I had to laugh

I have learned that Vox Day is making a video game. He is consciously and proudly making a design decision that there will be no woman characters in his medieval combat game…which is fine. He can design his own game however he wants to.

However, the reason that there will be no women in his game is because Vox Day has integrity, and he is committed to authenticity and realism, and as we all know, women were never engaged in combat. It is the only intellectually honest choice.

We could, of course, throw out historical verisimilitude. But we’re not going to. Because we value that verisimilitude far more than we value the opinion of a few whiny women who don’t play the sort of games we make anyhow.

Stand tall, Vox Day, stand tall for the truth! Historical verisimilitude!

I am the lead designer of First Sword, a combat management game. The game has orcs and men, elves and dwarves. It has goblins and trolls. But it has no women.


Yes! Historical verisimilitude!

Whiny women wouldn’t play his game, but Vox Day is poised to make a breakthrough into the lucrative orc, elf, dwarf, goblin, and troll market with a game that will appeal to them.


  1. ck says

    We know there were never any women warriors because they didn’t bother coming up with a title for a woman knight like calling them “Dame <Name>” like the the “Sir <Name>” you see on knighted men.

  2. anteprepro says

    I am sure, given his political leanings, that elves and orcs are just as historical and real to him as the invisible hand, Republican Jesus, and The Cootie Plague.

    Voxy never disappoints on the comedy front. I am surprised that he has yet to be consumed by the bile and flame of his own burning contempt for everyone that isn’t in his incestuous little fanclub though.

  3. says

    I tried to leave a comment at Ophelia’s about this, but the darned FtB spam trap loves Queer err Shoops :)

    Vox Day thinks that it’s barbaric to put women in gladiator games. Ok, for the sake of argument I’ll grant him this. However, is it magically NOT barbaric when men are in gladiator games? I’d tell him he needs to take 4 years of gender studies courses, but he’d probably think THAT is barbaric.

  4. pseudoniemousie says

    Hah, I thought this was going to be a joke about Deep Down (a Capcom game that got criticism for, guess what, no female characters.)

    But wow, what a coincidence! What are the odds there’d be TWO video games with no female characters with them in this allegedly post-feminist world?!?

  5. anteprepro says

    A quote that Ophelia Benson included in her article about the game:

    Women cannot credibly fight as gladiators. We don’t put women in the game for the same reason we don’t put bunny rabbits or children in the game. Putting women in the game would be an act of brutal sadism, an act of barbarism even by pagan Roman standards. While the Romans did occasionally put female gladiators in the arena, they were there as a comedic act. They were occasionally matched against midgets, which the Romans apparently found hilarious.

    He also claims he is totally not a misogynist. After comparing women to rabbits, children, and midgets. The man is pure class and is one of the greatest intellects of our generation, clearly.

  6. anteprepro says

    I wonder if Vox has heard of any of these badass women warriors. Surely he has, given that he’s one of the greatest intellects of our generation (so sayeth anteprepro).

    I’m sure Voxy Shazam has some Sophisticated Manology up his sleeve to explain why none of that matters. He knows Real History, not filthy po-mo, revisionist, librul, fem’nist “history” they teach in those indoctrination centers you call “college”.

  7. ck says

    I wonder what the Gladiatrices would have though of VD?

    Probably the same thing most of us think of VD. Avoid contact with VD unless you want to be very sick.

  8. says

    Vox Day is poised to make a breakthrough into the lucrative … troll market

    Would have thought he already had a massive chunk of that market.

  9. mykroft says

    Considering how much one of my daughters loves WOW and similar games, how can anyone in the gaming industry make the economic decision that their virtual universe excludes half the human population?

  10. cactusren says

    We could, of course, throw out historical verisimilitude. But we’re not going to. Because we value that verisimilitude…

    HAVE YOU ALL FORGOTTEN THE GREAT TROLL WARS? Many good men were lost in those dark days. Only men, of course…

  11. quasar says

    See, in the hands of someone who wasn’t a bigoted misogynistic spleen humping cheeseweasel, this “historically accurate” bullshit could prompt a truly incredible interactive experience.

    Imagine a Sweet Polly Oliver story where you played as a woman going to war by pretending to be a man, which alternated between combat and Mass Effect-style social interaction with your allies.

