Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Blast From The Past


While at Word on the Street this fall, I picked up one of the bargain packages flogged by the Toronto Public Library. Five bucks got me ten books.
Interplanetary Hunter by Arthur K. Barnes was one of them.
Space-faring safaris ( back blurb). Hunting the Nightmare Creatures of the Solar System ( front blurb).
The adventures of zoologist Gerry Carlyle and loyal lieutenant Tommy Strike. On Venus, the fifth Jovian satellite, on the Gas Giants and Almussen's Comet. Their search for specimens for Terran zoos. Various villians as well as deadly creatures.
First Ace printing - 1972. Copyright by Barnes - 1956.
Based on material originally copyrighted by Standard Magazine Inc. - 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, and 1946.

So?
Gerry Carlyle is a girl.
She's the boss and brains of the outfit. She kicks ass.

While Barnes no doubt tapped into the trend of the intrepid girl explorer, viz. Amelia Earhart and other high flyers of that era, and one can reasonably argue that the exceptions prove the rule, the fact remains - all previous heroines, even in SF, were not clinging, TSTL Mary Sues.

25 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

I've known very few TSTL women. Well, except maybe some celebrities.

Dave said...

I just realized what TSTL stands for. . .

Bernita said...

Seems they flourish in fiction, Erik.

Wonder if men's fiction has equivalent acronyms, Dave.

Robyn said...

I wonder where the change came about- from some very strong women as heroines/goddesses from ancient mythology, to the medieval fairytale princesses who were totally TSTL Mary Sues, to the 'intrepid explorer' girls of the 20's and 30's back to Mary Sues, then the 90's kickass heroine. Probably a reflection of women in society at the time or something equally fascinating. I'm starting NaNoWriMo today so I'm not thinking too deeply about anything else!

Rick said...

Really, SF has generally not had TSTL heroines - Hollywood sci-fi is a different matter. The besetting sin of SF was more having no heroines at all. This book obviously an exception, but the Golden Age of SF was 14, when girls were the most terrifying of all aliens races.

But Robyn's comment on historical rhythm is interesting. My impression is that male-oriented adventure, at least in modern times, has tended toward competent women (if it had women at all).

In HOLLYWOOD HISTORY OF THE WORLD, George McDonald Frazier says that the 17th century would have been impossible without Maureen O'Hara, and certainly not for playing TSTL/fainting in coils heroines.

Also, anyone else remember Sky King and his niece Penny? As I recall, Penny was forever getting rescued, but not because of incompetence - the baddies always nabbed her to try and blackmail Sky King. But Penny herself, IIRC, was a qualified pilot, proof of competence in Sky King world, and was usually doing her best to assist in her own rescue.

It would be interesting to go back and trace the development of the Plucky Girl. In the 19th century she maybe had to be killed off, like Cora in LAST OF THE MOHICANS. You can trace social change in all the students who blew it in their book reports, c. 1992, because Madeleine Stowe survives in the movie, and they assumed she survived in the book as well.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Aaah! Ass-kicking heroines!! RUN!

LOL Not all of them are bad. Some are way overdone, but the general idea is a nice one. I can't pass judgement on this one, cuz I haven't read it. :-)

Interesting to find out just how old this trend is, though!

(Don't worry, Dave, we don't think you're TSTL! :-)

Bernita said...

Probably, Robyn.
NaNoWriMo - that was another short form it took me a while to decipher...

Thank you, Rick.
You remind me of an analysis of murder mysteries I read once, regarding the "plucky girl" as main protagonist, such as Cristie's Tuppence. Seems they were usually American girls.

The book is a bit of a pot boiler, Sonya, and she doesn't physically "kick ass" - she has her loyal crew for the sock 'em/knock 'em - but she is clearly no intimidated, shrinking violet. She's the boss with brains.

Alexandra said...

Don't you just love coming across these finds, Bernita, a little piece of history.

normiekins said...

what a great find.....hope we are in the era of kick ass heroines again.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"...and out of the western sky, comes Sky King...and his niece Penny..."...LOL...thanks Ric for that blast from the past! that was one of my favorite shows.

Bernita, this is a great subject!

