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View Full Version : Books with old women as anti-heroes



ssbittner
08-30-2014, 09:30 AM
In my latest WIP, I have an elderly woman who fulfills an anti-hero role in the plot. I'd like to read some works by other SFF authors to see how they have handled this sort of thing, but I realized that I can't think of any little-old-lady anti-heroes in fantasy or science fiction of the top of my head. Does anyone have any books to recommend that include this sort of character?

Roxxsmom
08-30-2014, 09:40 AM
Anti heroes? It's almost impossible to find little old ladies (or even middle-aged women) as any kind of main character in fantasy and SF.

There's Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in Pratchett's stuff.

Hmm, the only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Sherri Tepper's Beauty. The character started out young, but she aged as the story progressed. I think there were some trips to the land of Fae involved, however. It's been a while since I read it.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold has a middle-aged female protagonist, but yeah, even middle aged, let alone much older women, are really under represented as focal character in fantasy and SF.

There's a great older woman character in Glenda Larke's Stormlords books, but she's not a pov character, more of a mysterious figure who is leading a rebellion. But cool to see.

In the movie Willow, the wise old wizard mentor was a woman, which made a nice change.

None of these are really anti heroes, though.

Here's a link (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/01/sleeps-with-monsters-where-are-the-older-women)to an article on Tor's website about this very issue. The lack of interesting stories and movies with female protagonists past very early middle age is not confined to SFF, of course, but I think the issue is particularly bad in this genre. Very old men aren't crawling out of the woodwork in fantasy either, except as wise old mentors, but there are a number who are middle aged, at least. And they rarely seem to have trouble finding younger women who want to sleep with them either.

phantasy
08-30-2014, 10:51 AM
I definitely plan on writing a novel with my protag as an older woman. But I want to publish a few books with her young, then middle-aged and then have her be a kick-ass granny. Really can't wait to do it, seems like it'd be so much fun.

Karen Junker
08-30-2014, 11:03 AM
I know I read a novel years ago with a character who, if not the MC, was at least very important -- I thought it was by Peter S. Beagle, but can't remember for sure. Maybe The Folk of the Air? I'm not sure if revealing any more info would be a huge spoiler so...

Then there's The Blind Assassin by Atwood. Loved that book.

RA MacAvoy's "Tea with the Black Dragon"

Here's a discussion about it on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/forum/fantasy?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxRHP2KEWXI0H1&cdThread=TxJRZGR7NLDT6

I'll try to come up with more.

Roxxsmom
08-30-2014, 11:14 AM
I'd forgotten about the Blind Assassin. Good book.

Buffysquirrel
08-30-2014, 02:44 PM
There's Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, where the main character is a young woman who's magically aged and spends a lot of the book as old, but she's more of a hero than an anti-hero*. Also Karen Joy Fowler's Sarah Canary might kinda sorta fit. Give it a try.

*But snarky.

Reziac
08-30-2014, 08:23 PM
In Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet, one of the main initial characters is an old woman in an ambiguous role: at first she appears to be the protagonist (tho is gradually superceded by other characters) but as things progressed I began to wonder if she's truly on the side of the angels. I think she's worth looking at as an example.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-30-2014, 09:18 PM
I can't think of any anti-heroes, and there are very few little old lady MCs in general, as others have noted. You've got some good general old lady recs already, I think.


I do wonder what exactly you want to see "handled"? Like why is her age or gender in need of particular reference characters? There are plenty of old man archetypes in fantasy, would a women really be that different?

Roxxsmom
08-30-2014, 11:10 PM
It's true that older women are just as diverse as any other subset of the population.

ssbittner
08-31-2014, 01:04 AM
Thanks, everyone, for the recommendations. As to the person who asked why I wanted to see them "handled," it occurred to me that I hadn't seen any at all. And unfortunately, people do seem to regard and write women anti-heroes differently than male ones. They seem more willing to give the men the benefit of the doubt, in my experience.

Buffysquirrel
08-31-2014, 02:21 AM
I had fun writing an older woman in one of the books of my trilogy/quadrilogy/whatever it's going to be, but she's not an anti-hero. More a person who has some of the info the protag needs but isn't going to give it up easily. And when he loses it...oh dear!

Karen Junker
08-31-2014, 09:16 PM
I was reading author Joanna Bourne's FB page and she suggested you read this short story:

http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/tbacig/hmcl3230/3230anth/day.html

Buffysquirrel
09-01-2014, 03:37 PM
I've been thinking about this on and off and literally the only other story I've come up with so far is Andre Norton's 'All Cats are Gray' with, again, an old woman but not really an anti-hero.

Levico
09-01-2014, 07:14 PM
Not exactly 'anti-hero' status, but what about Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle in Time?
I think the problem with older main characters is their experience. They know too much to get into the Character's Journey.

