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Boy Fiction?

I usually make it a policy not to comment on reviews, especially negative reviewers. When you put your art out there in the marketplace on public view, some are going to like and some are going to hate it. Comes with the territory. And like Superchicken always said, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Normally, I would not even comment on something as spectacularly wrong-headed and condescending as the review of the HBO series GAME OF THRONES recenltly published in the NEW YORK TIMES. There have been dozens and dozens of reviews of the show coming out all over the place, in newspaper and magazines, on television and radio, and of course on the web. Most, I am pleased to say, have been very good, but of course there are some bad ones as well. C'est la vie.

((Okay, I will confess, it does cheese me when I come across a reviewer who simply hates all fantasy. I had hoped that kind of literary snobbism was extinct, or nearly so. Maybe not.))

But the startling assertion in the TIMES review that women could not possibly like fantasy unless a lot of graphic sex was added to it (??) has prompted me to break my "no comment" rule. At least to extent of this post.

I see this morning that legions of female fantasy readers and self-proclaimed "geek girls" and "scifi chicks" have risen up all over the internet to say all the things that I'm too polite and too busy to say. And a lot more besides. I'd link to their blogs and posts here, but it would take hours. Google will lead you to them, if you're interested. It would seem that so many outraged emails and posts poured into the TIMES that they had to shut down the comments section for the review.

I am not going to get into it myself, except to say
(1) if I am writing "boy fiction," who are all those boys with breasts who keep turning up by the hundreds at my signings and readings?
(2) thank you, geek girls! I love you all.


Apr. 17th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
you seem to know how to write female characters without *female* topping the list of character traits.

Huh. I never thought about it in quite those terms, but that is an excellent statement of one of the salient virtues of these books, and one of the major problems with much of genre fiction in general.
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
It's hard to pull off. You can't really "de-gender" anyone, male or female. Just like in real life, a person's sex is arguably the most fundamental characteristic in determining their interaction with the world.

But since sci-fi/fantasy fans and authors have been overwhelmingly male for a long time, readers and writers are better at determining what makes for a well-developed male character than a female. I think readers tend to be less forgiving when a male character is a stereotype than a female. So a standard fantasy tends to feature a strong male lead with an exotic female "Other." I think it's a little bit... I don't want to say lazy, but making a character exotic in some way is a bit of a shortcut to making them believable.

But Martin's female characters are explored from the inside out (I can't think of a non-pervy way to write that sentence - my first couple attempts were even worse). Their gender is obviously crucial to their character development, but it's not used as an excuse to keep them exotic and foreign and easier to write. Cersei, in particular, is one of the most well-developed female characters in the genre, I think.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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