That’s what sf needs: more men writing sexbots

So yeah, Jon Wallance, the next heavily hyped British male science fiction writer thinks making his female character into a sexist, misogynist cliche is a-okay because that how she was built in the story:

Then, in my late twenties, I came to write Barricade: my first real attempt to write a complete novel: the perfect opportunity to showcase my improved skill at creating proper female characters.

Only something odd happened: I ended up doing the complete opposite. The lead female character, Starvie, is in many respects a construct of unrealistic male expectation and base desire. Why? Because she was designed that way.

Read, as they say, the whole thing and be astonished at the lack of self awareness.He may think he matured as a writer, but if you justify shitty, sexist characterisation with but that’s just how it is in the world you created you haven’t really understood what being a writer is about. You choose to write the story this way, you can’t then justify your decisions using in story reasons. As Suw Charman-Anderson puts it:

Many authors talk about being surprised by what comes out when they write, but the unexpectedness of their creative process does not relieve them of responsibility for what the final story says. Wallace wrote Starvie because he wanted to, because he chose not to stop himself, because he didn’t change her, or Kenstibec for that matter, as he edited and rewrote his work.

His juxtaposition of his efforts to write “believable, fleshed-out female characters” with the fact that he “ended up doing the complete opposite” implies that this was some sort of freak occurrence, inevitable and outside of his control. This is Wallace glossing over his conscious decision to write Starvie exactly as she reads, it’s him attempting to abdicate responsibility for how she turned out by blaming… what? The story itself? It doesn’t wash.

Christopher Priest was just as critical in his review of Barricade:

There’s also a distinctly dodgy passage in the middle of the book, when the unappealing Fatty and the unemotional Kenstibec plan to send a compliant Starvie out as a sexual lure for a gang of randy Reals. “Listen,” Fatty says to Starvie, after he has bound her wrists with plastic cuffs, “I know you’re upset about having to go whoring, but no more of your looks, okay?” Her response is to tilt her head, and say sweetly, “You don’t like the way I look at you?” Soon the Real sentries are predictably drooling over her, as only men can do when a shackled sex goddess is dragged past. The sequence goes on in the same lacklustre way for several inconsequential pages. The whole of this scene seems likely to start an argument I don’t want to get drawn into, but I think when your book has been read by a few more people you might well be.

Indeed. We don’t need more grimdark, violent for violence sake, sexist stories about abusive men and the realdolls that love them in science fiction; there are plenty of those already. It’s depressing to see that British science fiction has difficulties keeping any female writer in print, but no problems getting this sort of crap published.


  • Alexa

    June 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

    China Mieville gave an interview once where he said “Maybe you have a race of female vampires who destroy men’s strength. They really do operate like that in your world. But I think you’re kidding yourself if you think that that idea just appeared ex nihilo in your head and has nothing to do with the incredibly strong, and incredibly patriarchal, anxiety about the destructive power of women’s sexuality in our very real world.”

    What’s depressing is that, going by the bit that Priest quotes, it sounds like it could have been a great basis for really cutting social commentary. If you find your brain writing these things, the best thing to do is to tweak it so that you’re subverting the otherwise nasty implications of the story and tropes.

  • Eloise Moss

    August 15, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Sorry to break it to you but China Mieville has himself been exposed as an abusive man here:

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