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Science Fiction > Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Still Encouraged to Use Male Pseudonyms

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message 1: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Still Encouraged to Use Male Pseudonyms: http://io9.com/5967253/female-science...

I've seen in comments in other groups as well as from outside boards from men that some generally don't read anything written by women, especially when its sci-fi. What do you think about this practice still existing, even being encouraged by publishers?

What do you think about authors that do this? Are they justified to do this? Or should they stand their ground, like Seanan McGuire, who says she received some pushback over publishing her ultra-violent zombie novels, starting with Feed, under a female pseudonym? It seems like this would be most tempting to new female authors who need every little advantage in this brutal industry. Any thoughts?


message 2: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I read about Manda Scott who went to her initials. It bugs me, bugs me bad if I think about it, and I do think She might have stood her ground. In honour of which I always call her Manda Scott. Can I find the interview where she spoke of it...?


Q. Like many authors, you publish under initials (M.C. Scott), but your earlier books were published under your full name. Why did you decide on the change?

A. My publishers thought it would help to sell books – most men won’t buy a book if they know it’s by a woman. If the author is gender neutral, then they’ll pick it up and if they discover later that the author was a woman, that’s fine. So we go from 80:20 women: men to 50:50 as soon as it’s not obvious who I am. It’s entirely commercial. And, very sadly, it worked.

http://uklesfic.wordpress.com/2013/03...

(I know she's hf but Boudicca books can scrape in as fantasy?)


message 3: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments I can't blame her, though. Especially with the Rome series... It bugs me too that women must do this but it seems to reflect reality, her sales prove it. She was able to improve her sales and get a larger male readership just due to using her initials.

What makes me wonder is Kim Stanley Robinson, a very female name for a man and he's not afraid to use it (no initials) on his book covers. I wonder if his publishers had said anything and if it effects (or effected when he wasn't as well known) his sales.


message 4: by Bryn (last edited May 05, 2014 01:41PM) (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) On Manda Scott. My first thought was, surely there are other reasons for an increase in sales/male readership with the Rome books? Primarily, a male main, & a change in subject matter, so how can they isolate the effect of initials?

It was a big shock to me when I read that of her. I see my indie friends use initials and I think, we need the Manda Scotts not to perpetuate it but tell her publishers no. Now I worry that the stats they use are wrong (male main?! a spy story -- it's different) and may keep a myth in circulation that needn't be.


message 5: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments That's a good point. I wish we could do a study on this but the only way to do it would be to publish the same book twice, once with initials and the other with a full name. But that wouldn't make sense either...

I do know that some men like that exist, men that won't read anything written by a woman. Even some women like that exist because they are sick and tired of reading romances, which are mostly written by women and sometimes are cleverly disguised. It seems like the only solution is keep on trying to spotlight women authors and hope that generations down the road won't be stuck in the gender stereotype rut that society seems to be in currently.


message 6: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) Alicja wrote: "I do know that some men like that exist, men that won't read anything written by a woman..."

Yup, I see them casually about on Goodreads, seems not uncommon. Persistent stereotype, 'women write like ---.' Disguised women can only slow down the undoing of those stereotypes?


message 7: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments But non-disguised women may not get the audience. At least with initials you are just preventing that initial gut reaction but then can have your bio state you are a woman. I think J.K. Rowling actually helped show that women can write well and popularly for both men/boys and women/girls. But do you think boys would have picked up Harry Potter by Joanne Rowling? I think it is the male pseudonym that is more problematic because then the woman is just hiding... and that will slow down the undoing of stereotypes.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark | 55 comments I think it's daft that female authors have to be gender neutral these days. I read books by both sexes.

It's the book that matters.


message 9: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments I think it may also be subconscious for many. The male experience (especially the white, straight male experience) seems to be treated as default so therefore a book written by a woman or a minority or a gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans or someone disabled must be clouded by those experiences and so reflect that experience and some people don't want their writing clouded by politically correct bs. Or so I've heard that reasoning from a few, which in itself is bs.


message 10: by Sparrowlicious (new)

Sparrowlicious | 160 comments As for people who don't read books because the author is a certain gender:
I caught myself a couple of times not giving a book a chance because it was written by a male author. Especially when the book has a female main character or supposely strong female characters. (Only exception is Terry Pratchett, I trust that fellow with his characters.)
So, this phenomenon also exists the other way around. With me it's easy to explain: Bad experiences. I already read a book that had things like 'all women strive to be loved' in its narrative. I almost threw it across the room because this sort of thing popped up every now and then. The hate I felt burned like a redhot needle.
Also, male authors who seem to think that a female character can only be strong if the author pulls a Moffat and uses the strong-ness in a 'sexual liberty' sort of way. This is not only boring but also annoying. (I don't know if this would annoy me less if I wasn't asexual.)

