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Here’s a Clue-by-Four

Blue dress at LibertyCon

Cedar Sanderson, Lady Writer
Photo by Leon Jester

I had occasion this last week to write the following letter. 

“Oddly enough, I have always thought of all the genres, SF/F was perhaps the most inclusive of them all. Where else could you find characters like Keith Laumer’s Billy Danger, or gender-swapping brought to a casual assuredness like Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love?

However, I am acutely aware that because I am the wrong skin color (actually, due to a skin condition, I’m two colors, but that’s irrelevant) my opinion is not sought, and in fact, speaking on this in public is likely to get me pilloried in effigy.

The internet’s greatest gift – pure anonymity – is being discarded in a pell-mell rush to belong to the ‘right’ groups, saying the ‘right’ things. We are in an era where skin color, background, heritable traits, they have all become irrelevant. It no longer matters if we are gendered, non-gendered, or an alien from arcturus, on the internet we could be anything at all. That is diversity. Not whether a person is colored, transparent, or of any sexual inclination whatsoever. By ceasing to allow that anonymity, the so-called “inclusive’ movement is in fact forcing a spotlight to be shown onto the traits they said a generation ago should no longer matter.

So, are we equal, or are some ‘more equal’ than others?

I for one will not accept notice simply for my phenotype, or what is between my walking limbs. ”

I have been tempted more than once to remove all photos of myself from the internet (challenging, considering how public I have been for over a decade now!) and, having an unusual name, to just pretend I am colorless, genderless, and fade into the background… Only I can do that, now, with the internet to keep my secrets. So can you, should you so choose… When was the last time you picked up a book by an unknown author and glanced at the back or inside the cover to see what color or sex the author was? I don’t believe I have ever done that, and my First Reader just raises an eyebrow when I ask.

Something the two of us have talked about with all seriousness is publishing my work under his name. Why not a penname? Well, he’s a convenient ‘beard’ (heh, heh! he’s got a nice beard) for appearances at cons and signings. We suspect that as male readers are trying to avoid message fic, they are more likely to trust a male name to deliver the goods, rather than a feminine. The feedback on the sexy lady on Pixie Noir’s cover surprised us both with the vehemence of it being “oh, it’s a girl.”

You see, we have noticed there is a pendulum effect, and a push-back, happening with all the harping on women in the industry. Rather than letting stories stand on merit, works are being recognized for their ‘message’ or for being written by the minority-du-jour. Readers are beginning to cue in on this, and to avoid certain clues when they shop for a book. And one of those, I found when I published Pixie Noir, is a hint of either “strong female character” or female writer. Not because they think either is a bad thing. No, because they associate both of those with message fiction, and like a puppy who has had his nose rubbed in a steaming pile (more than once!) they aren’t going to make that mistake again.

Why is this a bad thing? Because it may be that women are actually destroying genre fiction. There are a plethora of strong women writers who produce excellent, readable, thoughtful books that I will seek out in a heartbeat. Sarah Hoyt, Lois McMaster Bujold, Amanda Green, Kate Paulk, Pam Uphoff, CJ Cherryh, Dana Stabenow, Andre Norton, Catherine Asaro, Anne McCaffrey (Earlier works), Tanya Huff… I could go on for a quite a while. Talking about this in an online group, David Pascoe brought up a very good point. Are there authors you trust enough to read no matter what, even if there is some message in what they write? I think perhaps that as long as the story is outweighing the message, it is readable. When it becomes ponderously, obviously, promoting a certain social viewpoint, even if it is one I don’t necessarily disagree with, it is unpleasant to read. Women who seek notoriety based only on their femaleness betray those of us who only want to work hard, earn our money with words, and not grind men under our pointy heels.

So what’s a girl to do, when her sex has betrayed her into being typecast as a villain? Well, this one is shrugging, styling herself as feminine and lady-like, and striding confidently forward. Online, it’s the story that matters. At cons or appearances, I have a certain appearance I have chosen to project, and I plan to continue that. Will I publish my planned Mil-SF or hard SF under his name rather than my own? I don’t know yet. I’ll keep monitoring the wave of repulsion as it shudders through readers assailed by the latest ranks of glittery-hoo-haas, and when it peaks, then maybe I’ll go under cover. But I really hope not. Not all women are like that, some of us are competent, professional, and worried more about telling a ripping good yarn than whether they are putting out the right message.

Personally, I’m very fond of men. I demand equality, yes, but I don’t demand he lick my boots. I do appreciate that he puts me on a pedestal, but I don’t demand he avert his gaze, nor claim that I feel threatened when I catch him looking at me. Sadly, those who are vocally waspish are the ones on parade, in all their freakish glory right now, but perhaps in time we who are feminine and glory in it can regain our rightful places, as equals, who earn our laurels. I would not take something simply because I am female, I want to earn it, dammit!

