Tad Williams' Message Board

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'
-    Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

Welcome to the message board for tadwilliams.com. All comments are welcome, whether kudos or brickbats. However, please bear in mind that Tad would like this to be a friendly, civil message board, at least in the relations between users. We reserve the right to remove postings, or even ban postings, from anyone who crosses the boundary of reasonable taste. Basically, you can argue vigorously with someone, but watch your language, okay? We have a lot of young readers as well as grown-ups, so please show them some respect.

But the main requirement here is: have fun.


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#1 2016-01-12 13:10:00

reniegirl
Pilgrim
Registered: 2016-01-12
Posts: 1

Sam's Gender Identity

I glanced through the forum and didn't see a thread about this exact topic yet. If one exists, please direct me to it! (:

As a gender non-conforming person I identify a lot with Sam's character arc, especially with certain things she says, like that she sometimes feels like a boy. While I feel like Tad wrote her character pretty well, I'm curious about a few things.

Spoilers ahead!

I feel like Orlando's reaction to Sam being a girl is pretty reasonably, and I think a relationship that could have become really transphobic went really well. I do find it a little weird that Orlando continues to refer to Sam with male pronouns (at Sam's request) up to the point where she is in vital danger, and he feels the dire need to rescue her. To me, it was the first time in the series where she was really "damseled," so to speak, where she had very little control over rescuing herself and had to depend on somebody else, a guy, to save her. I'm curious about why Tad chose to make the change there, if it was purposeful, or if anybody else noticed or had any thoughts about this.

Tad always seems to do a lot of research for his writing to make his characters as believable as possible (ie, Renie, Orlando, etc.), but I'm not sure how much knowledge went into the writing of Sam, especially because she's such a side character (which isn't a problem, it just means we see less of her).

Thoughts?

 

#2 2016-01-12 13:21:00

Sahi
Mantis
From: Assendelft (the Netherlands)
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 44693
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Hi reniegirl, welcome to the board! Sadly I'm never much good with details, but I'm sure we'll have people with ideas here.


"Because it is scientifically impossible to have enough books." - Patrick Rothfuss

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First member of the Shadowmarch Council of Sages, Official Quiller's Mint Historian
You may call me the Porcupine Lady, or if you are feeling generous the Erinaceous One.

 

#3 2016-01-12 13:42:19

Magpie
Mantis
From: miraculously thistle-free town
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 32649
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

I'm afraid I don't remember Otherland well enough to discuss it in detail. :( Although I do remember that I loved Sam a lot.
(Do we have any Otherland experts left around here? We're pretty MST-heavy...)

I really need to make time to reread it soon.


Basically, I'm Prince Josua in jeans and sneakers, or a different flavor of Renie Sulaweyo.
- Tad

Master of Gardening, Mistress of Kingdom Plantae, Defender of the Seedlings, Guardian of Root and Bough
Scrollbearer and offerer of some very useful opinions

 

#4 2016-01-12 13:49:54

Kenan
Pilgrim
From: Gothenburg, Sweden
Registered: 2005-06-19
Posts: 8752
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Hi reniegirl, welcome to the boards!

I'm curious about why Tad chose to make the change there, if it was purposeful, or if anybody else noticed or had any thoughts about this.

I think I remember reacting to this. It seems logical that when things get real Orlando forgets to pretend he doesn't know Sam is a girl. And so it becomes natural to drop and/or forget the fake pronouns.


Wouldn't the plural form of Olaf be Olaves? ;) - Firsfron of Ronchester

 

#5 2016-01-13 04:06:33

xavie
Pilgrim
From: The Netherlands
Registered: 2006-01-22
Posts: 1566
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Hi Reniegirl and welcome to the boards :)

It's been a while since I read Otherland as well. I remember that when I read it for the first time I wasn't vey familiar with the concepts of genderqueerness, transphobia etc., so I never thought of using these labels for Sam. For me she was just a girl who felt more comfortable being treated like a boy and that was it. I also didn't see Orlando's initial reaction when he learned that Fredericks was a girl as transphobia, but simply as a normal reaction to finding out that his best friend had been lying to him.

Now that I know more about these topics, I find it hard to see Sam in a different light. But then I also don't find it such a big deal. My book cases are full of girls who behave like boys, dress like boys, pretend to be boys or are thought to be boys. I find it normal enough and don't feel the need to label it. (Though I understand that it can be a big deal for other people, of course.)

 

#6 2016-01-13 06:19:46

Peter
Pilgrim
From: Austria
Registered: 2001-08-23
Posts: 39185
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

My first thought when reading the books way back in school was that Sam was simply a girl pretending to be a boy on the internet. Which was very normal in chats and games and it still is, especially in games. In many circles girls are rare and would get a lot of (mostly unwelcome) attention. So prentending to be a boy is perfectly normal.

If such a girl then becomes good friends with someone else, things get complicated. Do you tell early, when the friendship isn't stable yet? Do you tell later, when it's a stable friendship, yet the other person might be more offended?

