How a Reader’s Feminist Critique Changed My Sci-Fi Novel
The problem, as Erin perfectly explained, wasn’t that I made my female characters too flawed. It’s that the flaws I gave them were too stereotypical. Amanda is an uptight nurse and Christian. Hannah’s a flighty young actress who relies on sexual intimacy as a crutch. The two of them are perpetually jealous of each other, mostly for the different ways men to respond to them. They spend a little more time than they should thinking about the potential romantic interests in their group, and I spent a few more words than I should’ve on their physical characteristics. (Yeah, that includes the breasts).
I needed three full days and two restless nights to fully process Erin’s arguments. That weekend, I grabbed a paperback copy of The Flight of the Silvers and, for the first time in two years, read it cover to cover. I was already carrying a hundred little regrets about the story: word choices, scene choices, a ridiculous metaphor here and there. But now I could see everything Erin was talking about—all the niggling bits of ignorance that were invisible to some and infuriating to others. The mistakes I’d made weren’t huge, but they weren’t new either. Most female readers have already seen them a thousand times before in a thousand other books.
And therein lies the anger.