A Few Thoughts on the Ridiculous in SFF

So, it turns out that the desire for “realism” in fantasy fiction stops when it comes to including well-rounded female characters in the story (shocking, I know). I was on a thread last night where commenters were saying that the reason JRR Tolkien did not have many female characters in his books was that he wanted to write more “realistically.”
Let me state first, that I enjoy Tolkien’s work. I adored The Hobbit and LOTR. Furthermore, I really enjoyed Peter Jackson’s LOTR adaptations, but thought his Hobbit was dreadful (mainly because he shoehorned a nonexistent female character and love story into the narrative). I don’t feel a lack in those stories because they are short on female characters.
I get upset when readers and commentators on Tolkien’s book try to say that inclusion of female characters (or POC and LGBTQ characters) is deviating from reality. And this ridiculous opinion does not stop with just Tolkien. This is an on-going debate in SFF fandom that got particularly ugly a few years ago during the 2015 and 2016 Hugo Awards.
Okay, let me get this straight: dragons, orcs, elves, giant eagles, and wizards are MORE realistic than having well-rounded female representation? Uhhh…
Okay, okay. Let’s forget about that fact that we’re talking about HIGH FANTASY here where the rules of “realism” are pretty fluid from the get go. Let’s even forget that “realism,” to their minds, means excluding HALF THE HUMAN RACE. The commenters shrieking about Tolkien’s “realism” said that Tolkien, writing in the 30s and 40s was reflecting his own reality in which women did not participate in war. Patently false. Sure, not many women were soldiers then (not going to say none, because I’m pretty sure there were women who went out on the front lines dressed as men, just like in the Civil War) BUT women were integral to the war effort. They worked as nurses, in government, in factories, took over farm work (you know, so people could EAT), and performed vital services in just about every single capacity possible – even as spies. So, do not come at me with this “women weren’t soldiers so it’s not realistic to portray them that way” because if the only characters you expect in your SFF are soldiers, I say it’s YOUR perception of fiction that is not realistic.
Furthermore, these commenters were saying, “Well, he drew on Norse mythology and that’s all about kings and warriors”. Okay, okay, okay. Stop right there. Both of the largest influences on Tolkien, Beowulf (Old English, by the way) and the Völsunga saga, had female characters in them in pivotal roles. For instance, in Beowulf, Grendal’s mother – the main villain, and female – was not only a strategist but a warrior. How many kings and warriors did she fight and vanquish in her life? Hmmm….
My point here is that the entire argument that SFF literature is some sacrosanct body that is LESSER for the inclusion of well-rounded female characters (as well as other marginalized groups) needs to stop, as do the beliefs fueling it. People who hold these beliefs and spout these opinions are yearning for something that just never was – a world of SFF literature without politics, social issues, or challenging ideas.

Startling Poetry: We’re Not Gonna Take It

Perhaps this is stretching the definition of poetry a bit… Nah, this is protest poetry! Written in the 80s but so heartbreakingly apropos today:

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister

Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
We’ve got the right to choose it
There ain’t no way we’ll lose it
This is our life, this is our song
We’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong
Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
Oh you’re so condescending
Your gall is never ending
We don’t want nothin’, not a thing from you
Your life is trite and jaded
Boring and confiscated
If that’s your best, your best won’t do
Oh Oh
We’re right (yeah)
We’re free (yeah)
We’ll fight (yeah)
You’ll see (yeah)
Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
No way
Oh Oh
We’re right (yeah)
We’re free (yeah)
We’ll fight (yeah)
You’ll see (yeah)
Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
Oh we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore
Just you try and make us
We’re not gonna take it
Come on!
No, we ain’t gonna take it
You’re all worthless and weak
We’re not gonna take it anymore
Now drop and give me twenty
We’re not gonna take it
Oh pledge pin
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh you and your uniform
We’re not gonna take it anymore

Startling Poetry: The New Colossus

I’m not sure how, as an American, you can’t NOT like this poem. I only wish its sentiments were still at the heart of our nation and its leaders.

 

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”