No, not that, you foul-minded lot. I’m talking about the concept of male writers creating believable female characters (please excuse the simple binary gender in this post).
I don’t want to go on about good reviews (okay, yes I do, of course I do), but I was particularly chuffed with this write-up at the Book Smugglers, especially one of their last paragraphs.
One last word. I cannot finish this review without mentioning the female characters. After the recent fiasco with … where females characters were basically walking talking vaginas at the beck and call of the protagonist, it is great to see an author who gets it. The female characters here are women on their own right, never in relation to other characters. They are distinctive, diverse and interesting. From Beami, to Eir, Rika and Artemisia all of them play a huge rule in the book (although they have less scenes than I wished them to have) and in fact, I would go as far as to say that when the time comes (OMG huge awesome battle in the end), the women totally saved the day and look: without having to use their vaginas. Kudos to Mark Charan Newton.
I’ll be up front: seeing accusations of women being treated poorly in genre books made me reflect deeply on how I write women in my own work. Legendary texts such as Gene Wolfe’s New Sun books are frequently highlighted for a vicious streak of misogyny, and there have been several reviews of other books recently that have picked up on the subject. When backed up and well-argued, this can only be a good thing.
Why? Because it makes writers (and readers) think.
I don’t want to get all sanctimonious here. I wondered, quite simply, am I writing women well enough, without resorting to the crudely-packaged fetish-extremes of the leather-clad-ZOMG kick-ass babe? Do I actually get women? Whether or not I did previously (it was too late to worry about that) it was certainly on my mind during the writing of City of Ruin. It’s why I was absolutely delighted to get such a reaction from the Book Smugglers, who frequently take incriminating writers down to Chinatown. I had thought about my portrayal of women long and hard. I wanted to improve at this area, and the results were noticed, which makes me happy.
All of us are shaped by our cultures, of course, but we can see just how misogyny exists in both brazen and subtle ways. “Mums go to Iceland”, anyone? The same could be said for racism. A lot of people read books, and lot of people absorb what writers put into pages, so surely writers – irrespective of their cultures/gender – have a vague responsibility to consider matters of equality?
Writers are not perfect (despite how we would like to convince you otherwise…) and I’ve certainly got areas where I want to improve. There is so much to take into consideration when writing a book that often we will fail on many fronts. But it is up to reviewers to point out where we go wrong with matters of equality – be it racefail or genderfail – because, as I said, it makes writers think.
These things have to start somewhere, right?