This started as a response to a comment left by SL:

I haven’t noticed a massive decline of readers of sci-fi/fantasy due to the heroine being thin. I’m not thin. All of my female heroines *are* thin. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. It’s my world that I created and frankly, if I ever attempt to publish any of my fiction, I highly doubt that I’m going to lose readership due to my thin heroines. Then again, I also don’t have my heroines worrying about what they’re eating, or what they’re wearing.

What I had been trying to convey was that romance isn’t the only genre that perpetuates the impossible beauty standard. That there IS something wrong with there only being thin heroines in sci-fi and fantasy, even if they aren’t sitting there complaining about the small portions they have to eat to maintain their figure in space.

Now, obviously, what any one writer produces is up to them. And there aren’t any surveys being done to find out if people stop reading sci-fi and/or fantasy due to a lack of fat characters. But even if no one is giving up on sci-fi and/or fantasy, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

Oooh, double negative for effect!

If writers were writing in a vacuum, in a world where fat was a totally neutral feature, an individual writer’s choice to write only thin characters wouldn’t rate much attention. Because other writers would be writing fat characters. And characters of all shapes and sizes.

But, since writers do not produce fiction in a vacuum, I think it is reasonable to assume they are writing thin characters for the same reason trolls come here and leave boring, trollish comments: They think fat people aren’t worth the space they take up. Thin people are the people with interesting stories. Thin people are the people that we want to be when we read.

You don’t have to use your fiction to tell fat jokes to reinforce that thin people are the only ones people care about. You just just have to only ever write about thin people, as though thin people are the only normal people. Fat people, in fiction, are reserved to prove a point – generally a bad one.

And, really sci-fi/fantasy is the PERFECT genre to explore the huge variety of humans! Size, skin color, ability, taste in music, whatever. Thin white women are not the only women in space. Thin white women are not the only women to inhabit faux-medival fantasy settings (or other fantasy settings – I have plenty of rants about fantasy tropes as well *laugh*).

If that is all you can imagine, *I* imagine that you don’t have much in the way of creativity.

And, yeah, that is harsh but I mean it. If the only fantasy setting you can dream up involves a lot of thin, perfectly fit specimens (especially if those specimens are white), well, you’re doing it wrong.

As writers, if we notice something is wrong with the world, I firmly believe it is our responsibility to build our own worlds in a way that either a) shows an alternative to that wrong thing (i.e., a solution) or b) shows that the wrong thing is WRONG.

That doesn’t mean I expect fiction to full of political screeds. That can be fun but most often isn’t. But if you have a deep conviction that the beauty standard rampaging through the ranks of women is wrong, I don’t understand how that doesn’t show up in your work in some way. If you are philosophically opposed to the oppression of fat people, and you turn around and your world, that you alone created, contains not a single fat person or, worse, a fat person as the butt of a joke? I don’t think I can believe you anymore.

I posted, the other night, a link to a photo of a naked woman who looks like me. And I talked a little bit – honestly, I rambled a little incoherently because I was so full of excitement and just plain old GLEE – about how incredible it is to see a representation of a woman that LOOKS LIKE ME. This is just as important in fiction. We need representations of ourselves in all media.

And I’m not just advocating for fat women in fiction. I’m advocating for characters that are queer and characters who are people of color and characters who are disabled. I’m advocating for fiction to reflect the diversity in which we live – even if we don’t live in a diverse neighborhood. Trans characters. Poor characters. Poly characters. A whole world of diversity.

Maybe you won’t lose any readers because you only write thin characters. But you only stand to gain readers by writing about characters who move beyond that. Characters who do not default to the thin, white, middle-class gaze.

I have written fiction for years. I have had poetry and nonfiction published (and, you know, that big ol’ nonfiction book Kate and I are working on that will be published) and might, fingers crossed, actively pursue getting some fiction published as well. When I read my old stuff, I can barely stand it. It is so full of evidence of the blinders that I wore when I was still actively hating my body. My thin characters were fantasy characters, even when they were deeply flawed, because I thought being thin was BETTER.

