Lisa Wood, co-founder of Thought Bubble, told The Guardian that the prevailing "comic book culture" tends to leave "many female comic book fans... [feeling] ignored, harassed, or treated with hostility".(2)
This struck a chord with me given that I'm currently reading the science fiction novel Stjärnpesten (The Star Plague) written in 1975 by the Swedish writer, Dénis Lindbohm.(3) I have reached page 87, just as "the gates of hell" are about to open.
The story so far concerns an as-yet-unidentified entity that has wiped out life on earth. Seemingly the only survivors are a 20,000 strong community that managed to build a hermetically sealed underground city before the "plague" struck. Unfortunately, this band of plucky survivors has swiftly descended into internecine conflicts and is languishing in the subterranean equivalent of George Orwell's 1984.
Whilst I am thoroughly enjoying this dystopian distraction, it is striking that every single one of the protagonists so far has been male. The first challenge to this crops up on page 41 in the form of an unnamed female's corpse (p.41). Fifteen pages later appears an unidentified woman who gets pregnant without permission and undergoes a brutal forced abortion. Finally, a couple of mothers, an old lady and a young girl are paraded in front of the cameras and used for propaganda purposes by the dastardly dictatorship (p.84).
Fingers crossed that there are some interesting female characters behind those gates of hell...
Maybe as an antidote to all this sci-fi and comic machismo I ought to follow The Guardian's advice and read Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness published in 1970?(4) With luck by the time I've finished it Bayou Arcana will have been published.
(1) Ben Quinn, "Ker-pow! Women kick back against comic-book sexism", The Guardian, 28/12/2011 accessed 29/12/2012 at, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/28/women-comic-book-sexism.
(3) Dénis Lindbohm, Stjärnpesten, Stockholm, Regal, 1975.
(4) Justine Jordan, "Winter reads: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin", The Guardian, 27/12/2011 accessed 29/12/2012 at, www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/27/winter-reads-the-left-hand-of-darkness.
But we must get the world to rot, because not until all
dead organic material has decomposed
can we sow the world with life anew.
We must bide our time; our long period of waiting.
Stjärnpesten (The Star Plague), p. 151
Well, I've now finished Dénis Lindbohm's entertaining novel. Alas, female characters didn't fare any better after page 87. The only properly identified woman was a Satanist by the name of Raader. She is allocated a single paragraph (p. 111). The narrator's meeting with "Lucifer's Alpha" wasn't terribly productive: "When I left her I wasn't any wiser than before I came." Perhaps things might have gone a tiny better for this ark of humanity if they'd opted to share power amongst both men and women? Lindbohm's novel would certainly have benefitted...