Feminist in Fiction: P.C. Cast Writing Her Dystopian Thriller ‘Into the Mist’

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One of today’s hot topics is feminist fiction. One would think that’s a positive thing, right? Or at least feminists (and there are a lot of us) would think that’s a positive thing. The truth doesn’t reflect that positivity. It reflects the fact that feminism and feminists have been under attack for generations.

Let’s look at a simple definition. Feminism is the belief that women and men are equal, which means they should enjoy equal rights, equal freedoms, equal respect, equal pay and equal control over their bodies. That doesn’t seem radical at all.

But it is radical. All you need do is look at responses to books that are labeled feminist, and I’m not talking about feminist manifestos like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or Alderman’s The Power, or the feminist “bible,” Pinkola Estés’s Women Who Run with the Wolves. Just a minor mention that a book might possibly be written from a feminist point of view makes that book a target. And how ridiculous is that? Glance back at the definition, “feminism is the belief that women and men are equal.” Why would that, women’s equality, be so damn controversial? Easy answer: misogyny and fear.

When I think of feminism in fiction it calls to mind one thing—authenticity in women’s characters. Perhaps that’s the problem. It’s clear by what is happening in the politics of our country today that there is a loud minority of people, led by men and enabled by women who have been so beaten down by misogyny that they’ve lost their ability to be authentic—to live their lives autonomously—that they actively perpetuate patriarchal ideology, even when it is obvious that it is to their detriment. When these men and women read books peopled by women who are authentic, are autonomous they strike out. They criticize. They misrepresent. They attack and exaggerate. Women authors know this all too well, but it doesn’t stop the vast majority of us. We use our mighty pens to continue to create characters and plots that reflect our reality and authenticity. We offer insight about and an escape from an ideology that would enslave our right to choose our own paths, even if those paths aren’t traditional.

I didn’t write Into the Mist as a feminist book—manifesto or otherwise. I wrote it as an escape from the existential dread caused by the hatred of the Trump years, the terror of COVID-19, and the nightmare of the wildfires that decimated the west coast, specifically the Pacific NW I call home. I love apocalypse literature, though I have rarely read an apocalyptic adult book people with characters with whom I could identify. So, during the early months of COVID, trapped by wildfires and the blanket of smoke that shrouded the Portland, OR, area for weeks, I decided to escape into my own apocalyptic world—one I could control. I peopled it with characters I knew well—high school teachers—gleaned from the fifteen years I spent teaching public school in Oklahoma. I set up a situation wherein my characters were able to create a new world from the rubble of an old, failed, patriarchal one. I realized as I was writing Into the Mist and its sequel Out of the Dawn that the books would probably be labeled as feminist fiction, which I consider a compliment. It means I created women who were authentic. Yeah, they’re dealing with an apocalypse, but as women they can multitask. They have time for wine, love, laughter, beauty and even some weed. I think what makes it labeled “feminist” is the fact that my women are now in charge so they are absolutely done with the patriarchal point of view that says that they are not allowed to be their authentic, autonomous selves. That’s not subversive; it’s equality.

My hope is that my readers enjoy my escape from one apocalypse to another, and in visiting the world of Into the Mist I lift at least a little of their existential dread, make them smile, and encourage them to be their most authentic selves.

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