James Shanahan

The Apprentice and One Binary to Rule Them All: Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy

April 11, 2021   /  

Name: James Shanahan
Major: English
Minor: Film
Advisor: Dr. Bryan Alkemeyer

For my Independent Study I wrote the first draft of a novel I have named, The Apprentice. The Apprentice and its accompanying critical introduction focus on gender in the fantasy genre. The novel focusing on gender identity and finding oneself in a fantasy world. The accompanying critical introduction focuses on the gender binary and how it affects and holds up patriarchal values be it through magic systems as seen in the Wheel of Time. Party composition as seen in the Lord of the Rings, and male power fantasies as seen in Dune.

James will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST: 9-11am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

30 thoughts on “The Apprentice and One Binary to Rule Them All: Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy”

  1. Nice work Jim! Writing an entire book is lot, but what was your favorite part about the process?

    1. I think my favorite part about the process was piecing it all together. It felt like one giant puzzle, you start with the broad pieces in an outline, creating the border with all the edge pieces then set about trying to figure out where all the pieces in the center go, building out from the edges or from random points that spiral out from the middle. seeing how each plot point settled into the story and how little changes made everything socket in more and more. So seeing how it all fell into place and working with the puzzle of it all was my favorite part.

      1. Jim, wonderful job! We’re so proud of you. You’ve grown so much as a writer! What was you’re greatest challenge?

        1. My greatest challenge came in writing and editing. I tend to write quickly and my grammar is one of my biggest weaknesses so remedying that and fixing those issues as I went through was really tough and still stands as an issue in future projects. Editing is always a struggle because it is so daunting a task to sit down and essentially rewrite and restructure an entire novel I am going to try and see about changing it up the next time I write another project. How? I am not sure yet.

          1. We listened to chapter 12 twice. Can’t wait to read the whole book. You need to send to Joe. He’ll love it. I’ve heard other writers also struggle with the editing process. I think it will get easier with time.

      2. Jim I loved the imagery used in the story-beautiful writing…Also, the sensitivity and humanity of the subject matter-so proud of you!

        1. Thank you so much Anne! It means a lot to hear that, I am so glad you liked it!

  2. Hi Jim–It’s so exciting to see this project come to fruition after hearing about it last fall. Congratulations and, as others have said, fantastic idea and execution of the video!!

    1. PS–It sounds like your plans for the novel’s trajectory were successful–did anything surprise you along the writing journey?

      1. Thank you Professor Eager! This was my first time attempting a novel project so a lot of things surprised me. But the biggest surprise came as my plans started to change because as I kept writing the characters became more and more fleshed out and I found original ideas translating in odd ways that followed the path of the outline or derailed it entirely which was something I thought I would dread. I thought I needed to have everything planned out beforehand, to be more of an architect with my writing and planning but I was surprised to see how much I loved letting things grow naturally and letting the outline grow and change with the curveballs the story threw at me. It has definitely changed the way I look at the novel writing process and how I plan to approach future projects.

        1. Thanks, Jim! I also love the surprising things that emerge in the writing project that change or enrich the plan.

    1. I’ve had the idea for this book for a long while but it has gone through many variations, my inspiration came through reading tons and tons of fantasy and seeing the same thing over and over and over again. So I wanted to go about writing a standard fantasy book where the main character was not the standard protagonist already equipped with a heroic name and an understanding of themself. I do have plans for future books! This is the first in a long series I hope to write!

  3. Congrats Jim! I love the video. This is an amazing concept – I really like how you “queered” the concept of a hero’s journey by rejecting the normal foundations of how a character exists in their world. I would love to read the whole thing!

    1. If you would like I can send you a copy of my I.S.! That queering of the heroes journey was incredibly fun, because using genre conventions you have the solidification of identity able to be compared to king Arthur pulling the sword from the stone!

  4. I loved your description of Prince’s inner conflict- it was so relatable and I felt sucked in. Love this!! Beautifully done!

    1. Thank you Nora! I am glad to see you liked it! One of these days I will get you all a full finished copy!

  5. It was wonderful to hear this key chapter read in your own voice! Hearing authors read their own work is always so enlightening and enjoyable. Great work on an ambitious project: 200 pages of writing, and 1000s of pages of reading, by my count? Well done.

  6. Hi, Jim! It’s been fun hearing about this project the past year, congratulations for completing it! Having completed The Apprentice, how do you think your technical writing and style have evolved? I know you’ve discussed writing a new series after this one. What lessons do you think you have learned that you want to apply in writing your unnamed cowboy fantasy (and other future works, for that matter)?

    1. Thank you for such a great question! When I first started writing I really took a cinematic aspect to my writing, focusing on the descriptions around the character interspersed with internal thought and dialogue. I had very little character voice within the narration itself it was just describing what happened to Prence as they went along in the story. Slowly but surely that began to change and I got more in-tune with writing in the characters voice and how it balanced with the more cinematic narration of the environment and the events occurring around the character. That balance definitely took me awhile to find and early chapters of The Apprentice are still lacking in voice. In further revisions and in future works I plan to take what I’ve learned in balancing that and exploring that characters voice to really hone in on in the story. Luckily for my next work the character does have a unique voice and thought process so that has already been really fun to work with and find its balance!

  7. Incredible video. It’s been amazing to see this project develop over the creative writing classes I’ve shared with you! I’m going to miss reading your vivid descriptions and awesome worldbuilding, you’ve seriously inspired me to do more writing in the fantasy genre because of how well-done your work is! Congrats and best wishes for the future!

    1. That makes me happy to hear! With how descriptive and poetic your work is I feel like in a fantasy setting it would be incredibly captivating as your work always is. And likewise I am going to miss reading your work, it was always so different and just had the ability to draw me into it so quickly and completely. Best of luck to you as well!

  8. Love the talk show format, Jim! Congrats on drafting this novel–it’s been fun to see so many 261 alums developing their projects and I’m delighted that you were able to keep working on The Apprentice. Good work!

    1. Thank you Professor Beutner! I made use of the synopsis and all of the outlining I did in Writing the Novel for the project! Although now it is incredibly different than the material I generated in that class it gave me an amazing starting point.

  9. Awesome job, James! The talk show bit was a good dash of humor, and I loved listening to a chapter of your work. I really enjoyed how you connected the simple reflection of a face in the water to your character’s complex and painful struggle with identity. Keep writing–I will be checking bookstore shelves for your work in the future!

  10. CONGRATS JIM!!! Im so proud of you! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you! Going to miss you!

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