Mother’s Day 2021

Stand and doff your caps to mothers. They deserve it. Good, bad, or indifferent, they gave us life, and that’s an unpayable debt. So don’t feel guilty about merely sending a card; there’s nothing expensive enough you could give to recompense your mother for your existence, unless you value yourself lightly. (Don’t do that.)

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s consider a few fictional mothers. 

How about Conan’s mother? Giving birth on a battlefield is hardcore. One has to assume that at least some of Conan’s toughness, grit, and determination came from the distaff side.

Tarzan, also, seemed to have inherited admirable qualities from his mother, Alice Clayton. It would, perhaps, be too much to ask for her to have withstood the ape attack on top of all the rest of the calamities she’d endured. So, while his mental toughness likely came from John, at least a measure of his bravery and loyalty can be attributed to his mother.

What about Lady Jessica, Paul Atreides’ mother? I wonder if there is a more influential mother of a main character in speculative fiction. Think about it: she violated a direct order from the Bene Gesserit to conceive a daughter. And that’s just the first of her influences.

The truth is, we don’t get much — or any — information on the mothers of most fictional characters in the sort of adventure-driven fiction I like to read. That’s perfectly understandable, we want to get on with the story. As writers, many of us — in Elmore Leonard’s words — leave out the parts people tend to skip. Detailed backstory is generally one of those things excised or never written in the first place. So note those mothers who do get mentioned. Those mothers probably had some influence in the development of the characters, and it can be interesting to spot it.

While on the subject of Mother’s Day, if your mom likes to read genre fiction, perhaps you might send her something of mine.