Jul 09 2005

Twisty, Book Killer


The decaying corpse of crappy fantasy novel Storm Front. Original crime scene photo courtesy Coroner’s Office/The Twisty Library

I have become a serial book killer.

A spinster aunt of my advanced years, for whom time is of the essence, can but react with murderous outrage when the paperback for which she has paid $7.99–on the advice of people who are supposed to know from books–turns out to be an insulting lump of crap.

Last night I committed my second book murder. About 40 pages into a highly recommended fantasy novel, I experienced an acute involuntary spasm in my feministrium. I screamed in pain and chucked the book at the wall (if this blog were a fantasy novel, I would have “shrieked like a captive faerie and flung the accursed volume against the battlement”), whereupon it splatted, fell to the floor, coughed twice, and died. I’m glad it’s dead, I tell you, glad! For a glance at the patriometer confirmed it: the book was nothing but a formulaic male supremacist manifesto written by another traitorous female tool of the patriarchy.

Coincidentally, the last book to meet with this fate at the Twisty Bungalow was the only other fantasy novel I’ve attempted since adulthood, Storm Front by some chucklehead named Jim Butcher. The book had been recommended by I-forget-who as “Harry Potter for adults.” Rash young dipshit that I was, fresh from the superb Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and full of residual warmth and admiration for authors of books about magicians, I approached Storm Front with unguarded enthusiasm, ignoring my usual policy of avoiding titles that are also the names of white pride organizations. 

Within two pages Storm Front revealed itself as so aggressively mediocre that I actually mutilated it before I thew it. Author Jim Butcher is apparently a virginal 7th grade boy who has been instructed by his creative writing teacher to replace all dialogical instances of he said  with inept “action” tags like he growled,  he challenged, he drawled, and yes, the classically lame he snorted. Butcher also compares his female sidekick character to a cheerleader and Shirley Temple in the same breath. But here is the line that drove me to libricide, delivered without irony by the hero, who is explaining why the murderer must have been a woman: “You can’t do something bad without a whole lot of hate…” wait, it gets better: “Women are better at hating than men.” [The chapter is excerpted here, unfortunately]

Possibly there exist legitimate literary applications for gross sexism (although not, I’m afraid, for such a clunky expression of it), but if you are not Dashiell Hammett or Edward Albee, and you put it in your book anyway, you’re a fucktard. If you are Jim Butcher, and your hero is a wizard named “Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, conjure by it at your own risk,” well, it’s just sad.

But the Storm Front killing is behind me now (I was acquitted. Self-defense). Last night’s paperback projectile was The Curse of Chalion, authored by one Lois McMaster Bujold, acclaimed winner of Hugo and Neosporin and Dramamine awards. Her characters are all clichés, but to be fair, LMcMB has a touch of the old narrative flair, so when I killed her stupid book, I stopped short of disemboweling it.

From what I understand of the genre, works of fantasy are required by law to be written in some species of hyper-formal, faux-archaic English that no actual human has ever spoken. Such as:

“The birthday present sent down this year from the capital at Sudafed by her brother Bengay was a fine dappled gray mare, an inspiration either well calculated or very lucky, for Visine flew into transports over the shimmering beast.“

This is goofy, but I can live with it. What I can’t live with is the dependency of the fantasy narrative on unapologetically misogynist pseudo-feudal agrarian European settings that glorify patriarchal principles of war, caste systems, omnipotent deities, primogeniture, and women-as-virgin-damsels. The Curse of Chalion is about pseudo-medieval Spaniardesque nobles with names like antifungal ointments, the males brandishing swords all over the place to protect the females, who sit around the castle embroidering. The hero, Benadryl, is a 35-year-old warrior-nobleman who lusts after Rogaine, the beautiful, strong-willed 15-year-old princess.

It really chaps my hide that a woman writing in the 21st century, who, after all, is supposedly inventing a fantasy and could theoretically think up a world in which women are portrayed as something other than willowy young receptacles and subordinate producers of male heirs, wins awards for merely regurgitating the same old superannuated patriarchal crapulence that has plagued popular fiction since Clarissa and beyond. Pah.


