Monthly Archives: March 2011


Johns Hopkins University Press
72 p., Hardcover $50, paperback $25

This is a fascinating little volume that may be of interest to some of you, especially if you like astronomy or have an interest in ancient science or poetry.  According to the cover copy, the Phaenomena was the most read poem in the ancient world after The Iliad and The Odyssey.  The purpose of the poem is instructive, giving information about the constellations and how to predict the weather.  In a more agrarian society, this type of information could at times be a matter of life and death.  Aratus lived during the period following the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire.

This is a thin volume.  The actual poem itself only takes up 38 pages, a little over half the book.  Extensive annotations form the bulk of the rest of the text in an appendix and are fascinating in and of themselves. 

Fans of epic fantasy or historical adventure are well aware of the importance many ancient cultures placed on poetry, especially in societies in which writing and literacy were rare.  Here’s a sample:

The nearest guide
To the north Fish is on the left-hand side
Of Andromeda, on her shoulder.  Forever over
The shoulders of staunch Perseus, her lover
Her two feet circle.  As he marches forth,
Taller than the figures in the north,
His gallant right hand gestures to the seat
Of his love’s mother. Staring at his feet,
He walks his father Zeus’ property.  (p.10)

Some passages give detailed descriptions of certain constellations, especially those containing bright or prominent stars, and discuss the times those stars and constellations rise and set at different times of the year.

The price on this one is a little high, but that’s to be expected from an academic press.  I got my copy last year when the publisher was sending out free copies to faculty as part of a promotion.  I’ve enjoyed the poetry and learned a bit from the appendix.  While I haven’t read it cover to cover, it’s been nice to dip into here and there.  It’s one I’ll return to on a regular basis.

Dianna Wynne Jones (1934-2011)

Diana Wynne Jones, British fantasy author, has died of lung cancer.  John O’Neill was written a eulogy on the Black Gate website.  Since I can’t improve on it, I suggest you read it here.  Jones wrote a variety of books, from YA to adult, but my favorite is still The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a tour guide of a generic land one might encounter in a fantasy novel.  It’s one of the best books on how (not) to write fantasy that I’ve ever read, and hilariously funny as well.

Whatever Happened to Sense of Wonder?

Thursday, Daniel Abraham posted a brief essay on his blog entitled “In Defense of Exoticism” in which he examines the role exoticism plays in SFF.  He defines exoticism as “the commodification of the Other, appropriating the thoughts or clothing or music or food or religion of an unfamiliar culture for the charm of the unfamiliar.”  He goes, in a wandering sort of way, to discuss some other aspects of this thought, specifically the concept of Other.  And when I say in a wandering way, I in no way intend anything derogatory.  Abraham himself says he’s still thinking this topic through and his post would be a little rough around the edges, and I respect that.

But this essay got me thinking.  What’s wrong with the charm of the unfamiliar?  And where are we to find it, if not in other cultures, epochs, music, etc.  Now I realize that the key verb in Abraham’s sentence is “commodification” and that is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.  That’s not a debate I want to get into at this point.  Instead, my thoughts went down a different avenue.

I mentioned in my report on ConDFW a panel discussion about whether magic systems should be organized in some sort of way that resembled science.  My comment from the audience was that maybe more people of reading fantasy than science fiction these days, and I can well remember when that wasn’t the case at all, because fantasy was providing that sense of wonder that science fiction once did.

There are a number of reasons why science fiction has been supplanted by fantasy, and a number of them come down to sense of wonder.  Shelf space in the science fiction section of many books stores is being taken over by media tie-ins, many of them generic.  Our citizens are increasing familiarity with scientific and technological achievements while their ignorance of scientific principles is (if anything) increasing. Science, and by extension science fiction, have failed to produce the promised wonders of the future (I want my flying car, dammit). To steal a quote whose source I can’t remember, we’ve reached the future and found it not to be Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov’s future, but Phillip K. Dick’s.  Fantasy still provides that escape from the humdrum world, and that future.  It provides an Other that, even at fantasy’s darkest, gives that sense of wonder.  Horror on the other hand, gives just the opposite: a sense of fear and oppression.  And that sense is part of much of science fiction.  So much that last year, an anthology titled Shine had the theme of optimistic near futures.

