Log in

Feminist Rage Page
Equality never looked so pissed.
I am a bitter Fantasy fan (now with recs) 
26th-Dec-2009 01:05 pm
I have been reading Fantasy written by English and American authors ever since I was fourteen. It is my favourite genre, and most of my favourite books are Fantasy books. This genre was my cure for sadness, loneliness, and boredom ever since I discovered it. And even though I love that genre and spend quite an amount of time defending its literary merits, most of the writers who do write Fantasy suck at the same thing, keep on sucking and make pots of money while doing so. Especially male writers are, when it comes to their few female characters, by and large, lazy, unapologetic morons uninterested in any kind of realism.

The only male Fantasy writers I can think of who manages believable female characters are Gregory Maguire and Terry Pratchett (and I'm grateful if any of you can point me towards others who manage to not fail). It never ceases to amaze me that it would be so bloody hard to write about human beings that, given that they easily comprise fifty percent of the population, one is certain to have interacted with at some point. Both do have strong female characters that are strong on their own terms without necessarily being eye-candy or supporters of male characters only. What is more depressing is that many female writers copy those parts of the genre that are hell-bent on turning female characters into brainless, decorative, supportive tokens (Anne McCaffrey ARFFF).

Even readers with a background in feminism seem so depressingly easily pleased and make a point of noting that there are female characters who are not decoration as soon as they are there at all. As long as these characters are there, as long as they do something at all, writers get kudos for including "strong female characters". I think that term has been used so often it has been rendered meaningless. If they do feature "strong female characters", one or two strong female characters that are included for whatever reason are really not enough to tip the balance for the rest of the book. If, throughout the story, female characters are treated as decoration, pieces of flesh or house elves, even the most bad-ass female will not rectify the fail when it comes to the other characters (looking at you again, Anne McCaffrey).

And fandom, which in many cases easily offers a break from canon fails due to the creativeness of readers, is no help here. Judging by a rough look at numbers of fanfiction submissions by pairing especially with regards to Harry Potter, most female readers don't seem to care as long as there are ~* hawt *~ male characters they can write trivial, character-exploring fanfiction about that centres on one taking care of the emotional and sexual needs of the other. Only about male characters, mind, because "the female characters in that fandom are so uninteresting". A baffling excuse, given the creative self-confidence of fandom - fandoms that manage to write novel-length stories about characters that never spoke more than three sentences together in a novel ought not to have a problem with that and welcome the challenge. 

But apparently, characters tainted by femaleness are not worth writing or thinking about, because there are no interesting stories to tell about women that aren't about the fact that they are women in a male world, and because fetishizing male-on-male interaction is just "more interesting"/"my personal preference".

EDIT: You guys are awesome, thank you so much for all the recommendations! 

I'll list them here so we have them in one place.

27th-Dec-2009 04:56 am (UTC)
I looooove this post and the comments. I'm also an avid fantasy/(sci-fi) reader and it so very often drives me insane because I can't find good books.

I had been considering trying some Pratchett after seeing the books in the bookstore. Glad to hear some good recommendations here, so mayhaps I should try to pick those up.

My absolute favorite fantasy series is The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. The writing is exquisite, and I love the story. He does okay with female characters. They can fall into stereotypes sometimes (the temperamental, red-haired, man-hating priestess who ends up falling in love with a man later, for instance), but he does it well, if that makes sense, and manages to not make the characters believable, interesting, and dynamic. There's a relatively equal balance of "main" female and male characters. Trigger warning: There is a rather icky rape "chapter" near the end of the first book, and it is pertinent to the plot throughout all three books, so it gets referred back to sometimes.

I would recommend avoiding The Sword of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin and also The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. I have serious issues with both because of how they treat women. (I've read most of the first two books in Martin's series [for lack of anything else to read at the time] but only part of the first book in Donaldson's, so maybe they would get better, I dunno.)
27th-Dec-2009 04:57 am (UTC)
Er... that should read:

and manages to not make the characters believable, interesting, and dynamic

Re-worded that sentence and forgot to take that out.
27th-Dec-2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
Terry Pratchett is awesome, and while my opinion may be biased by my ten years of fannish devotion to this man, I don't think my fandom goggles change his awesomeness a lot. His witches series especially has a large variety of awesome and badass female characters, but even in the other novels there are often strong female characters as minor characters.

I tried reading George R.R. Martin's series and put it down pretty much instantly. It is so long-winded, and the story is just horrible - quite apart from the things he does with his characters and what happens to them. Child brides are cool, and marital rape can totally lead to deep affection! Yuck, yuck, yuck.
This page was loaded Mar 25th 2017, 9:45 pm GMT.