This is my second to last guest post. After Friday, a (hopefully) well-rested Charlie takes back the blog wheel. I've had a wonderful time with y'all. You are a lovely bunch of people. I shouldn't have been nervous, that's clear to me now. It seems we have a great deal in common and not just a love for Charlie's work. Anyway, if y'all have any questions for me outside of the blog topic, you have today and tomorrow to ask them. Who knows? Your question might inspire tomorrow's post.
With that, I'm going to bring up a subject a bit more... touchy: female characters in SF and Fantasy.
One of the things that impressed me about Charlie is how he writes female characters. I believe he does an excellent job, and Mo is one of my favorite female characters in SF and Fantasy. Mo is powerful and quite obviously Bob treats her as an equal. She's believable in an unassuming way. I like that. I could see myself running into her at a friend's party. She is a whole person and not just the sum of one or two characteristics. That's important. One of my favorite stories about non-default (that is, non-white-male) characters in SF involves the actress Nichelle Nichols, Rev. Martin Luther King and Star Trek. I'm sure you've heard it. I was lucky enough to hear Nichelle tell it once. The take-away for me was that non-default characters need to be treated as people--not as a representation of their minority group. It's one of my "character tests" that I run for myself. "Can I insert a default (white male) character in this place and get the same result?" It helps me see problems in my writing. Writing female characters is tricky--and not just for male authors. Although I'm a female, the misogynist program was installed in my brain too. And because female characters are infrequent in our genre there are certain problems faced by all writers. One of the biggest issues is that when creating female characters in a female character-sparse environment the exception can become the rule in the reader's mind. That is, whatever you do with your female character is viewed as a stand in for all female characters. It sucks, but it's true.
NOTE: I'm keeping the following discussion a bit vague in order to avoid spoilers. If you wish to discuss specifics in the comments, please do me a favour (and the others too) and note that your comment contains spoilers.
For example, there has been some controversy over what I've done to a certain female character in my first book. That's understandable. However, I was taught that a writer was free to use whatever story device was necessary for the telling of the story, including genre tropes. Whatever is best for the story is the top priority. However, a good writer never employs a story device without purpose, especially genre tropes. Whether or not it was done effectively (and that can and will be argued,) I had a reason for employing that specific trope. The biggest hint is in the order in which that event is repeated. That is, it happens to a male character first. Then I place the event in its traditional context to demonstrate what is wrong with that trope. Mind you, anytime you employ a trope--particularly when it involves a minority group--you're going to get flack for it even if you're a member of the minority group in question. Your intentions won't matter to some readers. That's just how things are. Reading is an individual and interactive experience. I'm not in favour of authors dictating to readers what their experiences should be. That said, there have been strong reactions to what I've written. Frankly, that's a good thing. My intent was to upset the reader. However, I didn't do so merely to punch the reader in the face for the sake of punching the reader in the face. As stated elsewhere, I don't believe in that. I also don't believe in making rape titillating. So, when I write about such things I'm very careful about which details I dwell upon. Mind you, I made mistakes when I wrote those two books. No work is perfect. However, I don't consider those areas to be mistakes. [shrug]
That said, I believe that the question "Can I insert a default (white male) character in this place and get the same result?" is an important part of the writing process. I was taught to switch out roles this way in order to spot sexism and racism. And while I'll continue to make mistakes my hope is that it will cut down on the number of times I repeat that one. For the record, I'm not a big fan of the Strong Female Character stereotype. I believe that women are people. Oh, and also for the record, I think Liam's mother is a strong female character. She has beliefs, and she sticks to them whether or not they are advantageous in a selfish sense and whether or not she's ultimately correct. Kathleen is complicated and real. I love her for that.
So, with all that in mind, what are some of your favorite female characters in SF and Fantasy? Why do you like them?
 I really enjoyed the bit in The Jennifer Morgue when I realized who was the Bond Girl and who was Bond, by the way.
 I found it very difficult to get into the Charlie's Angels remake mostly because I had a hard time believing those stick figures could punch. I liked the idea. (And I did like where Drew Barrymore was headed. I can't wait until she makes more films.) I'm just not sure Charlie's Angles did women any favours by making it seem that female heros require wires and special effects in order to be effective.
 Just in case you haven't I'll give you the short version. At one point Nichelle decided to quit Star Trek. She didn't feel her character (Uhura) was all that important to the show, and she decided to move on with her career. Not long after she'd resigned, she went to see Martin Luther King. As fate would have it, Reverend King turned out to be a big fan of Star Trek. He told Nichelle that Uhura was his favorite character and wasn't it wonderful and important for her to be in the cast? She said she didn't think so. "Anyone can do what my character's job. I'm not that important. So, I quit." Reverend King said, "But don't you see? That's what's so important about that role." In other words, Uhura was a person. She wasn't merely about being a person of color. Reverend King convinced Nichelle to take back her job, and to Gene Roddenberry's credit, he told her he hadn't really accepted her resignation anyway.
 Which, frankly, only makes me admire him more.
 That is, Hot Young Thing with Gun who is usually dressed in skin tight clothing--usually leather. It isn't that there's something wrong with that particular straight male fantasy. The problem is that there's so little variety.