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Author Topic: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery  (Read 2973 times)

oggsmash

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2022, 10:03:53 PM »
I don't fall into his "fellow white, cishet, neurotypical, able-bodied fellas" and I find this cringy af. I just want to be treated like a normal person, not coddled, worshipped, or pitied.

  Well, neither does he, which is why he is saying something so cringy.

blackstone

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2022, 11:02:00 PM »
I read part of the interview, and I just cannot understand how anyone can live in a constant state of paranoia and fear.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2022, 01:47:08 AM »
"For example, don’t scratch your head wondering why more women don’t read and write in the genre when you’re reluctant to call out sexism in the scene...."

It never occurred to Mr. Brackenbury that maybe not a lot of women read sword & sorcery for the same reason not many men read romance novels, or not many women read technothrillers?  I.e., the genre's basic style and typical content simply doesn't appeal to the average reader of that group?

Sword and sorcery is largely plot-based melodrama, and very seldom goes into deep exploration of characters, emotions and relationships, which is (in my experience and observation) what most women want in their fiction. You could write a story which did do this, but even if it used all the classic S&S tropes I doubt it would much feel like S&S, any more than Mercedes Lackey feels like Fritz Leiber.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2022, 01:57:14 AM »
I also have real doubts about whether Brackenbury will be able to pull off his proposed definition, given that "inclusivity" by definition precludes you from considering anything to be "wonderfully weird". The Weird is the Other, the Exotic, the Strange, and anybody focusing on "inclusivity" is explicitly targeted at deconstructing that lens of analysis.

Which is not to say you couldn't do something like this on a case-to-case basis. The fifth Fafhrd & Gray Mouser book, The Swords of Lankhmar, features our heroes explicitly falling for offputtingly weird nonhuman lovers (the invisible-fleshed ghoul Kreeshkra for Fafhrd, the wererat princess Hisvet for the Mouser) and discovering that they are not so different once you get past the obvious; that should please anybody looking for a message of inclusivity. But if that trope is overused, as for example by making it a definitional requirement of one's new genre, then like any overused trope it's going to lose its impact.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Trond

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2022, 09:57:54 AM »
"For example, don’t scratch your head wondering why more women don’t read and write in the genre when you’re reluctant to call out sexism in the scene...."

It never occurred to Mr. Brackenbury that maybe not a lot of women read sword & sorcery for the same reason not many men read romance novels, or not many women read technothrillers?  I.e., the genre's basic style and typical content simply doesn't appeal to the average reader of that group?

Sword and sorcery is largely plot-based melodrama, and very seldom goes into deep exploration of characters, emotions and relationships, which is (in my experience and observation) what most women want in their fiction. You could write a story which did do this, but even if it used all the classic S&S tropes I doubt it would much feel like S&S, any more than Mercedes Lackey feels like Fritz Leiber.

The reasoning is very simple
Men don’t read a certain genre? => men are to blame
Women don’t read a certain genre? => men are to blame

jhkim

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2022, 03:15:43 PM »
What bugs me about the interview is the self-serving narrative that this broadening is a new thing, ignoring past works like Charles Saunders' Imaro novels and C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry. They are selling themselves as more revolutionary by not talking about previous works that have a variety of protagonists.

"For example, don’t scratch your head wondering why more women don’t read and write in the genre when you’re reluctant to call out sexism in the scene...."

It never occurred to Mr. Brackenbury that maybe not a lot of women read sword & sorcery for the same reason not many men read romance novels, or not many women read technothrillers?  I.e., the genre's basic style and typical content simply doesn't appeal to the average reader of that group?

This involves a chicken-and-egg question. Is the publishing merely reflecting the audience and culture? Or is the publishing *producing* the audience and culture? I would say the answer is both.

