Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Busty barbarian queens

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Back in September, when I did my post about firm-breasted lawyers, in the comments section I vented my hope that by writing better stories we can build a better audience.

And yet… a few days back I crashed into a sword & sorcery plot synopsis featuring

busty and cruel queen Whatshername

And I thought – is the fact that she’s busty so damn important to the plot that we need to know about her busty-ness even before we buy the story?
Because that’s what we get about her – a name, her cruel personality, and her boobs.
And so ok, Whatshername’s cruel – it makes sense you tell me early, because this way I know who the bad guy is going to be.
A bit of a spoiler, but it figures.
But busty?
Am I supposed to buy the book because of that?
Because that’s what the synopsis is for – hooking me and getting me to buy the book.

Now it’s not even a question of sexism (even though… ok, it’s probably quite sexist) – it’s simply a ghastly choice of words.
Especially if it’s part of a lengthy synopsis that tries to sound as epic as possible.
It’s like a kazoo suddenly squeaking in the third bar of a symphonic overture.
You’ve got to be a damn good composer to pull that stunt.
And here, whoever wrote the synopsis, was not that good.

cruel-queen-728849And no, in case you’re wondering – the story is not tongue-in-cheek or satirical or a spoof or parody or whatever.
Queen Whatshername the Busty is not the daughter of king Whatchamacallit the Marble-bummed.
The story’s played straight as standard sword & sorcery.

Why isn’t Whatshername beautiful and cruel?, I ask.
It’s pretty classic, it’s been done to death, but it has a certain… class.
Beautiful and cruel is better than big-boobed and cruel, from a purely linguistic point of view.
It’s better writing.

And if one does not show some good writing in the synopsis… what am I to expect from the actual text?

2737950-redsonjaAnd now don’t get me wrong – I’m fond just like the next guy of chainmail bikinis and dinosaur-skin loincloths.
Just like I love peg-legged pirates, sneaky assassins with thin black mustache, hard-drinking P.I.s, grumpy wizards, two-fisted adventurers and eccentric scientists…
There’s some clichés that are part of any genre, they are like signposts – but we can subvert them, play with them and defuse their inherent offensive meaning. We can write better.
We can write about strong, interesting, well-rounded characters.
And the readers will appreciate it.
Or will they?

I still don’t know if that unfortunate “busty” was a blunder (but what about beta readers and editors?) or if it was the author winking at their target audience.
I’d rather prefer the first – because it would just mean poor writing, and that’s something that can be cured.
I’m pretty sure it’s just a case of an overeager young author losing sight of his vocabulary.
That’s fine – because I fear there’s no cure for bad writing done to please an adolescent audience.
Both ways, as someone that once in a while writes a sword & sorcery story featuring female characters, I do hope that we start learning from mistakes like these.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “Busty barbarian queens

  1. The article centers the point, the problem I realized is that when I think of a beautiful evil queen to place in my next rpg campaign I am unfortunately visualizing a busty evil queen and my players are thinking of busty evil queen without veils. They are very disapponted when the queen is a warrioress cladded in black steel spiked armor and her cruel visage hidden by a dark veil.

    So I fear that the author was simpatazing with his audience.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Sheathed in a purple bodysuit | Karavansara

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