Open Thread: Characters You'd Like To See In Fiction

Inspired by Depizan's comment:
And in fantasy-medieval land, women's lots are pretty circumscribed. If you don't want to marry someone and make babies (and possibly run a household), or, depending on the world, join a convent, you've run out of female-appropriate things to do. (Granted, I'd love it if more fantasy authors thought to throw in guys who rejected the male-appropriate things to do and wanted to raise kids and sew and what not. And not as joke characters.)

180 comments:

Will Wildman said...

(Note: the person being quoted in the main post spells their name as 'Depizan'.)

I think I'd like to see more asexual folks, particularly among cis men*. I'm not asexual, but I am apparently less sexual than culture thinks I am or should be, and I would like to see more characters whose decisions are rarely or never overridden by the Testicular Executive.

Heroic civil servants are an untapped resource, I think. More than a few times, the Slacktiverse conversations have discussed the idea of the lone bureaucrat who averts the end of the world by hogtying the Antichrist's administration in red tape so thick that he can't execute any of his plans.

I have a variety of other 'characters I would like to see', but they're so tied into the idea of the stories I would put them in that I'd just go on for pages upon pages.

*I think it's safe to assume that every 'request' in this thread is invisibly affixed with "And not as jokes or freaks".

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you, Will. I cross letters so frequently. Updated. :)

chris the cynic said...

Dezipan's
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(Note: the person being quoted in the main post spells their name as 'Depizan'.)

For the longest time I read it the way it is spelled in the main post.

hapax said...

Hero civil servants, yes!

Actually, any protagonists who aren't police / military / firefighters / reporters / et al. who become heroes by dint of being good at their job. (There's plenty of librarian heros, for example, but only Oracle actually USES her mad library skillz. ) I'm so tired of "Mild-mannered whatsit becomes a hero DESPITE being a short order cook / florist / lab assistant / computer manual reviser / etc."

And of course, POC and Wiccans and disabled and trans and overweight and geeky and members of other non-privileged group characters who just happen to BE whatever, instead of BEING ALL ABOUT whatever -- it isn't their defining personality trait.

And my perennial plea: more short heros as romantic leads!

Will Wildman said...

It has struck me lately that there is a huge lack of disabled characters, even in fiction that's doing better with PoC and QUILTBAG folks. My unexpected favourite character from my NaNovel is mute, and I wasn't totally sure what that would be like, but I've liked the way he has worked out - more than a few times he's had to haul people around so they could see his hands (if they knew sign) when they tried to ignore him, and in upcoming chapters it's probably going to be a bit of a pain that he can't shout warnings/call for help, and needs a writing surface to hold a conversation with most people (since he's in a foreign country where they don't learn his homeland's signing). Beyond that, he basically spends all his time being Patriotic Wizard Acrobat, and while he's uninterested in 90% of what's been happening to the rest of the characters, he's still ending up rather heroic. (I will also never get tired of his flirting with the doctor.)

I do feel like I cheated a bit by having him be mute but still hearing.

I've been considering a wuxia detective story next, a sort of Poirot-esque convolution in a society where superhuman martial arts are commonplace, with the heroic detective having at least one missing or nonfunctioning limb. I suspect that's veering towards the 'this character is all about their disability' thing that we want to avoid, but it's a new idea and I haven't had a chance to flesh any of the cast out yet.

Angelia Sparrow said...

I read mostly horror and same-sex romance. I'd like to see more men who don't fit the "straight-acting gay white atheist seeks same" model. I want more flamboyant queens who top ruthlessly while wearing makeup and nail polish and glitter.

In non-tech, non-birthcontrol magic worlds, women's lives tend to be circumscribed by biology. Unfortunate fact. Circumvent biology and you can do what you like. I suggest reading The Ladies of Mandrygin before you start though. It discusses problems involved in training women (who tend to be smaller with less upper body strength) for combat.

Ana Mardoll said...

It has struck me lately that there is a huge lack of disabled characters

I'd like more of this, too. I've yet to write one for my own books, I think partly because it's such a personal thing to me. But I might just try to do that.

The book I'm trying to write next has a Jewish-atheist girl who has a positive abortion, a blonde Christian girl who recovers from spiritual abuse and finds a version of her religion that fits her, a Wiccan Chinese girl who is also fat, and a black girl who is both agnostic and either bi-sexual or a lesbian. I'm not sure which yet.

sptrashcan said...

chris the cynic said: I want characters who are by the book and it works.

You might like The Last Detective (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Detective). The main character, "Dangerous" Dan Davies, the titular Last Detective, is called Dangerous because he isn't, and the Last Detective because he's the last in line for assignments and gets the unsexy legwork-and-research-heavy cases. The tone is fairly light, but the character isn't played for laughs, and he gets the job done.

J. Random Scribbler said...

I'd like to see more people who become heroes not because they were special snowflakes chosen by some ancient prophecy or whatever, but just because they were tired of just keeping their head down and letting the evil overlord run things.

And I'd love more heroes who don't have to be good at fighting or magic or any other flashy 'heroic' stuff, but are heroic for just doing what they can with what they have -- say, the mason who mixes too much sand in the cement for the secret police headquarters. The royal gardener who chooses trees and shrubbery so that there will be an unobserved path to the tyrant's back door next spring. The programmer who makes EvilMegaCorp's defense drones ignore anyone who flashes a certain symbol. The chambermaid who tells the naive princess what life is really like for the commoners under her father's rule. The manure shoveler who realizes that it's not actually cow manure he's scooping out of those railroad cattle-cars that come back empty from the east, and starts hiding hacksaw blades in not-quite-clean-enough corners. And yes, of course, the bureaucrat who bogs down the antichrist's schemes with artfully applied red tape -- that was what got me started on this whole line of thinking.

I'd also like to see more characters who live with a mental illness of some sort -- not one that gives them some sort of odd and unexpected advantage in certain situations, but just an impediment that needs to be overcome. Like what others have said; something that's just part of the character, without the character being all about that thing.

Oh, and seconding what Chris said near the end of his comment; sometimes the mavericks and the lone buckers of the status quo should be the ones who are in the wrong, and once in a while the boring, reliable cop should end up saving the day because she followed proper procedure even when it was tedious and annoying and everybody was in a hurry.

Jeannette Ng said...

Not all that I want to see, but just a quick follow up to the remark about medieval-fantasy-land: If we want to be inspired by history, let's have *more* medieval gender roles. The ideas that women were ornamental is a very Victorian/1950s idea and pretending that modern complimentarianism is universal only gives implicit approval to its ideals. Medieval women did more than just embroider, and even for those who did embroider, embroidery was serious business. Luxury production was important, moreso than we can really easily comprehend with our modern minimalistic tastes. Suffice to say, I want to see the fishwives and the bookmakers, the glass blowers and the guild mistresses, abbesses and anchorites, the ladies of the manor and the mantua makers. Women held up half the sky and it's about time we actually saw that reflected in so-called historically inspired fiction. Historical accuracy is really no reason why women should be relegated to housewives or to pretend ladies, queens and princesses were purely ornamental.

depizan said...

Related to the idea of disabled characters, I'd also like to see characters who have scars more often, particularly in worlds where that's likely in their line of work. There's something odd about fantasy and modern adventure characters who adventure through life and somehow never end up with scars. Or missing bits, for that matter.

I love the idea of heroic bureaucrats, but I don't know enough about bureaucracy to write one. (Though I suppose that's correctable, either by learning about bureaucracy or, assuming fantasy or sci-fi, inventing my own.) And, in general, seconding what people have said so far.

I'd also like to see more characters who are either reluctant to use violence period (even actual pacifists) or who aren't killers. And who don't have to change their mind about it over the course of the story. I'm tired of violence as the only solution.

Rakka said...

What hapax said.

I want to see older protagonists. It may be that coming of age stories are popular in the intended fantasy/scifi/spefi audience, but they're awfully dull and predictable and it's always being some secret heir or last scion of Sparklypoo that enables them to be heroes. I say blah. Why not have middle-aged heroes, who already have a place in the world and skills to go with it, to have the world shaken and need to make the hard choises as to what is the right thing to do? It would also allow for a larger range of occupations for women in pseudohistorical stories - a widow could be a smith, or own a cannon or two to rent them out with crews, or what interesting you'd come up with.

Jeannette Ng: I don't think today's tastes are minimalistic - it's rather that what would have been insanely time-taking and slow to make are nowadays acquired by going to the mall, where everything is made cheaply somewhere far off and you never have to think how much work it took to make it. The disconnect from real work that goes to an item of clothing doesn't give people any handle on how to relate the intricacies of craft/art in historical periods. Unless authors really think about the cost of cloth (in work hours, from shearing the sheep and carding and spinning and weaving) it's too easy to fall into Hollywood presentation of history. One particularly horrible example of that was, at a viking era market, a sackcloth dress with lace on the sleeves. There are no excuses for that shit.

I want authors to know what they're writing about.

Cupcakedoll said...

After reading several paranormal-teen-girl stories in which the girl finds out she's a fairy princess, daughter of Oberon and Titania, I am hankerin' for a story about a girl who finds out she's a fairy-- a brownie, with super powers of cooking and cleaning. Or any non-glittery non-princess fairy type. I like the fairy princess stories, I'll happily read more, but they are all alike and I'd love to see something similar but veering wildly off course like that. =)

chris the cynic said...

After watching Percy Jackson a story began to form in my head of a character who learned that he was the son of the Greek goddess of dew. Because, seriously, how is it possible that being born of a god isn't enough and you instead have to be of one of the top three most awesome gods at time when the other two don't have any kids in play. (And furthermore be loved by that god more than he has ever loved any of his other children with a strong implication that no god has never loved a child as much as you were loved by said god. "Grrr," I say. Grr.)

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The only anime I ever got into had a main character who was a chosen one in the sense of being the one chosen, but destiny or fate, or whatever didn't seem to be involved. I'd have to rewatch to be sure, but I got the impression said character was chosen to fail. The one doing the choosing didn't want the mission to succeed but was forced (I'm guessing via programming since she was an AI) to go through the motions. So as her tool she picked someone she thought she could manipulate into a depressive slump that would prevent the task from ever being completed.

It didn't work out that way for her, but I don't think that destiny was really playing a role.

I don't think I would have called main character a chosen one at the time, but looking back it's interesting because with a little bit of imagination it really seem to be that kind of story but without the assurance of fate that things will work out. Of course based on when information is revealed I think you'd need to be looking at it on a second viewing to see that.

-

I have a strange urge for there to be stories where it turns out that someone is the reincarnation of a goat herder, or some such, and they save the day by calling on their past life goat herding experiences. Not, "You are ancient hero/king/whatever reborn," but, "You are someone who no record survives of because you really weren't that important.

Ana Mardoll said...

I sort of vaguely remember that that "Knight's Tale" movie seemed inaccurate because it had a woman blacksmith in it and it turned out that, no, if she was a widow of a blacksmith, she totally could do that. And that people did. And that was awesome.

In completely unrelated news, I want to snorgle that avatar every time I see it, Jeannette. BUNNEH!!!

Ana Mardoll said...

Because, seriously, how is it possible that being born of a god isn't enough and you instead have to be of one of the top three most awesome gods at time when the other two don't have any kids in play. (And furthermore be loved by that god more than he has ever loved any of his other children with a strong implication that no god has never loved a child as much as you were loved by said god. "Grrr," I say. Grr.)

This.

It bothered me less in the first book, but I've stalled on the series because it just got worse and worse.

Ana Mardoll said...

I find myself truly taken with the "civil servant heroes" and particularly Will's suggestion of a gardner who plants valuable cover for the insurgency. I want an anthology of these things.......

chris the cynic said...

Well, let's make an anthology of each of the things you want an anthology of. The first one will be free to get people hooked, the rest will cost money and soon we'll be millionaires!

[Insert witty thing that indicates I know that's absurdly outside of the realm of possibility here.]

Will Wildman said...

I find myself truly taken with the "civil servant heroes" and particularly Will's suggestion of a gardner who plants valuable cover for the insurgency.

That was J Random Scribbler, unless it turns out that through time travel we are the same person, in which case how did you see through our flawless disguise?!

I'm always going on about infrastructure and messaging, so I imagine I would focus on some really amazing city planners and telephone/graph/pigeon operators (depending on the tech level). It occurs to me that heroic civil service is one area that Discworld has actually supplied us a bit of, through Moist von Lipwig, hero of Going Postal and Making Money and the upcoming Raising Taxes. He's a former con artist who becomes the Postmaster General, then gets put in charge of the Royal Mint, and is next to take over taxation for the city-state of Ankh-Morpork, and he is awesome. (I have a personal theory that Lord Vetinari is grooming Moist to become the next Patrician of the city.)

I also have a heroic cook stuck in my head. Again. A few years back I had a story about an evil alliance of cooks who wanted to resurrect the incarnation of a god of indulgence and feast on the finest foods in the world while everyone else starved, and they were opposed by the last devotee to the Kitchen God. It was pretty awesome.

Asha said...

I want to see a guy who loves being a house-husband. He enjoys the life of caring for his kids, keeping the home clean, cooking for his wife who happens to be a barbarian warrior/omnidisciplinary scientist/superhero. Not because of some trauma of his past where he needs to hide in the so-called peace of the home, but because he's happy with this job and the job of his wife. He doesn't need to 'protect' his wife, because he knows she can do that just fine, thank you, but getting the kids to bed and changing diapers makes his life meaningful. And everyone is happy that he's happy with his role.

Ana Mardoll said...

That was J Random Scribbler, unless it turns out that through time travel we are the same person, in which case how did you see through our flawless disguise?!