Smiling Ted
09-01-2014, 09:34 PM
I'm not afraid to ask stupid questions on this forum, so here's one: Have you actually talked to or spent time with old ladies, aside from your grandmothers? If you have, say no more. If you haven't, then they should be your first stop, before other writers.

frimble3
09-02-2014, 04:45 AM
There's Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in Pratchett's stuff.

And, in Pratchett's 'Witches Abroad', not the anti-hero, but the actual villain, is an old woman.

Reziac
09-02-2014, 04:55 AM
Baba Yaga would like a word with all you folks.

milkweed
09-02-2014, 05:26 AM
Anti heroes? It's almost impossible to find little old ladies (or even middle-aged women) as any kind of main character in fantasy and SF.


Kewl cause my main character while she's the heroine more or less she's older 48ish and well she lacks tact, and seriously dislikes children!

milkweed
09-02-2014, 05:29 AM
I definitely plan on writing a novel with my protag as an older woman. But I want to publish a few books with her young, then middle-aged and then have her be a kick-ass granny. Really can't wait to do it, seems like it'd be so much fun.

Glad to hear someone else thinks the same way I do! I what little research I did this area was pretty much ignored. Maybe it's an editor thing where they read your script and then say, I love it, now make her 18 or something?

Myself personally, as I get older, love reading stories where the characters have a some real life experiences, losses, loves, gains, and wee bit crusty about the edges if not occasionally outright jaded!

Buffysquirrel
09-02-2014, 03:19 PM
Before I switched it off, I noticed that in the BBC adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the mixed crowd of women of all ages dancing on the village green had mysteriously all become young and pretty. Or maybe not so mysteriously.

That was its first strike. When the adaptor completely failed to appreciate the significance of the manner of Prince's death, the off switch beckoned.

Roxxsmom
09-02-2014, 11:28 PM
Kewl cause my main character while she's the heroine more or less she's older 48ish and well she lacks tact, and seriously dislikes children!

Yay. I get seriously tired of middle-aged or older women who can't have or never chose to have kids being portrayed oh so heartbroken and melancholy about this. I get that kids are the center of many people's lives, but there are a hell of a lot of other things that can give a person's life meaning too.

And yeah, some people aren't that into kids, and that doesn't mean they're evil (so long as they're not being cruel to them).

It's one thing that annoyed me some with Robin Hobb's books. She seemed to have trouble imagining that a childfree (or even empty nested) older woman could be truly happy with her status.

milkweed
09-02-2014, 11:38 PM
Yay. I get seriously tired of middle-aged or older women who can't have or never chose to have kids being portrayed oh so heartbroken and melancholy about this. I get that kids are the center of many people's lives, but there are a hell of a lot of other things that can give a person's life meaning too.

And yeah, some people aren't that into kids, and that doesn't mean they're evil (so long as they're not being cruel to them).

It's one thing that annoyed me some with Robin Hobb's books. She seemed to have trouble imagining that a childfree (or even empty nested) older woman could be truly happy with her status.


Cruel, no, indifferent yes, and well you know that can and often does come off as being a cold hearted bitch. Lord knows I've been called a cold hearted bitch when I've told "moms" in small group at church to knock it off about your brats and get a damned life.

I know, I know, very ungodly of me but good grief. Not everyone cares about Johnny's little boom boom he made last night I mean after all he's ten now with no health problems so yeah... get a damned life already!

Cruel? No. Indifferent? Yes! Maybe I'm channeling a bit of myself into my FMC??? It's possible, I do love a good adventure, and a scifi adventure is even better still.

I'll have to go and reread Robin Hood now, I think I missed that in the stories.

Christracy19
10-22-2014, 06:41 AM
It's funny I came across this thread, seeing how i just started a novel which fits your exact description.

auntypsychotic
10-22-2014, 10:40 AM
Alan Dean Foster's Codger Space comes to mind. Not specifically about an elderly fem anti-hero but it has its good points.

Suzette Haden Elgin's Ozark Trilogy is rife with feisty little old ladies both heroic and anti-heroic. It's an odd sort of melding of hard SF with Fantasy but it's a helluva lot of fun to read.

PastyAlien
10-25-2014, 07:17 AM
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon.

Thomas Vail
10-26-2014, 07:25 AM
"Marco and the Red Granny" by Mur Lafferty springs to mind. IIRC, she ended up releasing it as a free audio book.

Fitzandrostand
10-28-2014, 08:43 AM
In Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies, there's a kick ass older woman pirate, and I think he's done a fantastic job with her. She's actually a cool character rather than being stereotyped in any way.

It's really cool that you're doing something different with your protag btw! I've gone the anti hero route too and it's lots of fun