Roose Boltons Pet Leech

Queer characters in fantasy

119 posts in this topic

On November 4, 2016 at 2:38 AM, C.T. Phipps said:

It's the "Girls need Rolemodels" and "Positive Discrimination Bias" problem.

Sam Adama (the Hitman from Caprica) is a great character who just so happens to be gay. He's also a mobster, a murderer, and a hitman. The problem with Anita Sarkesian's theory which has been commented on even among her supporters is she tends to only want positive non-violent characters for representation. In effect, the short version is she doesn't like antiheroes. The thing is that antiheroes are great characters which straight people have loved to include in their media for the whole of fiction.

Sand Glokta is a horrible horrible person but he's straight. He's also a great character. Is he suddenly a bad one if he was gay?

I think not.

I agree here, as well, and I can also see the counterpoint that Felice pointed out. If you have only one female character in a story, for instance, and she's incompetent, under characterized, or whatnot, then even though the reader logically knows other women exist in the story's world, it feels like all womenkind are being judged by the single female character's actions. It's not necessarily logical, but it's there.

We are getting to a stage when the anti-hero character gets to be something other than a straight, cisgender white man, and earns their own devoted fan-base who's not necessarily there for the representation.

Edited by Liver and Onions
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A quick note about the idea of queer characters being "distracting" or "unnecessary;" I've heard others make this criticism, and (leaving out homophobia) I've felt that they were simply reacting to the rarity of the situation– they feel it's distracting because of unconscious bias. For example, if the ending romantic couple in a story involves two women, and that's somehow "unnecessary," how would the final pair being a man and a woman feel better? 

In response to the criticism of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, although I enjoy those books, I agree. I feel like it runs into the same problems any grimdark fantasy book (and honestly, parts of that story fit grimdark to a T) would have when they include rape as a "realistic" or deliberately horrific element. 

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40 minutes ago, Liver and Onions said:

I agree here, as well, and I can also see the counterpoint that Felice pointed out. If you have only one female character in a story, for instance, and she's incompetent, under characterized, or whatnot, then even though the reader logically knows other women exist in the story's world, it feels like all womenkind are being judged by the single female character's actions. It's not necessarily logical, but it's there.

We are getting to a stage when the anti-hero character gets to be something other than a straight, cisgender white man, and earns their own devoted fan-base who's not necessarily there for the representation.

I'm reminded of the Bayonetta controversy to an extent. Specifically, that Bayonetta is a crazily sexualized "hot librarian" character with clothes made of her magical hair but has a huge female fanbase. Basically, because she's a massive wish-fulfillment character for much of the audience even though she also fits a lot of the boxes which male fans responded to and have often been criticized for liking in other characters. One of the big differences being Bayonetta was the star rather than just eye candy or a love interest.

To also refer to your point with anecdotal evidence, even small roles for characters can have disproportionate impacts. Of the twelve hate e-mails and posts I've gotten for The Supervillainy Saga as an author, six of which dealt with gay and transgender characters in my books--specifically that they exist. A rather heartbreaking, in its own way, was a positive letter thanking me for including a transgender superhero (The Human Tank) in my book despite said character being there for only a couple of chapters as a supporting one.

Quote

A quick note about the idea of queer characters being "distracting" or "unnecessary;" I've heard others make this criticism, and (leaving out homophobia) I've felt that they were simply reacting to the rarity of the situation– they feel it's distracting because of unconscious bias. For example, if the ending romantic couple in a story involves two women, and that's somehow "unnecessary," how would the final pair being a man and a woman feel better? In response to the criticism of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, although I enjoy those books, I agree. I feel like it runs into the same problems any grimdark fantasy book (and honestly, parts of that story fit grimdark to a T) would have when they include rape as a "realistic" or deliberately horrific element.

I'm a huge fan of grimdark and have written a number of articles for Grimdark Magazine. However, one policy which has gotten me in some online arguments is the fact I take points off for rape in novels. Generally, I think of it as an immensely overused and lazy storytelling device.

Not always, mind you, but often enough it's just a stock tool. My hands down least favorite use of it being the treatment of Terez (a lesbian) in The First Law Trilogy. The ending of the character is she's sentenced to a lifetime of rape via extortion. The horror of the action isn't necessarily worse than the murder and radiation burns and insanity and so on which afflicts much of the story. It's just the story is framed as Glokta "solving" Jezal's problem - and I've heard many fans think it's supposed to be a good thing for showing Terez up.

