I was going to write a follow-up of sorts to Dave’s post yesterday but just deleted it because it ranged well over the no-politics rule of the blog. Yes, I’m in that sort of a mood. It wasn’t so much brought on by Dave’s post — and if you haven’t read it already, go do so. It is, as usual, wonderful and thought provoking and it was fun reading the comments as people remembered books that helped make them who they are now.

No, it was really brought on by a facebook post I saw this morning where another author was asking why it wasn’t enough to simply write a good story, one that entertains the reader and makes them want to finish it. This writer was tired of those who identify themselves as being “literary” looking down their noses at genre writers. You know, writers who have figured out not only how to tell a story people want to read but who have also, in many cases, figured out how to add a message to their work without having to beat the reader over the head with it. Sarah and Dave manage to do so brilliantly. Kate has figured it out as well and I hope to have it figured out one day. But, for now, I’m happy with just writing stories folks want to read.

After all, isn’t that really what we’re supposed to be doing? Writing stories that entertain? If a story doesn’t entertain, folks aren’t going to read it — or at least not finish it. If they don’t read it, then what good is any message we might put into it? That message will be lost because it was never read.

But that isn’t enough for the literati, for all too many editors and, unfortunately, for the boards of too many professional organizations these days. No, you have to be socially relevant and enlightened in your writing. You have to promote what is “right” — as is defined by those who have the loudest voice. Heaven help you if you write something that might offend someone else, especially if you are a male of a certain age.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned (and I know that means I have the wrong beliefs and should probably be silenced now. Sorry, I’m a loud-mouthed woman who isn’t afraid to exercise my First Amendment rights). But I still feel that the story is the thing we should be concerned with and not the message. As I said earlier, folks won’t read the message if they don’t read the story. The corollary to this is: why is publishing in trouble? Because it forgot that readers, on the whole, read to be entertained and to forget about their troubles.

Don’t believe me, ask yourself why so many in publishing are trying to convince us that boys don’t read. Oh, I think there are those who sit in their ivory towers in NYC who actually believe that. Why? Because they look at the sales for their middle grade and YA books and see that the majority of those buying their books are girls. So, therefore, boys don’t read.

No, quite the contrary. Boys don’t read, on the whole, about sparkly vampires or angsty teen problems. They want stories that speak to them. Adventure and fun and characters they can identify with. (Sound familiar?) So they turn to other options, manga being just one of them. But the publishing powers that be fail to recognize that fact.

Then we have those publishers and editors and writers who feel that we must address all of society’s ills with our writing and “educate” our readers so there will never be any racism or sexism or any other ism they don’t approve of ever again. We saw one example of it with the Resnick/Malzberg issue involving the SFWA bulletin. Something that should have been handled in-house was taken public by a few very vocal critics and the SFWA board caving and condemning Resnick and Malzberg. Fresh on the heels of that, some of those same people who condemned Resnick and Malzberg were all over social media calling for gender swapping of characters on TV and in the movies — Dr. Who, specifically — and warning anyone who commented not to comment if they were going to offer sexist comments about how it would be against canon to swap the gender of a character who has been male previously. Funny how they never suggest switching a female role to male.

And SFWA continues to empower these folks in order to continue being “relevant”. After condemning Resnick and Malzberg, and basically forcing Jean Rabe out as editor of the bulletin, it has started looking at the SFWA twitter feed and who can post using it and what can be posted. While I agree that there needs to be a clear demarcation between official tweets of the board and tweets from the membership, it’s funny how this only happened after the vocal minority complained about an “offending” tweet.

From the SFWA announcement, the following applies to tweets for the twitter feed @SFWAauthors:

Publication and industry-related news only. Links or statuses under 140 characters. We will not edit your information for clarity; please provide all necessary information.

Racist or sexist material may be removed upon discovery. Threats or personal attacks or obvious trolling will also be grounds for removal. Repeat offenses will be subject to suspension pending investigation and possible removal from SFWA-managed feeds. We reserve the right to clarify, question or refuse any submitted material. SFWA does not endorse or promote any information contained in this feed.

Seems pretty straight-forward, right? But note that there are no attached definitions and also note the possible conflict in information. First, what constitutes racist or sexist material? After what happened with Resnick/Malzberg, I’d be especially worried about posting something that might be considered sexist. Also, it states that SFWA won’t edit tweets for “clarity”, but that sort of implies it might edit them for other purposes. Also, when it says SFWA reserves the right to clarify, does that mean to ask the poster to clarify what they meant or does that mean SFWA can “clarify” the tweet.

Yeah, I’m being picky, but when something is this poorly written as guidance, especially in light of what has been happening with the bulletin, I’d be worried about putting anything up on the feed if I were a SFWA member.

And then there’s the bulletin. If you think they overreacted with regard to the Resnick/Malzberg blowup, just wait. SFWA has suspended publication of the bulletin. Yep, that’s right, they have suspended the bulletin for a period of up to six months. They are doing this so they can “refresh” the magazine, find a new editor and — wait for it — “conduct a membership survey and consult advisors about the Bulletin and its future direction. Many aspects of the Bulletin will be discussed, including but not limited to: its format, its aesthetic, its content, its budget, and its inclusivity.”

All very pretty until you start looking at it closely and start asking questions. First, what about the non-member subscriptions? I may have missed it, but I didn’t see anything in the announcement that addressed what they will do about those folks who aren’t SFWA members but who subscribe to the bulletin. Then there’s the membership survey. Who is going to put together the survey and what questions are going to be asked? We all know how results of a survey can be skewed simply by the questions asked and the multiple choice answers provided to the responders to choose from. Unless they simply send out a questionnaire that asks “what do you want from the bulletin?” and let each responder answer on his own, the results are slanted from the get-go.

Then we get to the advisors who will be consulted. Who are these advisors? What are their qualifications for consulting on a professional bulletin, especially one aimed at the SF/F community of writers and readers? Notice how we aren’t given that information.

But what bothers me the most is the use of “inclusivity”. What does SFWA mean by this? Oh, I have a pretty good guess: they want to make sure everyone is included (as long as you aren’t a white male of a certain age and gentlemanly bent — we’ve already seen what happens then.)

Or maybe I’m just tired of the double standard many of those who condemned Resnick and Malzberg seem to hold. It’s bad to call a woman an lady and talk about how she looked in a swimsuit, but it’s just fine to post half-naked pictures of well-muscled men on your facebook page. Give me an effing break.

Or it could be that I’m just a writer and mother who is tired of being told I have to do more than entertain my readers and who should have taught my son to be ashamed of the fact he’s a male. Sorry, the latter is never going to happen and I write because I want readers to enjoy what they read, not because it has some super socially conscious message in it.

Or perhaps it’s because I believe in TANSTAAFL and wish those in their ivory towers of publishing would remember that and learn from it.

As I said a week ago, I’m a hack and proud of it.

(Welcome to everyone coming over from Instapundit. Thanks to Glenn for the link!

Also, many thanks to The Passive Voice for the link!– June 28th)


  1. The gender-flipping book covers thing they did a while back I found pretty interesting—although I would have preferred if they would have left the author’s original names. So many of the YA book covers I see are so blatantly directed towards girls/female readers that it’s amazing the publishing big wigs haven’t factored that in.
    The point you made about gender-flipping females got me thinking. What are some traditionally female characters that *could* be flipped? I keep thinking of traditional fairy tales, and, while that would be amusing, I’m not sure it would work. I personally think the new show where Sherlock Holmes is a woman is odd, but then, I’m a solid Benedict Cumberbatch fan.

    1. Oh, I liked some of the book covers. What got me was the very in-your-face comments about not posting a dissenting opinion about whether the Doctor should be female, etc. It was the “I can change canon if I want but you can’t defend canon because then it would be sexist” logic that got to me. Then there were those who demanded the gender change for the lead character but not for the supporting, female, character. In other words, let’s completely do away with a male lead in the story and further alienate male readers unless they are “enlightened”. As for Elementary, I like the female Watson. Of course, there are those who condemn it because they didn’t make Holmes female.

      1. Oh certainly, as soon as someone has a comment section but demands that “no opinion other than mine can be posted” you know you’re in trouble.
        Ah, I forgot that it was Watson that was female. I almost think that for that gender-flip to work they would both need to be female. I’m sure the female-male dynamic has its own complications that were never present in the male Holmes-Watson relationship.

        1. Most definitely. And I probably wouldn’t have the reaction to changing both characters to female from male as I do the argument that you should change the male character to male but leave the female character female.

