Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hand me my sword! A female writer’s thoughts on writing fantasy

Guest post by author M.A. Chiappetta

If you look at the list of fantasy and science fiction authors from the past 50 to 75 years, a majority of those names belong to men. Take, for example, NPR’s list of Top 100 SFF books—85 of those books were written by men. 85 percent!

As you can guess, being a female writer in a world once dominated by men is sometimes a strange place to be. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love being a woman who writes fantasy. And that will never change. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard.

You see, the realm of speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism—is filled with possibilities. It’s a place where magic is real…where you can fly to the moon or Mars. Real-life boundaries like the law of gravity can be bent, changed, or defied. Anything is possible.

I love that!

As a child, I fell in love with fantasy (and to a lesser degree, science fiction)—not only because it introduced me to a view of the world as more wondrous than everyday reality, but also because it reminded me that despite appearances, anyone could end up a hero. You could start out as a poor assistant pig-keeper, yet you could grow up to be High King of Prydain. You could begin as an orphaned girl struggling just to stay alive and end up a dragonrider and Weyrwoman.

Who wouldn’t want that?

And so, I write fantasy now because I remember the enchantment of believing that I could not only achieve great things, but that I could be heroic doing it. I could do something good in a world that is often filled with bad things. That’s a message I believe in sharing.

I do this knowing that there are a lot of people in the world who have problems with women. There is still a significant portion of the reading audience that says: “A woman wrote that? Well, I won’t buy it then. I won’t like it.” It’s a prejudice that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it exists.

What, some women disagree with the
functionality of a chainmail bikini?
On top of that, there are some ugly stereotypes in the fantasy genre. There’s the “helpless pretty face”—the woman who can’t rescue herself because rescuing is a man’s work. There’s the Disney princess—whose life doesn’t have meaning unless there’s a Prince Charming (a man) around. There’s the chick in chainmail—the woman who wields a sword but does so in a metal bikini because she’s nothing more than eye candy. And there’s the “Strong Female Protagonist”—the girl who is so strong that she never needs anyone’s help.

The truth is that people­ are much more complicated than any of those stereotypes.

One of my goals as a writer is to make sure that all the characters in my stories—male, female, alien, dragon, other—all reflect the complicated traits that make people both maddening and lovable. It’s not easy to create characters who defy stereotypes. But I’m committed to making my character complex, because I think my readers deserve it. And frankly, so do my characters!

So, every day, I approach my writing boldly. I wield my pen as if it were a sword, determined to cut through the stereotypes and prejudices…as well as the self-doubts that plague all artists…and I go forth to write.

It’s a hero’s job, in its own way. And I’m glad to do it.

M.A. Chiappetta is a fantasy writer, copywriter, educator, and blogger with past publications in Blue ShiftScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat, and Mensa Bulletin. Her most recent short stories are found in the anthology, Dark and Dangerous Things II, available on Amazon. She shares thoughts on writing at Purple Ink Writers and muses on creativity, SFF, laughter, God, and geekdom at The Chipper Muse. You can also find her on Twitter as @chippermuse.

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