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Author Topic: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations  (Read 15710 times)

Offline Eclipse

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I've read a blog by @stevenpoore  saying fantasy forum culture doesn't recommend enough  female authors it's always seems to be dominant by male authors if someone ask for a recommendation

I can't speak for other Fantasy forums but I think we do okay ( I might be biased to this forum)  we always seem to recommend Robin Hobb and Jen Williams, Rachel Bach.

I know that recent modern fantasy list we did didn't have many female authors on it.



« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 05:39:08 AM by Eclipse »
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2016, 09:47:51 PM »
we always seem to recommend Robin Hobb and Jen Williams
Funny you say that, because when I read the thread title, my immediate reaction was "but we always mention Robin and Jen!" ;D

And lately I'm also always mentioning N.K. Jemisin and Aliette de Bodard, my recently loved reads :D

I wonder if the lack of it is because we tend to cater our recommendations to what the person asking say they like, and they usually come with very 'traditional' tastes - and then usually the writers closer to that are male.
This for the forum newbies, because I notice that when of the oldies ask around, they usually want a more diverse choice (and I mean that in the sense of 'different to what they've been reading'), and then we can expand the type of books we offer.
Speaking for myself here, now...
« Last Edit: November 25, 2016, 09:51:42 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2016, 11:02:52 PM »
I wonder if it's not a symptom of a larger issue - fewer female writers write fantasy that makes it to the recommend-worthy level. When making a recommendation or looking for my next read, I have never, ever in my life stopped to consider a writer's gender, whether as a reader, as a writer looking for successful works to study, or anything else. I didn't know JK Rowling was a woman for a long time, and my complete absence of reaction is indicative of my lack of interest in writer gender.

Perhaps this is because, in terms of numbers of books, when I was a kid the biggest single author I read was Anne McAffrey's Pern books, which when lined up, were at least as big a chunk of my stuff (by numbers of titles, not thickness) as any other author, including Tolkien.

I wonder if people in the Romance genre lament the rarity of male authors?

For my part, I find the emphasis of writer-gender completely misguided. By contrast, I understand people's interest in works with a more realistic depiction of human sexuality and racial diversity, which do impact the reader's experience in important ways.  If a straight white American woman writes X, or a black, South African bi-sexual man writes Y, or a Chinese transsexual bear writes Z, I honestly don't look at them at all. It's all about what's in X, Y, and Z. I don't research the person who designed my car, or packaged my coffee, to determine their gender, political stance, or sexual tastes. I just buy what I like, what serves well. And if someone asks for a recommendation, I certainly wouldn't pause for a gender-check. It wouldn't even occur to me. What does occur to me is - will they enjoy the book?

Trying out my new acronym ETA (thanks @Lady_Ty ):  I certainly hope there are not other venues where some sludge of humanity actively undermines a class of writers based on their gender, male or female. Writing is, in my opinion, an endeavor that both sexes can perform equally well in, when given the chance. Humanity is finally moving past the idea of dominance in various areas by one gender or the other.

If I ever saw someone undermining an author for being female, I would definitely speak up, because that's just bunk. Jeese louise, I want to experience new worlds, and if the voice that brings me there is female with an English or French or Portugese accent, I'm all for it. My son is studying to be a nurse, a field I believe he will excel at. At 6'3", I think he'll be well suited to some tasks that can be physically daunting (moving/rolling patients, etc.). And if he encounters biased attitudes, from men or women, then they'd better beware. Because my wife will eat their face :)
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 12:12:05 AM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2016, 12:41:34 AM »
we always seem to recommend Robin Hobb and Jen Williams

I wonder if the lack of it is because we tend to cater our recommendations to what the person asking say they like, and they usually come with very 'traditional' tastes - and then usually the writers closer to that are male.
This for the forum newbies, because I notice that when of the oldies ask around, they usually want a more diverse choice (and I mean that in the sense of 'different to what they've been reading'), and then we can expand the type of books we offer.
Speaking for myself here, now...

