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100 Sci Fi Women #12: Killashandra Ree

Killashandra Ree The Crystal Singer trilogy Anne McCaffrey

The impetuous adventurous young woman with perfect pitch, but a burr in her voice which prevented her becoming an opera singer, Killashandra captured my young imagination from the opening pages. She ends up in a strange and mysterious life; one which offers great rewards but which also offers dangers and limitations, eventually to even one”s own sense of self. As a member of the Heptite Guild on the strange planet of Ballybran, Killashandra becomes a crystal singer – someone who cuts crystal from the bare rock by attuning her cutting instrument to the resonance of the crystal. She has to work hard to succeed, and then becomes successful in the lonely role. I also loved the fact that she was passionate and attractive enough to have a man to follow her into the loneliness of the role.  She is an interesting character, not a perfect hero, one with faults and drawbacks – but a real person with whom a real person with her own flaws can identify, in a job which demands hard work, but also offer fabulous rewards.

You were the embodiment of the undeniable advantages of being a crystal singer. Your vibrant youth, charm, invulnerability, indefatigable energy, and resourcefulness.

5 responses to “100 Sci Fi Women #12: Killashandra Ree

  1. Catherine ⋅

    Ah, an opportunity to complain about Anne McCaffrey’s deeply embedded conservatism around gender roles…

    McCaffrey’s a tricky one. Her heroines, from Lessa to Sorka to Killashandra to Rowan, look kick-arse at first glance, independent, fiesty, smart etc. But all of them, without exception, end up playing second fiddle to a more talented man who essentially ‘tames’ them. In the end, it’s all about love and family, things that McCaffrey seems to believe women naturally focus on to the exclusion of ambition or leadership. I can’t remember the name of the guy Killashandra falls for, but he ends up the leader of the Guild – she’s special, but he’s just that bit more special. And don’t even get me started on McCaffrey’s ‘bad’ women – the worst villains in her universe are the women who enjoy sex and reject motherhood, eg, Avril Bitra or Kylara. In the end, she presents a view of gender roles as natural and unchangable, which I think is more sinister for being wrapped in the trappings of equality – the message in the end is that even in the amazing sci fi future where women can do anything if they want, what it turns out they really want is men and (admittedly not in Killashandra’s case) babies.

    Ok, end of rant. This is just a bug bear of mine – it was so disappointing to look at McCaffrey’s work again after doing a bit of feminist stuff and to realise this, because there’s so much about her stuff that I love 😦 Your list so far is very cool, but I dont’ think anything McCaffrey-ish deserves a place!


  2. Catherine ⋅

    Oh, and to make up for being a negative nelly, I’ll write an entry for your list if you’d like!

    • godardsletterboxes ⋅

      I’d love that! I do agree that many of Anne McCaffrey’s heroines can be difficult. I couldn’t read Decision at Doona because of the hideous sexism. But I do like Killashandra.

    • godardsletterboxes ⋅

      OK, I have thought about this more today. While I accept your point about McCaffrey generally, I do think that Killashandra herself represents a positive depiciton, even if it is in the context of less than entirely progressive politics in the books. As a character she doesn’t personally rely on relationships with men and she pursues her own career. I would include McCaffrey in a list of feminist sci fi and fantasy authors, but I think Killashandra herself represents a positive female character.

      But you know me – I am hapy to be disagreed with! And I would love a contribution from you!

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