This article uses Rowling bashing, something of a national sport in the great country of Bookninjastan, to make a case that critics are sexist and predisposed to hate female fantasy writers.
A subtle mechanism is operating here, clanking into gear to restore the dominant man-worshipping default mode while reserving a few token high-priestess places for the ladies. In speculative fiction that would be Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood and Ursula K Le Guin, geniuses all. These women are the real deal, rightly worshipped for their vision, philosophical trenchancy and pertinence. But apart from the hallowed three it’s men-only when it comes to casual recommendations of mainstream books.
In terms of which books sell plentifully and are acclaimed among knowledgeable fans, speculative fiction is not male-dominated at all – quite the opposite. It is the critical establishment which marginalises women. Bestselling female contenders remain unacknowledged while their male counterparts are robustly namechecked, absorbed reliably into the official history of the genre.
I love good fantasy writers, period. The idea that misogyny is at play when the world gives plenty of kudos (and sales) to people like Mary Stewart, Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy, Andre Norton, Tanya Huff, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, Susanna Clarke, Tanith Lee, Katherine Kerr, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diane Wynne Jones, et al. is just plain silly. While I know a few of those are cross overs to scifi, and that misogyny is endemic in our culture, I think this whole argument, based on the literary bashing of a mediocre pop fantasy writer, is ridiculous. I remember a time as a teenager when I thought the fantasy novel was a woman’s game to lose. Put Terry Brooks up against Bradley or Mary Stewart and there’s no contest. I don’t even know that most critics are saying that Rowling sucks. They’re saying, what the hell is all the hype for when the story, writing, and scope are middling at best?