Sometimes you don’t notice things until you’re looking for them.
When I realized there was going to be a many-months gap between the end of Roles and the Final Arc, I started looking around for other stories to podcast in the interim. You read things differently when you read for a podcast. It’s not just “Do I like this?” but “Would the audience like it? Can I do it believably? What SFX would I need? Who would voice this character?”
Perhaps due to a quirk in my circle of friends, or my psychology, or the direct effects of the Self-Actualization arc, I feel like I have a fair bit more female voices I can call on easily than I do male voices. So when I see female characters I immediately snap to “Yes, X can do her, Y can do her, Z can do her, and I still have people left over” and when I see male characters I think “Crap… I can use A for him, but B and C wouldn’t really work for these roles, and that leaves me without anyone to voice Supporting Character!” So I feel a twinge of emotional pain when I see a lot of male characters and few/no female characters, because it means production stress for me.
And when something produces a flash of pain, you quickly notice when almost every single thing you read produces that pain. There are very few women in most SF.
I don’t want to attack anyone, and it’s really not something anyone in particular should be faulted for. Most characters don’t need to be a specific gender, they could go either way. So when an author chooses to go with a male character there’s no reason to fault him, it isn’t malicious. Whatevs.
But when everyone unconsciously chooses male consistently, you end up with a sea of fiction that feels fake in the aggregate. It feels like genre fiction happens in worlds that simply don’t have women in them, at least not as agents that matter. All those little twinges of pain add up and you think “Holy shit, what the hell is going on here?” It’s something that I wouldn’t even have noticed until recently.
Over the past few years things have been getting significantly better. But when people ask things like “Why do we need Women Destroy Science Fiction? Isn’t that sexist?” I tell them to try producing a podcast with more women than men voice actors and then come back and try asking again.
It’s not about people in 2026, or skinks, or Martians. And the dog does NOT talk.
Earthfic was written by Alicorn. It can be found at her website, alicorn.elcenia.com, which contains quite a few works by Alicorn, all freely available. They include Luminosity a rationalist Twillight fanfic, and Elcenia an original fantasy fiction series, among others. They’re all quite good!
If Harriet’s voice sounds familiar, it’s because she’s voiced by Ginny DiGuipepsi, formerly of Not Literally. She’s currently appearing as Arya in Ask Westeros. She’s striking off on her own now, and can be found blogging at Ginny Writes.
Podcast: Play in new window
Maybe I take this sort of thing too personally, but recently I saw one of those lists of highly-regarded books. This was a diverse list, and had a few titles in a large range of fields, including Science Fiction, and Fantasy. It also contained Literary Fiction. And in that category? Friggin Murakami.
You know how something like Wind-Up Bird Chronicle gets placed under Lit Fic? Goddamn cultural appropriation. Whenever a good piece of SF actually manages to sneak under the radar and get the attention of the Lit Fic crowd they decide that it couldn’t POSSIBLY be SF, because they would never like something as low-status as science fiction! So things like Flowers For Algernon or The Handmaiden’s Tale get re-classified as Literary Fiction in the face of all reason, simply because someone highfalutin liked it and thought it was tarnished under the SF label.
I probably don’t need to say this to the readership/listenership of HPMoR, but to put this in perspective for the two other people that stumbled here somehow – imagine someone saying Neil deGrasse Tyson couldn’t possibly be black, because he was too smart, so they would be classifying him as “white” from now on. That’s… well OK, that’s worse honestly, comparing the two is a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s similar.
What I’m saying is, screw every single one of those uppity bastards.
Doing this week’s podcast was amazingly fast. No music, no sound effects, no other voices to mix in. And only 3000 words to boot! I put together the whole episode in about three hours. It was crazy to have something completed that quickly after having gotten used to the production time of a regular episode. And kinda freeing.
Then I played it back, listening through the whole thing in one sitting.
Usually that’s the penultimate step, followed by finishing touches. Not so this time. I sounded like a friggin teenager excited to find an awesome new idea. Because yes, I was excited. The Sequences where a major event in my life, and that emotion was bubbling up again. But that sort of reading is simply not dignified. It was painful to listen it. As someone supporting a new idea that others might view with shifty-eyes, exuberance is not allowed. The speaker must be calm, sober. Passion is ok, but only of the elder statesman variety. /sigh. I had to start all over from scratch.
Still ended up taking less time than a typical episode, but it wasn’t the break I’d thought it was going to be at first.