Why are the women super-strong? - Bright Blades devblog #2
Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Not too long ago, I got a very thought-provoking series of questions from someone who'd played the Bright Blades demo. Specifically, they wanted to know why the game was about super-strong women fighting mortal men and what kind of message that was meant to convey.
Well, I've been interested in exploring stories about women for some time. Maybe 'cus I feel like I've grown up around strong ones? My best childhood friend was a girl who was definitely tougher than me, and my closest friends are consistently women who are stronger or smarter than me in some way. My first crush was Uma Thurman in Batman & Robi- Stop laughing. Look, I know that film has a reputation but she played everyone like a fiddle, and I thought that was cool. Then as a kid one of my heroes was Rachel in Animorphs, who turned into bears and lions and kicks everyone's butt! Tales of Symphonia had a strong teacher lady and a badass ninja woman, Fire Emblem gave us Lyn and Titania... BLEACH was the only shonen I ever really got invested in, mostly 'cus of Rukia and Yoruichi and... you get the picture.
Side note: I'm not gonna pretend that liking a bunch of awesome ladies qualifies me to be some kind of uber feminist who never needs their privilege checking. That's nonsense. I'm an autistic English nerd; I have like three sets of blinkers on at all times. I know I make mistakes, even still, but I just try to roll with the punches and make up for any errors or unconscious biases that slip into my writing. Said unconscious biases are probably why it took until 2011-12ish for me to really envision a world world ruled by women.
The idea was, effectively, a floating island paradise ruled by various queens and matriarchs. They could have as many cute boys as they wanted for, ahem, "partners" but marriage was only recognised between women, and their queendom was constantly competing with the isle's southern male-led states who, frankly, were not very big on egalitarianism. It had potential but, honestly, I didn't have much of a story for it. Just some characters and a vague outline, but it wasn't particularly well-thought out and ended up getting reworked and ultimately lost in a pile of other half-baked concepts.
Hilariously, a few years later, I met my future composer Johnathan Johnson and it turned out he'd had a very similar idea. It was more fantasy to my sci-fi, though, and it didn't have the same conflict. Even so, such was the first of many weird coincidences between us that convinced me there's some alternate counterpart shenaniganery going on somewhere. (Relatedly: go play his visual novel, Women of Xal when you're done reading this! It's on Early Access and it's got some really nice art, music, and writing!)
Right, so, Lesbian Sky Kingdom kinda failed to take off. But the idea of a matriarchal society stayed with me because I started getting into If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device; a rather brilliant parody of Warhammer 40,000. Now, I knew nothing about 40k when I started watching the show, but it did get me kinda interested. One thing that stuck out to me, though, was that the Space Marines were all men, and a lot of the fans got very defensive whenever you asked why that was.
Now, I want to be clear: I did end up coming out of this liking a lot of the ideas of 40k and its lore. There's some pretty interesting stuff in there. I admit I never played the game. I tried Fantasy as a kid but I think I enjoyed the painting more than the playing. That said, I liked a lot of the stories. The Last Church holds a certain special place in my heart. That all being said, I think it's silly that the Emperor of Mankind didn't make female space marines as well.
Now, we can make all sorts of arguments about what the gender demographics of 40k's audience are but, from an in-universe perspective, there's no good reason for their absence. I've seen some argue it's because Emps didn't want the superhumans outbreeding the regular folks but space marines don't have sex drives in the first place. Also, vasectomies exist. There are ways around this is all I'm saying. I'm no military tactician but surely being able to make super-soldiers out all the different genders would be really useful in the grim darkness of the future?
And I think that's why the idea for a matriarchal society came back to me, this time with a more consistent question in mind: what if I were to explore a world where women were the badass super-soldiers? How would it look? How would people react? And thus was born the Queendom City of Titania.
It was rather different from the land I'd envisioned previously. For starters, it was a single city rather than a floating island. That's because I realised, if you're going to build your story around a war, it's generally better to have the heroes be underdogs lest you invite unfortunate implications about big imperialistic powers crushing weaker ones. That led me to the idea that the super-women were effectively the city's way to level the playing field. Maybe the patriarchal state had the numbers and resources, but the women had way better elite troops? That then got me to thinking about how a society that bends all its money and resources to war and killing and being big butch badass manly men would probably be a really self-destructive and hopeless society to live in... The rest, as they say, is history.
So, that's the story of how I got started thinking about the ideas that would eventually become the Bright Blades you know and love. As for what I wanted to really say and express with those ideas, well, tune in next blog to find out! I think this one's getting a little long. Hope you enjoyed the history lesson!