And, you know, the only reason it is better is because society has this thing where it is constructed to oppress women, anyone who is not a white dude, basically.

I am fat. I am confident and happy being fat. I believe fat women have incredibly interesting stories to tell – especially stories that have nothing to do with them being fat!

Here’s the thing – it isn’t like I don’t write any thin characters anymore. But now my characters have a lot more variety to them. As a result, my characters are richer – and I don’t mean that in the fiscal sense.

You as an individual writer, eh, I don’t care what kind of characters you write. But when I look at the sea of books available in any given genre and there are only heroines that are thin? That is a problem and that is not okay. A writer’s choice to only write thin characters reveals something about our culture and about that writer. In our current social situation, it actually DOES do some harm by supporting the hegemony of Thin.


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45 Comments

  1. Posted July 16, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    This is something I’m struggling with when it comes to my cartooning. Everyone I draw is thin – unrealistically, lankily, twiggily thin. Everyone. I learnt to draw thin people. Drawing substance and curves actually requires me to remake my style.

    Is it worth it? Is it the right thing to do? Oh fuck yes.

  2. TR
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I have gotten the impression from several artists that straight lines are WAY easier to draw than curves so that accurate representations of fat people are actually more difficult to do! Have you found that to be true? I am so curious!

  3. Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    OMG! I love that LOLCat!

  4. TR
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it hysterical? It is just… EXACTLY.

  5. Diana
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I remember one young adult fantasy series, Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce, where one of the four main characters was overweight. It stuck with me not because it made any kind of overt statement, but because it was mostly handled as just another physical trait, like hair color.

    She was teased about her weight by other kids in a maybe three passages, but her story had NOTHING to do with her weight: changing it, overcoming it, dealing with it, nothing. She had more important things to worry about.

    At a time when the media was telling me that anyone who is fat must focus solely on fixing this horrible and fatal flaw, it was nice to read about an overweight character without having it read like she had a disability of some kind.

  6. Shinobi
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I just commented on this over at feministe the other day actually. But if I pick up one more book that looks interesting only to discover it is actually about another super thin barely dressed vampire hunter/vampier/werewolf I am goign to begin acting out violently towards sci-fi/fantasy writers.

    I can haz new main character pleese?

    You’re so right about needing more variety in the main charcters even in fantasy novels. It makes me wish I could write.

  7. TR
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Tamora Pearce! She did this book, well, I guess there were three books, about a set of twins and the boy was supposed to go be a knight and the girl was supposed to go be a nun but they conspired for the boy to go be a sorcerer and for the GIRL to go through the knight training and it was SO AWESOME!

    Even though I couldn’t remember the author’s name – in fact, I think it took 20 years between me reading the books and someone else knowing what I was talking about – I have always remembered that girl, hiding her gender and going after her dream. It was fantastic.

  8. TR
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Shinobi, it is one of the reasons (combined with some other predictable tropes that infuriated me and the total, well, hack writing that crops up sometimes) that I don’t read nearly as much sci-fi or fantasy as I used to. I like the Jim Butcher series about Harry Dresden in part because Dresden is described as such a nerd. All of the women are total fantasy fulfillment, unfortunately, but Charity still kicks ass.

  9. Diana
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Tamora Pierce has a great way of writing about things like gender and appearance and prejudice without coming off like one of those authors who’s all, “Look at me, I’m making a STATEMENT. Aren’t I so DEEP and POLITICAL?”

    It’s like she’s writing about what she wants to write about and if she happens to shine some light on different social problems, that’s cool, too.

  10. Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Until we get a society that will buy books with realistic characters, the publishing companies won’t be buying novels with them.

    So, buy my book when I self-publish in January! Because what’s more realistic than a child sold into slavery by her drug-addict mother becoming the bassist in a rock and roll band, even though the rock and roll band is just a cover for a bunch of magic-users to infiltrate and destroy the nests of bad elves?

