Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Angler Fish, or, Sometimes Ladies are Larger

I watched the film John Carter recently, and was quite pleased with the female alien characters because they didn't have boobs. (Boobs are great, but bear with me...)

But, my mind was wandering and I was thinking about it and yeah, it did annoy me that these female aliens were still weaker than the males.

When I went to BristolCon last year, I attended a panel called Humans are Weird. The woman running the panel (a doctor) spoke about all the ways that humans are biologically different from animals and was discussing the ways we could apply this to fantasy races or sci-fi creatures, but said that often, we as writers, still base our non-human characters on humans. So the females will still have boobs, the males will still be bigger and stronger.

I wish more writers would stop thinking 'human'.

There are loads of animal species on Earth where the female is the big, strong one. So even all these 'but it's realistic for the women to be smaller and weaker!' arguments I hear are just lazy nonsense.

One of my favourite animals is the angler fish. You know the big deep-water fish with the scary teeth and the light dangling over the front of its face like bait? Yeah. That's the female. Male angler fish are teeny tiny. They're basically just a pair of testicles. A male angler fish will attach itself to a female and she'll basically absorb it and just use it to make babies.

Hyenas are interesting too, if we want a mammalian example. It's difficult to tell males and females apart because the females have psuedo-penises (which they give birth through, ouch!), and they're as aggressive and nasty as the males. Hyenas are matriarchal animals - like elephants and bonobos..

So, next time you write a non-human fantasy character, or an alien, please be aware that even on our planet, there are species where the female is the big scary one.

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