Tech-savvy heroines: from Atlas Shrugged to Brave New Girls

Greetings! It’s been a while since I’ve last blogged. It’s been a busy time at the Daniels household and I’ve been making edits to Book 3. I guess this doesn’t really even count at as a real blog post of my own. I had a donor ask to blog on the meaning of the Brave New Girls project to him. I gladly turned my blog over to him. So take it away Eyal…

“Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?”, part 3 of the Atlas Shrugged
movie trilogy, opened in theatres on Friday, September 12. The
movie’s opening during the submission period for Brave New Girls is,
of course, a coincidence; but it is very appropriate and fortunate.
It provides an opportunity to reflect on one of the path-breaking
features of Atlas Shrugged which, despite its extreme historical
importance, got much less attention than it deserves: Dagny Taggart
as a tech-savvy heroine.

While Dagny Taggart is a business manager, not a professional
scientist or engineer, she is shown throughout the novel applying her

engineering knowledge and training. In the first chapter, Dagny’s
brother Jim argues with her over her decision to order rails made of
a new metal; Jim’s second-hand approach to making business decisions,
trying to base decisions on the authority and opinions of others, is
contrasted with Dagny’s focus on the facts, using her knowledge to
independently evaluate the metal’s formula and test results. In
several later incidents, Dagny uses her knowledge to supervise the
engineers who work for her, direct their work, and reject their
recommendations when they are wrong. An important sub-plot centers on

Dagny discovering the abandoned remnants of a revolutionary motor,
and her search for the motor’s inventor; this is made possible by Dagny
knowing enough about motors to recognize what the motor had been when
she sees its remnants. These incidents are central both to the
novel’s plot and to Dagny’s characterization.

The specific technical specialties Dagny deals with – structural
engineering, motor engineering and metallurgy – are likely different
from the ones that will be portrayed in the stories in Brave New
Girls; but the principles for creating a tech-savvy character are the
same regardless of the specific technology.

Dagny is in her 30s during the bulk of the novel. However, there is
an extended flashback sequence early in the novel, covering Dagny’s
teens and early 20s, emphasizing her passion for technology, and her
indifference to how her interests and career ambitions clash with
conventional expectations. Atlas Shrugged thus provides inspiring
characterization both of an adult tech-savvy woman and of a young
tech-minded girl.

Today it can be hard to fully appreciate just how path-breaking
Dagny’s character was at the time that Atlas Shrugged was published,
in 1957. Professional women of any kind were extremely rare; women in
engineering professions even more so. Professional careers were
regarded by many people as unsuitable for women, and girls who
expressed ambition for such a career often encountered derision and
hostility. For many such girls, the role-model provided by Dagny
Taggart was a unique and crucial source of inspiration and support.

The only fictional portrayal I can think of of a tech-savvy woman,
prior to Atlas Shrugged, is Susan Calvin, in Isaac Asimov’s robot
stories. However, the robot stories often – most notably in “Liar!”
and “Lenny” – portray Susan Calvin as personally miserable,
unfulfilled, and with serious psychological problems; and suggest
that her work as a roboticist is her way of compensating for her personal
problems. Both characters were created at a time when many people
still believed that engineering and the hard sciences are not
suitable for the female mind, and that studying these areas will hurt a
woman’s mental health and her chance at happiness; Asimov bought into this
idea, whereas Rand completely rejected it. Consequently, it is very
doubtful whether any girl has ever been inspired by the character of
Susan Calvin into a professional career, in a STEM profession or any
other; while thousands of girls were inspired in this way by the
character of Dagny Taggart.

Could Brave New Girls make as great a difference, in inspiring as
many girls, as Atlas Shrugged did? The answer is no, that is not
realistically possible; and we should be very glad that it isn’t. At
least in the US and in the rest of the modern western world,
socially accepted views of the proper life for a woman, and the actual
life choices of most women, have dramatically changed. Today there are
many real-life successful professional women, in STEM professions and
in other areas; girls intent on a professional career are likely to
find support, and have real-life role-models to look up to. Brave New
Girls is no longer desperately needed as anyone’s sole source of
inspiration.

