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General Book Discussions > Is Masculine Writing Dead? Novelist Frank Bill

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message 1: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Excerpt:

And when walking the isles of a bookstore, those are the characteristics that interest me most, writers who shed light on what masculinity means, what it is to be tough, to be rugged, to be able to take care of your damn self. No, there’s no Masculine Lit section like there’s a Mystery, Sci-fi, or Romance section. But if there were I’d stock those shelves with Charles Bukowski, Thom Jones, Jim Harrison, Larry Brown, Hubert Selby, Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and Cormac McCarthy. I’d throw Harry Crews in there but he’s like rare bourbon, hard to come by, but worth every drop—we’d have to keep him behind the counter. Same as Roger Smith or James Carlos Blake, those names are too manly for most shelves.

message 2: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
Masculne Lit is mostly genre writing- sci-fi, military thrillers, hard boiled mystery stuff. And it's very much alive. Just like with small-government books, one needs to know where to look.

I'm surprised Andrew Klavan is not on that list.

message 3: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments It's a topic I find very interesting.

I agree with what you're saying about genre . . .

message 4: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
A lot of people looking at my bookshelf assume I'm a guy. But I just like books where men behave like men and women are strong in believable ways. I'm tired of how every action/fantasy book nowadays MUST have a female who's as good or better than men at everything. It diminishes men, yes, but also dismisses unique abilities of women.

message 5: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Yes!

And btw, it's very dangerous to create female characters who don't fit certain fictional stereotypes.

One of my novels has a female protag who gets pushed around by pretty much everybody. It's supposed to be comedic! But I positioned the book as a romance, ran a promo and gave away 20,000 copies -- and a half dozen or so readers who got the book for FREE turned around and skewered me with 1 & 2 star reviews.

It took me completely by surprise. I have reviewers who literally fantasized about beating up my protag.

My next novel, out a week from tomorrow, has a female protag who is an animal control officer, and tries to apply what she knows about handling dogs to handling men. Doesn't work. So who knows? This could blow up in my face too, maybe! :-D

message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
And yet... Bridget Jones Diary, Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey- all hugely successful, deservedly or not, maybe precisely because they don't fit into the PC mold.

message 7: by John (new)

John | 59 comments Prediction, Kirsten: It will NOT blow up in your face. The book is too good, and Paige is too strong a character. (I'm bragging, 'cause I got a chance to read a preview copy!!) Oh, some readers will find something to fuss about because as we all know you can't please everyone. Shrug it off. Or, take it as a compliment that your protag was such a believable, living character to those readers that she made them mad! It takes real writing talent to create "real" characters.

message 8: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Thanks, John, you're very kind :-)

message 9: by John (new)

John Galt | 35 comments Interesting thread. As an author and a capitalist the lure is strong to write for the largest audience possible(women 15-45). My first book, which sprung out of me almost out of the blue, had two very strong male voices. As I received feedback I started to gain awareness as to whom my audience really was--women read more than men--and thus my next two books showed a stronger female lead.

message 10: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
That leaves some of us women who like male leads out in the cold...Or pushes us into the waiting arms of Larry Correia and Andrew Klavan (figuratively speaking, of course:)).

message 11: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Must be something in the air -- here's pretty much the same question, inverted, in an Atlantic article, "Why Do Female Authors Dominate Young-Adult Fiction?":

More than 75,000 votes were cast to cull the list of 235 finalists to the top 100. Also notable: Of those 235 titles, 147 (or 63 percent) were written by women—a parity that would seem like a minor miracle in some other genres. Female authors took the top three slots, and an approximately equal share of the top 100. As a comparison, you'd have to scroll all the way to number 20 on last summer's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy list to find a woman's name (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley).

message 12: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
I think it may be a general case of culture more and more geared towards women (a chickification, to steal a famously incendiary phrase).

I have to find that Andrew Klavan interview where he explains his reasons for going into YA. This is not really a new phenomenon, just getting more attention right now.

message 13: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Yeah, it was a topic that came up fairly regularly on the alt culture blog 2Blowhards back in the mid 2000s. E.g.