I refuse to apologize for the actions of those who share my gender, but I do hope that those whom they malign and cast out will be assured that not all are that short-sighted and ill-mannered. Oh, and to make it clear? I’m well aware that not all feminists are of my gender, but I’m lumping them all into a bundle for the sake of brevity in this post. You’re destroying something, all right, and it might well cause a backlash you haven’t bothered to think about, that will take the innocent along with the guilty.

As always, the Lady Writer

122 Comments
  1. You’re up early. Good for me, it’s early afternoon here and most times I have to wait well into evening before anything starts to happen. And then you guys have most of the conversations when I’m either sleeping or at work. 🙂

    With the stories I have written so far I’m mostly worried about the advertising effect when it comes to what I write, and the name I write under. Woman writer, and two of the three novels with women protagonists, pretty traditional fantasy, and I suppose they might catch the eyes of precisely those readers who want the ‘strong’ women – only neither of these protagonists is a warrior in the Red Sonja way (and worse, one is pretty close to the traditional damsel in distress character – I wanted to look at a traditional Conan type of story from the point of view of the girl) and it seems that can be a sin now. So, am I likely to get most tries from those people who want something I’m not offering? And perhaps those readers who might like them will avoid them because they assume they are going to get more of the Strong Womyn Who Need No Men stories.

    What would be the best way to brand, today, so it can reach the right audience? Especially when you are a Lady Writer? (Hey, I do have the SCA title, and I am a writer, so…).

    Because the glittery hoo-ha writers have given an unfair advantage to men in this category, right now, haven’t they? Might be a bit easier to get noticed by right audience if one was something like an ex-soldier with a very manly name… *grumbles*

    Now would that count as irony?

    February 15, 2014
    • I defy writerly stereotypes and am a morning person. 🙂

      As for branding as a Lady Writer (which is a title I think should be adopted widely. As Brad Torgerson informed me recently, it has a certain elegance to it. And take that, Lady Editor haters! LOL). I don’t know yet, I’m feeling my way into it. I do know I’m getting really nice comments and reviews from fans of Pixie Noir for having a strong male character who is the equal of his strong female. They seem to like having a guy who is allowed to be a guy, not a female in drag. I think there’s more of an audience out there for this sort of thing than they want you to know about.

      And yeah, my First Reader who may become my beard is a very manly ex-soldier… it is unfair, and it’s the result of bullying, which makes me angry.

      February 15, 2014
      • We need a way to signal “Female writer, loves manly male characters.” Maybe an icon we can put on the cover?

        I look at my stuff and wonder how many mixed signals I’m giving out. I didn’t mean that when I wrote it. I was extrapolating from the gender divide ten years ago to create two ridiculous extremes, peopled by men and women who keep falling in love with each other. And having adventures.

        February 15, 2014
        • I think what I’ve read in your work is that attempting to force human nature to unnatural extremes will eventually fail… people like to exist in pairs!

          February 15, 2014
        • I think “loves manly characters” is part of the slow-spreading group identification of human wave.

          February 15, 2014
          • TXRed #

            “And I love manly characters, well-behaved Labradors, hiking, hunting, reading at home, and long walks through the gun show (because they are so crowded you can’t get anywhere fast!)”

            February 15, 2014
          • Christopher M. Chupik #

            On a related note:

            http://paulskemp.com/blog/why-i-write-masculine-stories/

            Yes, he identifies as a Democrat, but I can forgive it in this case. 😉

            February 15, 2014
          • Laura M #

            You bet!

            February 15, 2014
        • mobiuswolf #

          Yes! An icon. the word escaped me.

          February 15, 2014
    • mobiuswolf #

      Maybe we need a brand that signifies NoGlitteryHooHaw? What comes to mind is something like the ghostbuster symbol but that might be a little too much.

      February 15, 2014
      • lonejanitor #

        Already have a brand that says that, it’s “Baen”. Might need a more open-source one, I guess.

        February 15, 2014
        • I think that is being attempted with Human Wave, although how in heck we’d icon for that I’m not sure…

          February 16, 2014
          • If I might borrow from Dark Star, Human Wave as an Icon could be symbolized by a guy in a spacesuit surfing…. Whether that’s a ladder through the flames of re-entry or a regular wave, depends on the artist, I imagine.

            February 16, 2014
            • mobiuswolf #

              Hey, that’s pretty good.

              February 16, 2014
            • Laura M #

              I like this. Could he be in a sleekly silver, form-fitting spacesuit like the ones John Varley described for, IIRC, Venus? Hmmm. Now he sounds like the Silver Surfer. Maybe something between that and a bulky NASA suit. Earth in the background? Kind of a heroic deco look.

