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Where Are All the Wise, Older Protagonists?


Today’s topic comes from QSFer Paula Wyant – “Topic suggestion for the group: Ageism. Inspired by this article: – The Worst Taboo In Urban Fantasy.

I’d like to broaden this out a bit to cover sci fi and fantasy. I’s kid of understandable why we don’t see a lot of senior protagonists in MM romance – or in romance in general. Readers want to read about young, pretty people falling in love.

But that excuse falls apart when you’re talking about speculative fiction that’s not romance-based.

And yet, the same rules seem to apply. Old, wise characters (or even old stupid ones) are few and far between, even though many readers are themselves in their (ahem) golden years, and would presumably like to see people like them represented in writing.

So here are my questions: Why are older characters, especially protagonists, so scarce in speculative fiction? As a writer, have you written older characters? As a reader, are there some good stories that you can think of that buck the trend? And would such stories find a readership?


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1 thought on “Where Are All the Wise, Older Protagonists?”

  1. Old as this post is , well, I’m even older and you’re asking a great question. I’d LOVE to see more stories with older protagonists, and not ones who are many years old, but still have the bodies of 30 year olds. I mean, bad knees, wonky hips, short sight, memory lapses, tendency to rant, world weariness – REAL old people.
    A number of my very few published stories (all in Canadian sf markets, On Spec in the 90’s, and recently in anthologies) feature aged protagonists. Bull Breaker” in On Spec was about a telephone sex worker who refuses to leave just because she’s dead when there’s a granddaughter to save. The POV character in Prize (also On Spec) is aged and guides a young person to their destiny. The narrator of Dust to Dust (ok, On Spec again, they liked my work back in the 90s) is well on in middle age and has to adjust to the destruction of her world. I have a new one coming up for publication next year, and that’s from the POV of an octogenarian who has to raise her clones to adulthood because there just aren’t enough survivors of an apocalyptic plague to allow anyone time off. So how come I can’t find more stories like that? PLEASE!!!! I wanna see them. (Movies have them, but mostly so they can re-tread actors who were heroes when they were young stars.) Thanks for allowing this rant.


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