Feminism Has Ruined Me.

Feminism has ruined me.  I came to this conclusion this weekend while having dinner with family and talking with them about different topics on which the gender lines were, let us say, divided – that I am very much no longer who I was, and that the things that I once enjoyed, the things that in many ways defined me, are sour as fuck to me anymore.  Let me give you a sample list of the things that I can no longer enjoy because of it, so that you can understand what I mean.

Feminism has ruined me for sports radio. I cannot listen to it anymore without getting so aggravated with the sexist comments bandied about about which player’s wife is hotter, about cheerleaders, actresses, etc. that I turn the channel.

Feminism has ruined me for most television. Oh good, another exploitative family drama or some other show where the camera is fixed to male gaze and places most women in roles without agency or respect.  Or reality television.  Or music video—ahahahaha nevermind who watches music videos on television what.

Feminism has ruined me for politics. Between the sheer lack of control that the majority of politicians in this country seem to want women to have over their own goddamned bodies and the decimation of funding for women’s health and safety, I am unable to watch news without exploding into fountains of fire and rage.  I already did that, mind you, but feminism certainly gives me gallons and gallons of additional fuel.

Feminism has ruined me for mainstream movies. See also television, except you get to pay twenty, forty dollars for the privilege.  Oh boy.

Feminism has ruined me for a lot of genre art. Because even though I dearly love science fiction art, a good 60-70 percent of character art seems to be made up of what my friend calls ‘Space Titty Paintings’.  Want to see women depicted in a sci-fi or fantasy setting?  Hope you like barely-there armor that’s either mail or kevlar or some kind of transparent space gauze amirite?

Feminism has ruined me for science fiction and fantasy. For a great deal of the same reasons as I’ve been ruined for genre art, except in print and often creepily predatory, violent, and worse.  Nevermind the fact that so much of the industry is ragingly sexist, from the publishing end down to the authors themselves.  I can say this, being an author who has already experienced it a good deal in the few short years of my career.  It’s absolutely fucking shameful, especially for a format that’s supposed to carry the torch of social evolution into the future.

Feminism has ruined me for a lot of anime. Because holy shit Miyazaki was right, the otaku are running the industry now. 4:20 Watch Moe Erry Day.

Feminism has ruined me for comics. Same reason, just drawn.

Feminism has ruined me for my fellow man. In that I am constantly aware of the sexist behavior of those around me, especially that which is predatory – even (and often this is the case) when those men engaging in that behavior are entirely ignorant of just what kind of a creepy bastard they’re being.  I often speak up when I see it, or step in if help is needed, or pull friends aside and ask them just what the fuck when they’re acting in a sexist way.  This has generally made me less popular, but that’s why we can’t have nice things in the first place.

In short, embracing feminism has ruined me for a great deal of things that I used to love without thinking or reservation when I was a younger man.  While I have always believed that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men, as I’ve grown older the everyday struggle of women becomes clearer and clearer, and it makes me both thrilled that young women are making their voices heard and that more and more men – especially young men – are listening.  I want to make things better every day in whatever way I can, either through my fiction, or my behavior toward women around me, or raising my own voice as a man of the past generation educating my brothers in the hope that we can make things easier for those who look up to us and to make amends for those things which in our ignorance we may have done to women in the past.

So yeah, feminism has ruined me for a lot of things…but I’m very, very okay with that.

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Five Points For Male Authors Who May Be Unsure As To How To Include Women In Their Novels

(Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Just Write Women Because It Isn’t Hard And Is Very, Very Necessary.)

Mostly this is aimed at my fellow white dudes, but it works really well for anyone who is male or male-identified.

As a man starting out writing novels, I was fairly terrified about writing women.  I wanted to write them, and I wanted to write them at least reasonably well, and I didn’t want to completely fuck it up and do a disservice to the other half of the population because THAT’S BEEN DONE PLENTY, THANKS.  As it turns out, it’s a very simple process, and there is no mysterious magic or anything involved.  I’ll take you through it – and though it might sound a little snarky (okay, more than a little,) and you may feel a little attacked – if so, I apologize, but please understand that this is meant to help you improve your writing, as well as to help you better yourself as a human being because holy shit it’s the twenty-first century are you kidding me.

1. Realize That Women Are Not Goddamned Unicorns Or Aliens.

This may sound facetious, or magical common sense, but the biggest thing I’ve heard from other authors that holds them back from writing women as major characters/protagonists is that they’re afraid they won’t sound genuine – or, as one fellow put it, “I really just don’t understand how women think.”  Well, as it turns out, women are people, and people generally think the same about a lot of things.  You really don’t need to mystify the whole thing.  Yes, okay, men and women may have different thought processes at times, but this is largely an illusion propagated by society and not an inherent thing.  Just write people.  Women are people.

2. Remember That Women Are Not Stereotypes.

This comes back to what I said in point one – women are people and thus are pretty much possessed of the same drives, thoughts, but because they’re different from you it’s easy to try and break them down into stereotypes in order to understand them better.  PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.Our society basically revolves around this concept already, and it’s not great – so you’re doing yourself a huge favor as an author and a human being by consciously skipping this and doing away with thousands of years of unequal thinking.  While stories based on archetypes work well, stories based on stereotypes deal damage that cannot be easily done away with.  People don’t conform to stereotypes.  Women are people.