              February 17, 2014
        • sanfordbegley #

          If you took Baen’s entire annual out put and put it in one bundle it would occupy many here for a week, more for a month, few for the entire year. Human Wave is needed to fill that shortfall if nothing else. Add to that the fact that some Baen authors are more readable than others… I have one Baen author who’s non-fic I love. I cannot read his fiction. Not because it isn’t well written, it is. But because his truths hit me right in the blood pressure. So we meed more. Don’t try and tell me that Baen is enough 😉

          February 16, 2014
    • I (a sample size of one) look at: The cover/title; the author (do I know of them); the cover blurb last. If all else fails, I open in the middle at random, and read a para or two.

      February 15, 2014
      • It’s like me and history books. 1) Read blurb/flyleaf. 2) Look at author bio just to see if they have any experience in the field. 3) If I’m familiar with the topic, look through the notes and bib to see what’s there. 4) Sample the intro and maybe a chapter. I don’t care if the author is green with orange spots, male, female, or all-of-the-above.

        February 16, 2014
  2. You can’t fight a stereotype by hiding from it. If the stereotype of “shrill female writer” is taking hold, you can only fight it by being a non-shrill female writer. Pretending to be male lets the stereotype stand unchallenged. I’m glad you’re not doing that.

    February 15, 2014
    • Thank you, that’s encouraging to hear!

      February 15, 2014
    • I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, the best way to fight a stereotype is to charge right at it. It might surprise some that the harpies and viragoes of the glittering hoo-has (I LOVE that phrase!) have not just recently come to their virulent and vituperative ways — Alinsky Rules of argumentation — they have always been That Way.

      They used to call Men who Love Women and Don’t Care Who Knows Male Chauvinist Pigs. It was a relatively harmless appellation — more of an affectionate nickname than anything else. It was quickly learned that those on the Left have no honor and refuse to play by any rules and that there was no point in protesting their moral graffiti. And that the best way to combat being called a MCP was to loudly and proudly assert, “Damned right! And proud of it, too!” even though the assertion of MCP status was demonstrably false.

      It’s the resistance, the defensiveness that gives them the movement termagants their power over the dialectic. If you plunge at them headlong, they have to backpedal or risk looking foolish. Sort of like throwing a mighty buffet that doesn’t land. One looks like Tigger done a face plant among the ferns.

      Anyway, scrapping with that lot should not be seen as a matter of life-and-death in any arena, but as something you do for fun, because they look so funny rocking back on their heels. Write as you please and — as Sarah put it yesterday — shame the bitches.

      February 15, 2014
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        As Great Captains go, I have no particular feelings for Napoleon. Plus, I’ve grave doubts about having that much confidence in any human. So I’m not a fan of Chauvin.

        February 15, 2014
  3. Martin L. Shoemaker #

    Mind you, you’re not obligated to fight the stereotype, especially if that hurts your sales. No one could blame you for boosting your sales. But you’re admired for doing so.

    February 15, 2014
    • I still haven’t decided. It will be a year at least, before any of the ‘hard stuff’ is ready to launch, and the market is volatile at best right now. Pixie is selling well, and Trickster Noir will be out in a couple of months to boost my Fantasy fans. *shrug* I’m still learning.

      February 15, 2014
      • We are all learning. It would be easier if they’d stop moving the field. I think establishing yourself as Not-a-man-hater can only help your sales of hard SF.

        February 15, 2014
        • That, and finishing the Mad Scientist training. Which I am enjoying, even if it does eat my life.

          February 15, 2014
      • Synova #

        There’s the option of listing as co-authors instead of just using his name.

        February 15, 2014
        • sanfordbegley #

          We decided not to do that with Pixie Noir. There are sound business reasons why that doesn’t work well

          February 15, 2014
          • Please expand on the business reasons for not listing as a co-author.

            February 15, 2014
            • sanfordbegley #

              First there was the fact that Cedar had some name recognition, i had none. People looking at collaborations look for a senior writer and a junior writer, neither of us could qualify as senior for obvious reasons. Then there is the perception by many that collaborative works suffer the faults of both writers.Despite the many who did their best works as a team.. the biggest reason was that experienced people in the field told us not to.. Another factor, which should never apply to us, is credit and ownership should we split for some reason. Add to that the fact that half the people looking for more by us would look under Sanderson, the other half would look under Begley. Another fillip was that, while I made contributions, I did not feel that I truly rose to co-author level contribution. Cedar felt otherwise and well, my vanity would like to believe so.This just touches on the high points, of course but, I think it enough to show our reasonong

              February 15, 2014
              • Thank you.

                February 15, 2014
                • Sean #

                  then of course there’s the folks who write as a team and then when they finally admit it by putting the dual byline on the cover {like David and Leigh Eddings did in the mid to late 90’s} people act all shocked and shaken and spazzed out and shit.

                  February 19, 2014
                  • If we ever put his name with mine on teh cover, anyone who pays attention to the front matter (acknowledgements) will know who he is 😀

                    February 19, 2014
            • With Trickster Noir Sanford and I didn’t work quite as closely, but he was still reading it as I wrote it – I send him every thousand words or so as an email, and he reads and lets me know if I’m on the right track when I’m stuck. This is why I call him First Reader online. Pixie is in many ways the book it is because of him – my ‘male voice’ was decidedly more feminine without his help.