Oh, I do apologize to you both! We stayed up way too late watching movies and that was posted pre-coffee. I should have re-read. I feel very silly now, especially with the 2012/2013 thing. IT HAS BEEN A LONG WEEK, HA.

Well, let's make an anthology of each of the things you want an anthology of. The first one will be free to get people hooked, the rest will cost money and soon we'll be millionaires!

This is actually a real dream of mine, except the millionaries part. (Well, I mean, there's dreams and there's dreams. Ha.) J.D. Montague and I and a few other indie authors have been floating the idea around for awhile of free indie anthologies. With the advent of ebooks, free anthologies have been taking off like hotcakes because they're a great way for people to stuff their eReaders, sample a quick story here and there on the run, and find new favorite authors for free.

But a big thing for me is getting NEW WRITERS INVOLVED. I've seen so many excellent writers on Amazon, ABNA, Vine, NaNo, online... and a lot of them have wonderful style, great ideas, and it seems like short stories and being "vanity published" by someone else willing to do the work would be a great boost to the confidence. I... it sounds stupid probably, but that is kind of my dream.

Well, I mean, that and writing about Twilight every week. *lop-sided grin*

Ana Mardoll said...

Not the same thing precisely, but I want to throw into this discussion a recommendation for Patricia C. Wrede.

SPOILERS

"Caught in Crystal" has a warrior mom who has a 12 year old daughter and a 9 year old son and the mom manages to save the world with them in tow. And they're neither annoying nor precocious "save the day" prodigies.

"Raven Ring" doesn't quite go full house-husband route, but it does have a warrior maiden pick the short dark-haired guy who doesn't enjoy fights and is sensible enough to stay "out of [her] throwing lines" and is happy to let her do all the fighting.

Launcifer said...

Last night, at my grandmmother's birthday party, my uncle sat down and basically verbally beat a plan into me concerning actually getting something published this year. That free e-anthology thing is actually similar to something he suggested I consider.

Seriously, it's a good idea. I'm sure that there are plenty of capable people who would be willing to help make it work. You could een do more than one, perhaps using something of the themese raised here as links and the like.

Now you've got me thinking, so thanks for providing me with a rocking start to my New Year ;).

GeniusLemur said...

So older heroes who aren't chosen ones, heroic bureaucrats, heroism via non-fighting skills, and disabled characters. Sounds like a I've got a winner in the works, at least as far as the people around here are concerned. The central character of my current novel project is an old (in his sixties: ancient by orcish standards) orcish clanleader who uses his strategic/tactical experience to realize his orders will result in the slaughter of his clan and accomplish absolutely zip. He then assumes authority he doesn't technically have (heroic bureaucrat) to call off the attack, and defends his actions so well in the subsequent show trial (more heroic bureaucrat) that the big bads don't dare condemn and execute him outright for fear of touching off a riot or even a revolution. When he and his clan are sentenced to march to their deaths in the desert (the big bads' workaround: the religious aspects of it let them get away with it), he uses his wheeler-dealer and logistical skills (non-fighting skills) to get the supplies they need and keep them alive until they get past the desert.
In the latter half of the book, he's disabled by virtue of being dead, but he's still able to make trouble for the villains.

And yeah, I did it this way because I was sick of chosen ones and whiny man-boys and shiftless ***holes with smart mouths and all the other boring cliches. One of the reasons I got into writing was because I wasn't satisfied with the unentertaining junk that saturates the market.

GeniusLemur said...

Oh, yes: scars, too. One of the things used to identify him throughout the book is that both his tusks are broken off at the base.

Ana Mardoll said...

Launcifer, if you'd like to see the ideas JD and I have been tossing around, we've got a forum with some anthology groups here:

http://www.wishfulwriters.com/groups/

You should be able to login with a Facebook/Twitter/OpenID account... or maybe even anonymously, I'm not sure. I'm off to BUY GROCERIES, so I'll be back later all. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

This is a thing I want to read. Seriously. :D

GeniusLemur said...

I'm glad you think it sounds good. Of course, it all hinges on the execution: there's a million and one movies/books/tv shows/etc with first-rate ideas and awful execution. I was hoping to get it plotted/written last year, but I got a huge, important project at that place where they pay me. Maybe this year.
I also need to work on the plotting. As it stands, there's a pretty big lull in the middle where important but not very interesting stuff happens.

Silver Adept said...

I, too, would like to see more stories of people doing well by being who they are and doing it well. And having them look like actual people. Believe it or not, Transmetropolitan does that pretty well. With loads of violence and profanity, yes, but quite well.

"You said the magic transformation word. What, no armor, no ridiculously-oversized sword?"

"Don't need it. Armor's too slowing, and big swords are impractical. You think we have the kind of space for that here?"

I'm also suggesting Princess Academy, by Hale, as one that handles "average girl handles strange and dangerous situations", and while there's a little bit of the supernatural in it, it's tastefully done and there are no nude transformations into Pretty Guardian Anything.

chris the cynic said...

This is actually a real dream of mine, except the millionaries part.

This I know, for we have discussed this at the-opposite-of-length.* Last I heard you were considering ghost stories.

-

I want to see a guy who loves being a house-husband.

In the thread Depizan's comment was in, I brought up a story that, with the alternate ending I proposed, is sort of like this, but completely unlike everything else in your post.

The story was about a prehistoric tribe** and the part I remember was about one young man. He'd finished all of his training to be a hunter along with the other young men his age, but before he could go on his first hunt he had to complete the rite of passage into manhood. (I don't remember what the test was.) He failed.

As a result he worked with the women, which required him to learn new skills sewing and cooking and maintaining the camp and possibly pottery. You'd think that there would have been helping out with child rearing in there too. I have only hazy memories. Anyway, it was important worthwhile stuff that meant that he was living a meaningful life. As near as I could tell he was happy with it and the only thing wrong was that he had the shame of being a failure hanging over him.

So then one day something goes wrong on a hunt and the wild animal comes charging into the middle of camp threatening the lives of everyone around. He's not a hunter, having failed the rite of passage, but unlike pretty much everyone else in camp (except for the very old, I would guess) he's been trained as one. He theoretically knows what to do when faced with a potentially deadly very angry wild animal. (Which may or may not have been an enraged buffalo, I don't remember for sure.)

He puts that knowledge to practice, saves the day (I don't remember whether he killed it or simply drove it off), that is counted as passing his rite of passage, and now he can be a hunter. End of story. To which my reaction is, "What if he doesn't want to be a hunter?"

He seemed pretty happy doing what the tribe considered women's work. (Once he got the hang of it, which took a while.) The only thing making him unhappy was the shame and general lack of respect that came with being a failure, since his saving the day erased that, he should have no barriers to a happy and fulfilling life working with the women. As I put it in the other thread, I think:
"You are now allowed to join the hunt."
"That's nice, but I've got some sewing to do. You can hunt without me."

Would have been a perfectly happy ending for him.

I figured when he got married he and his wife (this was a straight character, and I would keep him that way because doing otherwise would create unfortunate implications left and right) would both be working in the camp with the tribe's women. Mostly because I was thinking of this as a single person's story, possibly there would be a ripple effect for later generations, but in that generation I was only thinking of one person going outside of gender roles.

So nothing analogous to having a wife who happens to be a barbarian warrior/omnidisciplinary scientist/superhero. Likewise, he would have already served as a protector. So, as I said, it's really only relevant to the house husband thing because the work he was doing was as close to house-spouse work as was possible in the tribe. (Stay at home, maintain civilization.)

-

* We have discussed this at short? We have discussed this at brief? It doesn't work, does it?

** I'm pretty sure that it was used as a sort of framing device for an educational program about what prehistoric tribes in the area were believed to have been like. So it wasn't created with too much thought into making it a good story.

Asha said...

@Chris the cynic:

I like your possible ending right there- it has always bothered me that men who want to do 'women's work' are devalued for it because, well, obviously (to me) that as genders are artificial constructs, so to is gendered work. You have prestigious work and the necessary but non-prestigious work. Not to say that the prestigious stuff isn't necessary, but life really would fall apart without the other stuff. After all, mending and cooking still need to be done when there is leftover meat. I've got an idea for a story that involves a species without obvious secondary sexual characteristics and live in a society with definite roles but those are given according to birth order/bloodline/social necessity. We need warriors? Okay, this batch of youngsters will be trained for such, etc. Still need to work the kinks out. *shrugs* I love your genderflipped Twilight saga, btw. Add another notch to your belt, right? ^_~

@Ana

Thank you for the rec. I need to get to reading books more often again. Right now I'm working at a kids museum and I usually come home in a mood not conductive to reading/writing. Rather disgusting, that.

Will Wildman said...

We have discussed this at short? We have discussed this at brief?

Nah, 'cause those are adjectives and we need the noun form. "We have discussed this at brevity" is the best we can field, I believe. Still doesn't quite sound right.

Closely related to the 'heroic civil servant' category, I think diplomacy is underappreciated. People whose jobs demand tact and careful thought and words, and for whom victory is a favourable trade pact and even the threat of war is a tremendous failure. Each time I see a speculative novel that includes a description of the terrible armies approaching and how they 'cannot be negotiated with' I facepalm so hard that it permanently shifts the axis of the planet by a decimetre.

This Wicked Day said...

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora), as well as being generally well-provided with badass lady pirates (with at least one badass lesbian pirate in the mix) has a pirate captain with two small children. They live on the ship with her; her response when the hero expresses surprise at this is "Where else would they be?" I love that moment so hard. Yes. More heroes of all stripes with children, please, and children whose lives they're actually involved in, even.

On which note, more heroes with parents. The kind of hero who is the Last Heir of Sparklypoo (thank you for coining that phrase, Rakka) also tends to be an orphan (hence the Last bit) or at most have long-lost or estranged parents. Same with superheroes. It would be nice to encounter the occasional roaming barbarian or second-story rogue or telepathic super-soldier who has perfectly normal parents living on a farm somewhere, and maybe sends them money home or visits during the holidays. There is middle ground between the Action Family kind of dynamic where the whole clan are heroes, and the Hero With No Living Relatives At All.

Jeannette - as far as I know there's only one Jeannette Ng with an encyclopedic knowledge of medieval costume; are you the same one who presented on women and magic in Malory at that conference a couple of years back? IIRC, we talked about Twilight and about remaking the Life of St Catherine as a hentai manga . . .

(Er, hi! Long-term lurker, also at Slacktiverse, retreating back under e-rock in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...)

Anonymous said...

Will, I like your mute-but-hearing character but I'm not quite sure what you mean by "haul people around so they could see his hands." What he wants is not for them to look at his hands, but for them to look him in the eye (when communicating in sign, you make eye contact, you don't really watch the hands except with peripheral vision. a lot happens in and around the face.) I think it would make more sense for him to use common Deaf ways of getting attention: waving a hand (a small gesture if nearby, in big arm motions if they're across the room, frantically if something is wrong, gently if he just wants to say hi) Then, once he has their gaze, he'll sign to them. Or, if the floor is hard (wood and stone are good, but grass isn't so great) stomping with one foot or banging on a table (not hard enough to spill the drinks). Tapping people on the arm or shoulder if they're not facing you at all works. And if he's trying to attract his child's attention, throwing a soft stuffed animal at them when he needs them to stop what they're doing and face him immediately works.

If he needs the attention of a large group of people, flicking the light switch on and off is the way to go. Do it rapidly for an emergency, slowly for "all right, everyone pay attention now, i'm only going to explain this once."

To communicate with non signing people, he can write, point at things, or use gestures that are widely understood (tapping the wrist for "do you have the time, please?", things like that)

I don't know what the tech in your world is like, but if he knows the group of people he wants to communicate with in advance, he could give them all magical stones that will vibrate or beep, using a simple code (once for "come help me" twice for "run for your lives!" something like that). or they could be rings or necklaces that all change colour when his ring changes colour (And he changes his ring's colour according to a predefined code) or if it's "modern day our world + magic" then he could get everyone's phone number and type up some text messages in advance, attach them to all the phone numbers, and then when in trouble, send the text message to everyone at once with the click of a button.

Persephone said...

The Twilight deconstructions, and a lot of other discussions I've been having or following, make me realize that I want to see more characters, especially female characters, who are unapologetically, BUT SELF-AWARELY, kinky.

~*~* tw for Twilight power dynamics *~*~

Like, Bella Swan sees Edward beckoning to her in the cafeteria and just gets up and goes over there because, duh, he's Edward and she's just Bella, she has to stop what she's doing and go wait on him. Which seems like a pretty standard female-character-in-romance-genre response.

Whereas the character I'm envisioning (or, say, me :p), might see him being all imperious with the beckoning and think, "wow, that really turns me on. But I don't think he's doing it to turn me on, I think he's doing it because he's kind of a jerk. We're going to have to talk about that."

Ana Mardoll said...

This makes a great deal of sense to me, Persephone. +1

Ana Mardoll said...

I did not know that. Thank you. :)

Will Wildman said...

These are great points; thanks for the advice! The 'hauling someone around' was when he was in an argument with a former-co-worker-turned-terrorist who was monologuing and keeping his back turned completely to Théo (the mute guy), so no communication was possible and Théo was not feeling gentle.

The tech level is low (pre-Renaissance) in the area in question, and while there is magic, it's almost entirely inborn, with very few people knowing anything about how to imbue any kind of power into inanimate objects. He's used a slate on occasion to communicate with people who don't sign, complicated slightly because of multiple languages in use, and of course there's the gesturing and all (he is, among other things, also a mime, so he gestures expertly).

Fluffy_goddess said...