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  1. Andygrrl

    This reads like a literary version of “The Cell Block Tango”: “If you’d been there, if you’d seen it, I betcha you would have done the same!”

    Personally, I avoid any book that’s marketed as being “Harry Potter for adults”. As if adults don’t enjoy Harry Potter or something. Check out Robin McKinley for some good feministy fantasy; her book “The Hero and the Crown” is kick ass and focuses on a dragon-slaying princess. Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, and Karen Joy Fowler also have some good stuff that won’t incur your wrath. :-)

  2. AndiF

    Here’s some more suggestions.

    Holly Black, Tithe
    Candas Jane Dorsey Black Wine, Paradigm of Earth (more speculative fiction than fantasy)
    Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue books
    Doris Egan’s Complete Ivory (three books in one volume, all with wonderful snark)
    Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerwsoman series (actually science fiction that appears at first to be fantasy)

    And I second the Robin McKinley. Other books of hers: Deerskin, Sunshine

  3. Ron Sullivan

    C. J. Cherryh. If you want a twist (and of course you do) on the faux-olde language, The Dreaming Tree, or at least its first half, The Dreamstone. The anthology Sunfall sounds pretty too. The Chanur and Morgaine series are just good fun. (Chanur’s sci-fi; Morgaine’s fantasy, except where it isn’t.)

  4. Chris Porter

    Fantasy and Feminism? Read Suzette Hayden Elgin’s Ozark Fantasy Trilogy. Very smart, very sly, very Ozarky.

  5. Wordlackey

    Alas, I wish I had followed your fine example when I first started the crapulous Storm Front. I, unfortunately, finished it. My housemate, She-who-I-call-Fierce-Celt, had less tolerance and perhaps got as far as you did before abandoning it in disgust. I think she would have performed bibliocide as well but the book was nominally mine so she forbore doing so.

    Your example is before me: I see a way to save the world from this book. Book burning is anathema to me yet I admit there are some books which the world would be better for their destruction. Actually, I’ll probably just tear it apart and recycle it rather than burn it. Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. antelope

    Pretty much any sci-fi or fantasy by Ursula LeGuin is going to deal w/ gender roles in an interesting way – some of her women may be kept down in one way or another, but they know it & they’re not happy about it. The Left Hand of Darkness came out a long time ago, but if you haven’t read it yet, I really, really recommend it.

  7. TimT

    Ursula le Guin, yes; and maybe Joanna Russ, who writes consciously feminist sci-fi.

    Despite the name, I’d also recommmend Michael Moorcock. He’s written very critically of backward-looking fantasy writers like Tolkien and Lewis, and explores gender roles a lot in his books. Maybe The Final Programme.

  8. Naomi

    “libricide”. I rarely find a new word I love. Your blog is fabulouso. My view of Americans is forever slightly altered. Ta!

  9. Twisty

    Thanks, you guys, for the generous outpouring of fantasy genre suggestions. They are noted, and should the day ever come when I find I have sufficiently recovered from the Curse Of Claritin incident, I will give’em a try.

    For the record, it isn’t necessary that everything I read revolve around explicitly feminist themes. I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when I held up my hand and said to rock’n’roll, “Rock’n’roll, you are dead to me,” but I can’t bring myself to do that with literature. There are, for instance, big problems with The Taming of the Shrew, but I’m much too big a snob to suddenly stop quoting Shakespeare.

  10. flea

    I had the same reaction when I tried to read Hubbard’s _Battlefield Earth_, but that damned book is too thick for me to tear in half. I couldn’t get past the part where the aliens, as per Hubbard’s description, consider humans to be on par with dogs, yet as soon as the humans start fighting back, the alien females start simpering and mincing around the humans and making them coffee. Has any woman ever become submissive to a hostile dog outside seriously diseased porn? No. In the real world, women have them put down and don’t lose sleep over it.

