I’m a prolific reader, I devour books and it’s a rare day that sees me not reading something.
I recently tackled the first book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire; the eponymous Game of Thrones. After so much hype and having watched the first season on Sky I thought I’d give it a go, add to my collection and perhaps invest in the remaining series.
As a tale of high fantasy set in a richly detailed world I enjoyed the main story. There are so many intertwining plots, a raft of characters displaying the best and worst traits of humanity and enough treachery and skullduggery to make the reader’s head spin!
However, my main gripe is the sexism, mysogyny and sexual violence prevalent throughout the book. I am very much aware of how sexual violence against women is used as a weapon of war. We hear about it on the news wherever there are conflicts throughout the world we live in, it’s a very sad but inescapable fact.
I realise also, that there are writers who will portray events like these in their stories. Power to them for taking the bold step of writing about a subject that probably makes them feel incredibly uncomfortable but, I cannot sympathise any further than that because it takes away the aim of escapism.
Escapism is what reading is about, especially in the Fantasy genre. Fantasy makes up about 95% of my book collection, my shelves are bursting under the weight of alternate universes populated by weird and wonderful characters. Some of them exist in a world where equality is natural, some of them don’t.
Writers can create who and what they want, they can build worlds that defy the laws of physics, where impossible things exist so why can’t some of these writers create worlds and characters who exist in a place where their genitals don’t come into the equation? Where their skills are measured in what they can achieve and not what they look like?
If you take Brandon Sanderson as an example. He is a writer who gives equal credence to all his characters, male and female. There are still certain social structures in place however, there is a distinct lack of mysogyny; his female characters are some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. In the Stormlight series for example; the women are the intelligent scholars whilst the men are mostly warriors and slaves, uneducated in skills such as the arts and reading. Sanderson is one of my favourite writers, I absolutely love his work and would urge anyone to read his amazing books.
So, as I write my own book I am very much aware of how I want my characters to develop, I don’t want to create identikit people who are seemingly perfect. They’re still human characters so will come with human flaws and I am not shying away from violence although, I do hope I am able to keep it in context and not be gratuitous! I will however, endeavour to build the world they inhabit as a place more equal for women where opportunities are not denied or violence perpetrated against them purely because of their gender.