Sometimes I’m kind slow, just recently I read two articles about the same theme, both of them quit compelling, and both containing a great amount of truth. The theme is women character in fantasy books, and that came to the spot lights due to the criticism on the Mark Lawrence First book and the lack of female characters in important or relevant roles. Beyond that Mark answer that criticism saying that, in a nut shell, it’s not a matter of social equanimity but to tell a good well written narrative. In the other hand, the other article who surfaced in response to that response – it never ends, apparently – points out that the lack of female characters is, conscious or unconscious, always a choice. Well I believe both of them are right and wrong at the same time, and I have a few things to say in the matter.
First, Mark is right, somehow, when you writing a story much like in the way Tolkien spoke in one of the prefaces of his renowned trilogy “for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches (…) An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extreme complex, and attempts to define the process are ate best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous” the writer follows the story as much as the story follows his will. A true symbolic story, one in which the author is not completely the author but the soil in which this story-germ germinates cannot be about the so precisely controlled to include this or that. In that matter we see that the criticism in the “feminist fiction” is right, is always a choice be it conscious or not. The point is, I believe Mark is right in defend his right to tell his tale in the ways the tale wants to be told, but, in the moment we read the tale it is open to our interpretations and, as a person with a deep interest in hermeneutics and interpretation, we should read it as something who speaks about our soul and our time, in that possibility is one of the great quality’s of a work of art, and that’s as Tolkien claims is independent of the authors choice – in this point knowing it or not Tolkien rejects Freud and assumes a point o view extremely similar of Jung’s. Of course the book of Mark is fantasy and his world is one of his design, but, paradoxically, this fact makes the book even more important to interpret our society, our fantasies defines us, our dreams our expectations, this is a quite fertile field for debate about who we are and who we aspire to be. If Mark it’s not free to tell his tale, the tale cannot be meaningful to us, so, both of them are right.
I have one more thing to say in the matter, about the social needs of our time, our social struggles, being myself strongly involved in these very struggles. I see the art with a different perspective, in fact I see it by the eyes of Joyce, so I’m very reluctant in have a taste for art made with the intended purpose of teach people or to make people dislike something. In the words of Joyce this is, as he wrote in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, it’s improper art, he says that the feelings excited by this kind of art are kinetic, desire or loathing, urges to abandon or go for something – didactic or pornographical, they are improper art. Art, to Joyce, the esthetic emotion is static. The mind’s is arrested and raised above desire and loathing. I regard political engaged art as didactic, improper art, and is much like allegorical, as Tolkien wrote “ I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author”. Political art, intended political art tend to be allegorical in that sense and fails to be proper art. In the other hand, symbolical art is open to the readers and can create in the many interpretations numerous different worlds of meaning, and make us think about ourselves and our society.
In my novel I wrote at first 3 characters, one female and two males and, in a turn of the story, we have other 3 characters two female and one male. I had no political or social concern when I made that choice, it just felt right at the moment, of course, after the story is told, its open to debate – political and social – independent of what I intended conscious or unconscious. The more important is the story, it’s a living thing and have unexpected effects on people. Mark you should be proud of your tale for its unexpected effects, it shows that you did a good job as a storyteller, but it also shows that you don’t have the final word in the interpretation of your book, that’s the magic of writing, and the magic of the world of symbol and meaning that we all share.