Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Against Type: The Wicked Mother

by Nicole Quinn

When villains are female they’re often unsexed, or hyper-sexed.  Cast as stepmothers, wicked step mothers, they are rarely maternal.  The bad girl’s tragic flaw often stems from a man who done her wrong, or a childhood trauma.  Seldom is it pure lust for power, a common motivator in the male villain.  

When I went looking for an anti-hero I'd already cast the protagonist as a dreamer.  Her opposite, a nightmare, I found in stories of old, as a she-demon who sits on men’s chests while they sleep, sucking at their dreams.  She seemed tailor made.

Anka is the anti-hero of The Gold Stone Girl series.  She’s the ruler of Winkin, a one city world where human females are bred like cattle, and licensed as domestic pets, while human males fare but slightly better.  She’s the Night Mare, a title conferred on her in the long ago, when she was first given the job to be the negative polarity of the planet, the polar opposite of her sister, Alma, the Dream Weaver.  Anka killed Alma in the long ago, to rule alone and forever.

The Night Mare defies the stereotype of gender, even as she imposes gender strictures on her subjects.  She’s filled with contradictions, as most are when rubbed up against convention.  She’s not nice, she’s not feminized, and yet she’s decidedly female, and also a mother.  She’s someone who exercises the limits of her power with confidence and gusto.  Evil is not gendered, nor is consciousness, and that is the point Anka makes in codifying a world predicated on the one which preceded hers, ours. 

The Gold Stone Girl story is inherently feminist.  I didn’t want to scare off half of its potential readers by making it a them and us society, with an evil man subjugating women.  I’m trying to de-gender behavior with Anka.  I wanted a humanist point of view, where we all have to stand in judgment of the actions, and not the gender of the perpetrator.  Anka subjugates human males as well, but she makes them superior to women, as happens in the world now.  She makes human males abusive, by law, and  human females legally 3/5 human, just as the US government classified African slaves, to rationalize that atrocity.  

Anka employs horrors that already haunt us. She institutionalizes them, she makes them normal. It’s a Nightmare, book 1 of the trilogy, starts a million years into Anka’s rule.  These behaviors are entrenched in the culture. No one questions the dogma of the Night Mare’s government-church now, they just live by it.  It’s been long enough into this nightmare forever, for it to seem like a long time, even to Anka.  Even she’s ready for a change.

I wanted the anti-hero to have the capacity for change, what is a world of extremes without forgiveness?  I’ve given her a child,  because it’s a side we don’t often consider.  It’s the side we trivialize as weak, simply because it’s female.  Even monsters have children.      

Anka never meant to carry her child to term.  Demons normally embed their fertilized eggs into the planet. But when she saw how the humans did it, with all the blood, and the mewling, she thought she’d breeze right through it.  She was screaming for the child to be murdered less than three centimeters in.  

Anka loves her son, Reve, sired by Boreas, the North Wind, in a tempestuous relationship.  Anka worries about her son, the way all mothers worry, is he safe, are his socks dry? Yet, she’s the reason he has never evolved beyond the two dimensional heroic villain he plays, the role he’s been assigned in her society.  He’s a matinee idol who rescues human females from the clutches of his mother’s monsters, on the screens.  Anka wrestles with her motherhood, with her softer side, while her son wrangles with who he might be on his own, outside of his mother’s world.  

Maybe that’s why females love their children so, the old demon muses, because we risk own lives to give them theirs.  The ungrateful wretches.

What I’ve come to, in the writing of these polarities, is that no one wants the job to which they’ve been assigned, no one wants to be categorized by the extremes on a spectrum forever.  The Night Mare wants to dream, and the dreamer must choose to be strong, or be eaten. Both characters are ultimately questing for a place where good and bad can become something less rigid, something more like, not all good, and not so bad, more human.  An interesting quest for demons to take on our behalf.

Are you a writer, likNicole Quinn, with female characters who defy tropes and overturn expectations? Why not submit your own Against Type essay to us? We would love to hear how your #UnabridgedWomen characters are rewriting stereotypes!

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