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To balance the questions Griffith is asking, here’s an article from Liz Lutgendorff published in the New Statesman reviewing the list of “100 best” SF&F novels published by NPR.

There have already been comments from various quarters that most of the books listed are from male writers. You can tell Lutgendorff’s reaction from the title “I read the 100 “best” fantasy and sci-fi novels – and they were shockingly offensive.” She calls out some of the memes that may have made these books attractive to then audiences. This includes Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, where female soldiers are required by military regulations to be “compliant and promiscuous.” She also includes McCaffrey’s Dragonflight in the roundup, where the male and female protagonists are forced to mate when their dragons do, calling this a form of rape, and Sanderson’s The Final Empire where lords can sleep with any skaa born woman they want, but then kill them to prevent conception.

Lutgendorff is clearly a SJW. Likely spurred by the comments that these books were mostly by men, she’s gone through them and analyzed the gender roles, pointing out how women serve mostly as sex objects or scenery. This does support the current SJW platform to improve women’s presence and treatment in fiction, but I don’t think she’s completely right about what the authors were trying to accomplish. Ann McCaffrey would be spinning in her grave if she read this. Regardless of her decline in reputation since her death, she was an icon that advanced women’s fiction in her day, and she left a popular legacy.

Sex and gender roles are human activity, and this can’t be left out of a reasonably realistic fiction. For example, I don’t think most gals who read Dragonflight worry that the female protagonist is being raped in the dragon orgy. Because of the telepathic bond, the dragons’ lust is just something the humans (of both genders) have to deal with. Sanderson’s setup sounds realistic, too, a situation that reflects how powerless women can be in places like Nigeria, for example, where real life Boko Haram warriors currently keep school girls as sexual slaves and kill them when they’re done. She complains about the lack of imagination in placing women in peril, but I also think writers use rape and conquest as archetypes that resonate with readers. I’m with Lutgendorff on The Forever War, though. Why aren’t the men required to be compliant and promiscuous, too?

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