That said, it is also true, as Mary and Paige noted in their posts,
that fiction in which the main protagonist is a smart, tech-savvy
woman or girl is hard to find. There are many real-life role-models
for women in STEM professions; but fictional ones are no less
important for providing inspiration, and they are still quite rare.
Atlas Shrugged, 57 years after its publication, not only remains the
definitive portrayal of a tech-savvy female character, adult or
teen; when considering central protagonists of stories and novels, it
is still almost the only such portrayal. It would be very good to
see that changed.

The Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy now provides a tech-savvy female
role-model on film. Fans of the novel had mixed reactions to the
movies; in translating to the screen a novel so rich in complex
plots and profound themes, inevitably a lot had to be left out, and
many -
myself included – found the movies disappointing in at least some
respects. But judged in their own right, rather than in comparison to
the novel, the three movies are well-made and
entertaining. Fortunately, Dagny’s intelligence, and specifically her
ability with and passion for technology, are one feature of the novel
that was successfully translated to the screen. All three movies
faithfully and skillfully bring across this aspect of Dagny, making
her movie character an effective source of inspiration for girls
towards exploring STEM careers. It is regrettable that the movie
trilogy has not been well publicized, but we can hope that eventually
it will
become better known and more widely watched on video than it was in
theatres.

As I noted above, when Brave New Girls is published next year, we
can’t expect it to have the same impact on inspiring girls into
professional careers that Atlas Shrugged had in the late 1950s and
1960s; nor would we want that to still be possible. More
realistically, however, we can hope for Brave New Girls to boost the
availability of inspiring tech-savvy female role-models in print
fiction, as the Atlas Shrugged movies did in film. If Brave New
Girls accomplishes that, then it will have fulfilled the goals that
Mary,
Paige and the project’s supporters had for it.

And We’re Go for Launch!!!

Brave New Girls

 

 

So it’s finally here, launch day. Okay, truth be told we started our crowdfunding campaign late Saturday night just to be sure there weren’t any gremlins in the system. I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the results so far, but I know in situations like this it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.

So you might be asking yourself: What is all this Brave New Girls jazz about? Well, Mary Fan, an awesome sci-fi author seriously go check out her stuff, and I were chatting on Facebook late on a Friday night and after a few beers I suggested we write a story about girls and bots together. Both of us are life long science fiction fans and we both are known to read a YA book or three, but there are few books with girls who happen to smart and tech savvy and the main character. Usually, if you’re a smart girl in fiction you’re relegated to the bumbling second fiddle. So we toyed around with ideas and we started thinking about compiling an anthology and maybe giving the proceeds to a charity to get a girl through engineering school. See this is what happens when you drink and Facebook, people.

So why all the fuss? Well, I’m an uber nerd and proud of it. I have degrees in physics and engineering and have proudly worked as an engineer for the past 15 years. But there were very few women in my college classes and when I went to work it was about ten years before I worked with another female engineer. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve maybe worked alongside maybe three female engineers in my professional career. Personally, I don’t think this acceptable. Engineering and tech jobs are set to go nowhere but up in the future but the field is comprised of maybe 14% female engineers. In this day in age when we talk about pay parity, we overlook the fact that women aren’t getting the degrees that get the jobs. See some of the startling statistics below.

BNG stat 6           BNG stat 3      BNG stat 2      BNG stat 10

I have plenty of ideas of why girls don’t enter into the engineering and tech fields and maybe that’s a blog for a different day. But the numbers don’t lie, girls don’t see themselves as being future innovators. However, women actually buy more tech than men (iPhones, iPads, Fitbit, etc.) so wouldn’t it make sense that women design tech items for women? This is why women are so sought after in the tech world, but yet we still see numbers like in our statistics cards. So maybe just maybe if we write fiction with girls as innovators, geniuses, programmers, and tinkerers then this might inspire a girl or two out there to consider a career in tech. I know it might sound silly, but back in the early 90’s when I was considering my future career field episodes of X-files and Star Trek: TNG were actually an inspiration to me. These shows had women who were smart and strong and weren’t afraid of tech. That’s what I wanted to be. So a story can have the potential to be quite powerful. Hey, we might inspire the next Stephanie Kwolek (look it up).