On the romance front: more characters who act their age when it comes to romance. For instance, if you have a guy who is 300+ years old, and has more than a few relationships in his history (both good and bad), falling in love with The New Girl, and then having to break up with her due to political machinations and somebody else's trust issues... do not do it by having him cheat on her. Especially, do not have him cheat on her two hours after he's saved her life and eight hours after they were in bed together, with someone he doesn't know all that well, because he's afraid that if he dates her for long she'll take it as a betrayal when he finally admits that he knows more about her Mysterious Past than he'd let on. Have him do it by telling her that he needs more time and backing off, sure. By warning her that she has no idea what political stuff is going on and that he doesn't want to be with someone who isn't on his side because he might wind up having to assassinate people on the other side, okay. Even just by saying something like, I really like you, but I blame the fact that I was still post-coital when we had that conversation, and I'm not okay with being with you but I won't tell you why.

The example being drawn from a show I just started watching, but the rule being a wish of long standing.

Naomi said...

For those who'd like a "Heroic Civil Servant" story, I highly recommend Daniel Abraham's "The Cambist and Lord Iron," which is a short story available here: http://issuu.com/spectra/docs/cambistandlordiron

Really awesome story about a guy whose job is to convert money from one currency to another. He's not a civil servant exactly but he's heavily regulated and operates within these rules. Economics are central to the story in a totally riveting but also incredibly unusual way.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

My mother is an Irish SL interpreter, and I picked up a certain amount about Deaf culture from her and her textbooks. There's all the little things you don't think of, like not dawdling over meals: get the eating done fairly fast, so you're free to talk afterward. And I believe that American Deaf culture has different greeting and parting rituals than American hearing culture: more drawn out hellos and more abrupt goodbyes (I might be remembering that one wrong).

I also find the linguistics of signed languages fascinating, and would love to learn ISL myself one day. I've picked up little bits, and can actually communicate in sign, but not very well.

Actually, there's a thought of people I'd like to see more of in fiction: Deaf characters.

TRiG.

jill heather said...

I like antiheroes. I want a character who is an antiheroine, and who is also the main protagonist, or one of two. Not one of seven, not a secondary character, etc. I don't seem to see this often, no matter how popular antiheroes are.

In response to some of the above:

China Mieville deconstructed a lot of these tropes (to various levels of success) in Un Lun Dun (for kids, so you finish it and DON'T want to slit your wrists afterwards).

Tanya Huff writes books with characters who are unapologetically non-vanilla-sexual, not straight, and happy about it.

I swear I have read a book about a tax agent (I think not US, so not IRS) who does something awesome, but it's probably some sort of forensic accounting.

Carrie Mathison on Homeland (tv show, not sff) has a mental illness, and I think it was incredibly well done. And there is that medical student with dyslexia (or some reading/writing disability) who wrote a book about a magician with dyslexia, which was neat.

CC Finlay wrote a series (Patriot Witch -- don't remember the book names) that had actual pacifists in it, during a war.

Amaryllis said...

Cooks?

Well, if you all will excuse another Steven Brust reference (I'm almost finished with the published books, so I'll stop soon!) -- Jeannette, have you read the "Vlad Taltos" books? Vlad is not a professional cook, although he worked in a restaurant before moving on to more swashbuckling pursuits. But boy does he know good food; as he says of himself, "I'm a decent cook. I'm an outstanding eater."

Food is very important in all the books; Dzur in particular frames each chapter with a detailed description of one of the courses of a dinner at a famous restaurant. Don't read it when you're hungry. If you don't know the series, I probably wouldn't recommend Dzur as a starting point, but ohmigod that dinner.

Silver Adept said...

@Jeannette Ng:

Depending on your audience, I would think it possible to show off incidental kink through the use of Fade To Blacks, water cooler conversations, or overheard snippets of one side of a kinky relationship. At least, for non P.O.V. characters. If it's the P.O.V. character...well, you could use the same tricks, or have a narratively-significant scene take place between the kinky couples, in much the same way as the Conversation Between Lovers happens in our television dramas or something.

However, as Not A Writer of something like that, I'm sure the paragraph above is "yeah, I could do that, but how do I actually write it so that I get across the sensations of kinkiness and manage to not get derailed from the narrative / make the kink the central character development?" for which I have no advice.

I also would love to see more characters who are kink-aware...or who come into their kinky selves through much thinking and negotiating, rather than through Won't Take No or other means that are dubious in any consent.

@Persephone -

Care to try your hand at writing a scene like that, where Isabella realizes that beckoning Edward is actually kind of hot, but that Edward is too much of a jerk for her to go through with pursuing that kind of relationship with him. Maybe one of those other boys in Forks...?

Dav said...

I'd like to see more women who don't want kids, and who don't subsequently change their minds or turn out to be villains.

I'd also really like to read the "that's hot; I think I'll go explore it further but not with creepy-pants" scene from Bella. If she can google Edward's vague symptoms, think what she could discover about kink in a couple evenings. Also hero cooks/low profile professions. That would be awesome.

I'd like to read about a reality TV team. Not the actors, but the people who film and put together the stories and write the plotlines and make sure they get the shots and build the sets - I think that workplace has potential for hilarious hijinks and/or some really dark satire.

More heroes that aren't tall and rippling with muscle, especially when there's no plausible reason they would be. (I do have this half-formed idea of a scene where a historical romance hero goes out and buys a bunch of the historical equivalent of protein powder and one of those magnetic girdles to help maintain his uber-masculine physique.)

Makabit said...

Before I launch into reading this thread, I'd just like to mention that my own series of mysteries set in Renaissance Florence (one finished, several more in planning stage, not fantasy but straight-up historical fiction), sparked as a result of reading several historical mystery series with female sleuths, and noting that they were all nuns. Ginevra was born out of my conviction that laywomen could also solve mysteries if they tried.

Makabit said...

And now I've read through, and boy, we got a lot of ideas here!

As several people said articulately, I'd like to see more characters, both in fantasy and historical fiction who represent the range of professions people were actually involved with, men and women both. I'd like more middle-class characters, as opposed to the usual arc of 'honest peasants, cheeky urban underworld types and the aristocracy'.

I'd like to see more exploration of marginalized cultures, once again, both historical and fantasy-based. No, gypsies who just stepped off the stage at the RenFaire and into the pages of your book do NOT count.

I'd like, especially in fantasy, to see characters who take the culture they were raised in seriously, for good or bad. Too often, the whole character arc is them learning that what they were raised to believe is entirely silly, whereupon they turn into, well, someone who just walked off the stage at the RenFaire. I'd like to see more and better exploration of religion.

Yatima said...

I would like to read many, many of these stories! I would buy and possibly even sponsor an anthology in which they appeared.

My friends Leonard and Sumana published their own anthology, and wrote this essay of lessons learned in the hopes that more people would do the same:

http://thoughtcrime.crummy.com/2009/AppendixA.html

The tax inspector book, by the way, is The Tax Inspector, by Peter Carey. And Robin McKinley in Sunshine does a great hero cook.

This Wicked Day said...

Makabit, re: "gypsies who just stepped off the stage at the RenFaire and into the pages of your book" - or "into your videogame" in this case . . . I have an abiding moderate-to-guilty love for the Assassin's Creed games. I generally think they're good silly fun. Revelations, however, is straining my patience - not because it's FAIL on all counts, but because the makers clearly put /some/ thought into it but didn't follow that thought to what seems like its logical conclusions. Like: about 50% of the rebellious citizens who join your Guild are women (including veiled Muslim women! How often do you see heroic portrayals of women in niqab, even in this kind of incidental role?) But all the little tips and loading-screen tidbits refer to your assassins as "he". It pisses me off that someone was aware enough to include female assassins, but didn't think to amend the flavour text to, y'know, acknowledge they exist.

ANYWAY, what I was trying to get to was that one of the factions in ACR are the Constantinople Romani. And once again, someone clearly put /some/ thought in, but ... not quite enough? The game goes out of its way to point out that a) the "gypsy curse" stuff is complete rubbish and b) that "gypsy"/"gyptian" is a wildly inaccurate term in any case - but then the minor Romani villain is a trickster and magician anyway. And also all the Romani you interact with are women, in the costume-shop-standard scarf/big earrings/swishy skirt combo. And where the previous game had thieves, mercenaries and courtesans as hireable groups, Revelations has thieves, mercenaries and Romani. It's never specified in-game why exactly groups of Romani women are hanging around on street corners, or what services they're hiring out (the player uses them for crowd cover and/or distractions), but that is a metric fuckton of unfortunate implications, right there.

So yes, seconding the wish for more attention paid to "gypsy" characters and others from marginalised cultures, or the fantasy counterparts thereof. Also, more heroines who wear the veil. Hell, tying in with something else Makabit said, more religious characters who are observant without becoming caricatures. (One of the protagonists of my stalled NaNoWriMo novel is a travelling mercenary trained as a member of a militant religious order. One of the things I really wanted to do with her was to show a character who was devout and viewed her career as a religious vocation without her coming across as stupid, fanatical, or implausibly saintly.) More atheists, too. Better exploration of faith, and the lack of it, in general.

J. Random Scribbler said...

Ana, no worries about mistaking Will and I. Of course, maybe we really are a single time traveler (and making jokes about it just to throw you off.) OK, yeah, I've been up all night, feeling a bit punchy right now.

I do need something to get my writing into gear - I have entirely too many half-completed stories lying around. So I'm definitely interested in the anthology idea.

Jeannette: I did read the Mistborn trilogy and was impressed despite the flaws. The whole chosen-one idea was interestingly subverted, and even more... but I don't want to spoil it for those who may yet read the trilogy. I'll definitely check out Fforde, too, thanks for the recommendation.

J_Enigma: I want to read this novel! Is this the same as your posts that show up in the Slacktiverse blogaround, or is that something else?

In general: Yes, fewer Mary Sue, special sparkleflake characters please. And while coming-of-age and transcending-your-culture stories are often interesting, I want to see more stuff that either subverts those tropes or simply tells a different kind of story.

Loquat said...

Clearly I need to actually finish writing my vampire story about a middle-aged guy in 14th-century Europe whose vampiric transformation totally wrecks, among other things, his engagement to a wealthy widow who runs a successful family business with her mother and little sister. He has assorted scars from a decade or so spent soldiering around Europe in various portions of the Hundred Years' War, and is extremely concerned that his new vampire status came with a Go Directly To Hell card. Not to mention the legal wrangling that arises over the question of whether he's officially dead, and whether his next of kin can inherit property he's still using.

I also have a house husband/warrior wife story in the making, though the husband isn't so much domestic as he is scientific - she's a She-Hulk-esque cybernetically enhanced warrior, and he's a disabled cybernetics engineer. I haven't quite decided whether he's used his talents to restore his ability to walk, or gone for the bulky-yet-awesome spider-legged robot chair, but either way he's much smaller and weaker than she is, and strangers tend to give them weird looks when they're in public together.

chris the cynic said...

We have discussed this at short? We have discussed this at brief?

I did consider "shortness" but for some reason my brain wouldn't come up with brevity for brief and shortness and brief don't go side by side well.

Closely related to the 'heroic civil servant' category, I think diplomacy is underappreciated.

There is a sign in my town, in front of a glass installation company I think, that says ... crap, I've forgotten the first word. Something like, "Enjoy your freedom? Thank s soldier." It seems to me like "diplomat" would fit in there pretty well too.

It occurs to me that Stargate did reasonably well with showing that terrible hordes that can't be negotiated with are the exception rather than the rule considering that it was very much an action show and thus required there to be non peaceful solutions almost all the time.

When Anubis was coming and there would be no possibility of negotiation that was because Anubis was a special case, if it had been pretty much any of the other mass murdering planet enslaving evil people they could have negotiated with them. Except that they wouldn't need to, because that negotiation had already been carried out.

Ben said...

Villains. I want to see more...villainous (?) villains. I don't know. I feel like villains are sorely neglected in most of the fiction I have encountered. Most of them seem to be Orcus, super powerful and super BORING. Villains tend to be villainous off screen, too, which (even when you don't hate the heros) leads to them not seeming particularly villainous. Their minions almost always seem worse. What I want to see are more villains like the Gentleman With Thistledown Hair from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, or Xykon from Order of the Stick (see this strip and this duel*). Also, Handlebars is, IMO, the best villain song ever.

*Duel link is mad spoilery, yo.

Ben said...

Got it. In addition to the on screen villainy (which is desperately needed for its own reasons), what's really missing are villains who are smug. Deservingly smug. They know more than the protagonist(s), they have the upper hand, and they know it. Xykon and Thistledown are both like that, which makes them much more villainous than a lot of other characters I've seen. Often, the villain is either not actually in a position of strength (looking at you, Tad Williams), or has some kind of sympathetic backstory (oh, hello, Tad) that makes the audience not want to punch them. Not punching is all well and good, but wouldn't it be nice to have a story where an evil, smug, powerful villain is defeated? That kind of ending just feels good.

WingedBeast said...

Speaking as a reader of sci-fi and fantasy, I'd like to see a few things.

1. More werewolves that aren't woodsy guys. A simple, every day, living in the city werewolf. Is that so hard to do?

2. Ray the Vampire Accountant. He would be played by Patton Oswalt in the movie.

3. A movie that doesn't kill human beings, not because he hates his vampiric nature or because he's a "good vampire" but because it would be a freaking stupid thing to do!

Makabit said...

Winged Beast: I've thought about urban werewolves. The key problem seems to be, to me, that once you've transformed, you're now, uh, a wolf. In the city.

Even in cities with big parks, this does seem to up your chances of being noticed, and possibly shot or tranqed and collected by the local PD.

Of course, even if you're up in the mountains, if you leave evidence of scat, or kills, or prints, at least here in California where we currently have, we think, ONE wild wolf (he just made his way over the border), that is also going to attract attention eventually.

