LITERATURE’S FIRST WARRIOR WOMEN
In my book Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising I strove to create a core group of female characters who were ready, willing and able to fight for a cause, without relying on any man to protect them. Searching for inspiration (and stuff to steal) I researched literature’s most valiant warrior women and was shocked to discover what a long and rocky road it’s been.
Modern fiction is finally overcoming its chauvinistic fear of strong women. From The Hunger Games to the women in of George R. Martins Game of Thrones there are now action heroines to root for- But that wasn’t always the case. Today I want to give shout out to three of literature’s bravest, but sadly overlooked women. I’m steering clear of comic books, movies and television because chronicling all those would require a government research grant. Plus, without these legendary ladies we would never have Sarah Conner, Ripley, Brienne of Tarth, Katniss Everdeen, or even Wonder Woman.
Please note that I’m not ignoring the courage and importance of great female literary characters like Anna Karenina or Nancy Drew, (somewhere an English Lit. Professor just screamed). Many of our greatest literary works are built on the courage and suffering of women. But for this humble piece I’m addressing characters that faced life’s challenges with cold steel.
The first genuine, no retreat, no surrender, warrior women are found in Greek Mythology. By the way, if you haven’t read Greek mythology for its sheer entertainment value you should. The myths are packed with great action adventure tales and astute observations about human nature that still ring true.
My first choice isn’t a character, but rather a whole tribe. THE AMAZONS were a fierce nation of warrior women who only used men for procreation. But as soon as that sweet loving was finished the men were either killed, or kept as slaves. According to the legends the Amazons were skilled swordswomen and amazing equestrians who were buried with their horses.
I could write an article about each Amazon queen, but here’s a highlights reel: Queen Myrina rode into Libya and defeated the Atlantians. Queen Hippolyta and her belt is the subject of Hercules ninth labor. Queen Penthesilea led the Amazons in the Trojan War. Unfortunately she picked the Trojan side and Achilles slew her. And finally one of them grew up to be…
My favorite action heroine of Greek mythology is ATALANTA, a fierce warrior who also happened to be the fastest human alive. How awesome was Atalanta? Well, she got off to a rough start when her jackass father abandoned his infant daughter in the woods. Yeah, you guessed it… he wanted a boy. Fortunately a grizzly bear took pity on the starving infant and suckled her. Eventually hunters took Atalanta in and trained her in the fighting arts. Atalanta blossomed into an incredibly beautiful young woman who, unlike most characters in Greek mythology, was devoted to protecting her virginity (the Greek gods were notorious swingers… real Penthouse Forum stuff).
Unfortunately two horny centaurs named Rhoecus and Hylaeus heard rumors of young Atalanta’s beauty and decided to drop by for some quick gang rape. When I say unfortunate I mean for the centaurs because Atalanta killed them both and strolled away with her virtue intact. Remember, these were centaurs- half man, half beast… tough customers!
Single handedly killing lust crazed centaurs was only the beginning. Atalanta went on to sail with Jason and his Argonauts (but was written out of many accounts!) and later slew a giant boar that was terrorizing Kaledonia. I don’t want to ruin her story for you, but rest assured it’s juicy stuff. It’s also fascinatingly progressive for an era when Greek women had no legal rights or personhood. Even Atalanta’s name is derived from the Greek word atalantos meaning, “equal in weight”. She was certainly equal to any of mythology’s male champions.
Atalanta is represented in many classic works of ancient Greek art, and, thanks to the television’s series Hercules the Legendary Journeys also lives on as a plastic action figure with weirdly large gluts and a tiny head.
She was the original warrior princess, but strangely enough there was a very long gap before a worthy successor came along… like nineteen centuries!
BRADAMANT OF CLAREMONT was the heroine of the 16th century epic poem Orlando Furioso. You may never have heard of Orlando Furioso, but in its day this tale of Emperor Charlemagne’s royal court rivaled King Arthur’s adventures in popularity. That shouldn’t be a surprise- it’s a ripping yarn packed with enough battles, wizards, demons and magic ring bearing dwarves to make Richard Wagner and J.R.R. Tolkien drool.