Think about how many new fantasy series have been promoted in the last few years with an emphasis on the uniqueness of their magical systems.  The magical system in any fantasy, including urban fantasy, is an extension of the author’s world building, and world building is one of the main things by which an author will rise or fall, be the world a fantasy world, a futuristic science fictional world, or a detailed historical era.  It’s not the only thing that can make or break an author’s work, but in any setting that’s not contemporary, mainstream society, the world building can be as important as the characterization or plot.

Abraham says there’s something in his psychology that’s deeply attracted to the idea of an Other.  He implies that this a basic human trait.  I think it is.  Call it exoticism, call it sense of wonder, call it a search for transcendence, call it what you like.  There is something in all of us that wants, even needs, to experience the new, the exotic.  That will be different things to different people.

As an example, when we were in Kazakhstan adopting out son, we took at trip one afternoon and evening to the city of Turkestan.  I’ve written a little about it. One of our lawyers seemed disappointed when we didn’t find the trip to be exotic.  We saw lots of flat plains with men on horses herding cattle.  I’ve lived most of my life in Texas.  There was nothing to me about seeing those things that I found exotic; instead, they were comfortingly familiar in land where even the food on my plate was exotic.  The only difference was the cows in Kazakhstan looked both ways before they crossed the highway.  (I’m not making that last bit up.  They really did wait by the side of the highway to cross.  Cows in Texas would have wandered out in front of on-coming vehicles without a thought.  I’m not sure why that was the case, but it was.)  Now someone who had lived all of his or her life in New York City would have probably found such sights very exotic.

Science fiction used to deliver that exotic sense of wonder, where humans ventured into the universe, with or without leaving the planet, and found all sorts of wonders waiting for them.  Of course, these days science has lost some of its luster and exploration is no longer a priority.  Case in point:  the United States in in the process of ending its manned space program.  And if you believe the government’s assurances that it’s only until the next generation of launch vehicle can be designed and built, then I have a bridge I can get you a good deal on.  Thankfully, the private sector seems to be picking up the ball and running with it, at least somewhat.

But I digress.  Fantasy is filling the role that science fiction, science, the space program, and human exploration in general once did on a larger scale.  Magic never loses its sense of wonder or exoticism because it can never be explained.  That’s why I think fantasy is now more popular than science fiction. 

The Dark Griffin

The Dark Griffin
K. J. Taylor
Ace, 369 pages, $7.99

I came across this book in Wal-Mart of all places.  That’s not a store known for its book selection, never mind its fantasy and science fiction selection, but the one close to my house (there are 4 where I live) has a dedicated section of stuff worth reading.  The cover caught my eye, with the Griffin in flight and the Eyrie in the background.  The guy riding the Griffin is Arren, who is described in the book as tall, thin, and pale complected with dark hair.  The guy on the cover doesn’t really fit that description.  Instead he looks like he escaped from a romance cover.  On second thought, considering what tends to be happening on romance covers, maybe he’s trying to get to one.  Yeah.  I bet that’s it.

Anyway, the cover art caught my eye, and the synopsis on the back cover sounded intriguing,.  In leafing through the book, I noticed on the about-the-author page that Ms. Taylor wrote that she takes her inspiration from George R. R. Martin and Finnish metal.  Now I’ve never been much into metal, Finnish or otherwise, but I’m familiar enough with it and with Martin’s works that I bought the book on the basis of that sentence. 

I really wanted to like this book.  And I do.  Just not as much as I had hoped. Part of that was the fault of my expectations of the book and part the fault of the author.  As far as my expectations, I was expecting something darker and more violent; I thought the book fell somewhat short of Martin in these areas.  From what I’ve been able to determine, this is Taylor’s second book, and some of what I would consider to be her fault is simply she’s still learning her craft. 