              I’m thinking I’ll do a blog on silent partners soon!

              February 15, 2014
              • Ah, silent partners. I’d have to be silent to be that… 😛

                Hey, Sanford! Thanks for all the help you’ve given Cedar!

                February 15, 2014
                • Silent on the book covers? He’s not exactly silent, either!

                  February 16, 2014
    • Ah, but I think it depends on how you fight. Certainly, years of hiding in the closet for fear of leftist displeasure have not made near the positive impact on sales for many an author as, say, the cheerful and bellicose engagement of Larry’s style.

      February 15, 2014
      • While I enjoy reading his “cheerful and bellicose” arguments, and even more, his books, I haven’t got the abilities to fight back like that. So I’ll just flaunt what I’ve got!

        February 15, 2014
        • And what you got is impressive! I mean, solidly built worlds, engaging characters, unexpected plot twists…. 😀

          Okay, so you, I, Calmer Half, and First Reader are part of the armed masses charging behind Larry on his white horse, but together, we’re impressive!

          February 15, 2014
          • Yes, we are! And we’re not alone, I keep finding more riding with us… Ok, now I’m going to be thinking about horses all day. I used to ride, but I was a lot younger and much smaller.

            February 15, 2014
            • The only time I ever rode, I was given a horse that didn’t like me. I got on top, and then the saddle decided it wanted to be on the horse’s belly instead, and I was back on the ground. Despite assurances that it was a “placid, gentle” creature, it headed for every low-hanging branch instead of following the horses ahead, and then when we got to a hillside meadow, it decided to lay down on top of me. I dismounted just like it was a bike that had gotten knocked out from under me, and have refused to get on the malevolent, willfull, large stinky things since.

              Sadly, this does mean I completely fail to connect with the “horse-crazy” phase that many young ladies go through. While I’ve considered giving the species a second chance, it holds all the appeal of eating lutefisk so I can have the cultural experience.

              February 15, 2014
              • Heh. One time I went riding with a friend I asked for the most placid animal they had at that stable, and got one who would stop to eat the hedges and everything else and not move in spite of anything I tried until he saw that the other horses were getting out of sight, when he’d make a mad dash after them (and since I’m not at all a good rider – I have never been able to ride regularly so have never gotten past the ‘knows some basics’ point – I nearly fell at that point). Rinse and repeat. A rather stressful ride.

                The next day I asked for something a bit livelier, got a lovely young animal who responded very well even to my aids and I had not problems with that one. 🙂

                February 15, 2014
              • BobtheRegisterredFool #

                Well, I’ve got to admit that I never had the grasp of body language for horses and such to really work for me. They are large animals that I have no confidence in my ability to predict or influence.

                I also remember being put on a horse and not enjoying it.

                Obviously I’m just an effete urbanite with no taste for the outdoors.

                February 15, 2014
  4. I’m tempted to start classifying myself as African-American. After all, I was born and raised in Africa (which makes me more African than 99% of so-called ‘African-Americans’ right there), and I now live in America. Why not?

    (Perhaps I should try to join the NAACP, if only to see the heads explode . . . )

    🙂

    February 15, 2014
    • Yes, you are more African than they are, and the whole thing is ridiculous. Sigh. Not that they care, as long as they can have their pigeon-holes.

      February 15, 2014
    • That is one of those head-explodey questions all right. I have seen several complaints here about calling those of us who descent from the people who have lived in this part of the world for hundreds or thousands of years as ethnic this or that. It seems calling somebody ethnic Norwegian, or ethnic Swede, or ethnic Finn, is unfair to immigrants since it implies that they can never really become Norwegians or Swedes or Finns – everyone who is a citizen has the right to be just a Norwegian or a Swede or a Finn (Swedes seem to be a bit more shrill about this than some of the neighbors), but the natives have no right to point out in any way that they are, indeed, natives, with a distinct culture which has evolved here, and with distinct DNA markers too.

      But on the other hand these exact same people, yes, they _do_ complain if a white person from Africa dares to call himself African because it seems that label is the private property of those people who come with a certain skin color. And there it doesn’t matter how long the ‘right’ Africans and their ancestors may have lived somewhere else than Africa, as long as they look right that’s what they are.

      Logical. Not.

      February 15, 2014
      • rawlenyanzi #

        Race-mixing will play havoc with affirmative action.

        February 17, 2014
        • And that’s all to the good. Everyone performs better when not smothered in the expectations of people who think they’re inferior, right?

          February 17, 2014
          • rawlenyanzi #

            Absolutely.

            February 17, 2014
    • Mark Alger #

      I’m a native American. I was born in Boston and baptized in the Old North Church. Ten Generations of Millens, and Algers and Carters going back to the Mayflower. You don’t get much more native-born than that.

