Isn’t that sexist, you ask? Why yes, by definition, it is.
However, when I was younger, I used to actively avoid reading books by female authors, unless I’d heard overwhelming support for a particular book.
*gasp* I know. I’m a traitor to my gender. We live in a culture of gender-bias that tends to skew male, and I had internalized some of this bias.
Why I Used to Avoid Reading Books by Women
In my pre-teens, one of my favorite books was by Andre Norton. But as I moved into my teenage years, I began to avoid SFF books by women.
Back then, browsing shelf-by-shelf at the bookstore or library was the only way I found books to read, other than a few recommendations from friends (though I had few who read in the genre). At that time, a boom in paranormal romance rocked the shelves of the brick-and-mortar stores.
|Fishnets by Jim C. Hines, on Flickr
See his blog for more info.
I tried a few, but they just weren’t what I wanted to read. What I dislike about paranormal romance:
- The skin-baring women on the covers…
- The romance/erotic plots thinly veiled by a layer of fantasy window-dressing…
- The “strong female characters,” which in PR just seems to mean women who know what they want (sex) and how to get it.
I don’t read in the romance genre. But I hated paranormal romance because I viewed it as romance masquerading as my beloved SFF. And since I didn’t see many (any?) male authors writing PR, they were “safe.”
Instead of recognizing it was a subgenre I didn’t have a taste for, I developed a bias against female authors.
But that’s stupid. Female authors also…
- speculate on the effects of superstorms with science fiction
- develop unique secondary-world fantasy not based on Tolkien races
- create zombie plagues
- worldbuild epic fantasy on the edge of time
- write contemporary speculative fiction
- imagine future fantasy
- add a dash of politics to hard science fiction
- punk out with the best of them and write steampunk
- embrace the darkness with dark fantasy
- engage us with gripping post-apocalyptic novels
- blend science fiction and fantasy
Now that ebooks are booming, it’s easier than ever to find books in the subgenres of speculative fiction I like. I read widely in science fiction and fantasy, and the only subgenres I tend to dislike are paranormal romance, detective/mystery urban fantasy, military SF, romantic SF, horror… and space opera can be iffy.
Avoiding female authors because of a dislike of a certain subgenre is ridiculous. There’s no excuse for using gender bias to choose what to read.
And I need to make up for lost time. My next post will detail which science fiction and fantasy novels by female authors I intend to read in 2014.
This post is part of a series:
- Reading retrospective (what I managed to read in 2012 and 2013)
- Why I avoided reading female authors (this post itself)
- 2014: Year of the Female Author (what I plan to read next year)
(Final note: I feel I must mention that while gender is a false dichotomy, I used what the authors identified as on Goodreads.)
Finding Female Authors
If your to-be-read pile is full of testosterone, and like me, you realize you’ve skewed heavily male over the past few years, here are a few resources to help you find great books by female authors.
- 10 Best Science Fiction By Women (Future Classics) by Jo Walton on Tor.com
- Female Science Fiction Author Reading List on Sci-Fi Fan Letter (broken down by subgenre!)
- Mind Meld: The Best Women Writers in SF/F on SF Signal
- Periodic Table Of Fabulous [Female] Writers (PDF)
- The 10 Greatest Female Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors Of All Time according to FlavorWire
What do you plan to read in 2014?
Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for fans of science fiction and fantasy to hang out. I’m also obviously on Goodreads, as well as Twitter and Facebook to a lesser extent.
3 responses to “Why I Avoided Reading Female Authors”
[…] Why I avoided reading female authors (for some years) […]
This article is pure gold and still something that needs to be heard and said years later.
Thanks, Cat. Sometimes our own bias can really smack us in the face. I’m glad you stumbled across my article!