Arren is a northerner.  In the land of Cymria, the northerners are considered barbarians, and captured northerners were once kept as slaved.  Arren is the son of freed slaves, and the only northerner to become a griffiner.  Sent on a fool’s mission intended to disgrace him, Arren captures a wild griffin, the titular dark griffin, but doing so costs the life of his griffin.  The dark griffin is taken to the arena to fight (read kill) convicted criminals, while Arren is stripped of his post in disgrace.  Of course Arren will end up in the arena himself fighting the griffin he captured.  I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling that, since it’s a logical event in the plot.  There are other surprises that I wasn’t expecting.

All griffins have one magic power, and the book implies the power is related to the griffin’s color.  The dark griffin’s power it turns out is unique and sends the plot in an unexpected direction, creating all kinds of complications for Arren.  The griffins are also at least as vain, arrogant, greedy, foolish, and scheming as the humans, which made me wonder who is really in charge.  It may not be who the humans think.

I had a couple of problems with the story.  First, it drug in places.  Some of that was due to the passage of time in which not much happened other than Arren going about his daily routine.  I’ve always found those types of narrative to be tedious, almost without exception.  In part the slow pacing was, I think, the due to the author’s attempt to develop character.  And to be fair, with only a couple of exceptions, Ms. Taylor does a good job of developing most of her characters, better than most new writers do.  Unfortunately it seemed to me that Arren had a terminal case of the stupids.  He’s whiny, self-pitying, and wishy-washy.  He’s also prone to some really bad lapses in judgment.  In short, he’s not very heroic for the majority of the book, and I wanted to knock some sense into him several times.  Even when he finally takes action against those who betrayed him, he came across to me as hesitant when he should have been aggressive. Again, in fairness, when the book ended, he was in a position where he was almost certainly going to have to be more assertive.

There were also some other things that bugged me.  A great deal is made throughout the book of the prejudices against northerners, but until Arren returns from capturing the dark griffin, this really isn’t shown.  In fact, until he leaves, he’s shown as being completely accepted and surrounded by friends from all levels of society.  The leader of the council is a woman, and her brother, Lord Rannagon, is the principle villain.  She disappears halfway through the book with no real explanation as to why, although it’s implied that she would soon be stepping down from age.  It’s her plans, and how Arren fits into those plans, that set off the events leading to his disgrace.  Lord Rannagon isn’t very consistent in how he’s portrayed, at times acting supportive of Arren and other times hostile.  He doesn’t seem to have a problem with Arren’s romance with his daughter, either, something I found hard to buy considering some of his other actions against Arren.  Also, Rannagon’s bastard son briefly appears in two scenes.  In the first, he’s unbelievably arrogant; in the second, a concerned and caring brother.  It was almost as though he were two different people.  He’ll be back in the next book, so I’m sure he’ll be fleshed out more.

And if you think that last sentence implies I’m going to read the next book, you’re right.  I intend to.  In spite of the complaints I have about the book, the characters really are well developed.  Arren does go through some major changes, as do some of the other characters, most notably the dark griffin.  We only see a small piece of this world, and the northerners are a culture I want to learn more about.  Arren’s fate takes an unexpected turn, and I’m curious to see how Ms. Taylor gets him out of the predicament he’s in.  Or if she even does.  Taylor is a new writer, and I’m prepared to cut her some slack on the issues I have with the pacing.  I predict she will eventually be a major name.

The feeling I got when I finished the book was that this would have been a good first third to half of a much longer novel.  That may be the case.  The second (The Griffin’s Flight) and third (The Griffin’s War) volumes of the trilogy hit the shelves within weeks of The Dark Griffin.  I don’t recall the last time a trilogy was published without at least a year’s wait between books. 

The Dark Griffin might be a little slow and lacking in sufficient combat for some readers of this blog, but if you like griffins, give at least this volume a try. 

