I've been wrestling with an interesting dichotomy for a while. I'm hoping to stir some good non-healthcare related debate here. I belong to an organization which has as its sole purpose, the advancement of female-written speculative fiction, Broad Universe. I love my club. I have participated in it on many levels throughout the three years or so I've been a member.
Here's my problem. I'm an advocate of women writing speculative fiction because, well, I'm a woman, and more importantly, a woman who writes speculative fiction. But if I'm such an advocate, why do I read novels by men far more than those written by women?
Perhaps it's because I know I won't get any romance in my science fiction. Mind you, when I find romance, I get sucked in like any other warm-blooded female, but afterward, I feel cheated. I chose the book because it promised science fiction or fantasy. And I'm not your typical female. I don't like to shop. I don't like attending baby and bridal showers and Tupperware parties.
We know that men and women think and act differently, overall. Why assume that they will write the same? There have been a few women writers whom I've read that have managed to write a good story without the romance derailing the plot, but it seems like they are few and far between. When men do throw romance in, it's more like how I shop: get in, get out, go back to more important tasks. When men—and the few women who can pull it off like men do—write romance, they do it to add an additional layer to the plot, not to drive it. And when they don't throw in romance, I don't miss it.
From the beginning, when I first started writing science fiction, I assumed that men would comprise the majority of my audience. I thought, and still do, that more men read science fiction than women. That may not be true of fantasy. But I prefer science fiction with a few very special exceptions. Like I said, I'm not your typical female. I have always gravitated to the male conversation at a party. I don't want to talk about diets, shopping and fashion. Maybe it's not just the romance at all. Maybe it's because I prefer talking with men, so I prefer reading from their perspective.
Women are inherently more concerned with relationships. We have to be. We have historically been the ones nurturing the children. It's how we (well, most of us) were made. If you're a female spec-fic author, is it a constant struggle for you to write for a male or mixed audience and keep the romance at bay?
Or could it be that I read more male writers because the women aren't getting the same exposure? Many of the male writers I read are well-established, not an unknown quantity. Are there fewer women writing science fiction? Are there fewer of them getting published?
I want to hear from you. Tell me there are plenty of women who can write without including romance. And please, oh please, tell me who they are. Tell me I'm an unromantic cold-hearted woman. (I love romance out in the real world, by the way.) Or tell me you know what I mean. But don't be silent. Let the discussion begin!
PS – Tomorrow, an interview with a speculative fiction writer. ;)
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