    Oh, and she stabinates people with swords and dates the trumpet player. TOTALLY REALISTIC!

  11. Integgy
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    One book I’ve always liked, in the romance genre, is Katie MacAlister’s Corset Diaries. It was the first time I’d ever read a romance novel with a main character anywhere remotely close to my size (She’s an 18). I remember enjoying it, but I haven’t read it in awhile, and not since becoming involved in FA, so I can’t say (for certain) that it doesn’t have any fat-negative things in it. Though in general, I’ve found her books to be delightful, and very, very silly, with heroines who just come off as real.

    P.S. I STILL have all my old Tamora Pierce books, I just haven’t got the hear to throw them away. The character you’re thinking of TR, is Alanna, from one of her first quartets.

  12. Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, and yes again.

    Gods, it sure would be nice to have some quality lit – in any genre! – with fat heroines (or heros, or any other meaningful character that wasn’t a villain, for that matter!). What little there is almost always suffers from quality problems (in my picky word snob opinion, anyway).

  13. Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful post. Linking immediately.

    As for Tamora Pierce’s Lioness quartet (the series about Alanna), I wrote my master’s thesis on how queer gender is in that series!

    http://www.suberic.net/~rcwr/thesis.html

  14. Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Thin people are the people that we want to be when we read.

    I’ve been pondering this recently too: Thinness As Character Trait.

  15. Emerald
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Thin white women are not the only women in space. Thin white women are not the only women to inhabit faux-medival fantasy settings.

    My problem exactly. Thinness as an ideal (always assuming you want all your characters to fit an ideal, which to me detracts from any suspension of disbelief) is a recent, Western fashion – in other eras of history and, heck, other cultures right here on Earth, the ideal has often been very different. Funny how, though, in literature, both quasi-medieval kingdoms and 27th-century space colonies both happen to have the same body standards as Vogue.

    Shinobi has a point – the darker the fantasy, the worse this gets. If there are vampires involved, fuhgeddaboutit. I love Storm Constantine’s worlds, but I wish vampiric fallen angelhood (of whatever variety of impossible genders) didn’t always mean skinny. I want fat Wraeththu!

  16. Shinobi
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I do love Tamora Peirce.

    I really like Mercedes Lackey too, though y’know, white and skinny, but at least smart and interesting female characters. My ex once opened the book “Fairy Godmother” to a part where one of the characters threatened to castrate another character,(for trying to force himself on a woman). My ex then decided he wanted to “have a talk” with me about my “antagonistic feelings towards the male gender.” Shocking that didn’t last, isn’t it?

    I mostly read books written by women or that have female main characters. So I haven’t read Jim Butcher. I just find it hard to get interested in books with male main characters unless the book itself is really good. (Neal Gaiman and Neal Stephenson are some big exceptions.)

  17. Posted July 16, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    There is one memorable fantasy character who is fat and stays that way: Melora MacArran in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Two To Conquer. She makes the terribly misogynistic male main character see that inner values are more important by getting him to re-live all the horrible things he did through his female victims’ perspective…

    Sounds a tad cheesy — but it was published in 1980, when such things were still new.-

  18. iflurry
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I suppose there might be some instances where a sci-fi author might be excused for having space be filled exclusively with skinny white women… maybe the galaxy is run by Nazis who all have a ballerina fetish… [/sarcasm]

  19. Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I have gotten the impression from several artists that straight lines are WAY easier to draw than curves so that accurate representations of fat people are actually more difficult to do! Have you found that to be true?

    This is true, actually. It’s a hell of a lot harder to get the proportions right when I’m trying to draw fat. Though that could be partly down to the fact that I’m far more used to seeing images of thin people, so I know what they should look like. I’m trying to get an overall picture of my own body and pay more attention to others. It’s really a matter of practise. The Adipositivty Project is being a massive help with this, too.

