The nineteenth century may have seen the first women’s rights convention, but it was also when the cult of domesticity, which extolled women’s place in the home, flourished. Is it possible to have feminism in a Victorian-inspired setting? It helps if you’re creating the world yourself and can build feminism in the foundation, as I did in my fantasy Season Avatars series. The books are set in a country that’s mostly agricultural, but with textile and mining industries. They have steam-powered trains connecting cities and transporting food. The cities have daily newspapers, and the upper classes are starting to use electricity in limited areas. Although Challen is loosely based on Victorian England, I deliberately designed the culture to be more feminist.
One of the most significant differences between Challen and Victorian England is that Challen has a polytheistic religion. There are two gods and two goddesses, each associated with a different season. Although the Goddess of Fall is linked to animals, She also protects the women of Challen. Women can ask Fall for help if they are assaulted by men, and She’ll send animals to protect the woman, attacking the man if necessary. Each deity has three Avatars (though only one is active at a given time) to do His or Her work. Fall’s Avatars are always female, which means there will always be at least one female spiritual leader in Challen. Finally, women who don’t want to marry can pledge themselves as Fallswomen. Men in turn can pledge themselves to the God of Summer and become Summersmen. Sometimes the Fallswomen and Summersmen serve at the Four Gods and Goddesses’ Temple or work for the Avatars, but they are free to pursue other work if they wish.
Other factors in this culture give women more choices than they had in Victorian England. The Four choose Avatars from all classes, so universal basic education is necessary to make sure the Avatars are literate. A University is available for those who wish to pursue higher education. Knowledge about traditional herbs used to prevent or terminate pregnancy is widespread enough to give women some ability to plan their pregnancies.
Even in Challen, it is difficult to remove all traces of female oppression. Upper-class and noblewomen are pressured to marry for money or to further family interests, and contact between unmarried people of different sexes may still be chaperoned. However, a determined woman can work around those obstacles, whether or not she has magic. Four female Avatars working together present a formidable force that few can resist.
Blurb for Summon the Seasons
Kay might be the youngest, smallest, and least confident Season Avatar, but her weather magic makes her the most powerful of her group. Now that she also can contact the souls of dead Avatars, her quartet has a chance to end Chaos Season permanently. All Kay and her sister Avatars need are three more bones.
To obtain them, Kay’s quartet must travel across Challen, evading the King’s Watch and Selathens who want to protect their demigoddess, Salth, creator of Chaos Season. Kay’s deepest beliefs about her God and her longtime rival, Dorian, will be challenged during the trip. If she loses her faith and newfound courage, she will fail, and the rest of the Season Avatars with her.
About the Author
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan is the author of the SF Catalyst Chronicles series and the fantasy Season Avatars series. She’s also a QA Representative, a wife, a mother, a Beatles fan, and a member of the 501st Legion, but mostly she’s very tired.
Sandra can be found online at the following links: