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Why I write girl heroes for the most part

a cure
edited to correct the impression I give in paragraph 9 that this is what I recommend for all teenaged boys. These are my recommendations for reluctant readers. I have entire booklists when I am asked for recommendations for books that will slow down good readers for a week or two.



A friend's link on Facebook took me to another link which took me to this: author Hannah Moskowitz's discussion of the need for boy characters for teens and her feeling that publishers and writers are fixated on girl books and girl characters. For the most part she is discussing contemporary books, though she did ask where science fiction is--one of her commenters pointed out the recent rise in science fiction publications.

I tried to post my answer several times, but either due to the length (and I did try to break it up into two posts) or due to the length of the comments in general, and after losing part of the post, I gave up trying to answer Ms. Moskowitz directly. I'm hoping that Google search will bring her here, or that a friend will, because I want to post my response.

I wrote this because in some ways I am part of Hannah Moskowitz's problem, the rise of female heroes, and I thought that she ought to know my side of it. I'm not trying to start a fight with her because I do respect what she wrote. I just figure I owe it to her to explain where I come from as a main proponent of the issues she discussed.

I have 26 novels of teen fantasy, all in print. All but one of them have a female hero. But. In one of my universes, two of my girls are knights and one is a cop. They train with boys and men; they work with boys and men; they fight with and against boys and men. (The cop has more women in her training/work pool than the knights.) In those books, in some ways, it's hard for me to get more women in as characters. Men are every bit as much a part of the story as my girls; the secondary hero is always a guy, and since I am writing primarily adventure stories, I have guy fans. My other two girl heroes are a mage and a spy, dealing with both sexes more or less equally. In my second universe, my four heroes include one boy; he is probably my most popular character, and there are boys and men among the students that the four mages discover as they grow older. I have no problems writing male characters at all.

I don't recognize Ms. Moskowitz's four boy stereotypes as she describes them completely in my books. Two of my bad boys do have things for two of my girl heroes; the first one also has a collection of ears from his first career, and the second was murdering his way to the top while she was caught up in a riot. As to the stereotypes Moskowitz describes, author Theodore Sturgeon said, "94% of everything is s**t." Harlan Ellison's corollary is, "Sturgeon is an optimist."

Why do I write so many strong female characters? When I was a kid, 7-8 books out of all books written for kids through teens had boy heroes. Those that had girl heroes showed them at "feminine" pursuits, or if they were a little feisty, a male hero had to bail them out by book's end. Only the historical novels had strong girls; most of them "settled down" by the end. I was reading "boy books": TREASURE ISLAND, TOM SAWYER, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. When I encountered fantasy, I had the same problem: virtually no girl heroes. The ones I found, adult women all, settled down, hated other women, or died. I didn't understand why there were no girls (or those that existed were severely compromised) in the adventure books, so I began to write what I wanted to read: adventure books with girl heroes. As a published YA writer I came along at a time when that was what booksellers, parents, and librarians were looking for, and along with some other writers, I found my place in publishing.

These days, whether anyone believes it or not, 6-7 of the books published for kids through teens still have male heroes. Not much of a change, is it? A study done on picture books recently pointed out that the majority of human characters in those books were men, shown doing active work, while women were shown in domestic settings, doing nurturing tasks. Not operating steam shovels. Not jumping into skies full of clouds to find where they are made. Not trying to drive buses.

I'm glad someone gave Moskowitz a link to current SF, because otherwise I'd be inundating her with that information as well. But as to no boy authors on the teen shelves? Maybe she and I aren't looking in the same places, or in small stores, because I can think of: Gary Paulsen, Walter Dean Myers, Terry Trueman, Chris Crutcher, Robert Parker, Will Hobbs, Roland Smith, Dave Conifer, Brent Hartinger, David Levithan, Ned Vizzini, Dave Lubar, Gordon Korman, Paul Fleischman, Joseph Bruchac, David Klass, Gary Soto ... I'll stop now. There are more. There is also still the massive bulk of classics that remains on the shelves, books like WAR AND PEACE, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, SIDDHARTA, FIVE APRILS, MOBY-DICK, THE GREAT GATSBY, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, 1984, ANIMAL FARM, BRAVE NEW WORLD, all written by and featuring men, most of them required reading in high schools.

