Marion Sipe, on to talk about Women in Fantasy. She has a new release, A Sign in Blood, that contains some strong female characters. (More about this awesome new book and how you can win a copy below.)
All right...here we go!
I've sat down to write this guest post no less than three times and each time my brain boggles. It's a huge topic to cover. There have been so many women in fantasy, and I tend to read fantasy with female leads. You probably haven't heard of at least some of my favorites. While that's often true because fantasy is really a huge genre, it's also true because I mostly read female writers. I just find they more often write female MCs that I love.
And maybe that's the problem. I've heard it said that, while women are willing to read stories with male MCs, men are less willing to read stories with female MCs. Now, that's "common wisdom" which means it may or may not be true. I haven't done any surveys.
But it's funny how many times I'll be wandering about in the SFF online community and come across some guy who is more than willing to explain to me why women never fought on a historical battlefield (untrue), why women shouldn't be portrayed as warriors (ridiculous), and why women are incapable of defending themselves if the opponent is male (somebody get me a clue bat, please?). And I have run into this attitude even up into this year. And it doesn't matter how you respond (your response probably won't be read, and your links won't change anyone's mind even if they are read) so there's little else to do but sigh and move on. Unless you're in a bad mood and then, well, go to town.
And then, of course, there are the people who will tell you, "Well, women don't play much part in the story." Maybe it's because the women are oppressed (makes them even better characters) or because the story is about knights (Joan of Arc, anyone?) or because the story's in a somewhat historical setting and women didn't play much of a role in history (Umm, excuse me, have you read any?). There are numerous excuses, but the point here is that, in writing worlds without any real female characters, you're cutting out half of a population.
I'm not saying every book has to have a female POV (after all, some books only have one), although I certainly wouldn't mind, or that there should be a 50/50 split and if there isn't you're sexist. But if you can't think of a single thing for the women of your world to do in a story, you're probably not really thinking about it. This is only more true if your culture treats men and women differently. That only gives the women more new and interesting things to say/think/experience, things their male contemporaries can't.
Now, some of you may say that we've come a long way from the days of the damsel in distress, that's not always true. If every woman needs to be saved by the hero, I'm not going to like your book. Because seriously, where are the rest of the women? Most the women I know would a) beat off the villain with a chair, but also b) freak the hell out after the villain was dead (or impaired enough to make running an option). And while that's not always the proper response for a battle-hardened what-have-you killer, it is human. Because humans are flawed, and I'm willing to bet that any other SFF race you want to name? Probably flawed, too. In different ways, perhaps, but flawed nonetheless.
Damsels in distress are boring, but you know what else is boring? Flawless women warriors who can kick six kinds of ass without breaking a nail (or a bone) or ruining their clothes, and usually wind up getting saved by the hero anyway. Now, don't get me wrong, I have a huge soft-spot for ass-kicking women, but too often that's all these characters are. They're shown to be top-notch at everything, from swordplay to drinking, gambling, sex, computers, languages... Whatever the plot calls for and whatever will turn the hero on.
These are not strong female characters; these are a different brand of cardboard. I want to read women who are characters. Cardboard doesn't always mean "damsel in distress," it can also mean "too 'perfect' to be real." So ask yourself, does So-and-so ever just plain mess up? Does she ever trust the wrong person? Does she ever turn her back on someone who's dangerous? Does she ever mistake a situation, or let pride drive her to the wrong actions? Does she ever get too caught up in the world inside her head to understand the world outside it? And does she pull herself up (or get help, I don't mind as long as she's an actual character) and keep going in spite of that?
If she does, point me toward her, because that's the woman I totally want to read! Hell, that's the character I want to read, regardless of their gender (or potential "lack" thereof).
With A Sign in Blood, I have three main female characters, all of whom have a POV. I liked how each one viewed their world differently, how each of them saw things through their own filter, and how each of them interpreted what they saw. I liked writing each of them for different reasons, and I hope that each of them holds their own.
Liral is a far cry from a kick-ass heroine, but that doesn't mean she won't take a stand and make it stick. Chadri gets knocked down time and again, but always stands back up. Nathias' pays a hefty price for her choices, but she doesn't let that kill her even when it would have been so easy to do so. They're all characters, and they all handle things in their own ways, and they all keep moving forward.
Thank you so much, Marion! I loved your post and can't wait to read your book. (Added to TBR as we speak, uh, write, uh, type...well, you get what I mean.)
Okay, blogger buddies...leave a comment and enter in the chance to win a free copy of A Sign in Blood. If Marion's post hasn't excited you enough, well, besides being crazy bananas, here's more about the book:
While investigating her father's murder, Chadri never meant to get involved in politics. She arrives in Mesaceal with her mentor Nathias and a wild talent for blood magic, but soon finds it won't be enough to stop a brutal attack on her family home. After befriending a queen who is forced to fight to win her crown, and learning of rumors about the theft of a sleeping god, Chadri is caught up in a web of conflict spanning two nations. Trapped within the tightening threads, she must unravel the secrets surrounding her father's death, or die the same way he did.
Marion's Blog: http://marionsipe.blogspot.com/ (also part of my Blog Roll)