There are only very slight spoilers in this. *g* And hopefully, it's at least halfway funny...
Why is it that there aren't any major female characters in A Companion to Wolves?
Okay. Why is it that there aren't any major human female characters in A Companion to Wolves.
You know, that's an excellent question. Especially since the authors are a pair of avowed and vocal feminists. Do you have a theory?
Because the authors wanted to write m/m smut?
...nice try. ;-) Okay. Try this on for size:
The action takes place almost entirely in homosocial, male-dominated venues--the equivalent of army camps. They male characters, like tribes of males everywhere, tend to other the women, who are largely relegated to support roles due to the military nature of the group, and the nature of homosocial bonding.
In other words, if you've ever wondered what the women were off doing during Le Mort de Arthur or Beowulf, you got it in one.
(Actually, we did wonder what the women were off doing during Beowulf, and I think if you read between the lines of ACtW, there are some clues as to just what those things might be.)
But women can fight. Why aren't there any female wolfcarls?
Because this story takes place in a society in which the replacement rate is barely keeping pace with the attrition rate, and any such society that sends fertile women out to fight is not going to last three generations. That's eating your seed corn, man. Yes, women can fight. But for them to fight on the front lines on a regular basis is a luxury for an affluent society.
Also, may I point out that you're talking about a job that kills fit, healthy men in their twenties like rats at a terrier run. I firmly believe that a woman can do any job she can physically handle. I don't, honestly, think a lot of women could physically handle that job. Even if she wasn't freaking pregnant nine months out of every two years, lugging toddlers around, and at risk of death from a pregnancy or birth gone bad.
But why don't the wolfcarls even think about recruiting women?
Ethnocentrism. Or, to put it another way, you're feeling a bit peckish. Why don't you think about eating a nice skewer of roasted witchetty grubs? I hear they're delicious--
You don't think about it because it's not part of your culture. (Unless you are a native Australian, in which case, please substitute "a nice bowl of clam chowder" for the above.)
Also, as a secondary reason, because making the protagonist male, and putting him into a role that is usually reserved in fantasy for female characters (The Forced Marriage, as it were) we hoped to point out some of the ways that that's a highly problematic role.
Or, to put it a third way, if he's female, we've just rewritten Dragonflight, haven't we? ;-)
So much more comfortable for everybody when it's female characters being disempowered...
Why are the wolfcarls overcome by wolf rut, when they're not overwhelmed by their other biological urges, such as eating or taking a crap?
1) Remember that genre we're deconstructing? Ask them.
2) Ever been around a bitch in heat? A dog who can smell a bitch in heat? No? Any kind of animal in its mating period?
Come back and ask that question when you have, if you still need to.