Tag Archives: women in fantasy

The Chosen Mum: Coming of Age in Yonderland.

Over at Tor.com, Katherine Addison (the new writing identity of Sarah Monette) discusses the Coming of Age trope, and mentions how often it is assumed that the default hero of such a story will be male – stories traditionally tell us that when girls become women, their “story ends” when they get married, while men get to transition into kings, heroes, magicians, etc. She also notes the general assumption that a Coming of Age story will be about the transition between childhood and adulthood, even though there are other points in people’s lives when a growing up/transition/levelling up story is relevant.

There are some great developments of some of Addison’s ideas in the comments, especially the first one by Dr Cox, which quotes Laura Ingalls Wilder:

Around the time of WWI, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Our Darling Daughters that before her marriage, her dreams ended with the marriage and that “when a girl was successfully married there would be nothing in her life afterward worth making a story about” but that “Greatly to my surprise, I found that with my marriage the story had hardly begun and since then I have found life daily more engrossing and worth while as I have watched and experienced the changes in the life and ideas of women” (from A Little House Reader, ed. William Anderson).

This is so completely relevant to the post I’ve been burning to make about the kids fantasy TV series Yonderland, that I knew I had to write it RIGHT NOW OKAY. So here we are.


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On Influence

shapeWhich writers are important to you? Those of you who write, which authors most influenced you?

And before you answer that question, stop and think about the gender thing.

Juliet McKenna has written a brilliant piece about one of the key reasons that female SF authors often struggle to build their careers: how easily their works disappear because they’re not being pre-ordered, promoted or pushed nearly as much as those of their male counterparts.

The meme that the female author in SFF is somehow a rare, precious, unlikely object, persists to this day. But you know what? There were women writing SFF in the 70’s, and not just a token handful. There were women writing in the 80’s and the 90’s and the 00’s and oh look they’re writing RIGHT NOW.

And yet when booksellers (and it’s not just booksellers) put out lists or displays of what to read after George RR Martin, how often are those lists all male?

Of the books I read in my teens, it’s extremely noticeable to me that many of the titles by male authors are still in print, still turning up in bookshops around the world (hello Stockholm!) and yet the titles by female authors… well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I hung on to those yellowing paperbacks, isn’t it?

On Twitter today, there were some responses to Juliet’s article.

Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) said: What bugs me is that these are meant as *beginner’s* guides – like there’s nowhere else to start but with dudes.

Kameron Hurley (@KameronHurley) said: beginner’s guide! If I was young woman interested in SF& presented that I’d feel so welcome!

and: it’s endless.Why don’t more women write/read SF?Shocker is we still do even tho we’re erased

I (@tansyrr) said: Frustating how many female authors I read in the 90’s you don’t see on shelves now.

Kate Elliott (@KateElliottSFF) said: For me most frustrating those women never spoken of as influential/important.

This is something that’s been burning a hole in my brain for a while now. It’s so rare to hear about the female writers who have influenced those working today. I know that I read a bunch of stuff that changed the way I thought about the genre, and a lot of it was by male writers, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Because while the male writers of ‘yore’ often get critiqued by today’s standards, somehow they don’t get swept under the carpet quite as efficiently as the female writers, whose flaws and failings are often held up as the reason WHY they’re no longer read today. The male authors get forgiven for their quirks and ‘of their time’ silliness and behind the scenes scandals, while the female authors do not.

So today I want to talk about a bunch of female writers (and editors) who were early influences on me and my writing.

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Gender, Fantasy & Female Pirates

Some great posts doing the round this week, some in response to my Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy post, and some being independently awesome but theme-relevant.

Foz Meadows follows up on my post with an incredibly impressive horde of links about women in history, in support of the very important point that Your Default Narratives Are Not Apolitical. Writing sexist or male-centric narratives into your stories is a choice, regardless of how much thinking you put into that choice.

Hoyden About Town, meanwhile, called for some recommendations of fantasy novels that treat women like people, and they haven’t had nearly enough of them yet. Go, recommend, and read!

J. Michael Melican talks about his own personal revelations about gender, sexism and fantasy – some thoughtful stuff there, particularly in how to take uncomfortable feedback as a writer that you may not be doing it right yet, despite the best of intentions.

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A Year in TansyRR.com

The response to my Tor.com post on “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy” has been pretty overwhelming. Not only have there been many, many readers over there (the comments thread is still going strong, though it has turned overnight into a discussion about gender in children’s fiction which… is not a bad thing to be talking about?) but over 2500 people have tuned in to this blog to check the post out here, since Thursday. That’s… a lot, by my standards.

So if you’re here for the first time, hi, I’m Tansy! I write books, and talk a lot.

Here are some other Gender & Pop Culture posts from this year that I’m quite proud of:

Sexing Up the Classics
Mothers & Daughters, Battle-Embroidery & Bears
Babies & Bicycles: Watching Call the Midwife
Hack, Slash, Squish: Gender and Sex In Season One of Game of Thrones
What Geek Girls Wear (is none of your business)

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Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.

A great, thoughtful article at the Mary Sue on one of my pet topics: the common justification of sexist fantasy fiction being that it’s historically authentic.

I am BUSY today, far too busy for a rant, but then I felt one coming on, and was worried I might end up with a migraine if I tried to stifle it. You know how it is. So let’s talk about sexism in history vs. sexism in fantasy.


I agree with pretty much everything said in the Mary Sue article: when you’re writing fantasy inspired by history, you don’t have to take all the ingrained sexism of historical societies along for the party, and even when you do, you don’t have to write women in a sexist or demeaning way. Your fantasy will not break by treating women as if they are people too.