Regarding technothrillers... Traditionally, fewer women have been involved in science and tech. They've been considered less interested and/or less capable - some theorize that it is genetic. However, that has changed a lot in the past 50 years. I don't think that change was the result of some natural process. Many people actively shifted the culture such that many more women are involved in science and tech now. Much of that is in education and the workplace, but it's also influenced by women characters and authors in sci-fi. I wouldn't classify them as technothrillers necessarily, but more technical sci-fi like Andy Weir's The Martian and Artemis along with Martha Wells' Murderbot novels have been popular with many women I know.


Sword and sorcery is largely plot-based melodrama, and very seldom goes into deep exploration of characters, emotions and relationships, which is (in my experience and observation) what most women want in their fiction. You could write a story which did do this, but even if it used all the classic S&S tropes I doubt it would much feel like S&S, any more than Mercedes Lackey feels like Fritz Leiber.

Have you read C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories? I feel they are pretty classic S&S, while also being written by and about a woman, with appeal to women readers.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2022, 05:59:00 PM »
s the publishing merely reflecting the audience and culture? Or is the publishing *producing* the audience and culture? I would say the answer is both.

There's certainly a mutual feedback loop. But Brackenbury's immediate assumption that the primary reason women haven't historically read S&S is its allegedly sexist content seems both reductionist and incomplete, and if he thinks all that's necessary to improve female S&S readership is to remove what he assumes is "sexist", I'm skeptical it'll have the results he hopes for.

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I wouldn't classify them as technothrillers necessarily, but more technical sci-fi like Andy Weir's The Martian and Artemis along with Martha Wells' Murderbot novels have been popular with many women I know.

I don't doubt it, but The Martian, at least, has a lot of character work to go along with the technical detail, and from what I've read about the Murderbot series, those books also have a lot of introspection on the part of the protagonist. (I also can't help but wonder how much female liking for The Martian is a product of Matt Damon starring in the movie -- apologies to the exceptions.)

The stuff that in my observation seldom catches womens' interest is the stuff where everything that isn't an in-depth examination of technology tends to be about fight scenes or politics. Larry Correia knew what he was doing when he included a love story as a key element of his first Monster Hunter International book.

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Have you read C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories? I feel they are pretty classic S&S, while also being written by and about a woman, with appeal to women readers.

I have, and you're right, they do entail a pretty heavy character and relationship emphasis in among the swordplay and eldritch weirdness. But I have to admit I think most modern "inclusivity" critics would still object to Jirel, given how her story turns on realizing that she's in love with the man who is the target of her blood vendetta; the trope "when a woman hates a man this badly, it means what she really feels for him is love" is considered highly problematic these days, and I'm not entirely sure I would even disagree.

It's also telling that stories like Jirel's, or the works of Tanith Lee and similar stuff, were far more often marketed under the genre label of "dark fantasy" than "sword & sorcery", despite involving a lot of the same tropes; it was what those authors did differently from authors like Vance, Howard or Leiber -- the gothicism, the romance, the style -- that got them their own marketing technique. (And the "dark fantasy" label is also why the works of authors like Abercrombie, Erikson, and Bakker had to have the label "grimdark" attached to them for marketing purposes, because they in turn were very different from either predecessor label.)

I don't think it's any accident that Red Sonja is still more well-known as a pulp heroine than Jirel, despite having much less original work created for her by her original author ("Red" Sonya of Rogatino was actually only written by Howard once in a piece of historical fiction, "The Shadow of the Vulture"; it was Roy Thomas and Barry Smith who transposed her into the Hyborian Age for the Conan comic series, which is where she became famous).
« Last Edit: October 15, 2022, 06:06:07 PM by Stephen Tannhauser »
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oggsmash

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2022, 06:44:01 PM »
  "Inclusivity" means the same thing as "diversity" when people like this shit bag use it, it means anti white.  I could at least attempt to tolerate reading all their thoughts if they had the balls to just speak plainly (though to be honest only idiots cant understand what they are saying) and be up front about what he wants.  Ah well, hopefully his woman gets abortions and if he has kids he makes sure to get them gender reassignment surgery.

Ratman_tf

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2022, 06:15:26 AM »
"For example, don’t scratch your head wondering why more women don’t read and write in the genre when you’re reluctant to call out sexism in the scene...."