All of this said, I do have one project on the burner--I plan too many novels, and get too few of them finished--which involves a family of Jewish werewolves spread across Boston, London, and Jerusalem. Their origin story is based on the idea that the SS units that called themselves 'Werewolves' actually were werewolves, and that a clash with a group of partisans left infected survivors.

The London branch, at least, drives up to the highlands of Scotland at the full moon, for a long weekend. I haven't figured out what the rest do yet.

This Wicked Day: As a Jewish fantasy reader/writer, the role of Gypsies in fantasy fiction both fascinates and infuriates me. (I tend to call them Gypsies unless the book takes place in something that's supposed to be our own world--like, it has France it in--because they're really not Roma, or Romany, or Sinti, or what have you're they're RenFaire Gypsies.) I find it interesting that while my own marginal European ethnic group is largely invisible in fantasy (with the exception of Guy Gavriel Kay, who created a Jewish analogue group in "The Lions of Al-Rassan"), the Rom have been eagerly seized on as an image. But even authors who try to throw in a little bit of research basically treat them as jolly travellers, thieves, fortune-tellers and, er, ladies of easy virtue, and they are always at the ready to trust, and assist with absolute loyalty in the Big Quest, the Good white people who wander across their paths. Maybe being invisible isn't such a bad thing. Dang.

I'd also like to comment that while many other people are just as guilty, I find that most of my pet peeves in fantasy find their best flowering in the work of Mercedes Lackey. I feel bad about this. I actually liked a number of the Valdemar books in college. Would have LOVED them in high school, but I didn't know about her then. It was the book about the Native American shaman that broke me. I just couldn't go on.

And Ana, thanks for mentioning 'Caught in Crystal'. I read it twenty years ago, and never since, but I still remember it. I especially love the tension between the protagonist and her order about her having left to marry, and how her son feels about that.

J_Enigma said...

J Random Scribbler - alas, if only Chloe and Zira could be so developed. Both of them are relatively "young" in character terms, even both both are well past being twice as old as Renee is, Renee is an "older" character, having lived in my head for the last 6 years. Chloe and Zira, the protagonists of Human Black Box, are "young" characters.

That said, both Chloe and Zira do meet some of the descriptions above. Chloe, the protagonist, hasn't really been fleshed out a lot yet, because I'm still trying to get a feel for who she is. Part of the difficulty is that she doesn't even know who she is; Chloe gender identifies as female only because she woke up in a female body she was uploaded into. This person, "Chloe", is not who she was originally. She can't remember anything about who she was prior to waking up on Earth. Chloe strongly gender identifies as female despite that; all of her bodies are the same because she really can't adjust to a body that doesn't fit her mental image of who she is: she has Dravidian or Persian features, dark skin, green hair and eyes with green nanotattoos of some kind. Whether she is Dravidian/Persian or something else all together not even she knows. Chloe is also an async; different from other asyncs in that she wouldn't notice anything wrong with the way she feels being that she's *always* felt that way for as long as she can remember.

Her counterpart, Zira, is even stranger. Zira is an uplifted gorilla. She's current inhabiting a transsexual transhuman body; female on the outside with male genitalia rather than female. There is absolutely nothing strange about her either, in terms of the setting - at least, not as far as her body goes. If people found out she was uplifted gorilla, she'd be in trouble. She likely identifies as transsexual and transgender, and is in love with a human who is current being kept in cold storage.

Both have made mistakes in the past - the biggest mistake they made was underestimating the intrepid microblogger Cameron Williams (yes, *that* Cameron Williams; or, rather, someone, likely a bioconservative, claiming to be him. They're fairly certain he's a Jovian agent; he's not super-spy material but according to Zira, knows what he's doing and is really good at it), who later got the drop on them and shot Chloe.

Gelliebean said...

A few things I'd like to see more of: (using hero as interchangeable with heroine)

Heroes who don't have a traumatic/dramatic backstory - no murdered parents (foster or otherwise), no long-lost loves, no deep betrayals by friends, no atoning for previous evils; just someone who realized one day that "Hey, I could be doing something about this" and does.

Love interests who exist as something more than just an impetus for action on the hero's part (Tisiphone in the Webmage series, for example)

Cross-sex pairings of teammates who can work well together without developing romance between them, or causing jealousy in existing relationships, or running into a Big Misunderstanding.

And just as a fancy, I'd like to see a villain who conquers a city because her obsessive nature gets fed up with the poorly designed traffic systems and all the time wasted, and by golly she is going to make sure the stop lights are synchronized, and the buses/trains will run on time if she has to condition every last driver by electro-shock, and everyone's commutes will be entered into a database to determine the optimal (and mandatory) carpool lists to save on congestion/pollution OR ELSE DEATH RAYS. Or maybe I'll sit down and write that one myself. :-p

J_Enigma said...

Alas, if only my characters in HBB could be so deep. Renee is from a different novel; not only is she from a different novel, but she's also and "older" character. As far as character ages goes, Chloe and Zira, the current protagonists of HBB, are probably twice her age and then some (it doesn't matter in HBB; mind uploading is possible and as a result, you can leave your body behind for a new body if it gets too old). As far as real world age goes, Renee has a few years on both - Renee's been living in my head for about 6 years now. There are some huge differences between Renee and the protagonists in HBB; the two stories aren't even remotely similar.

Ana Mardoll said...

You're welcome. I love Patricia Wrede, and CiC is one of my favorites. I really like the exchange where they talk about the childrens' names, and there's a nice little bit where one of the Sisters sneers a little at the Mother about "it's a shame your son isn't a girl because if he was, he'd be a nice addition to the fighters" and the Mother tells her off.

Thomas Keyton said...

Heroes/heroines who are both smart and work to increase this - inspired by Ana's discussion of the Smart Girl and by something I read somewhere about how one can imagine a young Tom Riddle kept up all night because he's got exams the next day, I'd like intellect to be the focus of the plot.

Will Wildman said...

Cross-sex pairings of teammates who can work well together without developing romance between them, or causing jealousy in existing relationships, or running into a Big Misunderstanding.

I have one story brewing that I intend as a recon of the 'last prince raised in secret must reclaim his lost throne' thing, with the lead characters being the prince (who has been raised as an actual future politician, not a master warrior like hidden princes always seem to be) and a princess from another country who finds him simultaneously infuriating (he is screwing with her diplomatic tour) and satisfying (because he's knocking heads she's always wanted to knock).

The only thing that would ever suggest they should hook up would be narrative cliché and bystander misunderstandings, which they would ignore entirely. I'm envisioning a moment post-victory when they find each other in a rush, fall into each other's arms, he breathlessly proposes, she says something like "I've waited so long to hear-" and then her poker face cracks and then both fall down laughing, finally ending with "Oh, wow, that is so not happening." "Yeah, we would kill each other within a week."

Thomas Keyton said...

And damn it, I've spent too long away from sensitive laptop touch-pads.

A young Tom Riddle kept up all night revising for his exams because he could have managed it in the daytime if he hadn't been chasing up that interesting footnote about some theoretical bit of Dark magic and he needs to get into the NEWT class in this subject both because it'll come in handy for his future career and because he genuinely likes the subject and why is there no magical caffeine?

And intellect being the focus of the plot because all I can really think of in the category of clever, learned, learning/researching protagonists are Isaac and Bellis from Mieville's Bas-Lag books, and Strange and Norrell; and Bellis' linguistics don't come up all that often, and Isaac and Jonathan Strange aren't so much doing research for most of their books, but experiments, and I'd have loved more of a look at how Norrell rediscovered functioning magic within an existing academic culture.

Ben said...

I believe Norrell rediscovered it by being an avid reader of magical texts. He was good enough that he was able to find some spells that still worked, and then figure out how to cast those. Norrell is a researcher, Strange is an experimenter.

Jules said...

Female protagonists who are not any version of Hollywood Hot, AND are not butts of jokes, AND live reasonably cheerful lives in which they don't obsess unduly over their "hotness" or let the lack thereof significantly impair their lives, AND don't dramatically alter their style/weight/hair/etc during the story, AND do not subscribe to beauty myths or the hierarchy of hotness imagined by NYC and LA, AND are found attractive by and loved by other people who are also not Hollywood Hot but are also reasonably attractive in their own varied ways.

Ana Mardoll said...

Buhahahaha. I love it.

Makabit said...

TW--Suicide, religous persecution, being female in the early modern world (am I doing the TW right? I don't do them anywhere else).

@Jeannette Thing is, the nun series actually get fairly strained with reasons to take them out of the cloister and put them in the center of the action one more time. My Florentine sleuth is living in the middle of a bustling Renaissance city, with complex family and business ties all around her, which makes her domestic snooping far easier. Her time constraints pose something of a plotting challenge, as dinner must be on the table by ten o'clock, everyone home by curfew, household matters attended to, and her husband is not wild about this sideline she's developing in solving crimes. Luckily she has a formidable and very supportive mother-in-law.

The novel with Avigai, my Jewish protagonist, is set in 1201, and she will be safely dead by the time the Expulsion takes place. I chose Winchester because, out of all of the cathedral towns, it seemed the least likely over time to turn nasty on its Jewish community. Even in 1190, when all hell is breaking loose all over, Winchester is like, "What? We don't get it." Avigai is a financier and investor, her (second) husband is a scholar, and they have several children, one of whom is already married, and another who is studying in France. I like the complexity of medieval households. They make for a fun writing process.

Writing about religion was particularly interesting when I got into Avigai. In some ways, our practice is very similar--I also keep kosher, observe the same holidays she does, say most of the same prayers--but our worlds, and what it means to be a Jew in them are wildly different, and I also have a couple of major Christian characters. The scene that almost blew my mind (luckily I was doing this as a NANO, and could vent online a bit), was when Avigai and the Christian undersheriff are discussing the York massacre of 1190, during which a group of about 150 Jews sheltering from the rioters committed mass suicide, rather than risk torture or forcible baptism. Two characters who see this horror in entirely different ways, neither of which vaguely resembles how I see it, trying to talk about it...I still don't think I've got it quite right.

Anyway, I love this stuff. I want to try my hand at fantasy/sci-fi eventually, though. Too many projects, too little time.

RE: Sherlock Holmes, I did like the Romani in that. It was a kitchen sink of a movie, but I did like it that they're involved in politics, and that the girl actually had a practical and serious reason for helping them out. Also, her clothes seemed relatively realistic to what I've seen in photos, rather than that all-purpose wench outfit.

Thomas Keyton said...

I know how he did it, my point is I'd have liked to see him researching. Strange's "go back to first principles to achieve whatever crazy idea Wellington's had now" method is all well and good, but there must have been previously-discovered easier ways to do some of his feats.

Jeannette Ng said...

@Makabit
Huh, must have been more tired than I thought. I seemed to have misread 1200 to 1300. Crazy me.
That does sound pretty cool, by the way. Medieval Judaism is fascinating. I look forward to seeing it one day.
I suppose I'd always intimidated by writing historical fiction because I feel like I'll never get it right, so my excuse is I write historically-inspired fantasy. So if I make something up, if I get it "wrong", well, that's because it's not history.

@depizan
Exactly! Language seems to develop around extremes and describing extremes is a lot easier. The "they're alright" isn't easy to convey without overly labouring the point.
I'll suppose I'd add to the list for myself, writing about non-standard beauty in a non-euphemistic way. I've read a fair number of romance novels with what they call "plus size" heroines and the language never feels quite right. It always feels like they're trying too, too hard to make them sound "beautiful".

Rikalous said...

re: religion and atheists: One of the protagonists of Warbreaker is Lightsong, who's an atheist god. He doesn't think that rising from the dead as an amnesiac with an idealized body makes someone genuinely divine, especially since he doesn't respect most of the others like him. Elantris has the viewpoint character Hrathen, an evangelist who's trying to convert the kingdom where the action takes place. His home country is going to invade if he doesn't do it fast enough and the other priest of the religion we see much of is a bastard, but Hrathen himself remains both sympathetic and devout the entire time.

Launcifer said...

On this business about language, extremes and trying to make a character - especially heroines and female protagonists - come across as somewhat normal, shall we say?, I was re-reading something that I'd written as a prelude to re-writing it over the course of the next few months. I noticed that I had obviously attempted, way back in the mists of time, to convey a notion of something other than Hollywood beauty, but had somehow ended up with descriptive sentences such as "her legs are composed of rather more shin than thigh".

Now, ignoring the appalling writing for a moment, I'm trying to figure out quite why I felt pushed to such weirdness in an attempt to convey a less Hollywood-standard type of physique (and if we could also ignore why the hell I'd pick her legs for this, I'd be eternally grateful). I don't know if it's because of the comment you made about language developing around extremes, or simply because I didn't really know what the hell it was I was actually trying to do back then.

hapax said...

Oh, and urban werewolves -- I wouldn't recommend it to people bothered by weird gender issues, or mishmashing mythologies, or Hollywood Wiccans, or really all sorts of problems, but Kelley Armstrong's WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD paranormal romance series is one of my guilty pleasures, and I think the first (BITTEN) does wolf-in-the-city really well.

Makabit said...

@Jeannette, Have you read Jennifer Weiner's stuff? Not traditional romance, more 'chick lit', but good fat characters. All women, though, which is cool, but I wouldn't mind some fat male characters as well.

Makabit said...

"My favorite example of this is Madeleine L'Engle's description of Meg in A WRINKLE IN TIME as having, among other characteristics, "hair-colored hair." I instantly knew exactly what she meant."

I love Meg, she's a truly time-durable character, but I did feel a little betrayed by her turning into a more conventionally attractive adult in "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" (the one no one ever reads). Now, I suppose it's not crazy to think that as a married grown-up lady she would get a flattering haircut and contacts, but...dunno. I would have to go back and reread it.

