This is an older thing, something that some of my fellow VP 16ers had shared on Facebook about a month ago. It’s something that triggered something enough that I had been meaning to comment on it, and hopefully articulate my own thoughts about, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. First, a snippet of the essay that was shared:
Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes “SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder.”
For those that didn’t read the full piece, Lynch responds to commentary from a reader who… disagrees with the existence of the character.
So, a little context. First, Scott was (unofficially) one of the instructors at Viable Paradise. Second, he addresses two issues that are varying degrees of hot buttons for me: characterization and gender. Which leads me to my own thoughts…
I’m disappointed that there is that much of a lack of intelligence on the part of the random person that provoked the thoughts from Lynch. The willingness to dismiss a character in a fantasy novel because of some shallow belief that 21st century life situations are limited to the present – that history isn’t riddled with single mothers doing what they had to to just survive. Let alone that such issues might also exist in a fantasy setting. I mean, really? What kind of idyllic environment is this person looking for? Or is the problem the person had with the character’s ethnicity? Meh… fuck that. We don’t live in a monoethnic world, so why should fiction, especially fantasy?
Why gender is an issue is more convoluted. In case you didn’t know, I am a male. And I write stuff. I can fairly easily pull off writing male characters – I have a whole life of relevant experience to draw from. Women? Have several in my life, but to write effectively from a female character’s perspective is not as informed a skill set. But I believe it’s one that I need to develop in order to open up my opportunities to level up in “Writer’s Craft.”
I started thinking about this a little more than a year ago as I was preparing for my MFA/PhD applications. For the UK schools, I had to develop a research proposal. Where I ended up finding myself, thinking about developing a rounded ability to write from either gender, rounded characters, was looking at the existing studies of Feminism. Much of what I found discussed the rise of Feminism, and how the depiction of female characters changed, but always through the influence of women’s contributions. What about those male writers whose stories presented some angle of pro-Feminism – strong female characters capable of being more than just the damsel in distress or evil spinster?
So that was what I proposed, a study of speculative fiction from the pro-Feminist* perspective, and how female protagonists written by male authors have changed. And I had to compile a rough list of possible sources (novels, essay collections, etc.).
And Scott Lynch’s response earned the book a place in my source list, if I do end up pursuing the project. Worst case, it sounds like he’s provided an example to look at in my endeavors to write fuller female characters.