WRITING A FEMALE PROTAGONIST (crossing gender)
Why did I choose a female protagonist for Xenogeneic: First Contact and what got me to think I could pull it off?
Growing up, I was surrounded by strong women and often by the absence of men. At one point, I did a year-and-a-half stint in a Catholic military boarding school run by Catholic sisters.
As a reader, I’ve often experienced getting into various characters’ heads, both male and female. When I was getting ready to write The Rebel Within, I had just finished reading Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark. She tells the story of a young autistic boy in his point of view. I believe she handled gender quite well, and hopefully I’ve brought lessons from her writing into my work.
What helped me in taking on The Rebel Within was that I’d already written Annabelle Scott as a co-protagonist in Rebels Divided (now the 3rd book in the series). Annabelle got into my head and wouldn’t let go until I wrote her story. I felt I was seeing her world through her eyes and imagined how I/she would deal with what she faced. One thing this series does is play on a reversal of gender dominance with women controlling the society and men discriminated against. Thus, it explores the topic from a different perspective.
When it came time to write the Regina Shen series, the answer was obvious. This is a world in which men have become extinct due to events in the story’s past. Naturally, any protagonist I chose would be female. The idea of a world without men arose from recent research that hints at future fertility that could allow two women to have a child without a man. I wanted to explore the implications of a society in which there would be no gender issues yet would be consistent with a long history of human nature.
By that I mean that we (men and women) are inherently competitive as a species and seek dominance over others, even in cooperative situations, in order to secure our place. While some writers have idealized an all-female society, I believe this competition and inherent need for status would perpetuate some institutions and social conventions even in the absence of men. In any case, it was a fun adventure to create. It’s not heavy-handed in any way, and many readers have found it quite enjoyable.
For Xenogeneic: First Contact, the choice of a female protagonist was first and foremost that she entered my mind as the character leading space exploration for this story. Beyond that, given the nature of the aliens’ genetic adaptation, it made sense to portray the story from Elena Pyetrov’s point of view. Without giving too much away, she was more directly affected than the male humans around her.
So what I would offer is if you have a story to tell, don’t be scared away by the story’s need to be told by your opposite gender.
Xenogeneic is a science fiction thriller about first contact with an alien race that lost their civil war and wants to take over Earth.
Dr. Elena Pyetrov’s father vanished in space 18 years ago while searching for extraterrestrial life. As an aerospace engineer, Elena travels into space to search for answers and continue his work. Her ship is pulled off course and crashes. She suspects extraterrestrial interference.
The alien Knoonk lost their civil war in a distant star system and fled to Earth’s neighborhood to hide and regroup. They seek a new home—Earth. Unable to live in Earth’s toxic environment, the aliens kidnap and use humans to genetically modify their species to adapt.
Surviving the crash, Elena and her shipmates are transported to a closed cave system where the Knoonk monitor and control everything. Elena tries to make a connection with her hosts and find ways to work together, but Knoonk leaders rebuff her and force the humans to submit as slaves. The aliens use illusions, distractions, and social experiments to learn from their hostages and keep them off balance. Resistance by captive humans brings swift punishment to break the human spirit.
While Elena continues to look for ways to cooperate with the Knoonk, it becomes apparent that there can be no compromise. The Knoonk want to capture Earth for their species. It is winner take all. With time running out, Elena must dig deep to uncover the alien plan and find a way to stop them before the human race faces enslavement and extinction.
Lance Erlick writes science fiction thrillers for young adult and adult readers. He is the author of The Rebel Within, The Rebel Trap, and Rebels Divided, three books in the Rebel series. In those stories, he explores the consequences of Annabelle Scott following her conscience. He authored the Regina Shen series--Resilience, Vigilance, Defiance, and Endurance. This series takes place after abrupt climate change leads to the Great Collapse and a new society under the World Federation. His latest novel is Xenogeneic: First Contactabout encounters with an alien race aiming to take over Earth.
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