Feminist Propaganda?

As a result of a blog earlier this month and the paperback publication of Arms-Commander, I’ve received inquiries about and statements declaring that I’m a man-hater and pushing “feminist propaganda.”  Now, I’d be the first to admit that I’m fond of women. More than fond, in fact, but then, after having been married three times, if far more years to the lady whose companionship I now enjoy and appreciate than either of the other two, and having six daughters as well as two sons, it would be strange if I didn’t have a great interest in and appreciation of women.

That appreciation, however, has little to do with the facts of the situation on this planet and in the United States.  As I noted earlier, even in the relatively more “advantaged” United States, on average, working women make about 25% less than working men do.  The differential between men and women doing the same jobs ranges from almost nothing to as much as 40% at the higher corporate executive levels, but women’s pay remains, on average, significantly below that of men in the same or similar positions, as documented rather clearly in the current lawsuit against WalMart currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although a recent article in the Wall Street Journal declared that working single men and women between ages 22 and 30 earned roughly the same amount, that purported equality doesn’t address the fact that there’s still a huge discrepancy between genders among married men and women and among older age groups. Despite the fact that women have had the ability to vote and run for public office in the United States for roughly a century, less than twenty percent of members of Congress are women. 

The situation was far worse in the past, and still is in many other nations across the world.  People tend to forget that less than two centuries ago, in the good old USA, married women could own no property, and all a woman’s clothes and her jewelry, even if provided by her family or earned or made by her, belonged to her husband.

Yet… when I write a book, such as The Soprano Sorceress or Arms-Commander, which depicts a woman in a fantasy world fighting against situations such as this, it’s called by some feminist propaganda or ultra-feminist. 

Come again?  I’ve depicted conditions similar to those which have existed for the majority of the time that human culture has existed on Earth… and I’ve had the nerve to suggest that, first, such conditions aren’t exactly fair to women, and, second, that a talented woman might just do better than a bunch of chauvinistic men. It’s not exactly my imagination that the three British rulers with the longest time on the throne were all women – Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II – and two of those three lived and ruled in a time when ruling wasn’t just ceremonial, and the times that they ruled were among those when Britain’s power was at a zenith.

It’s considered “realistic” when a novelist depicts sword-play and blood and gore in visceral detail, but unrealistic or propagandistic when he or she depicts sexual politics and traditional and historic gender roles in equally accurate detail?  But then, those who complain may really be suggesting that I’m pushing propaganda by suggesting that a woman can and would do better. 

As women take their places in more and more critical and important occupations, it’s becoming all too clear that very often they can do better than many of their male predecessors and peers, as incidentally that Wall Street Journal points out, and perhaps the fact that I occasionally depict that [as well as occasionally depict some truly competent and villainous women] troubles those readers who seem to think that the past gender roles of men and women were as matters should be and that I should not even attempt to suggest otherwise, either in science fiction or fantasy.

That’s feminist propaganda?

39 Responses to “Feminist Propaganda?”

  1. Kedron says:

    I have several female friends working for Wal-Mart headquarters, which is near my home. One I have in mind is a brilliant lawyer. She has consistently contributed to her department by providing creative solutions to problems that appeared, to her mostly male colleagues, as insoluble or costly. Her contributions saved money. Lots of money.

    Nevertheless, her less creative and less productive male colleagues have been promoted above her grade and her superiors (male) have taken credit for her work without acknowledging her input.

    What she and I have both noticed is that men, just like male monkeys, are good at forming a cohesive coalition that benefits its members while excluding outsiders from the benefits. This friend also notices that she, despite having some close female friends at work, finds herself competing not just with other men but also with women. It is the men, never the women, who have many allies. Men (and I have been a beneficiary of this male-networking) champion their buddies, each other’s backs and promote one another by turns. I think that this gender difference has a large role to play in gender pay/promotion inequality. That’s a depressing thought because how do you change human nature that is innate and unchanging? I’m curious if there is any culture anywhere where men and women are equals in receipt of benefits and, if so, how this ‘equal pay’ is achieved.

  2. Bob Howard says:

    No, it’s not. I’ve found your treatment of gender issues both in general and in the specifics in your novels to be both realistic and relevant, as does my wife, also a big fan. The sad truth is that while we can point to a great deal of progress in our country and in some areas of the world, there still remain huge areas of inequality.

    In the arena I’m most familiar with, the military and federal civil service, many hold up the equality in pay there as an example of how far we’ve come. True to a point. The pay across the same rank or grade is he equal, regardless of gender, but the paths to promotion and career advancement are very much still influenced by gender politics, stereotyping and outright discrimination. Many key military career fields remain off limits to women and within the fields open to all, many career-enhancing assignments are woefully lacking in equal access. Add to that the fact that the senior military leadership is becoming less and less reflective of the larger American society and it may be that further advances in gender equality will slow to an imperceptible crawl.

    I am encouraged, though, that we seem to have finally reached the tipping point on service by gays and there even seems to be a growing sentiment to open up combat specialties to women. I’m trying to stay hopeful.

    Also worth noting that women now outnumber men in universities across the country. How long that will take to be reflected in the boardroom in another matter.

    In any event, “feminist propaganda” is, as with all such polarizing topics, definitely in the eye of the beholder. I suspect the critics who harp on such dinosaur themes and your portrayal of realistic characters in these situations would not be satisfied with even a blatantly misogynistic theme. We’re thankful you continue to deal with the issues in the realistic and balanced (not to mention entertaining) way you do.

  3. NathanielG says:

    I feel that you do a very good job having strong female characters, even when they are not the protagonist as in the Soprano novels or Arms-Commander. I just finished rereading Scepters, just after seeing this post, and I specifically noted the way Wendra was characterized as nearly as strong as Alucius and faster at picking up new talents (or Talents), despite the fact that as the protagonist Alucius was off fighting while she was more stereotypically at the stead most of the time; you could have just as easily left her behind the whole time, paying only lip service to the fact that she was a Herder and had all the same motivations and knowledge that he did to fight.

  4. Alison Hamway says:

    Unfortunately many fantasy genre novels degenerate into macho male stereotypes. I really appreciate your female characters sharing equally in character development and forwarding of plot in several of your novels. Inequality and struggling against stereotypic roles are NOT that unusual for women in our world — my grandparents emigrated from the Middle east and were THRILLED that the US provided education for their daughters. Sorry to say that situation hasn’t changed much in the Moslem world (and elsewhere …).

  5. hob says:

    Mr Modesitt, maybe its that,(and I mean no offense by this), the objection is towards a male writers point of how a female should be empowered. That is by turning into a female version of a male, at least that is what I guess your story was interpreted as.

    Just like Males need Females to display female “traits”, (as cultural as that may be), so to do Females need it in Men. The dilemma then becomes that currently political power is defined by Male traits, and presents a two part contradiction.

    Females don’t want to be men, they want political power. Because Men define political power as having Male traits, in a way as unintentional as it may be on your part they view your story as continuing to define political power as male, even as it places a female at its head.

  6. If I understand your comment, you’re saying that men believe political power should be wielded by men, but women believe they can and should wield political power as well. So when I depict a woman who seeks and gains political power that infringes on male preconceptions? That may well be, given that the majority of comments I’ve received on such books over the years come from men, but it also may be that women who don’t like the depiction just don’t bother to comment.

    • hob says:

      No I’m saying that the current Political systems in the world are fundamentally reflecting Male biological tendencies/traits. By empowering women by merely replacing men in such systems in the quest for equality undermines their female biological tendencies/traits, something that isn’t actually what women want, biologically or otherwise–at least that is how I read the critique by Females.

      The deeper question should be if the current political systems (completely male in character in my opinion) employed by Humans are optimal given that we have two genders.

