Monday, October 3, 2011

Love and Sex in a Heroine's World

A maga cannot be possessed by any man, and she will love many, if the Gods look upon her with favor before they call her home. 
– Briana of East Selen

This semester, students in my first year seminar Environment and Politics in Central America are reading Gioconda Belli’s compelling memoir The Country Under My Skin, which recounts Belli’s involvement with the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua during the 1970s and 80s.  My students tend to love this book; they find Belli’s prose very accessible and come to admire her as a modern day heroine who risked life and family to take up arms against an oppressive and violent regime. 

That admiration is being undercut, however, for at least one of my students, who has found that the multiple love affairs Belli reports having had during those tumultuous years is beginning to get on her nerves: 

She [Belli] has gone from being an admirable, strong woman,” this student recently wrote, “to my idea of why women are so weak.  They rely on men’s strength for comfort.” 

This statement has been echoing in my head ever since I read it a couple weeks ago, and has me wondering in a broader sense about the relationship between love, sex and the image of strength in our heroines.  Women with multiple lovers are often called “fickle”, “inconstant” and “weak”, or any number of much more uncomplimentary words, but does calling them all these things make it so? 

Is a female protagonist with multiple lovers by definition weak?

When I began crafting the world of Eolyn, I had it very clear in my head how sex, and especially women’s sexuality, would be seen by the subculture of the Magas (the particular tradition of witchcraft that Eolyn inherits). I even allowed Magas to use the term ‘sexuality’ in the original draft of the novel, until Terri-Lynne DeFino challenged me on this because, as she argued, sexuality as a concept didn’t really exist in the Middle Ages, making the word anachronistic in the context of epic fantasy.

On the one hand, I thought Terri had a point, but her comment put me in a difficult dilemma.  While sexuality may be anachronistic in the context of pseudo-medieval societies, it was not in any way anachronistic for the Magas of Eolyn’s world, who understood the concept of a woman’s desire (shall we say, “needs”), and considered it an integral part of women’s magic.  There was no way I could sacrifice the concept of 'sexuality' without losing a very important pillar of their worldview.

With a little bit of thought and some help from a friend, I invented the magical term ‘aen-lasati’, which literally translates to the ‘fire within’.  So the word was changed in the final version of the novel, but the concept remains.

Aen-lasati is considered one of the gifts of Primitive Magic, the most ancient, powerful, and least understood class of magic recognized by Mages and Magas in Eolyn’s world.  Aen-lasati is divine in nature, and Magas (as well as Mages) are taught to respond to it with joyful reverence, not with fear, and certainly not with prohibition.

There is no such thing, in a Maga’s world, as meaningless sex. All sex, when freely shared, is considered sacred. On the other hand, there is no maxim that sexual relationships must be bound by rules of “love” and “fidelity”.  Indeed, according to some lines of thought, the whole concept of fidelity flies in the face of a true understanding of aen-lasati.

(This is a little [ahem] different from how I was brought up as a Kansas girl from a Catholic family.  But that’s another story. . .)

The perspective of the Magas is unique even in the context of Eolyn’s world, where women are generally expected to fill the traditional roles we associate with patriarchal medieval societies.  This causes no small amount of tension and conflict, not only for Eolyn, but for all the Magas who have come before her. 

From an author’s point of view, the practical implication of aen-lasati is that my heroine has no qualms about sleeping with a man she does not intend to stay with forever. She can also embrace the possibility of loving two (or perhaps more) men at once.  Now, there is a hero in her story who is the wonderful, complex alpha-type guy that most readers would expect the heroine to commit to when all is said and done.  But there is no guarantee that Eolyn will, even if given the opportunity. As a maga, she is generally reluctant to promise herself to one man because she knows (or has been taught) that sooner or later aen-lasati will kick in, and that the Gods may very well direct her toward another union with someone else in the not-so-distant future.

Does this make Eolyn weak?  I really don’t think so.  But it sets her apart from many of the heroines I’ve known, most of whom seem clearly destined to settle with the one heroic guy who is “right” for them – even if they sleep with multiple partners along the way. 