But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”

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Hack, Slash, Squish: Gender and Sex In Season One of Game of Thrones


OK everyone’s way ahead of me on this one, even (to her great delight), my Mum. Once I actually sat down to watch this first season of Game of Thrones, I found myself enjoying it way more than the waves of (mostly feminist) internet critique suggested I would.

There’s a lesson in that somewhere, possibly. Anyhow, here are my reflections on the show:

[Warning, text probably not work safe, though the images should be fine, presuming that your workplace is non judgemental about fantasy fiction as a whole, which is presuming quite a lot, really, what do I know, my workplace is me and the three-year-old. She hasn’t watched the show.]

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Fantasy Mistressworks Meme

I haven’t done one of these reading memes in forever! Looking over it, I was intrigued to see not only how many I had read (more than I thought at first), but how many I had read long enough ago that I barely remember their contents and thus had to double check my memory as to whether I really *had* read them. Is this what we call getting old?

Also I’ve read a lot of these authors, but not necessarily their specific books on the list. Some of the books I haven’t even heard of, which is very exciting! It seems to be leaning towards older than newer works (no Susanna Clarke, for instance, no Australian authors, no modern YA or urban fantasy, quite an old-fashioned definition of “fantasy” fiction, very few of the last decade at all) but I am glad to see so many authors represented who should not be forgotten. The list contains many of the books and authors that often get left out when epic or high fantasy is discussed, so of course they should be here, talked about, discussed.

Of course there are a whole bunch of fantasy novels by women that spring to mind that could or should be on a list like this. That’s the best thing about this sort of meme – it reminds you of how much great, important fantasy literature by women writers is out there. Where the definition of ‘important’ is – people feel strongly that it matters.

Fantasy Mistressworks Meme

As is usual, take the list, bold all those you have read and italicise those you own.

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Swords Down, Flappers!

Happy birthday to me! My Flappers With Swords blog tour is now done. It was a boutique tour in the end, largely because I found myself writing substantial essays instead of short, easy posts, and I exhausted myself all too quickly. Still, I had great fun talking about history, women, and some of the crunchier (and occasionally, sillier issues I came across while writing the Creature Court series, and fantasy fiction in general.

If any new readers discovered me and my Kindlicious editions of the Creature Court books in recent weeks, do let me know! These things make authors very happy.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out all the posts, here they are below. Much gratitude to everyone who has written a review for the Creature Court books on Goodreads or Amazon, and an extra special multitude of thanks to the many awesome bloggers who let me borrow their space & their readership to help get word of my books out there. You all rock!
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Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Who are Great At Their Job

Over at SF Novelists, Marie Brennan talks about why ‘competence is hot,’ about the portrayal of various careers/jobs in fiction, and which ones work better than others. She also talks about wanting more heroines who get to be good at their job instead of merely hot.

Which is true, absolutely true, that there aren’t enough of those women in TV and especially movies. It reminds me of how excited the internet got about Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour and, in fact, that if you take a very attractive actress and put her in a practical outfit, and make her good at her job, she’s actually still going to be very attractive, in many cases MORE attractive than the glamorpuss in the tiny, implausibly unprofessional outfit, because it doesn’t look like she’s trying so hard.

In other words, you can have hot women on TV who are also fantastic role models for women, merely by putting more clothes on them, and treating their characters seriously. Who knew?

Some examples of iconic women in science fiction and fantasy television who are, in fact, awesome at their jobs:

Uhura (Star Trek) who may have mostly sat there and pushed buttons, but always looked like she was taking her job as communications officer seriously. Her aura of professional competence was impressive considering she was often given little to do in the script, and that’s down to the gravitas of the brilliant Nichelle Nichols, who gave a generation of African American kids hope that there was a place for them in the future. One of my favourite things about the movie remake of Star Trek is how they added weight to the job that Uhura (now played by Zoe Saldana) did – how much education she was required, and why she in particular was qualified for that really important position on the flagship. (in comparison, Kirk crashed into his job on a wing and a prayer, and seems to have been picked for “leadership qualities” that include “being a complete tool”).

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Friday Links removed a Womble’s Head

OK this is my favourite news article of the week – a Womble performer traumatised a nation (well, the six year old portion of the nation) when he accidentally removed his head during a live webfeed. Now, my first reaction was basically that it’s awesome that the Wombles are a THING again for today’s kiddies. As a mother of a six year old myself (who broke my heart with her reaction to finding out about the Santa thing last year)… seriously?

Parents from around the UK said the ‘damage had already been done’ and that they had been forced to come up with ‘all kinds of explanations’ about why there was a human inside a Womble.


Elsewhere in the world, Aqueduct Press continue their marvellous blog series of posts about the Best Reading, Listening, Viewing, etc. in 2011. I like especially that the contributors are asked to talk about what they enjoyed, but not limit themselves to work published this calendar year. And I was honoured to be asked to talk about my own favourite things of 2011. I forgot lots of things, of course, but that’s what my own blog is for!

Also, Brit Mandelo of Tor.com blogs about her new reprint anthology, Beyond Binary, which includes a story by MEEEEE as well as a whole bunch of more famous and wonderful writers. Hooray for genderqueer SF being talked about!

Nnedi Okorafor blogs powerfully about her discomfort in discovering, in the wake of her marvellous World Fantasy win for Best Novel, that the trophy depicts the head of a very racist, unpleasant person. Ie. H.P. Lovecraft. Which has led to all kinds of conversations across Twitter and other forums about, you know, what kind of alternative trophy could better represent excellence in fantasy fiction, or the history of fantasy literature. I suspect TRADITION is going to win out on this one, or at least a combination of tradition and resistance to change, which are not entirely the same things, but personally I can think of a whole bunch of other unpleasant heads which could take his place. Like Medusa!

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