King Arthur’s legendary round table may have been a total sausage fest, but fortunately Emperor Charlemagne was more broad-minded… he was French after all. Bradamant of Claremont was a full on female knight dutifully serving the emperor. Like Atalanta she was devoted to protecting her chastity, a gift she was saving for her true love- a fellow warrior named Ruggiero. Unfortunately, Ruggiero was sort of the Jerry Lewis of Charlemagne’s court, and was constantly being captured. I mean the guy was hopeless, and the task of saving his bacon always fell to Bradamant. You heard that right- she was rescuing him! Did I mention Ruggiero was a Saracen warrior and therefore (gasp) a Muslim? What a progressive story!
With her trusty sword and magic lance she hacked her way across the countryside taking on all opponents. Later translations of Orlando Furioso substitute vague terms like “unseated by her lance,” or “forced to submit,” but don’t be fooled- in the original text she was lopping off heads and taking names.
If reading a 16th century epic poem sounds a bit daunting you can always check out Ron Miller’s novel “Bradamant, the Iron Tempest.” It’s a great read with plenty of exciting action and twisted humor.
Literary history story has unjustly overlooked Bradamont. One of her few media appearances was in the schlocky Italian film Hearts and Armor, where Barbara De Rossi portrayed her. But I’m convinced Bradamont of Claremont directly inspired Game Of Thrones awesome Brienne of Tarth- their names are even similar. Brienne is a fascinating character that truly does her predecessor proud.
The Amazons, Atalanta and Bradamont were all brave warriors. But just as importantly these characters shattered the cultural stereotypes of their day by being as strong and independent as any man without consequence. We owe their creators a huge debt. The only real question is why did it take another four hundred years for our culture to embrace the concept again? Women of action are back, and this time they’re here to stay.
Genre: Horror/paranormal with Action/adventure
Publisher: William Burke
Date of Publication: June 17th 2016
Number of pages: 333
Word Count: 96,000
Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor
The forces of darkness are out to destroy mankind… Too bad they never reckoned on facing Maggie Child!
Army chopper pilot Maggie Child has a reputation for being fearless, professional and, above all, rational. But when she's shot down over Iraq her well-ordered life spirals into a paranormal nightmare. Alone, wounded and surrounded by hostile forces, Maggie is rescued from certain death by a demon straight out of Dante's Inferno. Then, barely alive, she's abducted by a private military corporation conducting insidious medical experiments. Her escape from their covert hellhole lands her on a Caribbean island where an evil voodoo spirit and a psychotic female dictator are conspiring to unleash an apocalyptic zombie plague. Then she uncovers the most terrifying secret of all—her own destiny. It seems a Voodoo oracle has ordained her the only warrior capable of saving humanity from a supernatural Armageddon … whether she wants the job or not!
But saving the world isn't a one-woman job, so she teams up with a trio of unlikely heroes—a conspiracy obsessed marijuana smuggler, a Voodoo priestess with an appetite for reality television, and a burnt out ex-mercenary. Together, they'll take on an army of the walking dead, with the fate of humanity resting in their eccentric hands.
Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising is the first novel in a new horror series packed with supernatural thrills, rousing adventure, dark humor, Voodoo lore and plenty of zombie stomping action. But a word of warning; don't shoot these zombies in the head … because that just makes them mad!
It's the legions of hell versus Maggie Child … and hell doesn't have a prayer!
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/yPfVbgm-1XY
Get it Free
Today Only, August 19
Today Only, August 19
Isle De Fantomas was a nation born in blood and forged in suffering. Its citizens were the descendents of slaves who, after generations in bondage, had broken their chains. These slaves, who had never known mercy, showed none to their masters. On the first night of the rebellion their scythes and cane machetes slaughtered half the slave-owning colonists; the remaining half were less fortunate.
For a brief moment the long-suffering people of Fantomas were free; but from that newfound freedom sprang even more brutal masters. For two centuries Fantomas endured an endless cycle of homegrown tyrants lusting for power. The latest of these despots, General Manuel Ortiz, followed the violent traditions of his predecessors, filling the island's cemeteries with innocent victims.
