Women SF Authors: Putting the Gender in Genre

Jade44

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I have just started reading SF again. Up until now I've been focusing on Fantasy and I note that the number of women authors in that genre is quite high. Could it be that most women writers of SF and Fantasy focus on the latter?
 

Ian Whates

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I have just started reading SF again. Up until now I've been focusing on Fantasy and I note that the number of women authors in that genre is quite high. Could it be that most women writers of SF and Fantasy focus on the latter?

Yes, Jade, I think that's almost certainly true, though not universally so. We do have some stonkingly good women SF authors in this country, just not enough of them at present.

There's no doubt that fantasy and 'paranormal romance' claim a number of writers who might otherwise write SF, but why shouldn't women be strongly represented across the genre spectrum?
 

The Judge

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Well, y'know -- if anyone wants to encourage female SF/soap opera writers, I'm, well, here... :D :p


I always end up arguing myself around in circles in this kind of debate. I don't like hard SF because I can't understand the science. I don't like military SF because macho culture and warfare turn my stomach. But I can't blame the genre for that -- it's my decision not to try to engage with those aspects of it. And if I don't engage, then I can't write it. Again my decision. But if hard and/or military Sf is the stuff that sells (and I have no idea if that's the case or not), I can hardly complain if no one wants to buy my writing.

Making wild generalisations here, I would say most women are interested in relationships -- and relationships between people, not between a man and his test tube or weaponry. Accordingly they want to read books in which relationships -- not exclusively romantic -- play a dominant role. They don't think they're going to get such books in the SF corner, so they don't even bother opening them to find out. If we want to attract women to SF we have to make it a lot clearer that we tell well written, good stories with interesting, well-developed characters in intriguing situations.
 

Ian Whates

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The Judge said:
Making wild generalisations here, I would say most women are interested in relationships -- and relationships between people, not between a man and his test tube or weaponry. Accordingly they want to read books in which relationships -- not exclusively romantic -- play a dominant role. They don't think they're going to get such books in the SF corner, so they don't even bother opening them to find out. If we want to attract women to SF we have to make it a lot clearer that we tell well written, good stories with interesting, well-developed characters in intriguing situations.

I think you make a valid point, Judge, and I have to say that I'm much the same. When I write, what interests me the most is the characters; how they're affected by a situation, how they react, the relationships that form and develop as the narrative progresses. That's always at the heart of what I write, and I'm not alone in that. A good friend, Eric Brown (whom I'm meeting for lunch in a couple of hours) is the same. People and their responses are always at the centre of his writing was well...

It's this perception that SF doesn't offer that sort of sensitivity and emotional focus that I think we've got to change if we want to encourage more women writers to enter the genre.
 
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