Tor’s #FearlessWomen Share What Being Fearless Means to Them

Tor’s #FearlessWomen Share What Being Fearless Means to Them

Earlier this year, Tor Books launched their #FearlessWomen campaign“a celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.” Here we’ve asked nine of the #FearlessWomen authors to share what being a fearless woman means to them. Read their definitions below and share your own in the comments or on social media by using #FearlessWomen.

“Being a fearless woman to me means embracing writing about women in every way that makes them fearless. It means exploring different kinds of bravery, not just badass assassins and warriors and the sole woman who holds her own among the men, not just women who are scornful of feminine-coded traits and interests (‘not like other girls’) but also women who are intelligent and resourceful, patient and kind, determined and loyal, sneaky and manipulative, powerful and gutsy, steadfast in the face of danger, protective and practical, or any combination of these. Bravery takes many forms and it’s important to celebrate not just the type that comes from violent action. To be part of this campaign on the strength of a protagonist who is not ‘fearless’ in the way of a fighter, who uses an entirely non-violent set of skills to overcome significant adversity, is such a joy.” —Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies

“‘Everything is to be endured.’ That’s the last line of Sappho’s ‘Fragment 31,’ one of my favorite poems—and it’s my favorite precisely because of this line. Here’s the trick of it: Some translators use ‘dare’ instead. Choosing to dare instead of to endure has lead me to some interesting places in life. I’m terrified of planes, for one thing, but choosing to see that as a challenge instead of as an obstacle helps me to overcome it. Being fearless is about making that choice over and over—it’s about choosing to dare, to do the things that frighten you.” —K. Arsenault Rivera, author of The Tiger’s Daughter

How many times have you seen that moment in a story when our hero strikes a deal based purely on honor? We know so-and-so will keep the bargain, despite being a thieving snake, because… honor. And then there are my favorite kinds of climactic scenes, when you know the good guy is going to do the right thing because he always takes the honorable path. I use the pronoun ‘he’ here for a reason. It’s incredibly rare for our stories to show us women who live by a code of honor. But when I dream of fearless women, they have honor—not the bullshit ‘honor’ of untouched maidenhood, but the rough, swashbuckling ethical code that drives the Dora Milaje and Brienne of Tarth and Rose Tico and Murderbot. These women and nonbinary people are not just fearless. They have vowed to prevent others from living in fear; they fight for something bigger than their own survival. If they say they have your back, you can trust them.” Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

“When I think ‘fearless woman,’ my first thought is a leader, someone loud and unyielding… but at the same time, that image might do us a disservice. We’re not all politicians and celebrities. Fearlessness doesn’t require us to be at the helm of a group, but I think it does require us to be at the helm for ourselves. Fearlessness can be shown in the small gestures we make, in our truths that burn inside us even when we hesitate to speak them to a hostile audience. I think a fearless woman is one with a lot of fears, but who doesn’t let that fear destroy her. I think fearlessness is hope in motion.” —Mirah Bolender, author of City of Broken Magic

“There’s no one way to be a woman, and there’s no one way to be fearless. I like writing my id: characters who can get in people’s faces, defy everything, kick ass, and take names. But in real life, I think there are so many other ways to be a #FearlessWoman, all difficult and impressive. Sometimes, the act of greatest courage is to get out of bed and keep going when everything feels like it’s stacked against you. Sometimes it’s telling your own truth or existing as yourself in defiance of the world. Sometimes it’s choosing your own way to be female or to be femme. And sometimes it’s giving up or falling down or giving into your fear, and then reaching for help to climb back up.” —SL Huang, author of Zero Sum Game

“Some fearless women capture criminals, fight fires, or rescue people trapped in caves, and they all have my admiration. However, so do more sedentary types who are fearless with words. Journalists who tell truth to power. Writers who portray painful or unpopular truths about reality in their fiction. Politicians who break with their leadership over matters of conscience. Protesters for civil and social rights. And—least noticed but not least—women who find the courage to confront loved ones with difficult issues that, if left unsaid, will grow and grow until relationships shatter, and sometimes lives with them. Conflict with mates, children, parents, friends, never easy, is sometimes necessary in order to start negotiations, or to realize that no negotiation can ever succeed, not with this person. That kind of courage risks major loss to the individual woman, and if fearlessness can be measured by what is risked, it too deserves our admiration.” —Nancy Kress, author of Terran Tomorrow

“What being a #FearlessWoman means to me now is a lot different from what it meant a few years ago. Then, I thought I needed to fight fear and keep it at bay in order to be fearless. The opposite is true now: I am filled with fears… and somehow, sometimes, still moving forward, learning, and trying to be in the world better. We equate fearlessness with bravery, with battle and overcoming great odds. But what the concept is starting to mean for me now is fearing a little less than what it takes to stop me in my tracks. That’s been underscored by the summer’s reading, from The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley to the new Odyssey translation (and the act of doing the translation) by Emily Wilson to the incomparable Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. Fearing less, rather than expecting myself to be fearless, is how I’m hoping to go on.” —Fran Wilde, author of Horizon

“Words are funny little things. Which is to say, being a fearless woman doesn’t require that one literally lack all fear. We have another word for that state of mind, and it’s ‘oblivious.’ A fearless woman is better described as a woman who tamps her fear down because there’s shit that needs doing. A fearless woman looks her detractors in the eye as they call her a slut, a bitch, a tranny. Granted, she may have to go home and have a good cry afterward, but she steels herself and comes back for more. A fearless woman answers ‘we lost’ with ‘we lost this time,’ because she knows her history, and she knows that women have a knack for doing. She knows that words are funny little things—the word ‘impossible’ most of all.” —Robyn Bennis, author of The Guns Above and By Fire Above

“There was a time this guy really, really wanted to punch me in the face. In 1992, my girlfriend and I spent the summer on the Greek island of Crete at the urging of our friend Phil, who was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force. On our first day, we attended a ‘Hail and Farewell’ party for service members at a local bar. Upon being introduced to us, a male colleague of Phil’s smirked, massaged his shoulders, and whispered in his ear. I said to him, ‘Hey, we’re just friends, he’s not getting laid tonight.’ The guy became super indignant and denied he’d said anything of the sort, demanding to know the basis of my assumption. I said, ‘Well, you were just rubbing Phil’s shoulders and whispering in his ear; either you were congratulating him on getting laid, or you were hitting on him.’

At that point, the guy went off on me. And I sat on my barstool, wide-eyed, watching him clench his fists and shout and get redder and redder, thinking to myself that he might very well become violent before anyone restrained him. I knew I should try to de-escalate the situation, but I was pissed off, and he was protesting far, far too much. So instead, the #FearlessWoman inside me opened her mouth and said crisply to him, ‘Easy there, Lady Macbeth!’

It was a teeter-totter moment. But the guy realized that other people were now paying attention, and as much as he really, really wanted to punch me in the face, it wouldn’t end well for him. So he didn’t. He left. And my friend Phil—who was gay and closeted in the military during the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—leaned over and said, ‘Um, yeah, he was totally congratulating me on getting laid tonight.’

When I think about what it means to be a #FearlessWoman, that’s a memory that comes to mind. Trust your insight, instincts, and wisdom, and stand by them. Don’t back down unless it’s unsafe not to do so. Also, try not to get punched in the face.” —Jacqueline Carey, author of Starless

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