Though countless lives were lost, the human spirit endured, fueled by the people's unwavering faith in Voodoo. The citizens of Fantomas clung to their beliefs, knowing that someday the Voodoo spirits would crush their oppressors and set their children free.
Despite two centuries of bloodshed, the jungles of Fantomas remained lush and primordial; unchanged since the dawn of time. But tonight the sleeping parrots were awakened by brush rustling beneath their roosts, and they sang out a warning; men had invaded their domain.
Six armed soldiers crept through the jungle. Swarms of fruit bats circled overhead, following their path, gorging on the insects they disturbed. A bat swooped down to snatch a dragonfly hovering in front of the last man. As he slapped frantically at the invader, the startled soldier's foot landed on a dry branch; the cracking wood echoed through the jungle like a gunshot.
Their leader, Lieutenant Miguel Ortiz, spun around and glared at the man. "Quiet, you idiot!"
The soldier stood frozen under the lieutenant's stare until Ortiz turned and continued moving forward. The men followed him cautiously, fearing their commander more than any enemy.
Lieutenant Ortiz hated the jungle. To him it was a steaming, mosquito-laden nightmare of tangled brush and poisonous snakes. But despite the discomforts, Miguel loved his job as commander of the island's Special Operations Team, an elite military unit the locals referred to in hushed tones as Escuadrón de la Muerte—The Death Squad.
Fantomas' supreme dictator, General Manuel Ortiz, had handpicked each man, entrusting them with eliminating anyone who opposed his regime. Miguel was chosen as commander in part because the general was his uncle, but it was a job he was truly born to hold. After a childhood measured in escalating acts of sadism, Miguel seemed destined for the hangman's noose. But all that changed a year ago when his uncle assumed power after a bloody military coups d'état. With Manuel recognizing his nephew's rare talent for brutality, Miguel instantly rose from being just another violent felon to a vital arm of national security.
Since then he'd hunted and killed dozens of potentially dangerous opponents to his uncle's regime. The fact that most were unarmed peasants or intellectuals only added to Miguel's job satisfaction.
His trained ear was attuned to the endless din of insects when he distinctly heard coughing in the distance. He gestured for his men to halt. Slipping on a pair of night vision goggles he studied the trail ahead but saw no one. He heard it again, like a man sneezing, quickly followed by another. Following the sound he looked up into the trees. A troop of Mona Monkeys stared down at him, their tufts of white facial hair giving them the appearance of angry old men. The sneezing sound was their warning call to other monkeys. Miguel fought the impulse to shoot them for fun. Instead he knelt down, allowing his men a moment to drink from their canteens.
His second in command, Corporal Sosa, crept forward. In hushed tones he said, "Sir, the men are nervous. We're killing a Voodoo priestess tonight and they're afraid of the spiritual consequences."
Miguel resisted the urge to strangle Sosa. "Trust me, if there's such a thing as spiritual consequences we're already going to Hell, so stop worrying." He glanced back at his men, sensing their tension. He hoped when the time came their natural bloodlust would overcome any fear, but he knew a little added incentive wouldn't hurt. "Remind them we are on a personal mission for General Ortiz, and he will probably give us each a generous bonus."
Corporal Sosa's innate greed won over any concerns. "They will be happy to hear that," he said and scuttled back to the men.
The men's fear of the priestess disgusted Miguel. To him Voodoo was the kind of superstitious horseshit that personified the old Fantomas; an impoverished land full of ignorant peasants and stinking manure. Miguel proudly embraced the modern world of social progress. To him progress meant snorting cocaine off the dashboard of his pearl white Escalade while listening to deafening rap music. Miguel was looking forward to tonight's mission. The target's name was Sarafina, and her lofty title of Voodoo Priestess made this a rare pleasure. Miguel had spent the last year working night and day to crush the people's will. But women like this Sarafina gave the locals hope, and that only made his job harder.
Miguel pulled a GPS unit from his pocket. It indicated that they were less than a hundred yards from their target. He stood, signaling his men to move forward.
As they drew closer to the target, Miguel heard drums and rhythmic chanting drifting through the trees.
