Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters – Part 5

Part of an ongoing rant where your humble author chews the scenery.  In our last episode, we discovered that Political Correctness is not political program but a cultic worldview with no particular center and no particular goal, bound together only by a general discontent at the sufferings of the world, and the belief that a rebellion destroying the legitimacy of all prior institutions and the erection of a totalitarian utopia will solve everything.

We left asking whether this had anything to do with science fiction. The answer proposed was that it does not, or rather, it has about the same relation that commercial advertisements have to the magazines in which they appear.

The cult wants to put leftwing messages into stories to influence the minds of the reading public and make their leftwing worldview seem like the norm, the default view, so that everything natural and decent and traditional and rational seems unbearably wicked and disgusting.

Speaking of magazines, I feel the an answer to the charge that women in the bad old days before the Women’s Liberation Movement were portrayed in SF as weaklings and ninnies is merely to glance at covers circa 1940-1950. This is hardly a scientific or thorough survey, but then again, we are talking about what subconscious impression is left in the minds of young women reading space adventure stories. I invite anyone to compare them to the same number of images from current SF paperback or trade paperback covers of adventure stories.

planet_stories_195201The cult operates by a very simple formula defined by Marx: Find something that does something good, and blame it for not being perfect, identify a victim group, preferably one actually being benefited by the good, identify their benefactors as witches, that is, as the wrongthinking people. Then, make windy claims that the imaginary victim group will have its imaginary problems obliterated once the witches are burned and the witchhunters get all the property, material or spiritual, once belonging to the witches, and then everything will be copasetic.

Of course, all this is total bullshit, and even most of the cultists, those in the outer ring, know it, so it is better to imply it without saying it.

planet stories 42sum

In the case of Marx, the good thing was the industrial free market. He made up a bad sounding word to describe it, calling it capitalism. Ironically, the free market is such a good thing that the insult term came to be a term of endearment, and many of the wrongthinking witches now use the term proudly, and call themselves capitalists, and call the freedom to own property and trade without permission from the state ‘capitalism.’

The victim group was the factory hands and farm workers. Of course the free market benefited them so enormously that there is no parallel in history. Poverty in the West was once the same as it was in the undeveloped world, a matter of near starvation. Now a man below the poverty line in America, is more likely to be overweight and own a cell phone and a used car than he is likely to starve to death. Marx called these men the proletarians, a Roman word referring to those who served the Empire only by producing children.


Marx made the stupid and unsupported argument that the proletarians were a class or category of persons, who, by virtue of the fact that Marx used one word to refer to them all, therefore had a unity of interests.

There is of course no unity of interests. Ask a sailor on a whaling ship put out of business by a field hand working on an oil rig, whose boss has found a way to bring petroleum oil to market more cheaply than whale oil. Ask the blacksmith’s apprentice who no longer can find work shoeing horses because of the efficiency of the factory hand working in the automobile plant.

Marx identified the men who made this explosion of wealth and long life possible as the deadly enemies of the poor as the bourgeoisie, a word from the Middle Ages referring to those who occupied Burgs, or walled towns, and primarily engaged in trade. They were also asserted to have a unity of interests, equally as foolishly. Ask Mr Macy about Mr Gimbel.


The interests of the bourgeoisie and of the proletarians was asserted to be a Darwinian competition to the death with no quarter and no peace possible or desirable. The proles were supposed to hurt the bourgeoisie as much as possible in any way possible, and hurt them more and more until each and every one of them died.

And, of course, this theory was enthusiastically adopted by the middle class intellectuals and students and the newly minted millionaires who were the prime beneficiaries of industrial capitalism, and they sought with the eagerness of a young bridegroom on his wedding night to have the proletarians kill them in a worldwide bloodbath. Or, rather, they wanted to pretend to be proletarians so that they could engage in the worldwide bloodbath. It is not clear which. Sadists are often masochists and visa versa.


Now, there are of course in reality real problems caused by industrial capitalism. Anything in reality has a cost. That is the nature of reality. All Marx did was reverse cause and effect and blame the free market for all the problems it was solving, because the solution was not perfect.

In the case of Feminism, the victim group was women, all women, and the oppressor group was men, all men. The fact that male babies need and want and love female mothers to raise them and the fact that male fathers need female wives to make more male babies never enters into this enrapturing vision of the eternal war between the sexes. The feminists are not as clear as the socialists about the need for a worldwide bloodbath, but they are even angrier about it.

Note Really, Really hawt Redhead in skintight Battlesuit

Most women I know, who are, to be frank, Christians of a rather traditional strength of mind, do not buy into this feminist agitprop, but most of the men I know, who are Wiccans and Atheists, do. This indicates once again that a certain degree of deranged masochism is present, perhaps prompted by nebulous feelings of guilt and a need for propitiation by sacrifice, or just a weary desire not to shoulder the burdens of manhood.

Now, there are of course in reality real problems caused by specialization into sexes or organization of society into sexually differentiated roles. Anything in reality has a cost. The suffragettes of our grandmother’s time, or, if you are younger than I, greatgrandmother’s time, had a real problem that was open to solution by legislative change, namely, to afford the each member of the fairer sex the right to vote and to own property in her own name.

planet_stories_1950sumThe feminists in our time have also reversed cause and effect, and blame on the existence of sexual roles problems which either are caused by the lack of such roles, or problems that do not exist at all.

By any measure, feminism have won an absolute triumph and swept the field of all opposition. They have more freedom, if by that we mean the lack of legal or cultural restriction or restraint, than ever did any of their mothers for all of time.

So why are they in despair? Why are women killing themselves in record numbers, killing their babies in the womb in record numbers, getting divorced from their spouses in record numbers?

Now, I have taken all this time to describe at length — tedious length, so I know that no one has read this far except for my one fan (Hi, Nate!) — how the Cult works, so that I can briefly —briefly for me, which means an orotund and endless pontificating for an ordinary mortal — say how the Cult works in reference to science fiction.

Let me use an example from my own writing, not because it is the best example, but because I happen to have it to hand:

I wrote a book where the expedition to the nearby dwarf star V886 Centauri had an all male crew. I did this because I wanted to have one character born aboard the ship without there being a clear explanation as to how exactly she was born; it was part of the mystery.

One of the cultists pretended to review the book. Pretended, because checking a book for cult-loyalty is not a review. Telling the readers whether the book performs the meaningless ritual gestures and genuflections of political correctness does not tell the readers whether they will like the book or no, which is what a review is. The cultist was shocked into gibbering Nyarlathotepian insanity by the fact that I was capable of imagining a ship with no female crew aboard. After all, such a thing has never happened before in all of history, nor has it been imagined, nor is there any excuse for such a thing. The fact the mysterious child born aboard ship was female, and is the savior of mankind and the galaxy, the first superhuman, et cetera and ad nauseam did not restore your humble author to the good graces of the Cult member.

So why are the ladies in despair? Why do they commit suicide in record numbers?

Is it because of me, John C Wright, internationally recognized science fiction author, failed attorney, retired newspaperman, savant and scholar with my fat belly and outrageous beard and nearsighted eyes, my glorious bald spot, my dull swordcane?

Did I suppress you, my dear ladies?

You see, the moment the question is asked, it sounds ridiculous. No one man can be blamed. The Cult belief does not permit that. It only deals with collectives: all men as a whole must share this guilt.

The logic goes as follows: We all, except for the males who have joined the screaming witchhunters, caused the crop failures. The crop failures do not show up because of natural causes. It must be because of the witches, the wrongthinking people. I am one of the wrongthinking people. Ergo, QED.

88Fantastic Story, Summer 1951In order to be a witchhunter, you have to make a ritual propitiation.

