Welcome to August 2015’s edition of #SciFi Women Interviews. This month, I am delighted to talk with the talented Tricia Barr about women characters, fangirls and much more! She is one of the many writers and fangirls I have had the pleasure to meet thanks to Star Wars.
Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters. She is one of four authors of Ultimate Star Wars from DK Publishing, has written several feature articles for Star Wars Insider magazine and is a contributor for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and RebelForce Radio Presents Fangirls Going Rogue.
Tricia Barr’s novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library’s successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena’s Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
TRICIA:I don’t remember my first introduction. I watched television shows like Buck Rogers and Star Trek, then Star Wars in 1977, which was very formative in my love of storytelling. And I read quite a bit, even as I was excelling in science and math. As a professional engineer now, science fiction is very much about projecting where engineers would like to be some time in the future.
NG: What are you top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
TRICIA: Star Trek: The Next Generation will always be one of my favorites. It isn’t in my top three, but it is the closest to science fiction of the speculative storytelling that are my favorites. My top three are all more fantastical: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Legend of Korra and the Star Wars Original Trilogy. They each adhere to the heroic myth architecture, but stretch and challenge that structure at the same time. My favorites all seem to be bold, leaders and innovators.
NG: Which Science Fiction authors have been most inspiring to you?
TRICIA: Of all the Star Wars books, my favorites were the ones written by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. They leaned more toward military science fiction with their X-Wing series; Jedi weren’t running around saving the day, so the characters needed a lot of tech. The stories remained rooted in exploring humanity and heroism, and both Allston and Stackpole created diverse casts. Aaron Allston, particularly, has a special place in my heart; he was my first interview in Star Wars Insider and he was always quick to help out a new writer. Beyond those two, I hope to create prose as masterful as Matthew Stover. He never wastes a word and can play with point of view and dialogue better than anyone I have read, and while he is doing all that he is weaving in high level themes. I aspire to that level of wordsmithing.
NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?
TRICIA: The way most people do: fanfiction. At first I wrote stories in my head. I remember Lord of the Rings and Star Wars most prominently. Then as an adult I realized people actually wrote those stories down. There is no other way to learn how to tell stories than to actually do it, to make mistakes and learn from them. I ride horses and I liken writing to the same type of practice one needs to become proficient as an equestrian. You can’t replace seat time, writing a lot. Not just writing, though, but doing it with a constant eye on improving.
NG: What are your current (and future) Science Fiction projects?
TRICIA: I am editing a novel Zanita, written by my editor B.J. Priester. It’s a prequel to my novel Wynde that focuses on the parents of Wynde’s heroine, Vespa. It delves into the sport of Airspar and some of the politics of the world Prime in the years leading up to the galactic war. I am fleshing out the short stories for a series called In Between, which will be set between Wynde and my next novel, Sky Fall Down. For those short stories, the amazing French artist Magali Villeneuve is creating artwork to complement the character banner she created for Wynde. Short stories are a great way to try out different things and stretch my writing chops, and the artwork is another way to tell potential readers what my story is about. My favorite stories all inspired my own fictional universe, which you might be able to tell from the banner image, plus maybe a hint of Hunger Games in it too. For more on my stories check out my website TriciaBarr.com.
TRICIA: Science fiction is an amazing tool to create more diversity and representation, especially when a storyteller is free to create whatever world-building they’d like. When writers don’t take that chance, and instead choose a non-diverse default, it suggests to me they are not as adventurous or bold as science fiction has the potential to be.
NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?
TRICIA: Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor were something new and fresh at the time they appeared in science fiction, but the dynamic that followed in their wake set a tone that a good female character had to be in the same vein of badass, even stripped of their femininity. Women come in all types, just as men do. We are finally seeing signs of change. While science fiction stories can be forward-thinking, too often the contemporary community still fosters backward and dangerous mindsets about women. We’re in an interesting time now, where female characters are breaking out of the limited number of molds and more women are becoming empowered from experiencing the stories of these amazing characters. With every step forward in feminism there is always a backlash, but it feels like women are in a better position to fight for their space in genre storytelling.
NG: How do you think fangirls can change media industries?
TRICIA: First, speak up. Write reviews. Discuss your likes and dislikes on social media. Women are often discouraged from expressing negative opinions, but as a consumer it is your right to like or dislike something and then say so. In addition to being critical, praise stories or characters that are done well. Then put your money where your mouth is. Those are the ways to make change.
NG: How did you get the idea to create FANgirlBlog.com?
TRICIA: Around the time of Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, I realized that women were not being recognized as a consumer by the franchise. On top of that, I had been on the receiving end of bullying in existing fandom message boards. I decided that creating my own blog would ensure my voice was heard, and at the same time I wanted to mentor other women on writing and the art of critiquing. Many doors opened through FANgirl, and I’m proud of what I and my contributors have accomplished over the past five years. We are now the go-to site for Heroine’s Journey references by education institutions.
NG: What are your favorite and least favorite developments that happened to the Star Wars franchise since Disney purchased it?
TRICIA: For a while I was really frustrated with the licensing trends to leave out female characters. It’s still happening with Black Widow from Avengers: Age of Ultron, so we’re not out of that limiting mindset yet. But things seem to be slowly changing. Kathleen Kennedy openly acknowledged the Episode VII cast photo during Celebration Anaheim, noting she herself didn’t have a lot of women to choose from if she were to pick a Star Wars character to be. She promised to change that, and I believe she will get that done.
NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Tricia! I am certain my readers will enjoy reading it and learning more about you.