We are upbeat, we are cheerful, we are veritable little rays of freakin' sunshine. (Actually, I am pretty cheerful, probably because I'm letting my brain slide off the long, long sale drought and focus on finishing short stories and hanging out with people and other good stuff.)
I finished reading The System of the World and was both amused and bemused by it. I also read the whole of The Confession of Brother Haluin while working out this morning (short book), and that was tonally quite different, but...I don't know. I'm left a bit unsure about what I'm in the mood for next. Maybe something to return to porphyrin when I see her next. Borrowing reduces uncertainty for me. It also means that my piles of my own books to read sit for longer, but that's all right.
merriehaskell and I were talking about hard women, because she made a claim, oh, days ago, about how she should thank Sigourney Weaver or maybe Linda Hamilton for her enjoyment of Mary Gentle's Ash series, and I didn't think either of them had anything to do with it for me. I didn't see the Alien movies until I was 17 and Terminator just after I turned 19, and by that point my opinions on tough girls in fiction were probably pretty formed.
I got hung up on the distinction between "hard women" and "tough women." Tough women will slog through the worst of it and complain only sparingly and then in amusing ways. They will stab the bandit and diaper the baby because both of those things need doing, and if someone tries to make them do either for a stupid reason, they won't. Hard women, hard people, aren't transcending their reactions to sentiment, they just don't have them at all. Often for good reason, but still: when matociquala's Jenny Casey calls herself a hard woman, I think it's undeserved. (I also think it's entirely within the character to do so.) Jenny Casey is tough but not hard, I don't think.
Anyway, then Mer was talking about Pern's Lessa as an example of hard or maybe tough, and then I really was confused. Eowyn was my early childhood butt-kicking female, but for me life handed them out before art. When there weren't tough women in the large casts of the books I read, I knew the books were just wrong. (I was absolutely incensed at CS Lewis when I was about four. The line about how Lucy should keep well back because "battle is ugly when women fight" sent me into an incandescent rage. I kept repeating to my dad, "That's so stupid! That's so stupid! It's not pretty when boys kill each other!" And he kept saying, "I know, kiddo, I know...." "Aslan is wrong!" "I know, kiddo....") There was a story in Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend about how a fairy wife was able to bend horseshoes with her hands like nothing, and I thought, I have at least four fairy aunties, I think, and fairy grannies all the way back.
I liked Mickle from the Westmark books when I was in grade school. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I'm just having a hard time seeing where I got the idea that there ought to be girls kicking butt, because it was very firmly entrenched in my little kid brain. When I was 5, I convinced my cousin Garrett that George Lucas had made a grave error in not giving Princess Leia a lightsaber in "The Return of the Jedi," and that he would surely see and rectify it in the next movie he made. (As I said last night and have said many other nights, I would have forgiven him even the midichlorians, even the Jar-Jar, even the total suckage of two movies so far, if he had given me a girl Jedi character with a light saber. Even as a full-fledged grown-up person, my affections really are for sale for that low a price. And the cheap bastard still didn't do it.)
Who were your tough women? Did you need fictional ones to "get" the real thing, or did it go more vice versa? And tough men: is there an equivalent, really? Or does it go with square-jawed and rugged and make alternatives much more interesting?