What Stace had to say on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
For those wondering

John Scalzi is traveling, or rather, is about to stop traveling. So he emailed me this morning to see if it was okay to delay my Big Idea post by a day. So look for that tomorrow!

Also, an interesting comment came in the other day on my Boy Books and Girl Books? post. The commenter pointed out that perhaps one reason why men eschew urban fantasy is because the covers seem to portray women who don’t need men, who even actively put down men.

The commenter also mention how James Bond covers, for example, show Bond in active poses with women in them, and posited that if UF covers showed women in active poses with men around them they might appeal more to men.

Which I think is an interesting comment, certainly. I still think it’s sad; it still makes me angry that books marketed toward women or with female MCs are automatically dismissed by men. And I still find it kind of hard to understand; as I said in that post, it can’t be that men don’t like to read books with women in them. It can’t be that men dislike sex. And I have a hard time believing that men just plain don’t like to read about love stories; not only do I know men who read romance–and I think that’s awesome–most men I know do genuinely want to find love, or are married or in committed relationships and are very happy. So I wonder if the commenter is right. Does the way UF is marketed automatically drive men away? Does it almost present a sort of no-men-allowed kind of look?

It’s a real shame, if so. Men already miss out on some great stories in genre romance, simply because they don’t think to pick one up and give it a try. It would be sad to see them missing out on great stories in other genres as well.

My point here isn’t to say men and their opinions are the most important. It’s just that I do get tired of seeing UF dismissed and put down, often by people who’ve never tried it, or who tried one and decided they’re all exactly like that one, when in fact there’s a lot of variety in the genre (and in genre romance, as well). I do think it’s shameful that “girl books” is a put-down. As I said in my previous post, so what if it’s about women, or marketed toward women? So what if it has a love story in it, or sex? Why does that mean it’s okay to insult it? It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be.

A woman who refuses to read books marketed mainly toward men, or see films marketed mainly toward men, or consume media aimed mainly toward men, is going to have a hard time finding books to read (outside of those genres) or films to see, or media to consume. (It actually reminds me of the “News for Women” segment that a news station in Miami used to run, and how it infuriated me, not only by implying that regular news wasn’t something for women, but that women were only interested in diets and cooking, and that men had no interest in such things at all.) I remember reading an article somewhere once about why women’s magazines are as successful as they are, and part of it was because those magazines are some of the few media outlets aimed at and coming from a woman’s viewpoint.

I’m not sure our viewpoints are so different, really. I think we’re all individuals. And I’m tired of stereotypes. I’m tired of women’s writing being dismissed as “just a chick book,” as if that automatically makes it inferior. If you don’t like a genre, that’s fine, but to say you dislike it because it’s a gender thing is just kind of lazy and offensive. I’m tired of books aimed at women, like romance or like many UFs, being dismissed.

And you know, I think men in general are better than that. Don’t you? Give it a try, men! Read something different, for fun. See how you like it, and what you learn from it. Decide for yourself what you think. Try a couple of them. Get some recommendations from people. You might find you enjoy it a lot more than you thought you would, and you might realize that just because something is marketed toward women, or has a romance story in it or sex or whatever, doesn’t actually mean it isn’t worthwhile and good.

Because it doesn’t.

22 comments to “For those wondering”

  1. ZombieJoe
    · June 8th, 2010 at 1:40 pm · Link

    Although not a direct effect of this, my “Open Letter to Bookstores” tells a bit of a humorous story about when I attempted to pick up a paranormal romance at the bookstore. And they wonder why we don’t read them? lol


    • Stace
      · June 8th, 2010 at 1:45 pm · Link

      That’s right, I’d forgotten that post!

      Is it that men don’t want to read them, or that everyone expects them to not want to read them? Hmmm.

  2. The Mighty Buzzard
    · June 8th, 2010 at 2:29 pm · Link

    I keep saying this and nobody believes me… men and women are different. We’re not built the same physically, we don’t think the same, and we don’t enjoy the all same things. No, the stereotypes aren’t completely true for every man or woman but they are largely true for enough men and women that you ignore them to your own detriment.