The reason I know about who's writing for guys is because parents and librarians ask me what I recommend for teenaged boys who are reluctant readers. Everyone knows by now that I read far outside my field and I have ideas. What do I recommend for guys who have lost interest in reading? Magazines. Comics. (The ones they don't read already.) Short stories. Audio books. High impact books--lots of action, short length. Nonfiction. And knowing what interests to address. When I talk to disinterested guys about my books, I don't talk about the girl hero finding her strength of character or finding romance, if she does. I talk about the fight with the centaur, or the spy work necessary for a revolution. I talk about learning to joust and referring to it as "flying lessons." I talk about walking into a rich merchant's office and finding his head hung in the wrappings of his turban from the chandelier. I talk about stealing battles from the battle of Little Round Top in the American Civil War, or basing a character on the first recorded serial killer of children. If guys know they'll find good stuff in the book, they'll take off a cover they think is too "feminine."

Why do publishers appear to publish so many books for girls? Because girls buy books. That's it, clear and simple. Guys don't. They take books out of the library, or they borrow books from girls, but they don't buy. Not like girls do.

The person who commented on Moskowitz's blog who mentioned the need for sex in books for teen boys is right. We also need it in books for teen girls. Too many of our teens are going into the world uninformed--we writers of girl heroes can and do manage to do some good there.

But make no mistake about it: there are still more books for guys out there than there are for girls. It's fine that people write guy heroes. But please don't knock those of us who know that being a girl, and a woman, is a lifelong fight, on the shelves and off. This debate comes up every ten years or so in publishing circles, and that it's important not to work on the guys at the expense of the girls. Both need heroes, and both need books.

Comments

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lizziey
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
You make very very good points, as always!

I've found that the Tomorrow, When the War Began series is something I always have on hand that I can pass off to any visiting teenaged relative coming to visit, and it works well. Female and Male "heroes", as it were, lots of action, and even some sex.
patu_paiarehe
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
The Tomorrow series is great for everyone, agreed. I used to reread those books every yesr, until my little brother appropriated them all.
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mabfan
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this.
ithiliana
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this! (I have been recently voraciously catching up on your books which somehow I missed um somewhere along the way) and I'm nearly 55, and didn't trust myself to say anything at that original post without blowing up and being snarky and ineffective and just generally nasty.

Because, oh, yes, let's keep worrying about the poor boys (and I'm not saying that there are not major ways in which society fails BOYS, but I get awfully tired with the ongoing idea that it's teh wimminz who are supposed to fix it all).

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delynfirebrand
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
This was very well put.
I still buy teen/kids books far more often than my brothers, and there a quite a few series with male leads. Strong female leads are still hard to find.
Briar is a good character, and I adore reading about him, but in that world, my favorite is definitely Trisana. ^_^
wndrdr
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
my favies would be tris, briar, sandry and then daja, i wish though i had more of the 'foster mothers' lark and rosethorn.. those two fascinate me, would love to know more of their lives before winding circle and their lives within winding circle as well as 'together', their personal relationship..
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emmaorgana
Jul. 30th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
I rather hate how everyone expects girls to be okay with reading books about boys (which I am okay with), but no one expects boys to be okay with reading books about girls.
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vampireanneke
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
Well said! I aggree 100%. I remember when I was young/teen-aged, there wasn't even much of a young adult market. You went from children books to adult books. As I think back I realize how lucky I was to have a mother who loved reading so much that she kept pushing stuff at me until something was found that I would read. But it wasn't until I was in college that I started to find the books I had been wanting to read all my life (Young Adult Light Fantasy with Female Heroines), and those were your books. Like you, I had already been writing my own stories for years because I couldn't find what I wanted (and heck I worked in a book store at one point).

