What Makes a Woman Dangerous?
We asked a few of the authors who contributed to the wonderful, genre-jumping short story collection Dangerous Women -- one of our Science Fiction & Fantasy Best of the Year picks -- what they think makes a woman dangerous. Here's what they had to say...
"Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell"
What makes a woman dangerous? Well, what makes a person dangerous?
To me, the best kind of danger--which is, in a way, also the worst kind--is unexpected. It's that twisted kind of dangerous that takes something familiar and safe and reveals it as something deadly. Wolves are frightening. A loyal pet going mad and killing a child is ten times more terrifying to me.
For the anthology, I wanted to find a way to express this unexpected sort of dangerous. I didn't want a lean, professional assassin or a warrior in her prime, dangerous though those may be. I wanted something closer to home, a blend of the expected and unexpected. That is where I found Silence Montane.
The first name is one I ran across while reading puritan names. It was the second piece of the puzzle, as it raised questions. Who names their daughter Silence, and what does it imply? What is it like to grow up with this name? The answers built into the concept of a stout pioneer woman who ran an inn on the frontier, drawing the seediest criminals the land had to offer. She'd then track them after they left her inn, and murder them for their bounties.
Familiar, yet unexpected. Kindly, yet deadly. The story turned out better than I could have hoped, and I'm thrilled to have had the chance--and the prompting--to write it.
"Second Arabesque, Very Slowly"
What makes a woman dangerous? The same thing that makes a man dangerous: wanting something too much. "Wanting something" is, of course, what drives characters in fiction, as well as in real life. Wanting to win a football game, an argument, the presidency, a certain mate. Wanting to gain money, power, glory, a buff body, a hole-in-one, the most ambitious Christmas lights in town. This is all normal (well, maybe not the Christmas lights). It becomes dangerous when people will do anything at all to obtain what they want. Then you get bloody coups, bank robbery, dangerous steroid use, assassination, and the 1919 World Series.
It's a balancing act, satisfying the sometimes competing requirements of desire, morality, and other people's outrage. The temptations are many, the rewards great, and the strictures of varying intensity. How badly do I want this? What am I willing to do to get it? At what price? All the characters in Dangerous Women want something, or they would not be dangerous. Usually they want it pretty badly. These are stories about how they go about getting it.
"Lies My Mother Told Me
There are so many ways a woman can be dangerous it's difficult to narrow the field. But these four characters in the following films are dangerous because they are all ruthless in getting what they desire. They're beautiful, dangerous monsters.
- Ingrid Magnussen: White Oleander
- Cora Smith: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
- Phyllis Dietrichson: Double Indemnity
- Matty Walker: Body Heat
Malala Yousafzai threatens the Taliban in a way that no amount of military might could achieve. While still a teenager, she is one dangerous woman, in the best sense of that phrase!