      February 15, 2014
      • Heh, I have Mayflower ancestors too, Issac Allerton and Fear Brewster. We visited the Plymouth Plantation re-creation once and actually met someone role-playing Fear. (What kind of name is that for a young woman?)

        February 16, 2014
        • Tom #

          It sounds like we’re related then, since I’m decended from an Allerton from the Mayflower and from William Brewster as well.

          And I’m a Georgia boy. Ain’t that a kick in the pants 🙂

          February 19, 2014
          • Wild. I don’t have the full genealogy, just some sketchy info from my folks. (somewhere the Ellis’s for whom the famous island is named are in there). Wonder if the ADD is connected too.

            February 19, 2014
    • rawlenyanzi #

      I’m tempted to start classifying myself as African-American.

      Do it. That would be funny as hell — after all, you very much count.

      February 17, 2014
  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Another traitor to your sex. [Evil Grin]

    You’re in good company. [Smile]

    February 15, 2014
  6. Scott #

    Don’t go under cover ladies it’ll just give the field to the harpies.
    All new authors are tested out from the library before I’ll plump down cash. I’ve been bitten once to often by sales pitches that turn out to be message mush.
    Tell a ripping good tale and you will go on the buy everything this author writes list.

    February 15, 2014
    • I’ll keep working on the tales, then! Thanks!

      February 15, 2014
  7. Kate Paulk #

    I’m Australian. I can’t be a lady writer. I don’t ‘do’ lady.

    I guess I’ll have to settle for just being a writer 🙂

    February 15, 2014
    • Will the appellation Wench Writer work for you, Kate? 😀

      February 15, 2014
      • And there it is! The first coffee-snort out my nose of the morning!

        “Wench Writer”… Wish I’d come up with that… 🙂

        February 15, 2014
        • LOL! I’m rather proud of myself for having made you snort. But really, knowing Kate, it was an easy choice. 😉

          February 15, 2014
          • Yes, but Winch Wench Writer might be over the top. Though often accurate.

            February 15, 2014
      • TXRed #

        Ow, Dr. Pepper nose, ow.
        OK, now I have this vision of us Human Wave lady writers appearing en mass at a Con in variations of RenFest “wench wear.” Hmmmm, raid in force on WisCon? *eeeeevil grin*

        February 15, 2014
        • I have owned a few of those outfits. Of course I was nearly a couple of decades younger when I used them, but… well, they were surprisingly comfortable, for one thing, if you discount having to, from time to time, remove all sorts of stuff from the cleavage. 🙂

          Oh well. Distance. Damn.

          February 15, 2014
          • That’s why I like dirndles. Depending on the region, they can be quite, ahem, uplifting. But they are always comfortable.

            February 15, 2014
            • sanfordbegley #

              I’m a big believer in “uplift”

              February 15, 2014
        • I own three corsets, but all princess styles, as they are meant for performing and must be family friendly. But the blue dress… ah, yes, that one is fun to see the reactions to.

          February 15, 2014
    • Martin L. Shoemaker #

      Depends on your definition. I like the definition from “Blast from the Past”:

      Troy: He thinks I’m a gentleman and you’re a lady.

      Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don’t even know what a lady is.

      Troy: I know, I mean I thought a “gentleman” was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.

      Eve: Where do you think he got all that information?

      Troy: From the oddest place – his parents. I mean, I don’t think I got that memo from mine

      February 15, 2014
  8. “Are there authors you trust enough to read no matter what, even if there is some message in what they write?”

    Ken MacLeod. He’s an avowed socialist, and it clearly shows up sympathetically in his novels (at least the ones I’ve read so far), but the stories and characters are so fantastic, any “message” has never once bothered me. (“Yeah, okay, I disagree with that. Now, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!”)

    February 15, 2014
    • “Yeah, okay, I disagree with that. Now, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!”

      This is the key, really. I know there are people out there who will disagree with me on a lot of things, and I have to deal with a real world full of ’em. I’ve got plenty of practice that way, so seeing such in a fictional setting doesn’t exactly phase me. It’s when the pieces of propaganda are foundational societal elements that don’t seem to be there except to preach a message at me that I things get a little hinky. Forex, the cultural abhorrence of animal proteins in McCaffrey’s Federated Sentient Planets was always a piece that felt extremely weird. I recall (it’s been years) a justification along the lines of, “well, who knows what the next sentient you meet will look like, so plants’re better, mkay?” Which never sat well with this meat-loving omnivore. At the same time, while it was a fixture, the story was still good enough – generally: as I said, I haven’t read ’em in years – to keep me reading at the time.

      February 15, 2014
      • _I_ think the “vegetarianism” was to anchor a major plot line. The inherent conflict between the need for protein, and just plain needing food.

        February 15, 2014
      • Is that the setting of Sassinack? Once I hit that one, well, I didn’t launch the book at the wall, but I did launch it at a second hand store. And I RARELY part with books.