As far as science fiction goes, the theory here is that all the unfairness and unhappiness of history is cause by some sort of undefined and dim half-subconscious miasma or influence of thought, an attitude of which even we are half-unaware, which is fed by seeing stories where the women characters are in the stereotypical weak female roles of being feminine.


Sorry. My sarcasm gland became inflamed. The theory is that stories cause or at least influence the subconscious mind with a set of expectations, so that if little boys read stories where Superman saves Lois Lane from a radioactive moon robot or something, the little boys will grow up to be rapists, therefore little boys should read stories where women are Amazons fully able to rescue themselves from radioactive moon robots without male help.

I am not clear on the details of how the theory goes. The practice is that you can be accused of sexism for any reason or no reason, and once you are accused, there is no defense and no verdict other than guilty. There is no example in the history of the world of a sexist reforming and becoming a properly orthodox lover of feminism. The only way to escape accusation is to be a witchhunter yourself, and accuse others.

Now, since stories, like industrial capitalism, do exist in reality, they do have drawbacks. Boy’s adventure stories since the days of TREASURE ISLAND tend to be an all-boy’s affair. Earlier stories had more heroines in them, such as FAERIE QUEENE, because romance was a part of Romance. The tale goes that the boys of Stephenson asked him to write a tale with no women in it because (being little boys) they did not want to hear about love and romance.

Science fiction sprang out of the tradition of TREASURE ISLAND and the like, since Jules Verne did not want to add any romantic subplots to his tales of technological wonder. I am sure HG Wells has some female characters somewhere, but I cannot bring any of them to mind aside from Weena the Eloi from THE TIME MACHINE.

So, as far as I can tell, the complaint about Science Fiction having at one time being an all-boys club where women were scarcely ever seen is a perfectly reasonable complaint. There were and are stories where the only female characters are fodder for abduction (see below) or some worse fate.

fantastic_story_195309I leave it to the reader to count the number of women shown as helpless in 1940-1950 popular magazines versus the number in the average slasher flick or torture porn sequel.


And there have always been stories with two dimensional characters, cardboard and unconvincing, and women in those stories have been portrayed in unconvincing ways.

If the kind reader recalls, there is an inner and an outer circle to the cult. The inner is the liars and the outer is the suckers. The suckers are sincere but ignorant. They don’t know what the cult wants or what is wrong with it, but they have been warned not to listen to any criticism of the cult, because the wrong-thinking people are so horrible.

The suckers are completely honest when they ask for stronger female characters either in SF or in mainstream fiction. They look at cheesy unconvincing females character, at the lazy use of stereotypes, or plain old bad writing, and they demand better.

medium_1942_-_amazing_stories_-_lord_of_the_crystal_bow_-_h_w_mccauleyGood for them, say I. Nothing wrong with their demand. I applaud it. I myself do not care to read stories where all the female characters are victims with nothing to do, who have no role in the plot. That is not my idea of feminism or of femininity. That is just bad writing. Away with it.

My argument here is that they are asking for realistic female characters and calling it strength, or the are asking for females characters in starring roles, whose decisions are central to the plot, and calling it strength, because they don’t know any other word for this quality.


Marx analyzed all human behavior as a contest of strength between oppressor and oppressed, and a certain hefty percentage of modern feminism adopted that analysis as the analysis of the man-woman dynamic, and so the only thing that matters to them is strength: The strength to do without men, to achieve without men, to overcome men, to despise men, to walk away from men. To be not dependent. Independence. There is no nobler goal, is there?

But the analysis overlooks the same thing in both cases. Marx overlooked that a situation of mutual benefit can be found when labor is free to seek employment and investors free to seek return on investment. The investors seeking profit will buy stock in ventures that hire laborers seeking to sell their labor for a wage. Marx characterizes these mutually beneficial relationship as a master-slave relationship, a one-way zero-sum game where the investors gain and gain and the laborers lose and lose. Likewise, modern feminism, or this branch of it, characterizes the male-female relationship as a master-slave relationship, a one-way zero-sum game where the males gain and gain and the females lose and lose.


And surely there is sufficient evil done by the greed of investors or the lusts of men to lend more than a little credence to either view.

The argument looks reasonable to anyone kept in a pitch of perfect anger and envy and resentment and hate and contempt against the other partner in the mutually beneficial relationship.

So the cult, to maintain the falsehood of the analysis, simply has to tell half the truth, paying attention only to cases where one partner betrays the other; or else has to tell outright lies.

Likewise the cult, in order to maintain the atmosphere of hysteria needed for the pitch of resentment to be maintained, has to devalue the use of reason. This is the reason why the cultists adopt what I call the unreality principle, the principle that make-believe is real and reality is optional. It is to halt the possibility of rational discourse. It allows them to tell outrageous lies without the slightest twinge of shame. This in turn is the reason why the cultists never argue: they only accuse. There is no groundwork to argue in a purely subjective world, because there is no evidence to consult, no objective rules of logic. Whatever seems to be a persuasive argument can be rejected unread based on the accusation that the person giving the argument, no matter who he is and what his argument is, is a wrong-thinking person, the source of all evil, a witch.


So likewise the perfectly reasonable desire for better writing with more realistic female characters turns into a weird ritualistic demand to strengthen females in society by means of creating inspiring role models in SPACEMAN SPIFF novels.

This would be fine except that the inspiring role model means and only means a female who repeats the bromides of Political Correctness.

Am I wrong? I would be delighted to hear about contrary examples.

But here is what it looks like to me, given my limited experience: I have heard CS Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien denounced, even though Queen Lucy, even as a little girl, had enough strength of character to stick to the truth and keep the faith despite the jeers and disbelief of her older siblings, in the first volume, and despite that no one else, in the second volume, saw the Lion she saw. Is Galadriel of Lothlorian a weak character? In addition to be a queen, and immortal, and wise and far-seeing and morally upright, has greater strength of character than the warrior prince Boromir, AND she has magic powers. So how is this weak?


I will repeat my examples from A PRINCESS OF MARS of Burroughs and GALACTIC PATROL of E.E. Smith, books that are hardly on the Shakespeare level of great literature, but also books from before the Women’s Liberation movement. Princesses get kidnapped with the clockwork regularity of potboiler writing on Barsoom, but not a single one of these dames faints, or screams, or complains, or shows anything but ironclad resolve worthy of a mother of a Spartan. I have already mentioned girls knifing guards who are too familiar and space-dames blasting away at drug-runners with their white-hot ray guns. Weak? In what sense?

Now, again, it may be my limited experiences, but the only female characters I hear being complimented as strong by the Left are the ones in traditionally male roles, such as military officers, vampire hunters, and vigilantes.

I keep thinking there must be some common ground of characters that anyone can admire. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, or Saint Joan of Arc, are ones I would assume would seem perfectly ‘strong’ to anyone seeking a strong female lead to admire.

Now, I do not mean to sound cynical, so I will ask rather than speak my opinion. Is there any strong woman character which meets with the approval of the Politically Correct who also happens, as the characters in Lewis and Tolkien, to reflect a Christian worldview, or, as happens, as in Burroughs or E.E. Smith, to reflect what one might call the traditional heroic worldview, a worldview reminiscent of the Stoic and military virtues of the ancient Romans and Greeks?

I have heard some Leftists praise the female characters of Robert Heinlein, who, with one exception, I myself find to be somewhat demeaning to women. (The one exception is  Cynthia Randall in ‘The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag’, perhaps the only honest portrayal of a woman throughout his whole oeuvre.) Others despise his portrayals.