    In this particular case, a very comfortable majority of men simply do not care at all about romance. Yes, we do romantic things and enjoy the experience but it’s because we care about the woman and her happiness, not the romance. Do a blind survey of every man you know if you don’t believe me. My money would be on over 50% of them agreeing with me.

    That out of the way, most of us don’t actually dislike romance itself. It’s more of a neutral issue for us. In the case of romance novels, it roughly equates to taking every word in a novel used to move the romance forward and replacing it with “blah” or white space.

    Bear in mind that is only for fairly well written romance. Poorly written romance is a bigger negative for us than it would be for you. Extremely well written romance is a moderate positive for us as opposed to a soak the pages with tears positive for you.

    That all needed explained so I can explain why most of us deride romance novels. As a guy who reads probably a hundred paranormal romance novels a year as well as a couple hundred more urban fantasy with romantic bits, I can safely say that most of them are not well written romance. Most of them are predictable as hell and rarely even approach realism.

    Which means we’re going to hate them. Which means we’re completely justified in saying so. Expecting us to give what we’re fairly certain we’re going to hate a shot is a lot like trying to convince a vegan that you make awesome cheeseburgers and that they should try one. Yeah, you’ll get a convert every once in a great while but it’s never going to be a common thing.

    • Stace
      · June 8th, 2010 at 3:02 pm · Link

      Hmm. I’ve always believed that men and women have differences in the way they look at some things, how they think about them, etc. I just don’t believe that in the end our goals are so diametrically opposed, or that we can’t agree on many things. Were that the case you wouldn’t find movies or books or whatever that are big hits with both sexes.

      And I certainly didn’t mean to imply that men aren’t justified in disliking romance novels or UF and in saying so; I specifically said “If you don’t like a genre, that’s fine.” I just think that if you’re going to dislike it, dislike it for a reason instead of just disliking it because it’s aimed at or produced by or for women, you know? If you think they’re predictable, say so. If you read a bunch and thought they were kind of dull, say so.

      But I don’t run around saying I dislike things I haven’t even tried, generally. I might say it doesn’t appeal to me, or I’m not interested in trying it. But what I don’t do is deride it as crap simply because it doesn’t interest me, or imply that anyone who does like it is a moron.

      And I don’t expect anyone to give UF or romance a shot. I just suggested that if men try it, they might find something to like. I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. I have no power; I can’t order them to do so. I can’t order anyone to do anything at all (except my children when their room is messy). People are free to listen to me or not, to agree or disagree. I just made a suggestion, that’s all. And once again, I fail to see why that’s a terrible or offensive thing to do.

      • The Mighty Buzzard
        · June 8th, 2010 at 3:19 pm · Link

        Yeah, sorry. Didn’t mean to come off as ripping on you. Was going for informative but some frustration crept in at getting into this discussion for like the third time in a month.

        I’ve always believed that men and women have differences in the way they look at some things, how they think about them, etc. I just don’t believe that in the end our goals are so diametrically opposed

        That right there is exactly it. We both more or less go for the same goals but how we mentally get there can be vastly different. And since stories, first person ones in particular, require that we suspend disbelief not only over the unreal world but also over the thought processes of the characters. It can lead to many a WTF moment for guys and kill our disbelief suspension.

      • Stace
        · June 8th, 2010 at 3:35 pm · Link

        No, that’s okay. Looking back I think my reply sounded a bit more clipped than I meant it to. :)

        I do understand your frustration, and I do agree that the paths men and women take are different. And I love those differences, in general; I love men. (I’ve actually always been more of a “guy” girl, if you know what I mean; mostly male friends, that sort of thing.) And to be honest, one of the reasons I stopped writing straight romance was because I realized that I had a hard time writing the romantic scenes; I just wasn’t comfortable with it (that’s not a “guy” or “girl” thing, it’s just something I as a person am not as good at; I’m not a very romantic person, really).