    To make things even more interesting, social interaction could be built around an Open/Secretive axis (as opposed to Paragon/Renegade). Half the game would be about working out which allied characters you could trust and confide in, and which would sell you out. Confiding would be risky but potentially gain you loyal friends in combat, while staying quiet would be the safer, more conservative route at the cost of fighting the war alone.

    Gah, now I want to make this game, but I’m too busy with Species: ALRE (it’s a realistic 3d evolution simulator) to do so. Oh well. One day, maybe.

  12. =8)-DX says

    @Xanthe #11.

    Don’t forget to put a starting “gigantic” tag so as not to invalidate your xml, also attributes belong on the first tag or inside the tags as a value.

    <gigantic>quantities of sarcasm</gigantic>
    <gigantic type=”quantities of sarcasm”>Something MRAs say.</gigantic>

  13. says

    Anteprepro @10

    I should think his rationale is obvious. With the exception of Joan of Arc, Boudicca, and Tamara, all those other wimmens be this-n-that shade of brown. And he’d probably throw Tamara in with the yaller folk.

  14. chigau (違う) says

    I think that ‘eoraptor’ is a lovely nym.
    (my spellcheck wants it to be ‘ego raptor’)

  15. hamsterWare says

    Anybody have any idea what studio name VD plans to publish this under and/or if they have any other games out? Because I have a terrible habit of buying interesting looking stuff during Steam sales or through the various indie bundles without knowing a lot about who’s behind it, and with my Steam library pushing 200 games I am suddenly overcome with horror at the possibility that any of my money ever has or ever might go to support ANYTHING he does. Which includes clicking through to his blog unless absolutely necessary. And I do admit to enjoying fictional combat, despite *GASP SHOCK HORROR* being one of those awful women creatures plaguing the world with my existence…

  16. Moggie says

    I wonder whether the marketing people figured that their best strategy was to have the “lead designer” act like a colossal whiny douchebro?

  17. =8)-DX says

    @29 Moggie – actually that’s been the default go-to strategy in pretty much the whole history of computer games.

    Individual more hip or more leftie, socially aware lead designers is a cultural shift, not a business decision =).

  18. Elena says

    quasar @ 21

    Imagine a Sweet Polly Oliver story where you played as a woman going to war by pretending to be a man, which alternated between combat and Mass Effect-style social interaction with your allies.

    Monstrous Regiment, the RPG.

    (Yes, please)

  19. Rumtopf says

    I’m good with Skyrim, cheers. Lots of powerful(politically and physically) women in this game and they don’t make a big deal out of it, it’s not forced, it just is. But way to go with the whole excluding half the population from your target market thing, VD(guess what phrase I think of every time I see these initials). Let me know when he whines about historical women sitting on their asses and “forcing” their men go to war, because misandry.

  20. lpetrich says

    Weird thing: Vox Day made a video game called “The War in Heaven” back in about 2000. It had some interesting concepts. You could play as an angel and fight your way past a lot of demons from heaven to hell. Or you could play as a demon and fight your way past a lot of angels from hell to heaven. Both the angel and the demon player characters were apparently female. Heaven, hell, the angels, and the demons all seemed like they had come out of pseudo-medieval sword and sorcery.

  21. unity says

    So he’s creating a game world in which characters reproduce by way of parthenogenesis – how very modern of him.

  22. barbaz says

    Does he realize that this makes the game less attractive for men, too? Just look at Skyrim Nexus, a typically male-dominated games community where half of all work revolves around women’s clothes, make-up, and similar. (If think you can bear it, type “skimpy” in the search box or browse the user images)

    Technically, he’s doing feminism a favor by preventing that.

  23. anuran says

    Puts me in mind of the women of Basilan. According to documents of the times and books like The Swish of the Kris they didn’t go into battle often. But when they did they had their babies strapped to their backs. Tended to … motivate … them and scare their enemies.

  24. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    We could, of course, throw out historical verisimilitude. But we’re not going to… The game has orcs and men, elves and dwarves. It has goblins and trolls. But it has no women.


    What a fucking idiot! If he was trying to make a historically accurate game, then I’d respect his choice. Regardless of the wrongs or rights of it all, the fact of the matter is that it was rare to see a woman on the battlefield in Ye Olden Days, though there would have been the odd one. But it’s not a historically accurate game, so he has no fucking excuse whatsoever.

    I particularly enjoy his “Big Words Mean I’m Not Sexist” approach. Jeebus, what a moron.

  25. dorfl says

    quasar @ 21

    That’s actually a brilliant idea.