    If I can wangle a scanner from somewhere, perhaps I’ll do an image post at Lardy Cake.

  20. Rosie
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone here ever read any Lois McMasters Bujold? Her Vorkosigan books have a disabled main character and another prominently features a middle-aged woman. Can’t remember any major fat characters, though.

  21. Sal
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Vorkosigan books – oh yes a brilliant read.

    Miles is partially disabled, his mum is a major character, though one of those fit rangy old ladies, but Bel Thorne, the hermaphrodite, gets tubby as it ages. It’s still very charming though and has a major crush on Miles.

  22. Posted July 16, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I do not think it’s any harder to draw fat than thin people, just for the record.

    I draw a fair amount of both.

    BTW, as far as nontraditional female heroines in roleplaying games go, check out Trollbabe. Trollbabes are not necessarily fat, though they can be, but they’re definitely not traditional waif fantasy heroines.

    http://www.adept-press.com/trollbabe/about.html

    Yes, Trollbabe is an unusual RPG in that there is only one race and gender of player-character allowed.

    Full disclosure: I’ll have a couple illustrations in the next edition of Trollbabe. :)

  23. Amanda
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Regarding drawing fat v. thin, I find I often can’t draw skinny people. Most of the people I draw are shaped more like me; soft and slightly curvy. I think it’s because when I have drawn myself a lot, and even when I had a thin ideal I was horribly opposed to false advertising. Even my cartoon self should be a realistic representation of how I look, because that is part of who I am.

    I don’t know how many people read Megatokyo (or any webcomics) but I used to, and it always bothered me when he drew himself and his (now) wife. I have seen pictures of Piro and Seraphim. They’re big people. But when he draws them they look exactly like the reality except for they are waifishly thin.

  24. bellacoker
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    This is am amazing coincidence, I am reading a ton of Tamora Pierce right now for the very, very early stages of a paper that I am writing about how fiction aimed at young girls makes the characters suffer for their sex.

    Like you have to pretend to be a boy for four years so you can train to be a knight, or your village has to try to kill you as a monster before you can harness your power of talking to animals, etc. , etc.

    I know that art reflects the culture that it comes from, but it also helps create that culture as well. I am wondering how we have gotten to the odd place where books which are written to inspire and entertain young girls also reinforce the fact that the readers will probably not get to have great adventures of their own and if they do there will be a very high price to pay for them.

    Please do not think that I am not a great fan of Tamora Pierce and a lot of the other wonderful writers that write in this genre, I am just wondering if it would be possible to create a female character like Wart or Huckleberry Finn or if all girl characters have to either embody or defy the cultural idea of girlness.

    Does that make any sense, or am I just babbling?

  25. Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    About Tamora Pierce–One of her more recent series, Protector of the Small, was about a very tall, very well-muscled, not-at-all-thin female knight, who (because of what Alanna in Song of the Lioness had already accomplished) didn’t have to hide the fact that she was female in order to become one. She was an interesting addition to the lovely Alanna and Daine in the previous series.

  26. Shinobi
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Bella,
    I find your thesis interesting. And I guess it is true that for the most part female heroines do have to suffer for their gender.

    I guess I always felt that the value of those books, and the important part, was not that they suffered, but that they overcame suffering to be what they wanted. They fought against society’s constraints on them and succeeded. The fact is that telling girls they can just be, at this point in society’s evolution, would be a lie.

    One of the later Tamora Peirce books I really loved was the Trickster series, which is about Alanna the Lioness’s daughter who becomes a spy. She has less fighting to do against gender contraints than earlier characters. (Though there is still an overarching feminist theme.)

  27. Shinobi
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Bella,
    Also, if you wanted to get a historical perspective on fiction for young girls, I highly recommend the series “The MEadow Brook Girls” by Janet Aldridge. My grandmother gave me her copies from when she was a little girl, and it’s interesting how they both try to inspire ingenuity and resourcefulness in young women, while also encouraging being well behaved and ladylike. They are very out of print but available via the Gutenberg project. Another I read that was similar was the Jane Allen series by Edith Bancroft.

