On Reading Women

The first author name I remember — my then as now suffering from this peculiarity in which I only remember names of authors I like and only usually after the second book that knocks my socks off (there are exceptions, F. Paul Wilson being one of them.  Never forgot his name after reading Hosts.) — is Enid Blyton.

I never read her really young books, Noddy and the like.  I suffered from the issues of a kid raised amid adults, in that I skipped picture books altogether.  I think I figured out how to read from my brother reading me Disney comics.  I remember the story (the seven haunts) that I re-built from picture cues to what he’d read, then took the words apart to get the phonetics.  This I concealed from everyone, because if they got wind I could read one of my principal pleasures — having someone read to me — would be over.

By first grade, though, the sham was up and I was reading mostly Enid Blyton.  My brother is almost ten years older than I and I think by then he had just stopped re-reading those books even for nostalgia, so there were all these “kid mysteries.”  They’re — if I have it right, since I never read the American versions — a little different from Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew in that the kids are more free ranging, less organized, and the adventures — one of my favorite series was “of adventure” as in Sea of Adventure, Valley of Adventure, etc — can range all the way to the Greek Islands.

Anyway, almost every kid I knew of my generation and the older on grew up on Enid Blyton.  (If you go searching for her books, please be careful.  The recent editions have been abominably “updated” to put in the new tech.  In itself this might have been inoffensive — it wouldn’t be, because note that it’s impossible to make some plots work around cell phones, but — but they also took the time to infuse it with a whole lot of new political correctness which totally robs the books of charm.) Boys and girls, and I don’t remember anyone making a big deal of the fact that the boys were reading a female writer.  Or the fact that she was THE female writer that dominated YA.

It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that friends introduced me to her boarding school stories which are more… well… imagine Harry Potter with all girls and without the magic, but also very feminine, for a given definition of feminine, which is neither the frills and pink we imagine for tradition, nor the current idea of feminine.  The boarding schools had girls who behaved like boys and wanted to be called by boys’ names, who were tough athletes, and some who were absolutely feminine.  The first btw was not taken as any form of transexuality but simply as an expression of a sort of female persona.  Girls who were very masculine and fond of masculine pasttimes (Sports, dogs, horses) grew up to be the horsey women we all know from British upper class.  The sturdy country women of Agatha Christie’s books, who have no time for nonsense, wear tough boots and tweed, and concern themselves with horses, dogs and gardening (which was not considered a contradiction) could have come (and probably often did) from those young women.  Yeah, there was also “veiled lesbianism” I suppose, though I think nowadays we read that a lot into places where the older times simply read same-sex friendship.  I went to an all girl school and while there were a lot of crushes, they were a sort of romantic friendship that had no physical expression except in very, very, very rare cases.  (And one of the cases caught in flagrant was also the first to marry — a man — and have kids in the class, so I think she just liked sex.)

Anyway, the boarding school books are more a “Harry Potter for girls” and while I’d still recommend it to anyone who has daughters, the boys might fling it away in disgust. (Or not.)

I recommend all of her books, even if they might handicap you in modern American society.  You see, they inculcate a certain kind of … Britishness.  Fairplay and don’t brag, and take your lumps without a whimper.  And also, look after those who can’t look after themselves and who are “yours” somehow, and fulfill your obligations.  Don’t rat. Don’t snitch.  And she inculcates all this without SAYING it or preaching.  The characters might say it, and they certainly show it in their attitudes, but there’s no easy pre-packaged moral at the end of the story.  (The might handicap you: if you go into a profession that requires self-promotion in the present day US, that “don’t brag” is almost disabling. Ask Dave Freer and I.)

But, you’ll say, why would anyone question a YA author being female?  Aren’t women, after all, the guardians of childhood.

Yeah, sure.  BUT. And the BUT is really important.  BUT we are living in a time where it’s believed we must have women writing about women for women to read, and men writing about men for men to read.  Note Enid Blyton was read by both sexes with very little compunction.  (Even the boarding school adventures, and even when one was way too old for them.  I.e. my brother read them on the sly when I was reading them.  I know. He sucked at remembering exactly where I’d left the book.)

At around nine or ten, on a summer day when I had nothing else to read and my best friend, from whom I borrowed books, was on a month long vacation, I started reading mysteries.  It’s kind of weird it took so long, since dad read them voraciously and they were all over the house.  But you see THE Portuguese mystery imprint was Vampire.  And I hated horror movies/books.  (Still do.  I don’t see a lot of value in scaring myself.  Life is scary enough. By this I mean what is now called Grimdark, of course, not horrible situations in which people triumph.)  But I was bored enough to overcome it.  My first book was Fer de Lance by Rex Stout.  (Which weirdly I THINK was also Robert’s first mystery book.)

I don’t remember consciously discovering Agatha Christie but I think I found her after hearing someone say that trying to figure out something or other was like “trying to figure out a mystery by Agatha Christie.”

By the time I was 13 she was my favorite mystery writer and somewhere in Portugal I have a complete set of her works, and somewhere here I have a complete set of her works.

I read Agatha Christie the same way I read Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner, and way too many others I can’t now remember, until I came to the states and discovered Ellis Peters and a dozen others.  I never paid any particular attention, I’ll be honest, to whether my writer was male or female.  Oh, sure, there was a flavor.  I can’t imagine Agatha Christie being written by a man unless he were PROFOUNDLY gay and lived the sort of life gay guys sometimes lived in English villages at the turn of the century.  Her novels like the boarding school stories of Enid Blyton are intensely feminine in a difficult-to-pin way.  I think this is why the bien pensant, particularly leftist ones hate her.  They want to extol females, but only females who behave like men, and she is the antithesis of that.  It is easy to see from her thrillers (my LORD they were bad) that she didn’t really “get” international politics or world affairs at the visceral level some of us do.  They just didn’t matter to her.  However, whatever the critics say, she had an unerring eye for the “private wound” and the private motive, too.  She knew what made normal people, living normal, daily lives tick.  I often find myself telling my husband “As Agatha Christie would say” about something one of our friends or acquaintances did.  I think this makes the intelligentsia uncomfortable too.  So many of them are so small in their private lives, if you know what I mean.

Then I fell into science fiction at 11 or so.  I confess my first reads were male: Simak, Heinlein, Asimov.  But that was mostly because it was what fell under my fingers first.  I later came to have female favorites, too, though none of the ones most people like, which tend to annoy me, in some cases because of my very different background.  The only one coming to mind right now that I read before I got married and still in Portuguese was Anne McCaffrey, but I know there were… oh, yeah, Ursula Le Guin, too (I was hit or miss with her.  Some books I loved, some went for the wall at speed) and Joan Vinge.

Later on, some women achieved the pantheon of honor of “I’ll buy in hard cover” including Diana Wynne Jones and for a good long while Mercedes Lackey and Connie Willis and others, though you’ll forgive my “moving and my brain is mush” for not conjuring their names.  Buying in hard cover is sort of a medal of honor for a writer, when the reader is a young mother with kids who needs shoes.  (Need shoes all the time.  Robert’s feet finally stopped growing at 17e, thank heavens after Amazon started selling shoes and allowed us to order weird sizes, otherwise we’d have had to have them specially made.  As is, each pair costs a small fortune.)

At the same time as the people above, I was also buying in hard cover in sf/f Pratchett and F. Paul Wilson. And a lot of guys and women in mystery.

So, what is this all about?

It is about the fact I’m tired of getting fan letters saying “I finally read your books, having hesitated long and hard to start.  Forgive me, but the fact that you’re female made me doubtful.”

Ah, yeah, that.  And then I became conscious of an hesitation to pick up female-written books, myself.

I, who am a female writing books, and who have been formed as a reader by a veritable battalion of writing females, suddenly subjecting to greater scrutiny books by females, and asking friends “is she okay?” before starting a new female author.

Why?  Oh, not because of what is between the author’s legs.  No, that never interested me, before or since.  What makes me hesitate is the mush that younger females have had their heads filled with, often from primary education.

One of the first warnings of this was when a young college student joined our writers’ group.  (She is now a bestselling author.)  Her education had been exquisite and expensive, and yet…

And yet she believed things like that there had been great women fighters in the middle ages, and the men had suppressed all memory of them.  Or that my best friend and I didn’t have college degrees (both of us had Masters) because we were stay at home moms.

I don’t judge her too harshly on these beliefs.  It’s really hard to examine the things that adults told us when we were very young.  Note how until recently I believed my cousin Dulce had died because I refused to share my bread and butter with her.  (I suspect being rebuked, then hearing she’d died got conflated in my mind.)  And that wasn’t even an intentional guilt trip.

But I find myself reading about women as they never were, women without agency oppressed by a far  more coordinated patriarchy than any male I know could manage, let alone a group of males.  I find myself reading about men as they never were, too, men who are all plotting and evil and powerful or else cringing ball-less cowards.  And then there is the Marxism that afflicts the younger, “well educated” ones.  And the preaching.  Oh, my LORD, I never took well to preaching, even in religious books.

So, I hesitate before picking up new women writers.  Though I do pick them up.  I even tolerate a fair amount of feminism and left wing ideology if it’s so well wrapped in the story it doesn’t pop me out of it.  Most of the women and some of the men above are/were definitely on the left, but they can tell a story, and that’s all I care about.

Which brings us to this push to “read mo’e women” and the idea that people don’t read women out of some kind of sexism.

We were reading women just fine before.  We got our message across just before these advocates started helping us before.

All the screams to “read women” and about the inequity of men being read do is make people pause and think “If I buy this woman, is she going to spend most of the book preaching instead of telling a story.”

And this affects the sales of those who preach as well as the sales of people like me, and Sabrina, and Amanda, and Kate, and and and…

Yeah, there are reasons more men reach the top of the profession than women.  One of them is legacy.  The crawl through the profession is slow, and if more men were published before the seventies, more men will be luminaries now.

There are others, the same reasons that form the “glass ceiling.”  From myself I can tell you any number of us spend ten to twenty years in our most productive time, mostly looking after the kiddies and/or the house.  This is because at that time and that place this is the best economic strategy since our husbands make more than an uncertain artistic career.  (And some men — I could name them — were stay at home husbands and paid the same price.  It’s just it’s easier due to society expectations, for women to make that choice than for men.  That’s changing, though.) Most women don’t even start trying to be published until after the kids leave, which necessarily curtails that slow crawl.  Me?  I’m crazy so I started earlier, but it did affect how much attention I gave to the work and therefore the quality.

There are inequities.  Sure.  Life is inequities.  “All men are created equal” before the law, but thank heavens we’re not a population of clones.  So, even had I been a little richer and able to afford a nanny 10 hours a week, life would be very different.

However the way to compensate for that is not to scream at readers for reading the male authors they enjoy.  The way to do it is in fact, if you have money or can start a foundation, to give promising women writers scholarships for child care.  Or not.  Perhaps striving refines us.

Perhaps we just need to read the people we enjoy and stop posturing as defenders of the under-read.

Because in the end, all the activists are managing is to make it harder for women to become established professionals.

Which might, very well, be what they want.  A permanent injustice is permanent fodder for activists after all.

As for me, I’ll continue writing as a writer, and hoping you read me as a writer, and not for what is between my legs.  I don’t write with that.  I’m not that talented.  And though my books will sometimes be very feminine in the way Agatha Christie’s are, Agatha had millions of male fans and still does.

What is fiction for, but allowing you to spend time in that permanent solitary lock up behind someone else’s eyes?  And isn’t the more different the better in that case?

I will continue to read as widely as I can and give all authors a fair chance.



363 thoughts on “On Reading Women

  1. I think it is worse today than in the past, and I blame the Interchangeable Social Justice Warriors for it.
    I didn’t particularly like Le Guin, but she was ‘one of many’ and it didn’t disturb my overall indifference to the sex of the author.
    Now days, you have these Feminist hacks writing drivel and lit-fic using non-standard pronouns like it was clever, and you have a horde of media telling you how wonderful they are.

    1. I would also point out Le Guin and her contemporaries in writing feminist informed sci-fi in the 70s realized interesting ideas were the sine qua non of the field and made sure their ideas (more than story IMHO) were up front and that the feminist thinking was in the context of an interesting idea.

      Like the book or not it is hard not to say of Left Hand of Darkness that its jumping off point was an interesting idea. Yes, it was an idea built to discuss gender but at least it was an interesting one. Her…successors (I refuse to use followers or heirs as it is unfair to her) didn’t bother to do that for the most part. Ancillary Noun does have an interesting core idea but one that really, IMHO, has nothing to do with the hobby horse the novel decided to ride (or if you force it in then the core idea is significantly harmed IMHO).