  7. Mikor says:

    I wonder if the reaction is a result of “book imbalance.” As a whole, your stories show men and women, with positive and negative aspects. But in a few books, like SOPRANO SORCERESS and ARMS COMMANDER, there very few positive male characters. Taken in isolation, one could read in a message of male-bashing that was not intended.

    • Ryan Jackson says:

      See, I’m not even sure you can say that those two novels have no solid male characters. Are they still tweaked by the predjudice of their society? Yes, but there’s some shining examples.

      In Anna’s story, The first male Sorcerer she meets is hospitable, solid, relatively honest, and while he sees her as a tool, it comes less as a “Woman is an inferior tool to be used” and more of a “I’m desperate, you’re more powerful than I could hope to be, I hope you can pull off a miracle here.”

      Continuing on there’s Jecks, there’s her various arms commanders, her chief of players in the first book. There’s Secca’s father (apologies for the lack of names, don’t have the books with me and it’s been a while since I’ve read them)

      Arms Commander is the same. Her future consort is someone who resonated very strongly with me. Someone who is not only very strong as a supporting role, but happy playing number 2 with no desire to steal the spotlight. Not to mention there are 3-4 lords who have no problem with her and another couple who while not fond of her, accept and adapt instead of being the villainous chauvinistic male.

      I think it’s just a case of people reading what they want to. Sometimes a story has something that picks straight at personal issues and a person can’t get past them (As these apparantly do to some people, seeing propaganda where none was aimed).

  8. David Sims says:

    No, that’s not feminist propaganda. That’s you over-compensating in fiction for the real-world inequalities of men and women. You do it for the titillation effect. When I played Bethesda Softworks game Oblivion (Elder Scrolls 4), I used a female swordswoman.

    In the real world, there are lots of occupations that women generally don’t do nearly as well as men. For example, firefighting and rescue. The often used scenario regarding a woman’s inability to pick up a heavy adult and carry them out of a burning building’s window and down a ladder is really quite plausible. A firefighter can never know when he/she will be called upon to perform such a rescue. If he/she has the muscle to do the job, the victim of the fire might live. Otherwise, the poor schmoe is going to burn to death (or suffocate on the smoke if he’s lucky).

    There was, a few years back, a video showing what happened when male and female firefighter applicants were trying to pass an obstacle course test. All the men went up and over the wall. Most of the women struggle, strained, tried to boost each other… They looked rather pitiful. When the fire department didn’t hire them, these ladies screamed “gender bias,” and took the employer to court. And the judge ruled that the fire department had to hire them because to refuse was a violation of their civil rights. So. Whenever someone in a burning building in that town needs somebody to carry them out of the flames, he’ll run the risk of having only one of those female firefighters who couldn’t lift herself over that wall.

    Burn, buddy, burn.

    For the same reason that most of the best firefighters are men, so are most of the best swordsmen. Upper body strength. Women may have a bit more dexterity than men, on the average, but that attribute is more decisive when handling small objects than when handling large, heavy ones like swords. Though a swordsman needs some dexterity to make sure that the sword goes where he wants it to, the strength to move it at a speed great enough to get the job done–poking the enemy before he can step out of the way–is even more crucial.

    But expert female swordswomen make a good tale, don’t they? Swish, swish. Ugly man fall down. Pretty victorious lady says something nobly regretful on the subject of taking human life. How uplifting.

    • Ryan Jackson says:

      While I’m aware what I’m saying is anecdotal and limited to myself. As a student of the sword for the last 15 years, the only fighters I’ve ever been intimidated by, the only fighters I’ve ever consistantly lost to in sparring or competition. The only fighters I would avoid in a real scenario if possible, were women.

  9. David Sims says:

    By the way, Mr. Modesitt. You don’t do the “female physical superiority” gimmick as boldly as Marion Zimmer Bradley did. Read her Darkover books, especially these three: (1) The Shattered Chain, (2) Thendara House, (3) City of Sorcery. Oh, and a fourth: (4) Two To Conquer. Bradley seems to have hated us “males.” She ridiculed us as vile and incompetent blowhards, except for homosexuals, the occasional prince or king, and the rare man who wisely accepted the guidance of women. Most of the rest of us guys are rapists, although any dozen of us are handily defeated in combat by a pair of determined Amazons. Go ahead, read those books, when you have a chance, and keep your barf bag handy.

