“Who is the hero of your book?” a prospective buyer asked me at my first real book signing.
I was in a cozy bookshop in the small town of Palmer, Alaska, wearing a warm sweater to protect against the November chill and a big smile as I held up a copy of my first published novel, THE DAY BEFORE. “The hero is Sam Rose, she’s an agent for-“
The buyer shook his head. “Not the heroine. The hero.”
“Protagonist?” I suggested, looking for a polite compromise.
“I don’t really like books with girls. I want to read about heroes.”
Dear Reader, I want to assure you that at this point I stayed professional and did not have to dispose of a corpse on my drive home through the mountains that night. I did recommend a copy of EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE to him since it is told from the point of view of a male protagonist, but the whole exchange nagged at me. It still does, year and miles removed from Alaska, it bothers me that someone dismissed a truly wonderful protagonist with a sneer and the word Heroine.
English is an odd language.
No, scratch that, English is a demon hobgoblin of a language that likes to ransack other languages and steal words from them. English likes to twist and torment words until they can mean the exact opposite of what they were originally intended to mean, literally!
Hero is sometimes seen as a masculine word only. There are people who want to read it as “the male hero” rather than “the protagonist” and this presents a problem.
It’s exclusionary, forcing the binary idea of male/female and hero/heroine.
It leads to the idea that being a hero means being masculine in a traditionally masculine way.
It leaves me standing there going, “But… I want to be a hero too!”
When we read there’s always some part of us that wants to identify with the protagonist. At some level, we want to see ourself in the story. That’s why we read some books and not others, isn’t it? Because some of them resonate or speak to us while others don’t. It’s why we want diverse fiction.
We want to see ourselves as the hero regardless of which gender we identify with.
This is a big universe, and we’re all heroes in ways big and small. The courage we show when facing challenges, the compassion we have for others, is a result of our choices – not our genders.
Here’s to the heroes!
A few other novels by Liana:
Liana Brooks is a SF/F and romance authors who loves writing about the little choices we make and big chances we take that change the universe for the better. You can find her online at www.LianaBrooks.com, on Twitter as @LianaBrooks, and read her new stories on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/LianaBrooks. She is currently working on her romantic space opera series, The Fleet of Malik, that starts with BODIES IN MOTION. The second book, CHANGE OF MOMENTUM, will be available this fall.