        And you know, I never thought of it before, but that’s an excellent point about the POV and POV characters? If you don’t understand a character’s thought process, it would really ruin the book, wouldn’t it. Hmm.

        And maybe that’s another reason why I don’t particularly care for first person? I’ve always felt like it removes me a step from the action, like I’m being told a story rather than experiencing it, but I’ll have to think about that. I find it harder to like characters in first person in general. Maybe that has something to do with it.

        Thanks! And where were the other discussions on this? I know you were here for my first post on this a few weeks back, but I’d love to see the other one if you don’t mind.

  3. The Mighty Buzzard
    · June 8th, 2010 at 5:04 pm · Link

    Oh ye gods and all the little fishes… My Firefox history for the month is verging on War and Peace length but I’ll see if I can find them.

    Truth be known, first person stories are my current favorites. They’re much easier to build up suspense in and draw you deeper into the story than third person. Plus I have a strange fascination with how other people’s minds work.

    Aside from the mars/venus mental approaches to romance there really aren’t many trains of thought that are going to be story breakers for people. Like you’ve obviously received plenty of emails lately letting you know that the mindset of an addict breaks it for some people. But then it also draws out empathy from someone looking for a temporary escape, like say by reading a book. It’s either a numbers game or writing what you want to write I guess.

    • The Mighty Buzzard
      · June 9th, 2010 at 6:42 pm · Link

      No joy. I remember yours was the first post that started the discussion but I couldn’t find the other entries in the blogs I pull the feeds of or in my enormous web history.

      • Stace
        · June 10th, 2010 at 2:35 pm · Link

        No worries! :) Thanks for checking, anyway.

  4. Betsy Dornbusch
    · June 8th, 2010 at 5:30 pm · Link

    I think the whole POV issue is a great thing to bring up. Kudos for thinking of it. I guess that’s why I don’t go in for romance. I’ve been married for 19 years and before that I was a one night stand type. Romances just don’t speak to me the way they do to so many women. I’m told by my guy friends that I think way more like a guy when it comes to the opposite sex. And I’ve never found the conflict-ridden romance appealing or that believable. There’s just too many other hot guys out there to put up with someone who doesn’t want to get along. :)

    I think I said something like this before, but a lot of female first person UF feel too defensive and snarky, like the chicks have something to prove (usually to some guy in their life.) I keep thinking I wouldn’t hang out with someone like this in real life, so why bother doing it in fiction. There are exceptions, of course!

    The most recent book I sold is an erotic horror tale and I’m glad to say that there’s only a little bit of conflict between the hero and heroine, and it’s more due to manipulation by the antag than anything. I really liked that they were, for the most part, together and committed, albeit in a weird way.

    Good points, all y’all. :)

    • Stace
      · June 10th, 2010 at 2:40 pm · Link

      See, I agree on the defensive/something to prove sound of so many first person voices, but I wonder if that’s just the interpretation I put on it, you know? Because I have a hard time connecting to that voice, and because I think it’s harder to reveal vulnerability without sounding whiny.

      I don’t know. I just do have a hard time with it, and prefer third person. :)

  5. Michele Lee
    · June 9th, 2010 at 2:05 pm · Link

    I think Buzzard there has a point, men and women do mentally go about thing differently.

    There’s a huge difference in the approach in UF and the approach in horror, though most stories have a whole lot in common. But ultimate (and generally) UF is emotional and personal where the overarching victories are as much in the connections the characters make, establishing friendships and romances, etc and generally speaking horror is an action fantasy that’s as much about the male lead defending and protecting their territory, their loved ones, and indulging in some “forgivable” slaughter.

    It bugs me the role men and women take in both genres. UF is almost as sexist in its treatment of males (at times, look at Anita Blake’s male characters for a really good and really popular example) as horror is with its women (scream queens much?)

