Just before the January 2012 launch of SufferStone, author Stella Atrium sat down with Marc Roster for a chat about theme…
Marc Roster: So, you have an interesting premise here; space travel and women living under the veil.
Stella Atrium: Over the decades, sci-fi fans have seen many cultures depicted in stories about offworld adventures. But I have not seen an alien culture where women struggle against the burka.
Marc: Are the female characters also Muslim?
Stella: Desert garb with flowing robes and headgear pre-dates the birth of Mohammad. In the story, the sisters of Arim live on a savannah with a long dry season.
Marc: But the story is meant to reflect issues of global women’s rights?
Stella: The cultures for the four tribes are unique to the story with their own languages, along with standards of dress, local animals, gestures of power for the men.
Marc: Of the four sisters, Kyle Le is the youngest, but she’s the leader?
Stella: Kyle Le is troubled with the gift of second sight, like flashes of insight for events in the near future. She’s an orphan, and her sisters clings to the land her father owned. They have no status in community, only the service of her gift to a tribal leader.
Marc: So Kyle Le takes work at the mill where she meets the story’s hero Brian Miller. They fall in love and live happily ever after?
Stella: Not likely. Brian Miller can only run the mill because he doesn’t abuse native women. The differences between their cultures are too great.
Marc: In the story’s plot, what is the purpose of the Brittany Mill?
Stella: The savannah on Dolvia has what we call a Third World economy. Corporations from Earth have come adventuring through the wormhole to take advantage of the mineral wealth and the cheap labor market. But the tribes are protective, and their women are mostly illiterate. Brittany Mill is where these disparate groups begin to mingle.
Marc: That premise sounds like what happens in many countries here on Earth.
Stella: The dichotomy is delicious. Inside the fantasy genre, I try to present women who need to solve real problems like having no voice in community, or no right to work; no access to capital to start a business. No reinforcement for talent.
My intent was to pry open the archetypes of alien women in sci-fi who are, shall we say, sexually available to the story’s hero. You know the types — warrior, witch, street urchin, unavailable princess who sneaks around, armless mermaid. Let’s present a few female characters who drive the story and solve problems using the tools at hand.
Marc: You mentioned unique animals. Any dragons?
Stella: (chuckle) No dragons; no fairies. One sister named Terry befriends a wild ketiwhelp, which is similar to an oversized fox. She’s later martyred in prison and a tribal myth about her is told in chants.