    One could almost argue that the constraints placed on the characters in those books are the reason that characters in today’s fiction for young girls have to suffer. Just a thought.

    I will now shut up and go to bed.

    It

  28. Keechypeachy
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I am going to have to think about this bit. I write and it is mostly fantasy of some kind, usually with some sort of ‘real life’ involved as well. Since my books tend to rock along pretty quickly, I don’t do a lot of description full stop. I try to not spend too much time describing my character’s sizes at all, but I do try to vary how they look. I do think I tend to write fat men more easily than fat women, probably because I think fat men cope with it more easily and wouldn’t be needing to think/angst about it like women do. I think I am avoiding the whole problem of how much to talk about their weight, or how to have them deal with/feel about their own weight. That is a bit gutless. I guess I would like my characters not to ever have to think about how they look, or be mean to others because of it. Now that is a fantasy world!~ :) I will keep this in mind and next time write myself a really fat heroine, and let her deal with it the way she wants. After all, I can write her from personal experience!

  29. lilacsigil
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series had a few fat women, including one in a lesbian relationship, though this is undermined somewhat by the only fat female member of the Endless being Despair! (Destruction is pretty big, too, but male).

  30. Godless Heathen
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Butcher’s Dresden Files are pure stupid fun, but yeah, the universe being populated by stunningly beautiful skinny white women (and monsters!) gets old. So does Dresden’s insistence that women need to be treated like some special breed of animal instead of, you know, people. Butcher keeps winning me over with his adherence to geek culture, so I’m hoping Harry (or, more likely the author) grows out of it eventually.

    He could probably start by giving the *coughmumble spoiler* that Harry picks up at the end of Death Masks to a woman. Not Murphy though, she’s got enough on her plate. He was told he’d know when the right person showed up. I haven’t gotten through Small Favor, yet, so I don’t know if that plot line was resolved.

  31. TR
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Susan is Hispanic, let’s be fair. *grin*

    And the thing with the thing is totally interesting. I haven’t read the hardcover one out – I can’t recall the title – but, yeah, Murph has PUHLENTY going on.

  32. Piffle
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    One of Tamora Pierce’s newer quartets (I want to say one of the Circle books) actually has someone cause a disastrous plague by trying to make a magical cure for fat. It ended up killing a lot of people. I read it before I found FA, and it rather hit home somehow, that there were much worse things than being fat, that thinness was not really all that valuable.

    My impression of fantasy was that it usually involved a quest and some difficulties; and while I’d agree that Alanna’s story and Kel’s (the Lady Knight, I may have the name wrong) both dealt with the extra difficulties of being female; I don’t remember that most of her other books made it particularly more difficult simply because of being female. Wart and Huck also had difficulties to overcome and personal growth to do.

    Another writer who deals with all kinds of people (though this being years ago, I don’t recall if there were fat people too) is Diane Duane. I remember reading her Door Into books in college and how hard it hit me when she casually mentioned “the shepherd and her wife”. I did a mental double-take. The first book was published in 1985 and you just didn’t see much like that back then. I think they’d be very interesting for people studying gender relationships in fantasy fiction. One of the main myths of the book is that everybody gets one night with the Goddess, who may appear in any form and may or may not be recognized at the time. There are also plural marriages in the books, not poly as I understand it today though, where you have a pair with secondary relationships; but several people equally involved in the marriage.

    Robin Hobb has written a recent trilogy (Shaman) where the hero becomes very fat, it’s a side-effect of a disease and he has a lot of trouble accepting it. However, those who become fat due to this disease also develop magical skills, the fatter the greater the magical power. He goes to the culture the disease came from and I’m just where he’s starting to discover those relationships and that fatness is very valued in that culture for obvious reasons. Not a heroine, but definitely a fat person who is not a sidekick or the butt of a joke.

