Epic fantasy and Women. Girls and Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

There’s clearly something in the air again. This past week has seen some excellent posts challenging those hide-bound readers who want their epic fantasy to stick to outdated straight, white, male-driven narratives, arguing in their ignorance that this is historically accurate whereas narratives including women with autonomy and agency are political correctness gone mad.

In case you missed one or more of these, here are some links – and if you’ve seen one I missed, please flag it up.

Scott Lynch responds to a critical reader – “God, yes! If there’s one thing fantasy is just crawling with these days it’s widowed black middle-aged pirate moms.” You’re picking up the sarcasm there? Good. Read the whole thing, it’s awesome.

Foz Meadows offers “PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical”

prompted by –

Tansy Rayner Roberts “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.”

Cheryl Morgan rounds up those same links and adds a few pertinent thoughts of her own.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll also link back to my own piece for Bad Reputation on the problematic representation of women in fantasy

Mind you, does anyone else find it tiresome that we still – men and women alike – have to keep pointing out these self-evident truths to the wilfully blinkered?

So let’s work on making it impossible for those types to deny women’s interest in and involvement with epic fantasy fiction and gaming without physically shutting their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears while chanting “la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you”.

Here’s a good place to start. Jonathan Green is running a Kickstarter “You are the Hero” to fund writing a history, indeed a celebration of, 30 Years of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. As you’ll see from the page, he plans on interviewing a broad range of chaps to ensure a comprehensive exploration of these ground-breaking gaming books.

Um, yes. Chaps. Everyone man jack of the writers, artists and other creative types listed. You won’t be surprised to learn that I have genially queried this – and I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as me to learn that Jonathan is extremely keen to find more of the likes of me, who played through these books just as avidly as our brothers back in the day. I’m just as interested to find out how many of us there might be.

So if you are a fighting fantasy fan of the female persuasion, do let me know. If you’re happy for me to pass on your detail to Jonathan, do say so. Clearly whether or not he contacts you will be up to him; it’s his project and I can’t speak for what material he might need. But we can at least ensure he has such resources to hand.

Author: Juliet

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. Loving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels so far. Her debut, The Thief’s Gamble, began The Tales of Einarinn in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. The Green Man’s Heir was her first modern fantasy inspired by British folklore in 2018, and The Green Man’s Quarry in 2023 is the sixth title in this ongoing series. Her 2023 novel The Cleaving is a female-centred retelling of the story of King Arthur, while her shorter stories include forays into dark fantasy, steampunk and science fiction. She promotes SF&Fantasy by reviewing, by blogging on book trade issues, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. She has served as a judge for major genre awards. As J M Alvey, she has written historical murder mysteries set in ancient Greece.

9 thoughts on “Epic fantasy and Women. Girls and Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

  1. I loved the fighting fantasy books. I even got paid extra pocket money to map the early ones so my Mum could use them as an aid in her work, teaching children to read.

    1. I did some work with ‘reluctant readers’, 8-10 yr olds, at a local school. An ‘Asterix’ gamebook on the FFantasy model turned out to be the key to getting one lad kickstarted into books. I wonder if Jonathan Green has come across this aspect of game books? I shall flag it up to him.

  2. I was addicted to FF books as a young girl! I had a shoebox with my FF kit of dice, shaker, pencils, and photocopied score sheets. Hell yeah! Get in touch!

  3. I am looking for gamebooks for my granddaughter, soon to be turning 8. Having a difficult time finding one with a female lead! Can you recommend any?

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