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Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about the problems in promoting and selling SFR, and even SF if you happen to be a female author. It's bugging me (can you tell?). I've seen a lot of conversations on Twitter about why female SF authors aren't necessarily a minority, but aren't given the same recognition or notice as male SF authors. The most recent discussion was over comments left on an io9 post about gender bias in SFF reviews here. The article itself begins "The good news is that men and women are published in almost equal numbers. The bad news is that books by men are reviewed far more often. So when women get published, you rarely hear about them." They then give the stats that provided that conclusion. Their research found there's a (probably) unconscious bias toward male authored speculative fiction by reviewers, but it was the comments that kicked off the Twitter conversation.
1.Female SF authors only write character driven or even romantic scifi (or as one person said on Twitter "eww, romance") as opposed to action driven.
2.Male SF authors only write action driven SF.
Response to point 1. I know for a fact I don't always put romance in my scifi. I have two straight scifi stories to match my current two sfr stories. Also, one of my favourite authors is Jaine Fenn, and while there are various relationships including romantic ones, I certainly wouldn't call her books romances. They are SCIFI. And I'm sure she's not the only non-romance SF author the 'eww, romance" person could find if they bothered to look. And "eww, romance"?! What, our characters should live in an emotionless void without relationships of any kind? How realistic is that?
Response to point 2. First up, while my other fave author Neal Asher writes hard, explosive and often gruesome SF, he spend a lot of time on the psychology and relationships between his characters. The Technician, for example, focused in depth on the long-term insanity of its male MC, and the autistic nature of an amphidapt secondary character. While I've yet to find any romance as I understand the term, Asher writes stories that deal with adult humans (oh, okay, and homicidal aliens, tech that could obliterate the universe, and superior AIs are in there too) and his characters react realistically. So I would say there is a balance between characters and action, not one predominating over the other.
Also, the SFR Brigade has several male authors in its membership, and I've met several others who write romance into their scifi. But after a comment by TK Toppin about how if you removed the romance between Paul and Chani in Dune, it becomes just a book about worms, I started thinking about the scifi I'd read as a teen, predominantly by MALE SF authors. Dune - the love story between Duke Atreides and his concubine Jessica that almost destroyed the Bene Gesserits' work by producing the Kwisatz Haderach a generation too early. Paul's love for Chani and his arranged marriage to Princess Irulan. Take those away, as TK said, and all you have is a 'book about worms'. A space opera I'm currently working on reminded me of Friday by Robert Heinlein which, as I recall now (but not at the time) had romantic elements. Asimov's The Robots of Dawn too, where the central female character had formed an emotional and physical relationship with a humaniform robot because the current human society from which she'd come from and the one in which she taken refuge hadn't enabled her to enter a normal relationship with another human being. I'd say the story focused as much on that 'romance' as it did the crime, politics and technology of the story.
Then look at some recent SF films (some taken from books by male authors, but also screenplays written by men, films produced and directed by men) - Avatar, John Carter, and Oblivion. Star Wars (Han and Leia/Anakin and Amidala). Take the romance out of these and you damage, if not destroy the story.
So not only are we in a niche genre, but we seem to be battling very old stereotypes about what male and female authors write, and while we may equal the male authors in numbers, we're somehow invisible. If a man writes SF, whether the romance exists and is mentioned or not, there's no 'eww'. But if you're a woman? Sigh.
I'm off to write a book about worms... :-P
Because it ties into this discussion somewhat, I'm linking to a couple of interesting articles. Heather has posted over at the SFR Brigade blog about the need of innovative marketing for SFR here. And Rinelle Grey has posted about whether we should stick to the old adage of 'write what you know' here.
My YA scifi novel Gethyon releases in less than a week on the 3rd of June! Squee! I've had my final PDF, which I started sending out for reviews requests straight away, and I've already had two acceptances. I'll be doing a month long tour, and you can find all the details of where, when and what I'm giving away here, as well as a ton of guest posts on the technology, antagonists and protagonists, spaceships and even fashion in Gethyon's universe. Now begins the mad panic. Will readers like it? Will they hate it? What the heck are people expecting after Keir?
And if that isn't excitement enough, the Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology should be available from midsummer. Woo hoo! Have you checked out the cover art yet? Here ya go!
In the meantime, I have two other short stories out on submission to anthologies. I should know about the cyberpunk come mid-August, and the other for Champagne Books inhouse call by the end of the year at the latest. I'm still waiting for further details on two other projects that I can't yet comment about - a full length sfr novel and sfr novella. Shh!
And I finally decided on a project for after the month long tour for Gethyon. Entry into The Rebecca closes mid July, and I have a decopunk superhero romance novella I'd like to put in. Last year I entered my sfr novella Tethered, and while it didn't place I got some fantastic feedback and a good score on it. If you'd like more details, check out the LERA contest here. I can highly recommend it for the professional feedback.
BTW, on the subject of contests, if you're interested in entering some you can find the RWA listings (published, self and unpublished contests) here and contests for self-published works (although some, if not all also take small press and/or trad published entries, as well as unpublished) here.
Have you signed up for the SFR Brigade's 2nd Midsummer Blog Hop yet? Come on, what are you waiting for?! Go here! Not sure what to do or what it involves? Go here! Any other questions you can direct straight to me via sfrbrigadebloghop (at) gmail (dot) com. If you're willing to send in a donation, please get in touch as soon as possible because I can't announce a grand prize until I've a rough idea of what's coming. Ebooks are also welcome. :)
Rinelle Grey has posted some useful tips on how authors can use Goodreads here.
Heather Massey now has an awesome list of free or under $0.99 books at The Galaxy Express here. Hop over and check it out! And let her know if you have one that can be added to the list.
The night before last I received an email from All Romance eBooks telling me Gethyon was listed and available to buy. I was gobsmacked, as it isn't due for release until the 3rd of June and isn't a romance. Several moments of panic ensued, especially as the link came back 'page not found' and nada on a search. However, thanks to Laurel Kriegler, Gethyon was tracked down to the Omnilit page. Phew! You can now pre-order my newest release here. Not only that, but just 12 hours later it hit the Omnilit best seller list. At number 1 no less! *bounces* It may not be there now but to have it make it there and so soon left me somewhat tearful. A huge thank you to everyone who pre-ordered it - you are all AWESOME!
@Donna - I didn't realise Cumberbatch was meant to be Kahn! I honestly can't imagine it. I almost went to see it Saturday - hubs and I had our first weekend away without our kids in ten years - but it was a choice between a film or dinner, and I'm afraid hunger won...
@Laurie - I agree, I'd need more scientific proof to believe in Bigfoot. And yet, every day scientists are discovering new species. If Bigfoot is intelligent, perhaps that's been enough to keep it out of sight - and let's face it, with humanity's ability to wipe species out who can blame Bigfoot for hiding away - but no. Dodgy film footage and footprints aren't enough to convince me.
And thank you for the shout out yesterday. :)