Not that a little annoyance will make me stop loving Meg. I love it that in Wrinkle, she's both sure that she'll never be as attractive as her mother, or have as many advanced degrees. Actually, I love Mrs. Murry.

This Wicked Day said...

Re: the Romani in Game of Shadows: I did enjoy it, and I appreciated that the Romani were by and large not caricatures. Sim having a sensible costume - jacket, hat, scarves, heavy travelling skirt - was excellently refreshing in terms of the outfits generally put on female characters in action-y films (I couldn't speak to its historical accuracy). Also, I loved that she didn't turn into a love interest. As I think has already been noted in this thread, there are not enough opposite-sex protagonists who just get on with stuff without capital-R Romance intervening.

Another small thing I liked in that was that the anarchists didn't seem, to me, to be over-villainised - the little we saw of them seemed to put them across as violent and misguided, but still . . . legitimate? As opposed to the unambiguous "this man's plan is evil, he must be stopped" attitude the film takes to Moriarty.

Also, the ideas about medieval households and a lack of fantasy!Jews and the comment upthread about the heroic gardener have all cross-pollinated in my head, and there's something germinating, I think. Must think more on this.

Lonespark said...

a formidable and very supportive mother-in-law

Yay!

chris the cynic said...

Also, I loved that she didn't turn into a love interest.

I think this has more to do with the fact that Sherlock is asexual than anything else. If it weren't for the fact that he and sex don't mix, I think she would have been.

As it is Sherlock seems almost baffled by the idea of sexual attraction. And it is possible I should remove the "almost" from the previous sentence.

-

And since I'm discussing the movie,

Lonespark, I agree that the crossdressing wasn't played for laughs. Though it was weird in the way it felt like the movie might be trying to have it both ways. The visuals of the scene really felt to me like this was supposed to be humorous, and felt that way enough to make me cringe, but everything else (the audio, the context, and especially how the scene ended) didn't feel that way at all. So it was strange. Especially after how the scene ended I'm in agreement with you, but before that I had serious doubts.

I definitely felt like Holmes was being presented as asexual, but he clearly loved Watson so I see how you saw the opportunity for a gay interpretation. Well, he'd actually be bi if we interpreted his love as sexual.

Loquat said...

RE: religion, I think playing with religion is part of the reason I wanted to set my vampire story in the 14th century in the first place. If you've got a version of medieval Europe where vampires are both real and generally known to be real, what happens? There are multiple ways you can go - vampires might infiltrate the church to turn its power to their own ends, or the church might declare that it's feeding on humans that earns you damnation, rather than being turned into a vampire per se, resulting in the formation of isolated vampire monasteries and heretical sects that embrace vampirism, or fanatics that kill vampires to "protect" their souls from temptation. And of course things would vary from place to place, so you might see vampires setting themselves up as feudal lords in one country, while another country strongly encourages them to remove themselves to island monasteries.

And, of course, if I let my vampire characters survive to see the Protestant Reformation, it'll be all kinds of fun to explore their reactions to it. :)

Brin Bellway said...

chris the cynic: I definitely felt like Holmes was being presented as asexual, but he clearly loved Watson so I see how you saw the opportunity for a gay interpretation. Well, he'd actually be bi if we interpreted his love as sexual.

I didn't pay much attention when Mom watched the first movie and haven't seen the second at all, so I don't know if this is relevant to the specific situation here. However, I'd like to point out the existence of romantic asexuality. It's possible to fall in love with someone without feeling lust towards them. (It doesn't happen to me, as far as I can tell, but it does happen.)

hapax said...

Loquat, now you're making me think of Ginn Hales WICKED GENTLEMEN, but it has demons instead of vampires.

It's set in a vaguely steampunk-ish England where (no spoiler, because the actual narrative takes place hundreds of years after this backstory) the Jesuit order invaded Hell, converted all the devils, and emptied the place out. The descendants of these demons (called Prodigals) are kept as a despised poverty-stricken underclass, strictly restricted to a ghetto, subject to the scrutiny of an Inquisition that quickly resorts to torture. Now imagine that your protagonists are a cynical drug-addicted Prodigal and a priest of the Inquistion who has literally been to Hell so long that he no longer believes in God (and together, THEY FIGHT CRIME!)

Some very weird stylistic tics, but I love Hale's stuff...

Loquat said...

Holy crap, that book looks awesome. Steampunk, demons, gay romance, and a cheap Kindle edition? SOLD.

I'm actually planning to set my vampire protagonist in a region where vampires are trying to rule as an aristocracy, to the point that some of the townsfolk feel it'd be worthwhile setting him up as a puppet lord in hopes of avoiding conquest by real vampire lords, but there are certainly other places in the world where vampires are kept under control and/or killed on sight.

Makabit said...

Sherlock's sexuality is clearly...complex. What I mostly get from his relationship with Watson is that it's not sexual, almost emulatory. He wants Watson's attention, and studies him as an example of what a normal person might be like, he loves him, he wants his approval, but he's also a little contemptuous of Watson's non-genius status. I think he's a little jealous of Mrs. Watson, not because she's sexually involved with Watson, but because she gets his time and his attention. It's childlike, somehow.

The thing that made me laugh is the housekeeper's comment that he's living on 'coffee, tobacco and coca leaves'. 'Coca leaves'? I know they're chewed in the Andes for energy, but Holmes, canonically, and more realistically in this setting injects processed cocaine. I guess you can't say that in a PG-13 movie, about the protagonist.

Makabit said...

I've said it here before, but my favorite vampire novel, hands down, is Kim Newman's 'Anno Dracula'. Set in England in the 1880s, after Victoria has come out of mourning to marry Dracula, and vampirism has become all the rage in Victorian society. It's very well-done with an eye to how something like this would affect Victorian society. Early on, an aristocratic vampire is at a social event with a non-vampire hostess. She offers him a drink, which he declines, and then, remembering that he won't take wine, she calls over the maid, who undoes her cuff buttons.

Oh yeah. I knew this was going to be a bizarre and well-thought-out book then.

chris the cynic said...

but Holmes, canonically, and more realistically in this setting injects processed cocaine. I guess you can't say that in a PG-13 movie, about the protagonist.

They actually did say it in the first movie. Watson takes something away from Sherlock and says, "You do realize that's supposed to be used for eye surgery," or something like that.

I looked it up. "Cocaine was historically useful as a topical anesthetic in eye and nasal surgery."

So, basically, they look for ways to say it without actually saying it.

Lonespark said...

Yeah, they wouldn't let him have his cocaine like in the book. Which I am of two minds about. It's cocaine. It has specific effects and why change something like that. OTOH, why not change it if you are going to change other things (considerably less BLATANT RACISM, so yay) and add more explosions and so forth. Plus, in my limited understanding various opiates were commonly used and not especially frowned on. So maybe it would be like overuse of some other legal-but-often-abused drug today? The films have a historical setting, but lots of anachronisms, too.

Lonespark said...

Also, I think Simza escaping being a love interest of sorts is lucky in the sense that she escaped that fate and movieverse!Irene Adler didn't. Ugh.

Rikalous said...

I went into Game of Shadows without having seen the first movie, but I figured Irene Adler becoming Holmes's romantic (and probably sexual) interest was just what you got with a Hollywood adaptation. I was just hoping she'd be interesting and competent, which seemed to be working out. Then she got (ROT13'd) xvyyrq bss ol Zbevnegl. V fcrag gur arkg srj fprarf rkcrpgvat ure gb erirny gung fur'q snxrq uvz bss fbzrubj naq jnf tbvat gb pbzr onpx naq or njrfbzr. Ab, nccneragyl fur vfa'g vzcbegnag rabhtu gb gur zlgubf gb unir cybg nezbe. Uneehzcu.

@This Wicked Day: I seem to recall that the anarchists were mentioned to have started causing more carnage recently, so they weren't that villainous until one powerful guy started calling all the shots for them. Which is, of course, not very anarchical.

Launcifer said...

In fact, all of Kim Newman aka Jack Yeovil's books are great, even the Games Workshop/Black Library ones. He's one of the few people who can maintain such a high level of pastiche without me thinking he's being lazy.

chris the cynic said...

Regarding the rot13ed thing, if you'd seen the last movie you'd be even more surprised that that's how she was handled in this one. I had more or less the same reaction to it.

Makabit said...

I am now going to ramble, because it's late in the thread, and this keeps occurring to me as I read some of the stuff on these threads. Feel free to skip.

Regarding characters you want to see...there's one I'm writing now, who certainly isn't someone I thought I 'wanted to see', but I've started to realize where he came from. He started as a plot device, essentially, a connection between several other characters in my first try at writing 'traditional fantasy'. And he's been a pain, brittle, sarcastic, and prone to slamming up layers of court ettiquette between himself and anyone who makes him nervous (which seems to be most of creation). Just writing him made me jittery. But a couple of characters I liked better seemed to think there was something to him, hell, one of 'em's in love with him, and I persevered a bit.

And then it occurred to me to really examine why this guy was such a wretched mess, and I noticed that I'd basically created an insecure, slightly self-loathing, ridiculously bright man, not at all comfortable with his own sexuality, and then informed him that he was being frog-marched into an arranged marriage with a complete stranger nearly fifteen years his junior. And now I was wondering why he was having a nervous breakdown in all his copious spare time from helping his brother run a country. Oh. Yeah. That could have something to do with it.

Anyway, I think I get him a little better these days, although I can't say he's doing great. (The marriage will actually be a good thing for him. The civil war, not so much.) But it occurred to me that (besides projecting some of my own angst, and better one-liners), I'd also flipped the POV on the traditional arranged marriage angst of a great many fantasy novels I read in my misspent youth, the situation where the feisty heroine despairs on being told she's being married off to an older man for political reasons. We hardly ever even met this guy--she usually ran off first--in some of the more hardcore books, he actually showed up, and there was a gruesome wedding night before she ran off, or he got kicked by a horse or something. And now, all these years later, some facsimile of him has shown up on my page, muttering through his teeth, "I'm not actually having a delightful time here myself, if you care."

Makabit said...

Re the ROT13 section, yes, I know, really annoyed me. And even before that, she was just not as--dynamic--as she was in the first movie. Not as cool, not as capable. In the first movie, she was basically a female Holmes, albeit far more socially competent.

Makabit said...

And...can you tell I can't sleep tonight?...I'm trying now to remember the title of a young adult novel that I found interesting because the protagonist's father is acutely agoraphobic and has trouble with social interactions, so he's an at-home dad, and earns endless certificates in correspondence courses. I liked it, because while his getting through some of this was a minor part of the plot, the whole family seemed to take the arrangement very much for granted.

Will Wildman said...

Further regarding the rot13'd bit from Game of Shadows:

Bapr V qrgrezvarq gung fur ernyyl jnf fhccbfrq gb or qrnq, V nfxrq zlfrys jul: orpnhfr gur npgerff pbhyqa'g be qvqa'g jnag gb or srngherq? Gura jul unir ure gurer ng nyy? Cerfhznoyl gb qryvire na rzbgvbany thgchapu gb gur nhqvrapr, ohg guvf vf bar bs gubfr pnfrf jurer V trg natel jvgu gur jevgre vafgrnq bs gur ivyynva (frr nyfb: Trbetr EE Znegva naq gur Erq Jrqqvat). Nqqvgvbanyyl, Zbevnegl uvqrf ure qrngu fb arngyl gung rira Ubyzrf qbrfa'g urne nobhg vg sebz pbebaref be nalguvat. Fur nyzbfg qvrf bss-fperra, naq gur bayl ba-fperra ovg jr trg vf n gjb-frpbaq synfuonpx zhpu yngre.

V pbapyhqrq gung fur'f "ernyyl qrnq" sbe gur checbfrf bs guvf zbivr, ohg pna naq jvyy ernqvyl or oebhtug onpx vs gurer'f n guerrdhry.

Rowen said...

Kinda late to the game, but oh well. I'd REALLY like to see characters who fall outside the "normal" body type, but who are still treated as . . .well, normal human beings. For example, I'm 6'3", and come from hearty Irish peasant and Comanche warrior stock. IF my physical type shows up, he's usually got a lot more muscles then I do, and spends his time going "swordy, swordy, swordy" (or if he's intelligent it's more "claymore, bastard sword, broadsword . . .y")

I also spend quite a few years seriously studying ballet, and everyone in my family has been on a swim team at some point in their lives, so I tend to get eye-tics when I read stuff about "swimmer's bodys" or a "dancer's frame." (this is one of the things that SO FRUSTRATES me with Lackey. I latched onto her cause I was all "FANTASY!! With GAY PEOPLE!!!" only to find out that every one of them were lithe and petite and frail looking)

Furthermore, everyone does NOT have to fit one body type to be attractive. I know plenty of people who fall outside the norm, who might have a few, or more then a few, extra pounds here and there, but whom I still consider to be attractive people. And on that note, anyone I don't consider attractive, I don't spend all my time with them mentally cataloging their physical flaws, or worse, telling them to their face. (I'm looking at you, George R. R. Martin)

Ana Mardoll said...

@Makabit, I love that idea. When they do get married, will he be really nice? Will their wedding night consist of just talking and no arranged marriage with older guy squick? We need more of that. :)

Anna said...

and a black girl who is both agnostic and either bi-sexual or a lesbian. I'm not sure which yet.

Why not have her be somewhere in between the two? There's too little recognition of the Kinsey scale in fiction - characters can be attracted solely to one gender, or (in very rare cases) have equal attraction to both genders, but nothing in between. Whereas in reality It's More Complicated than that... and characters who reflect this are one of the things I'd like to see in fiction.

Will Wildman said...