It's an enormous subject .. .if I was 30 years younger & in college & considering an academic career I'd be sorely tempted to tackle it (altho doing so would probably render me unhireable :-D)

message 14: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
Found the Adrew Klavan interview on the topic (I had to google Klavan Sally Unicorn to find it but here it is LOL). I might have posted it in another thread but was too lazy to look. The first question in the interview gets right to the point we are discussing.

message 15: by Henry (new)

Henry Brown (machinetrooper) | 236 comments Masha wrote: "A lot of people looking at my bookshelf assume I'm a guy. But I just like books where men behave like men and women are strong in believable ways. I'm tired of how every action/fantasy book nowaday..."

Thank you, Masha. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one left who saw it that way.

message 16: by Henry (new)

Henry Brown (machinetrooper) | 236 comments I liked that article--it touched on some points I've been making. And this thread has given me some ideas what to add to my towering TBR pile.

To put it bluntly, I'm sick of masculine females (in real life and in film/fiction) and effeminate males. But it seems like others will never tire of gender-bending in ever increasing doses. My mother and sisters were all strong women, but they weren't butch and they sure weren't action movie heroines.

Of course, the gender-bending has become obligatory in art (and predictable as well).

I've been writing "masculine fiction" myself, and my blog is pretty much dedicated to it. There is no shortage of authors who write in traditionally male-dominated genres willing to get in line for reviews, sending me free copies of their books, etc., and yet there are no other bloggers I know of with such an unashamedly male perspective.

I guess my point is, I appreciate this thread and will be following it.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments I don't know how many here have read the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. A facet of the Dresden character is that he can't stand to see a woman harmed. It's not written in a demeaning way as one of the strongest characters in the series is Karen Murphy a Police Lt. (at the beginning of the series) who saves Harry often and is very tough. Harry talks about realizing that his attitude is not accepted anymore and he often gets in over his head because female villains take advantage of it.

That said some of the discussion threads here are full of people (mostly female) who hate the character and rate the books low simply because of this. It's played for laughs as an anachronism in Harry, Murphy makes fun of him but some readers just can't get past even the mention. It's a societal thing. Don Pendelton is gone...

I like Stephen Hunter, Mark Greaney and Harold Coyle among others. In non-fiction I like Robert Ruark, Jim Corbett, Peter Hathaway Capstick (though some people disagree on how much he fictionalized his nonfiction) and, again others. The "man reads" are out there but they get buried and you have to search.

message 18: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Mike, I was about to bring up Flashman -- its reviews break along gender lines for obvious reasons -- but then I thought to check your book list first & saw you gave it one star .. . .

(I'm reading it now.)

message 19: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Mar 21, 2013 10:08AM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments It was more the attitude of the books that got to me more than the writing. Flashman is an inveterate coward, blackguard, misogynist and just about everything else negative and everything he does manages to be come back and be misunderstood as a positive. The books were I suppose meant to parody the history of the British Empire and nationalism in general...but they don't appeal to me.

I recall one scene (not sure which book) where Flashman is trying to surrender and hand over the flag but manages to tangle the flag around himself and fall. Reinforcements arrive just in time for him to be the only survivor. The witnesses who can testify to his cowardliness are all dead hand he's wrapped in the flag. The "assumption" is made he wouldn't give the flag to the enemy and he becomes a hero.

The whole series is like that...just the attitude annoys me.

message 20: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod Never heard of those books, but will make sure to avoid them.

message 21: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments Pubbed in 1960s. I don't know if I'd call them post-modern.

message 22: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Wilson | 11 comments What disturbs me the most is the dearth of good books for teen boys and young men. Back in the 50s and as late as the 70s, boys adventure was a sizeable part of the market, and the great boys books were just as engaging for adventurous girls as well (I had a soft spot for the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series). Today, it's darned hard to find anything that engages boys.


message 23: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments When the 'Flashman' stories began coming out, one of the attractions about them were that they were different from the mainstream of the time in that they were about a craven (but not despicable) character who somehow kept being perceived as a hero. I suppose that the stories were intended to be humorously ironic. Rather than get oneself bent out of shape over real or perceived 'messages', follow the advice of MST3K and repeat to yourself it's just a story, you should really just relax.

