Sleeps With Monsters: How Do We Talk About Strong Female Characters?

Another column, live over at

I haven’t been active in the comments because my viva voce examination is on Monday, and I’ve been too busy working myself up into a dizzy fret. But I did read a comment (since removed by the mods) that contained yelling regarding Tom Doherty and Irene Gallo and that whole mess whereby a noxious little wannabe supervillain has been fanning the flames of “controversy” in order to try to cost Irene her job.

(If you haven’t heard about it already, I’m entirely disinclined to explain, because it all makes me desperately tired. We all have to work with people with whom we disagree on social issues — sometimes wildly; or sometimes people who’ve expressed opinions such that we don’t want to be alone in a room with them: someone losing their temper and making some less-than-perfectly-well-considered remarks on Facebook after weeks is minor bullshit — but if they’re good at their job and keep it out of their business interactions with us, we put on our adult hats and deal with it. I can’t not see a letter-writing campaign as garden-variety US culture-war harassment, in that light.)

So, on foot of that comment received, I have two things to say:

Point the first: I’ve never found it less than a pleasure — indeed, a privilege — to work for people like Irene Gallo and Bridget McGovern at, just as it’s always been a pleasure and a privilege to work with and for editors at Strange Horizons, or Vector, or elsewhere. I’d be happy to work with or for them anywhere.

Point the second: My opinions as expressed in my columns and reviews, whether at or elsewhere, are mine alone and may or may not reflect the opinions of whichever Editorial Personage commissioned or accepted them.

(In fact, I’ve never really been subject to anything I’d consider editorial pressure to amend that opinion, although on one or two occasions I’ve had it pointed out that this is an inflammatory opinion and maybe waiting until the flames have died down would be better for everyone. Once or twice, I think — I honestly couldn’t tell you which — I’ve had pieces killed. But that’s bound to happen eventually, especially if you’re a cranky and impatient opinionated bastard like me. And that’s what editors are for, to filter and nudge and sometimes to say ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR GOURD? A good editor is a treasure above rubies.)

So, yeah. There’s a thing. I’m going to go back to fretting over my viva now.