If you’re interested in helping us that’s great! We’re running an Indiegogo campaign for the next 43 days. We hope to collect enough money to defray publishing costs of this book. Who knows, we might get enough interest to make this an annual thing. But one step at a time, we need help from people like you. We want to hear your stories! We want to see your illustrations go here if you’re interested in submitting a story or art. We also need financial support. To go straight to our Indiegogo campaign click here or click the first image above.

Sure, it might not be the key to world peace or ending world hunger, but I think it’s a step in the right direction to making our world a better place to live. Let me know what you think drop me some comments or share via your favorite social media site. Anything you can do to help would be great.

A Brave New Project

It’s been quite some time since I blogged. I mean really blogged. So what have I been up to? Well, I’m glad you asked.

About a month ago I had a bit of a scare and had to have an emergency appendectomy. Luckily, they caught it before it was able to rupture and other than a few holes in my stomach I’m healing quite nicely now. Also, after thirteen revisions I think I can proudly say that the first draft of “Non-Compliance: Equilibrium”, due out October 24th, is complete. I’ve started on short story that will serve as a prequel to all the Non-Compliance series, and oh yeah, I’ve started an anthology project with my friend and fellow science fiction author, Mary Fan.

Unlike the Non-Compliance books this will be aimed at a YA (Young Adult) audience. All of the stories will feature a young lady who is smart and strong (in her own way of course). These girls will not be relegated to the quirky side-kick or the bumbling nerd. The best part of this is that 100% of the profits will be donated to a Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund for girls in engineering.

So why not just fund raise for a scholarship and be done with it? I blogged about this a bit in How Sci-Fi Saved Me. I truly think science fiction has the power to expose people to new and exciting possibilities. But how can we expect girls to see themselves as a force to be reckoned with if they’re represented in science fiction as either a nerdy quirky sidekick, the sexed up ass kicker, or the screaming princess waiting to be saved? I admit it’s getting better that it has been in the past, but there’s still work to be done. So instead of making empty pleas to the entertainment industry to change the way young women are represented we’re taking matters into our own hands. Hey, they say if you want something done right ya gotta do it yourself.

You want to help? Yay! I’m glad you want to help. There’s many ways you can help. First, if you fancy yourself a talented author or artist or even just a budding author or artist we could definitely use your help. We’re taking submissions here for stories and art, just click here. We’d love to hear your stories and see your art. Second, we’re going to start a Kickstarter in the next few weeks to offset the publishing costs of the book, keep watching this space for details, we’ll need your help spreading the word and of course with the financial end if you can spare some change. Lastly, if you’re not artistically inclined or you’re not into writing or you’re strapped for cash then help spreading the word around the interwebs and general words of motivation would be greatly appreciated.

I’m really excited about this project and I think it has potential to change the way girls see themselves. Okay, maybe not all girls, but if just a few girls get something out of this then I think it’s a great start. To check more out about the project go here: http://bravenewgirls.weebly.com/

 

New Release: Chasing Azrael

chasing azrael

 

Chasing Azrael: Gritty New Paranormal Mystery Series Raises Vital Awareness of Bipolar Disorder.

 The ‘Deathly Insanity’ series uses gripping urban mystery and heaps of the paranormal to keep its readers on the edge of their seats. However, the series is also serving a vital dual-purpose by openly examining societal attitudes towards Bipolar Disorder and Depression. The first volume, ‘Chasing Azrael’, sees author Hazel Butler serve up the perfect start to what’s poised to be a best-selling series.

 

United Kingdom – Whilst many authors write for fame and profit, Hazel Butler is publishing books to garner attention of a very different sort – attention for Bipolar Disorder. Because many either misunderstand this condition or shun it completely, Butler uses a unique fusion of urban mystery, the paranormal, and a hint of romance, to study exactly how society perceives mental illness and what it is like to live with such conditions, both for patients and their loved ones.

The ‘Deathly Insanity’ series will delight fans of Kelley Armstrong, Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton – or just about anyone else enjoying adult-geared fiction with a twist of the unexpected. A Paranormal Mystery series set to delve into the darkest aspect of human (and inhuman) nature, the series’ first volume is ‘Chasing Azrael’.