    Dammit, why was Assassin’s Creed IV about Edward? They should have made it about Mary instead!

  26. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    I don’t want to pretend that it’s anything other than coincidence, but the fact that this slimy PUA/MRA has the initials “VD” really cracks me up :)

    @anteprepro #10

    Voxy Shazam

    Love it :)

  27. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    And just 3 posts on from that, ck’s beaten me to it…

    [mutters]Read the whole thread, Thumper, read the whole thread![/mutter]

  28. Space Monster says

    Speaking of VD, there’s been another SFWA kerfuffle recently. Apparently a non-member is so, so concerned that people’s freeze peaches will be infringed if a professional writers trade publication has guidelines in place to prevent cheesecake covers and discussions of ‘lady writers’ and how women should be like barbies and so whipped up petition comparing these horrible restrictions to slavery. Quite a few authors signed this rambling missive including VD, but it seems that, while railing against editorial censorship, the original petition was edited and later VD’s name was omitted from the signatory list. See here for full details. There’s also a followup in which an associate director of contracts at a major publisher decides that it’s hypocrisy if a feminist dares to show an ankle on the beach.

  29. says

    I’m disappointed that that list of badass women warriors left out Æthelflæd Myrcna hlæfdige (fl. late C9).
    Of course she was really a goodass (that sounded better in my head) woman ruler too.

  30. Une Lese says

    Oh wow. Yeah! Wizards and warriors and dragons and orcs and elves and goblins but NO WOMEN FIGHTERS.

    Because. This game is historically accurate. Is this guy for real?

  31. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    Aethelflaed of Mercia, as in King Alfred’s daughter (how do you get the ash?)? I’ve been learning a bit about her through Bernard Cornwell’s “The Warrior Chronicles” series (hardly an authoritative historical source, I know). I wasn’t aware she ever fought in a battle? More helped with the unifying of Mercia and Wessex.

  32. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    @Space Monster #45

    There’s also a followup in which an associate director of contracts at a major publisher decides that it’s hypocrisy if a feminist dares to show an ankle on the beach.

    By what possible logic?

  33. says

    As hilarious as the whole Vox Day not including women characters thing is… it’s not that much different from the vast majority of games out there (someone already mentioned Deep Down by Capcom, who basically said they’re not interested in making a game with female protagonists.) Sadly the game industry has a startling lack of playable female characters, and it’s standard.

  34. cartomancer says

    I don’t think this is at all the odious little man’s thinking here, but there is some mileage in the notion that historical verisimilitude is relevant to a fantasy world with fantasy races like orcs and dwarfs and trolls in it. It’s more the misogynistic way he frames the notion that I find problematic, rather than the notion of misogyny in a fantasy world itself.

    Most fantasy worlds do tend to draw heavily on the real world for their inspiration, aesthetics and history. And for good reason – it allows their creators to tap in to the aesthetics, associations and connotations of real world phenomena and make such worlds believable and interesting. There is only so much departure from the familiar we can take before everything starts being unrelatable. And real world history is full of fascinating people, concepts and ideas to borrow (or steal, if you’re really good). Which is why a lot of Dwarfs, for instance, tend to resemble real-world mining communities (and look like Vikings and sound like Yorkshiremen), and the speech and behaviour of Orcs is often modeled on cockney gangsters and football hooligans. If you want to evoke something that exists in the real world then you do pay attention to its real world instantiations, and try to borrow from those.

    So it’s perfectly reasonable to have a fantasy culture based on the ancient Romans. That culture will borrow some of the ancient glamour and imperialistic lustre of the Romans, and the audience will immediately have a handle on them. Not everything has to be the same of course, and you could quite easily decide to make them a culture that’s like the Romans but without the misogynistic gender-roles the Romans had. It has been done before – the Cyrodiilic Empire of the Elder Scrolls games springs to mind.

    But here’s the thing – by changing that bit you’re making a statement about your fantasy Romans. They will behave significantly differently from real Romans. They’ll be nicer people for one thing, and you might not want that. Gender equality was not big in the Roman empire, and most of its cultural forms were terribly repressive and illiberal by modern standards. Our putative gender-neutral Romans would seem strangely enlightened in this one sphere if they keep on behaving like Romans in all the rest. They’d still conquer other peoples and dismiss them as barbarians, they’d still keep slaves, their rich senatorial landowners would still oppress the poor, and they’d still watch the slaughter of animals and humans for fun in the gladiatorial games. It strikes me as rather incredible that people who still do all that would be paragons of 21st-century style gender-aware progressiveness.