    In one of the books, there’s an editorial error. Bradley was trying to make one of the male administrators of the Terran Empire look like a jerk. Then she decided she had not done so thoroughly enough and rewrote the paragraph to make his behavior seem even harsher and more unreasonable. But she did not completely delete the earlier paragraph, and her editor didn’t catch it, so that partial paragraph got published in the book. By finding it, you will see how Bradley’s crooked little mind worked.

  10. I don’t do the “female physical superiority” bit at all. Those women who use weapons choose those which are smaller and lighter, preferably with a stand-off capability. They operate more in teams and rely on extensive physical training as a compensation for an acknowledged lack of comparable muscle mass [with one exception, but out of hundreds of women, I think there could be one]. In the case of Anna, she doesn’t use blades at all. Nor does Mykella. Saryn uses intense training and order-mastery to amplify her highly trained skills, call it compensation for lesser muscle mass.

  11. David Sims says:

    Here is an informative video regarding the injustice of “equality” in the firefighting profession.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61tbL3yD_AI

  12. David Sims says:

    I was thinking of Crystal, the woman Lerris married. It didn’t take her long to become supreme with swords. But in that universe there’s a form of magic that can compensate for gender differences, so there’s a way for readers to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the story.

    • Ryan Jackson says:

      There’s also the simple reality that the vast majority of swords (Barring two handed affairs) Require very little Raw strength to use with deadly levels of force. It’s not even a suspension of disbelief. If you give me a man and a woman with zero training but both are physically fit and in shape and leave them with me for a few months, I’ll show you two fighters who are for most intents and purposes, equal. And your arguement of the man being bigger with more reach and power.
      You might notice Westwind is based on the short blade. You might also take into account that Mr. Modesitt didn’t pull that out of thin air. Given proper skill, the shorter blade is a LOT nastier and deadlier.
      (Another personal experience note, many people I spar with lean towards longer blades if possible, usually rapier’s with somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 inch blades. This gives them an advantage against the average or new fighter. I wield weapons much shorter. My longers blade is about 32 inches and I reguarly fight with something with a 20 inch blade. All it takes is one missed thrust from them and it’s over. They can’t manuever the long blade up close.)

  13. Derek says:

    David Sims takes the extremes from any example to justify his natural bias against other races and the opposite sex. His blog is very informative of his views on just about anything that isn’t a white male.

    Equality of opportunity is not an issue. We can all agree that the artificial equalizing of results can be dangerous and foolhardy… But that is no justification for barring women the opportunity of certain professions. If they qualify, let them. There is no reason to bar women from a profession because “most” do not qualify, so long individuals with the ability and inclination remain.

  14. David Sims says:

    I see that I might have been wrong regarding a gender gap in sword fighting. That happened because I’d overestimated the weight of the weapons being used. Very well, then. Women can learn to be very good swordsmen, too. However, I think that many fantasy writers (like Marion Zimmer Bradley) go out of their way to overplay female prowess with weapons.

  15. David Sims says:

    Derek, what I do when possible is learn what statistical information is available regarding differences between the sexes and the races. And then I organize my opinions, drawn from such information, and present it to others.

    In this case, I erred in identifying strength greater than women usually have as being a primary factor in fighting well with swords. It turns out that swords are not so heavy as I thought that they were. Now that that error is amended, I readily change my opinion.

    That’s how I do things.

    You, on the other hand, have a history of intransigence here. Shown your errors, you do not adjust your opinion. Or I have not yet seen you do so.

    • Derek says:

      When it comes to equality of opportunity, there is not much to adjust in way of opinion. Statistics aren’t likely to change my views on that. I definitely will correct the way I state the issue, because some have misread my views to mean I am for an equalization of outcomes, which is as far from the truth as possible.

