Sword and Sorceress 25 is coming out this week. It is an anthology of stories featuring strong female heroines. Feminist fantasy, some say. But what, pray tell, is feminist fantasy?
I don't have a scholarly answer. I only have what I observe from reading the stories, from coming of age in the Eighties, and from living life as a woman. So I will tell you what Feminist Fantasy means for me.
It means strong women who achieve. They are stong because they face opposition. Traditionally, in 1980's thinking, that opposition often wears a beard and sports testosterone. Not just men, but manly men, who make it their mission in life to subdue women and keep them pregnant. Whether these men are fathers, husbands, or brothers is moot. A woman's place is in the marriage bed, birthing heirs.
This makes for boring stories, by the way.
The opposition, however, can come from any number of things. Economic problems, war, the cold equations of survival -- a good heroine has to deal with all those things. And she must deal with those things herself. To me, that's the key. The heroine can't sit about whining for a prince, fate, or the sisterhood to rescue her. She might do that at first, but she has to understand that she can't win that way. She has to reach into her own strengths, buck up, and get the job done.
She's gotta show ovaries!
Yep, that's the main thing you need for Feminist Fantasy. Ovaries. And some magic, come to think of it. Can't have fantasy without magic.