Regarding Kickass Warrior Chicks

9780940_mI recently read a blog post on the topic of the proliferation of empowered warrior women by Jane Kindred, and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since. I’ve come to respect her since reading her debut fantasy, The Fallen Queen, which I reviewed for my gig at ReaderUnboxed. In her post, Jane points out that making females as violent and physically adept as males does not empower them. Indeed, since it’s a fact that women are generally smaller and not as physically strong as males, the literary trend of making them so could be viewed as damaging. She points out that women could be – and should be – shown as equals in ways that don’t involve physical ass-kicking. Using their brains, for example–Duh, right? One of the post’s commenters advised fantasy writers to think long and hard about why they would want to portray women that way.

So I have been thinking. So much so that I needed to write about it, just to clear my head.

Got Warrior Chicks? For anyone reading this who hasn’t read my fiction: warrior chicks, I haz ’em. You might say they feature prominently, in all four of my finished manuscripts. Oh yeah, and they’re kickass, if I do say so myself.

I call my work historical fantasy, but it is probably closer to alternate history than fantasy. There is no system of magic. Some readers might glean that my Gottari are based on the Germanic tribe of the Goths, and their Tiberian foes will be quite recognizable as the ancient Romans. So the most fantastic thing about the books is my creation of the Skolani, and their insertion into this otherwise recognizable alt-historical world. The Skolani are an all female Teutonic warrior sect pledged to an alliance with the Gottari. More simply put, they are a tribe of kickass warrior chicks.

Where did the Skolani come from? I read a lot about the Amazons after reading (and loving) Steven Pressfield’s The Last of the Amazons. Much later, while researching the Goths for the books, I read a fifth century treatise by a Goth named Jordanes called The Origin and Deeds of the Goths. Jordanes lays the claim that the Amazons of Greek myth were actually the abandoned wives of the Goths, who had left their women on the northern coast of the Black Sea to conquer Persia and Egypt–a premise I found amusing as well as interesting. From there, I loosely based the tribe on an amalgam of several Amazon myths, the American Indians (particularly the Great Lakes tribes), and the Sarmatians (an ancient matriarchal nomadic warrior society of the Black Sea region, from which I took the name Skolani, which means ‘We fight to be free’). They live in a Kabitka, which is a cross between a nomadic horse-culture tent-camp and a woodlands American Indian village.

Skolani girls receive martial training from the time they can stand and hold a weapon, and ride from the day they can stay in a saddle unaided. The biggest and most athletic are chosen to receive blades, and aspire to be risen to the ranks of the Blade-Wielders, the most vaunted warriors in my world of Dania.

Just your everyday garden-variety asskickers. I didn’t want the Skolani to be super-humans, or invincible, or lesbians, or asexual, or man-haters, or secretly wanting/needing men. I wanted to them to be a collection of individuals. They are both good and bad, wise and foolish, strong and fallible. In other words, I endeavored to create interesting, multidimensional characters that readers–both male and female–would enjoy getting to know.

But why? So back to my point: why did I create the Skolani? Since reading Jane’s post I’ve pondered, looking at it from every angle–again. As I said, I thought long and hard about them from the inception. I can honestly say I did it because I wanted female characters who were on the same footing as the male characters. So, to Jane’s point, did they have to be kickass warriors to be on the same footing?

The answer I’ve arrived at is, yes. My alternate history world is a violent one. When I say on the same footing, I don’t mean simply being as smart or as strong. I wanted to totally eliminate the need to justify having my male characters perceive my female characters as total equals. Never once, in any of my work, does a Gottari male utter a misogynistic or chauvinistic phrase about or to a Skolani female. Never does anyone utter anything resembling, “Oh, that is such a typical female thing to say/do.”Boudica

Strong Females: With the addition of the Skolani, I hoped to create a genuine historically-correct atmosphere in which my male and female characters could approach one another with the same respectful consideration as two males would–to have the opportunity for males and females to appraise one another both inside and outside the realm of sexual attraction. I wanted my male and female characters to be friends, comrades, occasionally lovers, or even esteemed foes, all within the context of a believably historical setting. I still believe that maintaining this intersexual dynamic in my setting would’ve been difficult without my creation.

I believe my kickass warrior chicks make my story more plausible, not less.

