Patrick Rothfuss is an award-winning and beloved fantasy author whose most recent book, The Wise Man's Fear (second in a planned trilogy called The Kingkiller Chronicle) debuted at the top of the New York Times' Bestseller List.
But Rothfuss is also an avid blogger who tends to write about women in a way that illustrates there's still a solid glass ceiling in the fantasy/sci-fi industry.
There was the post earlier this year on Rothfuss's disappointment regarding a movie trailer for The Hobbit, in which he constructs an awkwardly long Madonna/Whore analogy to describe his disappointment. Presented without comment:
It's going to be like wandering onto an internet porn site and seeing a video of a girl I had a crush on in high school. You probably knew someone like her. The smart girl. The shy girl. The one who wore glasses and was a little socially awkward. The one who screwed up the curve in chemistry so you got an A- instead of an A.
She was a geek girl before anybody knew what a geek girl was. And that was kinda awesome, because you were a geek boy before being a geek was culturally acceptable.
You liked her because she was funny. And she was smart. And you could actually talk to her. And she read books.
And sure, she was girl-shaped, and that was cool. And she was cute, in an understated, freckly way. And sometimes you'd stare at her breasts when you were supposed to be paying attention in biology. But you were 16. You stared at everyone's breasts back then.
And yeah, you had some fantasies about her, because, again, you were 16. But they were fairly modest fantasies about making out in the back of a car. Maybe you'd get to second base. Maybe you could steal third if you were lucky.
And maybe, just maybe, something delightful and terrifying might happen. And yeah, it would probably be awkward and fumbling at times, but that's okay because she'd be doing half the fumbling too. Because the only experience either one of you had was from books. And afterwards, if you make a Star Wars joke, you know she'll get it, and she'll laugh….
That's the girl you fell in love with in high school. You didn't have a crush on her because she was some simmering pool of molten sex. You loved her because she was subtle and sweet and smart and special.
So you stroll onto this porn site, and there she is. Except now she's wearing a thong and a black leather halter top. She's wearing fuck-me red lipstick and a lot of dark eye makeup. Her breasts are amazing now, proud and perfectly round.
Someone's taught her to dance, and she does it well. She's flexible and tan. She has a flat midriff and walks like a high-class Vegas stripper. Her eyes are dark and smouldering. She has a riding crop, and she likes to be tied up, and her too-red mouth forms a perfect circle as she sighs and moans, and tosses her head in a performance designed to win any number of academy awards….
And what's the problem with this? Well… in some ways, nothing. What you've found is perfectly good porn. Maybe even great porn.
But in other ways the problem is blindingly obvious. This girl has nothing in common with your high-school crush except for her social security number. Everything you loved about her is gone.
We loved the sweet, shy, freckly girl. We still remember her name, and after all these years she lives close to our heart. Seeing her in lipstick and stiletto heels dancing on a pole is like watching Winnie the Pooh do heroin and then glass someone in a bar fight.
Then, there's the matter of his pin-up calendar line, which turns female literary characters from Twain and Dickens novels into "Sexy but not smutty" literary pin-ups.
Just yesterday, Rothfuss announced plans for a new calendar that will include characters from fantasy and sci-fi works by some pretty big (and mostly male) names) However, we're not holding our breath for any male pin-ups.
A quick look through his blog posts renders other semi-creepy observations, like this one from a convention:
A pretty young Asian woman makes eye contact with me. She cocks her head to one side.
"Are you Patrick Rothfuss?" she asks.
"I am," I say.
She looks hesitant, then says, "Can I have a hug?"
"Absolutely," I say.
And we hug.
I decide that this is probably going to be a pretty good convention.
And his plan to see a movie "preferably in the company of an attractive, easily startled young woman. That way, when the movie gets scary, she will cling to me desperately for comfort."
Readers have accused Rothfuss of writing sexist characters and plotlines in his bestselling books, too. "One aspect of The Wise Man's Fear that I became increasingly uncomfortable with is its portrayal of women," one blogger wrote in a multi-part series on Rothfuss and sexism. "To a lesser extent, this was also somewhat true of the first book, but became impossible to ignore in the sequel by about halfway through...It seems clear for many reasons that The Kingkiller Chronicle is a set of books that cater to and are about men."
And it seems equally clear that Rothfuss should consider the way he writes about women — both on his blog and in his novels — if he doesn't want to continue to alienate his female readers.
(Image via author bio.)