My cynical question is this: when they ask for ‘strong’ female characters, are they actually honestly asking for strong female characters, Deborah from the Bible, Antigone from myth, Britomart from poetry, or are they only asking for Leftist female characters, that is, for poster children for Leftist causes?

If so, what they are asking for is Political Correctness, which means, substituting true narratives about the real glories and sorrows of the human condition for a false narrative, an advertisement for Leftwing political causes, which tell lies about the glories of man, bemoans with crocodile tears only the sorrows of their particular mascots and special causes, and makes false promises about the cure for the world’s pain.

If so, they are giving up art for an ad.

Myself, I want to see women writers not because they are women, but because I would like to have the genius of the distaff half the human race writing new and brilliant science fiction stories for us to enjoy.

In sum, as far as I can tell, the complaint that Science Fiction lacks strong female characters is akin to the complaint that Science Fiction is meant for juvenile audiences. That has not been true during my lifetime. I have not seen even the slightest trace of the all-boy club mentality ever, neither in any writer nor in any editor nor in any reader.

I have seen plenty of people like me, who are annoyed with the cheerless preachy monotony of Political Correctness and would like the dullards to stop ruining good stories with their sucker punches and pauses for their political advertisements, but, hey, the PC types answer any criticism of PC  by calling the complainer a sexist, or saying he is paranoid, or saying that PC does not exist. Any lie will do, just so long as it is an accusation.

To tell the truth about what they are doing, which is informal censorship, that is, thought policework, is the one thing they fear.

As I said before, the PC-niks think they are fooling us into thinking they are honest and compassionate people, and we know they are not, and they know they are not, but they do not know we know, so when one of us mentions, for the umpteenth time, that the Emperor has No Clothes, they react with exaggerated fear and fury. This is because they are afraid of anyone, no matter how humble or obscure, who punctures their little daydream of make-believe, their land of colored cloud where they are the effortless saints and the cost-free saviors of the world.

But the complaint about the way too many female characters are treated in SF, especially earlier SF, is either reasonable or is an understandable exaggeration of a reasonable complaint. No one wants or like boring or silly characters, or characters who rest on lazy stereotypes.

What is not reasonable is PC, for which the reasonable complaints ought not to be confused, any more than a sheep should be confused for a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


  1. Comment by paul.griffin:

    (I will admit up front that when I comment, I tend to write about whatever your posts bring to mind as I read them, however tangential…)

    To my mind, one of the most saddening things about all of this indoctrination is that so many people approach relationships, especially romantic relationships, in just such a zero-sum, adversarial manner. That message is everywhere. I don’t even own a TV, and I still feel like I’m swimming in that bit of propaganda. How can anyone expect to have anything like a healthy relationship when they are constantly worried that the other person is somehow “winning” (implying therefore that they are “losing”)? It is bad enough that this worldview has pervaded the economic thinking of the general public, but it has invaded our interpersonal thought as well.

    As my wife and I counsel younger couples in these matters, we are (or at least I am) amazed at how much of this bullshit has insinuated itself into the thinking of even Christian men and women. Both sexes worry that they will somehow be diminished or weakened in the eyes of the other, and therefore be ripe for exploitation, if they submit to the other’s wishes or even do simple acts of service like washing the dishes. I suppose, in a way, this is really another way that our culture is trying to masculinize women. To my mind, such a puerile concern was once more or less the exclusive purview of juvenile (or juvenile-minded) males. Now grown women get to worry about it, too.

    We (our culture, I mean) expend so much energy worrying about these almost comically petulant and ultimately inconsequential matters that we have none left for what is truly important.

  2. Comment by Stephen J.:

    I very much like your distinction between the reasonable and unreasonable complaints, and your highlighting of PC thought as the thing that blurs that distinction. It is always in the interests of those who have an emotional investment in continuing, rather than resolving, a conflict that the conflict’s “resolution conditions” be as vague and unaccomplishable as possible.

    I will raise one point in the defense of the honest indignation of those here characterized as the Outer Circle: for the most part, what I see as their primary complaint at this time is not just which major female characters can be evaluated as worthy of admiration or emulation, but more fundamentally the ongoing protest that there simply aren’t enough major female characters — either in general or at the level of narrative importance deemed acceptable — for this evaluation to achieve useful results. (“Major,” here, I am tentatively assuming to mean that they appear throughout a significant portion of the narrative, that their emotional experiences are thematically important to the narrative, and that their actions or choices are indispensable to the resolution of the narrative; Lucy is a major character in her Narnia books, but Galadriel, I would argue, is not really a major character in LOTR, in that she only has one key scene during the plot.) If the distribution isn’t exactly 50-50, then (in their view) prejudice and censorship must be at work. (This is also, I think, why they don’t see what they demand as “censorship”; they see it as the neutralization of censorship.)

    By the numbers alone their thesis is plausible; it can certainly be argued that having a greater quantity, and greater variety, of female protagonists in SF will only benefit the field. But if PC-think is only going to increase quantity at the expense of variety and complexity — if we get more female heroes but they start looking more and more like cardboard cutouts of one another and of their cardboard male predecessors — then the nominal benefit of this increased representation won’t come to much, I think.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      it can certainly be argued that having a greater quantity, and greater variety, of female protagonists in SF will only benefit the field

      I agree with you, but I think you give them too much credit. I think you underestimate how basically unfair and fundamentally evil is the demand of political correctness.

      With all due respect, it cannot be argued that having a greater quantity and variety of female protagonists in SF will only benefit the field, unless you want to argue that the number of male protagonists in romance novels increasing will have a benefit in the field, or the number of Westerns whose main characters are not Cowboys but Cowgirls, and so on. The sexes have different stereotypical characteristics for a reason which is not arbitrary and not irrational: adventure stories are boyish in the same way that love stories are girlish.

      Increasing the number of girls in adventure stories either makes the girls into ersatz boys, or into fetishistic warrior-babes, or changes the point of the story making it less about adventure and more about human relationships.

      On the other hand, this is not true in horror stories nor in detective stories. Being scared or solving crimes is not necessarily a masculine or feminine pasttime. Stabbing Martians with a longsword is.

      Science fiction is partly adventure stories and partly detective stories and partly wonder stories and partly horror stories. The adventure stories become strained and odd if they are made gender-neutral, whereas detective stories and wonder stories (in my humble opinion) do not, for these are tales told just as easily done in a masculine as a feminine fashion.

      If there is a fifty-fifty parity of the sexes in the wonder stories and the detective stories taking place in a science fiction background, but the ratio in adventure stories is five to one or ten to one, then, when taken as a whole, the ratio in SF is not going to be fifty-fifty.

      Even by their own lights, why would attempting to raise that ratio beneficial? Would CS Lewis’ Narnia have been improved had Peter and Edmund been female? Would Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS actually been improved had the Fellowship consisted of two hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, a ranger, a wizard, a prince, a woman and a homosexual Islamic black man in a wheelchair?

      But then if Merry was turned in the Mary, this would be one woman among eight men, and the same argument would apply, and a greater quantity of female protagonists should be sought.

      Surely you can see how artificial all this is? Stories are told for the sake of stories, not for the sake of filling a quota dictated by the Ahnenpass. Stories which demand female protagonists should have them, weak or strong, and stories which demand males should have them, weak or strong, and political play-pretend should not dominate story telling for the same reason you should not judge a book by its cover or a man by his skin color.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        “[I]t cannot be argued that having a greater quantity and variety of female protagonists in SF will only benefit the field, unless you want to argue that the number of male protagonists in romance novels increasing will have a benefit in the field, or the number of Westerns whose main characters are not Cowboys but Cowgirls, and so on.”