3. Remember That Women Make Up Over Half Of The Population.  That’s A Lot Of Readers. Because Women Read.

There are over seven billion people in the world, and more than half of them are women.  A great deal of them read.  That’s a shitload of people you’re going to alienate by writing up big manly sausage-fests without any women with agency or power in your stories.  People like to see themselves represented in fiction.  They like to be able to imagine themselves in the role of the protagonist.  Women are no different, because women are people.

4, Remember That It Is Vital To Innovate And Avoid The Status Quo To Improve As A Writer.

Women are still relegated to bit parts in a huge amount of fiction.  This is what we call a trend – a trend that’s lasted for thousand of years, even though the first novel was, in fact, written by a woman.  This means it’s ripe for getting smashed the fuck open like the foetid pinata that it is.  As it happens, authors are creatures of change, which means you’re the perfect agent to help make this happen.  As a man writing stories in which women are protagonists, major characters, or simply characters with agency and power of their own, you are breaking this trend, which enriches your ability to write as you expand beyond the current borders in which you may be locked and find new worlds in which to create.  People really like to see work that bucks the status quo.  Women also like this, because women are people.

5. Remember That Women Are People.

In case I haven’t drilled that in enough.

6. Finally, Sit Down And Write.

Yes, we’ve reached the last step, in which you finally put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or whatever.  Hopefully, now that you’ve sat down and had your Five Affirmations, you’re not quite so unsure as to how to better represent women in your work.  Hopefully also I haven’t run you off the idea of it altogether – but really, so much of fiction, especially genre fiction (sci-fi, I’m looking right the fuck at YOU) is woefully devoid of positive representation that remembering these points and writing a diverse and non-monogender story is making you a better writer as well as a better human being.

And if you’re still with me by this point, allow me to unlock SUPER AWESOME POINT NUMBER SEVEN:

7. These Rules Basically Apply For Everyone Else Who Isn’t You.

People of color, queer people, etc. are all pretty poorly represented in many genres.  You’d be doing the world (and these folks) a lot of service by upping representation in your work.  Remember, authors are agents of social change as much as they are storytellers – you make things more colorful, more just, and more interesting by their inclusion as richly written characters of agency and importance all their own.

I mean it just makes better stories, man.  And who can argue with that?

As usual, I am happy to receive and answer comments or questions.

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So Why Don’t We Talk About Worldbuilding In Sci-Fi (But Also Other Fiction, Sure) For Just A Second.

Worldbuilding is the fucking best, no lie. It is also the fucking worst, no lie. Here is some advice from yours truly about worldbuilding, having written novels that are at times straight up love letters to the concept:

DO: Build an interesting world with lots of attention to detail, fleshing out technology, history, and social structure.

DON’T: Write pages and pages and pages of that shit at once, especially in the beginning when things could be exploding and getting people’s attentions. My first novel, Shadow of a Dead Star, is somewhat guilty of this; though it flows along enjoyably with the narrative (or so the reviews say) and is far less egregious than some examples, I really should have introduced more throughout the narrative. Lesson learned.

DO: Set up rules for your universe and be consistent with them.

DON’T: Be afraid to break those rules in subtle ways to make a good story, but don’t do it just because. It should only happen rarely if at all and for the best reasons.

DO: Ensure that your world is loaded up with various types of people, from different nations/planet/races, representing different walks of life from the protagonist/whatever.

DON’T: Make things monochromatic/monosexual/monowhatthefuckever. If people are being sexist dickholes or racists or whatever, ensure that you make that part of their character and not some strange tangential thing that may or may not be a reflection of your own horrible soulless beliefs. Honestly, science fiction and fantasy are supposed to direct us toward a better future through positive examples or cautionary tales. Unless you’re setting your fiction on Planet Of The White Clone People or whatever, please please PLEASE remember that diversity exists in natural systems, wherever that may be.

DO: Introduce complex social and political systems. You can pattern these things off existing examples.

DON’T: Rip things straight off and just change the names, man. People aren’t stupid. They can see straight through that.

DO: Dick around with history. Well thought-out alternative histories are usually awesome.

DON’T: Dick around with historical events and not have it drastically affect the ‘now’. Remember that the slightest change of the angle of a butterfly’s wings may not bring the storm but instead lead to a burst sewage truck drowning a whole unsuspecting town in a raging shit-river, killing off Einstein as a child. Or Hitler. Or Justin Bieber. I like to think of the last two as utopian scenarios but your mileage may vary. Point is, don’t forget that altering one event in your story may well have major repercussions across the board for the ‘future’ so do your research and don’t screw it up. Anything after the date of writing, however, is totally up for grabs but do try and logically extrapolate from current events unless SUDDENLY ALIENS or something else radical and different is going to happen.

DO: Introduce future media, bands, stories, whatever.

DON’T: Have that one dude who, despite it being 3422 F.C. (Federation Calendar) and the universe is a vast and magnificent tapestry of art and music woven by a thousand races in harmony, somehow has an encyclopedic knowledge of glam rock from the 1980s. That shit’s been done so much it’s not remotely cute or funny anymore. Try and avoid plumbing the Nostalgia Mines too much, okay?

Uh, so there you go. Just some suggestions. If you have questions or want to make comments, I’m happy to take ‘em.

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