Women, know your place!*


*This post title is a reference to Harry Enfield sketches that parodied the nineteen-fifties attitude to women, and NOT my personal opinion. I thought I’d better say that first rather than suffer the wrath of female-kind. I also thought it might send a rocket up some bums. That’s not a euphemism. Oh dear…

That said, the reason behind this post lies in a quick looksee at the Amazon top lists of Kindle Fantasy books, and how it showed that there were far more female fantasy authors than male (on the list at least), and that I had just finished reading some Trudi Canavan books.

Every pore of my being is teling me to just let it go and that whatever I say will be put down to misogynistic generalisation, but I am so bereft of inspiration for this blog that I am desperate and willing to court controversy to ease the blockage.

The books in question, by Ms Canavan, were her Traitor spy trilogy. To be honest, I forged through them only because I’d been foolish enough to fork out hard-earned cash for ’em, but I was perpetually annoyed by the tone throughout. I’ll concede it was well-written, but where I would normally get lost in the story – the characters, the scene-setting, world-building – this time I was constantly being reminded that the author was female. Whether it was the perspectives, the emotionally texture, the relentless FEELINGS, or the overt female-centric nature of the protagonists/plot, I just kept feeling that ‘gender’ was hovering over it like a big, lovely lady cloud, and that is not a feeling I get from male authors. That’s probably because I am a man, or maybe the title tricked me into not realising this was a romance…

I am not saying that there shouldn’t be love, romance and frissons aplenty (that’s part of the genre), I just don’t like it being overt and in yer face.

What that says about me as a reader (aside from I probably wouldn’t like 50 shades) I cannot tell. Maybe it infers that I am, on a fantasy novel basis, a misogynist? A fantamisogynist, if you will (dammit, that word is now MINE). It is certainly true that some of my favourite fantasy books have been by women, but I found myself scanning that Amazon list looking for male authors to look into, which surprised me somewhat. It may also say that I am repressed, emotionally, but I cried at Lassie films as a child, a fact which scotches that misconception sure enough.

It may come down to the nature of the beast. It would infer that writing in the fantasy genre is much more popular to women than men, or that female fantasy writers are just more successful, but I think it is certainly the case that fantasy is not a purely masculine vice as it might have seemed to have been in the past. I think that this is a damn good thing, but it is a shame that Trudi Canavan’s work (and it is a very well crafted bunch of books) and a number of other works by women, has made me yearn for male authors. Perhaps that is not a criticism of the books, as much as evidence of my own intransigence.

Saying that, I am very willing to be persuaded otherwise.

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3 Comments

  1. This will probably go under the category of ‘What the hell do they know?’ (You DO have one of those, I’m thinking) 😉 but here goes. I don’t read a lot in the fantasy genre, but I have a friend (male) who writes it. I had the opportunity to quasi-edit his latest effort. His most recent rejection letter from an editor was actually quite helpful in that she told him what he needed to do to ‘fix’ the story to her satisfaction. She wanted more of all the things that you complained about in the above post: feelings, relationships, touchy-feely stuff. HE was at a complete loss as to how to do this! 😉 You would have thought she had asked him to redo it in Greek and resubmit! I thought it was funny, personally. Anyway, what I’m thinking after reading your post is first of all, publishers want to sell as many books as possible and they must have some data that tells them this kind of female-oriented stuff is selling like hot cakes. You alluded that there is some demographic that bears that out (more females buy fantasy books?). However, because of my experience with my friend and his submission responses, I am curious how many editors in the genre are female and what influence that plays on what is put out there. Are female editors more inclined to like and therefore,sign female writers? Or do they sign more female fantasy writers to contracts because that is what is in demand? I don’t know.

    Reply

    1. I think editors are going to be preoccupied with what sells rather than what I, personally, want.If I could fix this by taking over the world I would, but currently I am considering fitting new lino to the bathroom and have no time for my megalomaniacal urges. I cannot think that women editors will favour female fantasy authors if it wan’t popular, nor would they remain employed if they did so. I just hated that Trudi Canavan book!

      Reply

      1. Fair enough. 🙂 What is it with this fixation at ‘taking over the world’? My fantasy writer friend is always saying things like that… Good luck with your linoleum. I have heaps of dishes and laundry to ‘attack’ or they will take over my world!

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