Have I mentioned how much I love reading your blog and posts like this?
Dangit, Jim, not only was I thinking of your Princess books while reading this post, but I had much the same reaction you did. Being your nemesis does not entitle you to space in my head! :P
Elizabeth, I am even more determined to get published after reading this! :)
Great post and very insightful. ^_^
I like to read from different viewpoints. I live in my own head all day long, I like to work through different patterns when recreating.
2010-08-27 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'll confess to being surprised this is still an issue. Given the seemingly-very-common use of pen-names now when writing outside of whatever's narrowly defined by the market as 'your' sub-genre, I've pretty much given up on making assumption about what the author's gender is. Or, for the most part, caring.
I'm fairly certain that at least in the modern paranormal / urban fantasy genre, there are a few male writers publishing under female names (perhaps for the perceived benefits in drawing in the romance crossover audience). I know that one of the series we recently tried and enjoyed was written by a married couple and published under a female name.
(I say 'for the most part' because there are a couple of quirks of writing - mostly in the area of narrative attitude / voice - I associate almost exclusively with male writers and which make me roll my eyes. There might be female authors who indulge in those habits in an attempt to appeal to the stereotype of the male reader, but I haven't noticed it.)
Pen-names are easily penetrated if you try, and editors/agents/publishers know the gender of the writer, as do many readers and most reviewers. The Internet has made that easier than ever.
And many people do care about the name on the book's cover, and avoid a gender they dislike (or, as the article cited, and following comments noted, avoid certain book cover styles.)
I've only read your fantasy, not your sf, but I remember noting at the time that Paksenarrion was designed to be, if not exactly sexless, at least uninterested in the topic. Gird was much more into non-platonic relationships. Dorrin is not mentioned as having had serious relationships in her past, while the male character *blanking on name* had a long time (but never shown) unfulfilled crush on the female head of the Golden Company. Is there a pattern of your mentioning relationships of major male characters but not female ones? If so, is it intentional? Or is it related to how in Paksworld it might be easy for a married man to lead a mercenary's life but not so much for a woman?
Speaking as a reader who has read most, if not all of Ms Moon's books, I would recommend that you give her SF a try and see if you like it.
I will also note that Paksenarrion is the only asexual character I recall. You might want to give Remnant Population a read for a central female character that is, IMO, nuanced, very much feminine and all kinds of awesome and quite able of kicking butts when required.
Of course, this being fiction, YMMV.
"Men and women are both human. Both genders have legitimate interests in everything that touches human lives."
Unfortunately many members of both genders are not.
It has changed a bit over my lifetime, but slowly.
At the moment male domination of the publishing industry and academia still leans heavily in sometime unconscious ways towards male writers.
It will correct itself. Just not soon enough to do the present generation much good.
In the meantime, unless a writer hits me over the head with it I'll keep reading regardless of the author's gender, race or sexual preference.
I will admit to political bias. :)
2010-09-01 04:34 pm (UTC)
Re: But being human...
It will only "correct itself" through action, and making this an *awareness*--not by hoping and wishing those in charge will change. Making a male bias go away or disappear isn't a case of using your auto spell-check and correcting misspelled words.
I always find it weird when this subject comes up when there are so many men who can not write a decent women's conversation and right now James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series comes to mind. They are absolutely terrible and painful to read when the conversation comes up. Has he never listened to his wife or the women in his family?
I thought he wasn't a very "good" writer to begin with?
And not in his defence, but as a general comment, some writers simply have a tin ear when it comes to dialogue.
About 80% of the fiction on my bookshelves is by female authors. It's a deliberate choice to send my money in that direction and use libraries for the rest. I suspect if all women did the same, there would be mass upheaval and apocalypse. Or something.
A poet complained once that if everyone who wrote poetry bought poetry books, poets could end up on the bestsellers lists. Sorry I don't remember which poet said that, but I suspect it's true.
I work and volunteer in theatres around town, and it is distressing to see how self segregated the audiences are. It's a wonderful way to learn about people who aren't yourself, and it also matters to be in a live audience, with Others who aren't like you. I've worried sometimes if it would be taken wrong to be laughing at certain things in a black play, for instance, but so very often my fellow volunteers would elbow me to share the humor. I don't think people give enough credit for the generosity of people who have a right to resent. Yes, there are angry women writers, and black writers, but even so they are glad if men or whites -- other PEOPLE -- will read and watch and share with what the writer has done.
Perhaps there's bottled up guilt in the male critics and they don't want to face it?
I don't tend to differentiate when picking up a book between male and female authors. I don't think there's any differentiator in quality.
