Anyway, while it's still fresh in my readers' minds, I'd like to bring up one response I got to Legacy of the Zendari which I did not include in my previous post about it: an accusation of sexism.
I was a bit taken aback by this. I consider myself a feminist, to the extent that I firmly believe all people are fundamentally equal. Do I think anybody should get special rights? No, on either side of that equation. That said, if there is an imbalance, effort must be exerted to correct that imbalance. It won't happen on it's own.
While this principle of equality is one that I firmly believe, and want to layer into all of my writing, my goal is not to hit the reader over the head with it every time. Nor do I even think that would be effective.
So I wrote Legacy of the Zendari like I write any piece, by coming up with some characters that seemed both natural and to fit the story and throwing them in.
It never even occurred to me that these characters might add together to create a world view that seemed sexist. Maybe that's my bad for not looking out for it?
I mean, ignorance is not an excuse, but at the same time... you take a character like the Geo-Cure girl (who I believe I named Jenny...). She's not a strong woman--but she's not a strong character. She's existed as a conscious being for like, two and a half hours, tops, by the end of the story. She was born (effectively) fully fledged, a brand new consciousness in the body of a young adult, with all the experiences and feelings that come with that body. Totally unprepared to be rescued by a dashing, heroic RADF agent of the gender she is sexually attracted to.
Is this an adolescent fantasy? Sure, to some extent. You open the case to find a beautiful, naked girl, who immediately latches on to you. But part of my message there was not just to say, "hey dude, hot times on the horizon!" It's to, hopefully, if I did my job right, raise some very valid moral questions about whether doing anything with her would be morally acceptable. Though she has the body of an adult, she's in spirit more like a child. And you're her only guardian.
Though in the story, one route is to embrace your relationship with her, and there's definitely an implication of where that relationship is going, that's not the only route, nor (do I think), there's any moral implication that that's the correct route.
From my perspective, I certainly wasn't intending that to be "degrading to women." The premise is, well, science fiction, and maybe a little bit of wish-fulfillment, but everything after that, though perhaps a bit cliche, is both realistic within the terms of the world, and consistent to the characters themselves. It seems natural to me that someone who just woke up would latch on to the nearest strong personality.
The other complaint this reader lodged was that every woman in the show was "there to be a romantic interest for a male."
Well, every character is there for a reason. For the Rick and Lisa romance, for example, it's true that Lisa is there "just" to be a romantic interest for Rick--but it's equally true that Rick is there "just" to be a romantic interest for Lisa. I don't see either statement as being relevant. (In fact, neither is there "just" for their relationship with the other, they also flesh out the roles of some of the minor characters in the base, serving functions on the base and presenting minor interactions with the main character.)
The main characters has two potential love interests, but love triangles and the difficult choices those create are a common literary theme, both in high literature and pulp fiction. Any dating game takes this to extremes--are those sexist?
There are only a couple of characters that *aren't* involved in any romance. None of them happen to be women, but that's just because I happened to choose male for the gender of those characters. There was no social statement intended by that decision. It's a military setting, and most military settings today are dominated by men. If anything, I personally am impressed by Minna for being intelligent, successful, and unintimidated by her gruff coworkers and commanding officer.
So, those are my thoughts, but maybe I missed something.
Here's the question I put to you, is this work degrading to women? Does it represent women in a degrading or insensitive light, or relegate them to an inferior position with relation to men, in any way?
Though a feminist, it is not my goal to wave the feminist flag high and proud with every single piece I write--any more than it's my goal to wave the atheist or gay rights flag high and proud with every single piece I write, even though those are also beliefs I happen to hold. I don't think shoving your morals down the reader's throat does anybody any good. If you want to share your opinions, do it subtly; just raise the question and let the reader decide for him- or herself.
That said, I also don't want to accidentally wave a sexist flag!
When I tried to express these thoughts to this reader (someone I do know in person), I was advised to seek a "more enlightened male" who could explain it to me. So, here I am, asking for help. What do you all think?
(Though responses from male readers are highly valued, given the subject matter, I would be especially interested to hear responses from any female readers out there!)