    I also liked Andre Norton’s books because the heroines were more valued for wit and courage than for looks, again, fairly rare in the genre when I started reading in the 70′s and 80′s. Again, I don’t remember if the body types had some fat women; but I definitely remember some were plain.

    C.J. Cherryh also writes strong, clever heroines. I particularly like how she deals with her creation of a matriarchal culture of aliens in the Chanur books. It’s not a simple reversal, she takes a species and makes the males too agressive and unstable (or at least percieved as such) to deal with trade and politics; so the females take all the lead roles and the males are cossetted and protected from outside contact except for fighting other males for territory and females. One of Cherryh’s strong themes, it runs through all her books that I’ve read, is how a relationship runs between strong females and weaker or subordinate males. It’s never the focus of the books, but she always is playing with it within the larger structure of her books. Actually, there’s one exception I think Cuckoo’s Egg doesn’t do that; but that’s partly because it’s about a human raised entirely in an alien culture.

    I’m still thinking hard about ones that have fat people though. While I do recall some SF that has people from high gravity worlds with strong builds, they aren’t fat, just muscular and stocky. My perception is that you do see more racially diverse types in today’s SF though, but body diversity not so much except for extremely thin people sometimes.

  33. shiloh
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Mercedes Lackey too, though y’know, white and skinny, but at least smart and interesting female characters.

    Interesting, since Lackey was the last straw for me and marks the point where I pretty much bailed on s-f and fantasy unless someone I trusted recommended something to me. (Should add that although her novels irk me I quite like most of her lyrics.) I haven’t had the success finding reviewers who cover the aspects I want to hear about with s-f or fantasy as I have had with romances for whatever reason.

    I don’t mind the physically perfect heroine (Patricia McKillip’s Forgotton Beasts of Eld is a huge favorite), but she does seem to dominate fantasy something fierce. I like variety, but I also really like geekish heroines, who are presented as not traditionally attractive (because they’re too busy thinking and reading and doing to sweat the prettifying rituals), but all the ones I’ve seen either have an ideal figure or are skinny. Male geeks are allowed to be both skinny and pudgy; why aren’t female geeks allowed that variety? Irks me.

    Barbara Hambly has some great strong female characters and I like a lot of her stuff but she is a huge offender on the evil fat cliches front, particularly when it comes to female characters. *sigh*

  34. Amanda
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh, also those who are into sci fi with a fat protagonist might enjoy reading Buck Godot. Not a fat female, sure, and often the females are the typical hot skinny chicks that are all too typical for the genre, but still pretty neat.

  35. wriggles
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Right here.

  36. LilahMorgan
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Oh, Shiloh – that makes me so sad to hear (umm, not to be overinsvested in other people’s reading choices)! I’ve always felt that Mercedes Lackey is often great for teenagers and extremely problematic for adults (obviously, there are exceptions), and people are doing some fantastic work in the genre these days.

  37. Posted July 17, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I read Lackey as a teen and still enoy the Valdemar books, though I have lots of problems with her portrayal of weight (mages can’t have teh fats because omg they are burning so much energiez). IIRC, I think in the last Valdemar books she wrote she placed herself in the series as a scribe and kept herself pudgy and made herself active, so maybe she was starting to get away from that when she stopped writing the series.

    I’ve been listening to Robert Jordan’s wheel of time lately and there are lots of different sizes and shapes of non-main-character people, however it seems to mostly promote the paradigm of fat=ugly, thin=beautiful, though weight doesn’t always mean anything about the character of the, erm, character.

    I can’t remember how LeGuin or Tepper handle weight specifically, but I know I appreciate the feminist aspects of their stories. With DeLint, I never got the impression that he was particularly saying waif=good, but it’s been a while since I read any of his work.

    For chick-lit, I have only ever read Jennifer Weiner, and that was only because of the fat protagonist.