    Does _Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell_ count as fantasy? I loved this book. It weighs five hundred pounds and I had to drag it everywhere for a solid month, which was a pain, but I couldn’t put it down.

  11. Twisty

    TimT, I’ve got a Michael Moorcock in my queue right this minute. It’s called (I think) The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius. I bought it because, although Moorcock wrote lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult, the painful “Don’t Fear The Reaper” was not one of them, and also because he wrote a great essay skewering that fascist Tolkein, and also because he has the good sense to live to Texas. Of Thatcher-era England he writes (in the aforementioned essay), “Humanity was derided and marginalised. Sentimentality became the acceptable substitute. So few people seem to be able to tell the difference.” Which remarks resonate nicely with the situation in post-9/11 USA.

  12. Twisty

    Flea, I think you’re probably right, that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell does count as fantasy, but unlike most fantasy novels, it also counts as a pretty stunning work of general literature. Obviously I’m no authority on the fantasy genre, but from what I can tell, a fantasy novel more or less depends on cliché, or even allegory, for its armature; its success as literature beyond that is directly related to the degree to which it can overcome that impediment, with style and substance and truth and beauty and all that.

    Meanwhile, the recent trend toward 90-pound books is, I agree, problematic. I am not above surgically separating these writst-spraining monoliths into portable chapters with an X-acto knife.

  13. Tony Patti

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they divided these monolithic novles into volumes like back in the good old days? I’m surprised they haven’t repackaged Proust as an enormous one-volume 25 pound lump of lit. It would probably boost sales dramatically, and then even more people could prance around claiming to have read it; at a lectern, standing, like a medieval scholar imbibing some Cicero.

  14. Mandos

    Huh. My trackback didn’t show up. Is there something wrong with TypePad?

  15. Mandos

    BTW I also don’t buy the literature/genre fiction dichotomy entirely either.

  16. Twisty

    Dude, there’s been something wrong with TypePad since last weekend, when they implemented all the “exciting new enhancements.”

  17. Twisty

    No shit, Tony. It’s bad enough that publishers indulge authors who think they need 987 pages to make their point, but it’s sheer insult to force the reader into costly and painful physical therapy to recover from the strain.

  18. Mandos

    Yeah, I was away from my blog for a while (travelling) and missed that. So I’ll just throw in a link to my post for blog-posterity (which is a weak, anemic version of posterity but there you have it):


  19. Amber Taylor

    Funny, I just read this and liked it (a brief review is on my blog). If you’d made your way to the end, you’d have seen a few feminist flourishes, although your general criticism of the “pseudo-feudal agrarian European settings that glorify patriarchal principles of war, caste systems, omnipotent deities [and] primogeniture” remains valid.

  20. emjaybee

    To be fair Robin McKinley isn’t about feminism, she just writes from a naturally non-sexist viewpoint. She isn’t a Beat You Over the Head type.

    Also, most sci fi and fantasy remains utter crap.

    However, have you read the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials series? Because there you will get your fix of pseudo-Victorian, alternate-universe fantasy with some wonderfully rich adventure writing with the added benefit of tearing organized religion to tiny little shreds. And a child heroine who frankly, is so tough she could kick Harry Potter’s ass if she met him.

  21. Twisty

    But what about Mr. T? Could she kick his ass?

  22. Wordlackey

    I liked Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy as well although there was something about it that nagged and bothered in the back of my mind. While the young female protagonist is incredibly resourceful and brave (ie, able to face her fears and move on), the general feel of the fantasy world was… I don’t know, off in some indescribable way. Oh, very well written, very well imagined, but still… off. I wish I could pinpoint my problem with it.

    And yeah, I think she might be able to whup Mr. T’s ass. Not in a straight up fight; rather, she would find a way to send/lead him into the frozen wasteland to die confused and uncomprehending of his fate. Smartly playing to her strengths.