        February 16, 2014
  9. robfornow #

    Since I have started thinking about self publishing because of the ‘Hoo Hah’ fractious stuff. Nothing encourages someone to do something until you get a conflict started. One should show their colors, what side are you on? I’ve came up with my own version. Since I don’t have anything in print, it is more of an suggestion than stone scribble. The real question is “Is the story ‘Entertainment’ or ‘Message’?” Sort of a bio with “Robert is an entertainment writer with no desire to change the world. Maybe a bias here or there, but, the whole purpose of his writing is to give his readers an enjoyable lapse from reality.” On Amazon, the bio is right out in front, the lines are drawn and the colors are presented. If you read the bio of the present SFWA President, you know full well he is a ‘message writer’ just by his self description. Perhaps, we could come up with a standard ‘quote’ to be known by. Like people see the Baen logo, and pick it up before reading the name.

    February 15, 2014
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Ideologically, I favor entertainment writing. My last attempt has two rounds of trying to edit out heavy handed message and incomprehensible artiness, and I’ve grave doubts that I succeeded. Ah well, if I get to a million words of creative writing and am still that way, then I may have a problem.

      February 15, 2014
  10. Hi, I’m Sarah A. Hoyt, and I’m a Lady Writer. Okay, stop snorting. BEING a lady doesn’t mean I can’t scream in the public square, like a fishwife. Only that when I do it, I do it well.

    February 15, 2014
    • That kind of sounds like the opening part of an AA meeting speech. Maybe you should add something like ‘unrepentant’ before ‘Lady Writer’?

      February 15, 2014
    • And with style.

      February 15, 2014
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      And I look forward to the day you can add “Lady Editor” to your titles.

      February 15, 2014
      • I have edited an anthology. I just hate doing it.

        February 15, 2014
        • Christopher M. Chupik #

          Careful, if you do a good job with it, they’ll want you to do it again.

          February 15, 2014
          • Fortunately my husband is a Gentleman Editor and better than I.

            February 15, 2014
  11. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    Wait, all those are women?

    I somehow never realized that!

    My misogyny compels me to never read anything by a woman.

    Does anyone know when the E-Arc for Hodgell’s Sea of Time comes out?

    February 15, 2014
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      Uh, Bob, I hate to tell you, but . . . 😉

      February 15, 2014
  12. Synova #

    My mind is boggling a bit wondering what occasion would prompt that letter. It doesn’t take much to prompt an internet rant, but letters are something different.

    I do agree that this is the way it will play-out, however. Making a big deal about categories *makes* a big deal about categories. Insisting that women writers write women’s special insight puts more weight on categories of people and more space between them. The same is true for any other group… here in New Mexico – Hispanic writers, or native american writers (indigenous american?), or any other ethnic group, or any of the other “diversities” we’re supposed to recognize. “The author is Hispanic” quickly becomes “the author writes Hispanic fiction,” because those supposedly promoting inclusion of everyone have created a consensus fiction that your identity is the most important part of your work.

    Bottom line, you’re limiting your market… on purpose…

    I won’t insist that there is no academic usefulness in studying the literature of people divided into groups… a class on Navaho Poetry would be fascinating, but “academic” is an even smaller market than the others.

    People read in order, mostly, to read about people different from themselves, in different situations, living in different places and different life-styles than they do… and not just in the SF/F genre. That being true, and it is, what’s up?

    What’s up is that the whole… process… of taking all those differences and presenting them as relatable to the general human condition… so that a country girl scandi chick like myself will happily identify with and imagine herself a male, black, urban private detective… and not think twice…

    We throw that away. We limit what people are allowed to write, if they don’t “match” what they write, and we insist that anything written by someone reflect their demographic check-list, that women write *about* being a woman, and black men write *about* being black, and Hispanics are limited to “Hispanic” fiction. How does anyone think that demanding matches in those areas between the author and the story will not also end up demanding matches with the audience? If a white woman can’t write about a black detective, how can a white woman want to read about a black detective?

    And if women have to write about being a woman, why would a man read anything we write? It hasn’t, after all, anything to do with *him*.

    February 15, 2014
    • Give her a gun. Or a knife. Or hell, a genuine problem: I can relate to that. But make it weird, because I don’t want to deal with that much reality when I’m looking for escape.

      February 15, 2014
    • robfornow #

      Which puts Tony Hillerman in an unique position. (I know dead and his white daughter is writing the sequels, before someone makes a joke) But, the interesting thing was that the Navajo have honored him for it.

      February 15, 2014
      • It was because TH (and daughter I presume) made the Navajo culture an integral part of the story. Take away the culture, and you have a lace, not a fabric.

        February 15, 2014
        • robfornow #

          Exactly my point- substance, not diversity glitter. If his work had the SF/F label, the SFWA would be treating him like Heinlein.