          1. Exactly. If we’re going to get into gender-flipping it should go both ways. Can you think of an example where you’d like to see a female character changed to male? I’m drawing a blank!

              1. I had to look Anita Blake up as I was not familiar with the books! Anita could be Andy! I thought Buffy at first, actually! Then his name could just be Buff…too much?

                    1. Take all paranormal romance. Replace all female leads with males. Make any characters they are attracted to female.


                      Category A being the ones for whom this treatment makes a hash of the magic/cosmology, Category B being the ones that end up just plain creepy, Category C being the ones that simply make much more sense this way…

                    2. Category B are probably the ones that are a bit creepy to begin with! But excellent point. I hope someone does a gender-flipped Twilight parody.

                1. “Buff” is terribly unusual for a man’s name, but Biff would be close enough.

            1. Louis Lane.

              Clara Kent. Because I’ve noticed some time back that I could make the names work easily.

              Making Liberty male seems to offend my sense of egalitarianism for some reason. Maybe I should have it ‘Gentleman Liberty’ not ‘Lord Liberty’.

              1. That’s an interesting one! I guess I forgot about superheroes considering there was always (in my minor knowledge) some short-lived *insert super male here*-girl. I wonder if Becca Wayne and Richard Dawes would be a success?

  2. A while back I was Ebaying and I bougth a bunch of old books to sell. One of them was a Horatio Alger title. Now alger has been use for a cliche for 100 years or so but if the ivory tower crowd were to publish stuff like that,which expeced people to make something of themselves, I imagine boys would eat it up. Well at least the boys have Naruto.

    1. John, those book would no more get published — unless Horatio became Honoria or something similar — than most of Heinlein’s books would be published now. At least not by legacy publishers. And you are right, I think boys would eat it up. But it isn’t PC, at least not according to the vocal few who want us all to fall into line with what they think is “right”.

      1. Horatio alger is so un PC it hurts. It was a different world a century ago. In some ways a better world. But that’s straying toward politcs. Of course to the other side everything is political. Including the word “lady.”

        1. Of course the idea of kids actually learnig by doing and getting paid for it is an anethema to those who believe that kids should be kept in big buildings and indictrinated for the glory of the state.

          1. Of course.But then you forget, those who believe in the indoctrination for the glory of the state also believe that the kids shouldn’t be allowed to be kids. That’s why there isn’t recess at school anymore — at least in most districts — and why parents are making sure every waking moment of their child’s day is scheduled with some sort of activity. Heaven forfend that little junior actually go outside and play and let his imagination run wild.

            1. Hear hear: I agree with that be a child idea, but there is another side of that argument. As a teacher of high school seniors, I chuckle when I hear the argument from both parents, principals and teachers, that an 18 year old, who just can’t bring themselves to put down their I-Phone and do my work is a child, and needs to grow up. Fully developed men and women, who until not very recently in the history of our species would be well into their adult working career (boys) or married and probably working on their second child already (girls) are still children. And now they can be on their parents health insurance when they could conceivably have their PhD. (But that is another can of worms I choose not to open here)

              1. Oh, I agree with that. The flip-side is when the parents complain that their eight or ten year old won’t put down their iPhone/smartphone, the same phone their parents gave them. And yes, that 18-year old does need to grow up, but that is where they need to have some responsibilities and consequences applied; something too many parents don’t seem to think is important. At least when you include the consequences part of the equation. Unfortunately, that is also the case in too many of our school districts as well. There are too many where teachers are told not to give homework or, if they do, they can’t grade it. Then there are the districts which allow students to take tests over and over again until they get the grade they want. Who cares what this does to the teacher’s lesson plan or how it drags the rest of the class down. We mustn’t make little Johnny think he has to study and get it right the first time.

                1. As far as the retesting until they get it right thing, our district has a good policy on that. If a kid fails a test, they can come into tutoring and take a retest on the material (it does not have to be the same test) and the highest grade they can earn is a 70 (Lowest passing grade). I can see the value in this in some subjects like math and my own discipline Economics. (If they fail to demonstrate mastery of the AS/AD model, they are not going to do well on Fiscal Policy), where you need to build on prior knowledge. And the 70 is not guaranteed either. I have had irate parents call and ask why Little Johnny didn’t get a 70 on their restet and my humble reply is usually “LJ earned a 50 on the first test and a 55 on the second. LJ’s grade is a 53!