        Depends on what you mean by “benefit”, I suspect. I’faith, it might be that trying to tell a romance story realistically from a male viewpoint really would benefit many women readers, if in nothing else then by giving them a much-needed wake-up call about why the men they meet in real life don’t all think and act like Christian Grey; but whether it would benefit the market economically by improving sales is a different and rather more questionable idea. (Someone who thinks desserts are “improved” by reducing their sugar content and adding nutritive value is usually not too clear on why desserts are eaten at all; if their contention is that too much dessert is being eaten to begin with, that is a complaint with more merit, but it is not usefully addressed by trying to erase the distinction between desserts and main courses.)

        On the other hand, a story set in the Old West written from the point of view of a widow ranch-owner, or a saloon servant-girl, could well be a powerful and moving piece; they may not be “Westerns” in the sense being used here, but then again, “Western” is a much broader genre than sometimes realized. If “more Westerns with female protagonists” means “more stories like True Grit” and “more characters as interesting as Mattie Ross,” I’d be hard put to object to that.

        “The sexes have different stereotypical characteristics for a reason which is not arbitrary and not irrational…. Stories are told for the sake of stories, not for the sake of filling a quota….”

        Ah, but that is precisely the point at issue for the PC’ers: they sincerely believe that the stereotypes are arbitrary and irrational, and that it needs only further and forceful improvement of female characters’ presence in the public discourse to prove that. Stories are never told and read just for the sake of stories, any more than food is ever properly eaten just for the taste of the food; what you take away from them as an integral contribution to your health, mental or physical, matters, or so goes the thinking. Would Narnia have been improved as a story had it been about the four Pevensie sisters Petra, Susan, Edith and Lucy? Maybe, maybe not, but its effects might have been improved by reinforcing the idea to both boy and girl readers that girls can be interesting and important without boys being around to help them. And if it is filling a quota, then what of it? A healthy diet requires fulfilling key nutritional quotas; a healthy happy life requires fulfilling key time-use quotas (e.g. “work-life balance”); if a healthy mind requires fulfilling key idea-consideration quotas, then a quota can be a perfectly sensible and useful tool of choice for both consumers and producers of stories.

        There are, of course, holes in this thesis, as you and other readers will note. “Further improvement”, for one, is an indefinite and therefore unaccomplishable goal, meaning demand never has to be acknowledged as satisfied. That there is such a thing as a “mental nutrition” quota for the mind is questionable at all, much less what it would actually be if there were or that the PC’ers are right about what it is; and even if there were, that would in no wise entitle anyone to force another free adult’s choices in that area, any more than the mayor of New York could justly ban, I don’t know, trans fats from diets….

        –aw, crap.

        • Comment by Mary:

          One notes this entire thesis is based on the assumption that the purpose of books is to Do You Good — as opposed to entertain and amuse the reader.

          • Comment by Stephen J.:

            Well, it’s based on the assumption that books (and any other mass media) will Do You Something Good or Bad, especially in the aggregate, regardless of creator intent or audience awareness — and that if you don’t actively work to make a work’s influence/message Good, it will tend to backslide to Bad.

            Hence, it’s not only imperative to make sure creative work sends Good messages rather than Bad, even if that costs some entertainment value, it’s necessary to encourage those Good messages as widely and forcefully as possible, since no one work can have more than a negligible (and thus conveniently unfalsifiable) effect in itself.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Well, you have driven me back with the mention of Mattie Ross, a personal favorite character of mine. Not just a girl but a young girl and with true grit of the title.

          I also agree that a certain small degree of educational value, indeed, of preaching, has its place, within limits, in fiction. I am one who enjoyed John Galt’s flipping forty-page long speech in ATLAS SHRUGGED, and I think of STARSHIP TROOPERS as a fine book. On the other hand, I also actually listen to sermons on the radio, and Christian sermons are, by large, more balanced and less one-sided than Objectivist or Patriotic sermons.

          But I also hold the PC movement in the deepest possible suspicion. As I said in the essay, the only time I have ever gotten hate mail, and I mean real hate mail, not just rude people too illbred to know how to express disagreement politely, but mail from people calling me the devil, was the two times I voiced an objection to censorship: once in August of 2008, and once now. The only reason why it is not showing up here is that the chuckleheads cannot express themselves without profanity, which my self imposed rules allow me to delete and ban. My conclusion, based on my own limited experience, is that these souls are small and frightened and screaming for the totalitarian world-state to come save them from me, and from other plump and balding followers of Christ.

          My suspicions will evaporate the moment someone, anyone, points out a book with a strong female character of whom the PC niks approve, and the character is a Christian, or the author.

          Can someone quote me a recognized dyed-in-the-wool feminist praising Meg from A WRINKLE IN TIME, and praising her for the Christian elements in her personality? She is a personal favorite character of mine (and one who is much more of a doer and much less a passive observer of the action than, let us say, Tenar from THE TOMBS OF ATUAN). It will do much to calm my rhetoric and make peace between me and my honorable opponents.

          • Comment by Stephen J.:

            Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake character might qualify, at least for part of her series.

            A former Catholic who only converted to Episcopalianism because the Church couldn’t countenance the necromantic powers she had no choice about manifesting, and who worked as an animator, slayer of rogue vampires and occasional P.I., for about the first five or six books of her series she wore a cross, would occasionally acknowledge her faith and assiduously resisted the seduction efforts of Jean-Claude, a master vampire who kept trying to make her his human servant. But in every other respect she was exactly what was being celebrated: a tough chick who fought things much stronger than her and won mostly by being smart enough to know when to strike and to avoid getting killed until she could.

            Then, at the end of book six, she had a freakout after seeing her werewolf fiancé eat someone and sought comfort in Jean-Claude’s arms, and what little piety she had left went completely out the window. The books basically started turning into monster erotica at that point and went full-scale para-rom by book 10; not coincidentally, that was also the point they really started selling, and I understand that Hamilton basically threw up her hands at that point and decided to stay with what was working.

            And Karrin Murphy from The Dresden Files is not the world’s most active Catholic, but she seems to have enough faith that she’s on the short list of candidates for a Knighthood of the Cross, and she’s also one tough heroine (if not the protagonist of that series). Lots of people like her, I think, but again, whatever piety she has is very understated and background.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Are there feminists who hold up Officer Murphy as a feminist icon? And Anita Blake does not count: feminists should be delighted to see a former Catholic turn into a harlot — that is the whole point of political correctness. What we call corruption, they call progress.

              • Comment by Stephen J.:

                Truthfully, I don’t know. I generally avoid feminist SF sites for the reason I suspect most men do: the vindictiveness of much of their discourse, while understandable, is unpleasant. If I want to be berated for my sins I’ll go to church. (pa-DUMP-bump!) So it may be Murphy is spoken of well or dismissively, but I can’t say.

                I suspect Murphy would probably not qualify as a suitable icon simply on the basis of not being the protagonist of the series, and thus being seen primarily through her relationship with Harry rather than on her own. However, that’s a separate issue from her faith, such as it is.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Ah, but the difference between Christianity and Antichrist is that our Church forgives. That is the whole point. Their movement is like a church, in that it is a all-embracing worldview that gives the followers a sense of life, but there is no forgiveness.

                  That is commonplace in heretics. Calvin said there was no forgiveness for the depraved, Donatus said no forgiveness for persons who fled martyrdom and denied the faith, and so on. Puritans love being pure, and purity means being unforgiving.

            • Comment by Mary:

              Well, her werewolf boyfriend embraced his lupine side — at her urging, over his misgivings. What did she expect him to do? Drink tea?