    I did not know Moorcock was living in Texas now. Shows how much attention I’ve been paying. I liked the Jerry Cornelius books altho I must insert the caveat that I read them in the late 1970s. I was young and much more credulous and willing to overlook amazing sexist crap in fantasy and science fiction at the time. I’ve often been shocked at rereading books which hold a warm spot in my heart and memory, only to find them rather fetid from my current vantage.

  23. Sarah in Chicago

    I personally loved growing up with fantasy and scifi as they were the only genres where I could regularly find female characters who weren’t simpering idiots just there to support the men, or didn’t go boy crazy at the drop of a hat (which annoyed me no end when it did occur). Course when I was young I didn’t realise that was why I loved them, just that I loved them.

    Of course, as with any genre, you have the pound-your-head-at-a-wall exceptions (try finding woman-positive militaristic space-opera if you want a challenge – have a few titles though, NOT John Ringo however).

    I personally adore Elizabeth Moon’s stuff, and Mercedes Lackey (though the “gay men are beautiful” narrative got a little thick therein, not to mention the weirdly corresponding lack of lesbians). I fell for the Honor Harrington series by David Weber though, bigtime. And as a weird aside, the alternative history series that started with ‘Island in a Sea of Time’ by SM Stirling (any series that get’s slagged off by the anti-feminists in the amazon.com reviews section HAS to be good). And anything by Tanya Huff.

    My one problem is that I did a persisting foray into overtly feminist scifi that was published in the 80’s and early 90’s and honestly; mind-numbingly boring. Nothing seemed to happen. Ever. Maybe I was too young, but it drove me nuts, and I am a staunch feminist.

    Oh, and as an aside, did anyone else get really pissed off with the insane misogyny in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, or ‘Angels and Demons’?

  24. Sarah in Chicago

    Oh, and yes, I know most of those titles are pulp scifi/fantasy, but honestly when you deal with huge tomes of academic analyses on a daily basis in large numbers as a requirement of your studies, having these pulp novels to take you away without having to work your braincells excessively even more is a blessing. Especially when your main reading space is the EL (subway here in Chicago)

  25. Mrs. Coulter

    I heartily recommend Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. His other books (such as the Sally Lockhart trilogy) are grossly overwritten and heavy-handed (though worth a laugh); his female protagonists are very feminist (Sally Lockhart is actually a little *too* much). I also very much enjoyed Garth’s Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, which also features well-written female protagonists. Like Pullman, his other books, sadly, are also not as good.

  26. Twisty

    The Da Vinci Code! Great Scott, I’d forgotten all about that thing! I threw that book at the wall, too. So I guess I’ve actually committed 3 book murders. I wonder if there are any more acts of book violence in my distant past that I’m blocking out?

    It’s been some time, but as I recall, I killed the Da Vinci Code not out of feminist rage, but because “da Vinci” isn’t Leonardo’s name. It’s the town he was from. Vinci. No art historian worth a crap would refer to the guy as “da Vinci” in a million years. In fact, only jackasses and rednecks call him “da Vinci.” Jackasses, and people who write retarded books like the fucking Da Vinci Code.

  27. Sarah in Chicago

    Well Twisty, I will admit that it wasn’t till the end of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ that I realised the misogyny (including the James Bond stereotype of the DD-cup size 0 woman nuclear scientist) in that and ‘Angels and Demons’. Mostly I was falling over the insanely 2 dimensional character constructions (and this is coming from someone who reads pulp scifi/fantasy), so much so they were almost 1 dimensional.

    I personally will admit to libricide … Tom Clancy’s series surrounding Jack Ryan. I had enjoyed the movies so much when I was a teenager that I picked up my Dad’s copies of the books to see how they were. Honestly, even at that young age I was just so insanely disturbed at the characterisation of liberals, women and minorities that I just had to give up mid way through the last one, ‘The Bear and the Dragon’, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

  28. anti ob

    Read Ursula LeGuinn’s The Left Hand of Darkness (as Antelope and other suggest.)

    She doesn’t write patriarchal anything, or feminist anything. She doesn’t write “fantasy” or “science fiction”. She writes damn good stories that happen to be set in a world she made up, and anything she made up is almost certainly important to the story shes trying to tell. Her characters are not bimbo wall ornaments nor are they sword-swinging barbarian princesses. They’re not all men nor all women. They’re just interesting characters. And she does it all in 150 pages or less, because she started writing before the publishers worked out that anything they could sell once they could sell 3 times, and anything thicker than a phone book let them charge like a wounded mastodon.

    Don’t go read it because its good fantasy, or good science fiction; go read it because its a good book.

  29. nolo

    Oh dear– and I liked “The Curse of Chalion.” But then, I don’t necessarily expect fantasy novels to be about my fantasy perfect world. There’s nothing wrong with a fantasy novel that’s set in a sucky (in terms of not nice for women) world. Just because Bujold set it up to be patriarchal doesn’t mean she approves, after all. It may just mean she’s setting up obstacles for her protagonists to surmount, which turns out to be where she went in the sequel, “Paladin of Souls,” in which the (not so) crazy isolated dowager royina Ista is the protagonist and narrator. My bet is you might like the second book better. Of course, nothing compels you to give either book a chance. But as a crabby old enemy of the patriarchy (and of cheesy fantasy as well), I’m just sayin’ LMB is worth a second look.

  30. nolo

    Oh, and I join everyone else who’s recommended Ursula K. LeGuin. “The Left Hand of Darkness” is necessary reading. Joanna Russ is required reading as well.

  31. Andrea

    I have the same expectations for my books (i.e. that they not insult me as a woman) and yet I read tons of sci fi and fantasy–I find you have to find the good authors and then follow them from recommendation to recommendation. Kind of like networking.

    Besides Ursula le Guin, there’s also Sheri S. Tepper (a radical feminist sci fi/fantasy author if I’ve ever met one). Tad Williams’ Otherland series isn’t bad, if a bit oversized. Caitlin Sweet, A Telling of Stars. Karen Traviss, City of Pearl. Liz Williams, Empire of Bones (any of her other books, too). Mission Child, Maureen McHugh. Nina Kiriki Hoffman, a fistful of sky.

    Have to say I totally disagree with the previous commenter who said that le Guin doesn’t “write feminist.” Anyone who’s read her essays and non-fiction will know that she is very explicit and purposeful about her feminism. Left Hand of Darkness is a good start, but make sure you read her follow-up essay in Dancing at the Edge of the World in which she revisits her younger self’s version of feminism as explored in that book. Her initial Earthsea series was written in her pre-feminist phase, and the follow-up books in the same world are kick-ass revisions of it.

  32. Twisty

    Nolo, my problem with the Chalion book–other than its utterly humorless tone–is that I already live in that very same woman-hating world of cutthroat assholes; it’s just the props and costumes that are different. So where’s the escapist fantasy and groovy speculative innovation I need for lounging on chaises at the pool? Obviously plenty of people disagree with me, though. Chacun à son goût and all that.

    To all who are chanting “Ursula!” thanks. I did, in fact, read The Left Hand of Darkness about 674 years ago. I’ve also got Joanna Russ under my belt. I intend to look into all your other suggestions.

  33. ripley

    Judith Tarr, I found interesting..on the sort-of-Fantasy front.

    but the winner for me (sci fi) is Liz Williams. Her best (of the 4 I’ve read) is Empire of Bones, which is a super interesting story with lots of complex worlds and societies and aliens, with internal politics so nobody can be trusted, and the Earth action takes place in India, with a female protagonist, references to Bollywood films and revolutionaries, and nary an American in sight!

    And I threw Heinlein’s “Fifth Column” against the wall.. I’m embarassed that I got as far as I did, to know that it’s about when the “Pan-Asians” invade the good olde USA, complete with kamikaze and lots of “face-saving” references, and the heroic resistance (including one good guy ‘half-breed’ half-asian) form a religion as a cover for their network, and then they discover that asians have something genetically different about them so they build a special device.. urgh…. I didn’t even get to the gender politics and I was already revolted.

