When I tell people I’ve been working on the same story for twenty years or so, I sometimes get the impression that they think I’m the biggest procrastinator in the world, or I just don’t know when to quit. Both might be true I suppose.
For those unfamiliar with the premise of my work (most of you, I imagine), I’ve been developing the story of the life of a female warrior in a fantasy world. Female heroes have always fascinated me, not only because they have such interesting fashion choices, but because the role of action hero has always been one reserved for men, while the woman is the one who always needs rescuing, marrying, or whatever. I love role reversals and I wanted to explore something different.
The Little Idea started sometime in college when I began playing D&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition to be specific). I was flipping through the Player’s Handbook, making sure I knew all the rules so I could argue effectively against my conniving dungeon master (is there another kind?), when I came across a painting by Jeff Easley that stuck with me. It portrayed a female fighter, powerful and confident, pulling the nose ring of an ogre she had beaten, having whittled his club down into little chunks. She was muscular, which was rare for a woman in fantasy illustration at the time. She had these neat boots, a fur loincloth (fleas!), a headband and wrist wraps, and a revealing vest. Not terribly practical, but it wasn’t a plate mail bikini for once.
To get a little perspective, this was about five years before ‘Xena: Warrior Princess,’ and the Girl Power movement, when Princess Leia and Ellen Ripley were the standard bearers of the female sci-fi hero. ‘Red Sonja’ came out in 1985, but didn’t have nearly the impact. The successful Buffy TV series was years away. Women could be accepted if they had a big gun, but not a sword. Many female fantasy heroes were victims at first, going on to a life of fighting to avenge some crime, often rape. They were also likely to have some special power that explained how they were such great butt-kickers. The idea of a woman who looked like she could handle herself was something quite new.
Anyhoo, that one painting started The Little Idea. What kind of woman would choose that life and why? What if she had no special power, nothing or no one to avenge, she just wanted to be more than what was allowed? This was reflected in the real world when I created my first D&D character: a female fighter named Cindra Corrina. I was told by the dungeon master that I was being ‘anti-social’ for doing so. I knew I was on to something.