Publishing, Gender and Genre

Gender. It’s rarely as cut and dry as male and female in this century, but it still influences a lot of things, and people.

Right now the writers forums, blogs, and news sights are blowing up with articles and commentary about gender roles in SF and fantasy. Articles about women who hide their sex so they can break into the elite ranks of SF, and those that question if they are starved for great women authors, or just sexist. A Tor UK team member even weighed in on the matter, complete with graphs.

4SB4smI will be putting up “Small Bites 4” tomorrow which is Science Fiction. It is the first time I will be sharing my science fiction writing. I’m kind of nervous. I’ve done stories with horror, blood, torture, rape, abuse, and sex. I will never be as nervous about them as I am about something that delves into the science fiction (except maybe erotica).

Why? I chose to use my personal name on my books. “Crissy Moss” isn’t a pen name. It’s me. I kept it because I’m one of a very few people online with that particular name. And it is incredibly feminine. I can’t hide behind “Chris” and still be visible. I chose this.

It’s odd that the two genres that worry me are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. I am afraid to publish in erotica because I don’t want people to judge me because I am a woman that likes sex. And I am nervous about publishing in SF because I know people will judge me for not being steeped in science enough.

Caring what other people think about us… man or woman, this simple foible is enough to keep people lost, alone, and unable to attain their dreams. This very simple fact is why I won’t sit back and let my stories sit on a hard drive collecting virtual dust. Accolades, comments, and compliments are nice, but being true to yourself is far more important. It’s worth risking one star reviews, flops, and hate mail.

I don’t pretend to know why women aren’t as prominent in the SF/F publishing ranks. I think it is a self perpetuating cycle. Fewer women try to publish in SF, so there are fewer SF books written by women. There are fewer SF books published by women, so fewer women see role models in the SF realm and don’t take the plunge.

I do know that it isn’t just about women. Male authors trying to break into erotica often have to use pseudonyms as well, and they usually have to be female, or non-gender names.

And it’s about readers, too. Readers sometimes wont get past the name on the book.

Gender is more fluid then we think it is. Anatomy doesn’t make us who we are. People can change sexes, or act in non-masculine and non-feminine ways, regardless of the equipment birth gave them. There are even those among us who have no affinity to either sex.

True equality… That’s going to take some time.

Some articles about the subject:

Is the book industry sexist or just starved for great women authors?

Women Who Pretended to Be Men to Publish Scifi Books

SEXISM IN GENRE PUBLISHING: A PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE

The best women authors of science fiction and fantasy

The Greatest Female Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors of All Time

Worldly Reflections

As I am writing my NaNoWriMo stories I am actually realizing just how much of my viewpoint on the world around me is entering my writing.

This isn’t unusual. Piers Anthony (who I grew up reading, and is one of the authors that inspired me to become a writer) often had story lines that touched on his thoughts about religion, ecology, environment, and relationships. Not that all of his characters shared or reflected his own view points on the issues, just that the themes are there.

A good writer can let these themes enter their writing without sounding preachy or over the top. A great writer can make you start to question your beliefs, not to change them necessarily, but to be sure that that is what you truly believe, and that is what you stand for.

Mark Twain is a great example. He wrote about the adventures of a young white boy, appealing to a great many young children. But he also wove in some ideas about race, slavery, segregation, and even religion without being preachy. I am sure his books even helped a few people consider their stand on these very ideas.

In my current novel I am noticing things about genetic manipulation, women as property, and even some ideas about government. No, I’m not being preachy. That would ruin the book. But it could be noticeable to anyone who was paying attention.

Progress on NaNoWriMo: 5124

What’s the Point of it All?

What’s the point of telling a good story? Why do it?

There have been story tellers for centuries. Sometimes called mistrals or bards, other times wise old men. They would sit in crowded, smoky bars, or on dusty streets and weave stories into tales, or song for the few coins dropped in their palm. Actors would strut and fret their way across stages. Criers would call the news out to the milling throngs.

Story telling is in our blood.

Our story tellers, in this particular century, take on many forms. News paper journalists. Bloggers. Vloggers. Book authors. Music writers. TV writers. Game designers. Movie makers. D&D players. LARPers… I’m sure I’ve left something out.

What’s the point of it all?

It’s a way of passing on our thoughts. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our reality. A way of sharing the little pocket of the universe with others around us.

Sometimes it is our way of experiencing something we could not otherwise experience, like dragons, or storming Normandy during D-day, or even flying like a bird.

But a good story… a good story will make you immortal. Like Shakespeare, or Homer. A good story will stretch over time and space and engulf everyone it touches. A truly GREAT story will be rewritten, re-imagined, reworked, and re-read for countless years to come.

We tell stories because we are creative and imaginative creatures. And we must.

The Walking Dead

Walking Dead

The phenomenon of “Walking Dead” isn’t really surprising. They tell a damn good story. And it’s ZOMBIES! Who doesn’t love a good zombie flick?

But it isn’t the zombies that make Walking dead great. In fact, the zombies don’t always play a huge role in the story. They are an obstacle for the characters to overcome. They are a background. But they are not the true focus of the story.

The major theme in movies like “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later” is the zombies. How did they happen? How do they escape from them? How many interesting ways can we kill them? How much blood can we show on screen?

“Walking Dead” centers around the survivors, their interactions, and their characters. How do they cope with being alone? How do they interact? Who do they turn to?

Themes of racism, adultery, survival, and family overshadow the zombies. The zombies are present, and often become tools used by the writers to pull the characters together, or push them apart, but the zombies are not the theme of the story.

“Walking Dead” showcases how a character driven story can really captivate an audience no matter what the backdrop of the story may be. They managed to take something that is usually used as a two hour show and stretch it into two seasons of some of the best TV I have seen in a while. This is, of course, my opinion, and I am partial to zombie movies, so take that with a grain of salt. However, the ratings don’t like. People love this show.

Remember this in your own writing. A great book is usually about the interaction between characters, not the sensational item. Throw in a zombie, a dragon, a wizard or a spy. If your characters don’t make us feel something (amazement, sadness, laughter, edge of our seat suspense) then we won’t care to come back and read again.