      1. My favorite LeGuin, that doesn’t get mentioned often enough, is “The Lathe of Heaven.” In a future “government takes care of all your problems even worse than today” a young man is sent to a psychiatrist because he’s taking too many sleepy pills. Psych discovers that young man is terrified because if he dreams of a change in the world, the change happens, no matter how huge the change. Psych tries to, God Help Us All, “do good” with this ability, using hypnosis induced lucid dreaming to make the world what he thinks it should be. A big city local PBS station managed to do a TV movie based on this novel, its only weakness being the extreme low budget and the primitive video shooting.

        1. The Lathe of Heaven was rough going for me…but the nature of what is going on the narrative gets a tad incoherent late in the book because, well, reality is. I remember the PBS movie fondly unlike the horrid one Syfy did about a decade ago.

          But it is a prime example of what I mean. Yes, some of LeGuin’s hobby horses are things the shrink tries to fix but LeGuin was smart and honest enough to discuss why both his methods (abusing the main characters) and even goals (due to the law of unintended consequences) were bad. In fact, it is a great reminder that at one time even leftists understood the existance of the law of unintended consequences.

          At this point I’m not sure if the writing of LeGuin et al out of history so today’s female writers can be breaking into an all male field is good or bad. It is bad because rewriting history is bad and a lot of good things are being forgotten. It is good because LeGuin et al aren’t being sullied by association with the current crop of “Look, I have a vagina and wrote a book” writers.

          1. I found LeGuin fascinating . . . because she was my introduction to a ton load of strange (to me) ideas. A whole genre following on with pseudo copies is uninteresting.

      2. Well, I did like her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy.
        Left Hand and Lathe were too long with a single trendy idea to me. That is, her ideas were acceptable but her execution was tedious. Obviously YMMV, and I do admit that she is a Giantess compared to the ‘modern feminist’.

        1. Yes, a trilogy. Any other novels claiming to be “Earthsea” are spurious, no matter whose name they bear.

    2. It’s like the old “Emperor’s New Clothes” tale, though now they’ll destroy anyone who points out that the Empress is nekkid.

  2. It’s funny. With non-fiction I don’t really blink about male or female author, because I’m looking at credentials, contents, sources, et cetera. (Found what looks like it might be a very interesting history of consumption and consumer culture except the author is soft left and it shows big time.) For fiction, yeah, I’ve hesitated a few times, more so in sci fi than fantasy, which is an interesting thing in itself. Fantasy is not necessarily “feminine” but seems to have been steered that way in the 80s, early 90s, but is recovering to a greater variety again.

    I think I read more male than female fiction writers growing up, because of the genres I liked to read and what was available. I missed the period of Enid Blyton and D. W. Jones.

  3. Sure, a lot of my favorite authors are women. Besides Christie, I like L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott , Jane Austin, and a slew of others that have slipped my mind. I doubt that any of them are liked by the contingent that wants you to read more female writers.

    1. So did – L.M. Montgomery, Louisia May Alcott, Gene Stratton Porter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frances Hodgson Burnett – all those lovely late 19th century, early 20th century lady writers with three names. Either on the shelves at Granny Jessie’s house, or through some book club for kids specializing in inexpensive versions of classic kid-lit. I managed to clean miss Enid Blyton, though.
      But I also liked Kipling, the Hornblower books, and there was one interminable adventure series about a young merchant sailor in the 1930s whose title and author escapes me – but totes male.

    2. Yes to all of the above! I’ve always read female authors. But I don’t want to be preached at by feminists.

  4. I do not recall seeking out any gender/sex of author. I did seek out some names. Having found some Asimov, I looked for or was willing to read more (his collected columns were perhaps of more interest than his fiction). In non-fiction, I found Patrick Moore when my interest in astronomy started in well at age 10 or 11 and I read Moore for years – but it would not have mattered if it was Patricia rather than Patrick. The name was an identifier after the type of content was found.

    Message? Meh. I recall I once liked the TV show NOVA on PBS as it went into some detail about this or that subject generally with a science bent to it. Until a few years ago when, during Black History Month, they had a show on some black scientist (and finally, someone other than Carver. There has to be more than just Carver, right?) of the 1800’s or early 1900’s and it went on and on and on about his treatment and said (almost?) nothing about his scientific accomplishments. I’ve forgotten the fellow’s name – and I either changed channels or shut the set off in disgust. Come on, impress me with what he did, not with what was done to/at him. But what he did didn’t matter. The “message” mattered – to the producers. To me? *CLICK!*

    1. Apparently due to my early years being Walden Books and Barnes and Noble, I tend to remember authors by their last name. That is how these two bookstores sorted their physical assets, and it works for me.

      1. I am still waiting to find one of those bookstores that sorts books by sex and hides all the women written books in a half flooded basement. Clearly every feminist has found nothing but such stores.

        Then again, I have caught B&N putting pretty much anything by a black author, regardless of genre, in the the Black Studies section. Most of me was revolted but a tiny sliver figured many wanted to be know primarily by skin color so they got their wish.

        1. I’d be sorely tempted to slip My Grandfather’s Son or anything by Sowell into those stacks in hopes of jarring someone out of their echo chamber.

        2. Kind of like how if an author’s bio mentions they were in the military in anything more than “but got better” type setting, it’s probably military focused?

    2. I watched Nova pretty religiously as a kid but recently gave up. More interest in politicking than the science. All on climate change

      1. Kind of like the new Cosmos, where he says that climate change is about to cause a Devonian -level extinction?>

          1. The one bit I watched, he blew the history part so badly I bailed. No, Girodano B-whatever did not get in trouble for a heliocentric view. He got in trouble with the church for denying the doctrine of the Trinity, disobeying orders, suborning a nun and possibly seducing a different nun, and couple other “minor” church infractions.

        1. That’s just plain funny…I wonder if he knows what the timeline for that extension was…it was not “instant” like the KT event (which was shorter than instant on geological scales). The Late Devonian took at least 500,000 years and that’s the short estimate. The other extreme are over 20 million.

          Really, if you’re going to scare monger, do it right and claim we are about to have a PT level event or even one that exceeds the PT.

          1. Well, he insists it was caused by an excess of CO2, and we’re going to cause that same excess of CO2, IIRC.

            1. Is the jackass aware the theory on CO2 in the Devonian extinction is that the level fell causing a drop in global temperature due to over forestation and oxidation of certain rock formations in an already mild climate?

              Every time someone discusses the new series with me I get another example of truly shoddy research that seemed aimed at:

              1. Women as victims
              2. Global warming

              and not real education.

              1. then i remember it incorrectly… but he was pretty insistent that we were about to cause the same thing because, i don’t know, too much CO2 was going to cause too many plants to grow? i forget, but its being spoonfed climate change BS just like the original cosmos talked about how horrible nuclear winter would be.

                1. Well, nuclear winter was arguably on somewhat firmer ground (not hugely firmer but somewhat) and no one was trying to base policy on it…yes, it was argued it would make nuclear war horrible but the number of people who thought otherwise sans nuclear winter are countable on fingers and toes.

                  1. The Real Problem with “Nuclear Winter” is the “scientists” were mainly talking to the US government not the Soviet government.

                    For some “strange” reason, I doubt that the Soviet government would have listen that much to what Western “scientists” were saying. 😦

                    1. Perhaps the Soviet’s lack of concern about Nuclear Winter was due to their most successful general being General Winter.

                    2. I was speaking more in scientific terms. The idea that we look at how much crap a firestorm like Dresden or Tokoyo threw up, scale that to every major city on the planet at one, and then compare that to the effects of volcanic action producing similar amounts of particulates isn’t bad. There are a host of assumptions to unpack but as a first order estimate it isn’t a bad idea.

                    3. The other shitty-ness about the “Nuclear Winter” stuff is nobody wanted to examine the science because “those generals just want to know how many nukes they can use safely”.

                      IE It wasn’t science to be tested, but a Prophecy that should not be questioned. 😦

  5. Anytime I hear discussions about “women warriors” there’s an automatic “yeah, but” reaction. By the law of averages, there were almost certainly women who fought in the Middle Ages, and some of them were probably hell on wheels.
    But. If you think that women fought in appreciable numbers outside of backs-to-the-wall, victory or death and rape and slavery situations, you understand nothing about human society, because you know nothing about the…difficulties encountered in human reproduction. That, or you’re incapable of connecting the dots.

    1. Well you see, reproduction is not a natural behavior. Men and women are actually distinct species which would normally have entirely different means of spawning youngsters.

      1. It’s true. Through their rapefear culture of oppression men have managed to suppress the ability of women to reproduce through their natural means of parthenogenesis. So utterly have the subjugated the bodies, minds and spirits of women that the modern woman is but a shell of the powerful, mystical beings that her ancestors once were. Free of the taint of men women will once again revert to their true, peaceful, wise and liberated natures and naturally, painlessly produce their own children, rather than the parasitic entities that men force upon them. For you see men are parasites that cannot reproduce on their own, a sort of soul cancer that exist only to destroy.

        Or some such nonsense like that.

        Some day I really want to find a way to ask one of those crazies exactly how they plan on getting the whole parthenogenesis thing to work out.

        1. Men are plants and women are insects. The flipside of men inhibiting the parthenogenesis of women is that women render the soil unable to sprout young men.

          Which is why we need gender segregated space colonies.

          1. “Men are plants and women are insects.”

            So the actual Indian name of the “PIV is rape” woman is, “woman who talks to men?”

            1. Ah, you must not have been here when we were discussing Talks-With-Plants. Here’s a real quote from a real site:
              ” Women will be free to experiment parthenogenesis or procreation with two female eggs.”

              Page here, be warned that’s one of the saner things she said:

              (We call her Talks-With-Plants because in another blog post, she said that some women can talk with plants and learn their natural properties.)

              1. Speaker-To-Foliage?

                I never gave much of a damn whether my books were written by men or women. One of my favorite authors (I just turned my wife on to her) is C. J. Cherryh. I think my wife finally had to find out why sometimes I lapse into Mahendo’sat trade pidgin.

        2. There was a time I believed exactly that.

          Not in such blatantly ridiculous terms, but by all the gods and fates I was messed up.

        3. I recall my attempts to wrap my head around the various social justice dogmas I’d been fed and concluding that only white men could act as individuals.

          The only conclusions I could reach was that because our society was so historically discriminatory the only way for women and non-whites to advance any of their interests was collectively, through the power of numbers that came with adhering to identarian politics.

          of course, this also meant that non whites who reflexively aligned with such groups were vulnerable to manipulation by a demagogue. Manipulation that would be utterly transparent to individuals outside the identarian group. I also concluded that because white men were uniquely able to exercise their individuality in this society, they were also uniquely vulnerable to attacks and smears by identarians. I instinctively understood Alinsky’s ‘freeze it, personalize it, polticize it approach, though I didn’t know there was a term for it. Looking at some of Requires Hate’s activities, I understood she wasn’t attacking individuals as individuals, but using them as springboards to attack systemic racism, sexism, etc.

          And I concluded that…well white men would just have to live with it. Don’t take it personally when the SJWs smear and savage you, because it’s not about you: you’re just the object here, the prop for a more important discussion. It could just as easily be any other white man. The only thing to do is keep your head down and your mouth shut except to apologize and wait for them to find another target. Don’t try to argue or correct any misinterpretations, or to defend yourself, because anything you say will be used against you.

          Because you ARE privileged. You’ve got the privilege of being able to go back to your normal life while these other groups must better their own collective hand by any means they can. So wait for them to move on to another target.

          Likewise dissident non-whites and women who didn’t go along with the identarian movements would also have to suffer. But they would only suffer individually, and the only reason for their dissent in the first place was their position of relative situational privilege in life that others didn’t share.

          For awhile I actually managed to make myself think that way, until the extreme, ridiculous and hypocritical behavior of the SJWs got too bad for me to accept. Now, looking back on how I used to think, I have to wonder: are these the kind of thoughts that were through Bernie Sanders’ head when he let those BLM protesters take over his stage?

          Or was he even thinking at all? I turn my mind back to Orwell’s 1984, and the maxim that doublethink must be unconscious above all.

            1. yes, most of them are literally the children of upper middle class or lower upper class families, and assume that everyone else lives just like them- so, if you have as much stuff as they do, you must have rich parents and grandparents paying for it, like they do, not be working your @55 off for it.