I’m certain there are exceptions to this rule; Guinevere comes to mind as an example, and I imagine we’ll hear others in this week's discussion. But for the most part it seems to me there is one hero out there for every heroine; and that we typically expect the Heroine, in her heart of hearts, to wait, like the legendary Penelope, steadfast and true to her Man. 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. . .

Note:  I have tried to construct this essay in a way that avoids spoilers for those who have not yet read my novel.  For those of you who have already read EOLYN, I would very much appreciate it if you do the same with your comments. Thank you! 

Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich 


Terri-Lynne said...

I did that? Woohoo! I'm glad I called you on it, because the word and concept you came up with is so much better, and in keeping with the magic and mystery of being Maga. Lovely.

It's amazing how Catholicism/Pope/politics changed the face of human sexuality. I wish I could remember the exact quote, and who said it, but it goes something like: When you control a peoples' sexuality and their god/s, you control all."

Ain't it the truth?

I always put a sexually secure female character in my stories. It doesn't feel right NOT to. Someone has to be there to stick it to society!

Great stuff! Can't wait to see what this generates.

Pongo Pygmaeus said...

There's a curious, but I think quite common, assumption in the notion that a woman who takes several male lovers must necessarily be doing so because they are weak and are relying 'on men's strength' and yet a man who does so would be likely regarded as exploitative. The assumption being that woman are morally (in the sense of mental resilience, not good or bad) weak. Which is daft.

Now it's true that even in cultures where sexual expression is or was less inhibted than in the modern west, men were and are allowed greater wriggling room with their sexual pecadillos.

But whilst there's obvious bilological factors that would tend to make women (in general) more careful in their approach to sex than men, there's no good reason why they should not in fact take multiple lovers without censure in the right cultural context -- a context that I think Eolyn provides.

They seldom do though and that's because I think many readers tend to balk a bit at it. There's almost an unwritten rule that whilst evil queens, sorceresses and the like may be as easy as they like with their sexual favours (and indeed it's almost de rigeur for them to, chaste villainesses are fairly rare, I think), and heroines might be allowed the odd 'dabble' with 'the wrong man' (or men) along the road to meeting up with Mr Perfect, they should be monogamous about it, and settle down with Perfect at the end - or at least be with him at the end. I'm pretty sure this stems largely from 'reader comfort'. 'Getting her man in the end' is very much the norm for heroines, not merely in fantasy. 'Having her men' disturbs preconceptions of what is 'right' both from our own cultural standpoint and from expectations of 'happy endings' (in fact you could point to Guinevere and say 'woe betide, look what happened when she tried to have her cake and eat it - civil war and ruin').

Sexually promiscuous heroines seem very thin on the ground to me in fantasy (I suppose in sci-fi Diziet Sma would count, but she's not really a central character in the Culture books). One might argue Belit, who we could presume was promiscuous until she met Conan. But she falls right into the 'meeting the right man and falling in love forever' trap. The Zimmerman Bradley Arthurian romances (and Steinbeck's too if I recall correctly) have a couple of exceptions. there must be others. I just wonder why there have not been many more.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Terri -

Yes, that was you.

I'm not sure we can give all the credit to Catholicism for shaping contemporary views of sexuality, but I really don't know enough about the history of the concept to speak to that.

I think it was Freud who said the suppression of sexual desire was the foundation of civilization. I have a feeling the wizard Tzeremond thought a little along those lines, and that this is one of the many reasons why he was convinced that tolerance of the Magas would lead to collapse of the kingdom.

One thing I really like about fantasy is the opportunity to 'rethink' ethics and codes of morality; to ask what those things might look like in a place with a different history, culture & worldview from our own.

Of course, as I said, in Eolyn's world the Magas are a subculture, and a fragile one at that. Although one can imagine that before the Magas waged their war against Kedehen, they had a much broader influence on the larger society and culture of Moisehen.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hey Pongo -

Always good to see you here.