RIP, April Derleth

April Derleth, daughter of Arkham House founder August Derleth and current president and CEO of the publishing house, has died at the age of 56.  No cause of death has been announced.  Arkham House was founded by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to promote the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other Weird Tales authors, as well as author who wrote in a similar vein for other publications, including volumes by Ray Bradbury, Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson, and Robert E. Howard.  Upon August Derleth’s death, Wandrei and then James Turner ran the publishing company.  When April Derleth became CEO, she tried to return to the company’s roots by publishing more weird fiction.  During her tenure, she published volumes by Nelson S. Bond, Hugh B. Cave’s autobiography Cave of a Thousand Tales,and  the anthology Arkham’s Masters of Horror, among other volumes.  Arkham House has temporarily suspended all sales and unfilled orders. 

Brambling On

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a pair of novellas from Subterranean Press.  Written by Tobias S. Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi, these tales revolve around a world in which the use of magic results in the growth of a plant called bramble.  Bramble, for those of you who haven’t read my review or the novellas, is something like evil kudzu.  I’m sorry; that was redundant.  Anyone who’s ever had to deal with kudzu knows it’s evil.  Bramble is like kudzu on steroids.  With thorns.  It takes over everything (just like kudzu), and the thorns can send a person into a permanent sleep.

When I wrote the review I expressed a desire to see more of this world.  My wish has been granted.  If I can figure out how I caused that to happen….well, never mind.

Now, Buckell has written a sequel which went up on the spring 2011 issue of Subterranean Magazine a day or so before I started my traveling.  I tried to read it before I left, but I didn’t quite get to it.  Last night, I finally managed to read it.  It was worth the wait.

This particular installment concerns one young man by the name of Mynza, who happens to be a thief.  The story opens with him climbing the wall of the keep of the Mayor of Alacan.  He brushes against a spot of bramble growing in a crack in the wall and just manages to make it to a balcony before losing consciousness.  Turns out this is the balcony of the Mayor’s daughter, who in a twist on classic fairy tales motifs, awakens him with a kiss.  While there, Mynza takes several things, some freely given (the girl’s virtue) and some not so freely given (jewels and a signet ring).  Because his burglary wasn’t sanctioned by the head of the family that adopted him as a young orphan, they end up parting ways. 

At least for a few days.  Bramble has encroached to the point that the town has to be abandoned.  Instead of aiding the citizens in their escape, the Mayor and the merchants charge a toll to be taken out.  Most of the population can’t pay the price, and bramble has spread to the point that even the only road out, controlled by the Mayor, is closing.  Mynza has spent most of his coin from the jewels he fenced.  It’s at this point that responsibility finds him, and although he’s fully grown physically, he finds himself forced to grow up.

I’ll not say more about the details of the plot or the other characters.  This in many ways was the best of the three stories, although all of them are essentially stories of hope, despite their dark settings and events.  My reasons for saying that have to do with the changes Mynza undergoes, as well as those of one of the other characters.  To say more would be to spoil the story for you. 

I’m beginning to see a theme in the tales of this world.  A theme of how we, as people, as individuals, need each other.  Of how strong love is, propelling us to greatness and bringing forgiveness and hope where none appears to be.  I find these themes refreshing.  If this series takes off, and I hope it will, I’m sure either Buckell or Bacigalupi or both (either separately or collaboratively – that’s a hint guys) will end up writing novels set in this world.  While I will certainly rejoice over them and read them, I hope the authors never leave the novella form behind when writing in this world.  It’s the personal stories of the ordinary people, people trying to make a difference, however small, in a world that’s getting darker that gives these tales their power.  In this day of fat fantasy and never ending series, it’s nice to step back from the epic and focus on the personal.

There’s been a lot of blogging in the last month or so about whether fantasy is too dark.  If you feel that way, then you need to read these works.  They’re a breath of fresh air.

Hiatus Over

My trip was longer and more tiring than I expected.  It was work, not pleasure, and by work I mean manual labor.  Anyway, I worked on some posts in the evenings while gone, but don’t have them ready to go yet.  One of them is a rather lengthy interview I’m still transcribing.  That one will probably run in at least 2 parts when I get it ready, maybe three.  I didn’t get a lot of reading done, but what I did accomplish, I’ll write about over the next few days.  Until then, consider this notice that new material will be going up soon.