      We can look at the same statistics, and I’ll likely not draw the same conclusions you do. We both know numbers can be made to dance to any tune our political slant takes. It’s a question of values, yours and mine differ greatly. I’m more than willing to adjust my views, just not my values.

  16. Frank says:

    Wow. This subject seems almost as volatile as religion, but inherently more fun.
    Regarding reality, my view is that women deserve equal opportunity, as do we all. It seems so fundamentally simple, but I will enunciate it for the sake of discussion: women are different than men. I, for one, really appreciate that difference on a multitude of levels, but, different they are. Are they “better,” “worse,” or “equal to” men? I think the problem is in the question, as it seems to assume that anyone is equal to anyone, and our current “political correctness” pushes towards universal equality. Poppycock. Things are almost never “equal” and individuals are no different.
    That said I completely disagree that you, Mr. Modesitt, are preaching feminist propaganda. You are describing a world and individuals in it. Women, when cast as the “hero” (pardon the oversimplification) have heroic qualities, worthy of the reader’s respect. What an idea! What a piece of feminist propaganda! Someone has a grudge, a preconceived notion, a cause celeb (or du jour), that critique of your writing provided an excuse to air.
    And, by the way, I’m old enough to remember when women weren’t taken seriously by corporate America, and it was as unfair as it was pervasive. Also, I’ve participated in Marital Arts with men and women, and can tell you that when it comes to fighting, only a fool wouldn’t take a well trained female seriously. Men are bigger, and American men usually start out training with more experience in contact sports, but with enough training women can be very lethal, utilizing their flexibility and natural aggressiveness.
    And, finally, I would like the firefighter who shows up to rescue me to be capable of doing their job well. If that ends up meaning that more are male, so be it. However, I believe that there is no reason to deny women the opportunity to become proficient, which does not mean tipping the results towards any accommodation.

  17. Jonathan says:

    Where does the Wall Street Journal talk about this subject? I am interested, and would love to read more.

    Some of my worries are about what will happen as women continue to graduate from college in numbers exceeding men, and graduate in degrees that earn more money. Right now there are many liberal arts colleges where the student population is 60% female or more. The implications for the United States, and the rest of the world, are immense, and I don’t feel that I have a grasp on them yet.

    One of the things that I really appreciate about your work is that you take care to trace out the consequences of questions exactly like this. So whether or not your work is feminist propaganda (and who cares if it is? As long as it’s well-written…) it is a thought-experiment. And in thought-experiments one is free to test out any number of strange ideas.

    My objections to your work come when you discuss philosophy. It is always too brief! Please address this terrible lack.

    -Jonathan

    • There may be a bit more and deeper philosophy in the next subset of books in The Imager Portfolio.

    • Kedron says:

      You can bet there will be an angry backlash by some men, weaker men. I’ve seen this backlash occur in my old domination (Southern Baptists).

      “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

      – Article XVIII. The Family.

      “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

      – Article VI. The Church.

      Former President Carter, a Baptist, has criticized the Southern Baptist leadership for its position.

      There is, actually, more in scripture allowing for female preachers than not. But my guess is that these guys, men, feel threatened by the success of female preachers, e.g., Joyce Meyer, Paula White ,etc…

  18. David Sims says:

    I still think that the choice of woman as sword-wielding heroine has a titillation value that moves some writers to favor it. It seems to be a common interest-rousing device. I don’t say that there’s anything wrong with it. As I mentioned earlier, I used it myself when I played Oblivion recently. When you write about a man with a sword, you must work harder on the story to engage the reader. But when the fighter is a woman, you’ve already done so to some extent. That’s the titillation effect. Wow, you mean that pretty little thing goes around killing people? Woo.

  19. That may be, but it isn’t why I wrote the books I did.

  20. David Sims says:

    OK. I’ve been wrong twice then.

