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Lost Things -- the female archetypes

Part two of this, looking at Alma and Stasi.

If we'd met Alma when she was twenty five, an ambulance driver during the Great War, she would have been a very familiar character -- the Warrior Maiden. This is an extremely popular archetype for young women in fiction, and it was one of my favorites growing up. We know her -- the smart, plucky girl who refuses to sit down and shut up and give up on adventures, the girl in a man's world who's clever and brave and more interested in action than makeup, who kicks butt and earns the respect of the men around her. She's awesome and she overcomes and she wins through sheer courage and moxie and brilliance. She's Athena, complete in herself, the girl who wants action and ideas, not romance. And maybe if it's that kind of story she meets a man worthy of her high standards who respects her and loves her for herself and who encourages her ambitions, who literally helps her fly.

And then -- what? That's where the story ends. Our Heroine prevails. Credits roll. But what happens for the rest of her life? What happens to the Warrior Maiden when she's not a young girl anymore?

Writing Stargate, this was where I found myself with Sam. Sam is awesome. I am a massive Sam fan. But Sam is turning forty in Legacy. She's not the brilliant kid. She's not Captain Carter with a great idea or Major Carter who can kick a Supersoldier's butt with an improvised missile. She's Colonel Carter, and it's time to be in charge. We got to see that a little in episodes like SGA's Search and Rescue, and I got to write some of it in Moebius Squared and The Furies, but not enough to really explore the transition from Warrior Maiden to Ruling Queen.

That's what's next. The Warrior Maiden becomes the Ruling Queen. The Warrior Maiden is often fueled by righteous anger, and she rebels against the rules that hold her down. The Ruling Queen is the authority, and her challenge is to wield power justly and well.

How do you learn to do that? How do you become commander, mother, senator, mentor, role model? What happens when instead of trying to prove to men that you're good enough to join the club, you're in charge and they're your assistants? What if you can't rebel because you're the one who makes the rules? How do you decide what the rules are? How do you make the life and death decisions, the big strategic questions instead of the little ones? What if you're not the girl genius but the longtime authority?

That's Alma's arc. Instead of beginning her story as the Warrior Maiden in 1917, we chose to start later. She's not the plucky girl. She's a widow in her mid thirties, a business owner, a boss. She's starting to make this transition -- she began it with Gil's death. It begins literally with a grave. At the end of Lost Things she becomes the Magister. She's the one with ultimate responsibility for the Lodge. She's the leader. In Steel Blues, that's tested in the race and with the necklace, and Alma comes through. She's becoming someone to follow, a queen worthy of service. And that's her arc that continues, strengthening in Oath Bound and reaching fruition in Ghost Light.

Stasi is a completely different archetype. Stasi is Persephone, the Queen of the Dead. Again, if we'd met Stasi during the war she'd be a familiar archetype, the maiden who passes into darkness, the girl to whom terrible things happen. But that's not where we begin the story. We begin it in Steel Blues. As she says, "Darling, I'm exactly the person terrible things happen to." She's been in this underworld for a long time. She's quite literally the Queen of the Dead, the medium who speaks with the dead. Or is that for the Dead? Stasi takes her responsibilities as a medium very seriously.

Stasi has passed into the Underworld, the abduction and transformative experiences that made her no longer an ingenue long behind. But now it's time to become Death's Queen. Now it's time to rule the night world.

Persephone the Queen is a powerful and dangerous archetype, and one we rarely have stories of in our culture. Helen Magnus on Sanctuary comes to mind, but she's one of a few. The Queen of the Underworld is dangerous and scary because she's a guardian of mysteries and of the creatures who inhabit the night world. She rules the land below as the Ruling Queen reigns above. They're complimentary.

In Egypt we'd call them aspects of Isis, the Lady of Amenti and the Mother of the World. Stasi and Alma aren't rivals because they're flip sides of the coin, queens of different realms. And together that's fierce!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
Not that I don't love the warrior maidens (Sabriel! Jenna! Katniss!) but the Queens deserve to have their stories told, too. And Alma and Stasi are wonderful.
I am very much looking forward to learning more about Stasi. I've read Steel Blues a couple of times now, and I'm getting the impression that she's capable of getting very scary, very quickly.
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:46 pm (UTC)
I love the Warrior Maidens too! And that was always a character I identified with strongly. Until I was about 35, and then I'd literally gone off the end of the page. There were no more stories about what happened to them beyond this point. It was the edge of the map.

Sometimes people made that very explicit, "If Elizabeth has a baby she might as well be dead." Sometimes it was just that the books ended. The stories stopped. There was nothing worth saying about her after she was 30 or 35.

But in real life that wasn't true. I was working in politics and I could see many powerful real life women older than that age, women with children and relationships and real power -- members of Congress, state officials, even the incoming Governor! Their lives hadn't ended at 35 or when they had a baby. Twenty or twenty five years beyond that they were at the center of the story, wielding power, expecting results, kicking butt. I mean, we all know who Hillary Clinton is, right? Love her or hate her, it's hard to say she's irrelevant. The Warrior Maiden doesn't die at thirty. She turns into the Queen.

So where were the fictional queens like the real ones I knew? Why were they so terribly rare that if you hunt around you can only come up with a couple of examples?

So I decided to write some. Hand of Isis has three different takes on being queen, the three sisters. Lost Things has two. It's something I really like to explore.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )