In 1977, a landmark year for fantasy publishing, Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon emerged as one of the era’s most popular fantasy novels. Since then, however, the novel’s reputation (as well as Anthony’s) has fallen precipitously. The reason for this, I suggest, involves our changing habits of critical reading, which view Anthony’s sexism and outdated gender stereotypes as conduits for deeper and more reactionary viewpoints like misogyny and anti-feminist ire. In contrast, I argue that a “surface” reading of the novel can help recover those meanings foreclosed by more critical approaches. In particular, I examine A Spell for Chameleon in light of Bink’s sexist views, the novel’s odd rape trial, and the presence of a confessed misogynist within the text.
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