This week's Friday Five guest is Zen Cho, author of the Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad and editor of Cyberpunk: Malaysia. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is out soon from Ace (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK), and has already been receiving (well-deserved) rave reviews.
Zen's short story "The Four Generations of Chang E" is collected in The Apex Book of World SF 4, released at the end of August.
Zen's chosen the topic of "Five fictional girls and women that I will love forever" - please join in with your own favourites in the comments!
Anne from Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery)
Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Prince Edward Island put in an order for an orphan boy to help them out on the farm, but they get a girl instead. Thus begins one of the most enduringly popular works of children's literature, featuring one of literature's best girls, the eponymous Anne.
It's hard to write a character who is meant to be universally charming and make her universally charming, but Montgomery somehow managed it. This comes not just from Anne's whimsy, but the fact that Anne is actually pretty good at life. She's orphaned at birth and exploited throughout her childhood, but she manages to hang onto optimism. She saves babies with ipecac and turns down scholarships so she can look after the people who took her in. I'd read another fourteen books about her. There's no one quite like Anne.
Kurosaki Ichigo is a normal teenage boy except for his orange hair and outsize temper, when one day he receives the supernatural powers of shinigami (death god) Kuchiki Rukia. Then he has to start fighting monsters, of course.
Rukia is the character that got me into manga, which puzzled people who later tried to recommend manga to me, because I turned out to really like slice-of-life shoujo and josei. This is not how long-running shounen manga Bleach could be described, by any stretch of the imagination. (Roughly, shoujo manga is sakura petals and people staring meaningfully into one another's eyes, and shounen manga is people powering up and fighting increasingly improbable battles in order to protect their most important thing!)
Rukia is tough, mean and hilarious. She messes Ichigo's life up and teaches him responsibility. She has an epic tragic backstory that, incidentally, has nothing to do with rape. I don't like everything the manga's done with her, but she's one of my absolute favourite fictional characters of all time.
Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)
Everyone in The Lord of the Rings is caught up in a war they don't want except Sauron (wants the war so he can defeat everyone and rule over them evilly) and Eowyn (wants to be in the war because it sucks even worse to be sitting at home waiting for all her relatives to be killed).
What I always liked about Eowyn was less that she was a shieldmaiden and more that she didn't let anyone else dictate what she wanted. She wanted Aragorn and glory and if she couldn't have Aragorn she'd have the glory, thank you very much. And after defeating the big baddie in style, she gets a happy ending, a career in medicine and Faramir – so much dreamier than Aragorn, if you ask me.
Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest in a family of five sisters who will none of them have money or anywhere to live unless they marry husbands capable of supporting them. It's Regency England, life sucks like that. She's not handsome enough to tempt rich asshole Darcy – except (spoiler!) she totally is.
If you do not love Elizabeth Bennet, we cannot be friends. Jane Austen said, "I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print", and Jane was right about nearly everything, so if you do not like Lizzy you are wrong. I mean, unless you hate reading or something. That's probably OK then.
Lucy Snowe from Villette (Charlotte Bronte)
Villette is the Charlotte Bronte novel people haven't read, but in many ways I love it more than Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is about a lonely angry governess teaching in England, and Villette is about a lonely angry governess teaching in Belgium. Her name is Lucy Snowe.
Lucy is a little different from the other characters I love because she's a miserable xenophobe in a constant state of suppressed fury who lies constantly, including to you, the reader. Especially to you, the reader. She tells you all the time how boring and inconspicuous and sensible and self-controlled she is. Then she does all sorts of bizarre things that directly contradict her self-description.
Villette is almost as much about the things Lucy doesn't tell you as the things she does. She knows she's kind of weird and pathetic; that's why she doesn't let you close. You want things to turn out OK for her. They don't – but you know she'll survive.