Sunday, September 4, 2011

Discussion: Female authors

I thought I wrote this discussion before I went to have the baby, but I was looking through my scheduled posts and it turns out I was wrong. Thus, this is my first book-related post since I had the baby, so I hope it makes some sort of sense. Now that I'm writing it, I'm realizing that I've asked a question similar to this before. Oh well. I'll do this anyway. Forgive the redundancy. 

A few months ago I got into a discussion with a female fantasy author about the speculative fiction genre. She was telling me some of the ways she felt female authors were different from male authors. For example, she felt that female authors tend to be a bit more emotional than males. She also felt that, due to that, female authors can have a harder time appealing to genre readers than males, though she felt that was changing a bit these days. 

I do feel the tides are changing in speculative fiction, and there are more female authors (especially in urban fantasy and paranormal romance), they are still outnumbered by males (especially in epic fantasy and science fiction). It brings this discussion I had to my mind and, like always, makes me wonder about a few things.

Do you think there is a difference in writing style between men and women. If so, what do you think that difference is? Does it effect how/if a female author's book will appeal to you? 

8 comments:

  1. I've always felt there was a difference, but not a hard line. More like a tendency. The more skillful the author is the more they blur the lines. For example, I've found this to be easier to illustrate in first person narratives, and I think Carol Berg is just excellent.

    I also wonder how much of the difference is there by design, on purpose because they're trying to target X group?

    In UF at least, I complain quite a bit about the erotica and romance aspects... but considering that most UF readers are females and many enjoy that, then doesn't it stand to reason that they should incorporate this types of themes into their books? Also, many authors in UF come from Romance backgrounds, or enjoy romance so some of it will just find itself in the text even with a UF label.

    So I just can't tell how much it's due to the sex intrinsically, how much it has to do with how society has influenced the sexes, or how much of it is just choice.

    I'm not well read in other areas of fantasies, I just have a small sample of female authors outside of UF. My experience has been positive so far with female authors like Carol Berg, Rachel Aaron, Leaona Wisoker...

    But in UF I have noticed a lot of tendencies that I dislike sadly, as illustrated above. But there are exceptions, like MLN Hanover (Daniel Abraham) to me reads a lot like many of the UF books from female authors I read, and then we have female authors like KA Stewart writing one of the best male narrative voices in UF I've stumbled upon.

    And that's another thing, how much is the sex of the protagonist influencing how female/male authors write a story and what they focus on? I think that's a worthwhile thing to consider and it's a theory I've tried to put into practice.

    But writing characters from an opposite sex is just quite challenging, and not always done right, so a bit hard to put the theory to the test in an accurate manner.

    I just don't know. I do think there are tendencies, but is it a bad thing? I think not.

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  2. First time I tried to post this it didn't go up - please excuse if it double-posts!

    This is a really interesting topic. I've been thinking about it a lot since I joined the #FeministSF twitter chats (every Sunday at 1 pm central time) and began reading the books and stories they suggested.

    I agree with Bastard about the romance/erotica stuff in a lot of current fantasy by women. I just don't find it interesting. If I wanted to read a book whose major focus was romance, I would go shopping in that aisle of the bookstore!

    I used to read a lot of fantasy by female authors, back in my teens. Some of the things I read it for now make me go EEW. Frinstance, I loved books where the heroine got a telepathic animal companion. Now that whole trope makes me feel as if I'm eating sugar lumps with honey ... be that as it may, I never saw a book in this subgenre by a male writer.

    I loved books with details of homemaking/ castle domestic management/ harvesting/ foraging in them, and the only male authors I can remember who put in enough house pr0n were T.H. White and Brian Jacques. Female authors were much more reliable for that sort of thing.

    The problem with reading all these female authors, though, was the stuff they tended to do that I *hated*. These tendencies included:

    - protagonist's excellence is rewarded by making her -- a middle manager! Anne McCaffrey was always doing this. Double EEEW!

    - every excruciating detail of how the quest was planned is written out. The protagonist thinks every little thing through from three angles, including the emotional effects each option will have on everybody else in the party (including the mules) and we have to be privy to all of this ...

    - the completely virtuous person is horribly abused by society and is too virtuous to defend herself effectively, in spite of the fact that she has skills they depend on or is a witch, fighter, etc. (Dreamsnake, triple EEW!)

    These all seem to boil down to what one of my own protagonists calls 'caregiver-itis.' While it's fine for the mom in a family story, I don't want to read books where being a caregiver is treated as the appropriate central concern of an adventure hero/heroine. And I saw a lot more inappropriate caregiver-itis written by women than by men.

    My examples are all pretty old, so I don't know if this still holds.

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  3. I've yet to find a female fantasy author I really enjoy, and I've tried bucketloads of them...One of these days I'll have a go at it myself ;)

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  4. Oh man, this is turning into a female author bashing. Smelled it a mile away when saw this topic.

    But can't offer much of an opinion myself rather than my experience so far in UF, as mentioned I've had good success with female authors outside of it.

    Any of you read God's War by Kameron Hurley? That's one book you guys might want to give a shot who are a bit averse to reading female authors.

    Highly violent, messed up, and bug technology and magic. And no spoon-feeding in the narrative.

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  5. Let me say, for the record, I had no intention of this turning into a female author bashing session at all....

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  6. For a good few months, my reading list was dominated by female authors, and good ones too. One thing that I have noticed is that magic systems tend to be different - male authors have the source of magic as being external(metals, elements,sacrifices etc) whereas female authors have the source of magic to come from within (power of the mages themselves).

    Also, I notice that the covers of books by female authors use photographs more than those of male authors, who tend to have painted/illustrated covers.

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  7. Right now, I could not tell you what the last book was by a female author I have read. And that is not because I avoid female authors. It is because the gender of an author is not a criteria I use to choose the next book to read/buy. Genre, setting, plot are more important for me. So the question is moot for me. A good/interesting book is a good/interesting book, no matter what gender the author is.

    I remembered the last book I read by a female author. Walking the Tree by Karon Warren, read 2 weeks ago. Though I have to admit, when I think about it, most of the books I read are written by male authors.

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  8. I don't really take much notice between female author or male author. There does seem to be more urban paranormal romance stuff coming from "the ladies" and am happy to see authors (or either sex) finding an avenue to readers.

    Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

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