I think at one point in time it was exciting to have the dashing hero swooping in to save the poor hapless female...ie..woman tied to the tracks as a speeding train bears down on her. Or the famous King Kong scene.

Then when I was a teen there were a lot of adventurous girl parts like Penny. Then when we moved to the age of slasher movies like Jason and Freddie Cruger, the girls all turned into screamers.

Egads....I hate women that scream and run away!

And go NaNoWriMo! I started today. Are you going to try it Bernita?

EA Monroe said...

Sky King & Penney! How about Annie Oakley, Dale Evans, Nancy Drew, and Rosie the Riveter? How man times did Superman rescue Lois Lane? I guess Lois needed a "super man." Heck, I know nothing. I gotta get back to chipping stone!

Dave said...

In the finale of the remake of King Kong, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) runs all around NYC in spiked heels. It was completely incongruous and quite fun. Even at the very end when she stood bravely on the top of the Empire State building, her nylons weren't snagged, her shoes were perfect, her long, slinky, besequined gown was sparkly and untorn.

I got the giggles in the theater and lots of evil glances.

Star Trek used ensigns as TSTL fodder.

That's the reason for a vacuous bimbo with huge tits and three braincells - so helpless that she has to cling to the hero.

For male characters, you establish them as macho, testosterone-laden dumb jocks with big pecs and firm stomachs and then you feed them to some sort of death machine. Miners used to take canaries into the mines to warn of bad air. Now stories take dumb jocks of both sexes.

Bernita said...

Yes I do, Alexandra! They are delightful.

Seems no doubt of that, Normiekins.

While it's very nice to have man to lean on now and then, Bonnie, I agree.
Male protectiveness is lovely. Totally helpless females are not.
Wouldn't touch NaNoWriMo. Have enough obligations without adding another.

Don't forget Lois was balanced by Wonder Woman, EA.
Watch out for flakes there.

Bernita said...

I know how to run in high heels, she said in a small voice.
I wonder if one could make a claim that these pathetic types reflect readers' ignorance of real crises - in other words a societal assumption that people can't cope and will be paralyzed.

Steve G said...

I guess I'm slow today. It took me forever to figure out TSTL. Didn't know we still had some. Well, Paris Hilton comes to mind.

Candice Gilmer said...

Being my age, I guess I never really watched movies or stories with weak heroines. I was watching Wonder Woman and Isis at Three, Princess Leia was the bomb when I was six, and then came Ripley from the Alien movies. We don't want to talk about how many times I battled aliens in my playroom when I was a kid.

So for me, I just don't get girls who don't fight back, at least somehow.

So TSTL/clingy women make me nutty.

Maybe my parents were right to let me watch all that stuff when I was a kid. And it shows in my daughter as well -- she's too busy being the hero to worry about the princesses (though she was a lovely cinderella this year, but she had to wear her boots and carry a magic wand to cast spells on her enemies...)

Bernita said...

Took me a while when I first encountered it, Steve. Mainly a Romance writer/reader term, but very evocative.

Older than you, Candice, but could never abide them.
She's just Cinderella with 'tude.

Carla said...

I'm not sure that the medieval fairytale heroine was vacuous and helpless in the originals. I think that might have come in more in later retellings, maybe in the Victorian period when the useless/helpless/decorative female was an ideal and a badge of social status. But I haven't got a PhD in the evolution of heroines in literature so don't quote me on that.

Bernita said...

Some of the fairy tales do retain evidence of a heroine who doesn't wait for the pransome hince or a gairy fodmother to solve her problems though, thinking of "Cap o' Rushes" and "Tamlane."

Carla said...

"Tamlane" - is that the one I know as Tam Lin? Scottish Borders, dates back to at least 17-something and probably a lot earlier, girl rescues her boyfriend who is being held prisoner by the Queen of Elf-land?

Bernita said...

Sounds like the same one, Carla.

Shesawriter said...

I just read a TSTL book and I was thisclose to ripping it to shreds. The only thing that stopped me was the $8 plus dollars I spent on the thing. At least I could get a quarter of it back at the used book store.

Bernita said...

A more practical revenge, Tanya.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

Sorry for the deletion Bernita, It was my fault, thanks, Dave