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A Thank You Letter

In the breaks in his writing schedule, David has promised to stop by and chat for a while!
A Thank You Letter
Post by MeanderingRiver   » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:38 pm


Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:01 pm

(Spoilers for Safehold below!)

Hi David,

I was looking around for your email address to write this to you personally, but my boyfriend (who was the one to introduce me to your work) said my best bet was to make a forum post, so I made an account just for this.

Anyway, I started reading Safehold right around the time MTaT came out, so I read the first six books all in one go, and then had a lot of time to digest everything (also reread them all several times). That's when I realized something that was, well, pretty depressing.

There weren't a lot of significant female characters.

Now don't get me wrong. Sharley is awesome, Irys had some crazy potential, Anzhelyk out-badasses any other three characters combined, and Merlin, our hero, is/was a woman themselves, but that's only 4 characters out of... I don't have the time to count all those names you so conveniently listed for me. (I know there's Ohlyvya too, but you keep saying how smart she is but the only time we see it is when she realizes that her and Nahrmahn would be killed if the told anyone else about the lie behind the church. Sahndra Lewis of the royal college also seems awesome, but I don't believe we've ever had her actually appear in the narrative, we just hear about her. Unless I'm misremembering.... Even if you count them, that's only 6 ladies in a sea of men.)

I also get that you're going for a recreation of old Earth cultures, and that combined with the political/ military setting of the story, there wasn't going to be a lot of women of great import. The thing that was the weirdest was that Merlin--who lived her entire life as a woman in a super gender equal society--didn't even comment on the rampant sexism.

I mean, making a fuss at the beginning before anyone knew about Nimue's mission would have been stupid, but we never see Merlin having to bite his tongue about any of it. He mentions that he's technically an "uppity female," but we never see him angry about it. Considering that the regression into rampant sexism spans an even greater gap for Merlin than it does for us readers, that seemed like a serious oversight on the part of the author.

(Don't go yet, I swear this is a thank you letter! I'm just... giving you background so you understand exactly how grateful I am.)

Anyway, I mentioned this to my boyfriend and we got in an fight over it (all of our fights are about fictional universes, is that good or bad?). I hought that it was high time that SOMEBODY on Safehold should start up a formal feminist movement (*coughMerlincough*), but my boyfriend argued that that'd be too much change.

And that was infuriating.

I pointed out to him that Merlin was already starting an industrial revolution, started a religious war, advancing every branch of science by a measure of decades, introducing new military tactics and weapons left and right, and general changing the way people think about everything at a fundamental level. Is adding "end sexism" to that list really so radical? Or even out-of-character, considering Merlin's history?

My boyfriend agreed with me. Because, really? Ending sexism--or at least starting the fight against it--is necessary to Nimue's mission. How is humanity supposed to advance science enough and build up a big enough industrial base and military to fight the Gbaba if we arbitrarily write off half the species as useless? Honestly.

But anyway, on to the actual gratitude! I read LaMA when it came out, and I had to stop every once in a while so I could cheer. Because finally! Finally! You, the author, acknowledged that sexism on Safehold was a problem worth dealing with! And that people were actively dealing with it! Hooray!

The scene with Nimue beating the crap out of Mr. Bigot Face Whose Name Is Not Worth Remembering is one of my favorites, obviously, but not the BEST part. I mean, yes, seeing a woman hulk out on someone is awesome, but it was the bit afterwards, with Cayleb and Merlin, that clinched it. Too often when a woman defends herself with violence, she gets called out as an unreasonable, overreacting bitch. Which was basically what Cayleb was doing, but Merlin shut him down. This is my favorite line in the whole series:

“‘ Like a little girl,’” Merlin repeated thoughtfully, as if sampling the words’ taste, while he selected a fresh potato slice from the plate. “Interesting you should pick that particular simile.”

THAT! That right there! Cayleb is awesome and he has all the best intentions when it comes to ladies getting equal treatment, but even he resorts to comparing somebody to a girl when he wants to call them weak. And Merlin called him out on it. Finally, Merlin acknowledged, out loud, that Safehold is SO SEXIST and that that's a major problem.

So, thank you, David. Thank you for remembering that there are women who read your books, women who want heroes, women who want a power fantasy, women who want to escape to a utopia once in a while, women who want to believe that our world can change after watching your world change.

This is just a start, and I hope you don't suddenly decide "welp, I did girly stuff in one book, now to get back to IMPORTANT things," but thank you for starting. Most authors don't even bother doing that.

Looking foreward to more Safehold,

P.S. Because every fan who is also an aspiring author must do it, there's a couple things that I REALLY want to see happen and that I'm seriously considering the possibility of just paying you to write them because I want them that much:

1. SOMEONE commenting on how disturbing and brilliant it was for Adore Bedard to engineer Safeholdian society to be a patriarchy. She's a woman from a society where sexism mostly existed in history books, and she decides to oppress her own people for the sake of strangling technological development. And you know she researched exactly what that level of sexism would be like in depth, decided that that'd be better than at least trying the original mission plan, and did it anyway. (Or maybe she wasn't trying to do that, but Langhorne and some other asshole dudes decided that bringing back patriarchy was an excellent idea. Like maybe Chihiro decided that would be fantastic when paired with the idea of Shan-Wei as the devil figure.)

2. Archbishop Staynair making it so the Church of Charis allows women to hold all the same offices and duties as the men, whether all at once or one step at a time. Pretty sure he'd do it all at once if left to his own devices. The question is can or will anyone else try to convince him to go slower? It would help the Church of Charis reinforce its identity.

3. Ladies in the military. There's plenty of records of women serving while crossdressing, and those are just the ones who were discovered. I'm imagining someone who snuck her way into some branch of the military somewhere and winds up accidentally earning herself a bunch field promotions until she earns herself a high command post, at which point the SNARCs find out she's a woman, and hilarity ensues. Hopefully she's with the good guys, because I think Clyntahn and his Inquisitors would do Very Bad Things if they discovered her. (Does the Holy Writ even say anything about gender roles? I don't think any of the passages we've seen do....)

4. Someone, man or woman, who is Not Straight and not evil, weak, or weird. Hell, if your editor is squeemish about it, make them bi and in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender. Mostly I just want to see someone look into Owl's archives and be SO RELIEVED that they're not some freak of nature like the Church has taught them.

5. Riddle me this: are there any ethnicities beyond white, Chinese, and Japanese on Safehold? If not, how did that happen, and can we see someone appropriately mourn that loss? (Also please don't make everyone else dead, that's WAY too depressing.)

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