    Since we are talking here about a game featuring gladiatorial combat, it strikes me that having it set in a society that displays the same kind of misogyny as pretty much all ancient and medieval cultures is entirely in keeping. If there are still gladiators in it, hacking each other to pieces as entertainment, then your fantasy world is already a dystopian one, and real world people are not going to enjoy it because they want to live there. That’s not why most people enjoy fantasy worlds anyway. Most people don’t want to live in a feudal world ruled by kings, wracked by plague, threatened by bandits and invasions. Most people don’t want to be at the mercy of savage monsters, mad wizards and the playthings of sinister elder gods. By any sane standards, most medieval-style fantasy worlds are horrible places to live. They’re all, to some extent, dystopian (as, by our standards, was the real medieval world). The misogyny is not incidental to this dystopian aesthetic – it’s an integral part of it. By taking it out, you’re making a deliberate choice to make your world a bit nicer. Evoking real-world misogyny is a very good way of communicating “you wouldn’t want to live here”.

  35. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    So he contends that there were no women, or children, in the small cities that followed late medieval armies around as they traipsed across France during the Hundred Yeas War? Or that these same women and children killed the seriously wounded, helped gather the spoils of war and perform triage on the friendly wounded? Or the women who donned armour, or served as spearmen or archers, or in other ways joined in the fray by pretending to be men (one reason that there are so many fictional accounts of women becoming sailors or infantry or cavalry or whatever is that this is something that happened — not often, but often enough (Polly Oliver has great literary and historical company))? Does VD really think that the baggage trains of armies were never over run? and that the women never tried to defend themselves? or protect the children and elderly? Does VD think that Tilly’s tercios were 100% male? Is VD a raging misogynistic homophobic infested with the absolute worst elements of any form of Christianity? Do Popes shit on a throne?

  36. says


    Most fantasy worlds do tend to draw heavily on the real world for their inspiration, aesthetics and history. And for good reason – it allows their creators to tap in to the aesthetics, associations and connotations of real world phenomena and make such worlds believable and interesting.

    Here’s the problem: Most fantasy worlds AREN’T based on the real world, but on the fatasy versiouns of the fantasy versions of the real world. Because the real world knew women in combat. Hell, the Amazons are a real world legend, during the most patriarchal phases of history people found it entirely believable that there is a people if fearsome warrior women.
    Real Medieval Europe knew people of colour, yet when nowadays a fantasy writer includes them they get criticised for forcing a political agenda onto the reader.
    The idea that fantasy worlds are actually based on history is bullshit, and people don’t tell me that JRR Tolkien anticipated Hooligans

  37. says

    Actually, there WERE some women gladiators in Roman times. Not many, but they outnumbered the elves, orcs, goblins and trolls by huge margins. Anybody here see a historical record of a woman being beaten by an orc? Didn’t think so.

  38. jamessweet says

    The odd thing about all of this is that games which are attempting something like historical accuracy (the Total War series comes to mind) already do not typically insert women into situations where it would have been anachronistic to do so, and they don’t make a big deal out of it. Conversely, I am not aware of any body pushing them to do otherwise (correct me if I am wrong).

    If you are making a fantasy medieval game (as this clearly as) then there is no reason not to include women. And if you are making a historical game, nobody seems to be complaining or making a big deal out of it…

  39. says

    From the first review cited @56 above:

    The publisher, “Valu-Soft” (note the fact that the value is so incredible that they can’t even afford the “e” at the end of “value”), has put out some other various high quality games, most notably the smash hit title “Deer Hunt”. Yes, you read that correctly. “Deer Hunt”. We’re dealing with a company that tries to ride the success of “Deer Hunter” with inferior knockoffs. If that’s not just the biggest warning in the world, I really don’t know what is.

    That says a lot about the kind of people willing to do business with Vox Day.

  40. alexanderz says

    cartomancer #53
    Everyone in this thread has already showed that there were women on battlefields, so any “realistic” excuse for a no-females world is just that – an excuse.

    Additionally, there is the small isuue of writing. A good fantasy (or SciFi or any fiction) creates an unrealistic setting, but with realistic characters, a bad fantasy is one that puts unrealistic people in a pseudo-realistic reality.
    The former studies the human condition, tries to understand how we could function in different circumstances and what makes us what we are. The latter is pure shit that appeals only to the lowest possible desire of hearing swords go “cling”.
    This is even more of an issue in a game, because a game is not a novel. You control the character/s in the game and if the game doesn’t allow you to do what is reasonably expected (like, say, trying to fix the dystopian world) then you’ve made a horrible game.

