Welcome to our reignited weekly guest post on what makes a kick ass heroine tick in science fiction and fantasy. This week’s author Erin Lale highlights the transformative power of writing a kick ass heroine.
On a side note, Erin and I were friends in high school and spend lots of time together in the imaginative worlds of Tolkein. We’ve recently reconnected over our shared interest in writing transformative stories about strong women. It’s wonderful to see our friendship re-emerge after all these years.
Carla Punch, alive and kicking.
In the Punch series, a seven-book science fiction series, Carla Punch kicks a lot of ass—aliens, pirates, robots, evildoers of various kinds—but her true struggle is against her own fears and memories.
In Book 1, she is an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD who travels to alien space to conquer her fear of aliens, and succeeds beyond her wildest nightmares.
She makes an alien friend and gets drawn into galactic politics, which leads in Book 2 to becoming a knight of the very alien society she once fought against.
She has increasing success in her new career over the course of the series, becoming a ship captain, but continually struggles against her past. Her force of will is tested merely by being on her own ship, with her own alien crew.
Ultimately it’s her tenacity in fighting her own personal demons and reinventing herself as a hero rather than a victim that makes her a truly kick-ass heroine.
Carla Punch’s journey from mental illness to exceptional heroine and ultimately to an unexpected spiritual awakening is a healing journey, a classic rags to riches tail in which the riches gained are the precise opposite of material wealth: the transformation from a matter-based existence to an energy-based being.
Along the way, her struggles parallel the kinds of struggles I dealt with in my own life, which I wrote about in my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts: My Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Carla’s task in learning to live in a galaxy filled with aliens is a symbolic retelling of my internal struggle to become comfortable living in a world full of men. Carla’s backstory is having been the victim of war crimes by aliens in a POW camp; my history is having been sexually abused as a child. Both kinds of experiences lead to post traumatic stress.
The memoir is raw life, and the Punch series is my life redeemed, filled with meaning, and made universal in accordance with the classical hero’s journey.
Some of the episodes in Carla’s story are direct transmutations of events in my own life. For example, the ghastly dinner party where Carla finds herself seated at the same table as the alien who once tortured her comes from my childhood experiences of having to sit down to dinner every night with a child molester.
The aliens have a terrifying, monstrous appearance, looking like devils, complete with horns, but the monsters they represent are human beings that look like everyone else. Carla Punch has obvious and recognizable physical scars from her traumatic experience; none of my physical scars were acquired in childhood.
So Carla’s story is an analogue of my brain, turned inside out and made manifest, but it is not an allegory with a moral at the end, but a fairy-story in the Tolkienian sense, with a “eucatastrophe,” a twist happy ending.
But the Punch series isn’t all horrible times, any more than my life was. Carla’s story is also filled with humor, accomplishment, friendship, and triumph, like real life but in a larger-than-life way.
Today I have numerous genuine friendships with males; Carla marries an alien.
I had the confidence to run for office last year; Carla runs a starship.
Carla is my aspirational self, the me who does not fail. She grows through all her experiences and ultimately ascends to a higher level of existence. Some people give their problems to a higher power; I gave mine to an action hero.
The inspiration for the type of heroine Carla is comes from a motto that hung on the wall in my teen years in the garage, which was also my older brother’s kung fu studio. It said:
“He who conquers fear conquers himself. He who conquers himself is the greatest of warriors.”
Carla conquers her fear, and is the greatest of warriors.
Writing Carla’s story was an incredibly healing experience for me.
Every time I re-read it to edit it, which I’ve probably done a dozen times over the past few years, it heals me anew.
I hope it can be a transformative journey for the reader, too.
Where You Can Get Erin Lale’s Books
Links to buy Punch book 1: The Loribond
Links to buy Punch book 2: Dark Horse
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-horse-erin-lale/1104457643
Links to buy Punch book 3: Vri 97
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vri-97-erin-lale/1104732084
Links to buy Punch book 4: Dalshon
Links to buy Punch book 5: Dream
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dream-erin-lale/1106660073
Punch book 6: Ship of Sails and Punch book 7: Clan Imbalo are not yet published. Punch is being published 1 book per month starting June 21, 2011 and continuing until December, for a total of 7 books.
About the Author: A polymath genius, Erin Lale is the world’s most prominent contemporary sunprint artist, publisher and editor of Time Yarns, and a skinflint extraordinaire who practices radical recycling and freetarianism in Henderson, Nevada. She was the founding Chairman of City Lights Artists’ Co-op, served on the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Advisory Board, ran for Nevada State Assembly (her campaign is the subject of her book How to Lose at Politics, Or, Not Bad for a Libertarian), wrote for The Sonoma Index-Tribune, invented technical processes in iDEN and CDMA technology, sang in the Celtic folk-rock band North Wind, got the Double Ruby Award from the National Forensic League, bred a new type of creeping phlox flower, conducted the Sage Women Drum Circle, ran a custom fabric dyeing business, published and edited a print magazine, taught Russian in a university, wrote and directed the magical realist art film Rain Dance, worked as an alarm dispatcher, and farmed. Her Bengal Cat, Beni-Wan Cat-Obi, is the star of the award-winning Cool Cat Campaign Commercial.
Erin stays in touch with her friends, fans and community via her Yahoo group here.