Just a note to say that I’ll be away from a computer for the next week or so.  As a result, I probably won’t be able to get any new posts up, although I will work on some.  Look for them next week.  Sooner if I can manage it.

Blogging Kull: Delcardes’ Cat/The Cat and the Skull

Spoiler Alert:  This is not one of Howard’s best stories.  The plot is fairly straightforward, if unbelievable.   Kull goes with Tu, his chancellor, to see the talking cat of Delcardes.  The cat is reputed to be thousands of years old.  During the conversation, Delcardes asks Kull for permission to marry a nobleman from a neighboring kingdom.  This sends Tu into paroxysms of fury because Delcardes is of the nobility, and it is against custom for nobility to marry foreigners.  Howard seems to have developed a fondness for this plot device since he used it in the unfinished draft that precedes this tale in the Del Rey edition.

The cat, whose name is Saremes, tells Kull where he left a left (in his scabbard) and that a courtier is coming to tell Kull that a surplus has been found in the royal  treasury.  Tu insists that this is trickery.  Kull is a little more gullible, and in the end Saremes accompanies Kull back to his palace.  Attending Saremes at all times is the slave Kuthulos, who wears a veil covering his face and neck at all times.  Saremes and Kull often sit up all night talking philosophy, but Saremes refuses to tell Kull much about the future.  Personally I found her reasoning a little thin and had trouble believing someone like Kull could  have been taken in by them.  Howard even says that Kull has his doubts, yet he goes along with everything the cat says.  Except the continued proddings of Saremes to try to convince Kull to let Delcardes’ marry a foreigner.

Then one day, Saremes tells Kull that his Pictish friend Brule has been captured by a monster while swimming in the Forbidden Lake.  Kull immediately takes off to rescue Brule.  After battling several monsters, in what are better than average action scenes, Kull is captured by a giant snake and taken deep under the lake into a cave in which the surviving members of the lake men are living.  They don’t exactly buy Kull’s explanation for why he’s there.  The situation is about to degenerate into a bloodbath when Kull learns that Brule was never in the lake at all.  After pledging to leave the lake men in peace, Kull returns to the surface.

When he gets back to the palace, he finds the place in an uproar.  Seems the king has wandered off somewhere without telling anyone where he was going.  In the ensuing chaos, Kull hears a beating sound and discovers that Kuthulos has been tied up in a secret passage.  The man masquerading as Kuthulos is none other than the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom who swears to destroy Kull before he escapes.  It seems Thulsa Doom is a servant of the serpent people.  Yeah, those serpent people. Anyway, it turns out that Saremes can’t speak at all, but Kuthulos can literally throw his voice.  He was the one telling Kull to allow Delcardes to marry her foreign lover and all the signs given in the opening scene were tricks.  Only after Thulsa Doom took Kuthulos’ place was Kull told to go to the Forbidden Lake.  Kull graciously pardons Delcardes for her scheming and allows her to marry whomever she wishes.

When published in the Lancer edition, this story was entitled “Delcardes’ Cat”, which is the name of the draft.  There aren’t many differences between the draft and the finished story.  The chancellor Tu is called Ku for the first page or so in the draft, then his name changes.  The only other significant change is the late addition of Thulsa Doom.  Howard added him as an afterthought in the first draft. 

Several things struck me about this story.  First, that the physical description of Thulsa Doom was a whole lot like that given for Skull-Face in the story of the same name. In fact even the name of the slave is similar.  Skull-Face was called Kathulos.  Patrice Louinet reports in “Atlatnean Genesis” (Kull, Del Rey, p. 298, 2006) that this was the original name in the first draft and was later modified for the final story.  It is useful to keep in mind that this story was written at about the same time that Howard was working on “Skull-Face”.

Another thing that struck me was that this is the second story in which a woman has deceived Kull and he’s blown it off and pardoned her.  The first was “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune.”  That’s not something Conan would have stood for.  Not even once.  While he might not have killed the girl, you can be sure Conan wouldn’t have been so forgiving. 