Despite that Girls are the ones who buy books, the market is still geared towards men. Because the world economy is geered towards men. Just look at the covers of the majority of Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy books out and that are being released, they are geared towards men. Yes the Young Adult market is finally gearing towards woman, because they are realizing that's where and what their market is, and for once is ahead of things as opposed to the Adult market. But the Adult Market will change in time as well. Even just over the last 10 years you can see how covers of the same book have changed over to be more appealing to women.
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
Just look at the covers of the majority of Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy books out and that are being released, they are geared towards men.

That's because traditionally sf & fantasy were a men's enclave. It's only really been in the last 20 years that women have gotten a firm foothold after the pioneers opened the way. Now the hard sf markets are graying, and publishers are discovering that they'd better start attracting non-traditional readers if they're going to survive. That means women and teenagers. More women are writing sf as well as reading it, and some of those women are drawing the biggest audiences, to boot.
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blackheisei
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I wasn't sure I agreed with you at first. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how right you are.

My family is full of male readers. Starting at my grandfather and down to my toddler nephew. But between them are two generations of men who became interested in reading because they started with comics. I also got my dad to read Protector of the Small because I was reading it aloud to my cousin in the car. He heard the siege warfare in Lady Knight and borrowed the first book.

I think part of the issue is that men are not encouraged to be interested in reading. Sports, yes. Action movies and rated M video games? very yes. But the guy in high school that spends his free time reading ANYTHING is probably the anti-social one in the corner, NOT one of the more popular kids. Sad but true.
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
I think part of the issue is that men are not encouraged to be interested in reading.

You're absolutely right. There's definite social pressure against it for guys in middle and high school, which is where the geeks come into their own. Also, guys do a lot of reading that isn't considered reading or sanctioned by schools: on the internet. They can also get away with reading magazines--music, technology, cars--that is also frowned on by academics. But they aren't really encouraged to pick up books by their peers unless it's school required reading, and even then they're far more encouraged to use notes rather than read the actual book.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
Guy here;

about the "boys like action"-thing, i would say, that i read your books because of the character development. i think the action scenes are important because they really push the characters. if i take Daine 4, one of the best parts is after the coma, when she has to accept her new family situation.
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
about the "boys like action"-thing, i would say, that i read your books because of the character development.

Thanks, Guy! ;-D And I confess, I do use action as a way to show the character growing or show a way a character has grown, just as I use it also to shove a character into new awareness (Tris after the final pirate attack).

Thanks for the compliments, particularly since so few people mention Daine having to deal with her interesting new/revised family!
mg4h
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
Sad to say, I've seen this sentiment everywhere. It's used for almost any "oppressed" majority, who sees their total control slipping. And no, we shouldn't change over to just women - much as that would be amusing - because then we'd be marginalizing the men. But we still do NOT have parity, and until then accepting that there might be "too much" women protagonists is wrong.

And in the category of "Still Struggling," have you seen this website yet? It makes my blood boil, but I feel I have to read it to bear witness, and to make sure I don't accidentally let these sorts of things slide.
http://myfaultimfemale.wordpress.com/
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
have you seen this website yet?

No. It's, um, educational.

I'm going to go put my head in a vise now.
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elfishscallywag
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Tammy I just want to say I love you. I've never really commented though I've been watching your journal for over a year now (wow that sounds creepy) and been nodding in agreement so often but I just gotta say now- I love you. For everything. So this comment really isn't relevant but still.

It's not just because of this post, though I do agree with it completely but there have been posts I've been more passionate about but I'm a little emotional right now and fans don't often get the opportunity to talk to their idols and I kinda realized we're pretty damn lucky with someone as active and involed as you are and I just really wanted to say thank you.

For Alanna, for Daine, for Kel, for Aly, for Beka.