          February 15, 2014
    • Oh yeah. It’s like the people who are surprised that I don’t “do” women’s history just because I’m a woman.

      February 15, 2014
      • Synova #

        Yes, that. Exactly that.

        You see… rather than doing history for everyone, you’re supposed to do history for women… cut your target audience in half. Because limiting your audience is promoting diversity. (eye roll)

        Stay in your corner, Tex!

        Step number two is what Cedar said – people will expect that a women isn’t writing anything of universal interest and will be less likely to pick up a book with a female name on the cover.

        And we’re back at using male pseudonyms again. Yay.

        What goes good with Pascal… Julian is male but perhaps not rugged. Blake Pascal? Hm… gonna have to start a list of possibles.

        February 15, 2014
        • I may try “Butch” just because it is so wrong, anyway you look at it.

          February 17, 2014
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      I’m a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. I’ve read exactly *one* series that had a Ukrainian-Canadian among the characters. Does this bother me? Not at all.

      February 15, 2014
    • The letter was in response to an editor decreeing that a certain SF fanzine must have a “Diversity Council” and although he has since backtracked, that was my initial response to him, and then I expanded for the purposes of this post.

      Oddly, I discovered as I was writing this that I was very emotional about it. It’s been pressing on me, but I didn’t know that until I started writing it out. I’m glad I did, and I will be exploring it further in times to come, I suspect.

      February 15, 2014
    • “People read in order, mostly, to read about people different from themselves, ” Tell that to the Diversity Commandos who insist that fiction isn’t any good unless it includes “People like them”

      February 16, 2014
  13. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Synova, if a man doesn’t read stuff written by a woman author, he’s sexist, but if a woman doesn’t read stuff written by a male author, that’s OK. [Sad Smile]

    February 15, 2014
    • Yes, and there in a nutshell is a big part of the problem. We are alienating half of the people. 😦

      February 15, 2014
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        Hollywood does that routinely. They go out of their way to do it, in fact. And then wonder why box office is down.

        February 15, 2014
  14. mobiuswolf #

    I’m definitely reluctant to read any female writers with whom I’m unfamiliar, for the reasons you state.

    February 15, 2014
  15. sanfordbegley #

    I love a great many women who write, those mentioned above plus many in other fields. I hate and despise Women writers, the same as I hate Christian politicians. If your Subgroup is more important than your job, you don’t deserve the job. Plus I remember when there was a western section in every bookstore. Romance writers going into Westerns to broaden their audience killed that field dead.

    February 15, 2014
    • Which in itself is odd (not that I disagree with you) because there were often strong romance themes in Louis L’Amour books, and always – in every one I can think of in Zane Grey. I have a large collection of the former, and few of the latter. There are a few largely from a female POV – Ride the River, and The Cherokee Trail come to mind. So: the idea that men won’t read something with a female POV or with a romance in it are demonstrably false. What they wouldn’t read was 99% feelings, 1% often badly informed local knowledge and very little ‘story’. There is of course no reason why women can’t write Westerns popular with male readers- but they have to write them like westerns, not ‘literature’ or ‘romance’ and for heaven’s sake keep the message to a minimum. If they want message they’ll go to a sermon or a political broadcast, or maybe a East Anglia Climate ‘Science’ course.

      February 15, 2014
      • sanfordbegley #

        Well yes but, the romance writers didn’t want to tell a story that included romance, they wanted throbbing bodies and horsie lust. They didn’t write westerns they wrote romances with cowboys. I love Lois McMasters-Bujold, and A civil campaign was a wonderful book but, I have railed against it many times because I don’t want CF destroyed as well. The SFWa types seem to have that as their goal

        February 15, 2014
        • I’d hit the “Like” button here…but I can’t seem to find it.

          February 16, 2014
  16. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    You are going to try and tell me that Jame is female aren’t you? What next, is Joan Aiken suddenly somehow a woman now?

    Grins, ducks, and runs away.

    February 15, 2014
  17. Y’know, I need to hang out here more often. I’ve always aspired to be that “singular anomaly, the lady novelist.” I’m kinda annoyed that now that I’ve achieved it, glittering hoohas are dissing the title. I’m pleased as punch that half the time anyone buys my book (on alternate leap years, apparently), at least I’m in good company–a string of Sarah Hoyt covers show up in the “people who bought this also bought…” column. I’m a fan of manly men…And just yesterday, I used the Animal Farm reference in a discussion of the SFWA meltdown on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade FB Page–also expecting to be widely pilloried. (I was surprised to find I garnered a couple of “likes,” so maybe there’s hope yet.) I grew up reading Louis L’Amour–where the story was about the gun, the horse, and the girl, pretty much in that order. But perhaps you might also remember his character Em Talon, 5’11″ in her stocking feet, and a better shot than her brothers. I read through the posts and comments and nod and smile, rather than reach for my blood pressure medicine. I had no idea that all this meant I’m a Human Wave reader and writer…but I like it.

