There’s a lot of sexism in scifi and fantasy circles.
So, there’s a lot of sexism in fantasy, which bites because it’s supposed to be a genre that reflects the deepest desires of human ambition and imagination. We make our own realities in fantasy. And while I write contemporary romance and enjoy it, I will always identify myself as a fantasy writer first. It’s my first love.
Now, I’ll be completely honest: I feel a bit insulated from a lot of this stuff. I don’t belong to SFWA, nor do I feel any real desire to join. From the beginning, I was true to my hermit ways and published indie. In fact, part of the whole idea behind going indie from the start was, “Doo to doo… I’m just going to sit over here in my cave and write what I want to write and have it edited and publish it and try to build a reader base over time. La dee da… don’t need to be part of professional organizations or societies or whatnot, because I’m just over here writing… la la la.”
And so, yeah, I’m kind of isolated in my little corner, writing my books and publishing them, and I don’t HAVE to pay attention to a lot of it. I don’t have to meet publisher expectations. I choose my own covers. I market my stuff the way I want, and I like that control. But then, the longer I’m out there, the more readers I have, the more I am—willing or not—part of this community of fantasy writers.
And you know what, that’s pretty awesome in a lot of ways, so when stuff like THIS happens, it’s on my radar. When awesome writers like Delilah S. Dawson write smart, brave posts like this, I pay attention. I feel convicted, because I haven’t put my own voice out there. And when Chuck Wendig calls things like he sees them and tells everyone not to be a dick about things, I hear that.
So here’s my own small contribution to this very necessary conversation.
I probably have more male readers than you think for a romance writer. Inevitably, their letters start off with, “I’m probably not your average reader, but…” (It’s OKAY, guys. Give in to the romance! It’s good stuff.) And usually their letters are pretty cool! I can’t complain. Sure, a lot of them would prefer a bit more blood and guts, but none of them complain about characters not doing what they want or complaining about my female characters “being such a bitch” to the hero.
Yeah, I get those letters, too. And they’re NOT from the guys. Nope. Those letters are from female readers.
And ladies, I’m calling you to the carpet on it. Let’s call out the guys for their sexism when it’s deserved, BUT let’s not pretend like having all the girly bits means you can’t be a sexist or feed into a sexist culture. This is OUR problem, too.
And I see it ALL OVER fantasy romance circles. I see it on Amazon reviews for books (not just mine, lots of them). I see it on my Goodreads feed. I see it on Facebook.
“OMG!!! I loved [Dreamy Fantasy Hero] but ewwww, why was the heroine so horrible to him? I mean, sheesh, if she’d just done what he told her to she wouldn’t have been in that situation/fight/dangerous situation.”
That’s right, girls, be quiet and sit down. Do what the big boys tell you, and don’t complain about it, even when you’ve been thrown into a mind-bending new world of urban fantasy. Be quiet and do what the alien creature tells you! It’ll all be okay.
Are you guilty of this kind of thinking? If I’m honest with myself, I’ve been that way at times. Don’t be this reader. When you’re writing a human in an alien world (which is really what most urban fantasy starts with, even if the human in the alien world is the reader) a period of adjustment is normal. Not every character is going to start out kicking ass and taking names. Would you?
And even when you get away from the newbie characters, and talk about really amazing, powerful females, human or not, this happens:
“UGH! Why couldn’t [kickass vampire/shapeshifter/other fantasy heroine] just see how much the hero loved her? I mean, is she blind? She was such a bitch to him!”
We have Default Hero Love, ladies. And I get it! I LOVE my fantasy heroes. I try to make them awesome, so you’ll love them, too. But being awesome doesn’t mean being right all the time. or having the right to be loved for that reason alone. So don’t be that reader, either. Love your heroines as much as your heroes. They should achieve mutual awesomeness together! (And not just mutual… nevermind.)
If we’re going to call the guys and the institutions out for sexism—WHICH WE ABSOLUTELY SHOULD, IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS—then we need to be honest with ourselves, too.
I write romance. In a lot of scifi and fantasy circles, I’m dismissed for that alone. Because romance is the girl’s genre, so it’s not taken seriously by the “real” writers. (Oh, hi there, institutional sexism.) But maybe there’s no better place to talk about sexism and misogyny in fantasy, because we write about relationships. And relationships are messy. There are all sorts of power dynamics at play, and the search for love and respect and personal fulfillment is pretty universal.
Incidentally, I refuse to apologize for writing romance. Love, and its fictional exploration, is too important for that.
Maybe this won’t be read by very many, because I am in my little cave, writing what I want, minding my own business. But hopefully, this will strike a chord with someone. Maybe it’ll get you to think a little more. I hope so. And if it does, let me know. And keep supporting those writers who put themselves out there and write kickass men AND women in fantasy.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Yes, I said I was going to post the prologue for the new book today, but this felt more important, so the prologue is going up tomorrow.