And for sharing those worlds with us. You changed my life. Not in a dramatic I'm-such-a-poor-shy-girl-and-you-helped-me-speak-out way because really I've always been rather sharp and social and loudmouthed but you still changed my world and I think that's a real accomplishment. So even if you read this and think I'm just a arrogant silly young woman (because I admit I am), thanks Tammy
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
(wow that sounds creepy)

Nah. Sometimes other folks say what you have in mind to say. You spare yourself the typing.

I just gotta say now- I love you. For everything. So this comment really isn't relevant but still.

::intense blushing::

So even if you read this and think I'm just a arrogant silly young woman

Oh, please don't say such things. The world kicks us around enough--we don't have do do it ourselves.

Besides, I have cooler fans than anybody. I tell my handlers and the people doing my events that, and I can tell they think I'm sucking up. Then the event happens and they come back all wide-eyed and breathless and they say, "You really do have cooler fans than anybody!"

I do, and I know it, and I feel incredibly privileged to have fans like you, because I know all of you will remake your part of this crappy old world. And I'll keep writing my heroes to help fuel your passion, because this exchange really does go both ways. Helping to shape your world is a tremendous honor for me, and I hope I will always be worthy of your respect.
Tammy
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patu_paiarehe
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Great post, Tammy! I read that a couple of days ago and it left me grinding my teeth in frustration at how much she missed. the. point. Thanks for putting a word in for the girls!
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for putting a word in for the girls!

My motivation was kinda selfish. I've built my entire life on writing girl heroes, and hearing that what I did was no longer valid grated my cheese. I just wanted to explain myself without popping a cork.
lbfmusic
Jul. 30th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thank You
for posting this! Female main characters are very important. I believe that this world needs to have more main characters that are female. This is why I am an avid reader of yours. The fact that you have male and female characters (but more of the latter) is amazing! I hope that you continue writing about very exciting female characters.
tammy212
Jul. 31st, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank You
I hope that you continue writing about very exciting female characters.

Don't worry--I'm not considering a career change!
journalism2010
Jul. 30th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's just about girl vs. boy main characters in your work
I think the amount of diversity and insight you have in your books is honestly unparalleled in most writers' careers. You feature people of all ages, skin colors, cultural backgrounds, genders (including a transwoman/genderqueer person in Bloodhound!), sexual orientation, hair colors, body types, temperament, levels of intelligence and strengths, and even careers. I know of no writer that goes into more depth than you in researching and truly understanding a subject and the characters before (and while, I'm sure) writing about it. In my opinion, ALL of these things are what is missing in most contemporary novels, and in general the way many popular authors approach material. They seem to stick to a style or subject and stay there. It's not just an issue of 'oh, that's more boy oriented' or 'oh that's more girl oriented'. It's on a whole other level.

So I thank you for being such an amazingly well-rounded and inclusive writer that I am 21, started reading your books when I was 11, and read every single one of them every summer, if not more during the year, on top of my classwork and job. You and your girls (and boy) heroes have gotten me through some tough times because I was able to connect to them as a human, not just a girl.

Thanks.
gfish
Jul. 31st, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't think it's just about girl vs. boy main characters in your work
Oh yes, it was just *wonderful* to run into the trans woman on Bloodhound, particularly one as directly handled (and seemlessly integrated into the world view!) as she was. That really made my day, and several other friends' days.
thegelf
Jul. 30th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I'm going to echo all of the above, and thank you for calling bulls**t on Ms. Moskowitz. I grew up reading all the wonderful sci fi and fantasy out there, male lead, female lead, robot lead, reading pretty much indiscriminately. Me, my little brother and my mom all shared the books around, completely insensitive to gender (at least as far as I remember, we're talking more than a decade ago now).

Now my dad, I couldn't convince him to read anything but Tolkien. It was the be-all and end-all of fiction for him. It's a shame, he's missing out on so much.

