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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » Why can't Ender be a female?

   
Author Topic: Why can't Ender be a female?
endersbooch
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Why can't there be more books like Ender's Game.. where "Ender" is a female?

I would love to read a book or watch a movie with a simliar story line where the main character is a female and kicks major butt. [Dont Know]

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Scott R
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You could try Von Carr's 'Sister Jasmine Brings the Pain,' in issue 17 of InterGalactic Medicine Show. [Smile]

NOTE: NOT the same plot or...anything as Ender's Game. But it does have a strong female lead kicking butt.

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Fooglmog
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It's not that there can't be, it's simply that it's hard to make them successful.

There's a couple reasons for this:

The first is that many books written with a female as the main character in such a role are truly awful. The worst of these books are the ones written specifically to challenge gender roles. These books are meant to make a point, not tell a story, and so they typically follow genre clichés rather than treading new ground. This isn't how you write a successful story.

Where some authors manage to avoid that error, and have a story worth reading in its own right, they ignore the fact that gender roles truly do exist. There are male and female roles, and they're not actually interchangeable. That isn't to say men and women can't both overcome the same obstacles -- in most cases they can. However, the experience of overcoming those obstacles will not be the same. The purpose of a story is to share the experience of overcoming obstacles with the reader. When authors ignore this fact, we end up with books which aren't actually about women. They're about men, but using female pronouns. This is simply distracting.

To illustrate this point, imagine if we took Ender's Game and turned it into "Endrina's Game". Turn Ender into a girl, change all the pronouns, and alter a few paragraphs which overtly indicate that Ender is one of many boys in battle school, where there's only a handful of girls. Technically speaking the story is still good, right? But, we also know that it wouldn't actually make sense. The experience of Ender is that of a male, not a female. Switching pronouns and overt references will not alter this fact.

In other words, by putting a woman into a male role, we're detracting from an otherwise excellent story. Of course, if you set out specifically to write a store with a woman in such a role, you'll never see this.

The second reason these stories struggle to find success is because the awful ones attach a stigma to all of them. When I find books which seem to be about a woman who "kicks butt", I put them back unless it already has a strong recommendation from someone who I know has good taste. So many of them are awful that I just can't invest the time to find the small portion of them which have truly created female characters and have a strong story for them to experience. I probably like, well enough to recommend to someone in the right audience, 1 in 3 books I pick up at random in the library. When it comes to books about female heroes though, I'd be surprised if that number was better than 1 in 15.

The third reason is sexism. Many men will feel silly reading a book about a woman. The opposite is not true. Therefore, books about men have a larger potential audience to sell to.

On the other hand, Petra Arkanian from OSC's Shadow Series is a good example of what you're looking for, I think. These characters do exist.

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Scott R
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Oh, snap-- yeah, there is a sort of Ender-as-a-female. And it's even written by OSC, and has a insectoid antagonist. It's called Wyrms.

[Smile]

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LargeTuna
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Wyrms was a good read!
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Jeff C.
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The main two reasons that I have seen are:

1. Most writers write about characters they can relate to. There's a reason that most of OSC's protagonists are male, just like most of Stephen King's are male (just as many of King's characters are writers). Now, each author has written a novel with a female protagonist (OSC has Wyrms; King has Carry), but the other 99% of their novels are about males because the authors themselves are men and, frankly, you write what you know. The opposite of this holds true as well. Look at Octavia Butler, the only african-american female scifi writer. Just about all of her novels revolve around a black woman, because that is what the author was. She wrote what she knew, just like the others.

2. The general audience of science fiction is mostly made up of young males. Because of this, authors are generally encouraged to write about males. This fact is even more relevant in military science fiction, which is exactly what Ender's Game is. There are almost no military scifi novels about women because 90% of the audience is not female. Think about it. If you are a 15 year old boy, do you want to read about a girl you can hardly relate to, or do you want to fantasize about being that boy that gets to save the world? If you're a boy, you're probably going to want to read the story about the boy, because that's an easier story to identify with. Publishers know this, which is why you won't find a lot of novels like Ender's Game out there that are both successful and about a female protagonist. In summary, it's all about the money.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Wyrms, Treason, EG, SftD and ES are my favorite OSC books...that's right, I liked Wyrms and Treason as much as EG.
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Jeff C.
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I still need to read Wyrms.
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Scott R
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quote:
This fact is even more relevant in military science fiction, which is exactly what Ender's Game is.
I disagree that EG is military SF. Can you tell me how you're defining the genre?
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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
This fact is even more relevant in military science fiction, which is exactly what Ender's Game is.
I disagree that EG is military SF. Can you tell me how you're defining the genre?
I can see why you would disagree with this classification, but given that the novel revolves around the military mindset and is taught in military schools across the country for its realistic depiction of leadership in combat situations, I think it fits. The novel is not traditional military scifi in that it does not involve real guns, but it does depict fighting, squad-based combat, a basic-training envirnment, and, of course, the military. As for the science fiction part of it, it certainly fills the required roles of that.

The book is also often compared to Starship Troopers and other military science fiction novels because of its similarities. It is understandable for many readers to view it as something else, because it is certainly many things, but no matter which way you look at it, this is fundamentally a story about children playing war games in space.