              (many if not most SJWs are the kids of what we called ‘yuppie puppies’ when i was in school…)

    2. There were a few, and sometimes the definition of warrior might be different than what we think. Terry Jone’s Medieval Lives mentions a letter from a wife to her husband with a list of things to pick up for home, including arrows and other armaments, since the manor was under siege. I doubt she was out there swinging a sword or yodeling and doing back flips as she lopped off heads, which is apparently what is considered a warrior woman these days, but she seems to have been running thing in her husband’s absence, including the defense of the manor.

      1. Last winter _Medieval Warfare_ magazine had a whole issue about women and warfare. The essays about how the changes in warfare and government shifted women from deputy-band/clan-leader to siege-defender were quite good, as were the usual articles. I especially liked the one about Margaret of Tirol, but then I’d always suspected she got a bad rap from later chroniclers.

        1. As designated representative of the owner of the manor, of COURSE she was management. And if you’ve got a manor and corps of armsmen big enough to withstand a significant siege, their management is going to take most of your time whether male or female. (A baron who always leads sallys is likely to leave his manor with nobody in charge. There’s a time for personal presence and fighting, and it’s not typically until things are a bit desperate.)

        1. That’s how it read, too, like a woman calling up her husband to say “Honey, can you bring home some garlic bread and a dozen eggs for supper? Oh, and we need another half dozen boxes of .308 Winchester. The raiders are getting to be a nuisance again.

            1. Or raider traps with the “FREE CHEMS!” sign.

              I prefer heavy machinegun turrets, though am experimenting with traps on spawn points. (There’s a “Settlement Management Software” that has some useful things, including a listing of spawn points for each settlement. Though I’ve gotten attacks from other directions so putting ALL your defenses at each spawn point isn’t wise.)

              1. I consider raider spawns that are inside the bounds of a settlement (I’m looking at you, Somerville Place) to be a bug.

                1. There’s one right next to Abernathy Farm. In one of the settlement build videos I’ve seen the player walled off the area with concrete and used those spike trap floors and a bunch of other traps, plus shotgun turrets at the only exit.

    3. What amazes me about women warriors discussions is how often they create men with tits to lionize and ignore real women who did impressive things in warfare.

      For example, one of my favorite Steeleye Span songs is “They Called Her Babylon” about Charlotte Stanley,the Countess of Derby, who held Latham House while outnumbered over 6 to 1 for three months in 1644. I have yet to see her held up as a woman warrior. This probably because she wasn’t forcing herself into the army but just doing what was needed and doing it damn well.

      1. Ah, well, a male commander who has to fight in the ranks has obviously failed at his primary job.

        It is quite reasonable to believe a female in such an era would become a adept assessor of soldierly talent, especially as she would lack any personal ego bias such as overvaluing swordsmanship because the sword is her favorite weapon. Not only do you not have to fight in order to recognise fighting ability, sometimes it enables more objective analysis.

    4. Yes. Exactly. I mean, yeah, women defended manors, etc. But they didn’t go out there in jousts or not in any appreciable numbers and probably weren’t very good if they did. Why? Upper body strength. Some women are stronger than the weakest men, but in competing against the strongest men, they fail.

      1. To once again talk about something i know nothing about, isn’t this like overlapping bell curves? You have average woman strength and you have average men strength, and there’s separation between them, but you can get the upper end of woman strength overlapping average man strength and maybe tapering off beyond it, but there are very few women in that upper range. Which is why there’s a few women on utility line crews, a job that requires upper body strength, but not all that many. And while at the far upper end of the man bell curve you had Paul Anderson lifting over 6,000 pounds, I haven’t heard of a woman doing the same feat.

        1. There’s another aspect to it.

          From what I’ve heard, women can train to gain upper-body strength equal or greater than the average man’s upper-body strength but only at the cost of losing their ability to have children (while they are training to reach & training to keep that strength level).

          A man at peak strength can still father children but as I said above, the woman loses the ability to bear children.

        2. Which is why some women, generally upper-end-of-distribution or very lucky, held their own against average male soldiers of similar training — and a lot more didn’t.

    5. Well, great woman warriors are often leaders, Joan of Arc used her sword strictly to point the way. Deborah the Judge was the first general to figure out how a band of militia could defeat the chariot, the main battle tank of the pre-Christian era.

      1. The most important characteristics of victorious female generals seems to have been a willingness to use technological innovations her male enemies were neglecting and lack of crippling respect for the killer weapons already in use. Deborah invented strategies to defeat the chariots through use of weather, refusing combat till the rain had made the ground too muddy for the chariots to get to speed. Joan of Arc was an early master of artillery: how to aim the guns, how to use mass gunnery, how to use the guns as siege weapons. The cannon was a brand-new fairly untried weapon, the gunners were commoners like her, she asked them what they thought the guns could do if they were given the chance. And Charlotte Stanley may have been the first general to use snipers. Yeah, snipers, 1644. She put her best hunters in the best positions on Latham House and had them pick off specialists and gunners with their hunting weapons. If you’re wondering, some recent test of muskets of the 17th century found they were more accurate with higher velocity than history books would have us believe.

        1. If you’re wondering, some recent test of muskets of the 17th century found they were more accurate with higher velocity than history books would have us believe.

          This is interesting. Were they using rifles or smooth bore?

          1. Rifles, which were a hunting only* weapon, because they were extremely slow to reload compared to smooth bores, and fouled after only a few shots.

            *Only, it turns out, lying at the gable window for a couple hours until a specialist appeared, and picking him off with one well-placed long range shot was remarkably more like lying in wait until a deer appeared than it was like facing a calvary charge.

            1. Nods. On a trip to Frederica years ago, got annoyed at a demonstration where the presenter pooh-poohed driller the Georgia colonists in loading muskets. And I’m standing there thinking most had probably never handled a musket and they wanted them to get to the point where they could load and return fire rapidly even while scared half to death. Possible with the smooth bore Brown Bess; a bit more problematic with muzzle loader rifles.

              1. Not much factual info on the actual battle, but not unlikely that her gamekeepers would have heavy rifled hunting pieces.

            2. Yes – there are histories of American sharpshooters acting as snipers & making things difficult for British specialists and officers during the Revolutionary War, using hunting rifles.

    6. Yeah, the feminists are touting the Kurdish women riding into battle (modernly) as a major victory for feminism. Having met the Kurds… My response was ‘they’re desperate and don’t have anyone else to send.’

        1. Possible. They need the good publicity as much as they need the manpower. (Pun intended.). I know they’ve taken pretty heavy losses. It may have been both. Unfortunately, I don’t have current enough data to say for sure.

          1. That, and a few of the interviews I’ve read there is a major element of revenge – in one case the woman was the only single adult in her age cohort in the clan able to fight because the men were dead and several of the other women were missing-hoped-dead. She was out to get even.

            1. Another thing feminism ruined…can you imagine Amanda Marcotte or some other feminist writer going out herself to get revenge (as opposed to trying to shame unrelated men into doing it)?

              One used to fear the female of the speices as a life and death thing not fearing the nagging of a harpy.

    7. I love those stories, but for me the most of point of the rare historical individuals who actually fought like men is that they are exceptional. Exceptional is always interesting.

      And that is what I prefer in fiction too. Love the amazon who can hold her own against if not all then at least most men. But I WANT her to be a rarity. And they were great fun as the main characters back when they were fairly rare. But now it seems pretty much every time there is a woman or girl protagonist in fantasy or science fiction – or any other genre where fighting tends to happen like thrillers or adventure stories etc – she has to be one.

      To the point where now it’s mostly just boring. Okay, I still like them when they are well written and the rest of the story is interesting – and preferably they are either rare in the story universe, so the main character is said to be somebody exceptional, or if not rare there is some good reason why not, like genetic engineering or technology or whatever which can turn anybody into an ass kicking warrior, or magic which can do the same, something. But even so, since now they are pretty much the rule the exceptions, normal women who need to use their brains to survive because they aren’t physically able to match most of the male criminals they may encounter (even if they can fight well enough to beat some), well, those are becoming something of the delightful exception which sometimes may make me to buy the book just for that.

      1. Exceptional is always interesting.

        Excellent point…we get lots of books about Richard I or Alexander but how many are about pestalt #7?

        1. Bernard Cornwell almost always uses famous historical figure assisted by fictitious lower-ranking character in his series.

    8. The implications of what would have to be done to make an historical or modern woman an effective combatant on an actual battlefield would likely horrify all and sundry against ever reading about such a character in the first place. For one thing, the requisite physical changes would render said woman decidedly “unsexy”, and would likely create a decent amount of body horror/disgust. She’d be more than “unfeminine” in appearance, and be easily mistaken for a man, because that’s the role she’s taking on.

      Additionally? The mental/spiritual/emotional/behavioral crap? That’s all going to get swapped out with more “male” versions and cues. She might retain some more feminine traits, but I can’t see her retaining a lot of the female attitudes and approaches. There are reasons that male humans are what they are, and most of those relate to combat, conflict, and hunting. You want a human to be successful in those realms, you’re going to have to accept that much of what we commonly assume are male qualities/deficiencies are geared towards creating conditions for that success.

      In short, you want a successful female combatant, you’re basically going to be “writing a man with tits”. Of course, that’s presupposing you’re talking about having her compete on the same sort of battlefield men have been doing that on for most of history.

      1. Poul Anderson, in On Thud and Blunder. wrote that a warrior woman would more closely resemble Rosie the Riveter. He had a point.

        I disagree with your last, though. I had one in the books for the kids, but it was made clear she couldn’t go toe-to-toe with much stronger men or even pull back a standard longbow to full draw. She could, however, in a pinch rely on speed and craftiness to get on a more even footing, and had her undergoing training for self-defense, not offense. She had other ideas, of course, and would sometimes get into trouble that way until her father arranged a “demonstration.”

        1. The difference between what we’re talking about is this: You’re positing a “one-off”, a unique character, someone who is singular and special. I’m not; what I’m getting at is what you’d have to see for something like routine female presence in the shield wall would require, and what the effects of such a presence would wind up having on the women involved. Arya Stark vs. the world of Paksenarrion, where women are routinely recruited to serve in mercenary companies. Something like that I could see, even in a human population as Elizabeth Moon creates, but the realities of how that would wind up working, and the effects on society? The women who made that their life would be far different than the women who stayed at home, and the likelihood of their coming to more resemble the men in the ranks next to them is pretty damn high, both in mentality, culture, and physicality. The ones that didn’t have or acquire those traits are going to be winnowed from the ranks rather brutally, in my opinion.

          And, if we had any sort of common sense, we’d be doing just that in today’s modern sexually-integrated military. Unfortunately, we aren’t, and the price will be paid on some future battlefield.

          1. “The women who made that their life would be far different than the women who stayed at home, and the likelihood of their coming to more resemble the men in the ranks next to them is pretty damn high, both in mentality, culture, and physicality.”

            Which Moon actually shows, to an extent. Not physically so much, but she shows how mentally and culturally they fit much more comfortably in soldiers barracks than they do in drawing rooms. Is the percentage of women capable of such a profession realistic, even in a fantasy world like Paksenarrion’s? No, but if the author is a good enough storyteller and doesn’t try to beat the reader over the head with, “me woman, me strong.” the suspension of disbelief keeps hanging in there without being jarred around.

            Frankly few authors can do that successfully, and Moon does it better than most, even better than Weber, in my opinion. Her politics may suck, but she reminds me of Wheedon, it doesn’t affect her storytelling ability.

      2. Men dominate Hard Suit combat in the SCA for all of the usual reasons: upperbody strength, agression, et. al. However, those women who take up Hard Suit and are successful aren’t necessarily any less feminine than their non-combative (or wire-weenie) counterparts off the field.

        1. You’re talking game; I’m talking war, and participation in long-term conflicts.

          The difference between the two is far more than the simple mechanics of mastering fighting technique. It’s like the difference between a hiker, and a soldier marching to the sound of the guns, or away from them on a retreat where they literally have to walk through the soles of their feet. Comprehend that, and you might get an inkling of what the differences are between doing a modern archery contest, and the English archers at Agincourt, who’d been on the run (literally, in several senses of the word) with dysentery, trying to make their way to safety at Calais.

          The female who successfully survives making her way through a life in the ranks as an equivalent to an English yeoman archer is not going to have much in common with her equivalent athletic counterpart taking part in a re-enactment today. For her to have survived and prospered in that world, her totality would have had to be far different, and we’re not talking just physically; she’d have had to possess an entirely different mental outlook and ethos, one that would likely be difficult to distinguish from her male counterparts at the time.