              • Comment by MissJean:

                I read the first Anita Blake mysteries in the “slow season” of my old corporate job. They were passed around and referred to as “As the Vampire Turns” because of their soap-opera qualities. I remember the author didn’t just throw up her hands; she actually had the foolishness to agree with an interviewer that Americans were prudes – if you lived among the Amish for the last 20 years, I suppose – and self-congratulate on her bravery in writing like a “romance” writer with a threadbare plot to fill in the paragraphs between erotic scenes. :)

      • Comment by Jordan179:

        I would argue that characters should be of whatever sexes works best and seems most logical or interesting for the reasons of the tale.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          You have said in 24 words what it took me 6 essays to say. Naturally, I agree, but must also add that those who eschew the rule of seeking what is more logical and interesting for the reasons of the tale, in order to be politically correct propaganda, of necessity write tales less logical and interesting than could have been.

  3. Comment by Xena Catolica:

    I’d point out, in support of your thesis, L’Engle’s discussion in “Walking on Water” of response to Meg deciding to be a SAHM rather than a research physicist. I don’t have the book here to quote it, but she reports a lot of women wrote to her in outrage that Meg’s choice was the wrong one, she stopped being a role model for girls, etc. And L’Engle, being a sensible person, pointed out that when only one choice is acceptable, women are no more free than when becoming a SAHM was the only option & art is compromised by going along with that.

  4. Comment by Luke P.:

    ” The only way to escape accusation is to be a witchhunter yourself, and accuse others.”
    – A brilliant observation among many, Mr. Wright.

    A brief expansion, a few notes:

    Industrial Capitalism also had the effect of introducing rewards on a scale previously unheard of & the process by which these rewards were aquired differed from pre-modern standards as well.Suddenly, by dint of being particularly sharp-minded, a would-be zero could leap past those around him in terms of ability to influence those around him. While previous alpha types, within a hypothetical standard, pre-modern tribe/community, could only find alpha-dom in relation to said tribe, this new kind of influence could be traded on outside a particular circle of huts. So the resentment that many probably did feel for the pre-modern alpha took on a new form.
    The worm-like desire to mob-up and topple those in power in order to aquire greater status for oneself was a much harder sell when the king was bound to those around him & his goodness was recognized as a boon to his people ; he was them, essentially, for they made him. As influence became more easily traded , the effects of influence also became less localized.The wormlings paranoid fantasy of unscrupulous , arbitrarily-gained power exploiting him and his as an essential to the acquisition of power became much a much more believable tale. In some instances, this tale wasn’t a tall one, or was essentially true; as these instances/practices became more widely known , through a kind of synthesis based on the new belief that all power was & always had been essentially arbitrary was adopted across the board ; in order to sell wares, new capital powers had to appeal to this popular notion & quickly figured out they could use the energy to topple competitors.
    The initial, non-resentment based critique of capitalism- that it was decentralized & therefore deracinated, unmoored from a given people, along with the traditionalist defenders of deserved, or legitimate authority that saw the need for a binding, transcendent belief system were now & remain marginalized, while both the Marxian & Neo-Liberalists pursue a technocratic vision of abstractions meeting in a universal no-place in order to best implement plans for satisfying the appetites of atomized no-men.So we’re left with wormlings battling weasels who both agree that power necessarily comes in-spite of what was once understood as principled loyalty.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      My reaction is one of amazement that the press is so clueless that when the Vicar of Christs repeats Christ’s teachings that all Christians have known and repeated for the past Twenty Centuries, the press reacts with surprise and odd triumph.

      Pope Francis is saying the same things said by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John-Paul and all their predecessors back to St Peter, who passed along what Christ said before him, and Christ himself was repeating what the Prophets said before Him.

      My other reaction is to caution you to read the original sources. I used to be a newspaperman. Take it from me, that the press is a flattering viper, and will only tell its customers the news the customers want to hear. In honest times, the people want honest news; in times like ours, they want slant and spin and lies, and the press provides.

      Here is the original source:

      Let us look at the first quote in context, the reference to a new tyranny. These are the exact words:

      While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

      This passage is damning, perhaps, to Libertarians, but I do not count myself among their number. The gap between rich and poor in America grows in those cities ruled by Democrats and shrinks in those cities ruled by Republicans. Since the emergence of Crony Capitalism and Mussolini-style government ownership of major corporations (the Auto Industry, the Student Loan Industry, the Medical Insurance Industry) under Obama tends to wipe out the middle class, the very policies that a political conservative like myself would most vocally support would, by no coincidence, minimize or eliminate the evils of which the Holy Father in that passage complains.

      The Holy Father opens the letter with this:

      The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

      Complacent yet covetous heart. The feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures. A blunted conscience. Of whom does that remind us? (1) Chik-Fil-A whose closes up shop on Sunday out of respect for the Sabbath, or (2) the people to whom this ad is aimed, who have demanded that the law force Catholic institutions to pay for their contraception?


      • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

        Except that the Spanish version, the Italian version, and every other version except the English version, went more like this:

        The great risk from the present world, with its multiple and overwhelming opportunities for consumption, is an individualist sadness that wells up from a comfy and greedy heart, from the sick search for superficial pleasures, from the isolated conscience. When the interior life closes itself off into its own interests — then there’s no room for everybody else; then the poor don’t come in; then one doesn’t hear the voice of God; then one doesn’t feel the sweet joy of His love; then one’s heart doesn’t throb with His enthusiasm to do good. Believers also run this certain and permanent risk. Many fall into it, and turn themselves into resentful, whiny, lifeless beings. That is not the option of a worthy and full life; that is not God’s desire for us; that is not the life in the Spirit which wells up from the heart of Christ resurrected.

        Anyway, the English translator/s clearly have some nice chops by the way he/they handle certain tricky phrases, but there’s a weird disregard for the Pope’s imagery (his constant use of “welling up,” “fountain/spring,” “river,” and so forth turn into “grow” or “origin” or various other words, and by no means the same words every time; so in English it’s difficult to follow the Pope’s allusions to his own previous statements).

        The translation also doesn’t like his rhetorical devices. Every other translation keeps the bit about “joy is born and reborn,” or that the encounter with Christ is sometimes a “re-encounter.” Every other translation keeps the Pope’s rhythms. Not the English one. The English translation flees the Pope’s direct challenges to the individual reader, turning them into vaguer “we” and “they” stuff.

        But then, the translation throws in all sorts of strong language that isn’t in the text at all. “Inevitably” or “insidious” or all sorts of fine ranty bits appear in the English version, get argued about and quoted in the English-speaking media, but are not to be found in the Spanish or Italian versions.

        Arrrrrgh. The Vatican’s previous English translation person/team was boring, but you could trust him/them. I don’t know what the current person/team is smoking.

        • Comment by MissJean:

          Thank you for this! I could not find “trickle-down” in the original, either, but rather a reference to giving the “overflow” – which is quite another thing.

          I also believe that the Pope has an eye on the economic realities of places like his own Argentina and the politicians who grow wealthy in office.

  5. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    Is Galadriel of Lothlorian a weak character? In addition to be a queen, and immortal, and wise and far-seeing and morally upright, she has magic powers. So how is this weak?

    Weak or strong, Galadriel is a minor character: We do not see her actually do anything. All the good qualities you mention are informed qualities: They are told, not shown; they could not be inferred from a paraphrase of her role in the plot. Now, every story has some characters like this; it’s not a problem in itself. But I cannot, offhand, think of any female character in Tolkien who is not minor, in the sense above.

    Galadriel is not a good example either of a strong character or a weak one; she’s hardly a character at all.

    • Comment by takashi_kurita:

      Luthien, we see her do a few things. Primarily we see her lull Melkor to sleep.

