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Thoughts on Male Fantasy Authors Writing Female Characters*

*(mostly. it digresses. this is specifically a comparison among Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, George R. R. Martin, and Guy Gavriel Kay–possibility of minor spoilers, although I’ve tried to avoid them. any plot details given should be unspoilery.)

You know, because this wasn’t already written about enough, or something.

I’ll start by saying this: I actually don’t care very much when male authors don’t write women the way I prefer to see women portrayed. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors ever, due to his word-smithing and world-building, and I haven’t found his match for evoking a feeling of eeriness like he’s writing about a world more true than our own. On the other hand, he definitely is a little weird in his descriptions of female characters. I particularly noticed this with the way the witches in Stardust swear by their sexual organs and the attention Shadow pays to Zorya Polunochnaya’s breasts in American Gods. (Shadow. Chill. FFS.) I’m probably forgetting other instances, because I’ve felt this way multiple times in Gaiman’s writing–it makes me go why the fuck is this relevant? and jolts me out of the story. (Some of his short stories get even more bizarrely sexual; there’s one about an STD that changes your personality. It was pretty uncomfortable, but it was probably supposed to be.) Another complaint I’ve seen is that his female characters aren’t that well fleshed-out, but honestly, neither are his male characters. And Gaiman is aware he’s doing it. I’ve read interviews and essays where he clearly states his love for established bodies of myth and stock characters. That’s fine; it’s the way he prefers to write, and in my eyes he’s a damn fine writer. (I love his poetry too.) Heck, the fact that I love it so much despite my preference for non-stock characters (and fewer interjections about breasts) says a lot. Gaiman, good job for doing exactly what you were trying to do.

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GASTON: What’s the greatest thing about me?

SHANNON: Everything.

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