          The gulf between what amounts to game play and the realities of soldiering? Vast and deep. The qualities and inherent capacities required are going to necessitate a convergence between things such that sexual dimorphism vanishes, and the default for the standard required to survive and succeed on the battlefield is going to consist of things we tend to consider mostly “male”.

          1. Well, that’s exactly what one hears about the lower class women who “dressed in men’s array” or who just worked as mercenaries or common soldiers.

            1. Argh, the comment box is killing me…. Usually the few common soldier women were burly women. (Occasionally you get a few tall-like-farmboy women, as in the American Civil War, where there were tons of gawky underfed guys to hide the gawky underfed females.) They usually made a point of being “one of the guys” in being able to haul stuff, drink, etc. Occasionally you get one who was stronger than most of the guys — but we’re talking stronger than pre-modern underfed guys, not people who had grown up with good nutrition. Sometimes they had an established pard or husband, sometimes they made a point of not having one. You hear of a few who basically became sergeants, but not many. They kept their noses clean, they did their jobs, they fit in. But they were always pretty rare, and they only really seem to show up when there’s a situation where they need a lot of soldiers. They weren’t “better;” they were doing well to fit in.

              Now, when you go to aristocrats, sure there were plenty of women who led troops, because they were management. You even get some hereditary female castellans or sheriffs. A lot of women in warrior classes were taught to handle weapons, for defense of the fortress or for emergencies or leader-shortages. Some of them were even quite good.

              The only “great female warriors” I can think of are Matilda of Tuscany (whose story was hardly hidden; her statue is in a place of honor in St. Peter’s, and the popes keep hoping she’ll do some miracles so she can be canonized), who was both formidable in physical and military campaigns; Ching Shih, that one old Chinese woman who ran a pirate empire that she inherited from her husband (not really hidden, just kinda obscure); Grainne Ua Mhaille (Grace O’Malley), as clan chief and pirate queen, although her personal combat skills are debated; and Mai Bhago, the female Sikh warrior/bodyguard (although the real fame is that she rallied 40 deserters and got them to save the day out of shame that a woman was riding into battle, so she was a self-appointed officer; she was appointed a bodyguard as a reward for saving the day).

              Gotta say, though, that Judith and Jael were extremely popular stories throughout the Middle Ages, just like the stories of the Amazons, and it was mostly guys who loved retelling those stories. And a lot of historical local women got praise from poets and historians for fitting into that dream.

              1. The place where you really do see some women doing physical warrior work was in the job of a Norse family’s “avenger” (if there wasn’t any man left to do it), which meant getting a man’s legal status at the price of always dressing and behaving like a man, and forsaking female privileges (which actually meant giving up your claim to your land and livestock to the other ladies of the family, since women usually owned those); or the similar Albanian custom of women who live as men, often to continue a family name.

                Kurdish society has always had some women fighters, but that’s because they really do have to put all hands on deck. Some of the other tribal cultures up in the mountains do similar things, albeit it’s not always advertised because it’s pretty much a declaration that your tribe is poor and desperate.

              2. Occasionally you get one who was stronger than most of the guys — but we’re talking stronger than pre-modern underfed guys, not people who had grown up with good nutrition.

                When I got older and bigger and had taken weight lifting, I thought I was pretty tough. Then one Saturday my dad said “Let’s cut up that black walnut the tornado blew over.” This meant crosscut saw, so we loaded it on the truck and headed for the tree.

                In the process of sawing that black walnut, I learned I wasn’t as much of a man as I thought I was. And my dad, who had once earned money cutting timber with a crosscut saw, looked hardly worse for the wear.

                One significant difference was that even though I grew up on a farm, it was mostly a mechanized farm. I didn’t have to walk behind a mule day in or day out, and though I could shovel corn into the crib, that was when the elevator was broken down. None of this compared with how my father grew up, drawing water by hand, walking practically everywhere, and for whom farm work was a lot more physical than it was for me.

                I suspect those underfed men, who lived much as my father had, a very physical existence day in and day out, were a danged sight stronger and tougher than us well nourished guys, and probably the woman, too. For wash day mean building a fire under the wash pot, and cooking meant using wood fired stoves or the hearth, and cookware was usually cast iron. Not to mention carrying water to the house.

                Odds are the strength differential between the two was the same then as it is for us, except they were probably stronger than their modern counterparts.

                1. A lot of that is more knowing how to use what you’ve got than raw strength– and a nice dose of endurance/givingupisnt’achoice.

                  Dad tested it out once, the big guys in the Army were a lot stronger in the raw amount they could lift, but they couldn’t do what he did because they couldn’t use it– he and mom taught me how to do things, so even after multiple c-sections and years of being an in-town housewife, I can still do stuff that Elf’s pumped-up co-workers ask for help with. (I also got scolded for moving the swingset by myself, but that’s neither here nor there; I didn’t pick it up, I just lifted corners and walked it. But the end result was impressive.)

                2. > black walnut

                  If the grain is good you could get anywhere from $1K to $10K from a decent-sized walnut tree.

                  An old-grown tree with lots of burl can go for even more than that, with the sawmill guys contemplating each slice like diamond cutters. Gunstock-sized pieces can range from $20 to $500 each.

                  We had about 20 walnut trees at one place we lived when I was a kid. I hated the things. The lawnmower could fling a hidden nut right through a window…

                  1. Yep, the town forty miles away has walnut trees in practically everybodies front yard. I cringe every time I see one being cut up for firewood.

                    1. You’d cringe more if you saw what happens when a sawmill undertakes to cut up a tree that’s been in someone’s yard.

                      High-speed saw blades do not interact well with what some refer to as “inclusions” like nails, screws, and other things that can be found in yard trees from around homes. X-ray machinery for sawmills is expensive, and has a significant rate of failure. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of one of those big bandsaws “blowing up”, you’ll understand why the millwrights hate people that make them saw those trees up for lumber.

                    2. Actually I distinctly recall being around the guy with a portable sawmill sawing up the trees out of my grandmothers yard. And helping my dad build a shop with the resulting lumber. The bullets weren’t much of an issue, although it was interesting to try and figure out the caliber by looking at the cross-sections of them included in the boards. But I’m pretty sure I learned some new words when he hit the old ceramic fence insulator, complete with nail.

  6. I went to an all girl school and while there were a lot of crushes, they were a sort of romantic friendship that had no physical expression except in very, very, very rare cases.

    According to my understanding which is probably totally wrong but I’ll share it for what it is worth in Japan young girls are expected to have romantic friendships with other young girls as practice for later romantic relationships with men. It is considered a normal phase of development although I’m not sure how much of a sexual component it is supposed to have.

    If memory serves one of the terms for lesbian in Japan roughly translates as “immature woman”. That would put it in second place for most assuming term for homosexual I know.

    Yeah, there was also “veiled lesbianism” I suppose, though I think nowadays we read that a lot into places where the older times simply read same-sex friendship.

    The past is a foreign country which is something a lot of people, especially educated people, seem incapable of grasping. When they can grasp that the mindset of a people of a different time is markedly different, such as actually accepting medieval people had a very different view of religious faith than us, they take it as proof of their superiority to those who lived before us.

    It is an arrogance and blindness that brings a lot of woe.

    1. Heck. Many today can’t even accept viewpoints different from their own in their contemporary countrymen…err women…err things.

            1. Quite rightly! Such language would have been discriminatory toward semi-sapient, non-sapient and asapient beings, as well as Sandersnistas.

    2. It was SOP in 19th century America, too. Precisely because if it was veiled lesbianism, the veil was thick enough to hide.

  7. I don’t recall ever checking if a book was written by a man or a woman before picking it up and browsing. In a few instanced as I grew older I was aware of the gender of the author, but can’t say that I cared.

    The only time it seemed to have made a difference was when I read Eugenia Price’s Beloved Invader on a recommendation looking for possible historical research tidbits: Price based it on actual history. When she described William Dodge as wanting to hug a pine tree, I knew I was in for a long slog since that’s just not something a sober man would want to do.

  8. Re: updating children’s books: I’m of two minds on this. I dislike the idea of updating them to add technology. First, there’s the fact that the technology often causes problems. Second, often societal changes cause problems; things people might have considered normal in the 70s might bring horror today. Finally, it seems insulting to kids to imply that they can’t possibly relate to any characters who don’t use exactly the same technology that they do. When I was a girl, I loved the Little House books and what I learned from them about life in the 1800s. It might have been equally fun to read children’s books from the 1930s and learn about life then. So all-in-all, I’d vote for just letting the stories become unintentional period pieces as they age.

    As far as updating them for PCness, this won’t be a popular view here, but I’ll admit I’m less certain about that. Recently, I was reading some first edition Nancy Drew stories, and it was really uncomfortable to read Nancy’s racist attitudes towards “the negress” or the eugenic undertones in her dealings with a poor woman. Now, these were common attitudes in the 30s, and it’s not surprising Nancy held them. I would be up in arms and yelling about censorship if anyone tried to excise these from an adult or even young adult book. But from a kids’ book? If I had an eight-year-old, would I really want to have to explain to her about Buck vs. Bell and the belief that the government needed to prevent the unfit from reproducing? Or would it be okay to let her hold onto her innocence and wait a few years before ordering her to read Liberal Fascism?

    1. I’d vote in favor of leaving the works the hell alone, and simply adding the context to discussing the works with the child in question.

      I learned more about WWII attitudes and behavior from reading the “in situ” works from my Grandmother’s huge collection of old magazines and books. You really can’t comprehend the milieu until you’ve actually been exposed to the same source materials that most people were using to form their opinions back then, and it really takes leafing through an old Life magazine to find some young woman looking at a Japanese skull her fiance sent her as a bit of memorabilia from the battlefield before you really begin to internalize how different things were during that era. Without the ability to examine this sort of material, in both period fiction and the contemporary news sources…? You can’t even begin to grasp that “the past is a different country”.

      Leave the works alone, and if the child is not mature enough to be able to benefit from reading what was contemporary fiction, and comprehend that those works are different from today, well… They probably aren’t ready for a lot of other things, either.

    2. I think a lot of the discomfort comes in that whitewashing twill be one sided and often can affect the tone of the book imo.

      1. Not to mention, where’s the value in reading a book that’s been Bowdlerized like that? The point of the exercise, one would think, would be to try to comprehend the thinking of the era–Remove what modern sensibility finds offensive, and you’re removing any reason to bother reading the damn thing.

          1. I’m speaking in general terms. I read the original Tom Swift books, and enjoyed them as a kid in the 1970s. But, I was reading them knowing that they were of another era, and while they weren’t current, reading them did help me to understand the milieu my grandparents had grown up in…

            1. The past is another country. I read novels in historical settings as travelogue; retelling the story to fit in the present takes that away. Boring!

              1. I cannot now turn up the quote (Lewis or Chesterton, surely — two of the most quotable persons who ever were) about the chief virtue of reading old books is the insight they give on our present day’s pretensions.

                A pity, as he expressed it so very well.

                1. Probably Lewis. He wrote frequently about reading old books. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Chesterton did also.

                  1. It seems likely — visiting Google results I found:

                    One obstacle that C.S. Lewis had to overcome was what he called his “chronological snobbery.” By that he meant the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is thereby discredited. For instance, people might ask, “What does a 2,000-year-old faith have to do with me?” One of Lewis’s friends helped him to ask about ideas that seemed outdated. Why did an idea go out of date and was it ever refuted? If so, where, by whom, and how conclusively? C.S. Lewis later argued that reading old books helped provide a corrective to the blindness induced by our own age. We ought, he maintained, to read one old book for every new one or if that’s too much, then one old one for every three new ones. Otherwise, we may be easily enslaved to the ideas of the recent past.

                    Emphasis added.

                  2. Apparently he came by his love of old books honestly:

                    “My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.” ― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

                    Courtesy Jennifer Neyhart, whose blog list of favorite books ever will include many titles familiar to regulars here.

        1. You want to rewrite a story to fit modern times? Okay, I mean that has been done with Romeo and Juliet to many times to count, I don’t have a problem with you doing that… as long as you give it a different title and don’t try and make people believe it is the original.