      We also see Melian keep Melkor’s servants out of Doriath via her girdle, which was some kind of enchanted barrier that kept them away.

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      Well, there’s Eowyn; we see her riding to war, and kicking the Witch-King’s butt, and winning the heart of Faramir, fair Princess of — sorry, fair Prince of Gondor. *g*

      (Yeah, she gives up war as a road to glory after that, but so did Faramir, who never thought of it as particularly glorious to begin with.)

      • Comment by Jason:

        She rode to war seeking death, having seen Aragorn who she thought she loved ride to the Paths of the Dead through which no living man had passed.

        Her defiance of the Witch King was that same forlorn hope, she didn’t expect to survive but was determined to face her enemy regardless. That was something lost in the “girl power” interpretation of Eowyn that was seen in the movie.

        • Comment by LugoTeehalt:

          It was interesting that despite the “girl power” interpretation of Eowyn, right after she kills the Witch King, the movie instantly cuts to a completely meaningless “Legolas being cool” scene without so much as a pause to savor the triumph of girl power.

    • Comment by Jordan179:

      Eowyn directly stands up to and slays the Lord of the Nazgul. She does this on-scene, and she gets some major Badass lines, too.

      Afterward, she gets to love and marry one of the most sympathetic and noble men in the whole story, and becomes revered for her many virtues.

      Top that :)

  6. Comment by catheader:

    I think part of the problem may be that you know you’re a worthless, bigoted piece of subhuman filth, and that nobody has ever loved you or ever will, but you’re too embarrassed to admit to being wrong. I mean, you’ve come this far, right? You’ve outed yourself as an antiquated, ignorant manchild in front of hundreds of people. You might as well keep going.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      This is but one of several notes all making a similar claim, but it is the only one not laced with foul language, so my readers do not get to see the half a dozen pieces of hate mail generated just by this one pen.

      Nonetheless, I will answer him courteously and respectfully:

      Ask yourself why you are reacting with such disdain to someone who, if you read my words, has said nothing other than that he prefers not to be censored by the Politically Correct.

      I never receive hate mail except when I object to censorship. It does not matter what else I say nor how outrageously I say it. You and yours only react when I point out that you cannot tolerate any opinions but your own.

      To any other reader seeing this note, I ask them:

      Do you think I exaggerated when I spoke of this type of reaction in describing the mind set of the Politically Correct?

      He is reacting as if I am a threat to him. Obviously it has nothing to do with me personally. And merely saying men should be masculine and women should be feminine is no more of a threat than saying I prefer pie to cake. So what causes something like this (the most mild of the several reactions he wrote in, all in the same evening)?

      I suspect he is motivated by compassion for woman, and the belief that what I say represents a vast and terrible hidden army of monsters, only days or hours away from destroying freedom and happiness for millions. For the reasons I gave in such detail, the danger must be represented as a crisis to excuse the high temperature of the emotion, and the completely imaginary person representing the completely imaginary threat must be represented as an untermenschen, a subhuman.

      This is only a suspicion, of course. Who knows?

      What I also do not understand is why the fanatic Political Correctness cultists do not see that making a mild response to my accusation that they are fanatic cultists would undermine the credibility of my argument. Making a response that contained no personal attacks would disprove my rather broad claim that they have nothing, no argument at all, aside from personal attacks; and disprove it concisely.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        Wow. And here I was worried I was being too confrontational and obstreperous a commenter.

        I suppose, to suggest an answer to your last question, that it descends from the toxic currents of Romanticism I see as a very strong strain in this type of thought: there is a sense I get from that perspective that the very act of treating rationally and calmly with those who express certain ideas, no matter how angry they make you, is considered (a) in itself more respect than such people deserve and (b) proof that you yourself aren’t really angry. The personal attacks are the first resort, not the last; using them proves in itself that their subject merits no better. As Blake wrote in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” “Those who restrain desire, do so because their desire is weak enough to be restrained”.

        There is a long-standing meme on the ‘Net that goes, “You can’t rationally argue someone out of an opinion they didn’t rationally argue themselves into” — and like the classic riddle twins, one of whom always lied and one of whom always told the truth, the Dervish will always wrongly believe the Scholastic is lying when he says that argument may change his mind, while the Scholastic will always rightly reason that the Dervish is telling the truth when he says no argument will change his mind. Thus neither can see any point in arguing with the other. What the Scholastic calls fanaticism the Dervish calls sincerity; what the Scholastic calls reason the Dervish calls sophistry. For the Scholastic, sanity is rational consistency between premise and conclusion; for the Dervish, sanity is emotional consistency between passion and reaction; and thus each appears quite self-evidently to the other to be mad.

        (The one key difference, I think, is that the Scholastic can at least reason out why the Dervish appears mad and grasp that he may not be, at least from his own perspective. The Dervish cannot return the favour because to doubt his opponent’s madness is to doubt his own sanity, and he cannot do that.)

      • Comment by MissJean:

        I notice that the writer’s missive to you reads disturbingly like a transcript of verbally-abusive adults towards schoolchildren: negating one’s value, denying love now and in the future, etc. Oh, it doesn’t matter what you do, Mr. Wright! You’re doomed forever. :)

  7. Comment by Andrew Brew:

    While I agree that Galadriel is a minor character in LOTR (although not in the wider history of Middle Earth) it is of no importance. The subject at hand is the nature of female characters, not their centrality to the plot.

    It is also not true that the qualities listed are told rather than shown. In the short time she is on stage we see her receive the Fellowship as a queen and look into their hearts. We hear her give wise counsel to them, and we observe her visionary powers. The chief result of her magic is Lothlorien itself, which is the setting for the entire chapter. Her successful struggle against the temptation of the ring occurs onstage. The only quality we do not see at first hand is her immortality, but what would you have?

  8. Comment by Mary:

    “The practice is that you can be accused of sexism for any reason or no reason, and once you are accused, there is no defense and no verdict other than guilty.”

    That’s why it’s been justly dubbed a kafkatrap.

  9. Comment by Mary:

    “Princesses get kidnapped with the clockwork regularity of potboiler writing on Barsoom, but not a single one of these dames faints, or screams, or complains, or shows anything but ironclad resolve worthy of a mother of a Spartan. ”

    To be sure less women sometimes fail to rise to the occasion. Our “Fighting Man of Mars” only gradually realized it, but when his lady-love lost spirit in captive, it was in due course a clue that she wasn’t his lady love after all.

    • Comment by catheader:


      You know the man who wrote this article is a confessed bigot who willingly perpetuates hate speech against the queer community? Well, know you do. So I hope you find it in your heart to do that right thing and stop encouraging him.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        No, I am not bigoted against homosexuals in any way. I merely do not agree that emotions should have no relation to reality, and I include sexual emotions in that. I believe in temperance and self control and certain small degree of public decency.

        I have offered nothing even remotely like hate speech. All I have said is that I hate political correctness, because you all are in favor of censorship, which interferes with my livelihood.

        The only time I have gotten hate mail like yours was when I said I do not regard your cult as superior to me in morals or wisdom, and so I will not listen when your cult commands me on whatever authority it presumes it has what to think.

        Is it really so horrible for you to know that some harmless fifty-year-old stranger does not have the false-to-facts emotional reactions to your buzzwords and Pavlovian noises which you think I should have?

        I used to agree with your position. I was reasoned out of my former position. You do not attempt to reason me back into your position. All you do is vomit hate at me.

        Why are you afraid of me? A moment’s reflection shows you cannot possible be afraid of me. Then who?

        Of whom are you afraid? I assume it is Jesus Christ. Not to worry. He is much kinder than I am. It is never to late to turn to him.

