Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fantasy Contraception

I'm sure this has been said a million times before (and probably best in Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, the one true reference for all fantasy cliches), but women in Fantasyland sure are lucky in their contraceptive options. There's always some sort of herb, or minor magical spell (which every single hedge witch knows), or whatnot, and it's always - always - one hundred percent effective.

J. Random Fantasy Heroine only gets pregnant when it's convenient to the plot, and generally only with her True Love (or, occasionally, in the more romance-tinged books, from the Nasty Evil Man She Was Forced To Marry But Who Will Die At The Climax Of The Book). She also never has a pregnancy scare; her period is never late. Come to think of it, her period - in common with those of most female characters in popular fiction - is nonexistent in the first place. Her sex life is controlled only by the requirements of the plot (she's separated from the hero by their urgent travels to different places; she can't tell Him of her true love for complicated magical or personal reasons; she must remain a virgin to continue using her magic; she cannot give herself to any man until he passes the Thirty-Seven Trials of Painful Lingering Death), not by anything biological.

Sure, she gets jerked around by the Hand of Fate along the way, but she's guaranteed a happy ending (and I do mean happy), and all of her babies are planned, loved and only ever imperfect in ways that are plot points for the next trilogy.

I suspect this is part of the general disregard for statistics in Fantasyland. Every heroine is special, after all, and, among the special people, one-in-a-million shots come out nine times out of ten. (Apologies to Terry Pratchett for stealing his phrase.) There's no mucking around with eighty percent of the time this, and ninety-five percent of the time that - things either happen, or they don't, and those are hard and fast categories in Fantasyland. Random pregnancies just don't happen.

This post was occasioned by the reading of an upcoming fantasy novel which is actually quite good, but features a drug treatment which renders male slaves completely and irrevocably sterile, without otherwise affecting their sex drive or abilities. The interesting twist there, of course, is that it's the man who has the treatment, which strikes me as still unusual in fantasy. Did I mention this book was written by a woman?

1 comment:

Tom Scudder said...

Does the ROSEMARY'S BABY kind of thing show up much in fantasy these days? It sure did in ANGEL, but that's tee vee, and also once was due to real life pregnancy issues.

Hmm, let's see, ASH is an exception (not terribly surprising, all things considered I'd actually prefer my big fat fantasy books pay a bit less heed to inconveniences of physical existence than ASH did).

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