It never occurred to Mr. Brackenbury that maybe not a lot of women read sword & sorcery for the same reason not many men read romance novels, or not many women read technothrillers?  I.e., the genre's basic style and typical content simply doesn't appeal to the average reader of that group?

Sword and sorcery is largely plot-based melodrama, and very seldom goes into deep exploration of characters, emotions and relationships, which is (in my experience and observation) what most women want in their fiction. You could write a story which did do this, but even if it used all the classic S&S tropes I doubt it would much feel like S&S, any more than Mercedes Lackey feels like Fritz Leiber.

Exactly. I don't scratch my head wondering why more women don't read and write in a genre they don't prefer. But these numbskulls want to believe other men are evil, rapey bastards so they have a bad guy for their turgid feminist male hero fantasies.
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Trond

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2022, 09:06:55 AM »
What bugs me about the interview is the self-serving narrative that this broadening is a new thing, ignoring past works like Charles Saunders' Imaro novels and C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry. They are selling themselves as more revolutionary by not talking about previous works that have a variety of protagonists.


But this sort of narrative has become extremely common in anything apparently appealing to the left “this is the first movie with a black female protagonist (since the last movie with a black female protagonist)”

jhkim

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2022, 08:29:58 PM »
What bugs me about the interview is the self-serving narrative that this broadening is a new thing, ignoring past works like Charles Saunders' Imaro novels and C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry. They are selling themselves as more revolutionary by not talking about previous works that have a variety of protagonists.

But this sort of narrative has become extremely common in anything apparently appealing to the left “this is the first movie with a black female protagonist (since the last movie with a black female protagonist)”

I would agree with that. It's a common narrative among the left-leaning, like many other flawed reasoning and/or deceptive tactics by people who want to advocate politics more than look at themselves. My feeling is that strident political advocates of either right or left have a lot of such narratives. Reality rarely conforms to a simplistic narrative.


Is the publishing merely reflecting the audience and culture? Or is the publishing *producing* the audience and culture? I would say the answer is both.

There's certainly a mutual feedback loop. But Brackenbury's immediate assumption that the primary reason women haven't historically read S&S is its allegedly sexist content seems both reductionist and incomplete, and if he thinks all that's necessary to improve female S&S readership is to remove what he assumes is "sexist", I'm skeptical it'll have the results he hopes for.

I think the main result he hopes for is to sell more copies of his own fiction magazine. It's also possible that he is a true believer in that he thinks it will marginally change the culture, but I suspect he is deliberately overselling.


I wouldn't classify them as technothrillers necessarily, but more technical sci-fi like Andy Weir's The Martian and Artemis along with Martha Wells' Murderbot novels have been popular with many women I know.

I don't doubt it, but The Martian, at least, has a lot of character work to go along with the technical detail, and from what I've read about the Murderbot series, those books also have a lot of introspection on the part of the protagonist. (I also can't help but wonder how much female liking for The Martian is a product of Matt Damon starring in the movie -- apologies to the exceptions.)

The stuff that in my observation seldom catches womens' interest is the stuff where everything that isn't an in-depth examination of technology tends to be about fight scenes or politics. Larry Correia knew what he was doing when he included a love story as a key element of his first Monster Hunter International book.

I haven't read MHI, and I'm not sure what we're disagreeing on here, if anything.

1) The original topic was about writing Sword & Sorcery stories with different protagonists and readers -- like S&S stories with women protagonists or with black protagonists. Evaluating that as a goal is different than judging how this one magazine creator is handling it.

2) Given this as a topic, I think of examples like Moore's Jirel of Joiry and Saunders' Imaro. These were certainly deliberately created to do just that. And I liked Jirel, and loved Imaro.

3) From my reading (which is mostly R.E. Howard with a scattering of Lieber, Vance, and others), Sword & Sorcery stories are frequently heavy on melodramatic emotion and sometimes romance. For example, Howards' "Queen of the Black Coast" is centered on romance and relationship, as much so as the Jirel of Joiry stories. It's not particularly deep character exploration, but then neither is Jirel. S&S does not have analytic tactical fighting like military sci-fi, but is much more about emotions and melodrama.