        • Comment by ChevalierdeJohnstone:


          Surely Christ enjoys a good laugh, right? Do I have to confess this? Erm.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            It you are laughing at me, feel free. I am a ridiculous figure. But then again, if I am a ridiculous figure, no one can be afraid of me. If not afraid, then why so much hate?

            Do you really think anything I said in the above essay, or in any essay I’ve written, constitutes ‘hate speech’ or constitutes a confession of bigotry against homosexuals?

            Admittedly, I do think unchaste acts are morally wrong, and I put sodomy in that category, but then again, I think pride and greed likewise is morally wrong, but no one has ever accused me of hate speech against the proud or bigotry against the greedy.

            Logically, then, it cannot be me that is provoking the hate. It is nothing I am saying. So then what it is? Who is it?

            Who are you little sinful whiners so afraid of?

            Who else?

            So, please explain the humor to me. I used to be an atheist, so in theory I should be able to see the joke. But I don’t. Use small words, so I can follow it.

            Can you answer the question? You seem to be in a good humor. Humor me.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        Well, know [now] you do.

        Because you asserted it?

        Bet you can’t present an argument to prove it.

      • Comment by Jordan179:

        If John C. Wright were actually Adolf Hitler, having leaped through a dimensional portal in Berlin in 1945, and having made this post as a form of self-flagellation between his normal occupations of eating live kittens …

        how would this make anything he said in this post FALSE?

        Contrawise, if he were the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who had decided this time to preach the Gospel in the form of science fiction and fantasy, and wrote this post after healing the sick and raising the dead …

        how would this make anything he said in this post TRUE?

        Ad hominem does not magically become logical simply because you dress it up in more modern insults.

  10. Comment by GATO:

    It does seem like a typical feminist plea, to me. I am not nearly as charitable as you are, John! It would seem to me that it has that character, where the thing is pushed and pushed which is mostly tertiary to the thing, until that thing is all that it is about. The balance that they envision is nothing short of miraculous and utopian; a genre which magically produces the exact right feeling of balanced, nuanced and fleshed-out females (though males of course, can be paper thin). The likely result is to drain all talent out of the operation (as often happened in the past in government bureaucracy) until it is hardly more than fan-fiction agitprop. In this case they can avoid the ‘evil’ of those Soviets and Nazis because they didn’t ‘force’ anyone to produce propaganda – they did it on their own volition (–after years of constant bullying, but who’s counting…)

    About this, no one has mentioned Lewis’ marvelous book, “Till We Have Faces”. All three most important characters are female. The main character is not a romantic pairing. She is not ‘beautiful’ or desirable, but still stands as a believable character who is both strong (on the one hand) and rather still feminine.

    It is in every way an excellent book (and a brutal read, emotionally, to boot — ) I guess the feminists’ complaint is then that there aren’t enough of these books? But at this point I don’t listen to them any more. To do so is the equivalent of enabling a drunk or paying ransom to terrorists.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am not charitable to the hardcore feminists, whom I think you have described to a ‘T’. But surrounding this core is a wide orbit of readers whose brains are not entirely rotted away with political obsessions and daydreams of power over the minds of their fellow men. And some of them look at the relatively few heroines in boy’s adventure stories, or the passive roles they tend to play, and think the number is less than is realistic. I mean, should a female soldier reading some paperback during her racktime be unable to find a character as realistic as herself?

      So, no, I do not think I am being generous.

      Besides, as far as the PC nutterbutters are concerned, it does not matter how fair, or generous, or open to both sides of the argument I am. Any deviation from orthodoxy no matter how slight requires them to heap upon me the same level of hatred and contempt as if I were a member of the he-man woman-haters club.

      Perhaps some doubt my comment. See here, for example: — where it is revealed that not only must I be unintelligent (I made the top national one percent in the LSAT for my year, and, like a modern Major-General, I know the croaking chorus from THE FROGS of Aristophanes) but also bad at the craft of writing science fiction (Got nominated for a Nebula. That is not a lot, but it is not chopped liver, either).

      There are one or two other backlinks I have received from similar reactions to my comments that operate on similar mental and mortal levels, in two cases from people who read perhaps no further than the title, and assumed I was going to say something I did not say. I delete them so as not to trouble my readers. They were merely noise.

      It is important to these people that their opponents have absolutely no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. There is no honest disagreement with the cult, no honorable opposition. Their theory holds that all opposition is based on evil motives of mentally and morally inferior subhumans, the Untermenschen.

      For my part, I do not think them inferior to me, but I do think of them as sinners, whose sins, I strongly suspect, are less black and vile than mine. The only difference is I am trying to swim upward out of the sewer, and they are swimming downward, hating the light. And so I say a prayer for them. I am trying to learn to love them, as the Master commands, but, alas, that is difficult for one of my cold and proud spirit. May the good Lord send me more such trolls, that I might learn the lesson.

      However, there is one complaint about me where I wholeheartedly agree. This essay is absurdly too long. I did not have time to organize it or cut it. I apologize to my patient readers for that.

      So, this is a long way of saying I wish I were too generous to them. It would be good for me.

  11. Comment by Lisieux:

    Mr Wright: you could not write an essay which would be too long for me, nor, I would guess, for most of your readers.

  12. Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

    The ironic bit about all this is that the really archetypal strong female character is the “Mulier Fortis,” the “strong woman” or “valiant woman” of Proverbs 30. For this lady, her loving, responsible care of her husband, children, and household naturally blends with her founding and running a multinational fabric company and real estate empire (and being the king’s wife, if Lemuel has the sense his mommy hopes to instill in him by describing the perfect wife).

  13. Comment by ChevalierdeJohnstone:

    I think you are wrong on several accounts, because while overall you describe the situation exactly, in some areas you do not reject the leftist popular culture as thoroughly as you ought

    1) There is no subconscious impression left in the minds of young women who read space adventure stories. Women do not read space adventure stories, unless they do so for the sake of another person – to forge a common bond (through the story) with a man, whether father, brother, boyfriend, or lover. Women are entirely uninterested in “adventure”. No wife who loves her husband – or at least feels him useful to have around – tells him it is okay to take 6 months and go see what is on the other side of the mountain. The only reason a woman does so is out of love – for example because she knows he wants to go. Girls do not read books that are about adventure, they read books that are about people. Good authors can write an adventure story in which the adventure story comprises personal interactions between characters, and then everyone is happy. Let me, as our President says, be clear. I am not saying
    girls do not read adventure stories. I am saying they do not read adventure stories because of the adventure. They do not define “adventure” the same way as a man.

    2) Marx wasn’t wrong about social classes, and the social classes do share something very important. It is not interests but norms. There is for example the norm that one ought to divide one’s working life into chunks of time, and be paid for the number of such chunks one labors. This differs greatly from the norm that one owns a piece of property and is allowed to keep what one can produce from it, minus expenses.
    Marx’s failure was not in naming the social classes and pointing out their commonality, but in suggesting that a healthy society might be comprised of only one such class. All successful societies have had class structures, and while some classes might have been considered more prestigious than others, no successful society has ever remained so while earnestly recommending that all social classes but one be destroyed. Even as regards one of the most reviled classes in one of the most class-based societies (I mean attorneys, of course) the general populace agrees that while you might not want to have one marry your daughter, they have their
    proper use to society, in their proper place.

    What makes the bastardization of Marx known as Marxism, and all its dreary spinoffs, so insidious is that of course the Church
    advocates universal norms. But the Church has always advocated a set of norms in addition to those that define the social classes.
    Some labor by the hour and some till their fields, but everyone is expected to care for the less fortunate. The Church unites
    differentiated social classes with common norms, whereas Marxists seek to destroy all social classes but one. (And whereas the Church
    considers herself bound by the same norms she preaches, Marxists consider themselves outside the class structure, like children
    playing with an ant hive.)

