by Amanda Irwin
When I think about female characters in Sci-fi, I can’t help but think about how few and far between they are or how limited they are in character complexity. What comes to mind is Leia Organa from Star Wars or all the women that James ‘Jim’ T Kirk has had relations with. For me, I often think about how women are not valued in the science fiction genre, if they’re even there at all.
I was surprised to say the least when I started reading James Wyler’s 10,000 Dawns that the protagonist was female. But not just female, like any protagonist, Graelyn Scythes is so much more complex and intriguing .
The first thing I noticed about Graelyn is that she is not sexualized. Graelyn is described as having black hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing black glasses. That’s it. There is no mention of her body type, weight, or even skin color. It is all left up to the imagination of the reader and that on to itself is refreshing. Unlike Leia, Graelyn doesn’t wear a metal bikini nor does Graelyn get involved in a cliche romance with the “bad boy” in the story. Do I sound pretentious and bitter? Probably. In the Star Wars films, Leia’s most important quality, other than her metal bikini body, is her love story with Han Solo. What is Graelyn’s most important quality in 10,000 Dawns? Her intelligence.
Although Graelyn is emotionally cut off and appears as though she doesn’t care, she is, in fact, very human and cares for a few people. For example, she cares immensely for her cat, Mr. Sprinkles, and feels incredibly sad when she has to give him up in order to go to Atlantis. I wasn’t crying when she gave up Mr. Sprinkles, not at all. But Graelyn doesn’t just care for her cat but also for our favorite metal man, Arch. When she and Arch are thrown into a different universe and are attacked, Graelyn’s fight or flight instincts kick in and she runs only to think of Arch right afterwards. Graelyn’s thoughts keep wondering if Arch is okay and she hopes that he is alive.
Despite Graelyn’s lack of emotion and logical almost robotic thinking it reveals that she has built a shell in order to stop feeling hurt by whatever has happened in her past. It’s not just her past that she tries to hide but also her fears. Graelyn, like many people, fears failure and disappointment of not being able to leave a mark on history.
“I am very scared I will amount to nothing. I am already nine years old and
I have not made any significant scientific breakthroughs. I can already tell
I am a failure.”
-10,000 Dawns, Chapter Nine
It’s not just preventing herself from getting hurt and showing fear but Graelyn, also, doesn’t want to be pushed around. Graelyn wants nothing more than to be respected and admired for her accomplishments and if she has to be cold towards others than so be it. This only adds to her humanity and her desire to not feel emotions.
It becomes very clear that Graelyn internally struggles between expressing her emotions and gaining respect. If she shows emotion, then she’ll be seen as weak. But if she bottles up the emotions then she loses parts of her humanity. There is no win-win in this situation in Graelyn’s mind and seems to be something that she battles with constantly. Does she express emotion and be perceived as weak, or does she lose her humanity in order to gain respect?
We all desire to be respected and admired for our accomplishments. Humans will almost do anything they to gain respect. Some kill others for it, some will only hurt others. Some will become cold towards others and see weakness as failure, much like Graelyn does. In a way, a desire to be respected is a common human quality
Graelyn is a complex character and I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of her character. She is very logical but hiding an emotional side, she tries to be aloof but still cares for others, and, the best part, she isn’t sexualized in any way. The real question now is how can I get my Contemporary Gender Issues professor to start reading this story. Any thoughts?