    Men do read UF all the time. Years ago when I went to a LKH signing almost half the people there were men–asking questions and getting books signed, not just glaring at their wives/girlfriends/whatever. The Jim Butcher books seem to be pretty popular with men as well.

    My DH loves the Dresden books, the True Blood tv show and the very idea of urban fantasy (he’s a role player and most RP world are or can be translated into urban fantasy). But I have warned him off reading the Sookie Stackhouse books because I know he just wouldn’t connect with Sookie as a main character. You have to be able to connect to the lead to really enjoy the story, and I think that’s where the problem lies. And if you hate the lead it can completely ruin an otherwise great concept/story.

    Likewise I find myself becoming more dissatisfied with horror because many of the main characters are tough guy men who have to save the world, and women are 1) hassles 2) there to drive the lead to protect 3) there to tug the heartstrings of the reader but not there to actually participate in the story in a meaningful way.

    It does lead to me wondering if I’m just playing on even ground as a reader, much less as a writer. I can understand why men would have a problem connecting with some of the very..um…female characters in UF.

    But there’s no reason to dismiss the whole genre as trash or any level of poorer writing just because it’s female-centric.

    • The Mighty Buzzard
      · June 9th, 2010 at 6:38 pm · Link

      I wouldn’t bet on his inability to connect with Sookie. She has very guy-friendly mental processes. She may put a lot of thought into a decision but she’s never wishy-washy about it and once her decision is made it’s set in stone until circumstances change.

    • Stace
      · June 10th, 2010 at 2:48 pm · Link

      Yeah, I totally agree that some UF is as sexist toward men as some very male-oriented fiction is toward females. I don’t see it often but I have noticed it before; funny, because it was something that bothered me but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

      And yeah, I wonder sometimes too if the problem isn’t me, more than anything else. Sigh.

  6. jjdebenedictis
    · June 9th, 2010 at 3:18 pm · Link

    I think part of the problem is there is a great deal of sexism in publishing…against men.

    Read the following article by Jason Pinter. He makes a very good case for the idea that the publishing industry is female-dominated and often doesn’t bother to cater to men.


    Urban fantasy is marketed with laser-accuracy at women. I think it’s unfair to accuse men of not being brave enough to read it (and thereby insinuate they’re too sexist to do so) when the industry systematically dismisses and excludes men.

    Would you read a book whose marketing campaign treated women as being of no importance and beneath consideration?

    • Stace
      · June 9th, 2010 at 4:05 pm · Link

      I wasn’t accusing men of being scared to read it, or sexist for not reading it. What I feel is sexist is outright dismissing it as “girl books,” and saying they’re “not real fantasy.”

      People are, as I’ve said numerous times on the blog, in the replies to this post, and elsewhere, perfectly entitled to read what they like, to enjoy or not enjoy what they read, to have opinions and express them in any manner they choose. I just don’t think it’s right to dismiss something without having tried it. (“Dismiss” as opposed to saying, “It’s not for me,” or “It doesn’t look like something I’d enjoy.” That’s fine. Saying “It’s just girl crap” isn’t, at least not to me.)

      As for men reading a genre not marketed to them, that was the whole point of this post; that I’d like to see men being included more in the marketing and that I don’t like the thought that they feel ignored/left out/not welcome in the genre. That’s why I encouraged them to try a few, and see if they like it, is because I feel like they are excluded and that’s unfair and not right.

