A few weeks ago, I got the chance to meet one of my heroes at a convention. Her name is Claudia Christian, but when I set out on the journey to meet her, I knew her primarily as Commander Susan Ivanova.
I was excited by the prospect of meeting her last year, but she wasn’t able to make it to Colorado. So this year, when I made it to her autograph table, I’m afraid I didn’t really live up to my own bravery and tell her who she has been in my life. Jamie teases me about being “star struck,” but Jamie also sneaked back over to Claudia to tell her that she is my hero.
What I wanted to tell Ms. Christian is that her portrayal as a strong woman who could handle her own in a fight was just the beginning of a beautiful series of role models for me. But you never really forget one of your first loves. While characters like Tasha Yar made me believe that women had a role in a man’s world, Ivanova took that world to a whole new level. She was kind, firm, strong, intelligent, accomplished, and beautiful. For me, Babylon 5 was about her overcoming of obstacles. And that had a magical effect on my outlook on life.
When I met her and acquired her book, Babylon Confidential, I began to realize that it wasn’t just Ivanova that I loved for the sake of her character. It was Claudia. In a lot of ways, Ivanova is a reflection of Claudia, her inner strength and determination. While I can’t say that Claudia and I have shared any of the same adversaries, or faced any of the same hardships, Ivanova and I have. We’ve both suffered through creepy exes trying to ruin our jobs, misogynistic coworkers or bosses behaving as though women don’t belong in a science-related role, losing loved ones, being estranged in some way, and feeling the need to blow up invading evil aliens.
OK, for me, the last one is really an author thing.
If you glean one piece of wisdom, I hope it is this: Have heroes. Encourage your children to have heroes. Encourage them to have the sort of heroes that are real, but also the sort that are scripted. The nice thing about fiction is that it will probably turn out OK in the end. And in this world, we all need a hero who will always make things work out.