And now for that other controversial subject

The whole nihilist fantasy debate is still driving a lot of traffic to the site. Yesterday, I had 60 visitors, down from an all-time high of 85 the day before. Today, there have been already 17 visitors.

Related to the recent nihilism in epic fantasy dust-up, Kate Elliott wonders whether women write epic fantasy differently than men. Found via Sherwood Smith, who also weighs in here. Lots of good points in both discussions.

I think an equally interesting question is why, even though there are plenty of women writing epic fantasy and any other kind of fantasy for that matter, are the first names that come to mind always men. Ditto for new weird, slipstream, sword and sorcery, steampunk and pretty much every other subgenre. Only for urban fantasy, the first names that come to mind include women – and even there you’ll find plenty of people, usually male, who only list male urban fantasy authors (the comment thread here is a typical example) and ignore the women. Bonus points if they name male authors who write something other than what is commonly defined as urban fantasy. Double bonus points if the post/comment in question states that those male authors write “good urban fantasy”, unlike the women who only write porn. Triple bonus points if one of the male authors is actually a woman with an ambiguous name.

It’s also telling that none of the examples given for gritty nihilist/realist (depending upon your POV) fantasy was written by a woman. Because women certainly write gritty, nihilist and violent fantasy. In fact, some of the nastiest and most explicit torture scenes I have ever read were written by women. I used to recommend certain female fantasy and SF authors to male readers with “This books has very explicit torture scenes.” Elizabeth Bear, Caitlin Kittredge, Stacia Kane, Karen Miller, Lilith Saintcrow, Tamara Siler Jones, Maria V. Snyder, Rob Thurman, etc… can all be very gritty and depressing on occasion, yet none of them get to join the men in the nihilist conspiracy for the undermining of Tolkien, Howard and all that is good and right in fantasy. Never mind that the explicit sex scenes found in the works of many female fantasy writers would probably be mistaken for one of the signs of the coming apocalypse by the likes of Leo Grin.

Meanwhile, Paul Jessup wonders how urban fantasy would look like from the POV of an ordinary person living in an urban fantasy world. The thing that comes closest to this would probably be Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. series.

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2 Responses to And now for that other controversial subject

  1. Paul Jessup says:

    Not quite- even in the Enchanted Inc series magic is a hidden thing only a few get to be a part of. I’m talking about taking the general Urban Fantasy idea of magic/supernatural being everywhere and making it a part of the every single day experience for everyone.

    • Cora says:

      I see what you mean. I guess what you’re looking for would be an urban fantasy version of Marvels by Alex Ross or the Doctor Who episode “Love and Monsters”. And you’re right, that sort of thing is very hard to find.

      What is more, even if an urban fantasy protagonist starts out as a perfectly ordinary person in a magical world, he or she usually doesn’t stay ordinary for long. Sookie Stackhouse starts out as a pretty ordinary waitress, except for the telepathy, in a world where vampires exist openly, but she is fully embroiled in high level supernatural politics by the end of the first book. Betsy from Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series and the vampiric soccer mom from Michele Bardsley’s Broken Heart Vampires series also start out as ordinary women, until they are bitten. And of course, the plot of 90% of all YA urban fantasy involves an ordinary teenager, usually female, stumbling into a supernatural world and falling for a hot supernatural being of the protagonist’s preferred gender. But in the YA books, the supernatural is almost always hidden, probably because it feeds into the teen readership’s need to hide boyfriends and other secrets from their parents.

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