Female Sci-fi Authors v. Myths About Girls, Math and Science

I’ve been doing a lot of seriously depressing reading about how many women have chosen male pen-names or gender-neutral pen-names over the history of the genre.  The most famous and current of these is J.K. Rowling, who was advised by publishers that little boys wouldn’t want to read a book written by “Jo Rowling”.

That is, most often, the reason. For Andre Alice Norton, it was because she wanted to be published at all. For James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), perhaps the reason was to add a voice of reason without a gender bias attached.  There are dozens of these examples, and I was curious as to why we sci fi writers are still  being told that men won’t read books by women.  There are plenty of studies about whether or not men will read books by women.   Yes, there are lots of theories about this.

I thought about writing a piece on pseudonyms, and found I’d be reinventing the wheel.  There are many, many good posts already out there. (I particularly liked this one by Amanda Rudd). I also realized that this wasn’t really the point.

Honestly, I think the answer to that is “Who cares?”  If a story is strong enough, people will read it, regardless of author name. 

I’ve also got a whole post drafted about the whole “Publishers aren’t publishing sci fi books by women” myth. Because the truth is, women aren’t submitting sci-fi books to publishers (at least not to Tor UK, and not in the same numbers they are to other genres).

Then I ran across this clip in reddit:

click image for reddit thread

And it became clear to me.  The female authors of science fiction myth …. was borne of and is perpetuated by the “girls are bad at science” myth I discussed yesterday.

Women submit more romance and fantasy because that’s what we’re taught that we’re supposed to like. Well. Ha. No wonder I’m writing science fiction.

I’m not worried about institutionalised sexism within science fiction anymore. Now I’m wondering if I need to drop my gender-neutral pen name and just knock their socks off amazon-style.

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Female Sci-fi Authors v. Myths About Girls, Math and Science

    • Thanks for that link, Gina. You went through a large part of the same analysis I did when I decided to build my author name on “AK” instead of “Alicia”. I agree that the sexism is still there – all over mainstream publishing! I think there’s value in getting at the larger, more culturally pervasive causes for our assumptions behind the sexism.

      What I’m wondering is this: Does it serve to perpetuate the nonsense to play along with a gender neutral pen name?

  1. I think you should go with your first instinct. Do the AK thing until you don’t want to any more and then change it if you like. Don’t worry about labels or preconceived notions of who writes what.

    I personally will read books by male and female authors; if the story is good and the writing is up to par I really don’t pay attention. (Not Sci Fi, but Jim Butcher is awesome and ranks up there with many of my favorite authors – many of whom are female.)

    Oh, and as far as women and Sci Fi – geesh – can we say Anne McCaffrey and the Crystal Singer or Ship Who Sang books?!

    • Um, it wasn’t really an “instinct” 😀 I did a ton of research – marketing research and various other kinds to land on AK Anderson.

      I think most people will read either gender. It’s a weird set of studies. Check out the link to Goodreads though, that was the most interesting one to me.

      Of COURSE women have been writing science fiction for ages, that’s not what I’m saying. There are a lot of studies out right now that it’s still a “man’s world” in publishing, and particularly in sci fi. Authors like JK Rowling were told to make their names gender neutral to boost sales.

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