Someone might take you up on the 'obvious biological factors' statement. Think I'll leave that one alone for now, as it might derail us into a discussion of animal behavior theory (mostly because I do have some issues with the whole argument behind the concept of the 'choosy' female).

I do think that if a woman has options beyond abstinence to control natality (and the Magas do), then the biological arguments as to why they would tend to be less promiscuous than men cease to hold any water. (Even if they can't control natality, there are many good biological reasons for females to be promiscuous under certain situations.)

I was hesitant to put Guinevere out there, because on some level her story does come across as a morality tale. But of course it wasn't just her love for Arthur and Lancelot that screwed things up -- it was everyone else's inability to swallow the situation without going to war.

That is such a good point about the chaste villainess -- I would love to have some examples of that. I may have to write a story with one myself...

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin, if you've never seen Terry Jone's "The surprising history of sex and love" watch it!

Fantasic. There is also the history of sex from the Taboo series. Fascninating stuff. In one of the lecture series I listened to (Rise of Western Civilization) a full lecture was dedicated to how the rise in Christianity did not so much change mores, but made the "old" way of viewing things shameful, and taboo.

Sex, history, psychology--it all gets mixed in the same stew!

Mark Nelson/ Pevanapoet1 said...

Just a short note to start, more later (damn essays!)

One word: Cleopatra.

I wonder if a quick review of matrilineal societies might bring to light anything? There is some evidence among some of the Celtic--Proto-Celtic, Pictish peoples tracing power through the female side, which might also allow for the possibility of a woman-leader taking on multiple partners but not suffering any loss of gravitas.

The subjugation of the female sensibility permeates western literature--due in part to men serving as the agents of what was collected, copied and spread. The hegemony of the christian era as always trended to the masculine side of the equation.

But archeologists still find oodles of earth-mother models--almost all of them coming from pre-written language cultures.

As Bruce Cockburn said: "Maybe the poet is gay/he will be heard anyway/maybe he's a woman/who can show you how to be human (sic).

I think that is why I have a female poet in Poets of Pevana. I don't confront the sexual politics as openly as some of you. That just didn't enter into my vision of events.

But it is no mistake that some of the best stuff comes from a frustrated Eleni. For her, words are a way to personal power--probably in a similar way that taking multiple partners and suffering no loss in status is for the Maga (wow, I really need to get those books ordered).

That was more than I expected. More, maybe, later.


Terri-Lynne said...

Mark, this whole thing touches upon a history I studied for years. Women's studies and folklore don't just overlap--much of folklore IS women's studies. They are the ones who passed the stories around the hearthfire. Folklore IS history. Round and round she goes.

Most of the old "fairy tales" were cautionary tales, women passing them down to almost-women. Stories that once had everything to do with finding their own power, avioiding pitfalls and predators turned into...something else. I won't get started on this, because then I'll go one FOREVER.

Eleni is a great character, and I think she fits in well with this discussion. She certainly doesn't demure when it comes to sex!

John Wiswell said...

It's depressing to read an opinion that all "epic fantasy" must conform to our perceptions of the European Middle Ages. Any fiction set in a secondary world ought to be allowed to set up its own cultures and value systems. If your world was too similar to a time period I could see audience confusion, but I dislike the blanket statement.

In that same was, a female protagonist who has multiple lovers is not weak by definition. She might be, or she might not be. It depends on the execution, and on the metrics you're using for strength of character. There are certainly cloying sexpots in genre fiction that are portrayed strongly. On the flipside, there are plenty of real world figures who were very interesting and had multiple lovers. Depending on how you depict Eolyn, her emotional experiences of other people through sex might make her a profound character. If it's presented pruriently or becomes redundant, then those are composition issues.

Since the conversation is veering in the direction of general sexuality, I'll also side against the anti-Catholic view. Anthropologists have shown us that even in our hunter/gatherer phases, sexuality was largely private. It's much more likely to be in human nature than to be the result of a single ideology.

Terri-Lynne said...

