Posts Tagged: Gender Issues

Miserere by Teresa FrohockGender is always a hot-topic issue in the Fantasy and Science Fiction fan community. Though we’re not perfect (who is?), we’re constantly working to become a community that promotes equality and diversity among its fans, authors and the characters that bring us all together. In the spirit of gender equality, Teresa Frohock, author of Miserere, along with several of her author friends, has put together a little challenge and contest. The catch? You’ve got to read some passages, and decide whether it the author is male/female/or otherwise.

Frohock explains:

Tell us, based on the prose, whether the scene was written by a man or a woman. At the end, I want to tabulate the results and see if readers can really tell the difference. If you want to, you may say why you feel a particular scene was written by a man or woman, but you don’t have to.

Yes, as a scientific study, it is full of holes and sucks, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. This little test is an itch that I’ve been wanting to scratch for a long time, especially when I read the Fantasy Reddit and I don’t see a single woman listed for best novel in 2012. I know women released books in 2012. Perhaps I’m hanging out in all the wrong places.

Or maybe the “female-authors-equal-romance-y/YA-ish-themes” connotation is true in readers’ minds, so you all are skipping novels by women entirely. I wonder. And when I think too much, I tend to get into trouble … or hold a contest.

So, are you up for the task? Details about the contest can be found on Frohock’s site. Entries are due by the end of the this weekend, with results, winners and discussion following on Monday, January 7th, including a post here from Mazarkis Williams on writing without a gender.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

You guys/gals criticized me for saying that the cover for Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War wasn’t over-sexualized. Maybe you were right, maybe I was right. Maybe we both were. I think there’s a line between positive sexual energy and being over-sexualized, but it’s a thin one and often hard to discern. But, to follow up, I thought I’d post this absolute gem from Baen Books for Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold. You know, the author with 10+ Hugo nominations, and various other lauded awards, to her name. Doesn’t she, and don’t we, deserve better? Sadly, this is hardly new territory for Baen.

In somewhat related news, it worth following the recent discussion titled #1reasonwhy about the struggle that women face while trying to find equality and fair representation in the videogame industry. The coverage on Giant Bomb is a good starting point for following the discussion.

Cold Fire by Kate ElliottI wanted to write a post about diversity.

It could open something like this: In a diverse world, is fantasy and science fiction literature open to the largest possible view of the world and its cultures? If not, why not? What am I as writer, as reader, and as viewer doing to promote and highlight a more realistic view of the world’s diversity?

But such an opening already presupposes that I’m writing from the stance of a cultural hegemony centering around Euro/American settings and its structural, political, historical, and religious backdrops. The phrase “a more realistic view” already situates me within a US-centric sphere. It begs the question: More realistic than what?

The instant I say “diversity” what I mean, whether I want to or not, is that I’m writing to an audience in which the default mode lies in being male, white, and mostly straight. Or, to quote writer Aliette de Bodard, the [phrase] “‘importance of diversity’ boils down to ‘why white people benefit from seeing POCs in fiction.’”

POC, for those of you who may not know this acronym, in this instance stands for ‘people of color.’ I agree with Bodard, and I want to add that for the purposes of this post, I’m speaking of diversity in its largest sense, to include gender, gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, language, class, and so on.

I’m weary of having this conversation over and over again. Read More »

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.This week, Justin Landon, editor of Staffer’s Book Review, hosted a series of guest articles discussing and exploring the idea of “agency” in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The term means different things to different people, and many readers might not even recognize it when they see it, but it’s at the core of almost every successful novel. In particular, Landon was interested in applying the idea of agency against the role and development of female characters in Fantasy and Science Fiction, and how it differs from that of male characters.

Landon explains the genesis of the project:

I’ve noticed more and more authors lamenting the treatment of women in fantasy novels. Despite widespread agreement that there should be a more concerted effort to depict strong women, I wasn’t necessarily coming away with the impression that agency is something a character has to have.

So, Landon prompted several of Fantasy and Science Fiction writers with a few questions to encourage the discussion of character agency, how it affects the driving force of novels, and its role in the overall debate centred around gender and SFF. The questions were:

What is agency?
Why is it important?
Why do we find more male characters with agency in fantasy novels than females?
Is it OK if a character doesn’t have it?
Can a character still be interesting if it lacks it?
Can a book be good if none of the characters have it?

Landon has published the responses from several authors, with promises of more to come. Here’s a collection of their thoughts, along with links to the full articles:

Elizabeth Bear, author of Range of Ghosts:

Agency, as we use the term in literary circles, is–quite frankly–the thing that makes characters interesting to the reader. As much as we talk about tactics of characterization that may or may not appeal to any particular reader (making the character accessible, making them funny, making them identifiable)… the one thing that I have found that does not fail to connect to the audience is giving a character agency.


A lot of people use the term “strong female character” to mean “kickass heroine.” I think this is silly. In my estimation, one of the strongest women in Range of Ghosts never picks up a weapon. She’s a fourteen-year-old-girl who escapes execution for being pregnant with the wrong man’s child by running across a desert at night in her bedroom slippers.

That’s pretty damned tough. She wants to live, and she wants her child to live, and she does what she has to do to make it happen.


As for why female characters have it less often than male ones? Well, there’s an implicit assumption in the question that I’m not sure I agree with. Do they really? Does Lessa have less agency than F’lar? Does Juliet have less agency than Romeo? Does Jessica have less agency than Paul? Does Elizabeth have less agency than Mr. Darcy?

Women may have traditionally had to express their agency in more limited ways–but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just that they were pushing a bigger boulder uphill to express what they want, and their options on what to do to get it were more limited.

Read More »

So, I do a google search for “fantasy women art” and this shit pops up:

Fantasy Women

We’ve all seen it before, and it’s fucking absurd. Do any three of those women look like they’re ready to take a sword-swing from those angry warriors behind them? Do they look like they could stand any sort of a chance in a pitted battle against even a moderately armed and armoured child?

No, no they do not.

So, in comes one of my new favourite websites: Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a collection of artwork from around the web that features female characters wearing reasonable, functional and cool looking outfits. Like, you know, the kind that you generally find on male characters?

Art by Alex Alice:

Art by Alex Pascenko Read More »