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Why So Many Men?

So, I’m currently writing my first ever fantasy heroine, an urban shaman by the name of Sharon Li, who in the course of her many adventures is going to spend more than a little time getting very very angry at the Midnight Mayor for failing to fill her in on the full story until it’s too late, and in the course of doing this I figured I’d take this opportunity to blog about something I get asked occasionally… why do I write so many men?

First, let me point out that technically, I don’t write that many men – I just tend to have male narrators.  As one mate put it, ‘you’ve got one weedy bloke surrounded by all these kick-ass girls’ which is actually a fair summary of some of my work.  The problem I’ve found in the past with writing heroines is that, in fantasy particularly but also I suspect in any genre, there’s always a danger of writing too close to home.  I’ve always promised myself never to write about either writing or theatre, as they’re far too close for me to have any objectivity about them.  Likewise, on my few attempts to write heroines before the advent of Sharon Li, I’ve found myself writing stronger, taller, sexier, sword-wielding versions of how I’d like myself to be, who often spend so much time being Strong and Brave and Feminist that actually they have no room left for those pesky little details like character.  I spent many years having a knee-jerk reaction against the role of women as either tame sidekicks in need of rescuing, or that very special form of humourless heroine who Does The Right Thing Despite Their Bitter Pain and who I personally always have the urge to throttle.

All this is rather tied up with my notion of what a hero is.  I personally can’t stand any ‘heroic’ character who, when faced with an epic evil has any reaction other than ‘oh Christ, can we get someone else to deal with this?’  Heroes should be frightened, and make mistakes, and get things wrong, and try to compensate for all of the above by something more interesting than being overtly Strong and Brave, but it’s taken me many, many novels to find a way to write a woman who can be all of the above and yet not degenerate into the screaming-at-a-mouse syndrome that plagued so many sidekicks down the generations.  Thus, you’ve ended up instead with a series of men, all of whom have reflected my personality and I freely admit that, but on who I feel totally at liberty to inflict any and all defects, accidents and simple brutal injuries that cross my mind at the time.

I also used to struggle with the fact that there is an urge to have a heroine point out, at key moments, that she is a heroine, not a hero at all.  I personally haven’t encountered much gender discrimination in my life, although undeniably shards of it still linger in the theatre business, but when we think of all the great heroes of fantasy and mythology, of movies featuring epic bloodied good guys standing over the defeated bodies of a mighty evil, we either think of men, or we think of women with very big guns who don’t just enjoy their sexuality, they revel in it!  And let’s face it, I’m not the kind of girl to try and write a Lara Croft mk 2 and get away with it…

In short, it’s taken me many books to write a heroine who can be more than just a symbol, more than just a mirror of my own doubts and aspirations, but can actually be a fully rounded character in her own right.  (Not necessarily a glowing reflection on my writing skills, but hell, at least I’m growing as a person…)  Will it work?

Watch this space…