    Furthermore, any work must be internally consistent. If you make a world that has both humans and non-humans, and non-humans are a real threat, then guess what – humans would be more likely to unite against the threat! All of our contemporary differences, hatreds, racism, homophobia and misogyny has a lot to do with humans being the only real danger to other humans. Add anything else to the mix, and it won’t matter whether you want your world to be a utopia or dystopia , you’ll get a world where intrahuman relations are much more egalitarian than in our world.

    This all goes to show that just as religion and science are incompatible despite some scientist being religious, misogyny and good writing is also incompatible.

  41. Carlos Cabanita says

    I’ll leave the women gladiators problem for others to argue, but what what about the female trolls and orcs? I don’t own her, but I use to spend time with a female german shepperd called Serena and she’s a fearsome beast! She always seems to be asking: “I love you! Who do you want me to kill?”

  42. says

    Along the lines of story: Kameron Hurley has written an interesting example of a warrior society in her God’s War novels. It’s science fiction, set on a backwater world with a largely biological technology that has basically uncoupled reproduction from sex…and women have then become the fighters and leaders and dominant group. Just to shake it up even more, it’s a world that’s culturally Islamic.

    It makes for an eye-opening twist, anyway. My main complaint, though, is that all the world-building is getting in the way of the story. I’m only partway through the first one, so I’m hoping it picks up the pace soon.

  43. U Frood says

    Everyone knows that Dwarf women look just like Dwarf men, so I’d bet there are some Dwarf women sneaking into his game behind his back.

  44. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    People still thinking that women in battle is somehow historically inaccurate really, really need to read the PDF PZ linked to:

    Notable widows were disproportionately represented among women who pursued warlike careers. Such anomalous behavior may have been considered less inappropriate for them than for other women, even in the later middle ages, for in the absence of suitable male protectors they might be obliged to fight to protect their children’s interests. Thus, in the early thirteenth century Countess Blanche of Champagne campaigned for years on behalf of her infant son. As one chronicler noted approvingly, “she triumphed over her enemies in a manly and energetic fashion.”

    On the other hand, some widows engaged in warfare on their own behalf, without reference to their children’s needs. Therasia of Portugal, widow of Count Philip of Flanders, raised and led armies from her dower lands to further her own territorial ambitions. Some of these women even led forces against their own male relatives. Richilde of Hainaut, mentioned earlier, belongs to this group, since she fought against her brother-in-law at Cassel. An even more striking case is that of the widow of Arnoul II of Guines, who made war on her son for two years, from 1220 to 1222, over control of her widow’s portion.

    Some women engaged in warfare by virtue of office. In England in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, a number of widows held the office of sheriff, which combined administrative duties with military service. At least some of them carried out their obligations personally. Dame Nicola de la Haye, sheriff of Lincoln, for example, played a crucial role in the famous Siege of Lincoln in 1217.

    There’s far more than that and it’s all fascinating. Much more interesting than this weird fantasy version of the past we’ve dreamed up where only one set of behavior was ever acceptable for women and only rare and special women challenged it.

  45. ck says


    The funniest part has got to be the fact that this is the nom de plume that he chose to be known by, rather than a name assigned to him at birth. If it had been the latter, I’d probably feel uncomfortable about those kinds of joke being made about his name. Since he is old enough to know what other things go by the initials V.D. and still chooses to be known by this rather pretentious pseudonym, I can’t really muster any sympathy.

  46. David Marjanović says

    Putting women in the game would be an act of brutal sadism, an act of barbarism even by pagan Roman standards. While the Romans did occasionally put female gladiators in the arena, they were there as a comedic act. They were occasionally matched against midgets, which the Romans apparently found hilarious.

    Writes a sentence, immediately contradicts it, immediately contradicts it a second time, and all in one breath. What dark elven magic is this?

    So, It’s a world populated by homosexual reproduction?

    Also obligatory oglaf.

    Your link doesn’t work, but if you mean “Son of Man”, PZ has already blogged about that one. :-)

    All he’s missing is the giant enemy crab.

    Is it a river crab? :-)

    how do you get the ash?

