Last week, The New Statesman ran an essay by Liz Lutgendorff, wherein she describes reading every book on NPR’s reader-selected list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books, and finding them to be “shockingly offensive” in their “continued and pervasive sexism.” In the course of proposing “a Bechdel test for books,” Lutgendorff launches broadsides at a variety of authors, some of whose work is indeed genuinely awful (step forward, Piers Anthony), and questions why these works remain so respected.
It’s an interesting essay, and makes some valid points about the weight of nostalgia on this particular corner of genre fiction. But it also falls into a pattern that’s worryingly prevalent these days in the world of criticism, particularly when it gets to the topic of rape and sexual assault in fantasy. It’s at this point that Lutgendorff’s argument falls into the trap of confusing a depiction of something in a work of fiction for an endorsement of that thing (at least, in any instance where there’s an absence of explicit, unequivocal condemnation of it). READ MORE: In Defense of Uncomfortable Subject Matter in Genre Fiction | Flavorwire.