Does Science Fiction have a Gender Bias?

IMG_9503Is reader gender important in science fiction?

I’ve been led to believe that men and women read different types of stories.

In our writer’s group we have four women and two men. When we only had one male, the criticism was always…give more description and detail. What do the walls look like? What are they eating? Wearing? Facial features?

Then we added another guy.

Suddenly we were talking about action in the story!

Myths of the MirrorI put a lot of action in my stories, but our fantasy writer does eloquent description and engaging characters. Check out Myths of the Mirror by D. Peach. I have been learning a lot from her on how to paint details and characters into my story.

Now, suddenly, with another male voice in the mix, the comments have become…when are they going to DO something?

We don’t know what color his protagonist’s hair is, or if  eyes are blue or green…but Ted writes compelling military action stories.

Check out  http://www.perihelionsf.com/archives/blasche001.htm “To Dance With the Ladies from IO6” by Ted Blasche. When the women fussed at him, he said that he wants the reader to engage his own imagination to create the character…and plot and action drive his stories.

Both work.

Why am I blogging about this?

Because as a writer, I need to figure out my audience, and I’m not so sure science fiction is as male dominated as some might think. Or that women are all about pretty description and intense emotion in a story. I know I’m not. I like both.

I was brought up short when one of the female readers from my book group critiqued Rendezvous With Rama by commenting that she really liked how clean and straightforward the writing was. Several chimed in that David Weber just put in too much description.

Is such a thing possible?

I had thought Rendezvous With Rama dry and needing more description. I wanted to meet the aliens or have the ship on some dramatic mission, rather than have our solar system be just a fuel stop.Rendezvous with Rama

Plot, character and description is a three pronged stool and the writer needs to keep in mind the audience he, or she is aiming at while writing.

Thank goodness, science fiction is also malleable. It can be intellectual with lots of science like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, or laden with love and emotion like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffenger. It can be a mystery like Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval series or military like Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

The fun is that you can write a variety of sub genres under the cloak of science fiction. Caught in Time is a basic time travel romance with a war thrown in for the guys. A Dangerous Talent for Time is more a quest story, almost young adult, as two main characters are in their late teens, early twenties. Then, Cosmic Entanglement has a murder mystery. Past the Event Horizon takes place on a starship and is very Star Trek with a space battle and emphasizes the science and physics of space . Space Song involves pieces of all elements: romance, military, mystery, science, young adult.space-song-cover-smashwords

So, today I’m wondering how to connect with my audience, and is there a gender bias there? Anyone know of any research along those lines?

Next week I’ll be in Nashville giving a talk on “Time Travel and all things science fiction,” and signing books. Also, a big wedding, and later, a hot card game with relatives. So, timing on when I get my blog out may be influenced by wild social activities. Fingers crossed.

Fair warning.

Next question is: Does science fiction have an age bias? What kind of science fiction is read by young, middle-aged and the mature audience? Is it different? Is there a preference that is determined by age? I know my twenty something daughter, who rarely reads science fiction, got caught up in The Hunger Games trilogy. Was it the plot or the characters? Maybe both.

And what group or subset is reading the most science fiction? Young kids? Old guys? Housewives?

Today, we ask questions of the universe. Tomorrow we seek answers.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Does Science Fiction have a Gender Bias?

  1. claytonjcallahan

    Beats me, Sheron. I just try to write stuff I like and hope there are readers out there who share my tastes.

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  2. As far as Weber goes, I get tired of flipped past at least 50 pages of bullet porn in each book. If you count bullet porn as description, yeah he has way to much of it!

    There is certainly a gender bias in sci-fi publishing, thankfully getting less blatant. I think there is societal expectation that women will like fantasy and men will like sci-fi (after all, one has unicorns and hot elf dudes and the other has spaceships and things that go BOOM!) As some of my fave fantasy writers are men and fave sci-fi writers are women, I tend to treat this as hogwash

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    • I think this is getting to be more and more the case. Thank you for confirming a suspicion that I have that women are into science fiction as much as men. I like both.

      Like

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