Break the Rules Like ... Aiki Flintheart
Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. Each week, we're introducing y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to email@example.com.
1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I’m a ridiculously driven overachiever with almost no ability to do things in a half-assed way — mostly due to a niggling sense of horrible inadequacy. I live in Brisbane, Australia (which tells you I have no fear), run a full-time business and do martial arts. But writing is my passion. My main focus is writing empowered women in speculative fiction.
2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you?
I’ve always written. About 10 years ago, my son was having trouble finding good books to read. So I wrote a set of five middle-grade/YA action/adventure speculative fiction stories — with both a male and female hero. The 80AD series, which my son loved. So I published them (self-published because I hated how loooooong the traditional publishing system takes to work. Oh, look — more rules to break). The 80AD set had about 400,000 downloads, which made me think maybe I could do this writing gig. So now I write in the evenings and run my normal business through the day. I have 10 published novels and also teach workshops on writing fight scenes for women — because, let’s face it, women are not just men with mammaries. We actually do have physiological and psychological differences when approaching violence.
3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?
You’ll get a shorter list if you ask what’s ladylike. I don’t wear heels (bad idea when you do martial arts), and I rarely wear dresses or makeup. My degree is in geology (Volcanology). I’ve done martial arts for more than 15 years, I throw knives for stress-release, I shoot longbow and horsebow archery on weekends, and I play lute. And, in my writing, my female characters are all kick-ass martial artists. Or at least strong-minded women who won’t take crap and are quite prepared to stand up for themselves against all comers. My husband also loves the fact that my female protagonists and their male sidekicks are portrayed as equals. Neither denigrating the other. To me, models for equality are what the world needs right now (apart from a way to stop climate change).
4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalize in bronze?
I’ve never been big on having role models or heroes. I’m far too hampered by my own sense of “never good enough.” If I look to other people, I tend to get depressed that I’ll never be that good. (Baring my soul, here). So I just try to focus on being the best “me.” And on helping others within my sphere by passing on what I’ve learned, and by writing flawed, strong women.
5. What was your feminist aha moment?
There was no specific moment. I was raised by a single mother who put herself through university and who was also the daughter of a single mother. So I had no frame of reference for being anything less than independent and equal. I thought that was how all women were. It wasn’t until I got to university and did geology that I started to realize how male-dominated certain industries were (geology is one). I encountered some very interesting situations in that industry! Partly why I do martial arts. I have to admit, though, the last year or so of #Metoo issues being publicly raised has been eye-opening.
6. What’s the best advice you’ve received? The worst?
Both the best and the worst is: Work really, really hard to get what you want.
Yes, it will help you achieve a lot of impressive things for your resume. But you’ll also wake up at 60, stressed to the point of collapse — all for the getting of “stuff” to fill your house. Maybe the Western goal-orientated life of seeking material gain and “happiness” isn’t the smartest or most satisfying option. Maybe the Buddhist philosophies centering on enlightenment and compassion are a better path.
7. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?
Sanity is so subjective, isn’t it? I’m not entirely sure I am sane right now. But the biggest satisfaction I get is when fans from all over the world contact me and say my stories have helped them. I had a 12-year-old boy say he loved one of the 80AD characters who was going through the grief cycle, because he could relate. And a woman in China uses my books to teach English to her students. And another lady in the USA took up reading my stories because her late father loved them, and she wanted to be closer to him. Now she loves them, too. Another lady named her son after a character. Those bits of feedback keep me writing.
8. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?
Something to write on/with. Usually my laptop. But failing that, a notepad — because those darned bits of inspiration really do hit in the middle of conversations. And I have to jot the idea down straight away or it’s gone from my sieve-like memory.
9. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?
I’d love to say “buy my books and help young women to feel equal and empowered,” but that sounds horribly self-serving. But … what the heck, we’re here to break rules and destroy societal expectations where women have to be quiet and submissive, aren’t we? So check out my latest book, IRON. It’s sci-fantasy and set on a future colony-world where mineable iron is rare, so the culture is locked into a peaceful, semi-feudal state. The discovery of an iron deposit threatens to overturn society and the story follows Alere Connor as she tries to prevent the first ever all-out war. It explores themes of whether freedom and family are mutually-exclusive – a problem so many women are faced with today.
Or, if you don’t like sci-fantasy, try a kick-ass urban fantasy chick, Rowan, who’s dealing with trust issues and a nasty patriarchal secret organization out to kill her or use her for their own nefarious ends in Shadows Wake.
More from Aiki
More about women + sci-fi
Is the future female? Fixing sci-fi’s women problem (The Guardian, 2018)
11 female sci-fi authors you need to read (Geek, 2018)
Hugo awards: Women clean up as NK Jemisin wins best novel again (The Guardian, 2018)
Dystopian dreams: How feminist science fiction predicted the future (The Guardian, 2017)
27 female authors who rule sci-fi and fantasy right now (Entertainment Weekly, 2017)
Science fiction would be unrecognizable without women (The Verge, 2017)