message 24: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments @S.J. I'm enjoying the book. But I admit I found myself cringing a couple of times when I first got started. "Ow ouch he wrote THAT?" lol

I doubt the series would find a publisher if it was new today.

message 25: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
One word: chickification. I'm a chick so I can say it. It's true and it's disgusting, not just in literature, but in sciences, math, sports, everything. The educational system is geared towards girls to begin with because girls tend to have longer attention spans and be better behaved. THEN you get all kinds of special programs to "encourage" girls (like STEM crap), in the process dumbing everything down and short-changing both boys AND girls. THEN, even though girls are naturally more inclined to sit down quietly and read, you stock school libraries disproportionately with girl-oriented books. A couple of decades of that, and we have our current predicament.

Message #14 is Andrew Klavan addressing this very problem.

message 26: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments @Jamie, a benign explanation is that it's something like a cascade effect, I suppose. Per John Tierny (in a column about medical consensus cascades):

[G]roups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.

Publishing got the idea, somewhere along the line that "the real YA money" is in books for girls . . .

message 27: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments lol what Masha said -- so much for my mealy mouthed response!!! ;-)

message 28: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments Well, it was a different time way back then. If one reads the books, Flashman comes across as a very atypical Victorian era character (who would have been quite at home in the 1960s), which at the time seemed to be a refreshing change. One can only take a shtick like that so far before it starts to feel stale, though.
I'd skip the movie.

message 29: by Kirsten (last edited Mar 22, 2013 08:32AM) (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments LOL thanks!

(any day I can miss a bad movie is a good day ;-))

message 30: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments 'Royal Flash' wasn't too bad as entertainment. It came out in 1975, by which time the cycle of antihero movies was beginning to sputter out. 'Star Wars' and 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' were on their way to audiences already tired of amoral scoundrels.
There is another movie, titled 'Flashman', which came out in the late 1960s but has absolutely nothing to do with the 'Flashman' novels. It appears to be a very bad Italian science fiction film. THAT one I'd stay away from.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments Oh I think Flashman would easily find a publisher today, it fits a narrative that's still popular. I think also that it was as popular as it was when it hit was that it was published in America during the Vietnam era and it also fit with the narrative that was popular then.

Jamie, there are still books out there that are great for teen and preteen boys but you have to search. Books like The Ruins of Gorlan series are there but parents have to get involved and search them out.

message 32: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments One reason so much modern literature is aimed at a female audience is the perception that females read much more than males do. Publishers are in business to make money, after all. I think males cut down on their reading once computer video games became so widespread. I doubt there was any plan on anybody's part to bring this about. However, publishers concentrating on female-oriented books wind up reducing the number of male-oriented books being published, which may contribute to a vicious circle, as males tired of their video games for the time being look for something interesting to read, can't find anything, and go back to the keyboard.

message 33: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
Hopefully the rise of indie and self publishing can do something about that.

message 34: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments Well, hope does spring eternal, ever since Pandora dumped it out of that box. But I don't see anyone openly marketing a book these days as being aimed at a male audience. That may change.

message 35: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Mortensen (kirsten_mortensen) | 30 comments I'm sorely tempted to add that to my future projects list -- because it's there, like the mountain, and I am just fool enough to try it.

message 36: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
S.J. wrote: "Well, hope does spring eternal, ever since Pandora dumped it out of that box. But I don't see anyone openly marketing a book these days as being aimed at a male audience. That may change."

It doesn't have to be AIMED at males, but at people who like that type of writing.

I have always been puzzled by women who only want to read books with female leads. I AM a woman, I already UNDERSTAND women; what I want to do is to learn about MEN. And frankly a "hot guys with swords" type book is so much more entertaining to me, as a woman, than "an Amazonian chick in leather bikini" book. Shouldn't this be pretty universal? What am I missing?

