Making quibbles about the historical accuracy of a fantasy pirate book about seems about as valuable a use of one's time as getting into a heated YouTube comments section argument with a user named SouthIsRizing about whether or listening to "Dixie" is racist (also, what are you doing listening to "Dixie" on YouTube?), so it should come as no surprise that, when someone does take issue with the middle-aged female pirate captain of fantasy author Scott Lynch's fantastic fantasy novel Red Seas Under Red Skies, that person inevitably sounds like a narrow-minded moron.
Lynch recently responded quite terrifically to a critic who took issue with Zamira Drakasha, the black, middle-aged woman (and mother of two!) in charge of a murderous pirate crew in the second novel of Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series. The acutely misogynistic reader took issue with Lynch's apparent "political correctness" in casting the novel's pirate captain as a woman, since it's a well-trod historical fact that women could never, ever be in positions of nautical authority back in the heyday of yo-hoing because their bones were too fragile to stave off non-stop rape threats from their murderous pirate crews:
Your characters are unrealistic stereotpyes [sic] of political correctness. Is it really necessary for the sake of popular sensibilities to have in a fantasy what we have in the real world? I read fantasy to get away from politically correct cliches.
Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits [sic] and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man's world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!
Never mind the fact that, as Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow points out, there were plenty of lady pirates back in the day — Lynch's novel is fantasy, so why can't fantasy novels perhaps deviate from historical misconceptions, hmm? Lynch's response satisfyingly schools his critic in what fantasy — all fiction, really — is all about:
First, I will pretend that your last sentence makes sense because it will save us all time. Second, now you're pissing me off.
You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it.
Why shouldn't middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. H.L. Mencken once wrote that "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." I can't think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.
Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn't a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes "SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder."
You don't like it? Don't buy my books. Get your own fictional universe. Your cabbage-water vision of worldbuilding bores me to tears.
That's a lot of writing to incorporate into a single, deafening "zing," but Lynch's response has given us all a great new phrase for insulting people who are smelly, narrow-minded, or both — "cabbage-water." Gross.
Schooling a reader who doesn't like female, middle-aged, black pirate captains [Boing Boing]