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Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second novel of the Gentleman Bastard series.




The bolded sections represent quotes from the criticism he received. All the z-snaps are in order.

Your characters are unrealistic stereotpyes of political correctness. Is it really necessary for the sake of popular sensibilities to have in a fantasy what we have in the real world? I read fantasy to get away from politically correct cliches. 

God, yes! If there’s one thing fantasy is just crawling with these days it’s widowed black middle-aged pirate moms. 

Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man’s world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!

First, I will pretend that your last sentence makes sense because it will save us all time. Second, now you’re pissing me off. 

You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it. 

Why shouldn’t middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. H.L. Mencken once wrote that “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” I can’t think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain. 

Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes “SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder.”

You don’t like it? Don’t buy my books. Get your own fictional universe. Your cabbage-water vision of worldbuilding bores me to tears. 

As for the “man’s world” thing, religious sentiments and gender prejudices flow differently in this fictional world. Women are regarded as luckier, better sailors than men. It’s regarded as folly for a ship to put to sea without at least one female officer; there are several all-female naval military traditions dating back centuries, and Drakasha comes from one of them. As for claims to “realism,” your complaint is of a kind with those from bigoted hand-wringers who whine that women can’t possibly fly combat aircraft, command naval vessels, serve in infantry actions, work as firefighters, police officers, etc. despite the fact that they do all of those things— and are, for a certainty, doing them all somewhere at this very minute. Tell me that a fit fortyish woman with 25+ years of experience at sea and several decades of live bladefighting practice under her belt isn’t a threat when she runs across the deck toward you, and I’ll tell you something in return— you’re gonna die of stab wounds.

What you’re really complaining about isn’t the fact that my fiction violates some objective “reality,” but rather that it impinges upon your sad, dull little conception of how the world works. I’m not beholden to the confirmation of your prejudices; to be perfectly frank, the prospect of confining the female characters in my story to placid, helpless secondary places in the narrative is so goddamn boring that I would rather not write at all. I’m not writing history, I’m writing speculative fiction. Nobody’s going to force you to buy it. Conversely, you’re cracked if you think you can persuade me not to write about what amuses and excites me in deference to your vision, because your vision fucking sucks.

I do not expect to change your mind but i hope that you will at least consider that I and others will not be buying your work because of these issues. I have been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and i know that I speak for a great many people. I hope you might stop to think about the sales you will lose because you want to bring your political corectness and foul language into fantasy. if we wanted those things we could go to the movies. Think about this! 

Thank you for your sentiments. I offer you in exchange this engraved invitation to go piss up a hill, suitable for framing.

Dude. I bounced off his first book in that series, but that character MIGHT just convince me to give it another try.

Also, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Ching Shih, the Red Lady, Lai Sho Sz’en, Grace O’Malley, Sayyida al Hurra, the Lioness of Brittany, Mary Killigrew, Lo Hon-cho, and quite a few others.


This guy is such a patriarchal bigot that he actually wrote to Scott Lynch because he thinks all fictional worlds should be sexist and racist too. Lynch’s response was perfect.

(via karnythia)

  1. chrisisoninfiniteearths reblogged this from mostlysignssomeportents and added:
    People who have a problem with how an author sets up their FICTIONAL SETTING because it doesn’t match up with the...
  2. storywonker reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
  3. louiselux reblogged this from ellenkushner
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  5. awesomehpj reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
  6. voilacherie reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour and added:
    All of this, except the “I’m not writing history” part. A very quick google search tells me there were a whole slew of...
  7. produdfctititty reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour and added:
    wipes away happy tear
  8. callmejonesy reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
  9. ellenkushner reblogged this from mostlysignssomeportents and added:
    Thank you, Cory Doctorow!
  10. agtheo reblogged this from mostlysignssomeportents
  11. lampliter reblogged this from kirbycrow
  12. morespacenotlessbooks reblogged this from mostlysignssomeportents
  13. imbozman reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
  14. lachstock reblogged this from draconicrose
  15. professionalbeepinterpreter reblogged this from mostlysignssomeportents and added:
    “Thank you for your sentiments. I offer you in exchange this engraved invitation to go piss up a hill, suitable for...
  16. wyowood reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
  17. slywyn reblogged this from draconicrose and added:
    I love the author’s response so very much
  18. worldiary reblogged this from draconicrose and added:
    reblogging so I find this series later and read it.
  19. aquietquixotic reblogged this from booksandghosts
  20. itsverygreen reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour and added:
    Oh ya gotta read the whole thing. It’s juicy and delicious.
  21. draconicrose reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour and added:
    To add to the excellent post and as an additional FUCK YOU to the anon who thinks women weren’t pirates, let alone...
  22. willhummel reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour and added:
    Tell em Scott! Also, Lies of Locke Lamora was a really fun book!
  23. sketchytk reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
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  27. jaggedrain reblogged this from barbex and added:
    I’ve never read his work before but I’m certainly going to now! Also reccing it to my sister in law, because he sounds...
  28. aurattii reblogged this from fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour
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