Sorry for not contributing much to the actual topic. /:
I know too little about how marketing books works and general publishing things. I only know that as long as the science fiction culture is still portrayed by let's say for example 'The Big Bang Theory', we can't really seem to move forward. I do think the picture of the lonely male geek is completely outdated, not only because they're no longer lonely (we got the internet, right?) but also because a lot of women like Science Fiction and contribute to the genre. They always did and they'll still do in the future but because of the 'boy's club' image the genre has this seems to fall under the table very often. (I know this idiom doesn't quite work in English but I know no equivalent.)


message 11: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments I don't know much about publishing either. I am a reader and that's it.

Check out this YouTube video. GrapplingIgnorance is one of my favorite video bloggers. He usually tackles toping related to atheism and education but recently did a video response to a sci fi douche regarding women cosplayers (because GIs SO is a cosplayer, he decided to do the response). It shows just how hostile some men could be to women geeks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yee-3...


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Interestingly enough, I just read this article:

http://lifehacker.com/using-your-midd...

It doesn't say using an initial rather than one's first name, but I can't help but wonder if doing so wouldn't have some sort of influence on the perception of the readers. Inadvertently, in order to avoid the sexism of the market (or the perceived sexism as characterized by their publishers) female authors might have tapped into a fundamental psychological issue and gained a benefit from it.


message 13: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments Gary wrote: "Interestingly enough, I just read this article:

http://lifehacker.com/using-your-midd...

It doesn't say using an initial rather than one's first name, ..."


It doesn't say if 1, 2, or 3 middle initials were better or if all rated the same. Also, they should have tested with the first name as an initial as well. Seems to me an incomplete study or at least the article report is incomplete. Interesting to think about, though.

Does that mean it helped George R.R. Martin propel his books to fame? :P


message 14: by Gary (last edited May 11, 2014 09:54PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Alicja wrote: "It doesn't say if 1, 2, or 3 middle initials were better or if all rated the same. Also, they should have tested with the first name as an initial as well. Seems to me an incomplete study or at least the article report is incomplete. Interesting to think about, though.

It's far from definitive. A random sample of 85 doesn't seem sufficient. Still, it is odd. What's weirder are the studies mentioned in the abstract of the original paper:
Names and their display have a potent effect on people's judgments and life. For example, in academic domains in which authors are often listed alphabetically (e.g., economics), those with surname initials early in the alphabet are more likely to be recipients of, for example, the Nobel Price (Einav & Yariv, 2006), and they have better reputations, possibly because of the higher visibility of their names (Efthyvoulou, 2008). Further, own name's letters are more positively regarded compared with other letters (Nuttin, 1985, 1987; also Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997; Koole, Dijksterhuis, & Knippenberg, 2001; Pelham, Mirenberg, & Jones, 2002; cf. Simonsohn, 2011). Moreover, people with initials carrying a positive meaning (e.g., “H. U. G.”) live longer compared with those with initials carrying a negative meaning (e.g., “M. A. D.”; Christenfeld, Phillips, & Glynn, 1999). In sum, psychological research has demonstrated that names affect judgments and behavior. Our research investigates whether middle initials in names affect person perception.
How crazy is that?

Does that mean it helped George R.R. Martin propel his books to fame? :P"

Honestly, I have no doubt that that's the case....


message 15: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) Gary wrote: "Interestingly enough, I just read this article: using-your-middle-initial-can-make-you-seem-smarter-"

I can see that: for academics, an initial looks 'smart'. How about creatives, though? Do we want fiction authors to come across smart? Depends on the fiction no doubt.

George R.R. may have ridden on the waves of J.R.R. The right associations?

Gary: Inadvertently, in order to avoid the sexism of the market... female authors might have tapped into a fundamental psychological issue and gained a benefit from it.

You might be onto something. It's more impersonal, isn't it, to use initials? Smart/impersonal might work to allay fears about how women write.


message 16: by Gary (last edited May 11, 2014 09:56PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments I suspect the initials getting "respect" when it comes to intellectual papers has something to do with the way advanced degrees (or noble titles in some countries) are often noted after a person's name. At least, that seems like the most obvious relationship to some sort of subconscious, psychological connection.

Personally, I write my name with my middle initial, use it in "official" documents, and I normally use it in the real world.... I generally avoid it on the Internet just because it identifies me from the other 80-90 other people named "Gary Foss" in the world, and there is the occasional loony on GR who appears to be attempting to dox me.... I'm not particularly worried about them finding me, but why make it easy on them?

There was some discussion on GR about GRRM's name in a thread a while back. I did a little research as a result. Apparently, the R.R. in George Martin's name came from a change (he had one "R" middle name, but added the second "middle name") during his confirmation as a child. I doubt it was an early plan to achieve fantasy literary dominance... but I don't think the connection was lost even to his early-teen mind. (I'm sure I would have seen it when I was that age....) And I'm sure any editor worth his blue pencil would have jumped on it once he started publishing as a fantasy author.


message 17: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments I just go by my middle name since my first is unpronounceable to non-Slavics.

I think you may be on to something with GRRM. It could be seen as destiny. :P

Bryn, and it also hides their identity as a woman, at least when the first look is concerned.