Given we never get Terez's depiction or side of things, it also feels like it's about how she's affected Jezal and Glokta than the reverse. It's also the moment I lost all sympathy for the Inquisitor.

Edited by C.T. Phipps

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22 hours ago, Liver and Onions said:

A quick note about the idea of queer characters being "distracting" or "unnecessary;" I've heard others make this criticism, and (leaving out homophobia) I've felt that they were simply reacting to the rarity of the situation– they feel it's distracting because of unconscious bias. For example, if the ending romantic couple in a story involves two women, and that's somehow "unnecessary," how would the final pair being a man and a woman feel better? 

In response to the criticism of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, although I enjoy those books, I agree. I feel like it runs into the same problems any grimdark fantasy book (and honestly, parts of that story fit grimdark to a T) would have when they include rape as a "realistic" or deliberately horrific element. 

Distracting characters are present in any genre of fiction. Any time we come across a character that we cannot pigeonhole when given a brief description, or we see them in action, we stop and think about what we just read and compare it to our experiences. Personally I find characters described as smarter than average distracting as they do not mesh with my experiences. Queer characters for the sake of having a queer  character is just as grating.  I want them to come across as real people with real feelings,  not just as checkmarks on a list.

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23 hours ago, Liver and Onions said:

A quick note about the idea of queer characters being "distracting" or "unnecessary;" I've heard others make this criticism, and (leaving out homophobia) I've felt that they were simply reacting to the rarity of the situation– they feel it's distracting because of unconscious bias. For example, if the ending romantic couple in a story involves two women, and that's somehow "unnecessary," how would the final pair being a man and a woman feel better? 

In response to the criticism of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, although I enjoy those books, I agree. I feel like it runs into the same problems any grimdark fantasy book (and honestly, parts of that story fit grimdark to a T) would have when they include rape as a "realistic" or deliberately horrific element. 

The rape in that felt less deliberately horrific and more like some of the yaoi stuff that comes out of japan where it's all hey two guys are doing THATS HOT. Also see bad fanfic.

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23 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

The rape in that felt less deliberately horrific and more like some of the yaoi stuff that comes out of japan where it's all hey two guys are doing THATS HOT. Also see bad fanfic.

Yeah... bad fanfic indeed. :blink: And there are whole books that can be written on the yaoi genre. (Probably have been). 

 

 

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On November 7, 2016 at 8:13 PM, C.T. Phipps said:

To also refer to your point with anecdotal evidence, even small roles for characters can have disproportionate impacts. Of the twelve hate e-mails and posts I've gotten for The Supervillainy Saga as an author, six of which dealt with gay and transgender characters in my books--specifically that they exist. A rather heartbreaking, in its own way, was a positive letter thanking me for including a transgender superhero (The Human Tank) in my book despite said character being there for only a couple of chapters as a supporting one.

 

Those hate e-mails you describe definitely sound like those particular readers equate the mere presence of queer characters as some kind of glaring, political gambit. 

 

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On November 8, 2016 at 6:47 PM, maarsen said:

Distracting characters are present in any genre of fiction. Any time we come across a character that we cannot pigeonhole when given a brief description, or we see them in action, we stop and think about what we just read and compare it to our experiences. Personally I find characters described as smarter than average distracting as they do not mesh with my experiences. Queer characters for the sake of having a queer  character is just as grating.  I want them to come across as real people with real feelings,  not just as checkmarks on a list.

I agree that checklist characters fall flat. When I was young, I heard about the "token minorities" in children's cartoons. Sometimes, though, these token characters were perfectly fine and as developed as the rest of the cast (like Winston in the early Real Ghostbusters cartoon). Somehow they got saddled with the token label, which is more of a sign of laziness when the writers don't do anything with them. Of course kids' cartoons often have a set of standards handed down from on high that the writers have to work with. 

 

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1 hour ago, Liver and Onions said:

Those hate e-mails you describe definitely sound like those particular readers equate the mere presence of queer characters as some kind of glaring, political gambit.

The term "Agenda" was used and the idea of shoving gay characters in their face.

So, I'd agree.

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If comics and graphic novels are to anyone's taste, The Wicked + the Divine - collected as four graphic novels and counting: it started in 2014, though I only started reading it this year - is effectively urban fantasy that contains significant trans, gay and bi characters.  All the characters' identity feels organic in their development - no shoehorning - though beware the straight character with yellow fever (the text mocks him for having it).

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On 11/8/2016 at 0:13 PM, C.T. Phipps said:

Not always, mind you, but often enough it's just a stock tool. My hands down least favorite use of it being the treatment of Terez (a lesbian) in The First Law Trilogy. The ending of the character is she's sentenced to a lifetime of rape via extortion. The horror of the action isn't necessarily worse than the murder and radiation burns and insanity and so on which afflicts much of the story. It's just the story is framed as Glokta "solving" Jezal's problem - and I've heard many fans think it's supposed to be a good thing for showing Terez up.

Given we never get Terez's depiction or side of things, it also feels like it's about how she's affected Jezal and Glokta than the reverse. It's also the moment I lost all sympathy for the Inquisitor.

I feel it worth mentioning that Joe's response to feedback on this point has earned him a hell of a lot of loyalty from me. Just straight up said "I didn't even see that possibility, you're right, I stuffed up, I'd do it differently if I was writing it now and I'll learn from this in the future". Being able to own your mistakes and learn from them is such a rare skill when it really shouldn't be.

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The Malazan series has quite a few gay characters. Erikson decided to make his world as egalitarian as possible, which is why you can find characters of different ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation playing important roles in the series.

Off the top of my head comes Tavore, who has a relationship with T'amber. Its not shown in any graphic way but there are subtle hints throughout, about it. 

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Catwoman and Wonder Woman in DC Comics have identified as bisexual by many of their writers. With Catwoman I think it was to make her edgier, man-hating and as a cause for extra friction between her and Batman so that when their romance eventuated, it felt like Batman overcame another obstacle. In that respect, I find the depiction of her bisexuality frustrating, as it implies that she dates women in the absence of a better choice.

Wonder Woman has been heavily implied as bisexual but there are so few overt references to it that it almost feels like a recent cash-in on the discovery that teenage boys, the main comic-reading audience, enjoy reading about women kissing other women in a sexualised way. I'm generalising, obviously. But it feels extremely contradictory to try to show her as a proud queer woman when she is often written with the weakness that if her hands are bound by a man, then she cannot free herself, and she flies an invisible jet so that when she moves through the air her legs are provocatively spread out.

For this reason, I find that the most fair representation of gay people in comics comes from Deadpool: his stories treats his bisexuality as a matter of no consequence.

Edited to add: I know that this thread is about queer characters in fantasy but I was racking my brains and couldn't think of any. I am trying to sort of say that I feel like queer characters still feel like they are an "other" in writing. :(

Edited by Yukle

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8 hours ago, karaddin said:

I feel it worth mentioning that Joe's response to feedback on this point has earned him a hell of a lot of loyalty from me. Just straight up said "I didn't even see that possibility, you're right, I stuffed up, I'd do it differently if I was writing it now and I'll learn from this in the future". Being able to own your mistakes and learn from them is such a rare skill when it really shouldn't be.

I'd love to read that. It sounds very interesting.

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2 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I'd love to read that. It sounds very interesting.

Was replies to a threat on here lol. Can't remember which one though.

 

ETA: If you're talking the DC comics there is also the relationship between Harley and Poison Ivy, I don't think there is a ton of it but what there is has been done quite nicely.

Edited by karaddin
ETA

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That's true. It was kind of playful in its early days but it was quite engaging of late. And respectful, I think, much more so than Catwoman.

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It was just where the story went for my upcoming book Wraith Knight (on the 15th) but I decided to make the lead female characters bisexual in a former relationship, which puts the main male character in an awkward position as he's working with their ex while fighting his own attraction to one. I just thought that would be an interesting dynamic to explore. In the sequel, I also will have a gay male character joining the main group.