My Inspiration: Anyone who knows me well and has read my work can see that there is a lot of my wife in there. And, although she is not a Blade-Wielder, she is the most capable person I’ve ever met. Our relationship sprang from a friendship, and is founded on mutual respect. She has saved me from myself more times than I care to enumerate here. I often refer to her as the other half of my brain. I would honestly be lost without her. Although none of the Skolani are specifically based on her, in a way they are all modeled after her.

So, in a way, it is her fault I write about kickass warrior chicks. In a very real way, the trilogy is a tribute to her. So thank you, my Anam Cara.

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_9780940_viking-girl-warrior-with-sword-in-a-wood.html’>demian1975 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

13 comments on “Regarding Kickass Warrior Chicks

  1. Maureen Culp says:

    It’s about time!

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  2. Story Addict says:

    Good for you! We’re tired of wimps, pushovers, and man’s toys! Yours will make excellent characters. I loved Xena growing up, but they pushed the whole lesbian/bi thing on her at times, and that made me think that maybe a woman couldn’t be strong unless she was made more and more like a man. (I have nothing against that, by the way, it just isn’t what I relate to.) Which withdrew me a lot from that type of female character. But I don’t believe that has to be the case. I think all women can relate to strong female figures that can kick-ass and yet have a streak of sensuality and still not hate men 100%. Yet they don’t roll over and drool every time a shirtless guy walks into the room.

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    • Thanks for stopping by! I haven’t quite sunk my teeth into blogging yet, but yours is inspirational.

      When I took on the idea of the Skolani, I really wanted to avoid the sort of leering girl/girl thing Xena turned into. It’s good to hear that you think women will be able to relate. I really did try to give them that streak of sensuality you mention, and they are anything but wimps, pushovers, or man’s toys. And there’s only a marginal amount of reciprocal drooling. 😉

      I liked your fb page, so I’m looking forward to your future posts!

      Like

  3. ddfalvo says:

    My father got daughters instead of the sons he wanted, so he made the most of what he had. lol. My sisters and I were raised to believe we could do anything, and whatever obstacles presented were merely another challenge to overcome. I do believe there could be woman who might be more than a physical match for the medieval male warrior– consider Martin’s Brienne of Tar. She is quite the Amazon. Aside from that, speed, agility, training and balance are all great skills any form can employ to overcome physical adversity. I have a vicious tribe of dancer-like men and women that the larger burly clans fear for an ability to make the most of their size. 🙂 As a mother of daughters, I thank you for strong role models that are not type cast.

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    • I did love Brienne of Tar. And you’re right: speed, grace, and training can compensate pretty well for lack of brute strength. Your dancer-like tribe sounds great! I love when reputations for characters are unorthodox and hardwon.

      As a part of a character development exercise, my awesome mentor and critique editor, Cathy Yardley, asked me to examine what led to my desire to create such strong women. I hadn’t thought much about it–the Skolani sprang to life so naturally for me. And when I created them I’d yet to read GRRM or Robert Jordan and his Aiel. Heck, I’d never really even watched Buffy (although I had seen Xena–but knew she was problematic). A lot of my thinking on the subject is in this post.

      Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Denise! I’m loving the support from my strong female friends! 🙂

      Like

  4. Nicole L. Bates says:

    Hooray! You’re blogging! I loved this post and I can’t wait to read your debut novel full of strong and real characters. While I’m waiting for that book to become available, I know I will thoroughly enjoy your blog. Keep the posts coming!

    Like

    • I’m finally blogging thanks to inspiring friends like you, Nicole! Thanks for that and for your support. You’re awesome! Due to unforeseen personal problems, I did slack off on posting right out of the box, but I have a bunch of ideas for getting back on the horse soon. Please stay tuned. 🙂

      Like

  5. […] finding stories I love and how they’ve influenced my work. I’ve already written a post about how I have warrior chicks, and the influences there, from Jordanes to Steven Pressfield. One of the biggest elements of all […]

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  6. […] From a man’s POV: Warrior Chicks. […]

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  7. […] his version is much better. There are ancestral swords. And romance. And sibling clashes. And kickass warrior chicks. […]

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  8. Thomas says:

    I do not know the source of your information but it looks like you did some research. The Sarmatians were reported to have some gender equality when it came to being a warrior and archaeological remains have supported those ancient reports. that being said, they were not at any point a matriarchal society.

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