                  1. That policy makes sense. Not only is it limited in scope, there are still consequences if you don’t follow through. You can’t just keep coming back and you do have to give up time for the tutoring. I assume you also have a time limit in which a student can do the retest. the districts that don’t have such a limit and that allow constant retakes are doing none of their students a service, imo.

              2. ten years olds are still children. Eleven year olds are still children. 18 year olds are young men and women — yes, it’s arbitrary, but they are or should be old enough to get the necessity of work, etc. Well, with mine the dime dropped at around 15. That’s about normal for boys. (For girls it’s a little earlier.)

                1. 13 has pretty much been the traditional coming of ago for most western cultures. The age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah for Jews, Confirmation in the 8th grade for Catholics. Latin cultures seem to wait a bit longer, see the Quincinera (sp.) at 15 where a young lady was presented for courtship.

      1. I know. The problem is twofold. One, Japan is not the US. The Japanese culture is different and some of the outlets for things aren’t the same. Also we don’t see the manga that doesn’t rely on violence as a solution to problems because the companies that market it don’t think that it would sell. Two, there’s too much violence as a solution throughtout boys and YA these days. More importantly is that there is almost no actual problem solving.

  3. “Then we get to the advisors who will be consulted. Who are these advisors?”

    The Soviets called them “zampolit” or “politruk”.

  4. I think SFWA is going to go to the dogs. As an indie writer I could sell a million e-books and not be eligible to join. It’s kind of like requiring a PhD for hair dressers if you want to go into business for yourself. At some point a competitor for SFWA is going to come along and steal SFWA’s lunch money.

    1. I share your opinion about SFWA and am looking forward to the day when some other organization comes along that remembers it is supposed to champion writers and not kowtow to publishers or a vocal minority.

  5. I remember a pithy little piece of writing advice from long ago: “Just worry about the story. The message will take care of itself.”

    I think you’re absolutely right about the lack of middle grade and YA books geared toward boys. Even worse, whenever I bring up that point, the answer I usually get is that the problem is actually with boys for not wanting to read what’s out there now, which of course is what they *should* be reading. (Take your literary medicine, foolish boys, and enlighten up!) So I’m carefully preserving all my old Heinlein juveniles to give to my godson once he’s finally past the “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” phase. I think he’s going to need them.

    1. There seems to be quite a few adventure book series for middle school boys (like Percy Jackson and a few others) but no end of vampire romances for YA ages.

      I never have quite understood the concept of YA. I don’t think it existed when I was a teenager. You went from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, horse and sports stories, directly to the adult shelves.

      1. Do you (or anyone in the comments) know of any adventure or sf without the supernatural and paranormal elements that you can recommend for boys? I’d really like to have a range of things on hand for when the Little Guy gets older, even if it means starting to buy them up now.

        1. Almost any Heinlein.
          George O. Smith’s Venus Equilateral.
          Anything by Murray Leinster.
          Most if not all works by Lester Del Rey.
          Jerry Pournelle’s work.
          Most of Larry Niven’s work.
          Anything by Dick Francis.

          1. Thanks, Scott. Most of these authors are already in the pile, but I’d completely forgotten about Murray Leinster. Shame on me.

            I had to laugh at the Larry Niven mention, though. When I was somewhere around first grade, my mother snatched a Larry Niven novel right out of my hands after looking over my shoulder and spotting a naked woman mentioned in the text. She replaced it with my first Hardy Boys book. I was not a happy boy.

          2. Speaking as someone who got Heinlein wrong with her sons, much to my everlasting shame, watch which you give at which age. When I read them Have Spacesuit Will Travel when they were six, it was too scary. When I gave it to them again when they were 11 it was too dated. Fifth grade worked for Starship Troopers and the Star Beast, but they haven’t read anything else.

            Sharpe’s Rifles was a big hit. They were 11 or 12 when they read all of that series. Kipling’s Stalky and Co. is also a good one.

            The BBC’s Merlin series is awesome for boys of any age. It doesn’t meet the no-fantasy criteria, but Merlin and Arthur are two very inspirational, clever, brave and noble young men. They’re human, but the imperfections are charming.

