The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 232): SF/F Tropes We Like and Tropes That Should Be Retired Forever

In episode 232 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Stina Leicht, Gail Carriger, John Stevens, and Josh Vogtdiscuss tropes! Which tropes would we like to see retired forever? Which tropes would we like to see more of? And why?

The Panel:

Books mentioned in this podcast include:

© 2014 SFSignal.com
Featuring original music by John Anealio

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10 thoughts on “The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 232): SF/F Tropes We Like and Tropes That Should Be Retired Forever”

  1. Not sure if this is exactly a trope, but I recoil in anger when I read gay characters being wrote as the stereotypical, nelly queens, who never move from one spot to another without mincing across the room. (Yes, Miss Gail Carriger, I’m looking at you.)

    It’s bad enough with television’s constant stereotyping gay characters; I expect more from novels.

  2. I’m completely baffled by the “skinning” discussion. Ms. Carriger is annoyed by female characters who ‘act like men’. She would prefer them to… act like women? Which would mean what, exactly? I would dearly like to know how having female characters ‘act like women’ advances the cause of gender equality in fiction.

    1. This really bugs me, too! I much prefer GRRM’s stance of “make a great character, then make that person female.” Who cares how many masculine or feminine traits that character has? Every person has both masculine and feminine qualities about them in varying degrees. I personally love slightly masculine female personalities in books and media. That is because I’m a little of both. I find it irritating when people vilify having too much of one or the other. I do agree some are overrepresented in fiction (alpha males, aggressive masculine females, wilting flower females), but I don’t think we need discount them by tagging them as people “acting like” something they’re not.

    2. I’d like to respond to your comment, but it makes absolutely no sense to me. How do female characters who act like women *not* advance gender equality?

      1. I agree genre fiction in general does suffer from a lack of the feminine gender, and that across the board we could use more feminine characters. But I don’t think we have to pin down femininity to just female characters, or accuse an author of “skinning” a male character because he is too effeminate (Harry Potter). Perhaps we’ve misunderstood, but skinning doesn’t sound like a good thing.

      2. Agreed, Sarah.

        My issue is with the entire concept of ‘acting like women’ (as the logical opposite of ‘acting like men’). I have no idea what this is meant to convey. The only way I can give meaning to the concept is to associate it with gender stereotypes of women — weak, empathetic, fearful. The nun or the victim or the damsel in distress. Having women act out these stereotypes in fiction isn’t helpful. ‘Acting like men’, meanwhile, presumably means strong, decisive, courageous, etc. Having women *not* act out these traits is equally unhelpful.

        If the objection to female characters ‘acting like men’ simply means an aversion to female characters who embody the stereotypical alpha male — fine. We agree. But then I would still take issue with the language used. Suggesting someone acts like a man or a woman implies that there are personality traits that are inherently male or female, a notion I personally don’t accept. For me, a more appropriate statement would be that characters, male or female, who act like stereotypes (gender, race, or other) are annoying.

        The only rules a character’s personality should follow is that s/he is believable, as an individual and as a product of his/her environment. A believable personality will generally combine traits that would fall into traditional stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. A well-drawn character, if “skinned”, should probably be unrecognizable as one gender or the other.

  3. This podcast should have been titled how to feel guilty for reading about male characters. I feel like the lone conservative science fiction fan here.

  4. I totally agree with Gail when she talks about dropping books quickly if she finds tropes she doesn’t like. If I don’t like what I’m reading or I find it distasteful, I don’t waste my time. I *can’t* waste my time – between life and work, I’m just too busy to try to force myself to get into something that doesn’t work for me.

    Tropes and stereotypes are fun to play with, and twist around whenever possible.

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