@ScarletBea I believe you've hit the nail on the head perfectly for our Forum. It happens so often, a newbie tells us he/she likes   XXXX, it's nearly always older epic and so we recommend newer epic until we know them better.
 
The longer they are around and see what's being read and discussed, and also follow the Forum articles on the front page, they will widen their reading and include the many female authors we read about.

If any one asks for female authors  specifically we've got several pretty comprehensive threads covering the whole subject and giving lists. Such as

http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/female-fantasy-authors/

http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/the-best-female-science-fiction-and-fantasy-writers-you-should-read-now/

There are so many more than just Robin Hobb and Jen Williams - although Jen always deserves first recommendation because she plays with us here. ;)

Maybe if we also recommend the new people asking should read through our currently reading, or what we read in a month threads it would give them wider choice.



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Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2016, 12:48:10 AM »
Gosh, are people really this tedious? I recommend people by theme, interest... If asked which author blew my mind out the most, I answer thinking by books. Books which floored me, not running a gender equality answer!
I'd say Sanderson, Bennett, Harris, (Fowls), Tolkien and Martin - and then Sheri Tepper, Charlaine Harris, Rice and Chambers, (Austen, Bronte, Auel).

So what if there are more males than females in the people who wrote the books which influenced me the most?
If people asked for specific recommendation, like works on dragons or interesting sci Fi, then maybe I'd recommend more females than males? Who knows.
How do you recommend equally if you don't read equally to begin with? I'm not sure my goodreads has a 50-50 in author genders to be honest. I just never think about such things!
People should focus on encouraging female authors in all fields, rather than nagging at fans.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 02:10:18 AM by Nora »
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Online cupiscent

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2016, 01:01:59 AM »
Some thoughts in this area:

Male authors tend to have more "stickiness" - we continue to recommend Eddings and Feist and Jordan, but where are the female authors who were writing at that time and were, honestly, just as good as their male counterparts? (We're not all as assiduous as Nora in remembering the Sheri Teppers.)
 - Tansy Rayner Roberts spoke very eloquently about this in her guest of honour speech at Melbourne's Continuum a couple of years ago. Her speech is available online. In this speech she also noted the tendency for "recommendation lists" to include a token woman - usually Ursula le Guin (or Robin Hobb). Smurfette syndrome in real life.

There's an argument to be about whether fewer female writers write fantasy of the same quality, or whether male authors are more likely to be published at a lower quality. I remember reading some of Lindsay Buroker's work, and finding it at absolutely the same level (for me) as, say, Brent Weeks. (That is, imho, engagingly readable, pacey, but ultimately kinda meh.) Weeks is a bestselling trad-published author whose name gets bandied about a lot. Buroker is successful, but indie, and way fewer people know her name.

It's all very well to have personal disinterest in matters of author gender (or race, or sexuality, or...), but if all the market ever gives you is white males, your reading is necessarily going to be skewed towards white males.

I recall hearing that Mark Lawrence ran a poll on his blog asking whether people would have read his books if they were by Mary Lawrence instead. A significant number of people answered that they probably wouldn't have.

So it's not that people actively undermine female authors. It's (perhaps) just that they have to be twice as good to get half as much attention in the first place. People don't denigrate them for gender, they just leave them off recommendation lists. So there's no big stand to be taken, just that we need to keep asking "Where are the women? What are they writing? Who can you recommend?" because very often the default position is what we're fed, and what we're fed is 75% male (at least).

Some women writing really interesting high fantasy and arguably underrepresented on recommendation lists: Amanda Downum, Rachel Hartman, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kate Elliott, Patrician McKillop, Megan Whalen Turner, Juliet Marillier, Ellen Kushner, Jennifer Fallon... and these are just the ones who appear on my GR shelves. :)

We here at FF have a whole pinned thread about female authors, so clearly we're aware of the issue already. But I think it's good for us to also remind ourselves now and then, because it can be easy to slip back into not thinking about it, and the problem waxes and wanes, but hasn't gone away.

