Welcome to the First Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! The Quills come together this month to tackle a controversial question: Does violence by or against women add authenticity to fantasy/sci-fi tales?
Does violence by or against women add authenticity to fantasy/sci-fi tales?
Fantasy and sci-fi—No, fiction authors (at least those I know) write to entertain. We write about people. People, both men and women, are often violent, cruel, abusive, and criminally selfish. Our world has a long history of them, from Cain to Bashar-al Assad, from Jezebel to Griselda Blanco. Fictional worlds are rife with them as well, and the genre seems to lend itself to fights, wars, and all kinds of imaginative abuse.
Interestingly, men dominate the lists of “most violent/evil/cruel.” A study published in American Society of Criminology shows that “men account for nearly 80% of all violent offenders reported in crime surveys.” And yet it’s been discovered that women are often the instigators in domestic violence. “Two major studies using a different methodology—the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published last February—have also found that some 40% of those reporting serious partner violence in the past year are men.” (Time.com, The Surprising Truth About Women and Violence, 25 Jun 2014)
It seems that violence + women in fantasy/sci-fi reflects a slice of reality.
I believe that those of us who wield the pen need to be cautious about whether we’re being realistic, whether we’re feeding a pattern, and whether we’re actually promoting continued aggression. Media today (television shows, movies, video games, music, and books) has an increasingly longer reach and a strong ability to desensitize its audience. We’re a society that encourages peace on one hand and actively teaches brutality on the other. Perhaps, rather than eliminating violence entirely from our “entertainment,” we need to be careful about how we’re portraying it…
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Author of Oathtaker
The world has changed dramatically, even since I was a child, with regard to the place of women in our society and the options open to them. I’ve experienced the changes and benefitted from them. Still, I recognize that these changes occurred largely in the “western” world, that portion historically influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. Women in many other places have not been as fortunate as have I. In some cases, they live in what might be called “medieval” times. This is an important issue, as many fantasies are played out in medieval-type worlds. Accordingly, I expect that the manner in which women are treated in those stories might well differ from the world in which I live today. Even so, fantasy stories are set in make-believe worlds. Those worlds can be whatever the authors want them to be . . .
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Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
My colleagues have made an important distinction that readers used to know without being told. Has that changed? Maybe. In a world where people often have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, we may need a “DISCLAIMER: …
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What do you think? We’d love to know!