            1. Ooh, ooh. I have another. Andy Weir’s The Martian. My sons just went on a high school graduation trip with some friends. It was a long car ride, and they took the audio version. They told me they all became obsessed with it. This was the cause of much rejoicing for their mother (that’s me), because they now pretty much read only fantasy, and The Martian is pure SF. The real stuff. Talk about having a lot of obstacles to overcome, the astronaut hero is inundated by Mars and its hostile environment, but he is one resilient dude. And cheerful. Despite the occasional bad language, I’d give it to a 12 year old.

            2. Sharpes’ Rifles is another good pick I’d forgotten about. And the no-fantasy criteria was just because I already have more than enough of those to choose from for him.

              1. I’m a BIG Bernard Cornwell fan – but I’d definitely recommend starting with Sharpe’s Tiger – which is the earliest adventure of the Sharpe character and is GREAT for introducing the character.

                As well you might want to try to hook your son onto Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert E. Howard – although the language might be a little antiquated for his liking.

                Another great writer for that age group and gender would be Gary Paulsen. I remember buying a copy of HATCHET for my son – at his request. I sat down and read it before giving it to him – just because I’m a book-addict – and then promptly had to run out and buy him a copy of his own because the book was too darned good to let go of. Paulsen has written a heck of a lot of books and they all have a good strong level of testosterone and stand a good chance of hooking the most reluctant and/or non-reluctant boy readers.


        2. Henry Winter. *I THINK that’s the name.* Detectives in Togas. Robert loved them when he was six/seven. (They’re targeted middle school. He was weird.)

              1. Yes. My boys liked that too, I just couldn’t remember that title. It’s been… 13 years since the YOUNGER boy read them. (And I have no brain.)

        3. When I was in my middle teens I was reading Louis L’Amour and Ian Flemming. (Westerns and James Bond.)

        4. It has a bit of a “magical” feel to it but Dave Freer’s “Without a Trace” is a great middle grade adventure book complete with a search and pirates. Who can go wrong with pirates?

        5. Here’s some more modern stuff that’s well worth checking out:
          – Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback series. This is a top notch, six volume space opera featuring a teenage boy a symbiotic noble warrior dragon. The series never did sell all that well because all the YA publishers and retailers were looking for Harry Potter knock offs, but this is one of my favorite works by Zahn. I read all six volumes to my son when he was 11 (he’s nearly 17 now) and he loved them, too. This series SHOULD be the successor to Heinlein’s juveniles, if only it had sold better.

          – Kenneth Oppell’s Airborne, Skybreaker, and a third book in the series whose title slips my mind. This is an alternate world adventure featuring airships, sky pirates, exploration, a brave and resourceful teenage boy, and a plucky teenage girl. I also read these books to my son and he loved this series, too.

        6. As a boy, I loved Jim Kjelgaard’s books, like “Big Red.” The protagonists tend to be dogs, but “real dogs” without insertion of human communication or intelligence. I’ve kept my copies to pass on to my boys… which reminds me… the oldest is probably old enough now.

          1. As a boy, I LOVED Kjelgaard’s caveman novel “Fire Hunter”. I also read his “Big Red” series – but “Fire Hunter” was the book I kept coming back to – reading and re-reading it at least once a year until the cover fell off.

        7. I really like David Weber’s Honorverse YA novels (A Beautiful Friendship) and Terry Pratchett’s “Amazing Maurice” and the Tiffany Aching books. I don’t know how they are received by boys, since they feature female protagonists, but said females paraglide, shoot guns, fight fairy queens, and generally show very good and strong character traits like discipline, obedience, perseverance, etc.

          They also make for good introductions to the authors’ main series that focus on many of the same traits.

          1. Agreed. The think I like about Weber’s Honorverse series, especially the mainstream books and the YA, is that there are characters you can care about, cheer for and boo at, no matter what gender you might be. The main characters aren’t girly girls who faint at the first sign of trouble and the guys aren’t brainless brawns. I’d love to see more like this, especially in the middle grade and YA markets.

    2. Imagine Macy’s offering only effeminate styles to its male customers, and never considering, after its business failed, that the fault was with them and not with the public.

      Education is the only business where failure is blamed on the customers.

      1. Well, publishing is going that way as well — if those darned customers would just quit going to Amazon and quit reading e-books and quit encouraging authors to write books we, the publishers, don’t want to publish. But education does beat publishing hands down in that department.