I also think that Orlando simply feels lied to. I do not read it as him being afraid of girls or transgenders. I have not read all the books recently, but I did read the first 1 1/2 books recently and I can't see any signs of Orlando being transphobic. He thought Sam was a boy, discussed girls with him and now Sam turns out to be a girl. So he said things he wouldn't say to a girl and now he's mortified. He's also confused and hurt because Sam didn't tell him the truth (that is his point of view here, not my belief that hiding as a boy on the internet is a bad thing).

My impression is that Orlando thinks of Sam as a girl now, not a transgender. I have not read the later books recently and while I did read the two short stories recently, I only read them once and I do not remember them in detail. The quote above does suggest that Sam is maybe a bit unsure about her gender, but she does mostly seem to identify as a girl in the short stories if I remember correctly (I definitely would have to reread).

I am not sure anything is conclusive in the texts. Tad doesn't stop by here too often, if you want to hear his thoughts, posting on Facebook or Twitter would probably be more effective.


May the birds who shelter in your branches never poop on the innocent. -Tad

 

#7 2016-10-21 14:20:58

pennywit
Pilgrim
Registered: 2013-11-20
Posts: 38

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Granted, I read the books a long time ago, but I don't recall Sam being transgender in any sense.  Rather, she seemed to be a girl who assumed the online persona of a boy.

 

#8 2016-10-21 18:35:02

Auros
Pilgrim
From: San Mateo, CA
Registered: 2001-11-23
Posts: 7594
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Folks have already said what I was going to say; Sam does not read to me as a trans* character; she is a cis-female (physical sex) and cis-girl (gender role) who is role-playing as a cis-man.

(Context: I'm married to a trans* person who considers themself ungendered and has sought medical treatment to alter their physical presentation.  Personally I have a pretty basic XY-phenotype body but do not consider it relevant; I think gender roles are a Bad Idea.  My core identity is way more wrapped up with my hair than with my downstairs plumbing.  And my feelings about social roles, especially hierarchies, are similar to Pard's.  I sometimes joke that you shouldn't let the monkey body fool you -- the soul is feline.)


Irreverent Father Auros, High Priest of the Church of Erotic Pantheism
the Aurosphere -- Me, myself, and I.
Strange Horizons -- Your weekly source for speculative fiction.
The Resistance wants YOU to defend humanity from Alien Mind Control!

 

#9 2016-10-22 03:01:22

Magpie
Mantis
From: miraculously thistle-free town
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 32649
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Auros wrote:

My core identity is way more wrapped up with my hair than with my downstairs plumbing.

That is so strange to read, because it's exactly how I feel too (although I didn't consciously notice it until recently.)


Basically, I'm Prince Josua in jeans and sneakers, or a different flavor of Renie Sulaweyo.
- Tad

Master of Gardening, Mistress of Kingdom Plantae, Defender of the Seedlings, Guardian of Root and Bough
Scrollbearer and offerer of some very useful opinions

 

#10 2016-10-22 14:32:58

Auros
Pilgrim
From: San Mateo, CA
Registered: 2001-11-23
Posts: 7594
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

I think many more people are in some way genderqueer than realize it, same as many more people are somewhat bi than realize it, b/c the culture instructs us that Everyone Is A Man Or A Woman, and if you're mostly-straight and don't care all that much about gender issues, there's no particular reason to explore that stuff.  You can be socially comfortable and sexually satisfied while adequately fitting the role required of you.

This of course is the definition of privilege -- being able to live a fulfilled life without engaging the social structures that oppress those who don't conform.

Personally I look enough like "a man", and am sufficiently close to straight, that I have "passing privilege" in regard to being perceived as a cis/straight dude -- i.e. I could be closeted if I wanted to be.  I make the conscious choice to drop my bisexuality and the fact that I'm married to a trans* person into conversation where relevant, b/c I want people to know that they know people like me.

Last edited by Auros (2016-10-22 14:35:28)


Irreverent Father Auros, High Priest of the Church of Erotic Pantheism
the Aurosphere -- Me, myself, and I.
Strange Horizons -- Your weekly source for speculative fiction.
The Resistance wants YOU to defend humanity from Alien Mind Control!

 

#11 2016-10-24 12:35:16

Magpie
Mantis
From: miraculously thistle-free town
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 32649
Website

Re: Sam's Gender Identity

Yeah, I didn't even notice it until I was thinking about transgender people for some reason and realised that I don't really understand them, because I just don't know what it's like to have any feelings about what gender I should be. (But I do have a lot of feelings about people telling me what I should do or enjoy based on their perception of me as a woman.)


Basically, I'm Prince Josua in jeans and sneakers, or a different flavor of Renie Sulaweyo.
- Tad

Master of Gardening, Mistress of Kingdom Plantae, Defender of the Seedlings, Guardian of Root and Bough
Scrollbearer and offerer of some very useful opinions

 

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