My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Corie Weaver to talk about how the power of Overcomplication relates to The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (Kickstarter).
If you asked my husband, he’d say my superpower is overcomplicating things. The other night, we grilled out, and at the last minute, I decided I didn’t want ketchup. I could *taste* what I wanted. Tomato paste, a tiny bit of red wine, chili powder.
I was right – it was delicious, but it did create an unexpected bump in the dinner plans.
And that may be how, when I had planned to spend the summer putting the final touches on a new YA space opera, we’re instead editing an anthology of science fiction stories for middle grade readers.
Like a lot of the sudden complications in our life, it started from a few diverse ingredients.
- The blog post that went viral about a mother who gender swapped the characters in the Hobbit for her daughter, and the chorus of other parents who resort to similar tactics.
- The conversation I had with friends, attempting and failing to brainstorm a list of YA science fiction or fantasy novels with a female main characters, that don’t have a love story subplot.
- The crazy levels of misogyny displayed when anyone comments on how women are depicted in games and other media, as if a diverse environment is a threat. As if some people can’t imagine women who are active participants in adventures instead of decorative wallpaper or a motivator to the true hero.
- The ongoing concern about girls’ participation, or lack thereof, in STEM fields.
- And probably a number of other, tiny influences that had been bobbing around in my head.
According to a 2011 study of 6,000 children’s books, only 31 percent had central female characters, and even fewer featured main characters of color.* That’s of all children’s books, but from my admittedly unscientific review of middle grade science fiction, it doesn’t seem far off.
A genre that’s supposed to inspire us towards a bright future isn’t making space for half the population’s dreams. Boys go and have adventures, girls are to be defended, or prizes to be won. This can’t be healthy. Sally Ride, the first woman in space and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, famously said: “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Girls need to read stories where any number of possible roles are modeled for them. Just as importantly, boys need to read stories where girls are active participants in adventures.
It’s time for a bigger universe.
So my husband and partner-in-crime wasn’t too surprised when at the breakfast table, out of the blue, I announced we should create a middle grade science fiction anthology that was girl friendly, but not exclusionary. In fact, it should be as diverse as possible.
He nodded and poured me more coffee.
The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide features stories that all kids can identify with, filled with great adventures from a wide range of writers and a diverse set of characters – girls, boys, robots… everyone belongs here.
Of the stories we’ve accepted so far, including works from Hugo and Nebula winners, 80 percent have female main characters. We don’t have girls who are prizes to be won or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventures, not a side note in someone else’s.
We’re running a kickstarter for pre-orders, or for people who just want to support the project.
Because growing up to be a mad scientist should be an equal opportunity adventure.
*The study is “Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters.” The results are also discussed in this Guardian article.
Corie Weaver is the author of middle grade fantasy novels Coyote’s Daughter and Bear’s Heart, and upcoming YA space opera, Mirror of Stone. She and her husband Sean started Dreaming Robot Press to increase the number of venues for quality speculative fiction for younger readers. They can be found in a small adobe house in Las Vegas, New Mexico, keeping company with the cats and dogs.
About the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide:
We’re creating an anthology of age appropriate stories that all kids can identify with. We have great stories, from a wide range of writers and a diverse set of characters – girls, boys, robots… everyone belongs here!Of the stories we’ve accepted so far, 80% have female main characters. We don’t have girls who are prizes to be won, or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventure, not a side note in someone else’s.In our pages, readers will find stories about the care and feeding of pet robots, discovering what it means to be human (and whether it matters), how much trouble a superpower can get you into, what it means to survive past the end of the world you know, the secret of the best cheesecake in the universe, and many, many more!