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.


2 Responses to “Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction, Part 1: a Feminist Perspective”

  1. lorraine dopson June 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Interesting site.

  2. lorraine dopson July 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I also can’t have any music going when I write–silence, please! I ha!
    ve one cat and hiking/walking brings me much joy and many ideas. I can go back in time when I’m outside in the open country. I took the name for my main character in The Light at the End of the World from a plant at my feet–Thistle.

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