  34. Kevin Brennan

    I understand that Heinlein was none too fond of “Sixth Column” himself. He wrote it from a detailed plot outline supplied to him by the editor, so is not wholly responsible for its content.

  35. Jenny K

    “What I can’t live with is the dependency of the fantasy narrative on unapologetically misogynist pseudo-feudal agrarian European settings that glorify patriarchal principles of war, caste systems, omnipotent deities, primogeniture, and women-as-virgin-damsels.”

    Which pretty much sums up why I dumped SciFi/Fantasy in high school after reading one too many Piers Anthony (or was it David Eddings?). If I want to read about sexual/relationship fantasies, I’ll read Romance or Erotica, not epic novels about heros with “nice-guy” complexes and heroines that would shame even the worst of Romance’s Too-Stupid-To-Live protaganists.

    Thankfully, re-reading some of my favorite children’s fantasy books a few years ago reminded me of why I fell in love with the genre to begin with, and I’ve since come back into the fold.

    And may I second the Holly Black recomendation? And I’ll add Libba Bray’s “A Great and Terrible Beauty” (oooh, I just remembered the sequel is due soon….) Klause’s “Blood and Chocolate” is good as well – although certain parts could have been slightly longer.

  36. alex

    You might want to look at one of Charles Stross’ novels. “The Family Trade” and “The Hidden Family” are really parallel-worlds SF, but have been marketed as fantasy. “Singularity Sky” features a very strong female lead dealing with a very patriarchal military.

    Also: Kelly Link’s short stories–her first collection is available online at http://www.lcrw.net so you won’t even risk your money. Perhaps also Elizabeth Moon, if you’re in the mood for high fantasy.

  37. travellingpunk

    Did you say 35 yr old male and 15 yr old female.
    Isn’t that illegal?

    That’s it, censor all fantasy books, like computer games them create evil violent beings, bent on destruction and violation of the law.

  38. Kara

    Ya might like Jacqueline Carey’s ‘Kushiel’ trilogy, and Stephenson’s ‘Diamond Age’. I admit that Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Meridith Gentry, faerie princess’ books are one of my guilty pleasures. Nothing like trashy fantasy with two strong female protagonists! But the Elizabeth Moon books are good, and you can try out some of the ‘Honor Harrington’ series (and other Baen books) for free, too: http://www.baen.com/library/defaultTitles.htm

    Although, it’s probably not as much fun to commit e-book murders as libricide.

  39. Sarah in Chicago

    Let me echo Kara above … am mid-way through the first book of the Kushiel trilogy and am loving it (my gf highly recommended it, so I kinda had to read it *wink*), and yeah, as I said above, I loved Elizabeth Moon (particularly Deed of Paksenarrion) and David Weber’s Honor Harrington series …

  40. bob bobness

    Oh, yeah. The Left Hand of Darkness *is* basically the greatest book ever (and I got street cred on that, check out the e-mail address), or at least the greatest book that you’re pretty much assured of being able to find a copy of for a buck on only 24 hours notice). But why fritter away good comment space with the good stuff, when you can wallow about in (and warn against — yes, this is a public service message, and do feel free to pile on) the bad.

    I mean, I don’t come here for good vibes; I come here for a steaming good helping of patriarchy blaming (am I allowed to say that? it’s not copyrighted or anything, is it? if it is, [this passage censored due to copyright violation]).

    Anyway. Friday, by Robert Heinlein. My guess is, if you asked him, he’d say he was being really sensitive. You want to get in some really satisfying libricide, just pick up a copy. I only got past the first few chapters through sheer bloody-mindedness (not as much effort as actually finishing Lord Valentine’s Castle, but then again what is?).

    Also anything by Madeleine L’Engle. Yeah, I know, you adore her, but she’s a total crypto-fascist disciple of see above. And while we’re talking about it, just don’t even get me started on Stranger in a Strange Land.