John, not anti-Catholic, just a statement of fact. It was all very politcal back in the day, and every rule and such devised was done so for a specific purpose. That's not to say there is nothing good about Catholicism, it wasn't a religious statement, just a historical one.

I don't believe anyone is supposing that all epic fantasy has to conform to medieval Europe's social structure. One BASED in a medieval social structure needs to adhere to certain time-period-appropriate details like dress and technology, and sometimes, though not as strictly, to mores.

I think you make a great point--not all societies, from prehistoric to today, can be categorized as "always this" or "always that." There were whole regions that so venerated women, the priests of the population made eunuchs of themselves to "look" like women. The Greeks were misogynistic as a culture, and the Romans, though they seemed to follow suit, were much more female friendly--to an extent. Some societies venerated women, some men, and most fell somewhere in between.

Someone earlier mentioned Morgaine from Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon." Bradley, through Morgaine and Guenivere, shows the transition from a polytheistic "Britain" to to a Christian one. She may have been a bit of a woohoo-witchy sort of woman, but Bradley knew her history. She it, wrapped it in its own folklore and gave it a story at least close to what could have happened during such times. It's pretty fascinating, as a study.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi Mark --

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Kleopatra is another great heroine of history; also a complex case.

I don't know if matrilineal societies had different ways of looking at this; but again, it's not my impression that Christianity invented patriarchy & the sexual norms we usually associated with it.

Someone better versed in history will have to weigh in on this conversation; my question was more about literary figures than historical ones. Though I guess the two are tightly linked...

Can't wait to read about Eleni!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi John,

Very interesting thoughts on your part, though it seems you may have misread the commentary.

"It's depressing to read an opinion that all "epic fantasy" must conform to our perceptions of the European Middle Ages."

To my knowledge, no one has made this statement. I thoroughly agree that one of the great opportunities of fantasy is to set up unique cultures and value systems in the worlds we create. On the other hand, part of what gives EOLYN such great tension is the uniqueness of the Magas' worldview in the context of a medieval pagan and patriarchal culture.

Also, you say: "In that same was, a female protagonist who has multiple lovers is not weak by definition. She might be, or she might not be. It depends on the execution, and on the metrics you're using for strength of character."

Again, I thoroughly agree; this is in essence the same argument I am putting forward.

So, I don't know... for some reason, I get the feeling you're trying to set up a straw man here; the opinions you express are largely in agreement with the original post. Yet you seem to be arguing against the post...?

But that's just my impression; maybe I'm the one who's misreading.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hey Terri --

So, I'm starting to regret having ever mentioned my upbringing, because that really was beside the point. But since we're slipping off into that tangent...

While I don't believe Catholicism can claim to have invented a particular approach to sexuality, I think there's no getting around the fact that it has a historically rigid view of sex, and especially women's sexuality, as a source of shame, not celebration. Blame it on St. Augustine, if we must blame it on someone. Again, as you point out, this is not an anti-Catholic statement. (Though I bet Pongo would say, "Does it really matter if it is?")

I think one can criticize aspects of the Church without being anti-Catholic.

"I don't believe anyone is supposing that all epic fantasy has to conform to medieval Europe's social structure. One BASED in a medieval social structure needs to adhere to certain time-period-appropriate details like dress and technology, and sometimes, though not as strictly, to mores."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks again for your insightful comments.

Pongo Pygmaeus said...

Certainly not all fantasy must be medieval based. But much is. And more still reflects western Christian attitudes to morality. That's not to say how it should be, but to say how it is (in the main). I think it's largely becaus eit's what most writers and readers are familiar with (not the same as comfortable with necessarily, but that too in many cases).

One of Eolyn's strengths as a book was that it did not follow the typical conventions (though it sometimes appears to).

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

"One of Eolyn's strengths as a book was that it did not follow the typical conventions (though it sometimes appears to)."

haha -- Yes, I am a master of deception. (In my novels, at any rate...)

Thank you, Pongo.

