2017/03/29

Mary Sues Linked to Suicide

Ubiquitous and unfailingly dull Strong Female Characters™ aren't just deadly to the waves of expendable male villains they routinely slaughter in today's Narrative-driven books, movies, and video games. Author Dawn Witzke speculates that SFCs may pose a threat to their readers' life expectancy.
Whether we realize it or not, fictional characters shape our views and actions. If these superwomen, who can do no wrong or ever fail, are the standard bearers for the sex, what is it doing to readers who can never relate? My guess, the same psychological damage caused by the standards set by photo-shopped anorexic models. Is it any wonder that suicide rates have risen over 200% in pre-teen and teen girls, not to mention the 60% overall rise in the past 15 years, according to the CDC.
This is of course speculation. However, psychological studies have found that one of the leading factors of the rise in suicide is being attributed to unrealistic life expectations. And that romance novels can give women unrealistic views of relationships. So, it’s reasonable to think that the unrealistic examples of SFCs in entertainment is contributing to this dissatisfaction with the ordinary.
Science agrees with Dawn's theory.
How can one be satisfied with the ordinary, when the examples in literature and movies aren’t satisfied with the ordinary? And when you do get a female character with weaknesses, they are just as awful the other direction. Bella Swan in the Twilight series was an emotional wreck who is just shy of being a suicide victim. The two dimensional character of Anastasia Steele in 50 Shades of Gray was little more than a sex doll for Gray. And, while some claim her as an SFC, Katniss Everdeen was little more than a puppet of circumstances and the people around her. She was used and abused, first by President Snow and then by President Alma Coin.
What I want to see more of are female characters who are complicated. Give me characters who accept that they have weaknesses, that they need help from, not only other female characters, but from males as well. Give me characters who are okay with being rescued, failing, and not being the smartest person in the room, but still have a will of their own. Give me characters who are flawed, who make mistakes, who aren’t perfect. 
Give me characters that I can relate to.
Read the whole thing here.

Observation: consider how SF SJWs insist that readers can only identify with characters who are exactly like them; yet flood the market with inhuman Mary Sues that no one can relate to.

For the platonic ideal of this phenomenon, witness Stefan Molyneux's dissection of Beauty and the Beast by Disney, the studio that's dedicated to finding new and special ways to hate you.


As a counterexample, I've written two books with female protagonists. One is an immortal magic spaceship pilot. The other can bench press a Volkswagen, commands the elemental forces of fire, and controls an entire city with her mind. Yet they're both deeply flawed (thieving wino and emotionally unstable psychotic, respectively), and I've gotten a stream of compliments talking about how much readers love and sympathize with both of them.

Strong female characters can be written well. The key lies in a) understanding the differences between masculine and feminine strength and b) actually giving them vulnerabilities so retain some semblance of dramatic tension.

@BrianNiemeier

2017/03/28

Regency Romance Authors Must Disavow Jane Austen

First it was cartoon frogs, then milk. Now the New York Times informs us that celebrated British author Jane Austen has become an insidious symbol for the dastardly alt-right.

Jane Austen MAGA hat

From the article:
Nicole M. Wright, an assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado, describes finding a surprising Austen fan base.
It started, she writes, when she noticed the provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos riffing on the famous first line of “Pride and Prejudice,” turning it into a dig at “ugly” feminists. (He also mistakenly called Austen, who died during the reign of George III, a “Victorian” novelist, but whatever.)
Looking around, Ms. Wright also found more straight-faced references to Austen in alt-right paeans to racial purity and subservient wives, including a shout-out from a blogger promoting the infamous meme of Taylor Swift as an “Aryan goddess.”
Some alt-right admirers hail Austen’s novels as blueprints for a white nationalist “ethno-state.” Others cite her as a rare example of female greatness. But the bigger point, Ms. Wright argues, is the same.
“By comparing their movement not to the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels, but instead to the cozy England of Austen,” she writes, alt-right Austen fans “nudge readers” into thinking that “perhaps white supremacists aren’t so different from mainstream folks.”
You can read the rest of the Times' dire warning here.

It's time for all tolerant, free-thinking people to acknowledge the only acceptable conclusion. Though the truth is disturbing, the Times and its readers have never been known to shrink from facts that challenge their deeply ingrained worldview.

Jane Austen's works--and the author herself--are being used as propaganda tools to advance the backward, monarchist, Nixonian, bimetalist views of the extreme right end of the political horseshoe.

You could argue that it's not Austen's fault that her Regency-era romance books have been co-opted by the far right. However, making that argument is equivalent to saying that there's nothing inherently racist about Pepe the Frog or whole milk. After all, the alt-right wouldn't have such an easy time using Austen's novels to spread their Anarcho-Tyranist poison if there were nothing problematic about them to begin with.

The Times itself points to red flags in Austen's work--which, we must always remember, was written at the height of British imperialism.
But Ms. Wells said scholars teaching Austen at schools with “substantially multicultural students” still wrestled with a truth that must, perhaps, be uncomfortably acknowledged.
“Her characters are white, and her world is white,” she said. “What do you do with that?”
What, indeed?

I won't presume to speak for anyone else, but as a science fiction and fantasy author, I think that it's incumbent upon authors of Regency romance to publicly and unequivocally disavow Jane Austen for giving the bigoted Fabian nihilists of the alt-right a vehicle to preach their theocratic nonsense. Even if those authors have previously won Hugo awards.

The Soul Cycle novels are deservedly on my “I want to read that again” list; I heartily recommend you add them to your list too.

2017/03/27

2017/03/24

Powers of the Earth


Morlock Publishing is proud to announce that the Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming novel Powers of the Earth is now fully funded.
The Aristillus Series is a pair of science fiction novels about anarchocapitalism, economics, open source software, corporate finance, social media, antigravity, lunar colonization, genetically modified dogs, strong AI…and really, really big guns.
Earth in 2064 is politically corrupt and in economic decline. The Long Depression has dragged on for 56 years, and the Bureau of Sustainable Research is hard at work making sure that no new technologies disrupt the planned economy. Ten years ago a band of malcontents, dreamers, and libertarian radicals bolted privately-developed anti-gravity drives onto rusty sea-going cargo ships, loaded them to the gills with 20th-century tunnel-boring machines and earthmoving equipment, and set sail - for the Moon.
There, they built their retreat. A lunar underground border-town, fit to rival Ayn Rand's 'Galt's Gulch', with American capitalists, Mexican hydroponic farmers, and Vietnamese space-suit mechanics - this is the city of Aristillus.
There’s a problem, though: the economic decline of Earth under a command-and-control economy is causing trouble for the political powers-that-be in Washington DC and elsewhere. To shore up their positions they need slap down the lunar expats and seize the gold they've been mining. The conflicts start small, but rapidly escalate.
There are zero-gravity gun fights in rusted ocean going ships flying through space, containers full of bulldozers hurtling through the vacuum, nuclear explosions, armies of tele-operated combat UAVs, guerrilla fighting in urban environments, and an astoundingly visual climax where -in the midst of all out warfare…well, you’ll have to read the novels.
Congratulations to Morlock Publishing. The science fiction market definitely needs more talents like the author of Powers of the Earth.

If you enjoy Red SF that explores anarchocapitalism, you can still get a print copy by contributing to the Kickstarter.

And if you're looking for Red SF plus strong doses of fantasy and horror, minus any political philosophy to speak of, check out my highly praised Soul Cycle series.

@BrianNiemeier