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments I agree. Whet I think of as "masculine" writing has in my mind more to do with content...though of course that does include books about "what it means to be a man". Still men "traditionally" tend to like action, political intrigue strong plots. When I was a kid there were books built around war stories and so on, lots and lots of westerns (most of us know Louis L'Amour but how many recall Max Brand) that kind of book. Those don't get as much traction today. My favorite books tend to be fantasy and one of my all time favorites are the Paksenarrion books by Elizabeth Moon, but in many ways these are a good example of what I'd call masculine writing in some ways.

message 38: by John (new)

John | 59 comments @S.J.: A friend of mine, K.T. Bryan, has a well-reviewed book out called "The EDGE of Trust" that she's trying to market as an ebook and paperback, one of a series about the fictional military organization called EDGE. Her protag is all man. It's grit, guns, and hand-to-hand all the way; the good guys are good and the bad guys are really bad. Point: There are some out there if you/we look for them.

message 39: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments Well, it looks pretty good from the blurbs and it appears to be doing well on Amazon. I appreciate the heads-up, but I'm afraid that I just don't read as much as I used to these days.

message 40: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
John wrote: "@S.J.: A friend of mine, K.T. Bryan, has a well-reviewed book out called "The EDGE of Trust" that she's trying to market as an ebook and paperback, one of a series about the fictional military org..."

Sounds like a good fit for our group!

message 41: by John (new)

John | 59 comments I'll invite her.

message 42: by John (new)

John | 59 comments Welcome, K.T.!! (I assume you saw Kirsten's comments on reviews -- message #5?)
Glad you're here.

message 43: by Marina (last edited Mar 25, 2013 05:42PM) (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 1445 comments Mod
Welcome K.T.! Personally, I don't disqualify a book for being written by a woman, but generally would walk away from anything with only a woman on the cover.

Re: freebie reviews- there have been various discussions on reader/writer forums. Some people take a freebie without looking into what the book actually is. Personally, I've read lots of freebies, but because I'm so selective, I almost always end up giving 3 stars or more. I think readers need to be more responsible about getting freebies and realize they are not truly "free"- they are authors sharing their work, expecting certain results.

Oh, almost forgot- K.T., please stop off at the Self-Promo folder!

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments Hi K.T. I tried to run down your book... May have to get it on line, LOL. Welcome.

message 45: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments I've been keeping track of this thread, and I have a question: What qualifies as 'Masculine' writing? I'd be interested in reading any replies, as I suspect that different people may have different perspectives on the matter.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments True... I suspect we all know what we mean when we say it, but it might not be what everyone else means.

message 47: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments I'm reminded of a discussion I once had with some Mensans over what was meant by a 'real man'. When I asked what they thought constituted a 'real woman' I inadvertently killed the discussion.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments I guess that's a thought. To me the "man" implies acceptance of responsibility, honesty, strength in the face of know all that naive stuff people make fun of today.

message 49: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 263 comments Yes, but those same qualities would not be out of place in a strong woman. So how would one distinguish distinctly masculine characters from distinctly feminine ones?

message 50: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Mar 25, 2013 07:54PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 467 comments I don't say they have to be. But at the risk of being stoned for saying it, men by nature tend to be more aggressive, we tend (on the whole) to be more competitive more single minded (the result of testosterone on the developing child somewhat). It's not universal. There are female football fans and females who want to be infantry soldiers, but the majority are men. (I find a lot of the women pushing to get "other" women in the forefront of battle don't want to be there themselves).

So am I male chauvinist for recognizing that males tend toward a more aggressive nature? We as a society are engaged in trying to "weed" that out of boys. Violent games are discouraged... sports are supposed to played without keeping score...etc., etc. "Men" used to take the responsibility of training young men up. To take those tendencies and gear them in a positive way. To raise boys to be protectors rather than hoodlums. Society doesn't want to hear that and I predict I'll have inadvertently offended someone by this.

There are men who are by nature more traditionally "feminine" and women who are more traditionally "masculine". It's genetics I guess, that and how we are reared (nature and nurture).

So I'm not saying that those qualities are strictly for men, but express what men "were" supposed to exemplify.

Have you read The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men? or Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women? Same writer who wrote on this some years ago.

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