Fantasy Utopias

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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53 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    … utopias make really boring stories.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    “The fantasy of Girl World often feels like the feminist imagination taken to its most self-indulgent, hypocritical extremes. We stand for tolerance and egalitarianism, whereas the people who disagree with us are IGNORANT WIFE-BEATING MONSTERS.”

    That she would write something like this makes her current behavior even stranger.Report

  3. Ian M. says:

    I think the most fantastical thing I’ve read today is Doyle claiming people called her a (redacted slur for a vagina) in the comments section of the “Can Men Discuss Sexism?” post.Report

  4. E.D. Kain says:

    I missed that.Report

    • Ian M. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      I just reread her entry and I was wrong (note Internet how an adult admits a mistake). Here is the quote (as such things are allowed here):
      “At this point, Professor Feminism has written an entire second blog post about getting deleted from an Internet comment section. Although, of course, he frames it as a discussion of whether I believe “men can discuss sexism.” Actually, what happened is that a bunch of other fanboys came over, subsequent to his blog post, and started either parroting his talking points or straight-up calling me a cunt. (This was so predictable that, on the Tiger Beatdown Back Channel, people who hadn’t seen Professor Feminism’s link started asking if we’d been “linked by some bro blog;” the pattern of “critique” inevitably escalating into troll-assailment and c-words is well known to every feminist who has ever run a blog. Which is why most feminist blogs — like mine — run very, very heavily moderated comment sections, so that people who are interested in discussing sexism without experiencing it can actually talk without being drowned out or scared off by all the Man Anger.) I pointed out that these commenters were men, and hinted as politely as possible at the sexist, Mansplaining dynamic, by asking them if they could “see a theme.” Apparently, Professor Feminism is not Professor Good At Picking Up Hints, however, because now he thinks I am saying that men should NEVER be allowed to discuss feminism AT ALL, and of course if men can’t criticize feminists, what’s the point of reading feminists, or attempting to understand feminists?”
      When I first read this I took “that a bunch of other fanboys came over” to mean they came over into the comments of the post at the LoOG. From context it is clear that Doyle is saying Kain inspired fanboys to call her a (redacted slang for a vagina), but did not claim you nurtured such comments on your blog.Report

      • Kim in reply to Ian M. says:

        yawn. she deleted multiple comments of mine, which while potentially inflammatory (I mentioned that I knew a girl who had sex at 13, with an older man, and Liked It), were certainly not uncouth.

        Then, she makes posts talking about all the male trolls, conveniently not mentioning me.

        Then, after I write up a response to her commenters that was pages long, and she deletes that….

        I blow a fuse, cuss her out, and she posts that (mildly redacted), with a comment that she is banning me (quite fair, in retrospect, though by the time she had posted that, I had already apologized, and written a fairer, more reasonable comment).

        This is not a sane form of discourse. This is deliberately characterizing people you disagree with as trolls, and deliberately goading people into becoming trolls through removing their contributions to the discourse.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Ian M. says:

        There is no way anyone came from this site and said the “c” word in her comment thread.Report

  5. Robin McIver says:

    @Ian M. Why is it “fantastical?” I’m going to assume that you mean fantastical in a negative way because you also use the word ‘claim.’ She stated that she deleted a post that called her a c*nt. Given commenters and trolls often insult posters and authors, it is not an unreasonable statement.

    @Mr. Kain
    Unsure why a random blogger should treat Mr. Martin with any respect whatsoever. It’s a feminist blog, not the NYT Book Review. I read the entire contretemps this morning. I am a GRRM reader who ‘discovered’ him with Fevre Dream and then accidently bought the Thrones series at an airport thinking it was horror and belatedly discovered it was Fantasy.

    I just started reading the latest book and watching the HBO series. I found myself disturbed by the depiction of women in the books and especially the series where it is more ‘in your face.’ (As a reader I downplayed and frankly skimmed the content about women that I found generally disagreeable). Anywho, I found a rebuttal of the the Sady post on Gizmodo, then read the original and all the comment kerfluffle… and today visited one of my bookmarked sites which is you.

    Lo and behold here is more on that post. Now I discovered this site quite awhile back when looking for some non-liberal musings to balance my liberal links. I bookmarked the site because the discussion here seemed civil. I’m hoping you are not the blogger with the big following that she has been vilifying since the George RR Martin dust up.Report

  6. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Erik, just back away from the keyboard. If you have to write, write about cooking for a week or two. Or anything besides this.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    I’m not clear whether Ms. Doyle is praising or condemning The Mists of Avalon in her post, either. Perhaps her fantasy is the gentle strength of persuasion and tolerance conquering the violent misogynism [which she claims is] inherent in western, Christian society. That’s a fine fantasy, but it still has conflict between the protagonists (Morganna and her fellow Goddess-followers) and antagonists (the violent male Christians). I also suspect that Bradley was hoping for the story to work on more levels than that allegory; at minimum, she surely wanted to tell an entertaining story when she wrote Avalaon.

