Boy books vs. girl books

Rebecca Ganetzky rganetzk at oberlin.edu
Thu Jun 20 15:28:47 EDT 2002


> 5. Girls: I've noticed that female protagonists in fantasy are frequently
> described as being different physically or intellectually from their
> families or immediate social group.  Did you feel similarly unique, and
> was that an element of your interest in fantasy or science fiction?
I think so, yes.  Although, I would be more specific.  Most books, in 
general are about someone who is different in some way from their social 
surroundings...to some extent (1) everyone feels this way and (2) books 
just wouldn't be interesting elsewise.  On the other hand, I think the a 
characteristic thing about YA SF/F (and mystery) vs. non-genre YA is that 
the *difference* is really good. That being different is the *point*.  For 
some (very short) period I read the "popular" YA books.  And for the most 
part they were about becoming like everyone else.  Jane doesn't have a 
boyfriend/her period/good looks etc.  Jane angsts about the lack of 
whatever.  Jane gets boyfriend/period/good looks, whatever.  Or they are 
about learning to that even though you have differences you can still be 
like everyone else.  (To directly summarize a book I once read:) Tom 
realizes he is homosexual.  Tom gets kicked off the football team because 
other players find out.  Tom is scared that he's not like everyone else. 
After much angst, Tom proves that in spite of his sexuality he is still a 
good football player and becomes like everyone else again.  In SF/F books 
it's much more that Jane doesn't have whatever and it's fine because Jane 
has wonderful magical powers, or Tom gets kicked off the football team 
because he has wings, but the wings are really special, and so he doesn't 
need the football team after all.  That is, either the differences don't 
matter to the character (although they still matter to society) because the 
character can more than make up for the, or, more likely, the differences 
are, in and of themselves, what make the character cool and powerful and 
interesting.  For me, at least, who was (and is) irrevocably *different* 
there was little appeal in books that talked about overcoming your 
differences, or getting rid of them, when that seemed so impossible, and 
for the most part undesirable.  It was far more preferable for me to read 
books that treated differences as magic and wonder and gave more 
opportunities to unique characters.

RDG
Rebecca D. Ganetzky
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