  21. Mayhem says:

    Equality isn’t about making sure equal numbers of men and women are hired for a particular role, or about enforcing quotas. It is about making sure that everyone is on a level playing field when they go to apply, and removing as best as possible the artificial barriers that are in place to limit selection.

    In David’s favourite case of firefighters, in NZ men and women have equal rights to apply, and provided they meet both the physical and mental aptitude requirements, both will be hired. Yes, this tends to lead to a male dominated occupation, but when you meet some of the female officers, especially the big fit polynesian ones, you definitely won’t argue their ability to do things as well as men.
    In the case of police forces, we have a fairly even balance across the body. There is a decreasing percentage as you go up in seniority, but a lot of that is to do with time in service as women were only fully accepted some forty years ago. Yes, you generally pick the big hulking men to put on the riot gear and stand in a line, but equally you want the small friendly woman to knock on the door to tell of the death of a loved one. Our soldiers are mixed, and both sexes serve in frontline peacekeeping roles overseas. About the only military faction that doesn’t have a female presence is the SAS, and that is due to a combination of physical and mental requirements that weed out 98% of applicants of either sex. Women are perfectly eligible to apply however.

    Our lawyers are around 60% female on average rising to around 85% at entry level – law has been a popular profession at university level for women for many years.

    The key fact, which David hates to acknowledge, is that in a modern technological society, there are very very few tasks that cannot be equally well done by men or women. As changes in equipment and in training abstract away the physical labour, women are easily the equals, and often superior to many men.
    (David Sims excepted of course, as he is is superior to everyone, always)

    A good example would be in Australia, hardly a bastion of feminism, where 90% of the mining truck drivers are women, simply because they tend to be more careful drivers than the men so their tyres last longer. At $40k per tyre, the big mining companies quickly notice that sort of thing.

  22. Kedron says:

    Just a quick thought in reply to Mayhem’s observations and my earlier comment regarding female lawyers: Perhaps the main reason women are arguably more adept at ‘mastering’ is because women are neurologically better at multitasking, a gender difference Mr. Modesitt describes in some of his stories about female pilot. Lawyers have to be able to manage, filter and analyze large volumes of discete datasets quickly.

  23. Kedron says:

    By ‘mastering’ I meant ‘lawyering’. Damn ‘smart’ phone.

  24. Jolanda Trost says:

    Surely it is not a matter of women being ‘better’ than men or of men being ‘better’ than women. It is the matter of an individual being able to chose and train for whatever life path they choose and have a talent for. Society needs to be structured so as to give all a fair go, and not to tilt too much to one side or the other. Utopia indeed!

    I must say that I love your books and anxiously look for the next publication. The characters are presented ‘warts and all’ and are generally well rounded, they satisfy on many levels, and isn’t it great that they provide such great discussions of a philosophical nature.
    Not bad for much maligned Sci Fi/Fantasy.

  25. Sean says:

    I am a bit flabbergasted as to why “reality” would be important in a science fiction or fantasy environment. Reality might dictate that men would indeed be more successful in a sword/sorcery type environment, but the really the point of science fiction or fantasy seems to me to portray alternative “what if?” type positions. Arms-Commander is a “what if women started to run the world” type scenario.

    I have to admit that having read Arms-Commander, I would probably not read it again for the simple reason that (and this will come as a huge surprise to any marketer (cough)) it didn’t have any role models that I was particularly interested in. I am not a male who is interested in performing a supporting role to a female. So, I was not particularly interested in reading a book full of awesome, amazing women and stupid, boorish, men.
    Having said that… I don’t think anyone should dismiss the book as feminist propaganda. I’m just sad that there are less and less male role models in media (I turned the TV several years ago due to constantly being bombarded with the idea that all men are violent, rapists, and abandoners of the home). Mr. Modessit’s earlier books are full of interesting role models for me: men who kick butt, reject dictatorship, throw a bit of magic around, have meaningful relationships with women worthy of them, and still have time to play with the kids. Just because there is nothing wrong with playing a supporting role to women, doesn’t mean men should abandon the idea of playing a primary role.

