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Author Topic: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?  (Read 2463 times)

Offline TsarevichRaven

Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« on: June 08, 2015, 04:27:18 PM »
Apologies if this isn't the right place - just wave the magic wand and send it over to where it belongs, if that's the case!

Alrighty: so I have just started this series (http://fantasy-faction.com/2015/gender-and-stereotyping-in-fantasy-part-one-strong-women) for which I have a lot of characters I want to look at. But I want to cast the net a little wider, get some insight into characters that I might not personally know. There will be a lot, since my reading tends towards certain authors, etc, and veers away from others.

I want to know which characters stand out in the SFF genre to you. I want them to be the guys and girls who defy stereotypes - or those who embrace them and still manage to surprise you. I want girlie girls who are the very definition of feminine, and yet they are possessed of agency and strength. I want tough jocks who are all sword and sorcery with muscles, and yet they are not estranged from their emotions.

I want real and believable characters who don't give a fig about gender perceptions and simply get on with being who they are. Strength doesn't mean lifting a car; it means a lot of things. Sansa Stark (ASoiaF -as if I needed to state that) is strong because she survives hell.

Sebastian (The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams) is strong because he is well aware of his own emotions and his own weaknesses and limitations; he's self-aware, emotionally and physically; he's a classic knight, but he moves beyond the stereotype.

So, hit me with your characters: I am open to suggestions (some kind of link to the book on Goodreads, any Wiki/wikia entries, or just some info on the whos and whats would be helpful, especially if I don't currently know the character)!
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Offline JMack

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Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2015, 04:36:09 PM »

Hi, TS.

I found your first article very interesting - good stuff.

I'll put in for Blackthorn in The Dreamers Pool. She is tough and fragile as nails stretched thin, bitter but not despairing, and definitely not your prototypical female hero. She is also not a knife-wielding impresario of violence. I see her much more like a world-weary PI, maybe from P.D. James.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2015, 06:17:55 PM »
The best by far would be the Fool from Robin Hobb's Farseer, Liveship Traders, Tawny Man, and Fitz & the Fool trilogies. Probably the most flawless example of someone in the middle of the scale - though he/she hides behind different identities (of different genders) at different times. Even the author says she doesn't know the Fool's gender.  :)

Another interesting one to look at might be Sedric from Hobb's Rain Wilds Chronicles - he's a fairly effeminate gay man who still has some very strong moments, and who also actively thinks about that kind of issue (and compares himself to his love interests, who are stronger in other ways as well - one in a financial and societal kind of ways, one in terms of physical strength).
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2015, 12:56:43 AM »
Guy Gavriel Kay has a tendency to explore societies where the concept of the masculine ideal balances the poet with the warrior - particularly nicely seen in A Song For Arbonne. As a bonus, the women are often ostensibly outside the official power dynamics, but still wielding great personal and feminine power.

The ladies of Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series also spring to mind: Clara Kalliam is a society/nobility wife who seizes changed circumstances to start wringing power out of them, all while remaining an apparently innocuous lady; and Cithrin bel Sarcour is a ruthless banker (and hard drinker) while being a slip of a pretty little girl.

Honorary mention for Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series, because Jean Tannen is both the enforcer/thug of the group, and the best read of the lot, and never feels unrealistic, compromised or overblown in either role.

Offline Roxxsmom

Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2015, 01:49:39 AM »
I have to say I enjoyed Mercedes Lackey's characters of Tarma and Kethry in the Vows and Honor trilogy. It was written a long time ago, and is far from perfect, but it's the first book I remember reading where the archetypal mismatched buddies were two women. Tarma is a tough, no-nonsense warrior, and celibate and pledged to her gods, while Kethry is more traditionally feminine (and eventually falls in love and becomes the matriarch of a clan). I didn't really realize before I read it, though, how most female characters in fantasy, even the protagonists, were adrift in a sea of men, completely cut off from their own gender. Even today,the "female buddies" approach to characterization doesn't seem to be all that common, though Kate Elliot focuses on the relationship between two female cousins in her Spritwalker books.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 01:56:17 AM by Roxxsmom »

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2015, 12:05:05 PM »
Sam Vimes from Sir Terry Pratchett's books featuring The Ankh-Morpork City Watch. He first appears in Guards! Guards! quote 'a skinny, balding, unshaven collection of bad habits, marinated in alcohol'. He is cynical and world weary, but can be kind and generous in secret, almost embarrassing himself.

