Guest Post: “Tough Traveling: The Good Thief” by Kristi Charish + Owl Series Giveaway!
***The giveaway is now over, thank you to everyone who entered!***
Today the BiblioSanctum is pleased to bring you all a very special edition of Tough Traveling, written by none other than Kristi Charish, author of the Adventures of Owl series about a plucky ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief. As the creator of this kick-ass modern “Indiana Jane” character, you can no doubt see why we thought Kristi would be the perfect guest to invite on our blog to offer her expertise, given today’s featured theme!
This week’s topic: The Good Thief
Sure they may pocket things that don’t belong to them. And yes, anything that can be wiggled loose isn’t really locked down and may be fair game to them. And if they put half of their intelligence into legit trades instead of long cons they would probably be pillars of fantasyland’s community. But damn it, some thieves are still good people.
* * *
TOUGH TRAVELING: THE GOOD THIEF
by Kristi Charish
The Likeable Thief
Han Solo (Star Wars), Indiana Jones, Rick O’Connell (The Mummy), and Malcolm (Mal) Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity) are some of my favorite characters of all time. And they all have one thing in common… Well, a few things in common actually but they all culminate under one umbrella. All four are thieves of some sort- and we love them for it.
Why is that? I mean, they’re thieves. In the real world there’s a good chance we’d think these guys were the bad guys – and don’t even start with Indiana Jones being an archaeologist not a thief. Just because he’s stealing for a museum doesn’t mean it isn’t stealing – but more on that in a bit. The point is they’re not the good guys – often by their own admission, but we love them anyways. And it’s not all by accident. These rogues are designed to play to our hearts so we overlook their thieving origins and focus on the person behind the heists. Call it what you will: charisma, irresistible adventure, catchy dialogue, a good heart; but regardless of why, we’re drawn to these characters. And, much like their rogue heartbreakers, the writers behind them have some tricks up their sleeves to help them steal our hearts. And here are a few of the big ones.
The Noble Rogue
Han Solo/Rick O’Connell (The Mummy)
Han and Rick are not upstanding citizens by any stretch of the imagination. Rick is an ex-mercenary looking for treasure who happens to be stuck in an Egyptian jail for not entirely clear reasons (he was looking for a good time) when the rest of his troupe meets him, and Han is a notorious smuggler known to screw over the odd interplanetary crime lord and shoot first, ask questions later. In fact, they both tend to shoot first ask questions later. So why do we like these career criminals? Because during the course of the story they apply themselves and their questionable talents to a good cause. We’re suckers for a rogue with a good heart who tries to save the world. Both these characters put themselves at risk for altruistic reasons. And we love them for it. It’s the thief with the heart of gold who saves the world. When they set out to save all of us, we can forgive them the odd misplaced artifact or space craft…heck, you could consider it rewards well deserved…
Note we’re also more likely to make excuses for their less than stellar choices…
We Don’t Mind Who You’re Stealing From
First of, Indy is absolutely a thief. He takes artifacts from their rightful resting places (and often the cultures who sometimes still worship them) to stick in a museum. Now that that’s out of the way, Indy is also a great example of this trick. He’s not always involved in a good cause and when he does engage the bad guys (ie: The Nazis) it’s more coincidence than anything else. No, at the end of the day we don’t mind the fact that Indy is stealing artifacts because we really don’t like the people he’s stealing from. It’s a great example of giving the bad guys a low blow.
Don’t believe me? Imagine if an artifact Indy wanted for the museum happened to be held by a cloister of nuns who took care of orphans? Or what about a small family living in a village in Tibet who happened to be holding a family heirloom Indy wanted? Indy isn’t nearly as awesome when you picture him B&E a small hut while the family huddles in the corner. Taking the Ark from the Nazis is one thing, but stealing from nuns and orphans…
Keeping Good Company
Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)
You we’re not so sure about but boy do we ever love your friends. Think back to Firefly. I’ll be honest, Malcolm had some great one-liners but he took some time for me to warm up to. I actually warmed up to Jayne first (Note to writers: If you’re going to have a real bad guy make him honest about it. Readers forgive murder easier than manipulation – seriously).
How did I warm up to Mal? River Tam. More times than I can count Mal put himself and his crew in danger to keep River, a severely psychologically damaged and dangerous teenage girl, safe. And she’s not easy to live with. The fact that Mal can care for someone who is at such a disadvantage makes me like him. Then there is Mal’s crew. With the exception of Jayne they’re all redeemable people who are loyal to Mal. We forgive the captain some of his more mercenary decisions (like stealing from small towns, etc.) in part because the government (Alliance) is shone in a very bad light, but also because we see Mal’s best characteristics through his crew. They’re the ones who shine a great light on him because they put their faith in him and show us why we should like him too.
Plus, there really are some great one-liners…
Last Point: It’s a Man’s World
So up to this point I’ve left something rather important out. The likeable, female rogue – which is an odd omission because that’s what I write (or attempt to ;-)). I’m not going to lie to you. As soon as you switch the rogue gender to female you will have a whole bunch of challenges to deal with that the boys never see. Why? Because in our society there is still the pervasive expectation that women should be ‘good’ and ‘likeable’ in a very particular way that is almost never expected of men. It’s a leftover from a time when women were meant to stay at home, be feminine and delicate, take care of children, and for the love of god, don’t give them the vote! It’s a fading sentiment but it’s barely been a hundred years since women began fighting in earnest for equality in the world and old traditions and expectations die hard. Often in readers the expectations are subconscious but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
The role of the good thief has traditionally been a man’s path, and people don’t always know how to interpret it when a woman jumps into the role. Look at Tomb Raider. Lara is about as independent and self-sufficient as they get. She’s the tomb raider, and men work for her, not the other way around. Heck she saves men in the movie! But one of the things people have never been able to get their eyes over is her sexual prowess. Lara Croft is a woman who is comfortable with her sexuality and that makes people nervous. And why does her sexuality and physical attractiveness need to be such a focus? And is the audience more forgiving of Lara as a female rogue because she’s physically attractive (so therefore she’s filling one aspect of the traditional female mold – objectification) or because she’s stealing from the bad guys, has friends we like who put their trust in her, and joins a good cause – saving the world? The main crack against Lara seems to revolve around the fact that she’s a woman and isn’t fitting a stereotypical ‘good’ or ‘likeable’ female mold.
I think that really sucks. It’s also changing, but it’s still there and it still sucks. And I think that’s one of the reason it’s so important to continue writing female rogues. You can’t break a mold without challenging the hell out of it.
So there you have it. The likeable rogue and some of the tricks writers use to make you fall for them. At the end of the day remember – everyone loves a good thief.
* * *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS, an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015, and the third and fourth installments, OWL AND THE ELECTRIC SAMURAI, and OWL AND THE TIGER THIEVES, will be released in 2016 and 2017. THE VOODOO KILLINGS, book 1 in her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is out May 10th, 2016.
Kristi is also the Canadian co-hosting half of the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast and has a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.