"Do you hear that?" Corporal Sosa hissed.
"Of course, I'm not deaf," Miguel shot back.
"She was supposed to be alone but what if there are there are more people? What if they're armed?" Sosa whispered, nervous at the prospect of facing someone who could actually fight back.
"Armed with what, drumsticks? If there are more people we'll just kill them too." Miguel turned away, wondering if America's Navy Seals had to deal with this kind of whimpering. Then again, Navy Seals didn't recruit their men from Death Row.
Miguel crept forward till he could make out a clearing ahead. The drumming was now clear and distinct.
He reached out and slowly pulled aside the branches blocking his view. The moment he did the drums and voices fell silent, leaving only the endlessly buzzing insects; it was unnerving. Probably just more monkeys, he thought.
He looked ahead and his concerns melted away. The priestess stood alone in the center of her compound, surrounded by gnarled posts decorated with animal skulls and weird talismans. Burning torches cast a flickering light on the ghoulish tableau. These Voodoo trappings were eerie enough, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the chapel building itself.
It was a barn-sized structure crafted from wood and mud brick standing in the shadow of a sixty-foot Banyan tree. Over decades, or perhaps even centuries, the ancient tree had grown into the building, entwining it in hundreds of exposed roots and vines until they merged into one organic structure. The firelight cast moving shadows across the chapel, and its network of roots seemed to undulate like some monstrous jellyfish.
Sarafina was stirring a cooking pot suspended over an outdoor fire. The aroma drifted through the air, but it was hard to tell if she was preparing some occult potion or just the typical swill the peasants called food. She sang to herself softly in a French patois.
Miguel took a moment to admire Sarafina. She was tall, her lean body wrapped in the colorful fabric favored by priestesses. She moved with the grace of a dancer, her dark skin glowing in the firelight. Miguel found her attractive, in that peasant sort of way.
She stood and walked gracefully to her chapel, still singing. As soon as she was inside, Miguel reached into his rucksack and pulled out a satellite phone. He whispered, "General, we're in position with the target in sight. Awaiting your orders." He pressed the phone to his ear awaiting a response.
His uncle's voice came through. "Hold your position and await my instructions."
"Understood sir." After checking the ground for scorpions, Miguel sat down to wait.
About the Author:
After two years of ghostwriting, William Burke has released his first novel VOODOO CHILD, Book One: Zombie Uprising. It's the first installment of a new horror series chronicling the exploits of Maggie Child and her Voodoo priestess partner Sarafina as they battle to save the island of Fantomas from the wrath of evil Voodoo spirits.
The author was raised on a diet of late night creature features, comic books, Mad magazines and horror stories. As a result every volume will be packed with eccentric characters, dark humor, chills, zombies, ghosts, monsters, military hardware and plenty of stuff blowing up.
Prior to writing Voodoo Child he was the creator and director of the Destination America television series Hauntings and Horrors. He has also written scripts for two Cinemax television series, Forbidden Science and Lingerie, which he also produced. He has also written magazine pieces for Fangoria and the Phantom of the Movies Videoscope among others.
William began his film and television career as a perfectly respectable video engineer at the venerable United Nations. Budget cuts shifted him to becoming a production manager and assistant director on an array of New York based indie films. With that experience under his belt he relocated to Los Angeles where he eventually produced sixteen feature films and two television series for the Playboy Entertainment Group. After years of producing T&A extravaganzas, kickboxing epics and gangster rap videos, he created a self financed television pilot entitled American Mystery Tour. Canada's CTV picked up the series under the title Creepy Canada, which was then re-titled Hauntings and Horrors in the USA. Since then he has successfully produced three series for HBO/Cinemax as well as documentaries and other … stuff.
After hundreds of hours of film and television production he is basking in the freedom of the written word, where small budgets and giant egos are only memories. He lives in Toronto.
If you enjoyed the first adventure please visit www.williamburkeauthor.com where you'll find lots of interesting information about Voodoo and military hardware, along with excerpts from Sarafina's personal diary AND, as a gift to readers, the author will be serializing a prequel novella