The one point I can quibble with in your response is the list of books which are read in most high schools. They're not contemporary, at all. Modern students (heck, even modern back when I was in high school) have trouble connecting to those books and their lead characters. There's a layer of analysis that has to happen while reading them, which doesn't have to happen in the sort of contemporary fiction Ms. Moskowitz was referring to. Boys (and girls) tended not to enjoy the reading for English class, no matter what it was. We had a mass revolt in 11th grade when Tale of Two Cities was assigned, and that was in the AP English class, the one full of students who were there because they wanted to be.
dharma_slut
Jul. 31st, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
(sidetracked here) Yes to this! Waaay back in the '60's I told my juiniot high AP lit teacher that I didn't care if I got a fail in that unit, I was not going to read yet another book about the injustices of the ruling party towards the downtrodden peasants.
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smoooom
Jul. 30th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
I love that you write such strong females working along side men showing they can do the same thing. But I add this. I have and do recommend you do young men, My son was the first. We has a quiet polite argument over who was going to re-read Protector of the small a few months back. I won, by asking the last time he'd reread Moons Deed of Paksinerion and had he remembered there was a new book coming out soon. since Deed was in my hand waiting to be reshelved I figured it was a win win situation.

And When the next Becca book comes out there will be three of us waiting to read it. Me my oldest son and my daughter.
dravvie
Jul. 30th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
I can say most of this, as a girl, who most of her friends were boys.
I think the problem isn't the YA section of today, I think it's the boys. Most boys take the dive from younger books such as Artemis Fowl (male hero) straight into books such as a Song of Ice and Fire and Stephen King books, and other "Adult" books. There's this weird gap that happens during the High School years where you're reading all the "Classic" Young adult novels that exist such as the ones you referenced and have created the drive for authors such as your self to create these very much so needed female heroes. During the high school years, you get so bloated on all of those "classic" young adult novels, and boys as a general rule don't read as much as girls do.

The girls rebel by seeking out heroes more like what they wish they were, heroes who they can look up to and identify with, who aren't beaten down, and constantly need to be rescued or are plot devices. They find romantic things, or pretty things, or fantasy novels where the heroes are actually something heroic. The boys rebel by moving into edgier content faster, or sadly not reading at all. You find them in libraries discussing gaming books, buried amounst star wars novels, or the Steven King section. They don't browse the Young Adult section. They read things like Harry Potter in secret. Without careful placement on behalf of librarians, and recomendations of friends, they'd never discover books like the Inheritance series, Crank, or things by Cinda Chima.
cat_eyed_fox
Jul. 30th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Equally as important for to consider is that books for boys range from outdoor adventure to supernatural, the John Ringo "Building stuff and having sex" and crime. If a young man wanted he could read about anything, find himself in a novel time and again. Heck even gay boys can now find themselves in YA books. The Rainbow High series is good as is the Hero novel. Not counting your novels and a few others, girls have the Jane Austin period piece women, romantic interest of a supernatural man, or "wacky" girl about town. Nevermind finding lesbian or bisexual women characters. Oh sure they're around, but it is either only implied, they are *evil*, or epically secondary characters. Like you said, feisty girls get sidetracked/dominated by romance, and end up in the all too familiar damsel in distress role. Nancy Drew might solve crimes, but those were written decades ago! To find strong women I had to go far above my age group to the Pern books and the Mists of Avalon series. You're books brought me back to the YA but it's always been more "daytrips" than a full presence. I swing by for you or Meg Cabbot then continue to the Graphic novels or SF.
lovelylies
Jul. 31st, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
As a bookseller I have to agree. Boys don't buy books. Most boys don't enjoy reading anything more than a comic book. Not that I see anything wrong with that as I'm a comic reader myself, but the parents don't get it. They try to make their boys read books they don't enjoy instead of just trying to get them to read something. Asking a parent what their kid is interested in is like pulling teeth. Suggesting anything for the kid that doesn't look like a novel is an insult. It's exhausting.