          1. Thing is…

            A lot of what goes into making “Romeo and Juliet” work simply doesn’t translate into modern terms. Period. If you really change the setting, and try to “modernize” it, a lot of the conflict and angst goes away. It’d be like trying to set a 1930s mystery that was dependent on people not being able to communicate (and, that being a salient plot point), here in the modern age of ubiquitous cell phones.

            1. I never said most of them were any good. 😉 I just said I don’t have a problem with it, as long as you don’t call it “Romeo and Juliet” and market it as an original Shakespeare.

            2. We had to study “Romeo and Juliet” in junior high. The teachers kept telling us how wonderful the play was, but all I could see was that the characters were idiots.

            3. You want a “good” example of a story rewrite, try David Drake, the greatest portion of his novels are ‘updated’ stories.

              1. True but you often have to have quite the classical education to know it.

                He is one of those people as well read as I wish I was.

    3. You can learn all sorts of interesting things from old books.

      Several years ago, by mother needed to sanitize some dishrags, but had no bleach, and (for various reasons) could not buy any.

      How then did she sanitize the dishrags? Why, by remembering that in the Anne of Green Gables,/i> books, they’d mentioned boiling the dishrags to clean them.

      And when she tried it, it worked.

  9. … imagine Harry Potter with all girls and without the magic, but also very feminine, for a given definition of feminine, which is neither the frills and pink we imagine for tradition, nor the current idea of feminine. The boarding schools had girls who behaved like boys and wanted to be called by boys’ names, who were tough athletes, and some who were absolutely feminine.

    This calls to mind the books Christopher Chant snuck in to the Living Asheth (who later adopted the name Millie in tribute to the girls’ lives portrayed. I’ve long wanted to read those stories.

    A favorite childhood author of mine was E. Nesbitt and I never cared one whit what the E. stood in lieu of. Nor was my enjoyment of the adventures of The Boxcar Children in anyway tainted by concerns over their author sitting to tinkle. It is the reality of the characters which matters more than the identity of the author. I became truly a fan of Joss Wheadon when I realized he did not allow his pwn politics to dictate the paths taken by his characters nor his stories.

    1. EXACTLY those books. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
      You should look for the Malory Towers books. Also St. Clare’s. Unfortunately I don’t think any of them are in e. Or weren’t last time I checked.
      Wait. They’re now in e book. Oh, frabujous day…

      1. Do you no longer get kickbacks honoraria from Amazon for books bought from links, your site, or has moving and life so impaired your thought processes that you didn’t realize that impressionable folk such as I might impulsively want to buy those, preferably via link so you derive some slight benefit for the referral?

        Yee gods!

        *No E-books have been linked in the posting of this chastisement. I couldn’t find them and probably wouldn’t have bought them anyway, even if the covers of the dead trees render these books improbable selections for public reading. You want ’em E, you’re on your own. St Clare is certainly Kindled.

    2. I recall the Boxcar Children fondly, but certainly don’t recall the sex of the author (if I ever knew it). I do know that the author of My Side of the Mountain was female, but it never affected my enjoyment of that book, as a kid.

  10. All the screams to “read women” and about the inequity of men being read do is make people pause and think “If I buy this woman, is she going to spend most of the book preaching instead of telling a story.”

    Actually, fear of leftist grey goo has mostly turned me off of new writers regardless of name implied fiddly bits.

    At this point unknow writers breaking in post 2000 or so need to come with a recommendation and even then can die on their first book. Writers of late tend to indulge hobby horses a bit too much. These hobby horses don’t even have to be leftist causes or political.

    For example, I had a hard time getting through Monster Hunter International because at times the gun porn overwhelmed the story aspect. I have heard it tones down in the later books, and I’m aware Larry wrote the first one very much with gun hobbyists as the target audience but I haven’t added another Larry to the pile. I can remember when Owen gets his custom shotgun with three pages of details about the mods fearing I was heading for the gun hobbyist version of John Gault’s speach.

    I say that as a GOA and NRA member and big supporter of fireamrs training and ownership. If those pages had described in as much detail the machining process of making the mods as it did the mods I would have been as happy as a pig in mud. Most of the planet would have been bored out of their skulls.

    1. Yeah, Monster Hunter International lost me at that point, too. For me it was the whole “Owen is so great that they make special guns that only he can use (in addition to him being the greatest fighter ever AND fluent in a dozen languages AND some kind of psychic ‘chosen one’ AND so gosh darned modest….)”

      1. Actually I read that as a tinkering gun nut (I’ve known a few, they are much more obsessed with the “more power is better” vibe than the worst hot rodder) made this really cool gun, AND NOW HE HAS FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE WHO IS CAPABLE OF ACTUALLY USING IT!

      2. The Grimmnoir trilogy isn’t like that at all. I would recommend those for people unfamiliar with Larry’s works.

    2. Personally, I tend to gloss over such aspects of Larry’s writing, like I often do with many of David Weber’s infodumps. A quick skim and on to plot and dialogue again.

    3. > the gun porn overwhelmed

      I felt much the same thing about the clothing descriptions when trying to read one of my wife’s romance novels. Given the circumstances I could simply assume everyone was dressed and the story could move on; instead, there would be entire pages easily classified under “don’t know, don’t care.”

      1. Heh. I like clothing descriptions, what I skim are the sex scenes. For some reason written descriptions of sex usually do nothing for me (I can’t write them either since I got no idea which might work and which doesn’t because, well, all of them mostly just bore me when I read them). What does work for me is lots of hinting and then they closed the door scenes which leave the details to my imagination.

        Well, I don’t want blow for blow descriptions of fighting either. I don’t actually want really detailed descriptions of any action, even of those few things I have enough personal experience about that I do know what the writer is talking (okay, writing) about (can be of course worse if you notice the writer has no clue). Just the highlights, and more about how the character feels, maybe some bits of how things look and smell etc like. Broad strokes, not particulars.

        I like long detailed descriptions (in moderation) when it’s something I personally like to spend time with, like beautiful clothes (historical, contemporary can be a bit less enjoyable, then it depends whether it happens to be in a style and colors I personally happen to like) or enjoying a lovely scenery, or maybe a beautiful animal and so on. But yep, those depend on having the right audience for them.

        But if the story is interesting otherwise one can always skim, so occasional gun (or any other) porn doesn’t really bother me that much. Nobody says you have to read every single word of the story. 🙂

        1. “Well, I don’t want blow for blow descriptions of fighting either.”

          Actually I do like such descriptions and find the hinting and leaving such to the imagination a ‘flaw’ common to a number of otherwise excellent female writers. I also tend to like gun porn, IF the author knows what they are talking about. I bounced hard on the Matt Bolan books over a combination of the idiocy of everybody on the team carrying three or four guns, all of different calibers, and none compatible with any other team members guns, and the oft repeated scenes of the good guys making head shots with a pistol, on running bad guys, at a hundred plus yards; meanwhile the bad guys seem incapable of hitting any good guys with fully automatic weapons.

          Actually a recommendation for any author is, your reader might be disappointed if you simply hint at something of their particular interest and leave it to their imagination, but if you write it in detail and get it wrong, they won’t be disappointed, they’ll be disgusted. If you don’t know a subject, either learn it before you write it, or skip it.

          1. Well, different audiences. I write what I’d like to read, and don’t spend much time on the details when it’s something I’d skim if I was reading it instead of writing it. Hopefully there are enough readers who like what I like for it to start paying one day. 🙂

            1. Oh I like your writing (I haven’t checked lately, have you ever published a sequel to Fourth Sword?) like I said, it is better to leave something to the readers imagination, and leave that read slightly disappointed, than to write something wrong and turn the reader off.

              1. Thanks.

                I’m working on the sequel. My father’s death was harder to deal with than I thought it would be and was probably the main reason why I got blocked (some family history baggage I had been trying to ignore kind of surfaced after it) for well over two years, but I am getting over that, I think I am finally back where I can actually finish things instead of getting stuck before I get even to the middle of the story.

                So if not this year then definitely by next spring or so (I will probably finish a stand alone werewolf story first. During the last years I ended up juggling four stories… could not finish or proceed with one, worked a bit on another, started a third and so on…).

        2. I am currently working on an “alternative romance” in a sub-genre where clothing is very important (I was introduced to this particular niche by my co-author) and I have had to learn all about corsets and buttonhooks and so on. It’s a challenge to describe stockings and suspender belts and the relative heights of everyone’s heels in a way that doesn’t bore me, much less my audience. But it’s a challenge that I am enjoying, and my co-author says that she thinks I am getting a feel for the atmosphere.

    4. I couldn’t get into MHI on the first go, either. (I did eventually, but had to do it in print rather than audio–which was my first attempt–because I could skim the gun porn bits. And the series *drastically* improves after and is quite fun. Not my favorite Correia–that’s Grimnoir or Son of the Black Sword, but fun.)

      However, it was recommended to me to try the Grimnoir series instead, and those were awesome. (There is a touch of fanboying over John Browning, but it’s within acceptable bounds. 😀 )

      1. The JMB fanboying is picoscopic by comparison to the man’s actual stature as a gun designer.

      2. I loved MHI, but bounced on the one Grimnoir I tried. My favorite Correia would have to be his collaborations with Kupari, however.

      3. Making one’s proper obeisances to Saint John of Ogden is always in good taste. 😀

      4. I know i keep saying it, but i stand by my theory that Son of the Black Sword is sci-fi.

        1. There’s good evidence for it. The moment they talked about the Great Hero (I forgot his name) descending in his ship, I thought “Aha, there’s gonna be some scifi elements here.”

          It *is* a venerable tradition of fantasy, but one that has fallen into disuse in recent years. 😀

    5. Jane Auel: Ayla walks into the forest. Followed by 10 pages of descriptions of every tree, bush, plant and what can be made from it. Ugh.

      1. even if they are all made-up wishful thinking or things that require extensive chemical processing to get.

        1. AKA “Ayla gets the cure for cancer by chewing some leaves, spitting it out then peeing on it”

  11. This I concealed from everyone, because if they got wind I could read one of my principal pleasures — having someone read to me — would be over.

    While I was vacuuming the living room, preparing for the in-laws coming by for The Daughter’s third birthday, she recorded herself reading a book. The book, I believe it was titled Grover Can Read, tells about Grover hiding his ability from everyone because — he did not want to loose the great pleasure of being read to. 😉

    1. I only found out Robert could read because he wanted to know what “incest” meant. We still read to him, but NOT the life of Caesar where the interesting word appeared…

      1. The Spouse and I will read to each other to this day. We started when The Spouse, who had been reading to himself while I was driving around York, PA on the way to Philadelphia, turned back to the beginning of the the book and began to read me The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

        The Spouse started rereading me Starbeast when I was in the hospital and never finished … 😦

      2. Shortly after I learned to read I found a book, I think it was left in a car somewhere. My mother decided it was inappropriate and took it away from me when I was about 3/4 of the way through.

        Forty-odd years later I could still remember sizeable chunks of the book, but not the title or author. So when I was going through a Michael Crichton phase – his earlier, pseudonymous thrillers are mostly far better than the ones under his own name – I was pleased to discover that I had read most of this book before, in 1966 or 1967 when it came out. “Odds On”, under his “John Lange” pseudonym.

        I’m not sure why my mom felt I shouldn’t be reading it, but I’ve seen no reason to change my opinion that parents operate by at least 50% random actions…

        1. I’m pretty sure because there was a ‘why’ she didn’t want to answer in context. How old were you?
          I have kids reading Bullfinch and Sir Thomas Mallory. These are not to be left ’round so little sister, four years old, can puzzle out enough to ask why, which now she’s grasped the concept of phonics is entirely possible. Just think for a moment about how you’d explain Arthur and Morgana to a four year old. Skip it: there are other books out there!

          1. Insisting that they do a better question than just “why” is a good start– means they actually want the answer they’re going for.

            I can see why you might not want to deal with that, though. 😀 Just maaaaaybe.

            1. Sometimes “why” is exactly the right question, especially when asking about weird incomprehensible adult motivations. (I note that the youngster reading Mallory has not had any questions. The difference between thirteen and four is tremendous.)

              1. I don’t know if I was four, but our greek mythology mostly-pictures book included that all the new gods were siblings, as were their parents.

                “Greek mythology” just ended up in a different brain-area than “what real people do.” Like it being OK to demand gold from very small people if you grabbed their coat or something.
                (I didn’t learn what on earth Brain meant when he sang about how Caligula ‘did things we can’t even talk about’ until I was an adult.)

