There’s more than just a gender difference between urban fantasy heroes and heroines, there’s a difference in their romantic status, too: Most UF female protagonists have a partner, and the majority of UF males protags do not. Nor are they really looking for one.
What is the norm for male protags, or is there even a norm? Do male Protagonists need a significant other, or do we prefer them when they stroll through endless hookups and sexual innuendo? Is a partner a sexy sidekick—or a pain in the ass?
Unlike female protagonists who tend to either be celibate, monogamous, or looking for the “man of their dreams,” male protagonists range widely in their sexual behavior, going from downright slutty to pure as the driven snow.
As examples, Simon R. Green’s John Taylor has Suzie Shooter usually by his side. It happened so fast that honestly the reader doesn’t have time to think about it. It demands acceptance.
Yet everyone’s favorite Iron Druid, Kevin Hearne’s Atticus O’Sullivan, has an occasional fling with a goddess or two, but no one occupies his bed night after night.
As I wend my way through the Urban Fantasy highway, I find I like my male protags footloose and fancy free. I prefer an unattached strong male who can both take names, kick ass, and have the once in a while connection. Male characters with a constant partner makes them a target—now they have a weak spot, where any evil being can take easy pot shots: Kidnap the girl, that’ll make him weep. It also holds them back; “I can do Plan A, but I might get killed and “Suzy" would be sad., or go for Plan B, where I live happily ever after.” No, thank you...CHOOSE PLAN A!!!
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files has had an occasional partner and it always ends badly, and it’s not hard to see why: Because he’s killing Vamps, saving Chicago and dealing with a batshit crazy mob boss. There is no room in his life for a wife and kids. That’s why he has pets!
Mark Teppo takes a different point of view in his debut novel Lightbreaker. Not only is the main character Markham not interested in finding a partner, but he’s trying to track down and kill a previous one. Until that is done no one is going to light his fire, so to speak.
Let’s revisit Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Atticus O’Sullivan again; sure, there is sexual tension between him and his charge Granuaile, but it never really goes farther that that. He knows it’s not right and so does she. That’s fun!
Harry Connolly wrote a damn fine debut novel called Child of Fire where we meet Ray Lilly, an ex con with a real scary monkey on his back...his boss. She’s female and yet there is NO attraction whatsoever, they work together, talk (sorta) and solve problems, without any scratching of itches. It works fantastically.
Is this because many male protags are written by men themselves, who write free-wheelin’ guys living the high life, or do they just develop their characters differently?
When a male character gets a partner straight away, it feels as though we lose sight of who he is. As stated above, not only does he make himself a target, but I feel like we never really fully know him: His weaknesses, strengths and who he is on the inside. I don’t really like to know a male character through his partner. Do you want to know your date through his mother?
In urban fantasy, females seem to need love interests and males don’t. I wonder, is this partially a product of our society, the way we see ourselves interacting in real life?
Now you know how I like my male protagonists, what about you? Like a man with a “good woman” by his side, or someone unattached and livin’ life large. Now that’s for me!
Want more free-wheelin’ protagonists? Check out these books:
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
The Snake Agent by Liz Williams
When she’s not herding cats or creating art, she works as a part-time bookseller. You can find her on twitter as @psynde.