On writing: THE W SERIES

Posted by Annalisa Conti on August 22, 2016.

W was born from a very personal need.

I have always loved novels, reading stories about anything and everything, from real tales about women (which ended up becoming my genre of writing) to any kind of science fiction - space opera, time travel, alternative realities, anything that showed creativity and a pinch of craziness.

I have also always loved movies, across many different genres from drama to fantasy, and in the past few years I got hooked by superhero stories, from the most famous ones (Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is almost perfect) to the least known (I had some of the loudest laughs during Ant Man). Superheroes are all different people, some of them are incredibly smart, some of them are incredibly strong, some of them are gods or aliens, but they all have something in common: they show us the extent of human possibilities, with a few fantastic enhancements.

What was missing from all these movies?

Let's talk about female superheroes - in another discussion I share my broader thoughts on female protagonists. Female superheroes look all the same to me: they are strong and smart, most of the times, and they are always beautiful and sexy. Why don't male superheroes need to be gorgeous human / alien / godly beings? Why don't they need to be sexy, while female superheroes always must be? Look at Wonder Woman, only the latest superhero who appeared in a blockbuster movie (and, to be fair, the first one to have her solo movie, out next year) : the only female in a group of men, a gorgeous sexy femme fatale when she is in civilian clothes, a half-naked fighter when she grabs her weapons. Why does her armor leave her half-naked? Why does she have to show her body?

I couldn't find answers to these questions, because I couldn't find any reasons why, besides the fact that a female superhero is always a female first, and only then a superhero. That's why she needs to comply with a certain canon of femininity, sexiness, seductive charm, and obviously beauty.

How many women are like that? And if the objection is "but these are not real women, these are not normal women, they are superheroes", then my next question is: why always the double standard for male and female superheroes? Why can Bruce Wayne look grey, older and tired in Ben Affleck's interpretation, but Gal Gadot's Diana Prince has to be magnificent and seductive? How many women look like her? How many women have the perfect faces and bodies of Mystique, Black Widow, or even Batgirl?

This got me thinking: who would I be if I were a superhero? Would I walk around in little more than a bathing suit, or in a skin-tight leather ensemble that showed off all my pores? No, and why would I? I would want to look powerful, unbeatable, invincible. I would even want to look scary: what's best than a terrified opponent? I would want to protect my private identity as much as possible, and I would also want to look as strong and sound as commanding as possible, that's why I would hide the fact that I'm a woman (let's face it: sometimes it's necessary in today's world...), by wearing a full-body suit and a mask, and disguising my voice. I would want a very smart best friend who could help me build and maintain my armor, and who would support me when things go south. I would have a hard life: not many friends (how can you explain your superpowers?), not a great love life (how can you seriously date if you are always hiding something?), not a very exciting job (how much time can you dedicate to a daily job, if you're fighting crime at night?), but I would try to take as much as I can from this life, enjoying my drinks and night outs.

This is how W was born. She is a real person, like you or me, with real problems, complicated by super-strength, super-healing powers, and a very bad alcohol endurance.

We meet her as W in the first short story of the series, while she is chasing criminals in a dark cold New York City night. As a bonus, we follow her stream of consciousness, so we don't really know she's a woman: who can guess before the truth is revealed at the end? I wanted readers to be surprised by their own subconscious stereotypes: if a person is running, fighting, and killing, if a person is strong and tall, it must be a man. Wrong.

In the second episode, she is her daily self, Guinn McGovern, now truly one of us: she works as an executive assistant, she goes on first dates (that's pretty much the maximum number of dates she ever goes on with the same person), she gets drunk.

This is my superhero, not a female superhero, just a superhero. Why should gender matter if you can save the world?