This is my first official Mother’s Day as Ethan’s stepmom. I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it, but there are so few times that stepparents are celebrated, respected, thanked. I decided I’d do a little of that today by way of a positive post about stepparents in fiction.
If you google “good stepmothers” your results are either flooded with advice and community groups, or with a lot of stuff about wicked stepmothers.
In order for young, preteen and teen protagonists to go off and have adventures, they have to be missing a parent or two. Think about the ways that your favorite YA action novels would change if the main character had both parents around. Sometimes, if family dynamics are to be used, the best antagonist is someone from without – someone who competes for the beloved parent’s attention and affection. All of this is good story writing.
Most good story conflict sucks in real life. As a stepmom, it’s disheartening when you have to dig as hard as I had to dig to come up with positive stepparents in fiction.
There are a lot of really great moms portrayed in sci fi and fantasy. I love the strong moms with backbones. The Beverly Crusher, Sharon “Athena” Agathon, Molly Weasley, Sarah Connor, Lady Jessica Atreides sorts of moms. I love it when protagonists like Charlie Madigan and Ripley have kids. It gives them a weakness and a strength, a purpose that is different from self-interest. Alana in Saga, Cynna in Eileen Wilks’ Lupi series, Buffy’s mom, Elastigirl. I can think of dozens of great moms in the books, films and television.
There are great adoptive moms, as well. Martha Kent, Superman’s adoptive mother springs to mind. As does Kate Daniels in Ilona Andrews series. Molly Weasley was an adoptive mom of Harry’s.
So where the hell are the decent stepmothers?
The only sane one I can think of – and I’ve done some major digging – is Mercy Thompson Hauptman in Patricia Briggs’ series. She’s married Adam, and he has a teenage daughter. Mercy is friends with the girl, protective of her. She is not overly parental, but Jesse trusts her, knows she can rely on Mercy. The stepmom / stepdaughter relationship is clear enough that Mercy is the adult, and in charge, and she doesn’t try to replace Jesse’s mom.
As for the insane variety, we have baby Willow and baby Oz dealing with the idea that Kim Basinger and Dan Aykroyd are in the same film.
Where does that leave me?
Though I don’t think it’s genre fiction, I have added I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith to my to-be-read pile. There are several roundups of characters that include Topaz as a good stepmom, and I want to read that.
I’m going to need to throw this out to the collective at this point. Help me, folks. I’m looking for stepparents in sci fi and fantasy. There have to be more of them.
We can’t all be Wicked….