    One of my favorite all time novels is probably Written On the Body by Jeanette Winterson, though. You don’t even know the sex of main character, much less what he/she looks like.

  38. Katharine
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I was also going to mention Hobb’s Shaman trilogy. I have some problems with the book, not only her portrayal of fat and what a BIG (heh) deal it is in the hero’s culture, but also some things about the aboriginal cultures — but some of the ideas are interesting. And some other main characters are fat as well — for instance, the powerful magician from the aboriginal culture, who is Navare’s lover and teacher.

    As for Le Guin, she mentions in Always Coming Home that the Kesh “are not a thin people”, but other than that, she very rarely in her mature work describes any aspect of anyone’s appearance AT ALL. She has better things to do with her writing, and I love her for it. I recall that she was angry about the TV version of Wizard of Earthsea, though, because all the characters were played by white actors, whereas she had specifically intended most of them to be various shades of brown.

  39. freddie
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    so far as scifi goes, Spider Robinson has characters of all sizes, ethnicities and even abilities…

    many of his books (maybe even most of them) feature hot, intelligent, talented, brave, curvy women ( I think that may even be the author’s “ideal woman”)

  40. Posted July 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to get back to working on my novel/screenplay.

  41. Jenne
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I once had the pleasure of having Tamora Pearce on a panel I was moderating on “The return of the non-non-traditional heroine” — she was one of the first ya writers I came across that had her female characters enjoy wearing skirts even if they were fighters, and had it be ok for women to do something other than either be a warrior or be side dressing.

  42. Rosa
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Shiloh – I will always cut Hambly slack, though, because of the description in Ladies of Mandrigyn of the women who were slim but not athletic and dropped out of the fighting troupe because they couldn’t hack it – just the recognition that thin does not equal fit made me squee (and the hero, but that was before I read all her *other* fantasies with old scarred up dudes as the hero).

    And, Freddie’s totally right – Spider Robinson really makes a point of how hot the thick ladies are. It might be political – he’s antiracist, too, though his early novels that focused on race were, uh, shaky.

  43. Rosa
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    p.s. Someone might should bring this up over on the feminist Sci Fi blog, hey?

  44. Posted July 23, 2008 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Well, to veer it off SF, I would tell you that there are MANY young adult books being published. Starting with “Big Fat Manifesto” by Susan Vaught wherein the heroine is a fat activist, writing a column about her weight. There’s “Fat Camp” by Deborah Blumenthal, about girls at fat camp that get empowered to move past their size and…a few others I can’t think of right now, hehe, but I will ask my listserve about them…I know there’s another “fat camp” one and one about a girl who rejects dieting. I’ve read two advance reader’s YA books, one called “The Debs” by Susan McBride which is like a Southern Gossip Girl and the main character is a size 14 debutante who gets all the boys and is the heroine. The other is narrated by the boyfriend of a “fat girl” who gets tired of his shit and dumps him, but he talks about how amazing she is. These are just off the top of my head! There’s even the fairly famous “Fat Kid Rules The World” with a male protagonist who is obese but who still manages, miraculously I am sure, to become a punk rock star and stop hating himself.

    Heh, and, yes, I am thinking about writing a professional article about this trend in YA lit, which is why I had all that off the top of my head. ;)

  45. Posted July 25, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Adventure does come with a high price!! There’s no doubt about that ~ and no girl should be led to believe that adventure does not cost a lot in blood, sweat, and tears and even lives. But uh… you deffinately do not have to be thin or “perfectly beautiful” to live a life full of adventure! I am also sick and tired of the sci-fi/fantasy world rotating around thin, scantily-clad waifs. There’s deffinately a place for thin, scantily-clad waifs but then there’s a place for every other size and shape and cothing style!! When I write I always do my best to reflect the wide variety of people in the real world… but I’m not saying I’m a great writer. As of yet I’ve not published a book! But even still, I do my best not to get caught in the trap of having only one “kind” of female character. Cheers!!

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