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Feminist Rage Page
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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.

28th-Dec-2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
Alaya Dawn Johnson: I haven't read any of her books all the way through yet (haven't been able to get them at the library or local bookstores), but she writes YA fantasy with characters of color. There are several chapters of Racing the Dark at her website, which are pretty awesome:

Caroline Stevermer: A College of Magics
A Scholar of Magics
Alternate history, I think Victorian/Regency-ish, about a ladies' school for magic. Intrigue, magic, politics, and some romance.

Patricia C. Wrede:
Enchanted Forest Series
Mairelon the Magician/The Magician's Ward (may need caveats, haven't read it in a long time. And I think it ends up mentor/student)
Sorcery and Cecelia (with Caroline Stevermer), and with less enthusiasm, the sequels (I don't think they're as fun)
Wrede's latest book sparked a huge argument about race in fantasy fiction and I wouldn't recommend it; but her earlier fantasy is solid feminist-friendly Euro-fantasy.

I've seen a few reviews of fantasy novels about characters of color, by authors of color at 50books_poc, some with female protagonists, but not a lot. Octavia Butler is much-recommended (deservedly) for SF, but she's not light reading.
30th-Dec-2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the additional recommendations, I added them to the list. Especially the Stevermer books have my attention because there are few things more awesome than Victorian ladymages. <3

I was hoping that we'd get more recs from people doing the 50poc read - I failed at that this year.
31st-Dec-2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the only non-thesis stuff I've been reading has been mostly rereading stuff I've read before (mostly Pratchett and moon). Post-thesis, I'm going to make a serious go at 50bookspoc, and I've been keeping track of stuff that looks interesting on the community. But there really hasn't been a lot of SFF reviewed yet, so I'm going to have to go looking for more of that to add to my to-read list.
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