 

Synopsis:

When Andee Tilbrook’s husband died, her preoccupation with death turned to obsession. Thanks to her unique ability to commune with the dead, her husband remains all too close, yet never close enough. Mired in grief, she clings to James’s spirit, slowly losing touch with the world, her friends, and any desire to continue living.

But when her friend Josh becomes the target of Natalya, a jealous, capricious and violent Russian beauty, Andee somehow finds the strength to free herself from her misery long enough to help him. They soon discover that Natalya is wanted by the police for her involvement in a series of grisly murders, and Andee is dragged into the inquiry by the same man who investigated her own husband’s death.

Torn between new feelings for Josh and fear that he might be involved in the murders that seem to threaten anyone who comes close, Andee must face the realities of her life, her past, and her very nature—and do it all in time to save her own life.

 

“Andee is a petite Gothic Lolita; an archaeologist who lectures at Draethen University – so she’s certainly a quirky character who keeps readers engaged as they explore the many themes throughout the narrative. Chasing Azrael is most definitely a ghost story, however future books look at different aspects of the supernatural. The rest of the series will expand on the themes of book one to include a myriad of different paranormal characters, as well as thought-provoking issues,” says Butler, also an archaeologist. Continuing, “They won’t all be told from Andee’s perspective, so readers can expect a cocktail of urban mystery where anything is possible.” Of course, above all, Butler hopes her books will contribute in some way toward a better understanding of mental health issues in society.

“Bipolar Disorder is a daily struggle, and one many people just don’t understand. There’s a lot of stigma and blame for being a sufferer –so I’ve worked diligently to ensure that Andee and my future protagonists can quash any stereotypes and foster a greater culture of empathy,” she adds.

‘Chasing Azrael’, published by Aädedian Ink, was released April 26th 2014 and is available at amazon and all fine book retailers

 

For more information, visit: http://hazel-butler.com.

 

Press review copies are available from the media contact

 

 Hazel    About the Author:

Hazel is a twenty eight year old author, artist and archaeologist from Cheshire, England. She is currently in the final year of her PhD, which focuses on Gender Dynamics in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain. She studied archaeology at The University of Manchester, then Bangor University, and spent two years doing corporate archaeology and research excavations, both in Britain and Austria. She has had papers published in international journals and online.

Since 2010, she has been working on Chasing Azrael, a Gothic Literary novel and the first in the Deathly Insanity Series, a set of Paranormal Mystery/Urban Fantasy novels with overlapping character and plot-lines. Although these novels have a strong supernatural element they also explore themes of mental health, in particular Bipolar Disorder, which Hazel herself has suffered from since her early teens.

 

Nerdy Notes: An Interview with ‘Lil Paige

Felinity

 

My daughter has invaded my blog once again this time in the form of an interview. For those of you who don’t know ‘Lil Paige wrote a piece of flash fiction for the new Kristell Ink Anthology “Felinity” out in fine bookstores now.

Here’s a short blurb about Felinity: Grimbold Books is proud to present our first Kristell Inkling, a collection of feline inspired flash fiction stories written by authors from all around the world. 

This collection celebrates what we regard as the most important factor when writing: write foremost for pleasure. The stories showcased in this book are full of laughter, grit, odd contraptions and a lot of fur, with a loud purring nod to our beloved genres of science fiction and fantasy. 

From A.F.E Smith’s unique twist on Schrödinger’s cat, to Joel Cornah’s world-jumping old queen, from Clare Neilson’s steampunk creation to Tina Closser’s dragon fighting dreaming kitty, these alternate feline worlds are bound to delight sci fi/fantasy readers and cat lovers alike.

SO …. Take it away Paige

 

Your story was a short piece entitled “Diamond of the Earth” about two cats who are fighting over the survival of Earth. What was your inspiration for the story?

My two cats Tigger and Chief

Why did your cats inspire the story?

I think this is what my cats must be doing when we’re away from home, because when we get home they are always so tired.

What are some of your favorite books?

