Manly Men Doing Manly Things in Manly Ways
By Tom Knighton
I don’t recall exactly who, but one of the better known authors of our genre once claimed that all people like me wanted in our books was, “Manly men doing manly things in manly ways.” Obviously, this was a snide way to say that I and people like me have no interest in female characters. So, I thought I’d take advantage of Sarah’s platform to talk about some of the books that have impacted me in various ways and see if this attestation holds any water at all.
For me, the list should start with Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold. You see, that’s the first science fiction book I’d picked up in a long time (had been mostly reading fantasy, which I’ll get to in a moment). Manly men? Well, unless I’ve been completely misreading everything Mike wrote about Kendra Pacelli, not so much. She is a she, to start with. It’s through her alien eyes that the world of Grainne is explained to the reader. Mike takes a shot at those who complain about diversity, and it’s awesome.
Now, what about “manly things in manly ways”? Well, a nice chunk of the book deals with an invasion of Grainne, and Kendra does her fair share of kicking butt, so that might qualify. However, considering how the left feels about stereotypes, this should be a good thing. Kendra, a female, easily handles combat and dealing with males in a combat environment.
After that, let’s talk about Larry Correia’s work.
First, the Monster Hunter books. Yes, Owen Pitt is a man. He smashes things with his fist, he shoots things with his gun, and he makes monsters into corpses. Manly man doing manly things in manly ways.
Oh, but what about Julie Shackleford? I mean, she’s a badass too, serving as the team sniper (and anyone who thinks sniping doesn’t require a level of badass doesn’t know squat about sniping). She’s also described as a brilliant negotiator who sets up most of the team’s contracts and just generally smart as hell. Owen knows she’s smarter than he is, and is remarkably fine with that.
Yeah, yeah, you might think. She’s just a token chick with a gun, right? WRONG!
On the very same team is Holly Newcastle, one of my favorite characters in the series. Holly is a former stripper who is now one of the more vicious members of MHI. Her viciousness isn’t some symptom of “irrational woman” either, but is deeply rooted in her backstory. You see, for those who haven’t read the series, to be recruited to work for MHI, you have to survive a monster encounter. Holly’s is one of the more brutal and terrifying of the encounters.
Larry’s not done with just one series either. Take his Grimnoir series. Throughout the series, the most dangerous of the badasses is Faye. The Oakie girl raised by Portuguese dairy farmers is easily one of the most deadly of the heroes.
“Oh, but Tom, listen to the way she talks. Correia made her an idiot!” Again, WRONG! I don’t want to include spoilers, but let’s just say it’s revealed that Faye is also one of the smartest too. She’s uneducated, but she’s not stupid. The way she spoke was actually typical for rural folks of that era. Larry has her speak like that for a very good reason.
Now, let’s give a shout out to our esteemed hostess. Darkship Thieves, which features Athena Sinistra. Again, Athena isn’t a dude, though she’s not a typical woman either (again, avoiding spoilers). However, she also doesn’t engage in your typically male daring-do either.
Plus, I have to make a confession. Patricia Briggs. Yeah, love her Mercy Thompson series. Very much a case of “not a male” as well, and they’re some pretty good stories too in my opinion.
Then you take books by people like Robert Heinlein that routinely included non-male characters as the protagonist, and not in a whiney “damsel in destress” type of way either, or Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, or any of a number of other talented authors who included strong female protagonists doing things in whatever way worked for their stories.
That’s the amusing thing about the accusations slung around. The books I’ve laid out are ones that many here have read and enjoyed to some extent.
By now, it should be abundantly clear that anyone who trots out the “manly men doing manly things in manly ways” meme is either disingenuous, ignorant of the works they’re disparaging, or perhaps a combination of the two. Just look at the examples Mad Mike gives of his own work, and that becomes incredibly clear.
What they’re insinuating is that those they attack—people like myself and many of you—are nothing more than unsophisticated in their choice of science fiction entertainment, which brings us to the root of the problem. You see, people who like many of these works are people who don’t care how beautifully you turn a phrase, but whether you tell a story that makes us turn the page.
The phrase is designed to paint us as sexist in our choices of entertainment, but I think it’s pretty easy to disprove that. So what are some of your favorite works that aren’t about manly men doing manly things in manly ways?