  6. I just want to take a moment and thank everyone for their “boy lit” suggestions in the comments above. They are much appreciated, whether or not I had a chance to answer your comment specifically. In a few years, the Little Guy will hopefully be thanking all of you as well.

  7. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned (and I know that means I have the wrong beliefs and should probably be silenced now. Sorry, I’m a loud-mouthed woman who isn’t afraid to exercise my First Amendment rights)”

    People really do not understand the First Amendment. It does not permit the government from stopping free speech, not individuals.

    For all the kerfuffle, I am not aware of any constitutional violations…

    1. Yep Guy, it’s not censorship but I suspect that the victims were prefer “government goons” coming after them than what they’re getting now.

      This tactic is one that has been used often by the Left. Even before they get government power, they “mob” anybody who dares say something that they don’t agree with.

      As for “constitutional violations”, I wonder what the Left could call it if Conservatives did the same thing to them.

      1. Paul, the trouble with pushing a pendulum too hard one way, is that WILL swing back. This is something the left wing have yet to figure out. And actually the awkward thing is that decent folk will find themselves called on to defend the very people who used them as punch bags. Because they ARE decent folk they’ll probably still help a bit, but I suspect the back-swing is going to be hard.

      2. “As for “constitutional violations”, I wonder what the Left could call it if Conservatives did the same thing to them.”

        Actually, they do call it a Constitutional violation; they just use the Equal Protection clause of the 14th and claim it’s a bunch of racists/sexists/whateverists violating their Civil Rights. Call the EEOC/DOJ/etc.

        Because of the penumbra that says white males aren’t equal.

    2. If you want to nit-pick, I could point out that your explanation of what the First Amendment does or does not do makes no sense. However, you’re right. This isn’t a First Amendment case and I never said it was. You simply took part of my post out of context and used it to make a point. I am a loud-mouthed woman — or broad, if you’d prefer — who isn’t afraid to exercise my First Amendment rights, even when our government is actively working to monitor, if now stop, many from doing just that. However, this isn’t the blog for that discussion.

      And no, in this “kerfluffle”, there hasn’t been any constitutional violations. What there has been is a handful of folks screaming loudly and crying about how insulted they were by basically innocuous comments by two men who have more professional cred than their detractors combined. You have the leadership of SFWA acting in a knee-jerk reaction to appease the few and silencing Resnick and Malzberg when they, apparently, had done nothing that was at the time against SFWA guidelines. And now SFWA is trying to be all to everyone and failing miserably because it has forgotten what it is supposed to do.

      Frankly, while it might not reach the levels of constitutional violations — and it doesn’t by a longshot — what SFWA has done will have a chilling effect on all its members who aren’t part of the “right thinking” group. How can you be representative of all your members when you so clearly only care about appeasing a few?

  8. I think I would bust myself laughing if representivity actually meant… representivity. You know, according to demographic proportions, politics, religion, color, gender, orientation. I don’t think I’d better hold my breath though. I suspect representivity means we demand ‘equality’ (ie. majority) space anywhere our PC heirarchy isn’t already a majority, and if it is (which is in a lot of places) this is of no further interest. It’s not about representivity, it is about dominance.

    1. You’re nicer about it than I am, Dave. If SFWA ever really becomes representative of its members, I’ll know it is a cold day in Hell. But then, I feel that way about the government most days. Shrug.

      1. If SFWA actually represented the country (after all, writers logically should come from everywhere but the very very low IQ) it would be a miricle, and powerful force. But I see I got it wrong. They’re stiving for ‘ ‘inclusivity’, which is a weasel word which lets out the hard part of representivity -which is why 2% or 10% has an equal (or rather, dominainant) voice to 98% or 90%. Include me out.

  9. I am a 62 yr old man and I will not read women authors. You ask, “Why?”.
    I am not interested in women authors style. When a female character appears in a story, the woman author has to give all the details about what the character is wearing, what the fabric is and what the colors are. For me, a female character entered the story and generally thats all I need to know.

    1. The only time I can see such detail being given is in a chick-lit book or if it has something to do with the plot. As a female reader and writer, my view is if it doesn’t have something to do with the story, it doesn’t need to be there. Of course, if the way a character looks or dresses influences how other characters treat her, then it does need to be described.