    The same way you get everything that’s not on your keyboard? Copy & paste it from somewhere, like Wikipedia or your friendly neighborhood character map, in Windows: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Programs > Character Map.

    I regularly use the character map to write my name.

  47. says

    I remember Angry Joe reviewing some fantasy war game that involved dealing with your generals in between battles. One general was a woman who fought patriarchal privilege to earn her rank. At one point, she brings up the issue of women soldiers’ pay being less than the men’s. The player is given the option of equalizing the pay, among other responses. She’s initially hostile towards you, expecting another patriarch, but by working with her, you can earn her trust and bring gender equality to the nation.

    I think there’s room for fictional societies that are sexist if it serves a good narrative purpose. In games where you get to create your own character, you should be given choices in how you handle the sexism. In games with predefined characters, the issue provides a window into their mindset and allows for character development.

    Of course, I do not expect anything remotely like this to come from Vox Day.

  48. says

    I would point out that the earliest surviving Medieval fighting manual, the I.33 manual, written circa 1300 CE, depicts a woman learning to fight with a sword and buckler.

  49. says

    Is there any possibility that this all because it’s going to be really, really, women are superfluous to our needs, gay. Or at least “The Steel Remains” level gay, wherein a “magic” space “elf” shags the big, gay, sword wielding hero right the way through several incomprehensible dimensions? Because that’d be fun and explain…something. Sort of.

    Also, past experience of abuses hurled at me, and any other woman built on more sport utility lines, got a nasty feeling that this lot say “troll”, they mean “woman who’s taller than me, better at hitting or lifting stuff”. They’ll be in the game but for sure, but not counted as human.

  50. chrislawson says

    Appalling lack of historical knowledge for someone claiming historical verisimilitude. It’s not just the orcs and elves, it’s this: “…an act of barbarism even by pagan Roman standards”, even though gladiatorial entertainment continued well into the Christian era of the Roman Empire, and even though *some* Christians were opposed to the games, many were not, and that one of the main factors that ended gladiatorial combat was economic (not only were the gladiatorial costs spiralling out of control as the political class tried to outdo itself sponsoring big events, but the emperors came to realise it made a lot more sense to send convicts to work in the mines than to train and house them just to fight each other).

  51. says

    Amy Cocks:

    Is there any possibility that this all because it’s going to be really, really, women are superfluous to our needs, gay. Or at least “The Steel Remains” level gay, wherein a “magic” space “elf” shags the big, gay, sword wielding hero right the way through several incomprehensible dimensions? Because that’d be fun and explain…something. Sort of.

    I’m having trouble understanding what you’re saying here.

  52. anteprepro says

    I remember way back in the day, when I met a few fundies drooling over VD’s book. I read over the first few chapters. At the very beginning, he talks like he is going to give it a nice, fair, calm, and educated approach. But within a few pages it starts devolving into the Beale Squeal we all know and love: smug chest-thumping and insult in lieu of argument. The signal-to-noise ratio was far to low for me to continue, lest I bleed from the eyes (it didn’t help that it was a criticism of “The Four Horsemen”‘s books…which I had not and still have not read).

  53. numerobis says

    I just watched the 2009 live-action retelling of Mulan. It’s not just in Europe that people talked about women warriors.

  54. cartomancer says

    Giliell, #57

    What I said was that fantasy writers take inspiration from the real world, because doing so helps to evoke aesthetics, associations and connotations. I said that in the full knowledge that many such aesthetics, associations and connotations will derive from cultural baggage that is not necessarily historically accurate. Indeed, most people’s appreciation of the real world’s history works this way too. “What actually happened” and the cultural frameworks that we use to approach history are not easily separable.

    The point was that the notion of “historical verisimilitude” is not a completely ridiculous concept to apply to fantasy works. Just because they have fictional and fantastical elements in them, that doesn’t mean there is no point trying to keep some things as close as you can to real, historical equivalents. Or even to not-strictly-accurate conceptions of historical periods in the popular imagination. Doing so lets a writer borrow a lot, and create many interesting effects. The effectiveness of some of those effects can be directly dependent on how closely recognised historical models are adhered to or diverged from. It’s an artistic choice.

    As you say, and as I know full well, there have been real life female combatants since the dawn of warfare. Excluding them entirely would be diverging from how it was historically. In this particular case having gladiatrices would actually improve historical verisimilitude, and could add a lot to a game on many levels. Which demonstrates my central point very well – historical verisimilitude is not an irrelevant concern. Vox Day’s failing, in this case, is to diverge from historical models because his own misogynistic attitudes prevent him from accepting them. That’s what harms his creative abilities. There are plenty of good authorial reasons to diverge from history, but that sure isn’t one of them.