Over the course of time he becomes a Duke of Ankh -Morpork and happily married to the former Lady Sybil Ramkin.  This social circumstance, completely against his will,  appals him as the ultimate irony. He has always loathed wealth and privilege, Lords and Kings as such.  He remains  the blunt, cynical, stubborn person he always was, but happier in his home life and incredibly proud and fond of his Watchmen.   

He is the perfect example of a strong man who absolutely will not budge from his principles or kow tow to pressure. He is also  fair enough to recognise and deal with any  prejudices he has held when confronted with justification other wise. He possesses an excellent dry sense of humour and TP's dialogue and portrayal of this character is beyond brilliant. I have always had a feeling Sam may have been one of his top favourites.

Unless you have read all the books where he features and watched the change over time it is a little hard to explain.  There is too much for me to precis, ( truly he could be a thesis subject), but if you are aware of him already, he may provide some useful instances where you wish to quote an example of a certain type of man.

Other books where he features prominently are Thud, Men at Arms, Night Watch, Snuff  but he appears often in many more.

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Offline ClintACK

Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2015, 05:08:21 PM »
-- Lady Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones isn't a main character, but as an elderly grandmother more likely to take walks in the garden and do embroidery than anything remotely masculine she's still one of the strongest individuals in the seven kingdoms.  She got that way by being smart and utterly ruthless, but never by doing anything remotely masculine.



-- Nynaeve in the Wheel of Time is a very polarizing character that might fit here.  At her core, she's a healer -- a nurturing mothering type, but she starts out believing that the only way to be strong is to carry a big stick and thump people over the head with it.  She's almost literally hitting people with sticks and yelling, "Let me nurture you, dammit!"  (Hence, polarizing.)  By the end, she's realized that's not really strength at all, and being bossy is not leadership, and she becomes a much stronger person for it.  (The 'what is strength?' question is a running theme in the Wheel of Time -- see Rand's struggle believing he has to be hard like a stone in order to be strong enough to save the world.  Most of the themes in WoT are explored in the contrast between the arcs of two main characters, so it's a bit difficult to read Nynaeve's arc as a standalone.)



-- Samwise Gamgee from LOTR.  His main skills are gardening and cooking, and he's there to stick by his man through thick and thin while cooking dinner and doing the dishes.  Yes, he gets a bit of an action-hero moment when he thinks Frodo is dead, but it passes quickly.



-- Mo O'Brien in the Laundry Files is an odd case.  The Protagonist (Bob Howard) is a fish-out-of-water IT guy who saves the world with a silver pen, a chicken's foot, and a 9-volt battery.  Mo is his girlfriend, thrown into the job of a supernatural James Bond because she happens to combine advanced degrees in philosophy and proficiency with a concert violin -- not a common combination.  We mostly see her in the aftermath of her battles, where Bob is there to talk her down and help put her back together after she's just dealt with an evil cult that was sacrificing and eating schoolkids.

It's interesting because it shows the man in the relationship in the nurturing, supportive role.  (His "kick ass" moment is calling up their boss and yelling at him over the phone about getting the necessary release forms for the magic spell preventing her from venting to him about it.  Hers was leading a special-ops team into battle against a cult of supernatural baddies, off-screen.)  But mostly, the novels are about him.

One of the novels actually plays with the idea of her as James Bond and the protagonist as the damsel-in-distress, but it's not as strong as the other books...

Offline Elfy

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Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2015, 12:57:10 AM »
Scott Lynch has a few good ones in his Gentleman Bastards series. There's the Spider (Camorr's spymaster) and her heir apparent Dona Salvara in The Lies of Locke Lamora and then the pirate captain Zamira Drakasha in Red Seas Under Red Skies. Joe Abercrombie introduced Thorn in the second book of his Shattered World trilogy, and she was strong in both mind and body. It depends on how far back you want to go, though. Any votes for the various versions of Morgana Le Fay in the Arthurian legends?
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Re: Character Spotlight: Who Deserves a Look?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2015, 03:33:10 AM »
Raistlin Majere, my all time favorite.