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Emreecheek
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Wyrms is wonderful. I love it very much.
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katdog42
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Have you read "Hunger Games"? It's sort of post-apocalyptic/sci-fi. It's a pretty good book that has a strong female lead. The sequels aren't quite as good, but I thought the original was a fun read.
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Jeff C.
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A friend of mine is self-publishing a novel this week, sometime, called "The Grimiore: Lichgates", which has a female as its lead protagonist. It should be on Kindle and the Nook by Sunday, I'd imagine. It's not scifi, but it is fantasy, so maybe it's an option if you want to try something new.
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Kelly1101
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quote:
There's a reason that most of OSC's protagonists are male, just like most of Stephen King's are male (just as many of King's characters are writers). Now, each author has written a novel with a female protagonist (OSC has Wyrms; King has Carry),
Dolores Claiborne. Rose Madder. Both frickin awesome.


Gerald's Game also had a female lead, but I didn't like that one as much.

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stilesbn
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Brandon Sanderson often pulls out female leads. Mistborn, Elantris (It's kind of a dual male/female lead there) and Warbreaker all have very strong female leads that I think manage to give us some hardcore females without just changing pronouns.
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EricJamesStone
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The Honor Harrington series by David Weber is my favorite book series. The main character is a female officer in a space navy. She's very smart, highly competent, and an excellent leader.

The first book in the series, On Basilisk Station, has the best back-cover copy I've seen:
quote:

Having made a superior look a fool, Honor Harrington has been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin.

Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station.

The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens.

Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling; the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is up to something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system.

But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.

(If that doesn't make you want to read it, it's probably not your kind of book.)
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DDDaysh
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quote:
Originally posted by katdog42:
Have you read "Hunger Games"? It's sort of post-apocalyptic/sci-fi. It's a pretty good book that has a strong female lead. The sequels aren't quite as good, but I thought the original was a fun read.

That was the first thing that snapped into my mind. You really can't get more "kicks butt" than Catnis.

But another reason you see few female lead characters it is easier for a female to relate to a male protagonist than it is for a male to relate to a female one. There have been alot of studies done on this. It's something that's been seen in Disney movies for quite some time.

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DDDaysh
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quote:
Originally posted by stilesbn:
Brandon Sanderson often pulls out female leads. Mistborn, Elantris (It's kind of a dual male/female lead there) and Warbreaker all have very strong female leads that I think manage to give us some hardcore females without just changing pronouns.

Hmm, I forgot about Mistborn, but you're right. Vin even give Catniss a run for the money.
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BandoCommando
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Catnis annoyed me. She was often stupid as a plot contrivance in ways that were way too obvious. I know it's YA Fiction, but come ON! My suspension of disbelief was too often shaken by her blindness about the motivations of others.
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Jeff C.
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Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but Card's new comic book that he wrote with his daughter is out, and it revolves around a female protagonist.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765324601/hatrrive-20

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Blayne Bradley
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I disagree that the story would fail using a female character in an otherwise male role. The example cited, of simply swapping the pronouns, is actually being done to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where fans took the original work, and genderswapped all the characters. It makes for an interesting and thought provoking read as somethings become more or less focused with such a retelling.

Ultimately genderroles don't exist, because genderroles are tropes and tropes are tools to be played with, subverted, inversed, changed as the author sees fit to fit the story the author wishes to tell.

Telling a story where a female character is in an otherwise male role (or more specifically, a role traditionally or mostly associated with males) doesn't make the story any less valuable, entertaining, honest, or intelligent; the level of believability ultimately depends on the skill of the writer, the setup, and the interactions.

This episode of Extra Credits essentially examines (although specific to gaming) what is required to create a true "female character", and ultimately its not the role so much as recognizing that gender doesn't actually matter for the most part, for many characters whether they are female or male doesn't add or subtract anything from the character, and the parts of character where gender does matter well the rest is better said by the Extra Credits people so I'll leave anyone interesting to seeing it, but point is could you rewrite Ender's Game so that Ender was female? Obviously yes. The choice was obviously Card's to make because he probably because he wanted to see his own children in his characters, or himself, doesn't really matter, Petra was an interesting character in her own right but Card wanted to write a story because he wanted to flesh out the Ender he had in mind for Speaker of the Dead which he had already envisioned as a male inflicted with survivors guilt.

It would be read, obviously as a fairly different work, switching pronouns would in of itself contribute to a very different read, but a work designed from the ground up with a female lead requires a fairly different and in some ways a more difficult task, as now you would have to have a female!Ender now as part of its character growth struggling against traditional gender roles in order to provide additional depth to the character.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but Card's new comic book that he wrote with his daughter is out, and it revolves around a female protagonist.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765324601/hatrrive-20

I just discovered this, it seems like essentially Ender's Game but with a female Ender <^_^>

I'll definitely check it out.

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Geraine
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City of Ember has a pretty strong female lead if you are looking for some Sci-Fi. It is post apocalyptic like Hunger Games. Keep in mind it is very short and is a YA novel, but I liked the story.
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odouls268
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Wyrms is pretty awesome
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ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by stilesbn:
Brandon Sanderson often pulls out female leads. Mistborn, Elantris (It's kind of a dual male/female lead there) and Warbreaker all have very strong female leads that I think manage to give us some hardcore females without just changing pronouns.

One of the three main viewpoint characters in The Way of Kings was female as well.

From what I've heard, she'll probably be the main focal character for the second novel in the series.

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Steve_G
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Also Scott Westerfield wrote some pretty good YA novels with a female lead. Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras.
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Aros
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Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, starting with Sabriel, is a rather outstanding series with strong female leads. It's fantasy, but it's definitely NOT dragons and elves.

Someone recommended it on here a few years back, and it's probably one of the best series that I've read.

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