Chris Crites, Angela Davis - Radical, Activist, Feminist, Black Panther, Communist, Abolitionist, Resister, Scholar, Author, Woman, 2012, acrylic on paper bag

The 20th century had Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, and Jean Harlow. And according to a recent Esquire article, we now have...Megan Fox. The 21st century needs a better bombshell—at least, that's what three creative women decided last summer. During a heated discussion in a Seattle cafe, painter Siolo Thompson, writer Charlotte Austin, and photographer Amanda Paredes decided they'd develop the debate into a book, calling it The Better Bombshell. They'd pair writers with visual artists—including the likes of humorist Dave Barry, activist and photographer Raechel Running, and Stanford professor Valerie Minor—instructing each team to envision a positive, multidimensional female role model. How hard could it be?

It took eight months and an education in self-publishing. "It’s [expletive] amazing," said Austin. "Overwhelmingly, our contributors went above and beyond." The Better Bombshell book debuts with a gala launch party this Thursday, a Saturday reading at Elliott Bay Book Company and a Sunday champagne brunch with the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at EM Fine Art Gallery. The latter events will showcase original art (and include food). [Full disclosure: I am also a contributor.]

"Women's roles have changed, full stop," said Thompson, so they asked contributors, "Who is the modern, empowered, sexual woman?"

To start...

Refugees. In "Meeting the Survival Girls," UN worker Ming Holden tells the story of Congolese girls who have created their own fictional characters to process the war horrors they've endured, discovering their own flair for creative expression.

Andrea Wicklund, A Fox Doesn’t Lose Sleep Over the Opinion of Sheep, 2012, acrylic, colored pencil, ink, and nail polish

• Cancer survivors, whose experience is chronicled in Eva Saulitis's memoir piece, "A History of My Breast Cancer in Bombshells." She wanted to "counteract the pink tide, the idea that we can buy our way toward a cure, that breast cancer is somehow 'feminine,' even 'girlish.'" To accompany the essay, Seattle artist Kate Protage painted indistinct bodies in graphite and ink on mylar.

• Women with long hair—at least, according to humor writer Dave Barry. "Let’s begin with what men do not look for in a woman," goes his opening line. The list includes all the ladies in the world who look good with short hair (it's a short list). Local painter Andrea Wicklund used nail polish in her accompanying art.

The "loose women," "frigid women," "crazy women," and "mothers" that feminist author Roxane Gay describes and defends in "Important Things to Know." The last category she defines: "dead girls."

• Any woman in the buff. In a short story titled "Naked Pictures of People You Know," Alaskan writer Nicholas Dighiera covers, well, exactly what it sounds like. "I wrote about regular naked ladies because I wanted to show how they are more beautiful than magazine naked ladies," said Dighiera. "Sometimes it takes a while to see that."

The Better Bombshell
Feb 16, Elliott Bay Book Company, free
Feb 17,  EM Fine Art Gallery, $10–$30

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