Archive | December, 2011

Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction, Part 2: The New Playground

26 Dec

Many people enjoy writing Science Fiction and Fantasy because they get to create their own worlds; play by their own rules.  This is great in theory, but as most writers quickly discover, a lot of research is required to make a believable SF universe.  Fant!
asy is even harder, because the author is responsible for creating an internally consistent universe, with an answer for every question a nit-picky reader might throw her way.

 

Prehistoric fiction, on the other hand, gives us a level playing field, without the baggage that nearly every other era in historical fiction carries.

 

While research is still a must (you have to know what the world looked like in your time period, what animals were hunted in your location, what technology existed, etc.) it’s lighter on the science than with sf, and more fun for people like me who wanted to major in history and anthropology.  Once you know the basics, you get to focus on the good part: having fun with your universe.

 

In prehistoric fiction, the writer gets to make up whatever culture(s) she wants.  The characters never have to go far to encounter something alien, frightening or exciting.  Just down the river or across the plains there could be people planning an invasion, domesticating animals, experimenting with new technology or viewing the world and its creation in a completely different way.  If two tribes meet and things aren’t going well, there nothin!
g like a stampeding mammoth or hungry saber tooth cat to bring warring factions together.

 

Whether you want to act out your favorite adventure fantasy, explore any kind of culture clash or design your own utopia, prehistoric fiction is the place to go.

I Just Did My First Guest Blog!

20 Dec

Tracy Morris is publishing guest blogs about writing during the winter holidays.  They can be found (mine included) at http://tracysmorris.com/ 

And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to wish everyone a delightful, stress-free holiday season and a…

Happy Hanakah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Solstice, Happy Kwanza, Happy New Year, You Name it, I’ll Celebrate it!

 

 

Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction, Part 1: a Feminist Perspective

14 Dec

In Prehistoric fiction, I found my first female role-model (in a novel, that is; Alien had come out the year before).  When I met Ayla in “The Clan of the Cave Bear” I could finally say, “I can relate to this person!  I get her.”  And, perhaps more importantly, ”She would get me!”

 

While prehistoric fiction existed before Jean Auel, most was targeted to a male audience, and often misogynistic.  Much of it consisted of lowbrow adventure and supported the view that the lives of our early ancestors were nasty, brutish and short.

 

The new genre of prehistoric fiction offers a positive view on the human race, great characters– and more than half of what’s been published since 1980 contains female protagonists. These are women who hunt, explore, speak their minds and assume leadership roles, both political and spiritual.  And, since utopia is boring in fiction, today’s authors offer challenges to keep things interesting—which make the characters even more interesting.

 

The first challenge a Prehistoric heroine often faces is being cast out of her home, where she then gets to live the kind of adventure story that many a reader has dreamt of: finding food, building a shelter, befriending animals (I never knew how many other girls dreamed of having a pet lion until I read The Valley of Horses).  The women in these books rarely return to the people who banished them.  Instead, they become leaders of their own tribes, or meet interesting people who offer them new—and better—lives.

 

In the course of their adventures, strong, competent women often confront men from male-dominated cultures.  I’ve learned it’s hard to pull off this kind of scene well, but Joan Wolf, Judith Tarr, Brenda Gates Smith and Mary Mackey do an admirable job.  Rarer than hen’s teeth are the encounters between strong, c!
onfident egalitarian-minded women and a woman from a male-dominated society.  Finding these stories has become my holy grail.

"Daughter of the Goddess Lands": Gestation and Development

6 Dec

My favorite part of writing the “Kalie’s Journey” series was the research. 

When I was in middle school, my mother gave me the Time/Life series “The Emergence of Man”, and I read the entire thing for pleasure.  Then, when I discovered well-researched historical fiction, it became even more fun.  First I discovered that writing a novel involved a lot of time sitting around reading; IOW, the thing I most enjoyed doing anyway!  Next I discovered that the best of the fiction authors were also superb researchers.  That meant that I could let them do a lot of my work for me.

When I began writing “Daughter of the Goddess Lands” I knew that the story was going to center on the threat of invasion of peaceful goddess-worshiping farmers by horsemen from the Russian steppes.  But I didn’t want to waste a lot of time showing the first horrific encounter, or what daily life was like for my protagonist during her first days as a captive.  I also wanted to avoid dragging myself (and my readers) through numerous scenes of rape and torture, or be inside the head of someone going through all of that.

That’s when I knew I wanted the novel to open with a single survivor waking up in a place where she knew she was safe.  This allowed all the violence and shock to be handled in flashback, while also allowing the reader to begin the story in a place that was attractive rather than repugnant.

When the protagonist decides to return to her place of captivity in order to destroy her enemy from within, I realized I had given her a kind of agency that I find is too often lacking in books of this genre.  After that, as so many of them do, my characters wrote the story.

Why did I write “Daughter of the Goddess Lands”?

3 Dec

I have adored prehistoric fiction since I was thirteen years old and discovered the tv series “Korg 70,000 B.C.”  I watched and read what was available, which wasn’t much—until 1980, when “The Clan of the Cave Bear” came out.

After that, there was plenty to read, much of it enjoyable, some of it truly outstanding.  The problem was, no one would write the book I wanted to read.

After reading dozens of books by great authors such as Judith Tarr, Joan Wolf, Mary Mackey, Mike Moscoe and Brenda Gates Smith, I realized that my favorite period was the late Neolithic, and my favorite stories were those that involved the culture clash between goddess-worshipping egalitarians, and violent male-dominated horsemen.  I enjoyed them all—but something was missing.

I wanted to read a novel filled with moments when two people (or groups) really “got” that they were dealing with completely foreign worldviews.  I wanted to see confrontations  between the women of these two different cultures.  I wanted to be inside the head of an arrogant, swaggering bully the moment he realized he’d been defeated by a woman.  I wanted the satisfaction of seeing the heroes win—without so much brutality and sexual violence that it killed my enjoyment of it.

So, to answer the question of why I wrote “Daughter of the Goddess Lands”…?  It was the book I wanted to read, that no one else would write.