        2. … I’ve seen no reason to change my opinion that parents operate by at least 50% random actions…

          With my father, that was a deliberate decision. He had to go TDY periodically, and wanted us to behave while he was away, so punishments were totally arbitrary so that we never could determine if some action would be worth it.

    2. It seems to be something an awful lot of people crave. I enjoy reading out loud–it’s the only kind of ‘acting’ I do, because I do okay with the voices–but I was surprised to find that my initial, “Hey bored roommate let me read you this book” turned into a sizeable group of people in my house (or their houses) once a week or so.

      1. Ugh, I wish I liked it.
        I hate reading out loud. And I’ve got– so far– three voracious book lovers, although the eldest is willing to take over “read to the kids” duty.

        1. I also hate reading out loud, and I’m really bad at it. I get all tripped up when my eyes are a page ahead of my mouth. I do a lot better with the books I have memorized so I can just recite.
          It doesn’t seem to effect the kids’ reading abilities at all negatively, but reading out loud to and teaching how to read aren’t at all the same thing for most kids, I guess, and my mother loves reading out loud to her grandkids, so they get some from her.

      2. Reading to the nieces and nephews is what I miss most about living with my sister.

  12. Visiting Galactic missionaries (who for current purposes are known to be benevolent and trustworthy, they have references made of pure plotonium) have offered us a DNA-editing nanobot, capable of splicing together optimized genomes from more than two individuals.

    If used for that purpose, it can increase the STR, DEX, INT, WIS, CON, and CHA of offspring to the best the human genome as a whole has to offer.

    If the gene donors are the traditional two people we’re simply stacking the meiotic deck. Everybody wins the genetic lottery, yay! But less-than-optimal children will be born, compared to using more pseudoparents.

    With a large enough number of pseudoparents (let’s try 48) some individuals are contributing less, or nothing, to the next generations. Their reproductive status is “cuckold” — enslaved to bear and/or support unrelated offspring. But every child born is an exemplar of the best of humanity. We’re back to Buck v Bell. (I gather that all right thinking people must recoil, hissing in horror, from this abomination. The Words have been spoken!)

    You’re on the commission that decides whether or not to use the Galtech, and if so how to tune it. What do you do?

    1. I use the the technology to secretly build up an army of supermen and take over Russia!

    2. What do I do? Distrust other peoples’ (and beings’) standards of optimization, that’s what I do.

      1. Humans are quite inbred as it is. Harm from all the inferior genes floating around possibly doesn’t outweigh the benefits of what little genetic variation we have left.

        1. Agreed!
          Variation is what allows a culture to grow and improve. Homogenized humanity would stagnate fairly quickly, no matter how talented.
          The whole idea of everyone being literally “the same” puts my back up.
          Eugenics by any other name…

          1. Animal populations that are genetically uniform apparently have a greater tendency towards parasites and other disease issues.

            Eugenicists are necessarily technocrats, and I am extremely skeptical of giving them a free hand to experiment on human populations.

    3. What do I do?

      I remember that some author wrote about the consequences of bioenhanced rulers. Wanting to refresh my memory, I go re-read Darkship Thieves, which turns into rereading the whole series, and then I pop some popcorn and watch Wrath of Khan, and then… wait, wasn’t there something I was supposed to be doing?

      I’m probably not a good candidate if you actually want a decision made.

    4. I’d use it. But I’d ask for volunteers. I’d suggest that people with known family problems now had a way to ditch those problems forever. I’d note the number of people wanting to adopt and put them in touch with the Galactic Missionaries.

      The human population is huge, and shifting a small portion of the next generation from the low end to the high end would benefit the entirety of humanity. But I would involve the minimum number of parents possible, so as to minimally affect the basic family structure.

    5. You’re on the commission that decides whether or not to use the Galtech, and if so how to tune it. What do you do?

      Nuke their ship.

      People aren’t consumer goods; treating them like they are invariably has bad results.

      Don’t much trust the mindset of the person doing the “downside” that reduces people to their genetic input, either; blood is important, but I know too many relatives that were unaccountably born to the wrong parents and don’t share my genes.

      1. of course i don’t share your jeans my legs are too long

            1. Sure things, Hobbs.

              (Anyone else remember that “why aren’t you wearing shorts?” “I AM wearing shorts!” Calvin and Hobbs comic? 😀 )

            1. Just a hobbit. If it’s hip to be a square, I’m even hip-er than my hips suggest.

              I can usually find stuff in men’s sizes– 28 to 32 waist, depending on the cut, and 26 to 28 inch legs likewise– but unless I’m one of the first people there, those are usually gone. I really need to get my boots fixed, but that takes money and time, even if it does save the hems of my pants a bit.

              Can’t even order from amazon, because see prior comment re: style.

    1. Because Hollywood is in bed with the Islamists? Perhaps because like the rest of the Progressives, they prefers to extol Gun Control rather than the more useful Islam Control?

      If only there had been proper Islam Control laws back then she wouldn’t have met such a fate, nor would we have had 2/3 the deaths in terrorist incidents over the past couple decades. We need sane, common-sense Islam Control laws here in America. If suspected of being violent, especially if they have a restraining order or known mental illness, known Islamics should have their Islam confiscated. Strict controls on the import of Islam from abroad should also be put into place. Only carefully licensed and background-checked individuals should be allowed to sell or buy Islam.

        1. The general form does seem rather familiar, doesn’t it? I was considering whether to add restriction on Islamic magazine sizes (no more than 8 pages – nobody needs more than 8 pages), but I thought that might break somebody’s Snark-O-Meter.

  13. Girls who were very masculine and fond of masculine pasttimes (Sports, dogs, horses) grew up to be the horsey women we all know from British upper class. The sturdy country women of Agatha Christie’s books, who have no time for nonsense, wear tough boots and tweed, and concern themselves with horses, dogs and gardening (which was not considered a contradiction) could have come (and probably often did) from those young women.

    Oh, and here, for some reason, I was thinking of Lady Sybil Deidre Olgivanna Vimes (née Ramkin), breeder of swamp dragons. 😉

  14. Oddly enough I never really paid any attention to the gender of the author. Growing up I would read anything that stayed still long enough, although even as a youngster there were books I found so bad they logged flight time. I re-read good stories which got me through a long period of being disgusted with the kind of carp being pushed in the last few decades. Heinlein was my favorite, and while I didn’t think his female characters rang completely true, the characters were strong enough on their own that I could ignore their gender. I started reading and enjoying Sabrina Chase a few years ago through hearing about her on the (now dormant, alas) Castle Argghhh! blog, and that has caused me to find you and the other contributors to MGC. I still don’t pay any attention to the authors gender, but when someone writes a good story I pay attention to their name. 🙂

    Break/break… Any more shifter stories on the schedule?

    1. This natural born female thinks his women characters ring completely true. Maybe not of EVERY female. Then again, I had the honor of talking to Ginny.
      Not on the schedule yet, but soon.

      1. Speaking of ringing women true, I have long had difficulty with the abundance of beautiful women willing to jump in bed with protagonists of various mysteries by Robert S Parker, John D MacDonald and other writers.

        1. I haven’t…that is probably a big reason I like detective fiction although I never list it when asked. 🙂

      2. Watch out for this guy, Sarah. He looks so harmless and wistful, but he’s got the Oliver Twist Gruel Bowl Maneuver down to a science 😀 The lower lip trembles just a bit, a single tiny manly tear forms in the corner of the eye as he holds out his empty Kindle…

        1. There’s a whole mess hall of us right behind him, softly shouting “more, please”…

            1. Always speak softly while waiting in ambush, the time for hollering is when the ambush is sprung.

          1. Is it worth the waiting for?
            If we live till eighty four
            All we ever get is gruel!
            Every day we say our prayer —
            Will they change the bill of fare?
            Still we get the same old gruel!
            There’s not a story, not a plot can we find,
            can we beg, can we borrow, or cadge,
            But there’s nothing to stop us from getting a thrill
            When we all close our eyes and imagine–

            Books, glorious books,
            High adventure and mustard!
            While we’re in the mood —
            Cold terror and custard!
            Shorts padding and serials
            What next is the question?
            Rich gentlemen have it, boys —
            in digression!

            Books Glorious books
            We’re anxious to try ’em
            Three banquets a day
            Our favorite diet
            Just picture a great big story
            Retold, boasted, or cooked
            Oh books! wonderful books! marvelous
            books! glorious books!

            Books glorious books
            What is there more handsome?
            Gulped, swallowed or chewed,
            Still worth a KINGS RANSOM!
            What is it we dream about?
            What brings on a sigh?
            Piled pages and reams about-
            SIX FEET HIGH

            Books glorious books
            Read right through the menu
            just loosen your belt
            two inches and then you-
            work up a new appetite
            in this interlude
            then books once again
            books fabulous books
            glorious books

            Books glourious books
            don’t care what their plots like
            Burnt underdone crude
            don’t CARE what editors like
            Just thinking of growing fat
            our senses go reeling
            One moment of knowing that
            Full up feeling

            What wouldn’t we give for
            That extra bit more
            That’s all we live for
            Why should we be fated to do
            Nothing but brood on books
            Magical books,
            Wonderful books
            marvelous books,
            Beautiful books,
            Books, Glorious books glorious booooooooks

            (With apologies to Lionel Bart.)

  15. Decades later, my brother admitted to reading my Enid Blyton boarding school books.

    1. A good tale is a good tale and there are not so many of them available as to justify discriminating because of authorial plumbing, nor of characters — Nancy Drew or Boys Hardy, either gave a good story as recently as the 1960s; later revisions cannot be vouched by this reader.

    2. While there are times I want to bean my father, I’ve always admired his willingness to openly like (and read, in public) Amish romance novels. (Although I get a Death Glare if I mention that I think it’s adorable.)

      Probably he wouldn’t have admitted any such thing when he was younger, though.

      1. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

        CS Lewis

      2. My dad is a voracious reader who really has trouble finding enough books at the library (won’t get an ebook reader, doesn’t want Internet), so he has expanded his scope to romance novels with adventure protagonists. (Western guys, SEAL guys, that sort of thing.) Cracks me up no end, but I haven’t said a word.

  16. http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2015/08/where-have-all-the-women-gone.html

    TRX replied to this comment from Kristine Kathryn Rusch | August 15, 2015 22:18
    What’s your plan to “redress” this?

    If you want my money, you have to write what I want to read. Seems pretty simple to me.

    If you’re being discriminated against by the established publishing system, you’re whipping the wrong horse. I’m not in any way connected with that. Go lecture them, not me.

    Kristine Kathryn Rusch replied to this comment from TRX | August 15, 2015 22:26
    My, my, my TRX. Either you’re defensive or you didn’t read carefully. I did tell you how I’m redressing this. I’m publishing a series of reprint anthologies, starting with one for Baen, reprinting classic stories by women. And I just did the Storybundle. And I have the website.

    TRX replied to this comment from Kristine Kathryn Rusch | August 16, 2015 00:49
    Oh. I thought you had an actual plan. Forgive me if I doubt that publishing an anthology of short stories is going to accomplish much for your cause. And a web site. That’ll show them, sure enough.

    I guess it’s easier than writing stuff people are willing to pay for.

      1. That said a handful, like me, prefer them. One of the things that has boosted my reading is the megapacks on Kindle of older (often PD or dead write whose family license cheaply) short novels. They fit my availalbe reading times better. I think current tastes in length run a bit long for me.

        Then again, in Kindle I’m also reading people I’d never heard of who got their books back and have a whole series worth reading (working through the Leo Waterman detective novels which I’ve never seen in a book store but are loving every minute of).

      2. To be fair, the novel was far less common in terms of SF than the short story was for much of the time period in question, so that’s what would tend to predominate. Also, it’s way easier to cover a bunch of different authors with short stories rather than novels.

      3. I’ve found that anthologies are a good way to sample a variety of authors without getting death-glares from the bookstore personnel for sitting in the stacks and reading. (Why yes, I do remember bookstores from before the advent of Hastings-and their comfy chairs/B&N-with-integrated-coffee-shops)

    1. There are many ways to fight a war, and I do think Kris is on the side of the angels (that means, us) in this case. The toxic lie that gets impressionable young women (and some young men) to fall into the “women writers were oppressed until the great SJW revolution” trap is they don’t know the early women writers who existed. Kris is gathering up the great short story writers, women, who have never been part of a collection before *precisely* to explode the myth.

      I think it was Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954) that got *me* started on the path of speculative perdition. 😀 I’m looking forward to Kris’s collection, and any of the previously unknown writers that people mention on the website. Given that Kris is a hardcore, prolific, pro-indie writer who has no problems telling publishers to take a hike, I think you may have mistaken her motivation for doing this.

