Liz Lutgendorff at New Statesmen read all 100 books on NPR’s list of the best science fiction and fantasy novels — a list that includes virtually every major title the genre has yet produced. And her response mirrors a complaint I hear over and over from young fantasy readers, and especially women — the classics of our genre have very little to offer readers seeking interesting and strong women characters.
There were also books that were outright misogynistic, like a A Spell for Chameleon where characters openly talk about not trusting women… The main plot of A Spell for Chameleon is that the main character, stupidly named Bink, has no magical talent…. Along the way, he meets Chameleon, who has the unenviable magic of being smart but ugly in one phase of the moon and beautiful but stupid in another. This inevitably leads to Bink liking her… Apparently for Bink, having someone compliant was more valuable than intelligence or independence, making Bink an utter creep…
Frankly, from my vantage in 2015, it was just plain weird to read books where there were hardly any women, no people of colour, no LGBT people. It seemed wholly unbelievable. I know what you could say: it’s science fiction and fantasy, believability isn’t one of the main criteria for such books. But it is relatively absurd that in the future people could discover faster-than-light travel, build massive empires and create artificial intelligences but somehow not crack gender equality or the space-faring glass ceiling.
The consequence of the lack of women and the obvious sexism is that the books became very much like one another. My book reviews contained more profanity and I became a much more harsh critic of the genres I most enjoyed reading. They were all the same story of white guys, going on an adventure.
I’m sure Ms. Lutgendorff’s comments will be hotly debated, but I think it’s foolish to ignore her gut reaction. Like it or not, the classics of an older generation are giving way to new novels, as they should. That’s what happens in a living genre. Read the complete article here.