    As for Tolkien, actually he very much did say that the English translation of the speech of his orcs was based on English idioms used by (in his view) sluggish, slovenly and thuggish individuals (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s not far off that). Though he stopped short of saying he meant East Londoners. It’s mentioned in many of his appendices and letters, and he was quite open about it. Those precise stigmatised idioms may not have been the same in the 40s and 50s as the stigmatised idioms of the football hooligans of the 80s, but exactly the same principle underlies the choice – using connotations already present in the real world to get the audience thinking the same way about characters in the fantasy one.

  55. cartomancer says

    Alexanderz, #61

    I wasn’t actually saying that “no female warriors” is historically accurate. It clearly isn’t. I was talking about having misogynistic societies in a fantasy work because you’re trying to evoke some of the culture of real, historical societies. There clearly were misogynistic societies in the past, and their misogyny was pretty inseparable from most of their cultural forms. Such societies are still interesting and compelling and worth stealing from to help characterise fantasy worlds – misogyny and all. Indeed, the nature and character of their misogyny, and how it fits in with the culture, is sometimes the most interesting part. It seems trite and unhelpful to say that just because we can imagine societies free of misogyny, and we agree that our own ideal society should be free of misogyny, therefore all our imagined societies should be free of it. It’s been a constant presence in our history, it raises all kinds of issues, and it can create all kinds of tensions, stories and imagery.

    I disagree that settings necessarily have to be unrealistic, or characters realistic. Indeed, as Tolkien and many others showed, characters don’t really need much character at all, because there is still great pleasure to be gained from exploring invented worlds and histories and landscapes, even without any social interactions. Not all works are primarily about character. How realistic something is doesn’t necessarily correlate either way with how interesting and engaging it is. And some people do enjoy reading about frantic fast-paced swordfights between exaggerated, unrealistic characters just for the sheer bombast and theatre and joy of it all. Which is fine too. Good fantasy writing comes in many, many forms.

    As for the notion that a good game “lets you do what is reasonably expected”, whose expectations are you talking about? People’s expectations differ wildly, and sometimes it is much more fun and challenging to have your expectations subverted or frustrated or upset than to have them fulfilled. I find it very interesting that your example of “expectations” is “fixing” a dystopian world though. I think this exposes certain cultural and idiosyncratic differences between people, because to me part of the charm and pathos of dystopian fiction comes from the certain knowledge that its societies can’t or won’t be “fixed”, and so we’re dealing with deeply imperfect people trying to get by in a deeply imperfect world as best they can. But others find that spectacle depressing and hopeless, and wouldn’t want to linger somewhere horrible in their fiction unless they know it can be put to rights.

    This point also brings up questions of what it means to play a character in a game. Some games have characters who are personalities in their own right, with their own motives, agendas and secrets. Others make their characters blank slates that you can play as you will. Traditionally Japanese RPGs do the former, while American ones do the latter, but both are valid approaches and both can be good games.

    As for the notion that humans will necessarily band together against non-humans if they feel threatened, I don’t think that is at all inevitable. It is just as easy to imagine humanity becoming even more fractious and divided, with cultures seeing little distinction between other humans they don’t like and groups of something elses they don’t like either. The people of the West are obviously in league with the Dark Elves after all, and those sneaky, elf-loving scum would sell us out at any opportunity! Why, you can even trust those shifty, alcoholic Dwarfs more than you can trust perfidious Westerners!

  56. cartomancer says

    Indeed, if we are looking to history, humans actually have been threatened by hostile non-humans many times in the past. Yersinia Pestis was a fairly major example of a global threat, and HIV is ravaging our species as we speak. Neither seems to have united humanity in a stirring upwelling of cooperation, or curbed our instincts for rivalry, bigotry and recrimination much.

    This is getting fairly off-topic though, so I’ll stop here.

  57. belaja says


    “There is nothing new under the sun. This includes the phenomenon of women taking part in combat. It is only in our short-sighted, modern view that we see this as something strange, something innovative, even something of an anathema. War – like most impersonal forces – does not discriminate particularly. It rains on men and women alike and always has. The story of women at war is an ancient and honourable one that cries out to be told….”