In spite of its flaws, this story definitely shows Howard at his most poetic.  Consider the following quotes (page nubmers are from the Del Rey edition):

“Twilight was stealing down from the mountains of Zalgara when Kull halted his horse on the shores of the lake that lay amid a great lonely forest.  There was nothing forbidding in its appearance, for its waters spread blue and placid from beach to wide white beach and the tiny islands rising above its bosom seemed like gems of emerald and jade.  A faint shimmering mist rose from it, enhancing the air of lazy unreality which lay about the regions of the lake.”  p. 97

“At first the king thought it to be a huge octopus for the body was that of an octopus, with long waving tentacles, but as it charged upon him he saw it had legs like a man and a hideous semi-human face leered at him from among the writhing snaky arms of the monster.”  p. 98

“” ‘You come like the herald of all your race,’ said this lake-man suddenly, ‘bloody and bearing a red sword.’ ” p. 104

While not a major work, and certainly not the best plotting Howard ever did, this one is still worth reading, if only for the passages like those quoted above.  “The Cat and the Skull”  shows Howard beginning to master his form and hints at greater writing to come.

In Defense of Traditional Gender Roles in Fantasy

OK, a title like that is bound to generate some controversy.  Piss people off, in fact.  And that’s without all the discussion, some civil and some rancorous, that’s gone on in the blogosphere in the last couple of weeks about morals, nihilism, “feminization”, sexuality, differences in content due to author gender, and what exactly constitutes epic fantasy all stirring people’s emotions up.

I’m not going to get into all of that here.  At least not in this post.  But I came across something I did want to respond to in a couple of these threads.  While it’s not my intention to yank anyone’s chain, that’s probably certainly going to be one of the results.  So be it.  I’ve sat on this post for a week and a half, tinkering with it, to try to make it say exactly what I want to say and as much as possible eliminate any possibility of miscommunication on my part.  I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but if I’m going to post this, I need to do so and move on.

Here’s what I want to take issue with.  Foz Meadows, a writer with whom I’m not familiar, wrote a lengthy and eloquent post on her blog in which she discusses some potential reasons why women are more willing to read fantasy written from the “male gaze”, as she and others call it, while male readers as a whole seem less willing to read fantasy written from the “female gaze.”  No hard data was offered to support this idea, but I’m willing to accept it both for the sake of discussion and because I think she’s probably right.  Now I’m not quite certain what this “gaze” is that some bloggers are referring to, unless it’s simply a more trendy or politically correct term for viewpoint.  If it is, I don’t see the reason for new terminology, and if it isn’t just another word for viewpoint, I wish someone would please define it and explain how it differs from viewpoint.

But I digress.  The statement I take issue with is this:  “…the struggle, not just for female equality in traditional male fields, but for male equality in traditional female fields.”  That in and of itself I can ignore.  But…someone on Kate Elliott’s blog (quite a ways down the comments) said, “One of the things that took a long time to sink in with me is the realization that while all the various woman’s lib movements over the past century and more have allowed women to attempt traditionally men’s roles without lesser and lesser danger of shame as the years go by…men do NOT have the same freedom to adopt female roles.”  The tone of the comments that followed seemed to suggest that men should try to assume female roles.  It was evident from several discussions that these opinions are shared by more than just these two women.

I respect the right the authors of these posts have to their opinions, as well as the right to post those opinions.  That doesn’t mean I agree with said opinions.  No disrespect or personal attack intended, ladies, but what the hell makes you think we would want to assume female roles?

I posit that not only have men had the freedom to adopt female roles and characteristics if they so wished (and some have) for a long time, probably at least as long as women have had the freedom to adopt male roles, but that in the last few decades men have often had female traits thrust on them whether they’ve wanted them or not.  In the interest of being more sensitive and less aggressive of course.  And the traditional male role model, both in fantasy and in the broader culture, has come under fire.  It may be that some men don’t want to read fantasy written from a female perspective because they want traditional male values affirmed, and they are not finding them affirmed in the broader culture.