And yes, fantasy and epic fantasy, can play out in any number of worlds or ages, though the medieval period seems to attract a lot of attention & imagination. For my part, as much as I love to read (and write) about many different worlds, I never get tired of the medieval setting for epic fantasy. Don't think I ever will.

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin (and all!) I suppose I should have been more specific about the concurrence of rise in Christianity to the "fall of woman." Certainly, times were ripe for such a transition. I'm not going to bore anyone with the social, economic, philosophical etc reasons, but what happened was that the early Church's rise to power necessitated, in many ways, the devaluing of women and sexuality. Yes, I do blame St. Augustine! And St. Paul! And many of those early "church fathers." But though they were movers and shakers of their times, they did not CREATE the times, so much as forwarded them. But--wow, that's another huge topic, and it covers Europe, not the world, and CERTAINLY, one can use China as an example of women being subjugated and devalued WITHOUT the influence of Christianity.

On another note--I recently learned about the phenomenon that gives all our "fantasy" characters British accents! I've always wondered why, no matter where the story takes place, in real world or fantasy worlds, British or French or WHEREVER, when portrayed in the movies or on TV (Game of Thrones, anyone--well, Irish too, but...) It's a phenomenon that goes way, way back. It's a matter of emulating the great society that came prior to one's own. The Romans? They imitated the Greeks just like we Americans imitate the English. The speech of the older culture becomes "educated, cultured, refined" and thus, mimic-worthy. And THAT, I think, is part of why we are so enamored of European medieval/Renaissance when it comes to fantasy.

These posts are dangerous...they make me think WAY too much!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Yes, my brain's beginning to hurt. ;)

I've done a lot of reading, actually, about the transition of the Christian movement from being the underdog rebel to aligning itself with the powers that be in Rome. Elaine Pagel's work especially; I'm particularly fond of "The Origin of Satan", "The Gnostic Gospels" and "Adam, Eve and the Serpent". But it's been a looong time since I read her work, so I'm fuzzy on the details. Interesting stuff, though.

I also read Augustine's "Confessions" in college. That is a really memorable work; makes you think hard about what it means to have an entire Church structured on one man's opinion. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if Augustine didn't in some ways inspire the character of Tzeremond?)

"I recently learned about the phenomenon that gives all our "fantasy" characters British accents! . . . It's a matter of emulating the great society that came prior to one's own."

Where'd you pick up this little tidbit?

We watched "Game of Thrones" dubbed in Spanish (as well as in English -- any excuse to see each episode twice). I was sincerely hoping the Spanish accents would be Castellan, but no such luck -- they were disappointingly neutral. Cersei sounded cool rolling her "r's", though.

You know, I've never thought of the characters of FINDER having English accents. The voices just don't come through that way. How did you "hear" the characters of EOLYN in your head? My sense is that Eolyn's world is more grounded in a pseudo German medieval culture than a pseudo British one. (Hence, all the character names that begin with "Tze"!) But you probably didn't hear anyone speaking with a German accent. Except maybe Tzeremond.

"Drrat! Zat evil vomen's magick eez back!"

(Sorry...It's been a long day. Lots of tests to grade, and I'm getting a little slap happy...)

Gustavo said...

I love the concept and the way the social construct challenges the usual western structure. I think the very best fantasy is precisely that: take someting we think we know well (like medieval settings) and toss a curve in there to make it more interesting... I like this solution a lot more than just taking a generic fantasy and expecting the reader to believe that the characters would act the way modern people do (some authors are guilty of this, and it drives me nuts).

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin--that little tidbit was stolen from one of those Teaching Company courses I'm constantly listening to--The Rise of Western Civilization. The prof was talking about how the Roman's emulated the Greeks the way America does the British. I learn all sorts of interesting trivia as asides!

Terri-Lynne said...

Gustavo "I like this solution a lot more than just taking a generic fantasy and expecting the reader to believe that the characters would act the way modern people do..."

GAK! Me too. I'm absolutely anal about such things. Ask anyone I've beta read or edited for!

Terri-Lynne said...

