, have a few places where she insisted on being written in to scenes where she would have taken a backseat to an NPC, as you say.

  2. I enjoyed seeing David at the online CoKoCon, and do plan to look at the video posted for Bubonicon.

    In regard to Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura, there is of course that famous story of Nichols and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She tells him she plans to quit the show, and he says she can’t–because 1960s America is seeing a Black woman officer!

    OK, I can’t resist tying this in to my just released role-playing supplement *GURPS Fantasy Folk: Elves* (link is on my name). I mention Dr. King–and the writings of Deby Fredericks–in regard to nonviolent resistance, in addition to briefly relating Elves to Vulcans.

    And I have some “bad-ass females” in the supplement’s vignettes, and say, “Few elven societies have clearly defined gender roles.”

    OK, my commercial is now over. I now return you to the regularly scheduled blog. 🙂

    • Thank you for making it to the online CoKoCon, Alden, and hope you enjoy the Bubonicon panel.

      Very nice to hear that you mention both Dr. King and the writings of Deby Fredericks in your new role-playing supplement. Yes, elves and Vulcans do have more than a few apparent similarities!

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