Now I realize not all male role models in fantasy are positive, and I’m not saying they all are.  I also realize not all women want to read fiction written from that perspective.  I’m not saying they have to, or even that they should.  I’m simply saying don’t condemn the men who do choose to read that perspective and not a more feminine one.

Should men be sensitive to others, whether the others be men or women?  Of course.  But the conditions under which a man will show compassion or sensitivity, and the manner in which he shows it, will often be different from the conditions under which, and the ways by which, a woman will show compassion.  A good writer, one without a political or philosophical axe to grind, knows this.  And can show it in fiction.

Am I saying female characters should be maidens in distress, waiting for a hero to rescue them?  No.  Those types of women are boring.  I like strong, multifaceted female characters in my fiction, but not all of them should be able to swing a sword anymore than all of them should be able to sew.  Do I want to read about male characters who are all muscle bound fighters, without emotions, who use women as sex objects?  No, they’re pretty boring, too, as far as fictional characters go.  And they’re certainly not the type of men I want to hang out with.  I blogged about Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom a couple of months ago.  Read that book to see men who aren’t afraid to fight, yet are still family men who exhibit compassion, although not in the manner of 21st century family men. I want to see a variety of both men and women, strong and weak, good and bad, competent and idiots, shallow and honorable.  Just like in real life.

And that means I want to see characters that assume traditional gender roles, because most of the people I know, and I know a wide variety, do for the most part fall into the traditional roles to a greater or lesser degree.  Yes, there’s variation in the roles they assume, and no, not everyone fills these roles the same way.  That’s fine.  Just as some characters don’t fit the traditional pattern at all, like Joan of Arc to name one historical figure, I don’t want all the characters in the fiction I read to be completely traditional either. I want to see variety, both within traditional roles and outside them.

The male perspective is valid, just as the female perspective is.  And they are equally valid.  I’m not saying the male perspective is more valid than the female perspective.  There are enough writers working in the field of fantasy today that everyone should be able to find something they like written from a perspective they like.  I’m a male who likes strong, heroic male characters in stories that tend to deal with what are considered to be “male” themes.  I don’t want the heroes to be perfect, but I don’t want the majority of them to be morally ambiguous or antiheroes, either.  I don’t want to read entirely from the male or female point of view, nor do I want to read only male (or female) writers.  I want to read both.  And I do.  It’s the differences that make things interesting.  While I want variety, I also tend to prefer certain types of stories and characters over other types.  Just like you do.

What I don’t want is people trying to tell me what I should and shouldn’t have in my fiction (or life), regardless of whether or not I agree with their philosophy or share their biases.  Many of the comments on feminization and related issues dealt with how male readers reacted to how male characters were seen by female characters, often in sexual terms or situations.  I personally have no interest in reading that viewpoint (or gaze if you prefer).

Does that mean I have a gender bias?  Probably.  I have no problem admitting that I have biases that influence my preference for certain writers.  Neither, to her credit, did Foz Meadows.  She very openly and frankly discussed her own biases.  For that I commend, respect, and applaud her.

There’s no reason I should be expected to read works written from viewpoints I’m not comfortable with or don’t like, or simply have no interest in for that matter.  Whether or not I expand my mind by reading beyond my comfort zone is my choice and mine alone.  The feminist movement was about giving everyone choices.  That should include the choice to stay with any traditional male/white/heterosexual/capitalist/libertarian/whig/antidisestablishmentarian/spartan/persian/neanderthal/whatever viewpoint I like in fiction, and to do so without people who have an apparent agenda getting their shorts in a knot if I don’t and reacting as if my preference is some horrible thing because it isn’t their preference.  Or to put it another way, if I, as a male, choose not to assume traditional female roles or choose to read from the female gaze only about certain aspects of life and not others, that is my business and none of yours.  Don’t tell me what I have to do or what I should do.  Or to be more diplomatic about it, I’ll respect your freedoms and tastes if you’ll respect mine; I won’t try to change you, if you won’t try to change me.

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