09 January, 2011

in which i am branded a hater of men

I am tired of boy stories. I am tired of sons who must fulfill their fathers' destinies. I am tired of the Savior of Everyone being a boy. I am tired of that being the norm, and stories in which there are girls or women or, gasp, mothers as the influential figure being unusual. Okay, these are actually two different complaints. There's the Influential Parent Is The Father thing, and the Speshul Hero Is A Boy thing. Where are the mothers? John Connor has Sarah, and she's the one who makes him a badass, but how rare is that? Are there women who are made badass by their mothers?

But really, I am tired of boy stories. Why does the child in TRON have to be a son named Sam? Why not a daughter named Sam? Have we not seen a bazillion iterations of Boy Following Daddy's Footsteps? Even my favorite author ever is all about boy stories. The last women stories she wrote were back in the late 80s. Maaaaybe the early 90s. She wrote a sequel to a woman story recently, but that's a sequel. And now her new shared-world online story begins with... a boy story (grant it was one of her co-authors, but still). Knowing the other authors, a girl may appear at some point. But I am sad that the whole thing begins with... a boy. Again. And a dead mother. Again. And a daddy issue. AGAIN. And this is a shared world with three women writing it.

Nothing wrong with daddy issues or mommy issues or stories about boys or girls. But it's the same tired crap, over and over, too many times. I know there are exceptions. The point here is not oh, but there's a Sarah Connor or a Ripley or a Leelu or a True Grit out there. It's that you can name them pretty easily as exceptions.

I suppose part of it's audience. Okay, probably a lot of it. I know men who won't read novels by women who write male protagonist POVs. They have no such qualms with male writers and female POVs. Shocking. And like it or not, and I do not like it, SFF is male-oriented. The shelves are flooded lately with paranormal romances*, and we all know who those are for, but I don't take that as indication the genre is shifting toward women as audience or authorship.

I found Marion Zimmer Bradley and Darkover when I first seriously got into SFF. I was working my way across the library shelves, and the MZB was the first cover I thought looked cool, so I took it. And it was about women! Whoa. Then I found this novel by someone named Cherryh, and it was about a woman, too. Whoa again. I didn't realize at the time what a big deal that was to a 10 year old, but in retrospect, it had a huge impact on the kinds of stories I expected, and respected.

*I don't like, or read, paranormal romances as a general rule (confess a weakness for Stackhouse stuff, but that's because of Eric, because really, I have a weakness for Vikings and THAT is a whole 'nother can of wtf because it doesn't get much more boy story than that, unless you also go east and north and into the Finnish material, or you think Skadhi's the coolest thing ever, or c, both of the above). But I don't think the presence of a vampire, werewolf, ghost, spaceship, etc. makes something SFF, either.


  1. I'm really hesitant to admit this, particularly to you, but I've been toying with the idea of writing something for KG for when she's the appropriate age for such things. Yes, LotR, yes Narnia, yes Harry Potter, but... yeah, where are the girls? I'd like her to have something that's definitely and deliberately, but not necessarily conspicuously, feminist. Girls being important, girls interacting and conversing, girls solving problems -- y'know, wild, absurd, fantastic scenarios like that.

    I need to add Cherryh to my reading list to see if they fulfill my wish list. (Thus protecting the universe from me attempting to do something I am spectacularly unqualified to do.)

    Or, y'know, if there's something else out there who'd like to fill the void. Someone who is qualified. Hint. Hint.

  2. Hm. I can handle women's stories for adults, but I am too rated R for kids. So, recommendations... The Hunger Games, by Susan...Collins? I think. Girl hero. But that's also young adult, not for kids. Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron series, for although it is centered around a boy, there is a kickass girl (she was one of my inspirations). Lloyd Alexander had one called The Kestrel, too, irrc, about a girl. Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

  3. Oh! The Other Matter reminds me: Madeleine L'Engle, be it her fantasy or her not-so-much, all good for girls/women. Ursula K. Le Guin, too. Tanith Lee. Robin McKinnley.