In which all reviewers are men

Like all good conversations, the ‘Writing Strong Women’ posts are spawning sub-discussions and fresh debates in new places at the speed of light. Over on her LJ, Gillian Polack has been musing about gender as performance and the ungendered – or mostly ungendered – performance of being an author. Check it out and join in the conversation: Gillian’s thoughts

Meanwhile, ‘Tymon’s Flight’ has received a new review in the wonderful Specusphere magazine . I’m very pleased, of course – the reviewer gives a lovely and balanced take on the book, indicating what she enjoyed about it and also going into a couple of nitty gritty points about writing that could be improved. (And I wholeheartedly agree.)

In the course of my bragging about said review over on Facebook, one of the commenters assumed the reviewer was a man – and so another branch of the Writing Women conversation was born, which I cannot reproduce for you here in blog-land… suffice to say, we decided that no one ought to review my books for fear of a possible sex change. You have been warned.

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9 Responses to In which all reviewers are men

  1. Gillian says:

    On the other hand, if anyone *wants* a sex-change, reviewing your books might be easier than other methods.

    Thanks for mentioning my post :).

    • MaryV says:

      I’d never thought of it that way. ‘Read and review a fun book, become the man of your dreams!’ Has a ring to it…

  2. Bahiyyih says:

    As I just pointed out, in response to Gillian, sex-segregated societies like medieval Europe, modern-day Iran, and by extension (curiously enough!) much SFF today, often need ungendered characters as intermediaries and go-betweens. Do you think your Galliano character is serving a similar purpose, to some extent, Mary, just by being old and blind? He reminds me of Eliot’s Tiresias. The corollary to men with breasts is women with withered breasts. It is very interesting to see a ‘topos’ imbedded in Malory and Firdowsi still serving as character-scaffolding in current SFF, which from Doris Lessing on has criticized sex-segregated societies.

    • MaryV says:

      The ungendered intermediary is a time-honoured device. But I don’t think Galliano fulfills that role – he slips out of the action too quickly, and Tymon is left face to face with Samiha to work it all out. Thank god.

      We’re still asking the question because we’re feeling our way, character by character, towards a more satisfying answer.

  3. Bahiyyih says:

    – “he slips out of the action too quickly” – That’s the whole point. i’ve just been having a twiddle with Gillian on the subject of these “intermediaries” being central or peripheral to the action. The thing is do you have to either “engender” them or kill them the minute you make them central?

    • MaryV says:

      If Galliano was an intermediary, surely he would be the one to bring Tymon and Samiha together before bowing out? But he isn’t. He’s only an intermediary in that he prods Tymon into beginning to question his assumptions about his society in general and its reliance on slave labour. It’s not the question of gender, persay. Tymon grapples with that on his own.

  4. Bahiyyih says:

    No, I don’t think these ungendered intermediaries are only supposed to “bring people together”, although that is certainly one of their many roles. They also serve as the trigger device, the prodder as you put it, to start the ball rolling. Or, in the case of Tiresias, to stop it rolling. They perform the heretical roles – like the Fool in ‘Lear’ – of speaking out of turn, of saying the unthinkable. They perform the role, like my corpsewasher in ‘The Woman’, of handing on a legacy or, in the case of Galliano, of linking the past with the future. What is interesting, in terms of your “Writing Strong Women” theme, is that these curiously important catalyst figures who play these vitally significant but often peripheral-to-the-central-action roles, are sex-free. It is precisely BECAUSE they are liberated from the question of gender that they can play the role of intermediary between worlds. Are they personifications of the role of language, in effect? The means rather than the end? If so, how fascinating that they have to be UN-gendered in order to play the part of the word, in order to be the metaphor of metaphor! This is getting way too metaphysical and you probably don’t agree, but there it is.

    • MaryV says:

      I do see what you mean now and agree that Galliano was a first catalyst for Tymon in the world of ideas, like any mentor/guide (and often the mentor/guide is indeed a ‘gender neutral’ person, as you were discussing on Gillian’s blog.)

      Then again, Samiha herself is very much a woman but also Tymon’s mentor/guide, once he begins to listen to her.

  5. Bahiyyih says:

    All of which bring this conversation back to the sex-changed reviewer, that other “intermediary” between reader and book, crossing that other divide, and getting “un-gendered” in the process!!

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