Girls Love Fantasy Too (Or Why “Boy Fiction” Doesn’t Exist)

Odds are you’ve heard something about this little TV show called Game of Thrones that’s just started on HBO. Odds also are that you’ve heard something about a couple of the less-than-positive reviews that went up last week in which it was painfully clear that the reviewers simply don’t like fantasy and think that those of us who do are childish at best, stupid and uncultured at worst.

Let me make a couple of disclaimers before I get too deep:

  • I haven’t seen Game of Thrones. We dropped cable a few months ago and this is the first time I’ve regretted it.
  • I haven’t read the books yet, either. My husband is currently reading A Game of Thrones and I’ll be reading it as soon as he’s done.

So I currently have nothing personally invested in this show other than the facts that I love pretty much all things fantasy, the previews look fan-freaking-tastic, and a long-haired, goateed, armor-wearing Sean Bean is in it. (He could be reading tax code aloud and I’d tune in to watch. What? Don’t judge me.)

Why then are my geek hackles raised?

I’m going to completely ignore the review posted at Slate. Even though it made my blood boil, the “reviewer” doesn’t so much review the show as he goes on a rant against fantasy in general. Even some of his fans have left comments pointing out that he really didn’t review the show at all. So I’m just chalking him up as someone we geeks don’t have to pay any attention to.

What really got my ire was the review at the New York Times, in which Ginia Bellafante said (among other bizarre things):

While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

Boy fiction?! Seriously? And who the hell is Lorrie Moore?

This is what got me fuming more than anything else. There is little that hacks me off more than broad assumptions that “all girls/boys/geeks like/don’t like” something. The reviewer’s attempt (a poor one, at that) to assert that she speaks for all women, as if we are a hive mind and all like the same things without exception – and that those who do like different things are some sort of different breed entirely – ended up being a dig at geek girls, and that will get me in a tizzy every time.

I’m sure there are people who would agree with the reviewer, that fantasy fiction is written by and for men, and that there’s nothing in it that could possibly interest women. But I – and leagues of my fellow geek girls, if the response on the internet is any indication – say she’s wrong.

(Ginia Bellafante has since posted a reply to the geekrage, but sure didn’t apologize).

The Argument Against “Boy Fiction”

I was a fan of fantasy before I started gaming. Honestly, I think a lot of little girls start out with an interest – you can’t get away from the fact that unicorns and Tinkerbell are fantasy creatures. I’m not sure where the split comes, when it becomes unacceptable in some eyes for girls to keep liking fantasy. Is it when sword fights become involved? The appearance of orcs, trolls, and other not-so-cute creatures? When the stories actually become serious? Because of course it’s unacceptable to have a serious story set in a fictional fantasy world! You’re better off watching soap operas – at least those are realistic, right?

If fantasy is just for boys, why are there so many women writing it? Maggie Bonham, Barb Hendee, Christine Morgan, Patricia Briggs, C.J. Cherryh, Juliet Marillier, Margaret Weis, Elaine Cunningham, Carol Berg…I could go on for ages. If you wanted to read nothing but fantasy written by women, you would have enough good reading material to last you the rest of your days. Emphasis on good. The female writers of the science fiction and fantasy worlds write stories just as compelling as the men – and they have plenty of fans from both genders.

Does that mean the girls who love fantasy only read the books written by women? Oh my, no. My favorite author is R. A. Salvatore (and not just for his Drizzt novels). I was so excited to meet Harry Turtledove that I couldn’t even talk to him (and therefore didn’t – stupid me!). I’ve seen plenty of women lining up at cons to meet Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn. And George R. R. Martin, the man behind Game of Thrones, said it better than I ever could:

“…if I am writing “boy fiction,” who are all those boys with breasts who keep turning up by the hundreds at my signings and readings?”

Preaching To The Choir

I realize that our readership here at Geek’s Dream Girl is the crowd that already understands that all things geeky are equally open to geek boys and geek girls alike. The world at large is still catching on. Until the day comes when it’s well-known and accepted, we geek girls are probably going to be putting up with jabs like those in the NYT review. Whatever, we can take it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to searching for a download of the Game of Thrones premiere. (Seriously, if anyone can hook me up with a legal stream…)

Do you think there’s a type of book/movie/game that’s strictly for one gender? Why or why not?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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