MALE AND FEMALE FANTASY?



Nothing kinky. I mean this purely as a gender issue in sci-fi fantasy. I've been putting a lot of thought into this, especially since my husband keeps wanting me to review books like the Hobbit and Redwall and Stardust. I've read them. They just didn't hold the same amount of interest for me as other books I've been reviewing here, and I finally decided it's because there is a vast difference between "male" and "female" fantasy. Let me preface this by saying that I generally don't buy into stereotypical gender differences, but that's not to say that I don't acknowledge gender differences. And it's funny that I would find them so starkly in young adult fantasy books.

Okay, here's my thought. There is a style of fantasy written primarily for boys and men. I can spot it almost instantly. The best example, of course, is The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. A very small handful of female characters. Mostly action. Mostly fighting or preparing to fight. Of course, Tolkien is also an exception to the style in that he includes plenty of lush description and even a fair amount of character insight. Other books, though, tend to stay on the surface of characters and have an almost lackadaisical quality to the writing; it's sparse, and almost self-aware. I had a creative writing teacher who once said some books have the feeling that the author is looking over your shoulder while you read and distracting you. I would say that Male Fantasy has that quality. The best example of this is Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Two-dimensional characters who move swiftly from one tension point to another. Women as objects or evil witches. Stupid little author asides (I find this to be true of all Neil Gaiman's books, by the way).

Female fantasy follows similar sterotypes. Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days comes to mind. There is one small scene of violence, but otherwise the majority of the story is set inside of a tower. For almost three years. But you get to know the characters so well. You're inside of Dashti's head for the entire novel. The Twilight Saga is overtly feminine literature. Each novel builds up to a big scene at the end, but otherwise dwells of character development (not to be confused with maturity) and insights. The language is prosaic and descriptive, and plots follow a long, general arch, as opposed to male literature which would look more like an EKG readout if it were drawn linearly.

There are plenty of androgynous books out there, too. All the Harry Potters, His Dark Materials, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness all come instantly to mind. Perhaps they have just the right combination of the above qualities?

So there, Hubby; I've now reviewed the Hobbit and Stardust.

1 comment:

Julia Chapman said...

super interesting insight, and definetly right on....totally off the subject though, i cant seem to shake the fact that stephanie meyers is mormon... i love the bookd and not that twilight focuses on that specifically but do you ever have a hard time with religious differences when it comes to authors...i mean i almost felt guilty buying the book knowing that she is part of that cult.......

jules@ashlandhome.net

p.s i've heard that l. ron hubbard's sci fi novels are pretty damn good too;)