I spent a lot of years complaining that the books I wanted to read did not exist. And amazingly, I then proceeded to spend years writing other books. That’s not to say that the books I’ve written aren’t books I would want to read, or that the stories they tell weren’t desperate to get out, or that I consider the time I spent writing them to be time wasted. The stories I have written were stories I had to tell, full of characters I love, and there is still quite a bit of Lost Knowledge that still needs to be put to paper.
But they do not address the very specific lack I have always felt.
I knew from a very young age exactly what sort of person I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes and Rupert Giles, Spock, Milo Thatch and Abraham van Helsing. Maybe Victor Frankenstein, minus the playing-God bits. I wanted to be every professor-archetype character whose weapon of choice is knowledge, who has the answers or at least knows exactly where to look for them, and whose hand-dirtying, while formidable, always remains dignified. I wanted to be the one whose in-home library was vast enough to require bookcases with rolling ladders, whose hands were perpetually ink-stained, and whose personal appearance, while never neglected, immediately proclaimed intellect.
That sort of power appealed to me. It is not measured by the size of the biceps, the size of the guns, or the number of sex scenes the character gets. It is measured by grace, knowledge, open-mindedness, drive…
That’s what floats my boat. I love some good action, the Indiana Jones sort of intellectual who’s got the guns, biceps, and girl-du-jour as well as some butt-kicking brains, but that’s entertainment, not objective.
But there’s a problem. Do you see the problem?
They’re all men.
There are smart girls in fiction, sure. But when I was growing up, Willow was shy and silent and socially awkward, Hermione was an explicitly annoying know-it-all, and those two exemplified smart girls in fiction. Shy and silent or obnoxious and pushy. I liked those characters. I identified with them. But I did not want to be them. I had Mary Russell. I loved Mary Russell. She was the female Sherlock Holmes, with observation and deduction and books and trousers and an amused disinterest in all the absurd trappings of Society. She also had skirts and long hair and the need to find clothing that hid her scars without hiding her self. She had to interact with other characters as a girl, then as a woman, assert intelligence and strength and femininity, find her authority in ways that male characters never do. But she was all I had. I never found another. I had one single model for my aspirations, and that was not enough.
This is not a complaint. I did not grow up lacking books to read or movies to watch. It’s just that one of the characters I desperately wanted had only been written once, to the best of my knowledge, and I don’t accept that anymore.
If the book you want isn’t out there, you write it.
I’m not going to take a break from Lost Knowledge mid-series, or anything, but once I’ve got The Mora out, finished up The Siren and put it out like I’ve been saying I was going to for ages, there is going to be a new project in the works, and it might stretch out the time between new volumes of Liminality. It’s important to me, though, that I fill this hole I have always felt.
Do you know of any books, movies, or television shows that fill this gap? Not that I’d scrap the ideas I’ve been hoarding, but it would be lovely to know the hole is smaller than I thought it was.
What stories or characters have you always wanted, but been unable to find?