The Olympics are under way, and news coverage is, of course, everywhere. Most of it seems centered on the Russian government and their preparations, or lack thereof in some cases, for the Sochi games.
But as is precedent, athlete feature profiles also abound. I love reading these profiles. The athlete stories are inspiring.
But this year I was struck by one of the labels used for the Olympic athletes—heroes. I’ve probably seen this before, but this year, I found myself wondering if “hero” is the right word.
Don’t get me wrong, these athletes are amazingly inspirational people. The courage, sacrifice and drive they embody is nothing short of astounding. But a hero? I tend to reserve that moniker for those who save lives. So, I looked up the definition of hero. According to Merriam-Webster (the editor’s bible), a hero is, among other definitions, “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities,” “one who shows great courage,” and “the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc.”
Okay, so heroes they be. And now I know why my impression of who can be labeled a “hero” made me think twice about that magazine headline.
As a publisher, I’m surrounded by heroic characters day in and day out. They are larger than life, inevitably flawed, and capable of just about anything. They’re also fictional. Add to that my status as daughter of a military veteran, and I’m bound to throw a little life and death into the mix.
I guess part of what threw me off is I think of Olympic athletes as being the best in their fields. But I also think about journalists in that way. And bankers. And bakers. And, well, you get the idea. My friend Michelle has her own baking business, and she makes the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. I never thought of her as a hero, precisely. But in retrospect, I do think of her that way. I just didn’t label it as such. Because when I’m having a really bad day, her cupcakes make things so much better. Heck, when I’m having a really good day, same thing. She’s my cupcake hero.
Now there’s a book idea…
So, if I get nothing else out of these Olympics, it’s a new take on heroes.
But I do need to see if I can get Merriam Webster to modify their definition a touch. Because if you tell the hero of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving Universe novels and novellas, Boss, that she has to be a heroine because she’s a girl—well, trust me, you’d better hope she’s not holding her laser pistol when you say it.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.