    Lois MC MixMaster Bujold is a guilty pleasure, I’ll admit it. I read it; I love it; I hate myself.

    On the other hand, if you want to get down to some serious conflict and confusion, try Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun is just about the best sci-fi epic ever (even Ursula’s on record praising it). But don’t look for an elightened treatment of sex. Sorry, no. You just have to cringe and get past those bits, or perhaps rip the thing up, which would be a pity because it really is that good. Perhaps we can get Gene to confess on record that he blames the patriarchy.

    I gotta break down at this point and make an actual recommendation (and apologies if it’s in the comments — I skimmed). Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower. But make sure you have someone to hug afterward…

  41. Anonymous

    M. Bobness, we always appreciate and encourage ripping-on-fucktards here at the Patriarchy-Blaming Institute. And yup, that fucking Heinlein is a fucking fucktard, you betcha. I absorbed everything he ever wrote when I was a kid, and have spent years in therapy as a result.

    Incidentally, patriarchy-blaming is a pursuit open to all. I don’t own it, although sometimes I do feel like I’m the only one in the world doing it.

  42. Cat Pick

    *Harry Potter* is Harry Potter for adults.

  43. Bob Bobness

    Well, yay! A ripping-on-fucktards friendly zone. Would that were the world. Not to ruin my hot streak, but I just realized that there is a totally bitchin rendering-irrelevant-the-patriarchy short story that needs to be part of these comments. I refer to Raphael Carter’s classic, “Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation” (don’t laugh, it won an award). Go ahead, read it, and *then* try to blame the patriarchy. You won’t know which way to look, I tell you. Ok, I’m done.

  44. BritGirlSF

    Apparently Mr. Butcher is taking vocabulary and speech attribution tips from fanfiction.net.
    If you’re willing to read fantasy that leans more towards sci-fi I highly recommend the very brilliant and very feminist Sherri Tepper. Not only will you be able to read her without having to ritually disavow your feminism, she actually manges to write using modern English and not the peculiar faux-Shakesperian twaddle that so many fantasy writers insist on employing.
    On another note, as a former teenage fantasy fan, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has completely lost all patience with the fair maiden in the castle archetype.

  45. BritGirlSF

    And I forgot about Robin McKinley. If you’re going to do the sword and sorcery thing you may as well at least give the poor princess a sword. It’ll come in handy when fending off all those overly eager suitors.

  46. BritGirlSF

    Also, oddly enough given that he’s a middle aged English man, some of the most subtly calibrated pro-feminist fantasy I’ve ever seen is written by Terry Pratchett. Somehow writing satire allows him to get away with it without provoking a public outcry. I particularly recommend Monstrous Regiment, which has the additional advantage of featuring an insane patriarchal god who has banned (or, as he puts it Abominated) cats, babies and the color blue.

  47. Sean

    Sheri Tepper was also something like a regional director of Planned Parenthood in the Rockies for years before she retired to write full-time. I’m tempted to term her form of the genre ‘Patriarchy-Blaming Fiction.’

    Seriously. And I love it, btw. I recommend ‘The Gate to Women’s Country’ for a particularly cold-eyed view of gender relations.

  48. Karen

    I’m in the middle of the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik. It’s great! Good story, not bad writing, non un-feminist alternate history. The first is called _His Majesty’s Dragon_. I’d love to say more, but don’t want to spoil.

  1. Dammit, J… R. R. Tolkien « Tlönista

    […] So far, I hate to say, I’m vastly unimpressed. I’m bored to death of the standard medieval European Fantasyland and the tired tropes that go with it (better bashed elsewhere), and no, not even a respectable lack of magic is enough to redeem Westeros. And while I appreciate the kind of dark, morally ambiguous characters that populate the novel, scheming nobles aren’t really my thing. I found myself rolling my eyes and sighing whenever an Arya chapter came up (a standard-issue feisty tomboy who’d rather swordfight than learn to be a lady! Isn’t that subversive!) and flipping tiredly through the chapters waiting for the next trashy sex scene. […]

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