Friday, August 23, 2013
I just had a shockingly visceral reaction to Will Shetterly’s piece on rape in fantasy. Why fantasists should not write about rape. Shocking because I did not expect to have any reaction to the piece.
Let me state something clearly first: I believe that a LOT of rape & revenge fantasy stories are awful.
But there are also some stories that contain rape, where that horrible action is integral to the story. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry. Mercedes Lackey’s Vows & Honor series. Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series.
But where is the metaphor in rape? In fantasy, something as mundane as rape is a failure of imagination.
I believe the word that pisses me off the most is “mundane.”
There is nothing mundane about sexual assault.
I mean, would you think it was reasonable to say, “But where is the metaphor in war? In fantasy, something as mundane as war is a failure of imagination.”
Where is the metaphor in war? Where is the metaphor in murder?
Rape is, for many many women, a life changing experience that can affect relationships and actions for the rest of their lives.
But more importantly, women–especially young women–who suffer the trauma of sexual assault shouldn’t be told that rape is something people don’t want to read about. To hear about. To learn about.
That rape is mundane.
To call a trauma that uncounted numbers of women (and men) go through mundane is to say that it’s not interesting, which leads one to infer it’s therefore not important.
Why would it fine for fantasists to write about murder and war, but writing about rape is “a failure of imagination”?
Rape is not mundane.
Those stories I mentioned at the beginning? They’re important not because of the rapes, but because we read about the resilience of the women who are assaulted. We see how different women get through the trauma in different ways–and that they can survive and go on and be okay.
Rape itself is a failure of the imagination. Writing about how people move on with their lives and have set-backs and recover may not be fantasy, but it is human, and it is something that many more people than are ever willing to admit go through.
But it is not mundane.
ADDENDUM the First:
Mr Shetterly came by and posted an explaination of sorts. I’ll add it here, but I would also like to note that Eric, Anne and I all had comments below that I believe are pertinent to the discussion.
I followed your link here. Sorry about the misunderstanding. I don’t know if this will help, but I added it as an ETA to the post: “Someone was upset by my choice of “mundane”. I was using it in the sense of the opposite of fantastical, like this dictionary definition: “of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one”. Fantastical literature has fantasy in it; mundane literature does not. That doesn’t mean one’s better than the other, just that they provide different possibilities for writers. If you’re going to write fantasy, use it to do what isn’t possible in any other genre.”
I commented on that below, as did Anne. (So far)