        1. I adored the Mushroom Planet books. I had no idea who the author was, I just remember Mr. Bass. And sulfur, sulfur was very important somehow.

          1. I read the first in third grade but was over 40 before I found out there were more.

            The first still provokes fond memories.

          2. Sulfur in chicken eggs! I learned a Thing in a fun book! That was an epiphany to my young self.

            And then I learned about titanium in Little Fuzzy, the “nymphomaniac metal” per H. Beam Piper, which meant that I was able to coolly explain the principal behind a titanium sublimation pump the first time I saw one as a grad student…

              1. You’ve got to remember that “tin” cans are tin-plated steel – and if the tin wears off, the underlying steel rusts quite enthusiastically 😉

                More seriously, when I revisit the Oz books my “suspension of disbelief” filters are set so high that little things like rust are easy to ignore.

        1. Sf anthologies are one of the things our genre traditionally has done well. The last fifteen years have been a sad exception to the rule. OTOH, those are going to be Baen anthologies, so there is no need to fear.

          And to be fair, Rusch has “discovered” some notable women writers who were missed or excluded by the Seventies and Eighties people who wrote about women in sf (mostly because they weren’t from California or NY, their views weren’t liberal or liberal in the same way, or their relatives/heirs were unfindable or unwilling to reprint). Some of ’em were published pretty extensively back in the day, and the contemporary lettercols say that people enjoyed their work. I am enjoying finding more good authors.

  17. OT but in case anyone’s heard the news from Amarillo, I’m well away from the ongoing excitement, as are all members of the Red family.

      1. Another Wal-Mart shooter. Either the SWAT team got there *really really* fast or a bunch of people forgot their carry weapons today…

        1. Sells alcohol so limits on carry. I wonder if he grabbed a hostage ASAP and that kept people from responding quickly? He’s now deceased. Apparently once they’d confirmed that the building had been cleared, the police hit hard and fast. He’s been identified as an employee (Somali immigrant) who was unhappy about something.

            1. Ready for Hillary is more of a question than we all thought it was. With Obama in office, certain types of people were assimilating peacefully into our society. Clinton, being a woman, cannot represent these people. Her candidacy is alienating them and driving them into the arms of ISIS. We will have a Glorious Ramadan like this until she is no longer running for office or in office.

          1. Funny foreign customs… I’ve lived in dry towns most of my life, and I don’t drink anyway, so I don’t tend to think along those lines.

            1. I lived for a year in Texarkanna TX, Boone County, a ‘dry’ county. State Line Rd you could always tell which side was Arkansas, as *all* the corners had a liquor store.

          2. Lol…kinda surprised at Texas. Here in your hat it is consumption. One liquor store I use has a clerk with an open 1911…pretty good looking too…

            1. Texas isn’t near as liberty friendly as they like to appear. Unlike many states they are moving in the right direction, but they started considerably to the left of quite a few of those states. Remember it has only been in the last twenty years that they have been considered reliably Republican. Not only do you need a concealed carry permit to carry concealed, but you can’t carry open with or without a permit in Texas.

              1. I thought they just changed that. I know ok just did it in 13…and yeah. Went from nh to have to ok. No permit open carry to permit carry to concealed carry only

                1. They might have, I know it has been discussed in recent years, but I hadn’t heard they had actually passed it.

              2. It’s now open carry with CC permit, still open carry of long guns, and CC on college and university campi (with some limits). There are a few exceptions where you cannot OC even if you have a CC, but those are schools, some hospitals, places that serve alcohol (unless otherwise posted), so that’s not really different. I have yet to see anyone OCing, though.

  18. I look around at the piles in this place, or the Kindle list – and realize something. It has never been the gender, or the politics of the writer.

    Instead, it is the age. No, not the age, precisely. It is the “has done something with their lives other than writing.” Men or women, older or younger. A military career (there are both men and women with that). Out working for a living (left or right politically). Managed the homestead and the kiddies (a couple of men in that category, actually).

    Those who never did anything beyond the shelter of their private high school and secure wealthy household – or ventured outside of the equally secure space of academia – these have no representation on my shelves.

    1. I realized a long time ago – about the time that I was in high school – that the English classics, ancient and modern, that I really read and enjoyed were all written by someone who had done something interesting with their lives besides be a writer in some kind of academic seraglio.

      Ok, so some of them had been reporters for various print enterprises – but that experience honed their talents.

    2. To be fair, HP Lovecraft’s life was rather limited, but it’s possible to make up for a lack of real world experience if you honestly love the a wide range of subjects and are dedicated to the research and doing your best to depict it rather than fit everything into your dogma.

  19. Some fifty plus years of interaction has led me to the conclusion that, when reading women, Braille is not generally advised.

    1. Chuckle Chuckle

      I was going to joke about “not being able to read women” because “women are strange”. 😉

      1. Yeah, well, if you want to read women you’re probably best off either Kindling them or catching them in a Nook.

        Any discussion of the different merits of Hardbound ans Softbound are best eschewed.

        1. I’m waiting for the comic book adaptation.

          I would wait for the movie, but I’m afraid it would be just another rom-com.

          (looks expectantly skyward)

    2. And at the very least, don’t complain to her about preferring the large print edition 😀

      1. Extensive experience and considerable thought have persuaded me that size indeed matters — to those for whom size matters. And those who think size matters beware — with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.

        Never forget this.

      2. BTW, as WP no longer allows me a “Like” option, re: your comment I can only reply: 🙂

    3. Well, in my case it would great limit the number of women (to 1, each) I can so read. Which is quite alright for the genre…

    4. “The person on the other side was a young woman. Very obviously a young woman. There was no possible way that she could have been mistaken for a young man in any language, especially Braille.”

      — The goddess with the nice earrings
      (Terry Pratchett, Maskerade)

  20. I have no concept of how a person could have that opinion that women can’t be a writer of science fiction and fantasy. I suppose it has to do with the library in the town I grew up in. I have no idea who seeded the library children’s section but it was full of British editions of fantasy and science fiction. probably 60%+ of which where by women. I had for example the pleasure of reading in northern California of all places the Greenknowe books and others in the original British edition. All kinds of fun and exciting books and as I said probably slightly more than half of the authors where women.

    So the books I grew up reading where written by women and I have no clue why people would have some weird fetishist atttude that women can’t write science fiction or fantasy.

    Hell in the late 90’s science fiction and fantasy went underground into the romance section where it eventually formed into the modern paranormal romances. But originally they had more to do with science fiction. Look at the Jayne Castle books where Jayne A Krentz went from writing mystery/thrillers to science fiction with a hint of psychic to pure science fiction with a heavy dose of psychic. Anyway the point is that for a number of years as the SJW crowd became more influencial in Science Fiction and Fantasy more of the the stories moved off into other genre’s where they pulled on in some cases a light cloak of feathers to hide and in others hid deep.

    1. Everyone I’ve ever heard say it knows women can write it– the problem is that if it’s a new book, and the author’s name is female, it’s going to be about that rather than scifi.
      You’re looking for Anne McCaffery and get That One Man-Hating English Teacher you had.

    2. > I have no concept of how a person could have that opinion that women can’t be a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

      That seems to be an SJW belief system. And Brackett, Norton, Bradley, McCaffrey, and the rest are unpersoned and cast out with the white cismale oppressors. Or something like that.

      As a card-carrying white cismale oppressor, I don’t care about the author’s naughty bits as long as they write a good story. Apparently I’m a Hatey McHater because I don’t read 50% female regardless of whether they’re any good or not, and I should really be reading 100% female because oppression. Or something.

      Circling the wagons, slagging off all males as thought criminals, and printing all-women anthologies, yep, that’ll generate some sales!

      I guess it’s easier to blame their lack of sales on gender oppression than admitting their writing fails to attract paying customers.

  21. This week I reread the three books of the Dragonriders of Pern (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and the White Dragon) by Anne McCaffrey.
    Books that I read easily dozens of times when I was a teenager but hadn’t bothered to reread as an adult. I was honestly worried that they both wouldn’t hold up and would insult me in a way I didn’t pick up on as a teen (all men are stupid and women are awesome and how dare you think otherwise), and that’s because I’ve become used to that in many books written by women.

    Not all books, perhaps not even a plurality, but enough to shy me away from reading a book written by a female author that I am unfamiliar with. Basically if I’m in the bookstore and am intrigued by two books and can only afford one the tiebreaker goes to the dude. I can’t apologize (as much as my Canadianism desperately wants me to) for that, because I’ve read too many books and seen that common thread of misandry in enough female author’s books (as well as some men to be fair, but to a far lesser degree).

    But the Dragonrider books didn’t have any of that. There were bad dudes and nice guys, good women and bad women, but they all felt right even when they were wrong. The characterization of the male characters in those books were exceptional (though as a teen I remember thinking F’nor and F’lar were too similar to each other as an adult I realize they are close because they are friends and brothers but different enough to be distinct characters). I cannot speak to the female characters’ authenticity (not being a woman myself) but they feel right as well.

    Are they books that might appeal more to women as they deal with interpersonal relationships and political manipulations more than derring-do? Maybe, but that’s cool too. They stood up, I’d be happy to recommend them to anyone, male, female, in-between, and I’d hope they’d enjoy them as much as I did.

    I’ve been lately branching out to more female authors and have to say many of the newer ones don’t have that roaring hatred of men that was there fifteen, twenty years ago (I like to think even the female readers were eventually turned off by the misandry and there’s been a subtle course correction), I mean there’s still condescension and dismissal (women can do anything men can do AND do it better but if men ever try to do something women can do they are shown to be useless knobs that are only in the way) but there are other things that don’t work for me. One is directness (if the book is about a singular character, please, for the love of God, follow that character. A hundred pages of side characters and their stories is not why I bought that book, not what sold me on it, won’t get me to buy another), the other (which is related) is pace. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. Move the story along. And the final one is that in a lot of series written by women that star male protagonists, the female characters soon begin gaining screen time until they are half the book, or more than half. Sometimes even going so far as to become the protagonist in the sequels (Personally, I like reading about the special characters which is what sold me the book, if the mundane character who helps the special character becomes the lead in the sequel I am reading a book I would not have bought without that previous relationship with the first book. Bait and switch).

    None of those are wrong, by the way, just things that may appeal more to women than to men. And that’s totally cool, women should have books primarily for women. My only argument is there should be the equivalent; books written for men. There are some, but not that many, and of the ones that ostensibly are, many are actually books written for both that have a cover and a title that are more appealing to men (another bait and switch).

    Basically my point would be that if you’re trying to attract a male audience (and I know a lot of female authors that SAY they are), perhaps the first thing you should do is not directly insult them. The second might be (and hear me out, this is tricky), write things that they ACTUALLY like to read, not things you think they SHOULD like to read.

    1. Sadly, I think some guys, especially the male feminist types, like having their masculinity insulted.

  22. I am old enough to remember when there were few women writers of stf, but those few were very, very good. (Think Moore, Brackett, Norton, et al. These were living, active writers in those days.) As a result, I was originally biased in favor of trying any knew female by-line that came my way. Over time this favoritism wore away. By time our esteemed hostess (and the other mad genii) started publishing I was pretty sure that hardly anyone was writing the kind of story that I wanted to read.

    I discovered Jeff Duntemann through the computer connection, and when Jeff discovered Sarah et al., he shared the news. Jeff, I never thanked you for that; so, I’ll do that now. Thanks for spreading the word.

  23. The damage is done.

    These days, if I see a book with a woman on the cover, and it’s not part of a series where the prior volumes feature characters of both sexes on the cover, my first instinct is to put the book aside.

    If the cover displays some sort of action scene, I might – might – give it a try, but if it’s of a woman in some sort of pose and staring off somewhere, then the odds of me giving it a try approach zero.

    1. To clarify: I feel the same way if the author is a man or woman. Indeed, some of the male authors are worse.

      1. Egads. If I went by the covers, I’d be missing at least half of my library. Including much of my Heinlein – I bought most of those during the psychedelia days.

        Now, I have to admit that I do not buy anything by a new author that I can’t do a look inside (which used to be pulling it off of the bookstore shelves, but is now a mouse click).

        Well, except for Sarah – she pulled me into her orbit with her PJM articles. So, posing woman looking off into the distance or not…

        (Then I realized I already had one of Sarah’s books – which, honestly, I bought because it had “Baen” on the cover…)

            1. I bought it even with the horrible first cover, because the words drew me in – maybe you posted a few snippets on the Bar? – but the dragon cover was much better.