Offline Mehman

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2016, 01:44:32 AM »
I know that I recommend almost 100% women authors to people looking for what I read because almost all of them are women that write in that field. Should I be worried that I'm not giving people more male names? They don't appear very often but I don't think I should go out of the way to mention one just because of what chromosomes inhabit his body.

If someone was to tell me my favourite authors were actually the other gender, I wouldn't care. I DNF because of story, not sex or anything else. If a man writes a good romance novel that moves me then by the gods he'll get mentioned just as quick as the women that are so prevalent in the field that get me to remember their names.

In the fantasy genre, I'll say this: I DNF a Jemisin trilogy. I put that thing down almost as quick as I picked it up. That has to be two months ago, maybe three. The POV and writing style just didn't jive for me. I didn't know the sex of the author until a few days ago but I guess that's no excuse. Here's the thing, though: I started reading Sci Fi / Fantasy books written by white male authors. This must be why I didn't like her writing - she's not a British, white male author writing about the grim darkness of the far future. Neither are the women writing my beloved Fantasy Romance / Romantic Fantasy yet that's my favourite genre. The wires must have been crossed somewhere!

Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2016, 02:05:59 AM »
Don't credit me too much with Tepper, I discovered her in 2016, but she deeply impressed me with her storytelling powers. The stories are great, lengthy yet not revelling in worldbuilding, and the themes are serious and very well woven through. She manipulates the readers in the same way she does the characters, and Grass/Raising The Stones are two door stoppers I will re-read in my quest to publication.

Female authors I read a long time ago who truly influenced me would be Anne Rice and Jean M. Auel – I forgot to mention her earlier, I was thinking SFF instead of general fiction – and in historical fiction, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. They are HUGE influences to me as a young reader and until recently. P&P by Jane Austen is the book I've re-read the most. I think I read Jane Eyre thrice, if not more.


P.S : I wonder if somewhere on the web there is a PR fans forum with a thread about how PR fans don't recommend enough male writers....
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 02:11:06 AM by Nora »
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2016, 03:06:33 AM »
Nora's comment reminded me that so many of the early fantasy I read and that kept me in the genre were in fact women writers apart from le Guin and Hobb. I certainly read some male authors like Feist and Eddings but many by *Katherine Kerr, Melanie Rawn, Janny Wurts, Anne McCaffrey and Patricia Keneally plus others.  @cupiscent is right though we do tend to forget them, possibly because many of those names went out of print at times and are still hard to get new or as complete sets in a series.   The men writers like Feist, Eddings, Jordan have always been available so those other ladies slipped away for long stretches of time unnoticed. 

I just checked and have read books by ten different modern fantasy women writers this year but wasn't really aware of it as any kind of statistic.

I believe most of us here choose as Gem Cutter and Nora suggested on content, characters and the appeal of the outline without consciously noticing or choosing by author's gender. What is preferenced for publication is a whole different ball game and a complex controversy, we've been there a few times here in the past.

ETA *How could I forget Margaret Weis of Weis and Hickman- sin, shame, so embarrassed.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 03:18:45 AM by Lady_Ty »
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2016, 04:16:15 AM »
"Let the word go forth, from this time, and this place, to all women in all nations everywhere - if you will create characters with life and passion, find for us places and events worth seeing, if you will but capture a story in words worth reading - we shall read them. And if you will but move us, we in turn will move others. This much we pledge--and more."

Since we have spoken of JFK recently, I thought his words might serve to capture the positive sentiment I think we all share.  :)
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Offline Peat

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2016, 04:19:06 AM »
I did a recommendations thread here not that long ago (and on two other forums). I encouraged people to be broad and the only restriction was in the last ten years or so.

I got back relatively few female authors and most of those came from a handful of people. Remove the handful and next to none.

