“Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed. You can look it up later.”— Zoe Washburne

Zoe WashburneZoe Alleyne Washburne is the one character in the Serenity/Firefly cast of characters whose morals are not up for grabs; she’s the eye of the storm. I believe that some far past event forged Zoe into the survivor we see in the show, an event I think that occurred prior to her loss as one of the Browncoats at the Battle of Serenity Valley. The Serenity Valley loss forged her loyalty to Mal Reynolds and is very important to her character development, but this event doesn’t explain her attachment to her husband Wash despite Mal’s initial disapproval. We know little of Zoe’s life before she served under Mal as a Browncoat, but her steady determination comes from a lifetime of surviving. Her attachment to light-hearted Wash represents her attempt to live instead of just survive, and after his death Zoe reverts back to pure survival mode.

No one on Serenity questions Zoe’s ability as second-in-command. Even if her husband doesn’t really enjoy answering to his wife, it’s not due to a lack of faith in her ability to do the job. The only person Zoe takes orders from is Mal, and she readily gives orders to the rest of the Serenity crew. Even Jayne, an often violent chaotic character, takes Zoe as a serious threat.

Moreover, Zoe is not averse to showing a more stereotypical feminine side, but that part of her is not mutually exclusive to her “warrior woman” traits:

Kaylee (pointing to a pink frilly dress): Say, look at the fluffy one!

Zoe: Too much foofaraw. If I’m going to wear a dress, I’d want something with some slink.

Wash: You want a slinky dress? I can buy you a slinky dress. Captain, can I have money for a slinky dress?

Jayne: I’ll chip in.

Zoe (to Jayne): I can hurt you.

Clearly, Zoe is the guardian of her own sexuality. She doesn’t need her husband or her commanding officer to protect her, in fact she’s often seen protecting her husband since his skills lie in piloting, not in military combat.

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Charlize TheronRomance author Portia Da Costa is talking about character templates over at Romance By The Blog. Da Costa points out that:

Everybody says you shouldn’t base your characters on real people. And, I don’t. Not really.

My heroes look like these famous hotties, but they have personalities – and quirks – that express my ideal of a challenging fantasy lover rather than reflecting any real world man.

David Louis Edelman also brought up this topic not too long ago on the Deep Genre blog in his post “Stupid Writer Tricks: Cast Your Characters,” the trick being to “cast all of the characters in your story with recognizable Hollywood actors as you write.”

Casting celebrities in the roles in my books allows me to keep physical attributes straight and just plain frees up my brain to concentrate on other aspects of the story. I’d love to hear from other writers about taking a seat on the casting couch. I definitely do and would love to share a few of them today.

Will KempThe two main protagonists in River of Stars are Lieutenant-Commander Jana Romany and Brannon Bayne. I’ve always seen Jana as Charlize Theron, especially after Aeon Flux came out. As Brannon, I’ve always pictured Will Kemp of Gap commercial fame and also as the werewolf in Van Helsing.

Romany is a Joan-of-Arc idealist who has embraced the tenants of The Kinship, a tight-knit spy society whose adepts embrace their jobs with a religious fervor and routinely suppress their core personalities in favor of “cover clones” when on a mission. They do possess some wetware to enable them to swap between personalities and also nanomarkers in their blood so the Kinship can track them on the “grid,” which is both a safety net and a leash.

Bayne is an heir to two vastly different imperial pedigrees. By virtue of one pedigree he is an Iconnu spiritual leader and by choice he acts as a diplomat to negotiate a peace between his two ancestral cultures. When diplomatic efforts fail, he enlists Jana to break his cousin out of prison and wrest control away from hegemonic forces bent on controlling a subjugated populace.

And did I mention that Will Kemp is just really bendy? Have you forgotten that Gap commercial?

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Brain Itch

So I was tooling around my favorite blogs and I started reading No Smoking in the Skull Cave’s Music Meme, where you go check what was a hit the year you graduated from high school and then wax on about it. I had no intention of actually doing this, but for a few minutes I was curiously nostalgic and checked my own year.

And then my brain shut down. Why?

I just freaking got that horrid Beach Boys “Kokomo” song out of my head — and now it’s back again after just reading the song title. (You do the math. I’m not telling you what year this was.) Make it stop! You do not know the lengths I’ve gone to in an effort to stop humming this song for years. I even listened to Wilson Phillips, whose whining excuse for singing at least made my brain stop saying “Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take ya/Bermuda, bahama come on pretty mama.”


Evidently this is called a “brain itch.” Some songs have an uncanny:

…ability to create a “cognitive itch,” according to Professor James Kellaris, of the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration.

“A cognitive itch is a kind of metaphor that explains how these songs get stuck in our head,” Professor Kellaris told BBC World Service’s Outlook programme.

“Certain songs have properties that are analogous to histamines that make our brain itch.

“The only way to scratch a cognitive itch is to repeat the offending melody in our minds.”

Maybe this list will clean out my brain. If not, I’m just going to keep singing “It’s a Small World” to try to counteract it.

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Where have I been last week and most of this week?

Flying Spaghetti MonsterWhy did I slack on last week’s Danger Gal post? Was I eaten by a flying spaghetti monster?

Nope, I’ve been writing! My usually sedate schedule has been erratic this week and I’ve take advantage of some extra time to finish up Silent Elegiac, my science fantasy short story. One more scene to go and this one is done.

I hope to resume Danger Gal posts tomorrow and am also interested in hearing who you think should be profiled. So please leave your ideas in the comments. Looking at the pool of previous Danger Gals, the selection has been fairly homogeneous, so it would be great to break out of that.

By the way, does anyone else think the FSM looks a little like Cthulhu?

(Graphic by Niklas Jansson.)

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