    3) I think also that you are not going far enough in describing the problem of feminism, which is really just the notion that a woman can be a woman without a man. Of course people who study the Bible know this, but what makes a man a man is a woman, and what makes a woman a woman is a man. We have long had the idea that men are the beasts they become when not introduced to the influence of a woman who cares for them – whether mother or wife. This of course is not what a man is: a man becomes a man when he lives not for his own happiness but when his happiness is derived from that of his family. A single man who truly intends to remain single is a boor; a single man who is waiting to find the right girl is a gentleman. Feminism introduced the idea that women are the beasts they become when not introduced to the influence of a man who cares for them. It is really amazing how a woman’s behavior changes around a man: there are no ladies in a hen session. Ladies only exist when there are men around. This is not to say of course that a woman ought to jump into bed with the first available man, but just as a boy who desires to be a man needs to prepare himself to be a proper husband and father, likewise a girl who wants to be a woman needs to prepare herself to be a proper wife and mother. Our society has rightly recognized that boys in their 30s and 40s are refusing to grow up and behave like overgrown teenagers, but our society has failed to realize they are doing this because the girls they know act
    like they are in junior high school, giggling over shoes. A real woman chooses immediately the horribly garish scarf that her friend
    or child gave to her, over the brand-name designer scarf that costs more than an average paycheck. Furthermore, a real woman is
    absolutely certain that she is more attractive in the horrible scarf from her child than in the designer scarf. And she is right –
    when admired by a real man.

    Finally, I think you ought to consider the subjective nature of Leftist literary criticism. That a vampire sexpot is called a “strong” female
    character may have less to do with any objective feminist measure of “strong” and more to do with the personal insecurities of the
    reviewer. After all if the vampire slut is “strong” then compared to her behavior the average 20-something urban co-ed is positively saintly.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Well, all I can say is that most of the women I know read science fiction, but then again, I hang out with science fiction type people, who are atypical. None of them reads adventure stories that I can bring to mind, albeit I suppose that depends on the definition of adventure stories: if we include Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Prydain, all the women I know have read that.

      But you are right that the nature of Leftist criticism is subjective. I suspect — rather strongly — that they subordinate their critical judgment to the political message when reviewing a story, which is why they will never call a woman like Joan of Arc ‘strong’ unless she can be twisted to serve from feminist propaganda purpose.

      But this is one statement I would love to be proved wrong about. If anyone can think of a counterexample, of a strong conservative women being called strong by a recognizably far-left reviewer, please enlighten me.

      I think and I would prefer to go on thinking, if reality allows me, that on the whole the desire for strong female characters is just a honest desire for honest writing, where women are not demoted to useless sidekicks, and that only some of that desire for strong female characters is a hidden and sinister desire for feminist propaganda.

      This is admittedly a hard statement to pin down, because we would have to do a survey of reviewers and solicit their political opinions, and read to see which female characters they think strong and why.

      So if I err on the side of generosity, so be it. The true hardcore PC-niks are going to hate me anyway, no matter what I say, because I do not say what they want me to say when they want me to say it. Their opinion does not concern me. But those who only suffer partly from the disease, or who drink the poisoned PC Kool Aid socially, never alone, them I would like see as innocent until proven guilty.

      Because I would like to see strong characters of either sex doing things in stories. The very concept of heroism, of human taking control of the forces around them and doing good, is fundamentally antithetical to the dull dispirited flaccid despair which is the natural moral atmosphere of nihilism and moral relativism, which just so happen to form the moral standard promoted of Political Correctness.

      So in other words, even the female characters I here in this essay dismiss as being lame and PC, if they are truly heroines, actually undermine, whether knowingly or not, the PC world view. So, go, Girl Power!

    • Comment by Jordan179:

      My wife got into reading anthropomorphic fantasy adventure stories (starting with the Redwall series by Brian Jacques) when she was in her early teens. I didn’t meet her until she was 21, but if she wasn’t a “young woman” at that time, and isn’t now, I have a very big surprise coming someday!

      SHE:”Hon, I think the time has come for me to reveal my true form …”

  14. Comment by oddy:

    I’m a girl and I read Chronciles of Prydain, Lord of the Rings, some sci fi and a lot of other stuff like that. Yes, girls care more about the characters, but there is no need to make a blanket statement that girls don’t like adventure stories or sci fi.

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      I must concur. I am not a woman, but I know a rather nice young lady who loves the Narnia books and spent part of her summer vacation solo mountain biking in Canada. I know another who counts The Lord of the Rings among her favorite books (and who married a wonderful, rather hobbit-ish gentleman). My sister liked the John Carter movie (she counts Sola as her favorite Disney Princess), the Leviathan alt history adventure-war stories, and is a big fan of Attack on Titan, whose title alone suffices to indicate it’s genre. Granted, in my sister’s case, growing up with four brothers may have somewhat shaped her tastes, but I believe the point stands: women enjoy adventure, if not for the same reasons as men.

  15. Comment by oddy:

    Attack on Titan is in my top three anime for sure. I love stuff like Naruto and One Piece. I didn’t grow up with brothers…for what it’s worth. If I could give a reason why I like adventure stories like that, I don’t think it would be vastly different from a guy because I like everything about them. Maybe what I tend to focus on would be somewhat different? But it isn’t like I care about the relationships in many of them. It depends on the relationship. Like, I could care less that Sakura loves Sasuke but Nartuo loves Sakura. On the other hand, I am interested in Mikasa and Eren’s relationship because it is interesting, subtle and well done. *shrugs*

  16. Ping from Lightning Round – 2013/12/04 | Free Northerner:

    […] A great read: The cult of political correctness. Related: Saving SF from strong female characters, part 5. […]

  17. Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

    I’m a woman, and I wasn’t particularly interested in the people in stories until well after adolescence. My feeling was that there should be less focus on boring character stuff, and more focus on Exciting Stuff Happening. There is also a class of girls who are more interested in Exciting Emotions Happening, but really they don’t care about the characters doing the emoting; that’s why certain genres of romances can afford to be a bit cardboardy or just plain transparent in their characters. It takes a very chessmastery young girl to be interested in characters, per se, and not Exciting Horses Happening, or Exciting Travel and Dresses Happening.

    The exception to this rule is Exciting Friends Happening. If all the good main characters in the story are really nice people who are friends who have fun together, that is interesting to a young girl. I loved Agatha Christie for the mystery (and spent way too much time ignoring the characters, whom I now realize went way over my head), but I read Trixie Belden mostly for all the friendship fun (although the mysteries and adventures were quite decent, as well as teaching me many useful facts).

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I noticed that when reading the first twelve Oz books to my sons that the great charm and the drama from Oz is not so much what you call Exciting Things Happening (for there are no battles nor murders in the peaceful fairyland of Oz) but a lot of Friends. The Friendship between Dorothy, Trot, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, the Sawhorse, the Glass Cat, Cap’n Bill, and Scraps the Patchwork Girl and so on and so forth is the main appeal of the series. There is not the slightest hint of romance in Oz (all the little girls are too little) and so the menfolk do not appear as father figures nor as romantic leads, but as friends. It is rare to see men portrayed in a book starring a female main character simply as friends.

  18. Comment by wlinden:

    I recently reread THE WEAPON MAKERS and reflected on your remarks. Do the policorrectnicks claim that the Empress Isher is a weak character, because she does not personally brawl with Weapon Shop Guards, or immediately jump into bed with Hedrock?

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