I will confess that I tend to be a little more cautious when picking up a book by a male author with a female lead character (or vice versa). Of the only times I've noticed 'gender' as anything at all to think about in a book, it's been when this happens - I think it's a much harder challenge to the writer, and so less pull it off well.
I do think there's differences in mindset and writing style though. At the risk of over generalizing, I find male authors just a little more prone to geeking (especially in Sci-fi) and losing track of the characterisation and main narrative.
Again, it's not always the case, but ... well, either way I don't actually mind particularly - I've never really considered author gender as relevant to whether a book is good or not, although I guess I do have some expectations towards writing style.
I think I'll go back through my collection and double check those assumptions.
Yes that applies to me too.
I'm fairly sure I have more male written books than female ones - but I have, I think, more Anne McCaffrey books than books by any other writer (though both my collections of Sir Pterry and Dick Francis run her close). And in my recent buying,and definitely in my recent rereading which I think is key to what I really enjoy, I'm pretty balanced about the sex of the author and the sex of the protagonist(s). What I want is a good story - if someone (such as our esteemed hostess here) writes it I'll buy it and I won't pay attention to whether her name is Elizabeth or Edward (well OK if HER name were Edward that would be surprising but you know what I mean).
I mostly read and buy genre fiction because what I want out of a book is relaxation and enjoyment. Gritty literary works describing miserable bores leave me cold and hence are left on the bookstore racks by me. Fortunately, despite the fact that very few respectable media outlets review any sort of genre fiction, it tends to be fairly simple to find reviews of it on the Internet.
One difference I do note is that it seems to me that while female comedians are often good, I've not had much luck finding female comic writers. Or indeed, apart from Mark Twain (and recently Dave Freer), of non British comic writers. Just about all the funny writers we can all quote, from Jerome K Jerome to the aforementioned Sir PTerry, are British [PG Wodehouse, Douglas Adams being obvious others]
This is probably my lack but I'd love to know what people recommend in terms of non British male comic writing
go, elizabeth, go!
well, i wasn't able to run into the reporter in question yesterday. it's too bad. oh, well. there will be another time. :D
I didn't see anything that looked like your post, E.
My fiction shelves are (mostly) filled with female authors, with several notable exceptions. It's partly because I want to support female authors as a whole, but mostly because I find that most male authors really *don't* get what it's like being female. In general, the more a male author pats himself on the back for understanding women, the more likely it is that no, he really, really doesn't.
I think I've got every single book Robert Heinlein wrote, for instance, but OH did he ever get it wrong when he tried to write adult women. One particular comment a female character made comes to mind as an example--something about not being able to understand why any woman would prefer a dildo when there were so many live warm ones walking around attached to men.
The irony was, well, deafening.
Heh. The PLUS of a dildo is that it is not attached to a live warm man. But you knew that. :)
I prefer reading women authors over men. I do make some exceptions- I'm a big F/sf fan- but in general, I'd rather read a female author than a male one; the women are not as stupid about men as, say, Heinlein is about women.
The real key, though, is addressing women, men, and aliens from Alpha Centuri as PEOPLE. If an author is not able to describe various persons in his/her narrative as PEOPLE, they FAIL.
When I was a kid, I thought Andre Norton was a French man, probably because I was reading her military SF and there weren't any women characters. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I found out Norton was a woman, because the men really were that believable.
And yes, it is ironic that writers who invent alien races and try to protray them "realistically" fail so badly writing the opposite gender.
Damn straight. Followed a link here from Jim Hines, and I'm very glad I did. Excellent post!
(I have long wondered--while not particularly liking either of the characters--why we're supposed to consider Holden Caufield's dysfunction more serious and meaningful than Bridget Jones's.)
Excellent essay, and something that should be heard. I wish I had something constructive to say, all I can offer is that "Yet another book showing that men simply cannot cope with the emotional complexities of real life..." sounds like my mother, and if you can find a reviewer who writes like this I absolutely want a link. (I do realize that was not the point... Like I said, nothing constructive.)
Oh, and I'm also here from a link by Jim Hines.
I'm friending, if I may.
A friend of mine, Lane Robins, writes dark urban fantasy, and complains to me from time to time that reviews of the urban fantasy field ignore the women writers. She's not writing paranormal romance, she's writing a bitter, cynical gumshoe detective that happens to be a woman, which undoubtedly has something to do with it. She's not writing what women are "supposed to."
I'm sorry, I'm an idiot. She writes high fantasy as Lane Robins, but her urban fantasy is as Lyn Benedict.
You say many of the things I often do, and you do it so eloquently. Kudos on a great post.
Great post, thank you. It's frustrating to see that the glass ceiling still exists in a genre that is supposed to be forward looking and drawing attention to and questioning that trend is one of the best ways to combat it.
Excellent post. You rock.