    2. While I will MENTION what someone is wearing, particularly if she’s not wearing anything which leads to difficulties doing things like stealing flying cars… (sigh) it is neither the focus of my stories nor of any interest to me as a reader. And last time I looked, my genitals were still female. (What that has to do with my writing is beyond my ken, though.) May I suggest you’re engaging in the reverse of the people who wouldn’t publish me because my writing was “insufficiently female oriented?” I mean, neither now nor then do I write with that part of my body. It can’t type.

    3. You are entitled to your opinion, sir, but I have a Ms. Elizabeth Moon on the other line, and she’d like to talk to you about a woman named Paksennarion. There was some muttering about “when I was in the Marines,” but I didn’t catch all that.

  10. Two comments:
    1. I feel boys are turning to video games rather than manga to fulfill their narrative needs.
    2. The prevalence of female YA is due to its dual market: middle school girls and middle aged women. Male YA would be read only by middle school boys.

    1. With regard to your first comment, I think it really depends on the market you’re in. If the boys have access to manga, they will drift to it. That’s especially true if they have a teacher or parent who is concerned with them reading but doesn’t try to tell them they have to read this piece of literary wonderment or another. However, those teachers — and parents, unfortunately — are all too rare. As for video games, a lot of them have great stories and character development. Better, in fact, than a lot of the crap our kids are forced to read in school.

      As for your second comment, you’re right based on what’s out in the market right now. However, if there was good middle grade and YA stuff out there for boys right now, I think we’d see a lot of the same cross-over we do with that written for girls. We’d also see the girls reading the YA for boys because most girls want a good story and don’t necessarily want angsty vampires that sparkle. Frankly, we just need good stories with exciting and interesting plots that speak to everyone instead of just marketing to one segment of the market.

  11. Double down on the “write an entertaining story, the lessons will follow” line. Had a pretty good English teacher in HS who laid out the environment of the Globe that Shakespeare was working in as well as where England was. Seemed pretty clear to me that Will was writing for us plebians in the cheap seats. The academic types threw in all the high-brow literature-ness later on. I guessed Will was just happy to put food on the table and a play on the stage. Today I can draw themes out of pretty much any manga/anime my kids read/watch. Doubt it’s there, but doesn’t matter – I can back it up and the kids think about it.

    1. Oh, yeah, Shakespeare was one of us hacks. The other part is that my engineering oriented son became fascinated by Shakespeare because of the … machinery of theater in those days. Then he compared it to the machinery of Greek theater. Then he started learning Greek… He’s still going to be a mechanical engineer (slated to finish in two years, at 20, if the creek don’t rise) but he has a broad and interesting set of interests and knows Shakespeare, is trying to translate the Iliad in his free time, and generally… well… none of it thanks to public school which told me he’d never read above 2nd grade. Because he really wasn’t interested in the indoctrination.

  12. Whoever writes a good english language boys novel in the same vein as One Piece, Beelzebub, Mahou Sensei Negima, etcetera, will end up with J. K. Rowling’s money.

    They’ll be crucified by the New York Times for encouraging doubleplus badthink in boys, but can comfort themselves with Everest size piles of money.

    1. Yep and, for me at least, I could get a lot of comfort from that sort of a pile of cash — especially since it would allow me to continue writing books boys want to read.

      1. Some of the best shounen mangaka are women; Kekkaishi, Ao no Exorcist, D.Gray-man, Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn, Aria the Natural, Tactics, Again!!, etcetera.
        Rumiko Takahashi, who pretty much only writes shounen, is the wealthiest women in Japan.

    2. In Japan, there is a branch of literature called “Light Novels” that are targeted toward middle and high schoolers. Typically you will have a lot of overlap between light novels, manga, and anime. If a particular series is popular in one media form, it will be eventually released in the other two.

      1. But the Light Novels market is aimed more at teens and otaku, and are often heavy on harem romance (another huge untapped market in N.America.
        Younger boys would probably prefer more classic shounen as exemplified in leading Shounen Jump titles.

  13. I wanted to direct your attention a series that I have followed from the beginning: Matt Archer, Monster Hunter. It is YA Urban Fantasy with a male protagonist. There are a lot of reasons that I like the series, they are fast paced, well-written, and exciting, but I really enjoy how it shows males (and even males in the US Military) as positive characters.

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