Posted 23 April 2012 - 02:56 PM
I agree with him, and i disagree. A major problem faced by many people today in certain parts of the world is a lack of information, or even worse, a proliferation of incorrect information (I'm looking at you Catholic Church, and your idiot notion that telling certain poor believers that condoms causes aids). If this is still a problem today, then several hundred years ago this inability to communicate great ideas or even basic truths would have been stilted by simple distances and geography.
There were women of agency before 1965. There were powerful queens in ancient and medieval times. The problem with the claims of historical authenticy really come down to a lack of revolution, at least in terms of thought. The role of women changed because there was a growing tide of ideas, and ideas require communication, and communication requires a free flow of thought - if not technology of some kind. In other words, the emancipation of women for many who believe in historical authenticity would have to come as a result of a revolution in thinking. So in one sense, many people are unwilling to accept anything less than a faded carbon copy of our world becuase they cannot concieve of how things could have progressed differently. A small part of me, the one that knows men are pricks, and the one mired in a minor in history, cannot help but see gritty fantasy as a requirement because it is difficult to concieve of humans being anything other than they are.
On the other hand, what is sad is that for all of our claims that we like to read a genre that is fantastic, we really don't break away into the fantastic all that much. I mean, why not have a world where women fought and attained certain inalienable rights in 900AD? That it did not happen here is irrelevant. We are talking about worlds were dragons live, and women can burn sexists pricks into ash if they so choose.
What i am trying to say is that for all that i love the genre, it is stilted. We base it loosely off of our world, but then we throw in qualifiers that would unconditionally change the entire outcome of events. If instead of killing herself, Cleopatra burned Octavious into ashes, well, things might have gone differently. It is the possibility that is never really dealt with. Many authors do not necessarily want to give the time over to creating revolutions of thought that perhaps do not play that great a part in their current story aside from giving women agency. And for many of those stuck in the genre with the notion of authenticity, they cannot accept women of agency without some reason for it.
So i can understand this need for authenticity. I think it appeals to many people because they are perhaps cynical at heart, and need to know that despite the otherness of what they are reading, certain conditions would remain the same - namely that the race of man is kind of shitty. I mean, slavery has been around for frigging ever, and can be seen in countless cultures and societies in some form or another. They are looking at a world that, given our own prediliction for doing terrible things, cannot help but happen in a world where giant lizards breath fire.
But for me, this is no longer enough. The simple truth is that many fantasy authors, for all of their vaunted world building (and i'm not knocking them, it is hard work), can only create a world that is so deep. The socio-economic and political factors that shaped our history cannot be replicated line for line, and they should not be. These are worlds were magic has most likely superseded technology. There is no reason why things cannot be different.
I mean, it is likely that there will be slaves in many of these worlds. There will still be women getting raped, or threatened with rape. Humans are terrible like that. But it certainly does not have to be a default position in order to create a realistic world.