Fantasy: Women in Fantasy

Tweet of the Day:  Wandering in the Garden


Women in the fantasy genre….

A bit of a problem, if you (as a writer) based it on the European Middles Ages (or feudal Japan, or Ancient Middle East or any ye olde culture lost to the mist of time).

Why? (you ask)

Because for most of human history women have played second fiddle to men when it comes to heroics. Men lead, women followed, children wailed, etc.

Few chances for women lib to shine, am afraid.

That is not to say that there are no example of women taking charge of the situation. But these are rare and far between. They are the exceptions that prove the rule.

For every Amazon that ruled without a man at her side, there was a Heracles willing to take her girdle, by force if need be. For every angry goddess there was a philandering god who did as he pleased (with men and women). For every woman that defended a stronghold or set out in rebellion against conquering armies, there was a husband waiting to return or a general hell bent on subduing them.

An author has three choices:

Choice A: Screw it! The women of your stories will be heroic, powerful, dignified, vulnerable, and so on. It’s your story, your universe and your rules.

Choice B: A nod to reality: Yes, in general women in my book are as their counterparts in history, but the heroine is different, she is the exception, which makes her that much more awesome.

Choice C: As accurate as I can be: Women are represented as close to history as possible. That doesn’t mean they are invisible, mainly because women (at least some women) where not completely powerless.

The other side of this is: which story do you want to read and why?

Do you want what are essentially modern heroes in a fantasy setting or a more accurate representation of history (as we know it today) with fantastic elements?

The answers are up to you, dear reader.


10 comments on “Fantasy: Women in Fantasy

  1. I enjoy all three of your choices as long as they are well written. When I’m reading fantasy, I look for a story that is captivating and also well-edited. If it meets that requirement, I don’t particularly care whether its women are strong or not. That might make me a bad female.


  2. If the story becomes too “politically correct” by our modern standards, even though it’s set in a parallel universe that’s been stuck in something akin to our medieval period, it’s annoying, frankly. I’m reading something right now that has definite leanings along those lines, and that along with the very modern slang that is used here and there is bugging me. It pulls me out of the story. If you’re creating an alien world, make it alien. Don’t toss in 21st century slang and colloquialisms. I’m liking the story, but it could have been better.


    • Yeah, there is that. Nobody wants to read something that feels either fake or that the author is force feeding you their point of view. But you also have to be careful about Ye Olde English as well.


  3. I pretty much stick my stories in non-Earth settings. I can’t help writing about strong women. I love them. ❤ They deserve to be heard, even if I have to create a whole world for them to live in.


  4. Great topic!
    I think I tend to lean towards options B & C. There are exceptions like different worlds, but if the book is set in THIS world or THIS history, options B & C.
    Realism, even if bent to your purposes, I feel, connects the reader to the story. A common/familiar ground.
    I love a strong female character.


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