Also, even men today will use pseudonyms or initials when writing romance. It seems that the double standard goes both ways, and men who write (or read) romance are also at a disadvantage.


message 18: by Gary (last edited May 11, 2014 07:51PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments I've read that of the total number of titles published in the United States, around 45% (give or take a few points either way on any particular year) are Romance. I recall reading one year that it was something like 51%, if you can imagine that. You have the sum of all written, hard-copy knowledge on one side, and Romance novels on the other....

From what I can tell, when men use female names it is because they are writing Romance novels or books that target a female audience, but when women use male names it is a more generalized thing. That is, in most any genre the assumption is that a woman will get a broader readership if she uses a male name or ambiguous initials. Arguably, that's changed a lot in recent years, but it does still seem to be the assumption.

I haven't seen a lot of cold, hard numbers to back up that assumption, though. A lot of publishers seem reluctant to reveal the source of their information. There was a GR discussion a while back about the number of people of color who write various Romance titles, and I remember thinking how odd it was that massive publishing houses claimed to have no knowledge of the ethnicity of their writers. I suspect that's not really true....

Personally, all I can say is that you could slap my ass and call my Shirley if it'd get my book published....

Edit: Happened upon this

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/art...


message 19: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments That's another thing... I know men who sneak their female significant other's romances but would never admit to it (and the only reason I know is because these SOs laugh about their romances being missing for days before mysteriously appearing back on their bookshelves and, in some cases, their male SOs "spending much time on the toilet"). There is an assumption that romances are for women but I think there is a percentage of men that would rather have their balls cut off than admit to reading them.

The only reason everything else is considered "generalized" is that women have fought for over 100 years to be even considered part of the "generalized" on par with men. There is still that feeling that female is somehow lesser than male. If more women enjoy Romances then it must be a lesser genre than all others, as we can see from the Romance stereotypes (and I'm not saying there aren't crap romances but there is crap in every genre, there are also amazing romances that are well written and literary, deep and though provoking... take The Charioteer as an example of what can be accomplished in the romance genre).

It is more acceptable for women to act more "manly" or have "guy" hobbies these days. True equality will come not when it will be just as acceptable for men to act "feminine" or have "chick" hobbies but when there won't be such thing anymore as a "guy" hobby or "girl" hobby but just likes and dislikes on certain individuals. And the same goal should be for publishing, no more gender marketing but just story marketing.


message 20: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) Amen (to the last couple of sentences).


message 21: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Joyce | 77 comments Maybe the publishers were sure to put a picture of Kim on his book jackets to prove his sex.


message 22: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Joyce | 77 comments Alicja wrote: "I think it may also be subconscious for many. The male experience (especially the white, straight male experience) seems to be treated as default so therefore a book written by a woman or a minorit..."

In the US boys are taught to hate girls and most people think boys naturally hate girls. I spent some of my childhood in England and my husband is a Spaniard, so I know that in those two countries at least, there is not this false notion that boys "naturally" hate girls. If males are taught to hate girls as children then how can they really like women when they grow up? I think this where some of the problem stems from. The people I know in their twenties (Americans) do not seem to have this big bios against girls and women and that makes me so happy!


message 23: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments Cynthia wrote: "Maybe the publishers were sure to put a picture of Kim on his book jackets to prove his sex."

Back inside cover on at least one. But I think the bias for most is subconscious and usually those that skim women authored books won't look past the front cover name. At least that is my assumption or if they were looking at the back inside cover then most women using initials have their gender disclosed there and using initials wouldn't help their sales.


message 24: by Alicja, ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 772 comments Cynthia wrote: "Alicja wrote: "I think it may also be subconscious for many. The male experience (especially the white, straight male experience) seems to be treated as default so therefore a book written by a wom..."

I don't know if they are taught to hate girls. I think that parents who stick closely to gender stereotypes may make girls into uninteresting playmates for boys who are allowed to run around freely (because who really wants to play tea party? bleh!). However, parents who lets girls run as freely as boys, will have most girls just as fun playmates as most boys (because some girls and some boys do find playing tea party fun and that should be acceptable as well).


message 25: by Kate (new)

Kate (kate_sparkes) Alicja wrote: "That's another thing... I know men who sneak their female significant other's romances but would never admit to it (and the only reason I know is because these SOs laugh about their romances being ..."

Here's hoping we see that last sentence come true.

As a reader, I don't particularly care whether it's a male name, female name, or initials on the cover, no matter what genre the book falls under. If the story looks good and I like the sample, I'm in. But I know there are men out there who think a story written by a woman can't/won't appeal to them.

I considered going by my initials for this reason, but decided that having more female names on covers can only be a good thing, even if it costs me sales.

Besides, I hate my initials.


message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Ellis I had to add my middle initial because my name is too ridiculously common to be effective in any kind of search engine capacity. I have to say though that I was, perhaps foolishly, shocked that this was still a thing. Does anyone know was this the reason C.S. Friedman went by her initials instead of her name? It makes me wonder if it was because of the subject matter of the books. The whole since it tends to darker influences, does it have to come off as a masculine impression? Just wondering...


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