Why not have her be somewhere in between the two? There's too little recognition of the Kinsey scale in fiction - characters can be attracted solely to one gender, or (in very rare cases) have equal attraction to both genders, but nothing in between. Whereas in reality It's More Complicated than that... and characters who reflect this are one of the things I'd like to see in fiction.

I have a friend who is 'unofficially bisexual', in that she's never had any kind of romantic/sexual relationship with a woman and is unlikely to (being engaged to a dude) but thinks she'd like it if she ever tried. She remarked at one point that of all the bisexual people she's met, she's never known one who didn't have a preference for one gender or the other. (Not that I don't think such people exist; just adding anecdata to your point.) I'm straight (or so empirical data suggests), but one of my Berserk Buttons in fiction is an inability to distinguish between some form of bisexuality and pan/omnisexuality. Because plainly if someone is into dudes but also kind of likes ladies then they would happily get into bed with a Neptunian broodwrangler without a second thought.

Anna said...

Indeed. I tend to prefer women (in the same way that I tend to prefer brunettes, which is to say that this is something I've observed as a statistical trend in my own empirical data, but by no means excludes other options) but I have significantly more romantic history with men, both because it took me a while to come out and because of the relative sizes of the dating pools. So yeah, complicated. And just for the record, I have never been with a Neptunian broodwrangler.

Rowen said...

Do you mind if I ask a few questions here? I really hope this doesn't derail things and if you'd like, I can give you my private e-mail to answer these, or not, if you so choose to.

1) While I've known many bisexuals and do agree that many of them tend to skew towards one gender or the other, what makes a person like the unofficial bisexual above actually go ahead and describe themselves as bisexual, despite, based on what knowledge presented, has had very little/no sexual/romantic contact with someone of the same sex, and . . . I'm getting the impression isn't actively seeking it out. I'm asking cause as a gay person, I never felt that sort of complacency, and haven't seen that in many of my bisexual friends, but I've come across it online and there is a little bit of "confusion looks better sideways" going on.

2) What is the difference pan and bi? My sister, who is pan, gave me the impression that it's more or less the same, at least until we get a third gender or find compatible other species, but that it carries less baggage. I can grasp the concept of bi in a theoretical futuristic universe, but am still having trouble with it in our modern one.

Ana Mardoll said...

(Yeah, that's a good idea. I might even have her explain her sexuality with the Kinsey scale. I like that. )

Anna said...

Derail away....

(1) Well, most people are capable of realising that they're attracted to a person without actually engaging with that person in a romantic or sexual way. And if you were already happily monogamous with someone of one gender, you could look at a person of a different gender and go "yeah, I fancy them, but I'm not going to act on it because I'm invested in my current relationship". So I think it's fairly easy to recognise bisexuality without acting on it, the same way it's easy to recognise any crush without there being an imperative to act on those feelings.

(2) Not sure on this one, but here's my take: the term bisexual implies a gender binary, and attraction only to those 2 binary genders. The term pansexual rejects a gender binary and expresses the possibility of attraction to people of any gender presentation (we don't need to wait until we get a third gender: there are already people in the world who identify as something outside the male-female binary system). Since there aren't a huge number of non-binary-gendered people, pansexuality and bisexuality tend to look fairly similar in practice.

Rowen said...

Thanks! I think what confuses me with my first question is more along the lines of "Why be so hesitant about it?" Like, I get that maybe someone didn't ever get to act on it, and now they're in a committed relationship and/or have no desire to cheat, but then why not stand up and be "Yes, I am bi/pan." or maybe I'm projecting too much of myself (I was able to come out at 14, in an all boy's catholic school. My parents never disowned me, but we don't talk about it, and they've never meet any of my boyfriends. So, I never really had much of a "am I? or aren't I?" time and kinda forget that many people aren't so . . . clear about their sexuality at an early age.

As for number two, I've totally been myopic about the subject. Thanks again!!

Will Wildman said...

what makes a person like the unofficial bisexual above actually go ahead and describe themselves as bisexual, despite, based on what knowledge presented, has had very little/no sexual/romantic contact with someone of the same sex, and . . . I'm getting the impression isn't actively seeking it out.

As I noted, she's engaged, and monogamous, so she's not looking to get with anyone, male or female, other than her fiancé. I think it's relevant and sometimes even important for people to make self-descriptive statements like that, to avoid anyone ever conflating 'married' or 'in a monogamous male/female relationship' with 'heterosexual'. It's a bit like Brin pointing out that asexual people still fall in romantic love sometimes - separating concepts that are correlated but not identical. (I once saw a friend on facebook post on a QUILTBAG awareness day "Yes, I am bisexual; I'm one of the invisible ones who married a man.")

2) What is the difference pan and bi? My sister, who is pan, gave me the impression that it's more or less the same, at least until we get a third gender or find compatible other species, but that it carries less baggage. I can grasp the concept of bi in a theoretical futuristic universe, but am still having trouble with it in our modern one.

Well, I'm not an expert, but we do have more than two genders on Earth, although only two are recognised by most English-speaking culture and are expected to line up with physical sex. So presumably a pansexual person does not consider gender at all in their sexual attraction, whereas a bisexual person is saying "If you're performing our culture's male-associated or female-associated genders, those are both good, but if it gets more complicated than that, I'm not 100% sure how I'll react". A bisexual person might not be attracted to someone who aimed for perfect androgyny or asexual neutrality or something, whereas a pansexual person would not care.

That said, I am not the Sexuality Arbiter (they said I had good credentials but not enough field experience) and everyone gets to describe themselves however they want; I'm not going to tell someone that they're using the wrong term if they say they're omnisexual and I think they sound more like they're bi or something.

Anna said...

I think the hesitancy thing is just people having different comfort-levels when it comes to the privacy of these things. One argument employed by homophobes against the concept of coming out is "I don't tell you about my sex life, so I don't need to know about yours". This is generally a stupid argument, as sexuality is about far more than sex, and remaining closeted normally means keeping quiet about significant relationships (which is not something straight people are expected to do). But if someone's already in a significant relationship with someone of the opposite gender, and therefore not planning to act on their bi/pansexuality in a relationship context, then the main area affected by their sexuality would be their fantasy life. In this case, standing up and saying "Yes, I'm bi/pan" might feel a little more standing up and saying "Hi there, I'd like you to know that I'm turned on by whips and chains/feet/fursuits/Rick Perry". In other words, it might feel like giving out information that you don't actually want or need other people to know.

Of course this is all very personal, and ignores various things, like the fact that coming out can be used as a declaration of support for the LGBT community, which could be one of several compelling reasons for someone to come out about bi/pansexuality even if they don't plan to act on it. But there are plenty of people who decide that their sexuality is nobody else's business, and I think that's a perfectly legitimate decision to make as well.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Whoa, cool! I like historical mysteries. Do you have an Amazon or other link, perchance?

Will Wildman said...

I think what confuses me with my first question is more along the lines of "Why be so hesitant about it?" Like, I get that maybe someone didn't ever get to act on it, and now they're in a committed relationship and/or have no desire to cheat, but then why not stand up and be "Yes, I am bi/pan."

Oh, like that. Well, possibly because some people say it's just some kind of trend to flout heteronormativity and will criticise a person for claiming to be bisexual when they've only ever Done Stuff with the 'opposite' sex. Like I said, I'm not the Sexuality Arbiter (new term of office starts in two years; I'm polishing my resume) so I haven't been able to stop people from setting bizarre rules like "It doesn't count unless you acted on it".

Ana Mardoll said...

Not a bad question. I think I weigh in as a Kinsey scale 2, but I'm definitely in the category of "only really with men and so how do I represent that?"

The pros of coming out as bi- is that it can be a statement of solidarity with QUILTBAG communities. The cons is that since I've never really been with women, I am concerned of looking like a poseur/wanna-be or treating QUILTBAG issues as like an accessory. And, of course, as a woman who is likely to be identified as hetero- in passing (since I'm married to a man), I don't ever face QUILTBAG discrimination in my daily life.

There's also a problem, I think, in shaking out where I "naturally" fall on the Kinsey scale versus the fact that I live in a culture that HEAVILY sexualizes women. Am I attracted to women because I'm born that way or because I'm a Pavlovian dog? This question is utterly moot, but it does crop up in the ol' brain when the identification comes 'round.

(This isn't even getting into romantic attraction versus sexual attraction. Were not for Husband, I would love to be in a romantic relationship with a woman, and have considered it seriously at various points in my life. However, a sexual relationship with a woman is something that I could really give or take -- I prefer men in the "Just Sex" category. Not sure I'm explaining this well at all.)

Rowen said...

My usual response to something like that is "I've never had sex with a woman, and while I might should the opportunity present itself, I'm very much sure that I'm gay." But, yes, I've heard that used before.

What gets me about the situation above is that I kinda feel that by adding that "unofficial because I'm in a monogamous relationship" part, it helps the stereotype that bisexuals can't be satisified unless they're in an orgy or cheating on everyone or something.

Of course, I think about these things, and have been told to shut my brain off or that I'm thinking too hard, or that no one else feels the same way.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Wait, no. I want characters who are by the book and it works. They do their job, they follow orders*, and they get the job done. I want the cops who bend the rules to be the villains and the ones who follow them to be the heroes.

There's a genre of mysteries called "police procedurals" in which the good-guy cops are generally by-the-book types. There was a series set with the LAPD that I used to read decades ago by Dell Shannon that I particularly liked. There's also Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" series. There's the original "Dragnet" TV series. Etc.

Fluffy_goddess said...

Jumping in here a bit, but my own experiences apply to point 1): I'm bisexual, but I have much more history with guys than girls, and it's fairly tame history either way. (I like to turn it into a series of humorous anecdotes, but seriously, it's a very tame history.) But I identify as bisexual now the same way I'd have said I was straight earlier in my life -- that is, because to the best of my knowledge of myself, including who I fantasize about, who I've actually dated, and who I've wanted to date, I like both genders.

Sexuality is largely mental, so I think that *who you fantasize about* is at least as important as who you have sex with, especially given the 'who you actually have had sexual relations with' category is hugely determined by who you've had the opportunity to be with. For example, at the moment I'm not actively pursuing a sex life because there's been a lot of family drama and medical drama and whatnot going on in my life, and I have a large enough toy chest that I can focus on having a low-pressure social life and finding a better job than I'm in right now, rather than actively pursuing either gender. It doesn't mean that I'm no longer a sexual being, or that I'm no longer attracted to people, it just means that circumstances in my life aren't cooperating, and I'm working with what I've got. If I do get asked out, it's usually by guys, because there are a lot more heterosexual guys in my life than gay/bi/etc girls, and I've got bigger problems on my plate than correcting that imbalance for now. It's not that I'm not also interested in exploring that aspect of myself, it's just that right now is not a good time for exploring anything.

Or, in shorter words: it's not about who you actually, at this point within the boudaries of reality, can and do have sex with, it's about the general categories you want to have sex with.

Will Wildman said...

What gets me about the situation above is that I kinda feel that by adding that "unofficial because I'm in a monogamous relationship" part, it helps the stereotype that bisexuals can't be satisified unless they're in an orgy or cheating on everyone or something.

'Unofficial' was my term and possibly not a good choice; the point she wanted to make was 'I'm not totally sure, but I think it's likely that I'm bisexual; I haven't checked and I don't plan to'. That was what I meant by unofficial - no 'I definitely enjoy getting it on with ladies' credentials. Monogamy only came into it as the reason she wouldn't be checking.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

1. Ever see "Wolfen"? A 'horror' movie based on a book about sentient wolves secretly living in big cities.

2. Sounds like a Discworld character.

3. Several vampire comedies have done this.

Fluffy_goddess said...

Aaaand by the time I'd finished figuring out what I wanted to say, it had already been said much more eloquently up-thread. *bows to faster thinkers*

Ana Mardoll said...

I liked it anyway. :D

Anna said...

I think I caused a threadsplosion. Ana, I apologise for the derail. Going back to the original topic somewhat...

I might even have her explain her sexuality with the Kinsey scale

This would make me very very happy.

Ana Mardoll said...

Don't apologize! I *love* threadsplosions!! I even love the word.

I can see it now:

"I thought you were a lesbian."
"No, I said I prefer girls."
"So... you're bi?"
"No. I'm a 5 on the Kinsey scale. Look, it's very simple..."

*grins*

Makabit said...

"(this is one of the things that SO FRUSTRATES me with Lackey. I latched onto her cause I was all "FANTASY!! With GAY PEOPLE!!!" only to find out that every one of them were lithe and petite and frail looking)"

Yes. I sometimes think there are authors who believe that non-lithe men are biologically incapable of being gay. Unclear where they got this idea from, but they're stickin' to it.

Rowen said...

My gay rugby league and I would like to have a word with these authors. Well, maybe not the rest of the league. And I certainly don't want to stop said authors from writing. . .

Maybe I should just extend an invitation to said authors to come see one of our games. . .

Makabit said...

@Ana--His mistress is coaching him on good-new-arranged-older-guy-husband behavior, and he is the sort to literally take notes, so I think we can count on a non-squicky wedding night, and his absolute best attempt at being really nice, which, he would readily admit, has never been his strongest suit. He's going to screw up slightly early in the post-wedding evening, but luckily, said mistress will be there to catch him, tell him off, and boot him back in the right direction.

Who was it that said that the bonds of matrimony are so heavy that they require two to carry them--sometimes three?

Makabit said...

@Dragoness Eclectic So far I haven't published anything, but I'm hoping to later this year...doing some e-publishing is one of my New Year's resolutions. I'll probably spam the news all through here.

depizan said...