Percy Jackson Series – Rick Riordian, Divergent – Veronica Roth, Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer,  Firedragon – Mary Fan

What do you like doing other than reading and writing?

I like to play with my brother outside at our farm, watch Percy Jackson movies, drawing, and playing chess and checkers on my Kindle

Any other stories in the works?

Not currently, but school is almost out so I’m sure I’ll have some time on my hands.

 

Okay Paige now it’s time for the Nerdy Lightening Round. Don’t think too much just answer the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready.

Whatever, Mom

Percy or Annabeth

Annabeth

Chocolate or Vanilla

Vanilla

Caramel or Buffalo Chicken Wings

Caramel

Captain America or Thor

Black Widow

 

‘Lil Paige doesn’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account, because I’m one of those mean parents that hover like a hawk when their child is on the internet. However you can buy your very own copy of Felinity here:

 

Felinity

Felinity

Buy from Amazon

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/felinity-afe-smith/1119280998?ean=9781496136862

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/431106

 

 

Shit No One Tells You

I haven’t done one of these waxing poetic posts in quite sometime, and frankly I’m procrastinating on Book 3 edits. Today, was a triumph, of sorts, for me. After a few years of planning and imaging we had a pretty kick-ass science fair. Not to bore you with a long story, but last year, due to circumstances out my control, the science fair was cancelled. We were planning a pretty amped up version of what we’ve always done in the past, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it. Me and several other awesome people persevered and after a year of planning and stressing we pulled off a pretty awesome science fair. Yay for us!!!

So the point of that wasn’t to toot my horn, okay maybe a little bit. But the point of that was to mention what happened afterwards. What do you think happened when I got home? Ticker tape parade? Ice cream for dinner? Mani-Pedi? Nope. Even though my feet and legs ached and I was mentally patting myself on the back for a great day, the kids didn’t rush to me and say, “Wow! Congratulations!” It was more like, “What are we having for dinner? I’m tired. Can I have snack?” Am I complaining? Okay, well just a little bit. But not really. They’re seven and ten years old. They shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around me because I had a great day or bad day.

Which brings me to the point of this blog (*finally!!!*) This is shit they never prepare you for in college. Sure, they tell you you’re going to be smart and solve the world’s biggest problems. You’ll get to travel to far and exotic places. You’ll make lots of money and get to do cool things. But never ever do they tell you that after a long day of work when you’re pretty sure your brain is pudding and all your nerves are frayed like edge of worn coat you’ll be faced with questions like, “Why do we have to eat baked chicken tonight? I want popcorn chicken.” They never tell you that after solving one of the most daunting problems facing your department at work your little ones at home won’t be nearly as impressed with that as the heart-shaped PB&J that you made two nights ago for dinner in a fit of desperation (don’t judge me okay?).

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. I do. But it wasn’t something that I really planned for. It was one of those things that you never really planned on doing but you find out that you like quite by accident kind of like running, writing, or Nutella. So honestly, I never really planned on getting puked on. In my mouth. Or putting as much planning into what’s going to be on the weekly menu as I do my latest project plan for work. However, I do think these things have grounded me, and that’s important. Because when I’m 100 years old I probably won’t give a crap that my project budget was balanced within the nearest cent, but I will carry with me the memories of raising my children and being with my family.

The Firedragon (Flynn Nightsider) — A Lil’ Paige Review

 

firedragon

 

Today I’ve let my tween daughter, Lil’ Paige, take over my blog. She was asked to give the new novella “The Firedragon” by Mary Fan an honest review. She loves to read so she jumped at the chance. So take it away Lil’ Paige…

*Please note I did not edit this. I left it as is, emoticons and all. Enjoy!

 

Thanks, Mom!

I really liked the book it was amazing :-) !!! The books is about fighting supernatural monsters. It is a 14 year old girl fighting supernatural monsters. What I have to say about it …. :-) :-) :-) :-) !!!!! What I liked about it was the monsters it was like Percy Jackson series, one of my favorite series. It was a great book!!!

 

***

There you have it! Buy this book. I hear it’s only .99 on amazon right now. Perfect for the little Percy Jackson fan in your life.

 

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers