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Bakker and Women


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[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1681857' date='Feb 10 2009, 14.38']Ah, Larry. You know I spent too much time believing in that po-mo crap to take it all that seriously, now. People are all that matters, and the Author just happens to be one of them. Even an e-neurotic like me![/quote]

I know, which is why I've had quite a bit of fun in this thread, not that most paid any attention to the irony of expressing certainties in regards to your writing, considering that uncertainty and skepticism seem to be the underlying themes behind your work.

Now you do realize you'll be hounded to explain the "objective reality" of the PoN universe because you've peeked in here, right? Not that people here are impatient or anything...
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I'd always err on the side which doesn't involve sock puppets. ;)

[quote]The reason I fought that, despite all the insecurity of being a first time author, was that it smacked of tokenism.[/quote]

Agreed on this.

[quote]He told me I would regret it, that my points would go unappreciated, and that the majority of women would be alienated by my books.[/quote]

In the end it's all a matter of choices. Commercial, aesthetic, and ideological choices... I guess the question is, could you have gotten the same themes and subtexts across with an empowered woman (though, were I your editor, I think I would have suggested Achamian instead of Conphas in any case) as a significant part of the text? Would expressing a slightly watered down vision to a wider range of readers be "better" or not?

Obviously you made the choice you thought best, and in the end you can really only discuss what you wrote as opposed to what you might have written.

I think a lot of people are responding to the fact that it's not just an ideologically unsanitary world, it seems downright toxic as shown in the first three novels and in relation to the historical time periods and cultures (and modern perceptions of same) that are being borrowed from. There doesn't seem to be any room for exceptions to the rules (again, from the first three novels), when history is littered with them. And some who've read TJE seems to think that holds, while others seem to think that one changes things. I'll get around to reading it for myself at some point.
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[quote name='Ran' post='1681848' date='Feb 10 2009, 21.34']I find it awkward to say, but...

He's in greater danger of being tarred and feathered for [url="http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?act=findpost&hl=&pid=663655"]writing about himself[/url] in [url="http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?act=findpost&hl=&pid=1677052"]third person[/url].


Well, if it was good enough for Caesar, it has to be good enough for Scott ;)
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I have some questions I thought would never be answered, but since you are there now...

If you meant the term "twelve-talent whore" is taken to mean a whore (NPC class Expert) who gets 12 skillpoints per level, does that mean Esmenet must be at least level 8 and have 20 intelligence? (6 skillpoints from being an Expert, +1 from being human, +4 from starting with 18 int, and +1 from raising intelligence twice on level-up.) Or is she a Rogue rather than an Expert, which would give her 12 skillpoints with just 16 int?

I think Esmenet isn't yet old enough (as of PoN, which is what I have read) to get the intelligence bonus from middle age and anyway IIRC in 3.0 the age bonus was only to wisdom (unless I'm confusing editions here which is possible). Anyway, if Eärwa is using a (modified, especially as far as magic is concerned) D&D system, I think 3.0 is it, since Kellhus's Whirlwind Attack feat was severely nerfed in 3.5 so that it no longer combines with other feats, specially Great Cleave. (By the way, did you make Kellhus a Paragon Human Monk intentionally to make him a combination that looks great on paper but is actually very weak? [A powerful template like Paragon is murder for XP gain, and the Monk is generally considered the weakest core class, despite its many cool powers.] Or did you just make a character with cool powers? Or is the Dûnyain monk a decidedly more powerful version of the standard monk, beyond just the handy ability to count the longsword a monk weapon and do Flurry of Blows with it? Some things Kellhus does make it sound like he's doing things like expending his psionic focus to use his Offensive Precognition power...)

Or did I just manage to outgeek you?
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Pierre/Scott et al,

Nice Henry 5 thing going on there.

I think that part of the 'missing subtexts' that you're seeing is that it's not on subject. We're not talking about the philosophical underpinnings of the books; we're talking about a very specific and narrow viewpoint. Now, if you're saying that we've missed the subtexts of women in the book, that's another point.

I think Esmi is a pretty good character. There are certainly better women characters out there, but she's pretty decent. Serwe and Istryia are fairly monotonic, and for me Esmi doesn't match up to the complexity of Akka or Cnaiur. I'm not sure where you saw the poorly written part, but as far as I can tell that wasn't the main crux of the arguments here.

And I agree with Ran, largely. The question that I've always had is why was it necessary to so rigorously create a world that was massively sexist - moreso than our world. I apparently am that dumb person that dylan likes to talk down to so fervently, as I do not see the message you're trying to send. If it's that sexism is abhorrent and wasteful, that's fine - but I don't get what the point is of making it so heavy-handed. If the point is that women are better than men but that men have put them down because they value them so highly...well, that's in the text, not the subtext. And it's somewhat defeated by the fact that women still are given their power by men and because of their breeding ability, not because of their personal merit.

As I've said about Istriya, you went out of your way to purposely show a woman in power who has been molesting her son and feeding him whores to keep him in line. There was no real need for this; it's an ancillary plotline with an unrelated resolution. It was clearly an authorial decision...the question I continue to have is what the point is.

I understood pretty well why Esmi had to be a whore. I didn't understand why Serwe and Istriya did.

And to get all Dylanesque, we'll go with one last point. If you recognize that women are better than men but are put in a demonstrably subservient and unequal place by the patriarchy, why did you go out of your way to do it even more in your book? I mean, this seems like you know how awesome women are and then specifically decide to subjugate them. It seems like if you wanted to prove how great women are having them actually be great might be a better option than stating your thesis and subjugating them explicitly and more severely than the real world does.
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Wow, Morgan and Bakker checking in to the forum in the same week. Can we get them together in one thread? Maybe they can exchange . . . insults and recipes?

Or maybe they could field questions about the other's work?
Hijinks would ensue!

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1681821' date='Feb 10 2009, 12.18']All I can say is that the intentional subtexts I've layered through PoN - and remember, I spent twenty fricken years working on the thing - have been almost entirely missed in this thread.[/quote]

Could you give us an example? I ask not to pre-empt the work itself, but to get a glimpse into the creative process.

Watching David Milch wax eloquent about the making of Deadwood - one of the greatest cultural artifacts of the present moment - I was amazed at how wonderfully off-the-wall some of his thoughts about the series were.
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Welcome, Mr Bakker... [pause]

I just caught my vanity trying to say something clever. Sick bastard.

My thanks to you, Pat and Penguin for the signed proof. Made the top shelf.
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"The thing I've learned over the past several years is that if you give people the whiff of a rat they will find one. All I can say is that the intentional subtexts I've layered through PoN - and remember, I spent twenty fricken years working on the thing - have been almost entirely missed in this thread. But I don't really see this as a problem so long as the text is strong enough to realize multiple, incompatible interpretations. And I feel confident that this is the case."

I'm sorry, but if your subtexts are being missed, then you have failed significantly to engage your audience with the ideas that you are trying to present. Despite Dylanfanatics endless condescension, your general themes seem to have been understood, but the idea that somehow shining a light on these issues by making them so glaring as to be unrealistic, almost unbearable, misses its mark. The question becomes, at the end of the day, why bother?
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Well, it didn't miss the mark with everyone did it. That I'd say would make it kinda worthwhile. Consider also the content of this thread, which is more than the usual tit for tat of opinions.

Personally midget porn misses the mark for me and many others, does that mean the midgets shouldn't bother and midgethotties.com should shut down?

Fingers crossed [s]my next midget porn[/s] aspect emperor arrives this week.
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Judging from the reactions of this thread, i would say that it missed a large swathe of people. As for the length and depth of this thread, so what? I've seen people argue fervrently, and with great wind, about the merits of Tom Cruise. If Christan Bale is a rage case.
The Goodkind thread is a gazillion posts by now. People are here to discuss, that does not necessarily mean that what Bakker was trying to do accomplished anything. But thats my opinion. In my opinion, if two out of a hundred people can read the subtext, then there is a fundamental disconnect there. One that is not addressed to a wider audience. Of course there is something to be said for making the point that you wish to and damn the readers. Does it mean that, for whatever reason, he should stop doing what he is doing? (or midget porn should be shut down). No. I don't think anyone ever said that. But what it does mean, at least for me, is that his subtext is mostly lost, instead conveying to a great many people something completely different. I suppose if he is just looking to start dialogue then he has succeeded.

I personally had numerous problems with the books, and should probably just remove myself from the conversation until i get a chance to try them again.
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[quote name='Arthmail' post='1682240' date='Feb 10 2009, 20.44']Judging from the reactions of this thread, i would say that it missed a large swathe of people.[/quote]

This thread has serious selection bias.
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In that the majority of posters here will be those who, for whatever reason, had a problem with something involving women in this series?

According to your criteria, ASOIAF has serious problems with being all perverted.
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I wouldn't judge the veracity of the topic based on the amount of posts. It doesn't mean it's good or bad, or that that was what people thought in general; it just means what it does.

Not that it should matter in the slightest whether or not popular opinion values or devalues something.
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[quote name='Arthmail' post='1682240' date='Feb 11 2009, 12.44']Lots of stuff about a threads length not meaning much[/quote]

I spoke of content not of length or depth. Way to misquote.

Aiming your book for the widest possible audience is likely to very quickly compromise what you intend to do. Is duty to the reader more important than duty to your creative vision (yes, wank wank I know)

Anyway, this is all kind of spiraling off to boring tit for tat land. Personally I blame Bakker/Bakker impersonator.
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Maybe we can use [i]Neuropath[/i] to get back into gear? So far there have only been random punches in this direction, of the form “And then he does the same in Neuropath!” or, even worse, “And then, I’ve heard he does the same in Neuropath.”

And I am at a loss. I [i]don’t[/i] get it.

Please explain.

The setting in Neuropath is the opposite of Eärwa. Clearly, women are the dominating sex in the near-future (at least on average). This is a trend that we can observe already in RL today, and Bakker extrapolates that into his setting. Most men will fail, for example because of poor self-discipline. Neuropath says this flat-out and explicitly.

So does it have something to do with the female [i]characters[/i]? Are they the same as our three feisty heroines in [i]Prince[/i]? In what sense? (Assuming for a minute that I buy that the three feisty heroines were [i]the same[/i].)
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Couple of things I don't understand. Everyone here seems to agree that quota characterization leads to tokenism. Everyone also seems to agree that the author should avoid pandering to readers.

So tell me, what's the problem with stories that focus on male characters? Is there a dearth of 'positive representations of women' out there? Not so much anymore, I would think.

So the real question has to be [i]why[/i] did I choose the representations I did.

I can go on and on about my reasons for choosing the female types I did. So for instance, I wanted to exploit the ironic parallels between 'Men' and their dastardly 'antithesis,' the Sranc. I wanted to explore the nihilistic implications that underwrite social functionalist accounts of our present day gender egalitarianism - the suggestion that the now-sacred values so many have espoused here are actually secondary, ways to rationalize the more efficient utilization of labour given our new technologies of production and reproduction (something which is part and parcel of the way I use Kellhus as a contradictory figure of modernity). What does justice mean when it comes about for all the wrong reasons? I can go on and on, about the ways in which I parallel Serwe and Earwa, and so on.

I cannot, given my own aesthetic and skeptical scruples, claim that my motives were not prurient to some extent, simply because I believe that desire, sexual desire in particular, conditions absolutely everything everybody does. (I also don't think that male desire is bad, 'transgressive,' through and through). But I'm self-conscious and conscientious at least enough to admit this, to admit I should be questioned, which makes me think that those who insist some moral defect chose those characters for me have their own unconscious axes to grind.

Also, where does all this Earwa is 'much worse' than the real world stuff come from? Are women gang-raped in Earwa in order to shame them into becoming suicide bombers? Are they circumcised to prevent them from experiencing sexual pleasure?

Earwa is - quite intentionally - a blur on real honest to goodness scriptural worlds that the majority of the human population actually believes in to varying degrees. It's exagerrated here and there according to various thematic axes I have to grind, nothing more, nothing less. Saying it's much worse simply candy coats the real thing, I think.

Many think that if they miss a given subtext then either it's not there, or the author is being too clever by a half - and understandably so, because no one likes to think of themselves of 'missing things,' particularly when they take a certain pride in their readerly eye. Fair enough. Maybe I am being too clever. Only time will tell. The important thing, to me, is that the series remains accessible at multiple levels, and that it continues to pile on interpretative possibilities, not because of any cheesy po-mo game playing, but because of the richness of the text. I literally set out to write something people would 'have problems with' and yet continue reading anyway.

Much to the chagrin of my bank manager...

When it comes to [i]Neuropath[/i], I pit biology against normativity - I think I do this so obviously that I'm reluctant to even call this a subtext. The problem is that the norms at stake are generally the [i]readers'[/i] norms. As I've said many times, people find agreement agreeable.

The only troubling pattern you're seeing is a pattern of challenging readers' normative expectations. It seems to get me in trouble.

And since it's trouble that I'm [i]asking[/i] for, it's all good.

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[quote]This is a trend that we can observe already in RL today, and Bakker extrapolates that into his setting. Most men will fail, for example because of poor self-discipline. Neuropath says this flat-out and explicitly[/quote]

Hmm, I am not really seeing that women are superior to men in our current society. Women may do better at getting educated, but fail miserably in the workplace compared to men. There is also the issue with child care assistance etc.

Looking at it from a physical point of view, women live longer on average, yet if you look at works by women where they consider their own bodies, you will find a lot of negative opinions.

As I have not yet read Neuropath, I cannot comment on it specifically. The general notion that women are superior to men does intrigue me though as this is not something I believe most women would agree with. Is my superiority just something I missed and an opportunity I should take advantage of more? :)

[quote]So tell me, what's the problem with stories that focus on male characters? Is there a dearth of 'positive representations of women' out there? Not so much anymore, I would think.[/quote]

Yes, there is a dearth of female PoVs, strong female characters and female characters that aren't stereotypes, especially in Fantasy/Science Fiction literature.

*waits for someone to link the White Straight Male fantasy thread*
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