    A word on multi-tasking: male and female qualities have always been exaggerated in fiction. Multi-tasking costs time, is less efficient, and results in multiple tasks being performed… poorly. Focussing on one task inevitably results in it being performed to a better standard. There are many female qualities which should be praised… but multi-tasking is not one of them.

  26. Trish Henry says:

    I can only say that that as a young girl growing up reading Science Fiction that of the few female characters that I found in the classics, there were few who were not: 1. Sexual fantasies (either evil or good), 2. Wimps waiting to be rescued, 3. Ethereal beings who were not to be approached, 4. Stupid, 5. Smart but only to be the villain who would be defeated. I could never relate and stopped reading most Science Fiction for many years. What kid would want to daydream about being someone boring or who was written to be someone’s prize or part of the general background?

    As an adult I LOVE finding strong women depicted in books by both male and female authors. I LOVE women with swords or power and smarts going out and kicking butt! Those are characters I can enjoy imagining myself to be. Tamora Pierce writes great sword and magic stories with real characters where both genders get up to interesting things. So does Garth Nix, Robin McKinley and Ilona Andrews. I don’t think it’s a feminist agenda. I think it’s just people writing good stories that engage their readers.

  27. Charles says:

    I am reading through the Spellsong cycle right now, and honestly, some of it does bother me. I have no problem with strong women in fiction at ALL. I DO have a problem with yet another source (besides TV, radio, and film) that depicts 99% of men as idiots incapable of a rational thought that can only resolve anything by hitting it till it breaks. Unless suitably subservient to the woman, that is.

    • You might consider the fact that I’m writing about a lower-tech culture based on history… and if you have questions about that… well… then perhaps you should take a long hard long at history, much of current Middle Eastern culture, fundamentalism Christian religions, the leadership of top corporations, and the fact that even in the USA women couldn’t vote until less than a century ago.

      • Charles says:

        I guess my feelings on this particular series are stemming from a lack of perceived balance. I have read and very much enjoyed a LOT of your books — the Recluce series, Forever Hero trilogy, Gravity Dreams, Hammer of Darkness (one of my all-time favorites) — and I really enjoyed them all. Don’t get me wrong, I AM enjoying the Spellsong Cycle. It just feels different than your other series in that the balance of common sense and intelligence vs. idiocy, even the basic good vs. evil, was fairly evenly split between men and women in the others.

        With that said, I am reading Darksong Rising right now, and the balance is MUCH better in this one than it was in the first two books in the series. Looking forward to finishing the series.

  28. Dr. R. E. Petrere says:

    Doctrinaire doctors indoctrinate documented doctrine…

    In the United States we are supposed to be able to express our opinions, and try to persuade others of their validity, but NOT coerce. Fiction is an effective media platform, in that authors can contextualize their ideas and opinions.
    Propaganda propagates proposed philosophical positions! ;-)
    Denigrating intellectual works, as propaganda is, in itself, propaganda – of an opposing opinion. Unfortunately, denigration tends to be coercion to the point of emotional and intellectual bullying.
    (In contrast, “Criticism” should be criteria-based analysis)
    The only thing wrong with “propaganda” would be in what might be propagated. If the concepts, doctrine and ideology propagated are “good” then so is the propaganda; but if they are evil, flawed or mistaken, then such propaganda would be as well.
    There is nothing wrong with propaganda in or of itself: Have at it!

  29. Sarah Ireland says:

    I am a feminist. I have read most of Mr Modesitt’s ‘Recluce’
    and ‘Spellsong’ books.

    They are a joy. In fact, I have to say that I only choose
    about 25% of male writers as they tend mostly to be stuck
    in an unbalanced world, where stereotypes are the abnormal.

    Can see why Arms-Commander might induce a testosterone
    CRUMMPPTT! It’s just simply positive in all the values we’d
    love to ease into everyday life without all the violence,
    greed and yes, domination.

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