Idealism, was Sexism -

Sally Odgers sodgers at
Thu Oct 5 22:03:19 EDT 2000

people, the generalized other of society, seem to me to be saying
>that children are magical, and that as you stop being a child you will
>automatically lose all your idealism and imagination and so on and so

I don't think you ever could or should lose your idealism. What can happen
(and has happened to me) is that you learn that you can't always have a
castle and must make do with a cottage. Settling for what you *can* have
instead of crying for the moon can be very sad. On the other hand, it can
have its compensations. I'd hate to go through life overlooking what I *can*
do and have just because my first choice proved impossible.

I've seen quite a few colleagues burn out over their idealism. They get very
depressed and stop writing which is a pity, since they have so much to

To tie this back to my original point, which was what is and isn't
editorially accepted in writing, I could choose to toe the line entirely and
sell out my ideals. I could also choose to stick firmly to my ideals and
never sell another book. Or I could tread the middle way and use my choice
of heroes or heroines where I can, something different where I must, and do
a certain amount of undercover work that often gives me my chances through
the window when the door is closed.  OK, that's sneaky, but it works. For
example, I have been told firmly and no buts, by one set of editors that
they cannot publish books with ghosts or magic in them.
So, I wrote them 5 books with neither. After that, I wrote them three
others. One has an electronic banshee in it. One has a werewolf heroine. One
has a girl with "sea-sight" who can see selkies and mers and ride the white
horses of the sea. The electronic banshee passed muster because it wasn't
explicitly called "a ghost". The werewolf girl got by because I never stated
that she *was* one. And the sea-sight incident got by because I made it a
natural ability shared by some local people. In every one of these books the
young heroine was the mover and shaker.

I didn't trick the editors, BTW. They know exactly what I'm doing and they
enjoy it too. It lets them bend the rules without losing their jobs or
having to sack me!

Ideally, I would love to write the kind of books that allow the best
character for the job, but I have, as Lizzie suggested, a family to feed.
Incidentally, there are cases where I would choose to use a hero rather than
a heroine. I have both a son and a daughter and find them very, very
different in ideas and habits and concerns. It is disconcerting to have a
sociable, girlish, fashion-conscious daughter when I was never any of these,
but she exists and it is her choice to be interested in boys, music and
clothes. I think she and her feminine sisters have as much right to star in
novels as do more adventurous girls, just as my fishing, electronically
minded son has as much right to star as boys with gentler interests. If I
wrote always about adventurous girls and bookish boys I'd be falsifying
reality just as much as if I wrote always about gentle, biddable girls and
rowdy boys. As I said before, my ideal would be do choose the best character
for the job...  As it is, I do the best I can.

And as a final word, I doubt if JK R. had a clue what she was doing with
Harry-as-male. I think she was simply following tradition.

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list