      • InkGypsy
        · June 9th, 2010 at 7:58 pm · Link

        I DO think men are excluded/discriminated against because of the marketing. I’d love to see a publishing company release the book with 2 covers: one version aimed at women and one aimed at men (including Butcher’s & Green’s btw! I think these are more ‘men-oriented in their cover approach than a lot of UF and it would be interesting to see how they’d redo the cover to appeal to the fems… just don’t tell them we’re already reading it all :D). Seeing who would pick up what covers on a busy bookstore table would not only help this issue but I bet they’d sell a ton more books too! (A cover to appeal to both? Well, that’s a whole other thing… LOL)

        One advantage writers have now, that I think should be used more, is posting sample chapters/excerpts to very different types of sites and blogs. Classic example (in reverse) is I read about an author I hadn’t heard of before – sounded awesome and so went to read the sample chapters, hosted at a different site. The page opened to be kinda pink and frilly with lipstick kiss marks – not a drawcard for me. I immediately lost interest and left the tab open all day. Finally before shutting down for the night I thought I should at least read a paragraph ‘just in case’. SO glad I did! I was intrigued and quickly the page layout faded as I was drawn into the story. From the comments by the lipstick-loving* blog regulars she was a hit for them too, surprisingly so in some cases (*not that there’s anything wrong with loving lipstick or pink – just not my thing). Good for that author! And smart.

        It’s partly the copycat/follow-the-trend/cash-in-on-that-success thing that’s helped cause the problem of ‘it’s for girls’ and that being a not-good thing too, I think. We’re still seeing covers being redone ‘a la Twilight’ (enough already!) and, in the process of trying to attract Twilight fans they’re alienating many of the very people they would have sold to previously without trouble. Dark fantasy never had issues with getting guys to read it in the past but I think the perception is that DF (which, for this comment includes UF) has ‘gone soft’ to include the girls and thus changed/warped the genre. Not true, of course, but it IS hard to get beyond the packaging if you’re not already a fan.

        I vote for multiple covers. Or maybe a ‘choose your cover’ preference as a shipping option from online stores. Surely we’re not far away from this anyway with Kindle reading etc (not that I will ever prefer electronic over in-your-hands-actual-books). And then we can appeal to the collectors too… 😉

        I don’t think we’ll ever be on an an ‘even playing field’ – not really. Perhaps we should take it on as a challenge – ie. ‘WWtKAWW’? (What Would the Kick Ass Writer* Write? – ‘kick-ass writer” being defined as the UF author whose stories are bought and loved by all)

      • jjdebenedictis
        · June 10th, 2010 at 6:48 am · Link

        And you know, I think men in general are better than that. Don’t you? Give it a try, men! Read something different, for fun.

        I can’t help but find something like this a bit condescending. Switch the word “men” to “ladies” and imagine it coming from a graphic novel fan trying to encourage more women to read in his genre. Would his words convince you to? Or would you feel mildly insulted by the insinuation you’re not adventurous enough? That the fault is yours, despite the industry having ignored you as a potential customer?

        I do understand what you were getting at with this post, and I do laud you for it. It’s an excellent sentiment and a good point: marketing to women exclusively limits UF’s impact and probably drives away male customers.

        What I feel is sexist is outright dismissing it as “girl books,” and saying they’re “not real fantasy.”

        And yes, there are a few sexist men who dismiss anything women like as being fluff. That mindset is disgusting (and has been around forever–Wuthering Heights is not a romance and no one called it one until they discovered it was written by a woman.) You’re right to call guys like that on their B.S.

        However, your post (mildly) implies that most men are like that, which I don’t think is fair.

        Publicity and marketing are all about manipulating people to think a certain way, and it seemed to me you placed too much blame for the effects of that manipulation on the short-sightedness of men rather than on the intentional bias of marketing departments.

        By the way, this is a really interesting discussion and I’m very much enjoying the debate. Thank you for posting this!

      • Stace
        · June 10th, 2010 at 2:50 pm · Link

        Wow, InkGypsy! I love that idea!!

        Of course I seriously doubt that publishers will actually implement it. But I do think it’s a great idea.

        And yeah, as with anything else, I think when people discover something that works, they talk about it, and it can lead to a perception that all of those books are like that, even though it’s just that those are the ones that get all of the attention, you know?

