Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Interview with N.K. Jemisin!

I recently read and loved (and said a few words about) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. If you haven't had a chance to read the book yet you might be interested in this awesome interview with Ms. Jemisin. I thought the questions were particularly good leading to some very thoughtful answers. I especially liked the details regarding literature/genre expectations and how they can change reader response. The interview is chock full of good stuff but I was particularly struck by this passage:
For example, typical epic fantasy features almost exclusively male protagonists, and female characters who are objectified and lack agency (among many other problems).  In these fantasies it’s common for the kind of sex that’s part of normal, everyday life—healthy, consensual sex between grownups who know what they want and ask for it, in other words—to take place offscreen or by implication only ("fade to black").  Readers just don’t get to see that much, probably because of that girl cooties phenomenon I mentioned earlier.  But sex that’s used as a cheap way to define or create conflict for the male protagonists—e.g., rapes that show just how eeeeeevil a villain is, or motivate the hero to act; women who tempt the hero with their “wiles” as a distraction—gets shown much more often.  The result of this pattern is that a lot of epic fantasy readers have gotten used to seeing sex only under totally pathological circumstances.  =) So when they see *normal* sex, it seems gratuitous. Often they’ll declare that it “has no purpose”—i.e., it doesn’t fit the pattern of male-fantasy melodrama that they’re used to.  At that point it doesn’t matter how well the scene is written, or whether it fits the character, or whatever; they’ll dismiss it as crap regardless.

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