I cannot agree with the idea that fans should shrug and say "That's just how it is, I'm just reading and recommending what's good, not my problem". The reality is male authors get pushed harder. Maybe there's less women writing to the level as well, but certainly male authors get pushed harder because they're easier to push. I don't think that's right. If fans don't push to make sure people know of female authors, who the hell is going to do it and why should they? Publishers? Publishers want their paycheque. If fans are happy to go along with paying more attention to male authors, that's what they're gonna do.

I'm not saying recommend female authors regardless of whether they fit a request or not. Actually, I'm not recommending anything. Everyone's got their own idea on how big a problem this and how to fix it. Me, myself and I though, I like looking for obscure gems. I will take a moment to remember from time to time that given how the genre works, there's a good chance there's a lot of female authors out there.

Edited to add the TL:DR version -

Nobody's making decisions because of how they pee and ideally nobody should but since the publishing world does and pushes a lot more men than women, there's a lot more memorable men than women and we recommend more men than women.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 07:41:42 AM by Peat »
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2016, 04:28:52 AM »
It's really a difficult issue. You may look at certain sub-genres of SFF and see very few female recommendations. But if you look at PR, the recommendations are almost entirely female. If you look at YA SFF, the recommendations are almost entirely female.

Could there be some sexism involved? Sure. But it's difficult to say because there are many factors at play.

Offline Rostum

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2016, 07:24:34 AM »
I find the question nonsensical If there are no criteria I will recommend what I like and what I think the person asking will like. Sex or anything else is irrelevant. 

If I recommend Susan Cooper's work over Joe Abercrombie's It won't be because I have compared the works an decided that the Dark is Rising is a better read than Heroes. It will always be apples and oranges but a book may be more suitable for an age group or more likely to appeal to a certain taste regardless of the position the author pees in.

You could remember Julian May (and her dozen or so pseudonyms) whose 10 books of science fantasy, starting with the many coloured lands I recommend to everyone.

Quote
It's all very well to have personal disinterest in matters of author gender (or race, or sexuality, or...), but if all the market ever gives you is white males, your reading is necessarily going to be skewed towards white males.

The people you want to represent you as a writer, edit your books, determine the cover art and stock them in book shops seem to be predominately female. Yet this keeps coming up. I see no evidence that women authors have a harder time than male authors. Just that it is startlingly hard to get published for anyone.
The market certainly does not only give you only white males and hasn't for longer than you have been alive, but my reading is skewed in favour of reading books written by white males perhaps because I like what they write. Sorry should I be apologising for that?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 08:18:27 AM by Rostum »

Offline Yora

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2016, 09:14:03 AM »
I recommend books that I enjoy. I don't recommend writers.

Online cupiscent

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2016, 09:52:39 AM »
...we do tend to forget them, possibly because many of those names went out of print at times and are still hard to get new or as complete sets in a series.   The men writers like Feist, Eddings, Jordan have always been available so those other ladies slipped away for long stretches of time unnoticed.

So very much so! When I think of how much I adored Katherine Kurtz (not to mention how clearly the work she did paved the way for later historical fantasy, like Game of Thrones), but the vast majority of her back catalogue is only available electronically, and that's a recent development. Has Eddings ever been out of print? (Don't get me wrong, I adored Eddings too, but he's charming froth.)

I find this sort of discussion particularly interesting because of just how female-heavy the Australian fantasy boom of the late-nineties/early-noughties was. Sara Douglass, Jenny Fallon, Trudi Canavan, Fiona McDonald, Traci Harding, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Kate Forsyth, Glenda Larke, Jane Routley. At the time, I didn't even notice. It's only looking back that I go, oh, hey, I don't see that gender balance on the mainstream shelves anymore.

Anyway, read whatever you like. No one's saying otherwise. The original post that prompted this discussion noted that he'd had a discussion specifically asking for female authors and got recommended Mark Lawrence. Peat's noted his observations in asking for general recommendations. It's not necessarily something we do, but it's something worth bearing in mind - if for no other reason than it does us no harm and may prompt a recommendation that helps the career of a female writer whose work we admire.