That ROT13'd bit is why I'm not seeing the movie. I was looking forward to it, until I found that out. Good job breaking it, movie makers. (ROT13'd) V rkcrpgrq ure gb or xvyyrq va gur svefg zbivr naq gur snpg gung fur jnfa'g rnearq gur zbivr UHTR cbvagf jvgu zr. Arrqyrff gb fnl, xvyyvat ure bss va gur frdhry jnf cebonoyl gur fghcvqrfg guvat gurl pbhyq'ir qbar vs gurl jnagrq gb xrrc trggvat zl zbarl.

depizan said...

Yes. I sometimes think there are authors who believe that non-lithe men are biologically incapable of being gay. Unclear where they got this idea from, but they're stickin' to it.

Which is annoying from every conceivable direction. It's like the corollary to romance (for women) writers insistence that women only swoon over six foot tall sides of beef. Both need to go away. Gay, straight, bi, and poly people come in all shapes and sizes and desire people of all shapes and sizes. Really.

Makabit said...

Oh goodness, I guess I'll weigh in on the bisexuality thing.

I dated/slept with a few girls and a few guys in college, more girls than guys but really didn't date and/or sleep with very many people at all, or for very long. When I was twenty-six, I met my future husband, and we've been together, and monogamous, for twelve years, so I fall into the 'woman married to a man, and now wonder if I'm being pretentious to say I'm bi' category.

I look at hot girls with enjoyment, flirt with women when socially appropriate, mostly fantasize about gay men, and am probably a Kinsey 2, maybe a 2.5. If I'd been raised in an environment in which being with women was more taboo, I would probably never have given girls much conscious thought. If I'd been raised in some sort of female equivalent of classical age Greece, and been told that real love was with other women, I would have been fine with that.

(One of my favorite throwaway lines in historical fiction ever comes in Mary Renault's _The Last of the Wine_, when the narrator, a Peloponnesian-War-era Athenian, says of a friend that he's realized that Xenophon is one of those people who simply can't form a relationship with a man, it's always women with him, and it's kind of sad, really.)

I identify myself as bisexual, simply because it seems to be the commonly-used term that comes closest to describing how I work. Mostly, it simply doesn't come up. People assume straight when they realize there's a husband, and that is fine with me, I don't correct them, although they may get a more nuanced picture if I know them for a time. I will sometimes identify myself as bi in political contexts, if I'm writing a letter about LGBT issues or similar, and I 'came out' to a group of students once, which led to a long talk with one of them in particular. (His sister had come out, and the family was not dealing well.)

I don't know as I'm adding to the thread in any way with this, I just wanted to say that there often seems to be so much political baggage about bisexuality, and after some thrashing around with it, I basically just decided to let it be, and not accept anyone's definition but mine for me. This also, of course, means I have to accept other people's for them, which is sometimes annoying, but what the heck. I don't own the concept.

Also have never slept with any Neptunians.

Ana Mardoll said...

That is both an awesome quoted throw-away line and an awesome comment in general. Thank you. :)

chris the cynic said...

I thought I said this before, but apparently I changed my mind and gave up. I always thought that in fiction with other humanoids or beings who could take human form that cross species romance was the default. So the bisexual being willing to have sex with a Neptunian/dragon/god/elf wasn't because they were bisexual, it was that everyone was willing to have sex with a Neptunian dragon elf god* (assuming, you know, they'd want to have sex with a member of their own speices they had the same relationship with and chemistry and whatnot), it's just that you'd only be willing to have sex with one of your gender unless you were gay or bi.

Which is to say, people who say, to Zeus/Spock/[shapeshifing dragon]/Legolas/[Randomly selected angel], "I'm not going to have sex with you, you're not even human," always seem to be presented aberrations. Bigots even. So, unless the Neptunian broodwranglers are pretty far from human looking, I'd expect the straight characters to they would happily get into bed with a Neptunian broodwrangler of their preferred gender as quickly as they would a human of the same gender. I don't think it's unique to bi characters.

-

Actually, can someone explain what bi means because apparently I don't understand. I thought that to be gay was to be attracted only to members of your own gender, to be straight was to be attracted only to members of the opposite gender, and to be bi was to be anywhere in between those two extremes. I'm getting the impression that that is not the case.

-

* Of the following, which sounds best?
Neptunian dragon elf god
Neptunian dragon-elf god
Neptunian dragon elf-god
Neptunian dragon god elf
Neptunian dragon god-elf
Neptunian dragon-god elf
Neptunian god dragon elf
Neptunian god-dragon elf

depizan said...

Neptunian dragon-elf god

Can't help you with the rest of it. My sexuality is all purely mental. Though I think you're right about the cross-species romance in fiction with multiple sapient species. It's only if the sapient species involved are two that look vastly different that people in work start raising eyebrows. Usually.

Makabit said...

Well, the question of how human sexuality will deal with aliens and such is sort of an open one at the moment. Will we look alike? Will our genders be similar in any way? Will our bits? Is chemistry going to be an issue? (Why do we always assume that something that looks like Jabba the Hutt will find something that looks like Princess Leia attractive in a metal bikini?)

Anna said...

Actually, can someone explain what bi means because apparently I don't understand. I thought that to be gay was to be attracted only to members of your own gender, to be straight was to be attracted only to members of the opposite gender, and to be bi was to be anywhere in between those two extremes. I'm getting the impression that that is not the case.

That's probably about right - I was complaining about the common assumption that bi means "equally attracted to both genders", because while I'm sure there are people who are equally attracted to both genders, there are also a LOT of bi people who do have a gender preference.

However, I also know plenty of people who aren't attracted exclusively to one gender, but prefer to define themselves as gay/straight rather than as bi because they have a definite preferred gender with only a very few exceptions. Some of these people have expressed the opinion that the bi label gets you doubly stigmatised - straight people mentally lump you together with the gays, gay people mentally lump you together with the straights, and everyone assumes you're going to cheat on your partners with someone not of your partners gender, because bisexuals are assumed to be incapable of monogamy. So a woman who has a strong preference for other women and only likes the occasional guy might find it makes their life easier to define as a lesbian (or "lesbian with a few exceptions"). Or they might just think it's a more accurate description, given how rare the exceptions are. And it's always best to respect someone's self-definition, rather than saying, "no, you're between the two extremes of the Kinsey scale so you're actually bi".

In summary: the definitions of "gay," "straight" and "bi" you've been working with are approximately right, but reality's a little fuzzier.

Loquat said...

I favor Neptunian elf dragon-god, myself.

Mass Effect has a couple different models of interspecies dating - Asari (blue women with head tentacles) are mono-gendered, but can breed with anything*, so they're pretty much willing to date any gender, any species, while Turians (humanoids that look like a cross between a cat, a velociraptor, and a lobster) are pretty much exactly like humans except for having completely incompatible biochemistry, and they seem to maintain heterosexual or homosexual preference even when dating cross-species. Your Turian henchman is apparently willing to at least consider dating women of various species, but not men, and there's a Turian in a downloadable-content sidequest who has a thing for human men, but not women.

*Albeit using a specialized definition of "breed" - the child will always be an Asari with very mild influence from the non-Asari parent. An Asari who breeds with something with wings will NOT produce a winged baby.

Ana Mardoll said...

(Why do we always assume that something that looks like Jabba the Hutt will find something that looks like Princess Leia attractive in a metal bikini?)

Oooh! Can we talk about Jabba the Hutt? Let's talk about Jabba the Hutt!

The official retcon for all that (or so I've heard), is that, yeah, no, Jabba isn't attracted to humanoids, but he keeps (and abuses) the bikini girls as a status symbol because he knows his humanoid employees/servants/what-have-you are attracted to the bikini girls.

I find this retcon interesting because at first glance it seems like a good attempt ultimately doomed to fail, but at second glance I wonder if the Lucas people didn't accidentally trip backwards into a concept of rape culture.* According to the retcon, Jabba has zero attraction to the bikini girls but abuses them anyway because he likes abusing people and he likes lording power over his subordinates. Why, that kind of fits into the "rape is (usually) about power, not sex" theory!

*(If it seems like I'm not giving the Lucas people credit for understanding gender issues, I'm not entirely free of prejudice against my beloved Star Wars franchise and the people handling it.)

Will Wildman said...

I do find it odd that gender is typically treated as a greater dividing line than species in these cases. The idea of "You (dude) won't date Hynrw women, so obviously you're a bigot" strikes me at first glance as being as nonsensical as "You (dude) won't date human men, so obviously you're a bigot". On the other hand, I think if we need evidence that many humans are perfectly happy to be attracted to aliens with human-analogous-gender characteristics, we need only check The Internet.

It occurs to me that, over a sufficiently long time (like, millennia) in contact with aliens, that could lead to a certain amount of genetic tendency, where the only 'pure humans' left would be the descendants of those with a strong inherent preference for their own species, while those who were interested into humans and aliens would be more interbred (assuming there are some we can interbreed with).

Of course, the whole idea that aliens would have genders as we understand them and that they would have any analogues to human genders is a huge step into improbability already.

chris the cynic said...

It occurs to me that, over a sufficiently long time (like, millennia) in contact with aliens, that could lead to a certain amount of genetic tendency, where the only 'pure humans' left would be the descendants of those with a strong inherent preference for their own species, while those who were interested into humans and aliens would be more interbred (assuming there are some we can interbreed with).

Doctor Who, new series, episode 2, established that by the time Earth ends pure humans no longer existed because we, as a species went around breeding with everything. Episode one of the next season re-unleashed pure humans upon the future post-earth universe.

-

@Anna

I know there would have to be a lot of fuzziness, and I think I shouldn't have used the word "only" since there should definitely be room for someone to say, "I'm sometimes interested in [gender] but I'm interested in [other gender] so much more that I'm not bi I'm [gay/straight]." I definitely prefer self identification over ridged standards.

Mostly what threw me is that, however gay and straight may be defined or not defined, I've always heard bi as the space between them. There can't be anything between the space between and the stuff it is the space between, so by that definition there can't be anything between gay and bi, or between bi and straight.

Anna said...

Well, the "in between bi and lesbian" comment I made was probably my own poor wording. It would have been more accurate to say "in between lesbian and the common oversimplification of bi as meaning attracted to both genders equally", but that's far more of a mouthful.

Will Wildman said...

Doctor Who, new series, episode 2, established that by the time Earth ends pure humans no longer existed because we, as a species went around breeding with everything. Episode one of the next season re-unleashed pure humans upon the future post-earth universe.

I recall this, although in Doctor Who it was also noted that the human 'hat' (to use tropespeak) was that basically all humans were interested in getting it on with as many species as possible, with Jack Harkness being a child of the free-love-est portion of this revolution. I'm thinking more that there would be actual evolutionary effects on psychology. Mind you, the insistence that everything other than heterosexuality must be unnatural and 'taught' or else it would have 'died off' follows similar illogic, so maybe random human mutation of preferences is too flexible to work that way.

According to the retcon, Jabba has zero attraction to the bikini girls but abuses them anyway because he likes abusing people and he likes lording power over his subordinates. Why, that kind of fits into the "rape is (usually) about power, not sex" theory!

This is pretty much what I always figured, now that I think about it. I'm also told that, as a geek who never fantasised about Leia in the gold bikini, there is something unnatural about me, but since I didn't find it particularly attractive, my mind immediately leapt to 'power fantasy'.

Lonespark said...

I once saw a friend on facebook post on a QUILTBAG awareness day "Yes, I am bisexual; I'm one of the invisible ones who married a man."

Possibly that was me?

Lonespark said...

And I didn't become invisible on purpose so much as take a while to figure things out but get married really young. Pan/omni might be a better descriptor at this point, but that's splitting hairs and messing with the lovely acronynm.

Makabit said...

Re Alien Love: It seems fairly improbable to me that we'd be able to crossbreed with aliens, at least without a lot of labwork, but it's such a standing standard of science fiction at this point that we will probably never be rid of it. But when we talk about species in science fiction, we're often talking about race, which is where the whole bigot factor starts to arise from.

Re Jack Harkness in particular: Harkness talks a good game about all the aliens he does, but onscreen, and in terms of the exes we meet, he actually mostly seems to be consistently attracted to human or human-looking men of approximately his own apparent age. Yes, there's at least one canonical female character he's been involved with (who conveniently comes back as an elderly lady who doesn't seem all that interested in him now), but basically, most of the time, it's dudes. I don't know if this reflects the difficulty of showing a romantic or sexual relationship between a thing with tentacles or leaves and John Barrowman, or a reflection of Barrowman's own sexuality, or what, (he's stunningly beautiful, but I don't think his acting range is all that flexible) but I would say that the character really seems to be gay but experimental (and very proud of his experimentality), rather than as completely pansexual as the writers like to make him out to be.

Lonespark said...

Huh, Makabit. I don't watch that, so I don't have first-hand points to make, but I wonder if it's a little like "There's 40% women here now; they've completely taken over!" Like, his sexuality is much more experimental than what the writers view as human-standard, so obviously he just an omni-directional pervert.

Will Wildman said...

Possibly that was me?

Entirely possible, although due to my fairly stringent rule on only facebooking people I have met IRL, I don't think we are FB friends. Maybe I saw it through someone else's feed.

---

I kind of figure Jack is a TV-pragmatic pansexual. As in, if he says he'll get with anyone but he's always after ladies, then he'll be seen as an Informed Pansexual who talks about variation but really just looks heteronormative. If he's got episode-long intense relationships with twenty-armed squid people, it's likely to freak out the less hardcore-sci-fi people in the audience, not to mention censors.

I think it's a case of demanding a mile so they can take an inch. Scene: the writers' room:

"Hey, I have this great idea for a time traveller character."
"Says here he's gay. The suits will make us change that."
"Well, what if we have him say he once had a gig filming hyperporn with an Atraxi Fertilisation Drone?"
"Perfect! They'll be so glad when we just have him sleeping with skinny white human men, they won't even realise they've signed off on a gay male action hero!"

