Heroine Fix is a monthly feature looking at the characters who I admire and who influence my own writing. (Warning: this article contains spoilers.)
Usually I look at heroines from movies or television because people have usually seen them and so I'm not spoiling anyone's experience. And I like to think that I sometimes remind people of great stories or inspire them to seek out some of the lesser known ones. But today, I'm looking at a heroine from a series of sci-fi novels because I needed to share the love for Kitty from Gini Koch's Alien series.
Kitty is an atypical heroine, particularly in the sci-fi/fantasy universe. She's not a suave, smooth action hero. Nor is she a shriek and hide gal, overwhelmed by the strangeness of her new world who gradually learns to adapt. Instead, she is allowed to have doubts and uncertainties, but she doesn't allow them to stop her. I find her a refreshingly relatable heroine, someone I can imagine myself being in the same circumstances. (It's never going to happen but let me have my little dream.)
In the very first book, Touched by An Alien, Kitty is going about a typical day when she finds herself in the middle of a superbeing attack (alien parasites that attach to people and turn them into monsters). She immediately begins doing what she can to help, both in fighting and in getting spectators to safety, which attracts the attention of the Alpha Centurions, double-hearted, supremely hot aliens who have been living in secret on Earth since the fifties. She insists on staying in the middle of it all, despite openly expressed doubts that a weaker human female could possibly have something to offer. And she shows them all up brilliantly. It's a heck of a story of female persistence and competence, and it's only the beginning.
The first thing which made me root for Kitty was the fact that she is a fellow geek culture junkie, with a love of comic books that rivals my own. She puts everything and everyone she encounters in terms of comics. Her husband is Superman, her best friend is Batman, her bodyguard is Dr. Strange. She is able to combine her understanding of world events with her love of comics and use them to understand what her enemies are doing, earning her the nickname Megalomaniac Girl. More importantly, she uses that knowledge to stop them, saving the world multiple times throughout the series. But it's not the Geeks Save The World that earned my respect. It's Kitty's completely unapologetic enthusiasm for the things that she enjoys, be it comics or Aerosmith. She's not ashamed of either her tastes or of publicly enjoying them. So often, we are encouraged to fly under the radar, lest others think we are uncool, which makes her openness refreshing. When she learns she has acquired superpowers, she immediately begins to dance in jubilation, shouting "I'm Wolverine with boobs!"
The next aspect of Kitty's character that I respect is her ability to think outside the box, or "go with the crazy" as she calls it. She's not afraid of failure or of looking bad, only of not protecting the people she cares about. So she's willing to try anything that seems plausible and could have a chance of success, even if she'll look silly or could end up flat on her face. From using mambo dance steps to destroy robots to solo piloting a jet to land with no experience, she never insults herself or the audience by doing something half-heartedly. Which leads me to the next great part of her character: her heart.
She is incredibly loyal to her friends and family and fiercely protective of anyone being threatened by a greater power, even if that person has been an enemy and actively working against them. She doesn't believe they'll change their ways, but no one is getting away with bullying someone on her watch. She goes nose to nose with all sorts of superpowers and doesn't back down. In fact, her approach often wins the respect of her enemies, and flips them to her side. By not doing what they expect, she forces them actually think and re-evaluate, which often leads them to realize they are being exploited.
She's openly sensual, making no secret about enjoying sex with her husband. Although slightly embarassed by the volume, she isn't inhibited by yowling like a cat as he gives her multiple orgasms. She's never fallen out of lust for her chosen partner, quite separately from how much she loves and admires him. And he feels the same way about her, giving her both passion and respect.
And finally we come to what is for me, the key point: her anger. Kitty is not indignant or morally opposed. She is openly furious at those who seek to attack her, her loved ones, her planet and those weaker than themselves. And the anger doesn't make her unlovable, unfeminine or unrelatable. It makes her powerful. It even becomes part of her character: when she is angry, she is faster, stronger and able to defeat her enemies more easily. Anger is often a no-no for female characters. Even if the characters are physically active and battle competent, they are often impassive and calm. Kitty's anger is raw and real and right on the surface for anyone to see. But it's not considered a flaw, which is a rarity.
All in all, I think it's her apparent genuineness that readers appreciate. She's not playing games or trying to downplay herself. She's open about her doubts and fears, but also doesn't hide behind them. She does what she believes is right and what will get the job done. Her mistakes haunt her, but she still gets up to stand between danger and those it is targeting. It's quite a refreshing portrayal and one which keeps me coming back for more.
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Next month, I'll be looking at Offred from The Handmaid's Tale.