Friday, May 26, 2017

Grimdark, masculinity, and female authors


    I had an interesting conversation recently with a fellow board member on a list where he was discussing how he felt grimdark was a bastion of "male fiction." I blinked because not only did it not make any sense, I wasn't actually sure what he was referring to. After I brought this up to my friend, he went, "Well, you know because it's bloody and gory with lots of violence against women as well as men." Suffice to say, I felt he really didn't know that many women who were familiar with the genre or the greater grimdark community as a whole.

    Honestly, I'm going to state I don't actually think that grimdark is actually that masculine of a genre writer-wise. There's the PERCEPTION which it would be a more masculine genre but it's based around an assumption of gender roles which just isn't based in reality. I.e. Those poor delicate flowers don't like violence, violence against women, or are somehow attracted to fiction which doesn't involve the disemboweling of individuals for no good reason.

    This is notable because it goes against the direction of sense from Game of Thrones success. A series which is famous for its popularity among women viewers (not to mention its parent-series' popularity among women) for not sanitizing the treatment of women in Medieval society. Indeed, it is one of the ones most famous for having a wide variety of individuals ranging from Catelyn Stark to Brienne of Tarth (albeit, I their treatment of Asha Greyjoy was terrible).

    Still, the idea grimdark is a male genre persists. It's also doubly-so because grimdark is a NEW genre (rooted in older Sword and Sorcery) with George R.R. Martin's work. Robin Hobb is widely considered to be a grimdark author and while that's debatable--every author who is considered a grimdark author is questioned.

    If any of you are married you might also check your wives Kindle lists as my own wife's collection of supernatural fantasy and "real life" fiction is a collection of brutally dark fiction of rape, murder, slavery, and torture. The issues of violence against women is a ridiculous non-issue because the stories are very often about the same sort of, "survives nightmarish situation and gets revenge" storyline that so much male fiction is. No more likely to put off readers than the idea Frank Castle lost his family or the Count of Monte Cristo being imprisoned for centuries.

    Indeed, I met my wife on the Anita Blake boards back when it was R-rated urban fantasy versus porn. The books involved slavery, rape, torture, mutilation, and serial murder as regular matters of course with the character of Anita's major story arc being that she was a sociopath who had to direct her anger at villains rather than unleash it at everyone else. I feel embarrassed about it now due to the latter associations but they were grimdark urban fantasy to say the least even with all the romance.

    This post is ironic because I JUST commented on the fact grimdark had a large association of female authors with Deborah A Wolf, Anna Stephens, M.L. Spencer, Mary Gentle, Mercedes M. Yardley, Karen Miller (just not her Star Wars stuff), Anna Smith Spark, and more. Hell, my first THREE zombie novels where everyone ends up mutilated and murdered were all by women. Shana Festa, Stevie Kopas, and Jennifer Brozek.

    So yeah, grimdark being "male fiction"? Bullshit. Bullshit more than regular fantasy, which is undulated with women because, SHOCKINGLY, they've always been there but get looked past like they're wearing a cloak of invisibility. I think I may have a slightly better pair of glasses on this since my first fantasy author of devotion was Margaret Weis and the somewhat better balanced Star Wars novels of Bantam where Timothy Zahn got all the accolades but Kathy Tyers and Karen Traviss were my jam.

    Just thought I'd share this.

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