Sad if it's necessary, and sad that it's misleading, but possibly an ends-justify-the-means thing. (Also budget: there's a reason the Doctor takes Rose to the flash-frozen seas of Woman Wept offscreen but spends half of his screentime in the UK. We probably don't need footage of Jack getting it on with an alien muppet.)

Dragoness Eclectic said...

We probably don't need footage of Jack getting it on with an alien muppet.

Tune in next week for the Pigs in Spaaaace-Torchwood crossover...

Rikalous said...

I've figured for a while now that humanity would be stereotyped as hypersexual and very interested in other races/species in a lot of speculative fiction universes. After all, when someone says they're a half-elf or a half-orc or a half-Neptunian-dragon-elf-god, nobody ever has to ask what the other half is.

chris the cynic said...

That would be an awesome thing for someone to point out in a fight. An elf and a human are arguing the elf accuses humans of absurd promiscuity, the human denies it, and the elf just comes back with that.

"What about half elves, half orcs, half dwarves, half dragons, half-"

"What about them?"

"Why is it that no one ever has to ask what the other half is?"

Loquat said...

I always figured that was because humans were the reproductive equivalent of one of those universal electric converters. Like, an elf and a dwarf can't reproduce together, but both can reproduce with humans.

chris the cynic said...

A web species? Like a ring species but instead of A being able to breed with B that can breed with C that can breed with D that can breed with A, (but A can't breed with C and D can't breed with B) it's a case of A can breed with everyone, and no one other than A can breed with anyone else other than A. I could believe that.

Rikalous said...

The would probably be the in-universe reality, but there's no reason to let facts get in the way of a good dose of bigotry.

Ana Mardoll said...

I distinctly remember a fantasy game where half-orc could have ANY half, but the orc side was genetically dominant, so they all came out looking roughly the same. I'll have to remember what that game was. Realmz? Not sure...

Will Wildman said...

As I recall, there is at least one D&D variant in which dragons, canonically, can breed with anything. They don't, but they could if they wanted to.

On the flipside, there are the stories I wrote with my first girlfriend, in which the 'half-elves' were constantly referred to as 'half-humans' by their snooty elf companions, and eventually reclaimed the term - they would introduce themselves to humans as 'half-humans' and be amused by the resulting consternation.

Rikalous said...

As of 3.5, there was a template in the Monster Manual that let you make any living, corporeal critter a half-dragon. So there could be half-dragon oozes and plants running (or whatever) around. Kinky. There were also templates for half-celestial and half-fiend, but there at least the base creature had to be slightly above the "bare minimum for sapience" intelligence score. I don't know if the beings made of Law and Chaos ever got in on the breeding thing.

For some reason the guys with just a few drops of angel or demon blood were all basically human-shaped. The Planar Handbook did have halfling-sized folk with elemental ancestry and other folk that were descended from dwarven spirits and celestial badgers, though.

Darth Ember said...

Races of the Dragon, a D&D supplemental thing, includes details for dragonblooded and half-dragon individuals of all kinds, not just half-human. For example, dragonblooded halflings, or a half-dragon elf.

Darth Ember said...

Fiendish templates can be put on so many different things; the game I'm in, we got attacked by a half-fiend behir. The thing nearly ate our healbot - er, friendly local cleric.

Inquisitive Raven said...

Re: Urban werewolves

Kitty Norville is a radio talk show host who operates out of Denver. In the second book of the series, she goes to DC to testify in front of a Senate committee and finds a thriving community of shapechangers who meet at a local restaurant/club. In the latest book in the series, she spends a lot of time running around (and under) the streets of San Francisco. Mind you, she and most of the other shapechangers in the series do make a point of getting out of the city during the full moon.

In Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series and Alpha and Omega series (set in the same world with overlapping characters), there are wolf packs in Seattle and Chicago. The protagonist of the Alpha and Omega series starts out in Chicago, although she ends up in a small town in the middle of nowhere Montana. Mercy Thompson (who is not a werewolf, but spends a lot of time around them) lives in the Tri-Cities, a cluster of communities that only exists because of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation which I suspect qualify as suburban than urban (they're at the bottom right of the linked map).

chris the cynic said...

On reflection I've realized that "web species" would be the wrong term. That implies that there's some connection between the other strands. Hub species perhaps?

On an only vaguely related note, if humans can breed with everything and dragons can breed with everything then humans and dragons are the same species. But since humans can't breed with plants, non-PC like animals, fungi, and protozoa that might not quite be the case. I think one could probably argue that humans are a less fertile subspecies of dragon rather than a distinct species.

Rikalous said...

The only difference between what celestials and fiends can breed with is alignment, which sounds more like a choice than anything genetic. Therefor, all of the outsiders of Evil and Good are the same species, although I wouldn't say it to their faces.

Once you add in the bloodlines for giants and doppelgangers and minotaurs and genies and every other dang thing from Unearthed Arcana, then things get interesting.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

if humans can breed with everything and dragons can breed with everything then humans and dragons are the same species

Can breed with != Does breed with.

Lions and tigers can breed, but they're still distinct species. They don't breed in the wild.

TRiG.

Ana Mardoll said...

OMG THEY CAN.

http://www.liger.org/

I did not know this thing. So much win.

chris the cynic said...

It's somewhat more complicated than that. Lions and tigers are not the same species because the offspring they produce, while not mules, are sort of close.

If the resulting ligers and tigons were more fertile than they are there would be much greater debate about whether not not they should be considered the same species, though generally non-overlapping territories can be used as a justification for saying that they're different species.

Though it should further be noted that it is believed that lions and tigers did at one point breed in the wild. Given that the results of such breeding would be ligers and tigons with the problems that currently make us say the two things are not the same species, we still wouldn't say they were the same species if they were currently breeding in the wild. It is very much about the offspring produced.

Which means that if, say, dragon-human pairings create sterile offspring then my claim is false. That doesn't count.

If they occupy the same territory and are capable of breeding with the same things, then that's basically the definition of species as it exists today. I wasn't given the impression that there was no overlap between the territories of humans and dragons in the settings being described, so all that needs to be checked is if they can breed with the same things, hence what I said. I probably should have had a note that this needs to be able to produce viable offspring, with a further note to what is meant by "viable" in this context.

Makabit said...

@Ana--I am aware of ligers because they are, for some reason, wildly popular with teenage boys, and, as an English teacher, have found that they will fit them into many creative writing assignments.

Rikalous said...

Half-dragons might be sterile. I've certainly never heard of a quarter-dragon.

Will Wildman said...

Ligers/tigons are good, but I have an abiding affection for the leopon and the Zetland.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

The Leopon? Why did I not know about this?

Apparently there are loads of hybrid cats (warning: list put together by someone who doesn't have the first clue how to present tabular data, so it's rather difficult to interpret: basically, read down; ignore the fact that it's in three columns).

TRiG.

Rowen said...

@Makabit,

I think it's because in the movie Napoleon Dynamite, he draws them and says they're his favorite animal.

Marc Mielke said...

Re: Heroic Bureaucrats: Charles Stross' Laundry series is a bit that way. It's basically British civil servants versus the Cthulhu Mythos.

Angelia Sparrow said...

How about a werewolf architect, from Racine Wisconsin in love with another werewolf who is an English prof in Memphis, specializing in New England Transcendentalists? Howl at the Mistletoe has 5 shorts about them

My next novel (comes out Jan 27) features mostly non-killing vampires (barring one incident) because getting rid of the bodies is a complete nuisance.

Sounds like I need to finish that urban fantasy piece. The company had some trouble with the Night Auditor Debacle, when a vampophobic manager made four auditors work late and they dusted trying to get home.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Barbara Hambly! Women warriors, including ordinary looking ones, cross-sex friends/partner and other great stuff in her Sun Wolf series. Dragonsbane has a distinctly middle-aged hero who never meant to be.

Also, I write a LOT of these. Urban werewolves. Rom professors, Native American truckers, Caribbean black farmers, space eunuchs. Religious, disabled and mentally ill heroes. (As far I know, I have written the first erotic gay disabled pagan inspirational romance novel) Anti-heros. Older heroes. Women who fall outsides (sometimes way outside) societal norms. Free sample: http://www.brooksandsparrow.com/firstday.pdf It's the werewolves. Right click to download.

hapax said...

FWIW, according to hapaxspouse (a Real!Live!Evolutionary!Biologist!) the concept of "species" is pretty much as biologically meaningless as "race".

It's not *useless*, precisely, because it is used all the time as a convenient fiction, and everybody pretty much agrees to pretend that nobody has come up with a workable definition (e.g., depending on which definition you use, there can be anywere between two and ten thousand different "species" of orchids)

But this whole emphasis on "different species can't / don't breed in the wild / produce viable / fertile offspring / etc." is much more precise in the lay mind than in the biologists'.

(It's sort of like the distinction between "fiction" and "non-fiction" to everyone who isn't a librarian. Pin a cataloguer to the wall, and zie will admit that "Fiction" is defined as "those materials we shelve in the Fiction section".

Makabit said...

This might explain it. Never saw 'Napoleon Dynamite'.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

In case anyone's interested, I've reformatted that list of hybrid cats into something more legible: Hybrid Cats in table format.

TRiG.

Ana Mardoll said...

(It's sort of like the distinction between "fiction" and "non-fiction" to everyone who isn't a librarian. Pin a cataloguer to the wall, and zie will admit that "Fiction" is defined as "those materials we shelve in the Fiction section".

Interesting! I feel the same way about my personal library, but in the other direction -- "non-fiction" means "stuff on the non-fiction shelves". *grin*

chris the cynic said...

It seems to me that something like that really calls for a square chart. One axis is the mother, the other is the father, look at where the two intersect to get the result. It would also be useful for an immediate visual display of which pairings don't produce new cats.

-

@Hapax,

I'll try to remember that, but I feel like you've said it before and if that is the case then my track record on remembering that is not very good.

Izzy said...

Yeah, but I'd have a hard time seeing the last example as a *villain*. ;)

Fuckin' T, is what I'm saying.

Gelliebean said...

Heee, yeah... :-)

What I started out trying to say more generally, and then kind of fell in love with the specific example, is more villains who have, if not reasonable, then at least understandable reasons for what they do beyond the search for revenge or Ultimate Power.... But then they act on it in ways that your typical superhero would look at and say "They must be stopped!"

I think chris the cynic's character was the inspiration for my wish.... Reading those scene snippets made me think "I really want more of these." :-D

chris the cynic said...

Ryan?

I think if Ryan got frustrated with traffic he'd try to take drivers out of the equation. I'm not sure exactly what he'd do, but the idea would be to drive people to use the subway, maybe pressure the city into putting in some trolley cars. And if the entire system isn't handicapped accessible he'll blow something up. (Actually he'll probably blow something up anyway, but what he blows up will depend on various things.)

Gelliebean said...

And if the entire system isn't handicapped accessible he'll blow something up.

Many hearts for this. :-)

Timothy (TRiG) said...

non-lithe men are biologically incapable of being gay

We need to introduce these people to Tom of Finland.

TRiG.

BaseDeltaZero said...

There were also templates for half-celestial and half-fiend, but there at least the base creature had to be slightly above the "bare minimum for sapience" intelligence score.


No, the resulting hybrid was neccesarily just above the 'bare minimum for sapience'. Not the 'partners'. Hence how you can have half-fiend horses and whatnot.


The only difference between what celestials and fiends can breed with is alignment, which sounds more like a choice than anything genetic. Therefor, all of the outsiders of Evil and Good are the same species, although I wouldn't say it to their faces.


In my campaigns, since Outsiders don't really have 'genetics' (or anatomy. Or matter, really, the hybrids are the result of a somewhat odd process that basically creates an outsider version of the creature they mate with, which is itself an outsider. It's more a metaphysical process than biological, and trying to define any 'species' of outsider by modern biological taxonomy is a fool's errand, because they aren't, technically speaking, organisms at all.

Dragons, meanwhile, just have strange genetics. Their present form was (in my world(s) essentially created by magical alterations, so one of the things that got included was a mechanism that allowed their DNA to insert itself, virus-like, into just about anything. Why? Because.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

For the definition of bisexuality, I'll give you Greta Christina.

If a woman had sex with her husband twice a week for ten years before leaving him for another woman, but that sex always felt false and alien and detached… it’s not up to the rest of us to say that those experiences were important, and she’s therefore not “really” a lesbian.

And if a man has put his hand on another man’s cock exactly one time in his life, but that one time was a formative experience that shapes how he sees his own sexuality and male identity and how he sees other men and their erotic possibilities… it’s not up to the rest of us to say that this experience was trivial, and he’s therefore “really” straight.

If anyone of any gender has sexual thoughts or experiences about both women and men… it’s not up to the rest of us to say that they’re “really” bisexual. Or, for that matter, that they aren’t. It’s not up to the rest of us to say whether these thoughts or experiences are trivial or important. It’s up to the person thinking them and having them.

Is Everyone Basically Bisexual?

For me, well, I wouldn't claim that I've absolutely never been attracted to a woman or girl, but I'd still definitely call myself gay.

TRiG.

hapax said...

It's still really hard because there are lots of words for describing very good looking people and lots of words for describing ugly people and not many words for describing "Hers wasn't the kind of face to launch a thousand ships, but it wasn't a bad face. It had all the right parts in the right places."

My favorite example of this is Madeleine L'Engle's description of Meg in A WRINKLE IN TIME as having, among other characteristics, "hair-colored hair." I instantly knew exactly what she meant.

As far as sincerely religious characters, I've always loved Brutha in SMALL GODS.

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