Oh, Karin--I forgot to add--I don't hear accents in my characters. They certainly don't have English ones. The Bosanians would sound more...Italian? And, of course, in my head, those in Therk all sound like a variation of the Middle Eastern stereotypes we grew up hearing...though I'll never admit that aloud!

I honestly didn't hear any accents in my head while reading Eolyn either...but the names certainly have that Indo-Eurpoean feel to them.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi Gustavo!

It's so wonderful to have you stop by.

I, too, get annoyed by seeing 'modern-acting' characters in an old world setting. Even if the story's good, it somehow needles me from beginning to end.

It's not an easy thing to achieve, you know -- getting the correct mindset for a particular period.

For some reason I'm reminded of a story you had out (I think it was you) not too long ago -- set in South America during the Conquest? Or am I just imagining things? Where is that story? It was really well done. I'd like to have a copy of it on my bookshelf.

I think the Conquest is an amazing period, and it's another setting I've thought about exploring with fantasy, probably focusing on Central America.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hey Terri --

Really I was just joking about German accents in Eolyn. I think I always 'hear' Eolyn with a Midwestern accent. Guess that's not very epic of me.

Akmael I'm not so sure -- I imagine him speaking very formally, but wouldn't necessarily peg his accent as 'British'.

Corey I always imagined with something of an English accent, but that's probably because he was partly inspired by Paul Bettany (who I fully expect to interpret the role of Mage Corey in the Paramount Pictures production of EOLYN...)

Terri-Lynne said...

Oh, YES!! He would be perfect! And as Eolyn?
Anna Popplewell (Narnia)

Pongo Pygmaeus said...

Personally I never read characters as having accents unless they're rendered at least partially phonetically. So in Eolyn I assumed (as usual) that they were basically 'accentless' (ie as from from ones own region, so the accent doesn't register).

One thing I liked about the film Gladiator was that the accents were a complete mish-mash, which was very appropriate for Rome of that era.

Getting back to sex, an example of how ingrained the 'one man' thing is regarding heroines would be Cymoril from the Elric books. The Melbinoneans are, bar Elric who is 'special', well established as either immoral or amoral. Yet Cymoril, who herself admits she finds Elric's notions of morality interesting but baffling is utterly faithful to him. Which is even more bizarre when one considers Moorcock held and holds left-wing and feminist views and was deliberately setting out to undermine sword and sorcery conventions.

Pongo Pygmaeus said...

Actually, I wonder (because i've been listening to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack) if perhaps the driving force behind a lot of traditional fantasy is not the idea of romantic love (so ultimately monogamy) and the question of whether heroes or heroines are more faithful a secondary concern.

Romance was a central theme of the Arthur myths, and they've influenced a lot of fantasy, as has Tolkien (ditto) and Howard (ditto insofar as Conan never moves from one woman to another within stories, only between them). Even Elric goes to great lengths to rescue his various women (though he is like Conan a serial monogamist).

That wouldn't make the fact heroines seem to be given less sexual freedom than heroes in most fantasy less interesting, merely acknowledge that the norm is probably for both heroes and heroines to be reasonably faithful.

Which is quite unlike a lot of historical fiction (eg Jack Aubrey is often unfaithful to his wife, Sophie, who he unquestionably loves; Diana Villiers is equally rotten to Maturin, who she certainly loves, until (and possibly after) their marriage).

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi Pongo,

Thanks for getting us back on track.

I'm not familiar with the Elric books, but it sounds like another interesting example of the expectations we have of our heroines in terms of love & fidelity.

Romantic love as a core theme in fantasy -- You might be on to something here. Of course, there are different manifestations of romantic love, but one man for one woman seems to be the most common interpretation. (I keep expecting someone to pipe in with the question of sexual preference...Kind of suprised that hasn't come up yet.)

As an interesting aside, in scouting for an image for this post, I decided to browse designs for 'the Lovers' from different Tarot decks. The most common design was one man & one woman (sometimes with an angel or cupid in the background). Cards depicting a man and two women were not uncommon. I was, however, unable to find any card depicting a woman and two men. In the end, I settled on this 3-couple version, which seemed to offer the most in terms of hidden possibilites.