4) One could draw a line to classify Jirel and Imaro as being not really S&S, but I'm not sure what purpose that serves. Regardless of what label is put on them, I think they're both good and could make for good gaming.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2022, 04:44:31 PM »
I think the main result (Brackenbury) hopes for is to sell more copies of his own fiction magazine. It's also possible that he is a true believer in that he thinks it will marginally change the culture, but I suspect he is deliberately overselling.

I suspect you're right. He wouldn't be the first business owner to try riding a current wave of popular sentiment for promotional purposes.

Quote
I'm not sure what we're disagreeing on here, if anything. ...From my reading (which is mostly R.E. Howard with a scattering of Lieber, Vance, and others), Sword & Sorcery stories are frequently heavy on melodramatic emotion and sometimes romance. For example, Howards' "Queen of the Black Coast" is centered on romance and relationship, as much so as the Jirel of Joiry stories. It's not particularly deep character exploration, but then neither is Jirel. ...One could draw a line to classify Jirel and Imaro as being not really S&S, but I'm not sure what purpose that serves. Regardless of what label is put on them, I think they're both good and could make for good gaming.

Well, again, I must concede you're right; I may have gone out of my way to emphasize the differences in fantasy subgenres and the audiences they attract, mostly because I have developed a knee-jerk resistance to what Brackenbury appears to be implicitly claiming -- i.e. that the fact a particular genre doesn't appeal to all audiences equally is somehow a political issue with the nature of the genre, rather than a personal reflection on the nature of the audiences.

Genres and subgenres are, ultimately, marketing labels -- they're ways to sell particular stories to audiences who have indicated they like stories like that. Ultimately I think the error in what Brackenbury is doing is that he thinks the label is shaping the audience more than the audience is shaping the label, and that while he may have the best will in the world, if he tries to broaden the definition of the "sword & sorcery" label to appeal to more audiences he is only going to weaken its usefulness. There are plenty of people who like both Tanith Lee and Fritz Leiber, but there are also plenty who prefer one to the other, and finding a way to put them both under the same label is doing those audiences a disservice.
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oggsmash

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2022, 06:09:24 PM »
  "Fellow white guy" brackenbury is looking to grift, and for all I know will get some funding from some nebulous place/benefactor to make sure to be "more inclusive in sword and sorcery".  I have no doubt there are plenty of "non profits" out there who will fund subversives like that asshole to find more stuff and ruin it for the people who liked it....ie "Fellow white guys"

Skullking

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2022, 04:32:33 PM »
Well, again, I must concede you're right; I may have gone out of my way to emphasize the differences in fantasy subgenres and the audiences they attract, mostly because I have developed a knee-jerk resistance to what Brackenbury appears to be implicitly claiming -- i.e. that the fact a particular genre doesn't appeal to all audiences equally is somehow a political issue with the nature of the genre, rather than a personal reflection on the nature of the audiences.

Yes, media today must appeal to all audiences, well all except the original audience of course!

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Towards a more inclusive Sword & Sorcery
« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2022, 01:06:43 PM »
It's also telling that stories like Jirel's, or the works of Tanith Lee and similar stuff, were far more often marketed under the genre label of "dark fantasy" than "sword & sorcery", despite involving a lot of the same tropes; it was what those authors did differently from authors like Vance, Howard or Leiber -- the gothicism, the romance, the style -- that got them their own marketing technique. (And the "dark fantasy" label is also why the works of authors like Abercrombie, Erikson, and Bakker had to have the label "grimdark" attached to them for marketing purposes, because they in turn were very different from either predecessor label.)
I completely missed this, but now that you point it out it makes perfect sense. These are all actually the same genre: dark/gritty fantasy intended to rebel against the standard Arthurian/Tolkienesque romantic fantasy clichés.