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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Rant, with expletives

The Hammer and the Blade - Paul S. Kemp

Mr. Kemp, forgive me. I enjoyed your book. Buddy sword and sorcery, against the odds, grit and luck, fun time.  It reminded me of an updated Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, or a more interesting Riyria Chronicles. It entertained me during a slow night shift when I needed to be entertained and to stay awake, so it was working against gravity, as it were, and it still worked. Kudos.  I completely would have given it three and a half stars if it wouldn’t have been for one major plot-point:

 

 

 

SPOILER--a women-victim thing going on here with the ultimate threat of a woman being made to conceive and carry a demon child.

 

 

WARNING: apparently I haven’t gotten enough sleep, because my language filter is broken tonight.

 

It could be recent events in my life (1) (2), but I’m in one of my moods where the convention just annoys the fuck out of me, and it’s about time I say it.  I have a bone to pick with you all, authors, especially you fantasy and science fiction writers. You know–the fields that play with reality, imagining worlds, societies and creatures that haven’t been dreamed or encountered yet. So, why, why, why must you write the (female) rape threat into your book? The (female) rape scene? Is this really the only place your imagination can conceive the threat of domination?

 

Sadly, I feel fairly confident that you aren’t trying to bring awareness to an all-too-common female experience, since there’s a fat lack of representation of female roles in the rest of the story. Oh wait–whores–check. Mothers–check. Barmaids–check. We’re covered, fantasy guys! Write on!  Because you show you respect women in those roles, it's totally okay!

 

Statistics vary somewhat (CDC stats say about 1 in 5 women have been raped and yet U.S. Department of Justice says only about 1.8 in 1000 in 2005 have been sexually assaulted/raped, but you know, their sample is done with people that live in the same location for three years, which is initially the most problematic thing that jumps out at me), but it’s pretty fucking certain most of the women you know have been sexually assaulted in some way at some point in their lives. There was a Booklikes discussion (initiated and hosted by Moonlight Reader) a few months ago where women shared how distressingly common, how very ordinary sexual harassment and assault is, and how often we don’t even bother telling anyone because (3). So when you use it as a, you know, story point, you better be damn fucking sure you use it with intention and thoughtfulness, because it’s going to feel a little close to reality for your readers–a reality, I might argue, that some are hoping to circumvent by diving into the depths of fantasy and science fiction.

 

It’s not fucking liberated writing if our only role is in the text as a sexual/violent object. You aren’t “standing up for women” if our only representation is dependent upon our sexuality, even if we are rescued by your male hero before it happens. Even if you indulge in a revenge fantasy on our behalf.

 

My dear male writers who want to include sexual assault against women, I have some advice. First read The Sparrow. It kicked my ass and made me cry for a whole bunch of reasons. If you can do that with your theme/plot/scene, you have my blessing.

 

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(1) You mean I really have to say “no means no” to get you to stop touching me? This is not you "expressing yourself." This is you violating my space, asshat.

 

(2) Recent reads: Broken Angels, Woken Furies, Codex Born, The Merry Misogynist, The Hammer and The Blade, Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller, Pump Six and Other Stories, Blackbirds, The Summer Tree, blah, blah, blah.

 

(3) Because of a whole bunch of reasons, none of which need any fucking justification.