This month, Aura Lockhaven is nine years old. She first appeared in July, 2010. I’ve previously discussed where she came from, as a little tawdry hentai character back in 2010. Today, I thought I’d look at where Aura Lockhaven wants to go.
Yes, I said where she wants to go. I don’t tell Aura what to do. I don’t make up her stories. Anyone who has ever crafted a story, from a written piece to a comic, knows that the characters own us! They tell their stories to us and we just say “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” and bring them to life.
I didn’t even create Aura. She created herself in my mind. How else would I have crafted a woman protagonist, when most men write about men? The kernel for her was there for decades. It just took form around one goofy render nine years ago, and that form was female with green eyes and red hair. She let me decide on her actual figure, but insisted on the belly bulge, oversized butt, and nose hump.
I’d argue that’s true of even the most extreme sexploitation girl. We don’t sit down at the computer and say “I’m going to create a girl who will be defiled by horny Drows!” Nope. She was there to begin with, some tangible facet of a dark fantasy, and that moment was her decision to be born. From that point forward, it’s her story and we just take dictation.
That should refute the small contingent on DeviantArt who argues that such stories should be removed because we didn’t get the character’s consent before throwing her to horny Drows. Nope. We didn’t. The character told us what to do. The character didn’t get our consent! We just obeyed. Of course, I am assuming that contingent has common sense (I’m naïve like that).
Aura never asks my consent. I know if I don’t do it, she’ll slip a cookie into my coffee.
The movie Star Wars holds a special place in my life. That’s the movie most of you know as Episode IV. I saw it in 1977 before it was ever subtitled. Star Wars (as I will always call Episode IV) was the first non-Disney, non-Bond movie I saw in the cinema where the good guys stood for something. Until then, movies focused on dour, unrelatable, and unlikable anti-heroes, like Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, and The Godfather. In Star Wars, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Obi-Wan stood for something. They did the right thing because it was right. And they won! That meant much to a fourteen year old suffering through junior high school (I was the football team’s hallway tackle dummy) and looking for heroes in a world mired by Jimmy Carter’s malaise.
That idea sat in my mind for decades. Good guys can win. Good guys stand for something. They keep trying, against overwhelming odds. The idea grew. It congealed. In July, 2010, it demanded birth. It took a name. Aura Lockhaven. I have other characters with the similar philosophy, primarily Katie and Barbara, but Aura is the banner carrier for it.
Sometimes I lament that Aura didn’t come along in 1990, when I would have been young enough to be relevant, and could have published her stories the traditional way. Today, I don’t. 1990 wasn’t her time. Neither was 2005. Today is. America is right back where it was in 1977. Anti-heroes are the rage. We have one in the White House (Sonny Corleone anyone?). In the current Star Wars trilogy, Han and Luke betrayed everything they stood for in the original trilogy because that’s what Hollywood wants. The knight in rusty, dented armor (Tony Stark) is dead, and the knight out of time (Steve Rogers) is gone, because that’s what Hollywood wants. Movies refuse to depict a husband making love to his wife, but they sure can, and do, show him carving her up alive with a chainsaw, because that’s what Hollywood wants. And what Hollywood wants, Hollywood gets. We’re told by our news media that America is full of hate, anger, rage, and is tearing itself apart. That isn’t true; walk the streets and talk to real people (who do the working, playing, praying, loving, and eating) and most get along just fine. They’re lost, however. They’re bombarded by all this bullshit for political correctness and horseshit for profit. Ultimately, all that has an effect on us and we start believing it. We become cynical, burned out, and afraid, because those in power want us that way. Divide and conquer. Do as you’re told. Eat your peas.
Yeah, well, Aura thinks America needs a character who inspires, who encourages, who is simply good. Good people stand for something. Good people do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Good people win, dammit, if they just keep trying. Good people say “Up yours!” to bullshit like I mentioned in the previous paragraph. At least, Aura thinks so. A friend on DeviantArt once said “Aura is so darn loving!” That’s her whole point. It’s isn’t just what she believes, it’s who she is. There is plenty of room in this world for a character who truly tries to conquer through love, who has a clearly defined morality, and draws distinct lines she will not cross just to be pragmatic.
Of course, she kicks ass when asskicking is required. She likes to bare it, too. Aura believes this world needs a loving woman who can punch faces, and has a positive view of sex and her own body. Wow. What a concept. Not popular with the mainstream, but I don’t like the mainstream. That makes us even.
I’d love for Aura Lockhaven to be a household name, in the same list as Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Tarzan, and Luke Skywalker. That isn’t up to me. It’s up to you. I can’t make you like Aura, and wouldn’t if I could. Aura stands for self-determination in a world of conformity. So do I. Frankly, I’m horrible at marketing. The modern approach actually worked on DeviantArt, and I didn’t try. It just happened. My friends there like me as a human being, even if I am an opinionated, curmudgeonly, old-fashioned sonofabitch. They like Aura, but what’s not to like about her? That led to more book sales than from any other platform. Do it deliberately on Twitter and Facebook, and I’m totally lost. Don’t ask me to try Instagram, Tumblr, or Reddit! Just don’t. So, any actual fame Aura gains will simply be organic growth, and outside my efforts. Unless an opportunity presents itself, which is always possible.
Notice my list of household names is all men? I want to change that. I won’t use the phrase strong female character because it’s overused. It’s also inaccurate. To me, it implies an impassive killing machine, not a thinking and feeling human who rises above her own imperfections to accomplish the difficult. I prefer the term competent woman protagonist. The first competent woman protagonist in American fiction was Scarlet O’Hara, who debuted in 1935. The second was Wonder Woman in 1941. Both appeared during my mother’s childhood. The vast majority of competent woman protagonists – Modesty Blaise, Leia Organa, Xena, Lara Croft, Kinsey Millhone, Kahlan Amnel, Kathryn Janeway, Sarah Conner, and Red Sonja*– were created in my lifetime and I’m only 56. Compare that to 400 years of competent man protagonists dating back to Cervantes (the generally accepted pioneer of the novel and the concept of fiction). This has far less to do with any idea that half the American population is female (status is based upon earned merit, not upon quotas), and much more with the fact that half the Viking raiding and trading parties were women (that is earned merit). Besides, women are more interesting than men. Because we have 400 years to work with, if I give a sword, wand, or gun to a man, I know what he will do with it. With less than 80 years to work with, if I give the same to a woman, I don’t know what she will do until she does it. Aura believes there’s room for one more competent woman protagonist, especially one with her personal message.
Aura Lockhaven has come a long way since her debut as a character nine years ago. Let’s see where she goes heading into her tenth year.
* Red Sonja is credited as created by Robert E. Howard in the early 1930s. Technically, Howard didn’t. Frank Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith combined Howard’s Red Sonya and Black Agnes into Red Sonja in 1973. Thomas and Windsor-Smith were big enough to credit the source of their inspiration, so Howard generally gets the nod.