Welcome to the homepage of Alyc Helms, writer, editor, and anthropological pontificator.
My spotlight project is my pulp adventure fantasy, The Adventures of Mr. Mystic and the Dragons of Heaven . This book started with a character concept: a young woman who tried to follow her grandfather into the pulp hero business, and discovered that 'nobody would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley'. Now, instead of living up to Mr. Mystic's legacy, Missy Masters is Mr. Mystic.
Writing a pulp adventure about a cross-dressing female hero sated one of my obsessions: through the character of Missy, I got to explore the territories of gender performance, sexuality, and queer identities.
This book also gave me the opportunity to address one of the greatest flaws of pulp: ethnic representation and appropriation. Traditional pulp like Doc Savage, Indiana Jones, and The Shadow often presents an imperial/colonial fantasy that fetishizes the 'Other'. Darkest Africa, Ancient Tibet, Exotic India – these are the crucibles that forge adventure heroes. They are the homes of the magical brown people who act as mentors, sidekicks, and villains, and they are the territories that the hero gains mastery over.
I love so much about pulp, but the colonial fantasy of it makes me cringe.
In choosing to base Missy's first adventure in China, I hoped to use my background in anthropology and ethnography to create a more nuanced world than the traditional pulp fantasy, with allies and adversaries who were more than just strawmen and stereotypes. I wanted to see if I could imagine an outward urge for exploration that isn't bundled up with the need for dominance, control, and mastery, or dogged by a fetishizing and exoticization of the 'Other'.
I've revised this project down to the bone, workshopped it at several conferences, pestered writing colleagues and friends for feedback, and I'm still in love with Missy and her allies. I'm querying agents right now in the hopes that one of them will fall in love with Missy too.
Please take a look around, visit my blog, read about my other projects, peruse my bibliographies, and check out the excellent writers and resources on my link page. Enjoy!