Other fantasy characters I can think of on the GLBT spectrum I can think of:

Phillipa Eilhart (lesbian, The Witcher)
Triss Merrigold (Bisexual, The Witcher)
Ciri (Bisexual, The Witcher)
Dethmold (Gay, The Witcher--video games only)
Ringil Eskiath (Gay, A Land fit for heroes)
Kir-Archeth (lesbian, A Land Fit for Heroes)
Leliana (Bisexual, Dragon Age)
Zevran (Bisexual, Dragon Age)
Anders (Bisexual, Dragon Age 2)
Fenris (Bisexual, Dragon Age 2)
Isabella (Bisexual, Dragon Age 2)
Iron Bull (Bisexual, Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Dorian (Gay, Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Sera (Lesbian, Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Krem (Transgender Male, Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Shannon O'Reilly (Bisexual, Esoterrorism) *
Penny Hawthorne (Lesbian, Esoterrorism) *
Lucy Hawthorne (Lesbian, Esoterorrism) *
Phedre (Bisexual, Kushiel's Dart)
Pinky and the Brain (Gay, The Laundry series)
Lara Raith (Bisexual, Harry Dresden)
Korra (Bisexual, Legend of Korra)
Asami (Bisexual, Legend of Korra)
Alec Lightwood (Gay, The Mortal Instruments)
Magnus (Bisexual, The Mortal Instruments)
John Constantine (Bisexual, Hellblazer -- controversies aside)
Red Sonja (Bisexual, Reboot only)
Purgatori (Lesbian, Chaos and later Dynamite)
Loki (Bisexual, Thor)
Wiccan and Hulkling (Bisexual, Young Avengers)
Karolina Dean (Lesbian, Runaways)
Mandy Karkofsky (bisexual, The Supervillainy Saga) *
Cindy Wachowski (bisexual, The Supervillainy Saga) *
The Black Witch (lesbian, The Supervillainy Saga) *
Adonis (Bisexual, The Supervillainy Saga) *
The Bronze Medalist (gay, The Supervillainy Saga) *
The Human Tank (Transgender female, The Supervillainy Saga) *
Louis (Bisexual, Interview with a Vampire)
Lestat (Bisexual, Interview with a Vampire)
Harley Quinn (Bisexual, DC comics)
Poison Ivy (Bisexual, DC Comics)
Catwoman (Bisexual, DC Comics)
Jean Claude (Bisexual, Anita Blake)
Anita Blake (Bisexual, way way into the books after they became erotica)
Lucifer (Bisexual, The Television Show bearing his name)

Word Of God

Dumbledore (Gay, Harry Potter)
The Seven Sisters (Bisexual, Forgotten Realms)
Elminster (Bisexual, Forgotten Realms)
Wonder Woman (Bisexual, DC Comics)

* Hey, man, they qualify even if I wrote them!

Edited by C.T. Phipps

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I rather like the complex little web of relationships depicted in The Rain Wild Chronicles between; Hest-Sedric; Sedric-Carson; Hest-Alise; Alise-Leftrin. Three of those characters are gay but the whole web of relationships explores the complexities and nuances quite well I think (hiding your sexuality; abusive relationships; healthy relationships; conflict of emotions, etc.)

 

eta; and while on the topic of Hobb, the Fool really ought to be brought up. IMO a very good character for challenging concepts of gender and relationships. Also, see Ash/Spark.

Oh, and Kennit might be worth a mention too, but that's a whole fucked up situation so not sure it's the best example, or really applicable here

 

he has an obvious infatuation with Wintrow, which he doesn't act on until Althea shows up, possibly because she is a woman and so it's "acceptable." But the infatuation itself is all kinds of strange because of Kennit's rape by Igrot. So is it genuine attraction, or just some perverse and sad replay of his own experiences? So, not entirely sure, but thought it was worth the mention

Edited by HelenaExMachina

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59 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Yeah Robin Hobb.  Mercedes lackey had a bunch also.

also, elminster is bi? When did that happen?

Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms is kind of a hilarious but sad story that I wish someone would write a book on. Basically, he's a Old HippieTM who envisioned a kind of weird decadent Free Love Tolkien meets Hyborian Age kind of place. Then he submitted his campaign notes to Dragon Magazine regularly as he eventually got it made into a campaign setting. Except, this was the time of BADD and TSR wanted to make a family-friendly setting with no sex, violence, demons (Baatezu anyone?) so they restricted him from mentioning heterosexual sex let alone bisexuality. It's kind of depressing really because the original Greenwood Realms is a lot more interesting and original place than the one which the owners of the license keep pushing out or screwing with.

You can learn more by going on Candlekeep and reading through the massive archives of questions there.

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