Also, as a bookseller, I have to thank you. You just gave me a good way to sell your books to parents of teenaged boys. Most parents of boys crinkle up their nose at a book when they realize it's a female lead. So thank you for giving me a way to talk you up.
nightsinger
Jul. 31st, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for this. I can't even begin to say how much I appreciate it.
plunderpuss
Jul. 31st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
I think it's a little bit a sign of the times (and a nice one) that Moskowitz doesn't feel the way you did. You can pat yourself on the back for your part in making literature a (even slightly) more comfortable environment for female readers. I know that when I was growing up, your books were some of the few I read with female protagonists, and I was delighted to find a girl that wasn't in a "girl book." Alanna remains to this day one of my most memorable experiences as a kid. Moskowitz is ten years younger than me, and the culture she grew up in is a product of a positive trend that you and other feminist authors got rolling.

I do think it's worth pointing out that Moskowitz was addressing why boys don't buy books like girls do, more than the need for boys to have fiction that caters to them in general. (I also think she meant to address her new-author contemporaries, not the accumulation of past titles.) I don't know if she's right, but DO I think it's worthwhile to think about how to get young men to read. As you said, they just don't. And that scares me! I don't necessarily think they need more representation, because men are represented just as much as you pointed out--too much. But if they're not reading, there must be a reason. We should find it and fix it, not to make their lives easier or coddle them for being "left out" when things finally started to get equal, but because frankly, I'd much rather have boys reading than avoiding reading. Right? It makes me nervous to think that we're pushing young men (even on accident) into forgoing fiction they can learn from in favor of... what, trashy comic books? More misogynist nonsense written by men featuring terrible treatments of women? I'd rather our boys learned about relationships and women from crafty, well-meaning authors (male or female) than sensationalist superhero drivel. (Yes, there are good comics and good graphic novels, but the chaff outweighs the wheat, I fear, especially when it comes to positive portrayal of women.)

Basically, I think there's a social responsibility here that has to do with more than mere representation. I sure don't want to lose any female protagonists. But I also don't like that we're losing male readers. I like that Moskowitz was trying (at least in how I read her article) to examine the ways we can bring boys back to read books that hopefully will teach them the things that girls learn from books.

And then I really, really hope nobody learns anything from Twilight, except perhaps as a dismal cautionary tale warning you away from creepy old men, because that just about sets our entire society back a hundred years or more. Hahaha! ;)

Anyway, I don't think either of you are wrong, but it pains me a little to see people who I think are on the same side missing the "sameness" in their arguments. You know boys don't read, and you want women to be treated properly, in fiction and in real life. She knows boys don't read, and she feels threatened by who they're going to become without the influences of good fiction. Who they become is the person who chooses whether or not they treat women the way they should. That's at least the commonality I see in both of your posts. Hopefully I'm not too far off target, either.

Either way, thanks for the post. My brain enjoyed working out how I felt about it.
guttaperk
Sep. 23rd, 2010 09:28 am (UTC)
Thank you for this.
Too many approaches to this are zero-sum, or frankly disrespectful to the Other.
hangebokhan
Jul. 31st, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
My problem with the majority of female leads these days is that they are pathetic and the publishers are rushing to print. Books that should have waited (for a good number of revisions) are being printed and the market is being flooded with books not worth reading. The books that are worth reading seem to lack the decency to have a classy fade-to-black cut scene though and go straight for smut, I am fine reading a book without sex, I realllly am. No, really.
shannon_07
Jul. 31st, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Since it's widely known that boys like SF/F, I think it's odd that she excludes those genres from her post. I'm assuming that since she doesn't like SF/F, she doesn't read much of it, so first of all, she shouldn't make generalizations/rant about genres she doesn't read. SF/F, both YA and adult, are male dominated genres. It's changing, the number of female authors and characters in the genres is increasing, but this is still true. And actually, upon skimming her blog a second time, it's really clear she doesn't read SF/F, because she says Write and publish fantasy and science fiction (for God's sake where is the science fiction) with strong male main characters. Obviously she's not familiar with the genres. Thanks for the slap in the face.

