The Thursday Book Beat: Fantasy Author Terry Pratchett Dies and The Andrew Smith Debate

Photograph by Ardo Omer. Books. Reading. Thursday Book Beat.
Fantasy Author Terry Pratchett Dies at Age 66

Terry Pratchett was a fantasy author best known for his Discworld series. His publisher released a statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds.

In over 70 books, Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: he did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention.

Terry faced his Alzheimer’s disease (an ’embuggerance’, as he called it) publicly and bravely. Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come.

My sympathies go out to Terry’s wife Lyn, their daughter Rhianna, to his close friend Rob Wilkins, and to all closest to him.”

Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA1 in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.

We ask that the family are left undisturbed at this distressing time.

Our prayers are with the family. RIP Terry Pratchett.

Andrew Smith, Criticism and Othering Gender

On March 8th, VICE published an overview of YA author Andrew Smith’s work before ending their piece with a short interview with the author. What had many people upset was the very last question:

On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?

I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.

A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.

I haven’t read any of Smith’s books but according to the piece itself as well as others who have read his books, Smith has very few female characters. When he does write women, they come across as stereotypical and underdeveloped, unlike his male characters. Now, before people start creating non-existent contexts or start quoting made up arguments that critics are supposedly making, let me set the record straight.

The issue lies in this: “I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female.” This excuse is weak and quite frankly, pretty insulting to those who identify as women. How was it possible for Smith to have not interacted with women his entire life aside from his daughter? They make up half the population. They appear in books, television, comics, movies, video games etc. They have professions. They drive cars. They buy Starbucks. Smith can write novels about all kinds of boys but women? No, women are alien.

That’s the problem.

I’m glad Smith said he would try to do better and that’s all we really ask, but if he’s coming from the point of view that women are so inherently different from men, then he’s doomed to fail. Authors inevitably do research for their books because they don’t know or experience everything they write about especially in fiction. So Smith has no excuse. He just doesn’t. So here’s my tip: Talk to women. Talk to all kinds of women but ultimately, write a person, because that’s what women are. They’re people. Stop othering gender because it’s harmful to that half of the population already struggling with being represented in media.

Also, people need to stop equating criticism with bullying. There are legitimate arguments as to why Smith’s remarks were harmful. I know for a fact there were some people who used this as an opportunity to be mean because it’s the internet but let’s not throw the baby with the bath water. Calling anyone who calls out someone’s problematic remarks and/or behaviour a “bully” stifles and halts productive discussions and that’s a dangerous game to be playing. It means we can never question anything. As a result of this thinking, a lot of women who were expressing their opinions on the topic in a way that was not toxic, abusive, or in any way mean were being harassed by the very same people who threw around the word bully like rice at a wedding. Come on, guys. How about some nuance, eh?

Other News

The State of Alabama Joins Harper Lee Debate

The State of Alabama is investigating a complaint that asserts Harper Lee’s health may have been taken advantage of in regards to the publication of her new novel. Go Set a Watchman is the sequel to Lee’s hit, To Kill A Mockingbird, and is set to release this summer.

Universal and Scholastic Team Up for New Deal

Universal Pictures is teaming with Scholastic on a three-year, first-look production agreement to produce live-action properties based on children’s literature.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.