Changing the SFF World, One Boy at a TIme

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

And now, my gift-shopping is not done. It’s only partly begun. I’m thinking about it though, making my lists, and I have high hopes for the weekend.

So, I’ve been noodling what books to get for my nephew. He likes a lot of fantasy, so I’ve been introducing him to my old favorites for Christmas and birthdays. On the last go-round I gave him Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. My nephew really liked them (of course) and, amusingly, informed me in a serious tone that I have good taste in books.

Yeah, kid, listen to the master.

For this year, I was mulling how what he might like, and might not have read already. With Anne McCaffrey’s recent passing, I thought I should give him some of her classics. My next thought was, oh, those might be too girly.

Which brought me up short.

Over and over I see discussions of how women will read both male and female authors, but men tend not to read female authors. This preference is often blamed for further imbalances: male authors receiving more awards for their books, lists of “classics” and “bests” that heavily favor male authors. All of this despite the fact that female authors outnumber male authors by a rather significant amount.

(No, I didn’t go Google the statistics, but I’ve seen them repeatedly.)

Subjectively, I think this phenomenon is even worse in Science Fiction and Fantasy, which seems to be the last bastion of the boy books. You know what I mean. Lots of sword-swinging and female characters present mainly as cardboard cutouts, with no discernible personality. (Jim Hines writes about this very well. Here’s one example.) It just kills me when I see the SFF canon listed with maybe two female authors. No, I won’t post links to those, because they annoy me. In my annoyance, I think, “if these guys would just read the female authors, then this would change.

And here I am, not wanting to impinge on my nephew’s masculinity by giving him Anne McCaffrey.

Totally part of the problem here.

So, I’m going to give him books by female authors this Christmas and we’ll see what happens.

After all, I have really good taste in books.