With the publication of my novel The Altered Wake fast approaching (so fast! October, people) I’m going to tell you a little bit about where I come from as a writer. One of the things that led me to pick up my pen, open a notebook (I prefer Mead Five Star for novels, leather-bound notebooks for my daily scribbles) was this thing that made me teeth-gnashing levels of angry as a kid. I’ve long been interested in science fiction, fantasy, and all the stuff you’d find over in the super geeky corner of the world. I used to race home to watch Batman: The Animated Series, and dressed as Catwoman for Halloween. I rented Star Wars from the movie rental store every time it was my turn to pick a movie. At the school library, I was devouring any books on mythology that I could get my hands on. My high school years are almost entirely defined by the release of Lord of the Rings. I will even confess, here and now, that I might have written novel-length Harry Potter fan-fiction.
I was decidedly not cool, but I didn’t care, because I was having the time of my life.
Oh yeah, except this one thing that really bugged me. A lot.
The serious dearth of lady characters.
So, I decided at about the age of twelve, that I was going to write the kinds of stories I wanted to see – stories with women in driving lead roles – with my own pen. I had already been scribbling in notebooks for years, and it seemed the natural thing to do. And I didn’t really question whether or not I could. All I knew was that it needed to be done, and it didn’t look like anyone else was about to take care of it.
The world, now, is different, of course. Now there’s Katniss, and Rey, and Jane Foster was even Thor for a while. But I’m still restless for more.
But, rather than belabor the point that more is better, I want to point out those female characters that have stood out to me over the years as rich and wonderful people. Women who rose above cliche, who were more than just love interests and side characters. I already wrote about Princess Leia here, and why she is one of my favorites. Now, I’m going to talk about Agent Dana Scully, from the X-Files.
“But wait!” I might hear a particularly discerning person shout. “She’s Mulder’s love interest!”
And yes, she was definitely written in the first few episodes of the show as girlfriend material and foil, but it didn’t take long for Dana to establish herself as a character in her own right, for which I think we have Gillian Anderson to thank.
By the time X-Files had really established its rhythm, Dana had become a force to be reckoned with. She challenged Mulder at every turn, stood up to authority when she needed to, and she pulled out her gun and flashlight on all kinds of horrifying creatures.
There’s this scene lodged in my memory that exemplifies the character, from the first X-Files movie. While Mulder is in the basement of a bank trying to disarm a bomb, Scully is running through the lobby trying to get everyone out. She looks at a hesitant security guard, and shouts, “Don’t think! Just pick up the phone and make it happen!” It’s a moment that will have you racing to comply, even if you’re sitting on the other side of a screen. It’s a moment of someone getting the job done, gender be damned, and it’s something that is still a rarity in media.
That moment, to me, exemplifies what makes Scully such a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t question her ability. She never stopped to convince anyone that women were just as capable as men. She just attacked whatever challenge was in front of her, and took care of shit. It’s what made her a full and complete character, rather than a sidekick or a love interest.
Scully, and her no-nonsense, get-the-job-done approach to a life full of alien landing investigations, were a huge inspiration when I wrote my main character, Cameron Kardell. Even in a world with an ever-growing cast of women in major roles, we still don’t often see someone who is so self-assured in her own abilities that she doesn’t give it a second thought. And that was always Dana Scully. She was so certain of her place in the world that she never entertained the possibility or the implication that she might need to move over, get out of the way, or give up. She was loyal to Mulder, even when he seemed crazy; she confronted him with logic and science, even though she cared about him; and she stared cold death at anyone who dared to suggest that she had stepped out of line.
So, yes, for all the flaws in the world of alien abductions and monsters-of-the-week, Dana Scully is a hero, whether she’s pulling a gun on Mulder, performing late-night autopsies on the victims of vampirism, or letting people know she will have none of their nonsense. Here’s to Scully, and the trails she blazed.
For a bunch of lovely Scully moments, check out this article at Bustle.
And for more women who get the job done (while making it look cool), take a look at The Altered Wake in October!