    Based on what she wrote, Ms. Doyle’s fantasy world seems like it would be a less sexy, less violent version of Xena: Warrior Princess. Little mention is made in that surprisingly successful spinoff series of the difference in genders between the characters; both women and men are warriors of equal ferocity. (If anything, the female characters are ever slightly so much stronger and discernably more clever than the males; Xena’s most dangerous opponent is another warrior princess, Callista.) The dominant theme throughout the series is the emotional bond that develops between Xena and her protoge Gabrielle.

    Of course, neither Xena the Warrior Princess nor Morganna from the Isle of Avalon live in worlds of peace, prosperity, happiness, and emotionally fulfilling relationships. That’s because the writers of those fantasies understood that a world of peace, prosperity, happiness, and emotionally fulfilling relationships would be a world devoid of conflict and therefore not a particularly interesting world in which to offer escapist fantasy. You can’t have a novel full of Mary Sues; Mary Sue stories are boring.

    That doesn’t mean you need rape, subjugation of women, chattel slavery, or even violence as the ways in which conflict manifests itself. But there must be conflict of some sort. I can’t free myself from the notion that Ms. Doyle is repelled by conflict.Report

    • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Look at my little pony: friendship is magic. 😉Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

      As others have pointed out, she (and society in general) is okay with the violent murdering. It’s the raping that puts things beyond the pale, that is uniquely horrible, that shouldn’t even be allowed to enter our fantasy even when it’s the bad guys doing it for bad reasons.Report

      • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

        … in all fairness, she isn’t bitching so much about rape, as the use of rape/rape-threat on All Main Female Characters.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim says:

          Well, that’s why I concede the point that I think Martin is lazy on this.

          I just don’t think that this is a particularly damnable characteristic in a writer who is trying to balance character and narrative. It’s already taking too long to write the damn things as it is. Another six cycles of editing probably aren’t going to make them appreciably better.Report

          • Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Considering how many places Arya runs through, and how long Brienne has been around, it’s a wonder they don’t see MORE rape, not less… I believe that Doyle misses the idea of time (it’s not like Tywin rapes someone every week.)Report

  8. Maxwell James says:


    If I may be so bold…

    I think the first part of this post – digging into Sady Doyle’s writings to find some common ground – is a good idea. The second part, not so much. The dustup has led to some good discussion, possibly even on all sides, but continuing it won’t lead to more.

    In an earlier thread, Trumwill and Jaybird, probably among others, discussed the virtue of reading blogs that have very different worldviews without responding to them. I think that’s a really valuable recommendation. Speaking as a man with a strong if tangled history with feminism, I think there’s a lot to gain from listening and absorbing without speaking. Even if agreement is not the end result.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Maxwell James says:

      You know…you’re right. I guess I’m feeling vindictive. I started writing the post out of a real desire to see deeper into this whole thing. Then I saw that tweet before I finished. Hence the dissonance.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    What’s wrong with a wish-fulfillment fantasy that tells women they could do well with power and without oppression? What’s wrong with girls geeking out over the idea that they’re special?

    What’s wrong with it, I would argue, is that many people might actually take it seriously enough to be influenced to some degree by it. The idea that men are the root of all evil is wrong and dangerous. Likewise the idea that government can be a completely benign force for good if only we put the right people in charge.Report

    • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      … it’s also ahistorical. A metaanalysis of matriarchal societies as described by the Greeks (and that area of the world) says that if you let women rule a prehistoric society, you get not a society without violence, but a hyper-violent society (to the point that the male-dominated cultures exterminated it because it was too crazy).

      This obviously is not saying that the same thing today would have the same result. I don’t think so, in fact.Report

  10. There’s nothing wrong with girls geeking out over the idea that they’re special. Nothing at all. Fantasy is a broad genre, with room for all types. But I think there’s also nothing wrong with violent dystopias written as critiques of power and patriarchy.

    I think I part company with you here. There’s somethingwrong, at least potentially, with both items: if someone believes too much in their own exceptionalism, one can become dangerously self-righteous. Critiques of power and patriarchy that rely on violent descriptions (I have never read any of the books in question) can come across as prurient, pornographic, or at least feeding the very patriarchy that the author intends to critique.

    I’m not saying that these bad things necessarily come out of either approach–that is, out of “geeking out over the idea that one is special” or creating fictional, violent dystopias to critique patriarchy–but I am saying that each approach has its own dangers as well well as virtues.Report

  11. Asteele says:

    All I’m going to say is that when I read the first book and got to the sex (semi-rape) scene between Danys and Drogo, I had to do a mental check about Danys age. I thought I must of missed something and more time had passed during a section I skipped, because I thought it was really weird to be writing a sex scene that basically read like straight rape-fantasy-erotica with a 13 year old character.

    Also, I’ve read the entire series, and Martin seems to be using rape in the usual way, as an intensifier to prove that people are bad, and as a reason for male characters to seek revenge, and as torture porn to titillate the audience, there’s just a lot more of it than in most fantasy novels.Report