You may have already noticed, but I am a female. As such, most of the stories I enjoy and most of the my writing tend to focus on female characters, or at least have female characters doing more than fainting and swooning over the hero of the tale.
Females have come a long way in fiction. Even though I was born in the eighties, I grew up watching a variety of television shows that were dated even then (battlestar galactica and buck rogers to name a few) and what used to trouble me was that even the women who came on tough in the beginning would ultimately end up waiting for some guy to rescue them. Or in the case of Apollo's wife (battlestar), they would just shoot her in the back on some planet and that was the last we'd ever hear of her.
The nineties were an amazing time for females in fiction. On television we saw Xena, Buffy, Charmed, Alias, Dark Angel, and on and on the list goes of females who were taking control. Not always convincingly and sometimes one had to wonder why there wasn't a single capable male in the Buffy-verse (not taking a swipe at Angel but seriously, even when you turned evil your girl-friend ran you through with a sword and sent you to hell).
During the nineties I started reading Traci Harding and Katherine Kerr, who were the first female authors I encountered who were really trying for epic fantasy. There were probably others out there, but I hadn't really encountered them, and this was a really great moment for me, because it made me feel not so out of place for enjoying the genre. Katherine Kerr particularly managed to show a balance of characters in her Deverry Series with strong, weak and every character type in between, for both men and women. Her characters were dynamic and realistic, they evolved over time and just read very well.
As a writer, I have been working hard over the last few years to improve my inclusion of male characters. Reading some of my earlier story outlines, every significant character was female. The female princess with the female bodyguard (envied by all the male soldiers who of course were completely useless), who was then attacked by the female assassin who was sent by the female evil sorceress, and on it went. That was highschool.
In all honesty I was probably trying to counter Eddings - who I read a tonne of and was very influenced by, but had this nasty tendency to have only one or two female characters who would sit on the sidelines and assume the role of mother and nurse and that was it.
Seems many writers and reviewers and bloggers and everyone else has an opinion on gender roles in fiction. Below are some of the opinions and views I've encountered recently, and I'm sure that there are many others that can be added to the list:
1. The Female Action Hero - from Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' News & Reviews - This is a great trip down memory lane for me and some of my all time favourite television shows and movies.
2. The Gor Books - from Lit Soup - A discussion about the treatment of men and women in fantasy books.
3. Author Interview - Karen Miller - from Graeme's Fantasy Book Review - I love her answer to the question on whether being a female writer makes it difficult to write male characters.
4. All you need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka - from Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' News & Reviews - An interesting take on the evil female, and sounds like an interesting story as well, I really enjoy reading reviews on this blog, they always give a unique insight.
5. Slow Going - A Progress Report - from Fantasy Debut - indicates the trouble readers have when you have an all male cast (it kind of defies reality a little).