This has gotten too long and complex for a Facebook post, so I’m bringing the discussion over here where it can be seen.
The Question, posed by Gareth Griffiths is:
Has anyone figured out the readership ratio for SF? I’ve commented on the writer side before – probably 60:40 on my shelves in favour of women but I wonder if there may be a hidden bias that more men prefer books written by men regardless of genre. There may be a unconscious reinforcement of society where there is still a lot of male bias in many places that gets reflected in books by men that other men unconsciously find more natural and attractive.
Is there a correlation between readership and authors’ sex.
Let me see if I can remember this correctly. . .
I’ve been on a couple panels about this (Toni Weisskopf was in the audience for at least one, and might be able to help me out, if she’s not on a plane by now), which is that, since the inception of female editors (who naturally buy books that appeal to them as females (because what other criterion does an editor have available to them, save their gender?)) and stories featuring female protagonists (this being a different thing, note, than female writers, and also whacks the men who are writing female leads), Boys Have Stopped Reading. That’s reading anything — because there are Girl Cooties everywhere and there are no role models in fiction for boys anymore.
Now, this thesis bothers me profoundly. Reading is one of the great joys of my life, and I don’t want to be the reason that this joy is somehow withheld from anyone else. Jeebus, what a terrible, terrible thing, to be stuck in a world where there was nothing for me to read.
In fact, as we’ve said many times in many different venues, the reason that Steve and I decided to write the sort of science fiction that we do was to open the genre, and make it easier and more enjoyable for girls to play, too.
Note, “easier, and more enjoyable.” I read male POV scifi forever, growing up, because, mostly, that’s what there was. And I kept reading it, despite the proliferation of Boy Cooties, because I was fascinated by the form, by the so-called sensawonda, occasionally the protagonists, but, let’s face it, characterization was Pretty Basic, back in the day. You wanted mysteries, for characterization, and romances, for heart — and I read those, too.
I’m told girls are more empathic than boys — that’s part of our job, see? — and there were a lot of girls in my position, who loved scifi, and science — the children of the Moon Walk, that’s us, and Science Can Do Anything — and who also wanted to buckle some swash and bend some time their own selves.
And some of those girls, when they grew up? They became writers. And some of them became science fiction writers; and they naturally enough wrote what they wanted to read. To be fair, I don’t think that a one of us thought we’d be excluding any readers; we thought, if we thought about it at all, that we would be expanding the field and including more readers.
The idea that we’re somehow excluding male readers simply by existing. . .is starting, frankly, to bother me less, the more I read comments in discussions about how girls can’t write SF, Epic Fantasy, Thrillers, Pick Your Favorite Genre. But, I still find it in me to feel sorry for those little boys, who somehow can’t make a connection with a female protagonist, and I wonder why is that?
Are men that much less empathic, naturally, that they can’t relate to a character of a different gender? Is not honor, honor, no matter the gender of the hero? Does adventure and derring-do not speed the heart, despite the gender of the hero? Are there not, in fact, more similarities than differences between bold, honorable, and great-hearted persons?
So — how do we fix this, for those readers of all genders who are coming up? How do we not exclude readers, while expanding the field? Clearly trying to shout people down on the internet is not working. Is there anything else?