I think part of the problem is that she's treating YA SF/F as an established genre when it kind of isn't, not compared to contemporary/general YA fiction. It wasn't really a major part of YA before the success of Harry Potter. It was definitely there of course, but the difference is it wasn't popular. (SF/F is still far from "cool", often authors and readers alike feel the need to justify/explain their preference for the genres, often the genres are seen as not as legitimate as contemporary fiction (or, heaven forbid, be considered as "literature"), but that's a whoooole other issue entirely :p) So there isn't going to be as many of those books in the YA section. SF/F has been heavily established in the adult section for decades, so who's to blame the boys for going there for their SF/F books?

Also, I agree with you, I don't know if she's only looking in the chick lit section or what, but there are tons of male authors in YA, many of whom write about guys (don't forget the issue of whether men can write girl characters convincingly). Just going down my bookshelf: Gary Paulsen (had to mention him again because I absolutely loved The Transall Saga. Hey look, a sci-fi book for boys! :p), C.S. Lewis, Stephen Cole, Bruce Coville, Conor Kostick (now there's a SF/F book for guys, Epic is pretty much a virtual-reality RPG game in book form), Andrew Clements, Edward Eager, and David Clement-Davies to name a few. Scott Westerfeld writes a lot of girl characters, so for the sake of this discussion I guess I'll leave him out.
labelleizzy
Jul. 31st, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
was linked here via twitter, and as a former YA librarian, yes, yes, and yes.
zanehalfdragon
Jul. 31st, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
I have to agree with your points wholeheartedly. I've been reading YA works since I was in the 3rd grade, and there still is a vast majority of works going to boys, but I will say that I haven't noticed as many of them going and picking out books in general, a deplorable state for the younger generations, whereas I myself, and many who I grew up with spent all our childhood and teen years begging our parents for money to go buy the newest book by our favorite authors, and later spending (and I still do this) a good chunk of our paychecks on books as well. I wish I knew why this was, because it seems that more people would benefit from it if they kept at reading more, regardless of gender, though guys seem to be in the majority of those who need to read books more, since they seem to enjoy video games and movies more than sitting down, reading, and being challenged to look up things they've never seen/heard of, or be confronted with a deeper understanding of other cultures, as many of my friends have said of your books especially. As for whether or not it's because of the gender of the protagonists in the stories, I'm not sure if it has anything to do with that, though it might. Personally, even though I'm a guy, I find that as long as a character is well-written and 3-dimensional, the character's gender shouldn't matter, it's about the quality of the character, at least for me. That's just my opinion though, and I can't speak for all guys on the matter. Either way, I think you've both had good points and made valid arguments, though yours were presented much more calmly and with more thought and understanding, this has given me much to reflect on and think about.
melorasdaughter
Jul. 31st, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
A quick look through my bookcase (mainly filled with fantasy/sci-fi), and I see about equal numbers of male/female writers, and maybe slightly more female than male main characters (biased by the fact that I am a) female and b) have every one of your books).

A slight side note, but when I was in highschool, I had no female friends that had even heard of your books. Once when I was in the school library they had one of those getting-rid-of-books-that-are-falling-apart giveaways, and one of my male friends was estatic to find one of your books, since he'd read the series and enjoyed them. One of my male friends saw him and said something to the effect of "oh hey, I remember reading those books, they were good."

Finally, authors who've written some YA books(I think they're YA. Some might be adult, some might be older children. I dont really care about age genres) with male main characters that in a brief glance I haven't seen listed in the posts above: Nick Earls, Garth Nix, Kenneth Oppel, Michelle Paver, Mary Hoffman, Markus Zusak. Most are fantasy/sci-fi, but Nick Earls and Markus Zusak certainly come under contemporary.
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