Going on a Howardian Gender Switching Bender

There is a niche for anything in the big tent that is the world wide web.  Such is the case with something called gender switching fiction, which involves someone (no, I’m not going to refer to them as an author) taking mostly Public Domain stories and changing the genders of the heroes and villains from male to female and vice-versa. There must be some profound purpose for doing this, but I am at a loss to comprehend what that may be.  Nor do I want to comprehend what it is.

Someone calling themselves “Roberta E. Howard” one day discovered the find and replace function in Word and went medieval on Howard’s Public Domain fiction. Besides Howard’s stories, Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore and Poul Anderson were subjected to this gender switch scheme.

Evidently this person is one of those folks who believe if it is posted on the internet, it belongs to them and they can do whatever they want with it.  I have no idea why anyone would want to read Howard stories with the genders switched, so I don’t know if anyone is paying any mind to this stuff.  But you can’t just arbitrarily change a character’s gender without destroying the integrity of the story. And just changing the name does not change all the other masculine references to the character, so the altered stories become incoherent Needless to say if Howard had wanted Conan to be a woman, he would have written it that way.

If you haven’t seen “Roberta’s” work, let’s compare a paragraph from Howard’s “Beyond the Black River” to her gender switched version:

Crouching behind a thick stem, his sword quivering in his fingers, he saw the bushes part, and a tall figure stepped leisurely into the trail. The traveller stared in surprise. The stranger was clad like himself in regard to boots and breeks, though the latter were of silk instead of leather. But he wore a sleeveless hauberk of dark mesh mail in place of a tunic, and a helmet perched on his black mane. That helmet held the other’s gaze; it was without a crest, but adorned by short bull’s horns. No civilized hand ever forged that headpiece. Nor was the face below it that of a civilized man: dark, scarred, with smoldering blue eyes, it was a face as untamed as the primordial forest which formed its background. The man held a broadsword in his right hand, and the edge was smeared with crimson.

And here is a passage from “Roberta’s” “Beyond the Black River Again:”

Crouching behind a thick stem, her sword quivering in her fingers, she saw the bushes part, and a tall figure stepped leisurely into the trail. The traveller stared in surprise. The stranger was clad like herself in regard to boots and breeks, though the latter were of silk instead of leather. But she wore a sleeveless hauberk of dark mesh-mail in place of a tunic, and a helmet perched on her black mane. That helmet held the other’s gaze; it was without a crest, but adorned by short bull’s horns. No civilized hand ever forged that head-piece. Nor was the face below it that of a civilized woman: dark, scarred, with smoldering blue eyes, it was a face as untamed as the primordial forest which formed its background. The woman held a broad-sword in her right hand, and the edge was smeared with crimson.

Hopefully, Paradox’s legal department is looking into this and can take some sort of action. While the stories are Public Domain, most of the character names and fictional places have been trademarked by Paradox. I know Disney doesn’t stand for this sort of thing – try creating a character named Mickie Mouse and see how quickly the lawyers tackle you.

Maybe “Roberta,” should stop being so dammed lazy and write her own stories instead of usurping everyone else’s for her own personal gain. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.