Gender Neutral Pronouns in Fantasy

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To put it quite bluntly, they don’t seem to exist.

Very little fantasy or even science fiction seems to address or even acknowledge the idea of gender-neutral pronouns or terms of address.  I have seen a few instances in stories that present angels as masculine, feminine, or neuter, using “he” “she” or “se” (pronounced “SEH”).  However, in most speculative fiction, the gender binary of male/female or masculine/feminine predominates.  I understand why; English just doesn’t have a good system for addressing neutral genders.  The only thing we have is “it” which is dehumanizing when applied in a social context.  People I know who identify as gender neutral refer to themselves as “they” (which is a little awkward and confusing to me) or they use masculine pronouns because in English, when a gender is unknown, the masculine tends to be the default.  I love Japanese honorifics because they can convey titles and respect without being tied to gender most of the time.  I can also understand why a lot of older fantasy doesn’t go beyond two genders because authors and audiences either didn’t know about it or didn’t accept it; anything outside heterosexual relationships or traditional gender roles wasn’t readily acknowledged.  (The first time I saw a homosexual character featured in print was in 2005 when I read the short story “Lord John and the Succubus” by Diana Gabaldon.  I have yet to read a story featuring a gender neutral, asexual, or trans character,)

Luckily, we’re growing up a bit as a society and it would be nice to see the spectrum of gender and sexual identity recognized in fiction.

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We Are Grammar Nazis

Have you ever gotten a message from someone via a text or e-mail or post on Facebook that was illegible?  One that you couldn’t understand, or one you misinterpreted because you couldn’t read it?  Or perhaps you receive messages like this on a regular basis.  “How is that possible?” some may ask.  After all, with the advent of typing, you don’t need to worry about translating bad handwriting, so how could you not read a typed message?

Easily.  If the person sending you the message failed to capitalize, punctuation, or write a grammatically correct sentence, you honestly may not be able to understand what they said, regardless of your intelligence.  I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the web, the decline of the capital letter, the lack of any punctuation beyond the exclamation point, the abysmal state of spelling.  More and more sentences are sent with net-speak abbreviations rather than complete thoughts.  And, what’s worse, nine times out of ten, if you correct any of these mistakes, you will be called “a grammar Nazi.”

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