    February 16, 2014
    • Welcome, welcome, we can always use more good yarn-swappers. You’ll find a bunch of us (myself included) grew up with L’Amour, and we all like stories where the good guy wins.

      February 16, 2014
      • Thank you! I’ll be around!

        February 17, 2014
        • I got your book, and it’s good, I’ll be reviewing on my blog next week. But we should talk about your blurb… LOL

          February 17, 2014
  18. Luke #

    Just to note the obvious: That you’d self-identify as a lady, automatically puts you in a category separate from those who would consider “lady” to be a deadly insult.

    I would argue for writing hard SF or mil-SF under your normal name. IMO, the more you have under a single identity, the better. It allows readers who liked a story you wrote to easily find other stories you wrote. You also have a distinctive, easily-remembered name. It would be a shame not to take advantage of that asset.
    My experience (as a reader, naturally) is that Mil-SF and hard SF spread by word-of-mouth. As long as the cover and jacket copy don’t scream “grrrl power”, I don’t believe being female will make much of a difference. (Let’s face it, most male writers don’t exactly bury the needle on the machismo gauge. It’s a pretty forgiving curve to be graded on.)

    Tell a good story with strong characters in an interesting setting. Market it as best you can. And try not to worry too much about it. (Yeah, good luck with the last bit.)

    February 16, 2014
    • I’m much encouraged by the responses to this. My First reader has some stories in him I will continue to try and coax out, so there may yet be works in his name.

      And perhaps the issue with Pixie was making the female form figure so large on the cover. I’ll avoid that with the rest of the series and see what happens.

      I do have a Space Opera style novella coming out soon, I’ve been snippeting it on my blog to get reactions. So we will see!

      February 16, 2014
  19. Rex Little #

    When it becomes ponderously, obviously, promoting a certain social viewpoint, even if it is one I don’t necessarily disagree with, it is unpleasant to read.

    Word! My favorite example of this is L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach and its sequels. I’m a libertarian, but these books hit you over the head with a libertarian message so hard they make me cringe.

    February 16, 2014
  20. Holly #

    ‘Cedar’ does not scream female at me. Now maybe this is because I live in N. LDS Territory, and names are . . . slightly different than other parts of the country. Cedar is a tree, like Birch, and Birch is definitely a male name, so seeing Cedar on a book cover, without glancing at the picture (does anyone?) I would figure male author. So people who have not been exposed to you online may not place you as female author.

    Obviously a Human Wave icon needs to be a bunch of little human figures doing the wave. *runs away*

    February 16, 2014
    • LOL! Yeah, I can just picture that, along the back cover of all our books.

      February 16, 2014
      • Holly #

        I took a poll: asked the two gentlemen in the kitchen while I was trying to make dinner (if they must be underfoot they might as well be useful). Dad, the science fiction reader, shrugged and said he had no idea what gender ‘Cedar’ is, nor would he care. Is it good and do I have it? (Dad does not read e, only paper.) Husband, the science fiction watcher, also had no idea what gender ‘Cedar’ is, and is it going to be made into a movie any time soon? As he’s not a reader-only got through three pages of MHI, even though that’s the sort of movie he’d watch over-and-over.
        So that’s probably worth what you paid for it.

        February 18, 2014
        • Since I do have a picture on the back of my print books, then yes, someone flipping the book over to read the blurb would be able to figure it out. But I think your data, as limited as it is, applies to most readers – they don’t really care about the gender of the author as long as the story is good. It’s only that there is a vocal group who insists on being given an advantage, because they aren’t ranked where they want to be.

          February 18, 2014
  21. Hiding who you really are is not a good idea (says the guy who writes under a pen name. 😛 I have good reasons for it though – people always misspell and mispronounce my real name, and I want to keep my writing career separate from my Navy career).

    I remember a year or two ago, Joanna Penn, who was having great success with her Thrillers, decide to change her writing name from Joanna Penn of J. F. Penn because she was afraid of some silliness that some people think ladies aren’t able to be as successful as men in that genre. I remember being very disappointed in her decision, because it was (it seemed to me) based on fear of something that is complete and utter tripe. And even if that notion of the stigma is not tripe, it’s never going to change as long as people keep bowing down before it.

    So yeah, for what it’s worth I’d say don’t use a different name.

    Of course, if that backfires, I wasn’t here and I didn’t say that. 😛

    February 17, 2014
  22. L Jagi Lamplighter (Wright) #

    This is an excellent article! I applaud you! I particularly liked:
    >Well, this one is shrugging, styling herself as feminine and lady-like, and striding confidently forward.

    I feel the same way. I remember a bunch of fuss a few years back about an SF anthology with no stories by women in it. I recall thinking that I would be ashamed if someone put something I had written in an anthology just because I was female. It’s sort of against the whole point of trying to be an excellent writer!

    I love your description of your attitude toward men, too. Perfectly put!!

    February 17, 2014

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