      • Stace
        · June 10th, 2010 at 4:49 pm · Link

        I can’t help but find something like this a bit condescending. Switch the word “men” to “ladies” and imagine it coming from a graphic novel fan trying to encourage more women to read in his genre. Would his words convince you to? Or would you feel mildly insulted by the insinuation you’re not adventurous enough? That the fault is yours, despite the industry having ignored you as a potential customer?

        Well, I apologize, jj, because clearly I’m not expressing myself properly. I don’t think saying “Most men aren’t sexist, and I encourage them to try something different in hopes they’ll enjoy it” is condescending, no. Nor do I find the idea of someone saying, “Hey, I think ladies might like comics if they tried them, so why don’t you?” condescending either (that is, in fact, exactly how I got into comics). I don’t think it implies unadventurousness at all. I think it implies an acknowledgment of the obvious fact that not as many girls read comics, just like not as many guys read romance. Since we all agreed, especially in the first post on this, that men in fact aren’t big readers of genres marketed toward women, and now we’ve agreed that is in part because those books aren’t designed to appeal to them…

        I don’t get offended easily, and I try not to read insults into things where none is obviously intended.

        Perhaps I did make it sound like all men think that way. I didn’t intend to, but I’ll certainly accept that you saw it that way. First I apologize. Second, I can tell you that as an urban fantasy writer, I do in fact see a lot of dismissal of me and my work and the work of others in my genre. I’ve never thought all men do it. But there certainly are some, and those some can be very vocal about it.

        Again, my intent was never to imply that all or even many men are short-sighted. It was just to encourage them to give something a try; to extend a hand, as it were, and say “Hey, I know this stuff isn’t designed to appeal to you, but you might like it if you tried it, and I think it would be cool if you did.” That wasn’t meant in an offensive way; I try very hard not to offend here, and to be open, accepting, and respectful of everyone, and not to put people or things down and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. So it’s definitely rather hard for me when I see that I’ve failed in that, and people are seeing things I never intended and are being upset by that. I never want to hurt or upset anyone; it literally makes me feel ill when I do. So again, I’m sorry. And thanks for the comments, I really appreciate them.

  7. Michael
    · June 10th, 2010 at 7:12 pm · Link

    I just found your site through a Twitter follower and I will have to look up some of your books… But reading this discussion has really opened my eyes to the problem that I have reading UF… I don’t relate well with the female character… I find myself in a bookstore and looking at all the back covers and I see that there is a female lead… 9 out of 10 times I will put it back.

    I do want to explore other themes and possibilities outside my comfort zone… But the last 3 or 4 books that I have picked up with a female lead… I didn’t make it past the first few chapters. But the last 4 or 5 books I have picked up with a male lead that are SF/UF I have completed…

    It would be nice to pick up some book and not really care about the lead or their sex… And I don’t know how you do that… Maybe it is the covers… I looked at both your books on this page and both of the covers do not appeal to me. I would rather see a recreation of a scene from the book than the beautiful female lead who I have to believe has led this horrible life…

    Who knows…. But thanks for letting me spout my two cents.

    • Stace
      · June 10th, 2010 at 7:46 pm · Link

      Hi Michael, thanks for commenting!

      Hmm. So you can finish male-MC UF but not female MC, huh. I don’t think that’s really a big deal. You tried them and they weren’t for you, I guess; there’s nothing wrong with that. :) I do kind of wonder which ones you tried–maybe the MCs were just girlier than some, or the male characters in those books were two-dimensional? I know Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson is a mechanic, and I guess the male characters in those books are believable and solid, so maybe try one of those? I know for me if the secondary characters are well-drawn and interesting, it makes a big difference for me.

      As for mine…do you really think the girl on the cover is beautiful? Huh. Either way, she doesn’t look like my character, who is attractive/pretty but in a normal sort of way. But don’t let the cover sway you. You can go to the UNHOLY GHOSTS page here on the site and download a PDF of the first five chapters. That way if you can’t finish it you haven’t wasted your money, and if you are still interested you’ve found a book that interests you. Sound like a good deal? :)

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