Pongo Pygmaeus said...

Homosexuality and bisexuality for heroes in fantasy must be vanishingly rare. It crops up from time to time in more 'serious' historical fiction like that of Alan Massie (though most notably shunned by Pressfield in his otherwise excellent Gates of Fire, where he would have been forced to make his heroes bisexuals and pederasts to be authentic and that might have somewhat affected its sales...). Heroines who are bisexual or lesbians don't seem to me to be any more prevalent in fantasy. It's villains and villainesses who indulge in 'vice'.

In fairness, societal and legal acceptance of homosexuality as an open 'lifestyle choice' is extremely recent in the modern west and having been hitherto severely frowned, I don't think it's very surprising that there's not much heroic or heroinic inclination that way. Even now novels dealing with homosexuality for purposes beyond titillation often have it as the central theme, or at least a strong theme, rather than have it merely as something the main character is. There may be the odd exception.

But I doubt so many people would have taken to Pressfield's Dienikes had he been a married bisexual who also had sex with adolescent boys as historical accuracy would demand. I think a fantasy world with such behaviour as normal for its heroes or heroines would attract a deal of unwelcome publicity and speculation.

In fact it's probably touchy enough dealing with sex with what we would regard as minors, which would have been common enough in most societies like those found in most fantasies and of course is regarded as normal in some modern cultures also, age of consent varying dramatically even in western democracies.

J.L. Campbell said...

I would view a woman who chooses to have more than one partner as weak, especially if it is the norm in a particular society or if it is understood that this is the way of things for a certain class or women. Men do the same thing and I don't hear them being called weak.

Terri-Lynne said...

"Traditionally" a woman with multiple partners is amoral or defective in some way, while a man with multiple partners is virile and studly. We all know it's bull.

I think about the Ros in Game of Thrones. She's a prostitute, but for her, it's power, not desperation. She knows what she can do with her body, she's PROUD, and she weilds it like a weapon. Same with Shaye, though I think of the two, Ros is more confident.

Gustavo said...

Hi Karin, I wouldn't miss you guys writing about fantasy for anything in the world!

"It's not an easy thing to achieve, you know -- getting the correct mindset for a particular period."

Oh, yes. Totally agreed. But it's just so critical to get right.

I'm trying to think which of my stories it might have been, and all I can come up with is "Eyes in the Vastness of Forever", which takes place in Tierra del Fuego during a visit by Magellan's expedition. If that's it, it was published by Innsmouth Free Press (and is to be reprinted in the Apex Book of World SF, Vol 2), and you can see it online - if not, let me know what it was if you ever find it, because it sounds like something I'd enjoy!

And Terri: you are starting to sound like an absolutely fearsome 8and therefore probably wonderful) editor!

Terri-Lynne said...

Fearsome! I like that. Thanks, Gustavo.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Pongo --

"Even now novels dealing with homosexuality for purposes beyond titillation often have it as the central theme, or at least a strong theme, rather than have it merely as something the main character is."

I think that's what I'd like to see someday: having it as something the main character simply is. But for all the reasons you mention, we just aren't there yet. I always enjoy your commentaries; they are well thought out & so tight it's often difficult to find anything to argue with. :)

Joy -- So great to have you stop by. I know at least one of your novels deals with a protagonist juggling relationships with two men, so I was interested to hear your take.

Terri -- Ros & Shaye are great characters, but you know...they are also prostitutes. So I think in this particular aspect of his female characters (i.e., who gets to have multiple partners and who doesn't) Martin has not really broken any molds.

Gustavo -- I think the story was "Eyes in the Vastness of Forever". I read it on line but would love to have a print version. Thanks for letting me know where to find one.

Terri -- On you being a fearsome editor, all I can say is, It's payback time. Bwaahahahahahaha!

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin--bring it on, baby! I can't wait!