Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Women and Fantasy

For years fantasy fans have been primarily male…and for good reason. What woman or young girl would want to read about a weak, weepy, damsel in distress, in constant need of rescue by the male hero? It's insulting and frankly, uninteresting. Even the cover art was geared toward men; half-naked, buxom maidens, clinging desperately to the arm of her sword wielding champion. Though this image may appeal to young boys or forty year old adolescence, it is not exactly the type of material you could imagine a teenage girl rushing to the local bookstore to purchase. I mean come on…is it the way a girl would want to imagine herself; needy, dependent and weak? Let us not forget, the main reason people read fantasy is to escape their daily lives and immerse themselves in a world of wonder, magic and adventure. You see yourself as the hero or heroine, battling demons or weaving spells, saving the world from evil. With that in mind, why would anyone read a genre that tends to portray their gender in ways that are demeaning and inaccurate? The answer is, they would not, and until recently, in large, they have not.

Fortunately, things have changed. With the popularity of books such as The Hunger Games, Eragon, The Harry Potter Series, The Twilight Series, and many more, fantasy is becoming far more appealing to the avid female reader. Fantasy writers are cluing in to the fact that wimpy, unrealistic portrayals of women do not equal book sales. And in an industry where there are literally thousands of products to choose from, that's what it really boils down to anyway...sales. Combined with the fact that women tend to be more prolific readers, this change in the genre has brought fantasy from basement bookshelves of a handful of fantasy fanatics (mostly men), to the forefront of the literary world.

I first noticed this change while researching my own fan base. Nearly 60% of my followers were female, mostly ranging in age from young teen to early fifties (though some were much older). I became curious about this, and began making inquiries. What I found made an profound impression. The majority said that what they enjoyed most was the relationship between Gewey and Kaylia, two of the main characters. They also mentioned that they very much liked the strength and determination exhibited by Celandine, another primary character. None of them made mention of any of the male characters. That was when it occurred to me that the reason my work was enjoyed by so many women was due to the way I had depicted females. Though I had not done this specifically to attract a female audience, the result was undeniable. From there, it wasn't difficult to connect the dots and see the current trends.

As a life-long fan of fantasy, I am very happy to see the genre that I love become accessible to a much broader audience. With stronger, more realistic female characters, the stories have become far more interesting and have gained a new depth that has captivated readers who had never considered fantasy as a true literary form worth consideration. As a fantasy writer I am thrilled to have become a part of this new dynamic and I look forward to introducing the genre to a whole new generation of fantasy lover.

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