    2. My first Heinlein was Friday, because of the young woman on the cover.

      Yeah I was about fifteen at the time, what about it?

    3. Good thing I have, um, maps, a tree, a combat knife, a mule, talons, coats of arms, and landscapes. And a Little House on Chicken Feet. But Rada does appear on the cover of the next Cat book, sort of. Oops.

    4. Tsk.

      Don’t you know better than to judge a book by its cover?

      You judge it by the marketing strategy that chose that particular cover as a way of summoning the market segment who would be drawn by that type of cover.

  24. As for not reading women, I haunted the hallowed aisles of many a local bookstore back as far as the mid 70s until the “local bookstore” became a thing of the past, and frankly it was a tossup whether I bought a paperback by Andre Norton (or Brackett or LeGuin) vs anyone with outie plumbing – actually, judging by how many of Norton’s I ended up with, not so much of a tossup. What I bought depended pretty much solely on whether the blurb floated my boat.

    I vaguely recall at some point determining that Andre really was a guuurl, going “Huh!”, and carrying on reading the latest Forerunner or Time Trader book. And then going looking for the next. Plumbing really didn’t make one whit of difference – the storytelling was what mattered.

    1. Yup. My search in bookstores went like: Cover for genre or known-author surname, then to blurb for series and likelihood of interest, if unknown-author back to cover for a little more visualization of what the blurb might expand into, maybe read the first couple of pages for author’s style and get the “hook”, make decision to buy or keep looking.

      Author gender – pretty much irrelevant to the decision tree.

      1. Ah, but that very irrelevance of gender is the problem in some eyes – we should rigidly discriminate by gender in order to fight gender discrimination. Or something. Because Shut Up.

        1. Ah, but my victory is knowing that THEY will never know if I “shut up” because they won, or because I was bored with them and went away!

  25. When I was young, I read a number of Blyton’s Famous Five stories. Don’t remember any boarding schools in them, so I suspect they’re a different series.

    As for avoiding (or not) female authors, I still remember being surprised, 40 or so years ago, to discover that Andre Norton, C. L. Moore, and James Tiptree, Jr. were female. Didn’t stop me reading them – the first two, anyway … I never did care much for Tiptree’s work.

    1. Were those about some British youngsters who were always exploring places? Underground tunnels from a castle? I do remember that they had “torches” and it wasn’t until about 10 years later that I learned that was just British for “flashlight”. Retroactively ruined the stories 😉

      I saved you the bother of a lmgtfy.com link. It is! Wow, written in 1942. I read them in 1979 and loved them.

      1. Edmund’s electric torch in Narnia confused me for a while. Add did a pocket catapult in a Lord Peter Wimsey story.

            1. of the elastic-band kind, not the two-strings-and-a-pocket-for-the-stone kind, I think.

      2. “Torch” is the Britlish word that messed up a lot of my reading. It was a full twenty years before I discovered it usually meant “flashlight.” Except when it meant “flaming tiki stick.”

        1. I vaguely remember being confused by this when I first read Prince Caspian… I couldn’t figure out why Edmund had gotten a torch for his birthday, much less what an “electric” torch was.

          I think I decided that it was a battery-powered toy that looks like a lit torch, and when you turn it on the light shines through the red and orange plastic at the top to make it look like it’s on fire.

          1. I think that’s what I thought, too. I didn’t normally have too much trouble with US/UK vocabulary differences, and am pretty sure I had read something somewhere going over a few of them — I was aware of the trunk/boot thing, I think — but it omitted that one.

          2. When I first saw “electric torch” I thought of a long stick with a light on the top.

            Decades later I saw Jaffa carrying them on “Stargate” and thought, “Yep, electric torches…”

        2. Yep, “torch” confused me as a kid also. As did getting a “biscuit” as a treat.

          1. Even knowing the name history of Nabisco, it was some time before ‘getting’ that one. And i did read one seemingly modern kid-mystery where I wound up wondering why they were using dangerous flaming sticks for light.

          2. I guess I was okay with “biscuit”… I used to really like homemade cornbread soaked in a glass of milk, though. 🙂

            1. I like cornbread and milk also, but I prefer my biscuits fresh and hot, with either butter melting all over them, or sausage gravy; not tea.

      3. On the torches, which I also thought were on fire, I just figured the British were more interesting than Americans.

        1. I probably did think they were on fire in most encounters — like Randy Wilde, however, then I hit Edmund’s electric torch….

          1. But that was a different series. Edmund might, conceivably, have had a flashlight. Those Enid Blyton kids were still carrying around fire on a stick.

      4. I was reading them in the early 1960s. About all I remember now is “Famous Five,” “girl called George,” and “children having adventures.” I’ll have to try to find some; if I ever get any grandchildren, they’ll probably go along nicely with Lloyd Alexander’s stories, unless there are too many anachronisms. As has been pointed out, “The past is another country; they do things differently there.”

  26. The first book series I remember actively seeking out was The Boxcar Children mysteries. After that (probably some years later) was the Redwall books. Didn’t matter to me that Gertrude Warner was a woman and Brian Jaques was a man. I loved their stories either way. Didn’t bother me that some of the heroes were female, either. Dunno if I can call mice, squirrels, badgers, etc. women, but I digress. I quit reading the Boxcar Children when moved past their reading level, gave up on Redwall when the books started becoming formulaic and predictable.

    For quite a while, I was addicted (probably literally) to the Star Wars Expanded Universe (sorry, Legends) novels. I think I’ve read every single one that was published pre-New Jedi Order. I remember there were some awesome books in that series, and there were some really lousy ones too. Never looked at the authors’ names, just that it had “STAR WARS” somewhere on the cover.

    I admit to seeking out authors with names like Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and (later) Larry Correia. Again, I didn’t care how their plumbing was configured, but that they wrote kick-ass stories that I really enjoyed. And come to think of it, I think Larry is the one who steered me in the direction of Our Beautiful Yet Evil Space Pirate Hostess’ blog.

    I do confess to ultimately giving up on A Few Good Men because I couldn’t figure out what the hooey was going on, but then I found out that it’s part of a series that was meant to be read in chronological order (Apologies if I’m wrong, Sarah). I plowed through the first two Darkship books, loved ’em, started on AFGM again, but got distracted by Larry’s new Tom Stranger audiobook (curse you, Jeff Conundrum! curse you!).

    So basically, like has been said already numerous times, I really don’t care if a story’s written by a man or a woman. All I care about is if I find it entertaining, engaging, and exciting. Everything else is secondary. Though spaceships and explosions are welcome bonuses…

    1. Now, that’s really interesting, the part about A Few Good Men, because these days I judge a book by the free samples, and I read Darkships on Baen’s website, and bounced really hard off of Athena. She is exactly the sort of female character I hate.
      Then A Few Good Men came along, I read the free sample, and found Lucius just the sort of character I like, and had to buy that, and then the others. I had no trouble following what was going on in AFGM, but I was also aware there were related books out there as I read it.
      I still don’t like Athena, but Lucius sold me the series.

        1. That’s because as a supporter of the patriarchy, you are obviously a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.

        2. I was mightily disappointed that Lucius and Zen didn’t get together, but AFGM was still a good read. I like Athena, she occasionally needs some sense slapped into her, but as you say, she grows up. I haven’t read Through Fire yet, because I refuse to pay that much for an ebook (I know, not your fault, but you can pass it on to Toni if you want) and so I will be getting it in paper. Besides I like to buy books I expect to reread in deadtree format, because I prefer reading that way. Secondly I’m afraid you didn’t kill Simon off (preferably painfully) in it, and if he lives it will ruin the whole book for me. 😉

          1. ::Thinks of Bad Joke And Looks At Snerk Collar::

            Never mind, ignore this.

    1. Flag Day has people distracted. That and no postal service, so no e-mail. 😉 There’ll be slug/herd/gaggle/swath/yyuuuuuge number tomorrow.

  27. BTW – I enjoyed your contribution to the Black Tide Rising anthology, Sarah.

    I read it while at the Red Cross, donating a pint of my best.

  28. Here’s a data point confirmation for your theory: I put off reading your SF because one of the first things I learned about you when lurking on ACT was that you were a big F. Paul Wilson fan. Oh noes, thought I, preachy libertarian incoming. Pass! (And I’ve read a fair bit of FPW because I thought I ought to like it…)

    Turns out I was mostly wrong (through fire was very good)…

    But even if you’re Of The Faith, it takes a very special TruBeliever to WANT a sermon in their Story.

    1. LOL. I like F. Paul Wilson’s repairman Jack. If there are sermons I haven’t noticed them? I mean, they’re part of the character, if they’re there.

      1. Wilson’s LaNague books are hardcore libertarian, like all of L. Neil Smith’s stuff.

        Even though I’m generally in agreement (in a “that would be nice if human nature was completely different” way) with their political philosophies, and that stuff is the motivation for the characters, the preaching rubs raw spots after a while.

      2. You know, I’ve never read those books. I started with the NaLeague and other stories and eventually just gave up on them. I’ll take a look at the RJ books on your reccy. So far you haven’t steered me wrong.

        1. I’ll second the recommendation for RJ…I guess there is some libertarian preaching in their but more in Jack’s life off the grid than info dump type stuff. Mostly interesting adventure that intersects The Adversary cycle a couple of times.

    2. > WANT a sermon

      That’s the downfall of much “Christian fiction.”

      I *have* read a couple that were actually pretty good, but some of them…

      type A) it looks like the author wrote a story, then stuck in all the Christian bits afterward, often in inappropriate spots.

      type B) the author had a bunch of sermons and wrote some stuff to connect them up

      Politics, economics, religion, philosophy… I can only take so much preaching before I start skipping past it.

      1. There are plenty of perfectly good Christian authors that write perfectly good stories, but if they are labeled “Christian fiction” the emphasis tends to be on the Christian part, not the story part.

        1. When I was in college I helped write a skit for the Fun Talent Night at a Sunday School department retreat. I carefully explained the concept of “Show, don’t tell” to my cabin mates for most of a week.

          And just before the performance they wrote in a character that explained the moral, in great detail, at the end. And didn’t tell me.

          They were dreadfully apologetic about it. But they just COULDN’T take the chance that someone in the audience might not get it. It just wasn’t right…

          Even though every single person in the audience was one of them.

          As best I can tell, this is endemic to the subculture. They are absolutely terrified at the thought that someone might go to hell because they didn’t EXPLAIN well enough. That our Master was a Master Storyteller who did most of his teaching in parables goes right past them.

          Combine this with a culture where the polite way to accuse a child of lying is, “Are you telling me a story?”…

          1. Devil’s advocate– He did do most of His teaching with stories, but He also had that part where the apostles basically came up and went: “huh? Explain, please?”
            And He did.

            Also, the reasoning behind asking “are you telling me a story” is because little kids aren’t usually lying. Lying requires an act of will. They are just telling a story– the idea of “true” is a little… vague.

            1. On the latter point, I would cut them more slack if both the adult and the child didn’t know exactly what was being said — clear back to age three.

              As for the former, I would have settled for their taking it into account in a particular context. But they *always * did it. Five minute explanatory introductions to a three minute song. A sermon at the end of a comedy skit to make certain you hadn’t missed any point whatsoever. Ten minute prayers of which maybe thirty seconds were actually directed at God.

              And I should mention that I still agree with their way of looking at God more than not. As I said, it seems to be a culture thing. Like that Central American girl mentioned around here somewhere, who said becoming a Muslim was the only way she could dress modestly.

              In this case, “Christian fiction” *has* to preach, or it isn’t really Christian, in their eyes. If you give a child the Narnia books, you *have* to tell him they’re really about Jesus, because Mr. Lewis left too much room for error. I kid you not, I knew someone who witnessed that exact conversation. To them, the whole “past watchful dragons” thing is a betrayal of the Gospel.

              And weird as it may seem, I’m not even complaining, really. It’s more like a story I read a long time ago, about a man who went home again after years of city life, and came back depressed and not knowing why. He told a friend about the Homecoming game, and the elaborate ceremony as they crowned the Homecoming Queen, in a drily sidesplitting way, and described a few other events similarly.

              His friend said, “I know why you’re depressed. Judging by the way you described all that, you could have been an anthropologist studying local customs. You’re an outsider now. You don’t belong there anymore.”

              In my case, I always was an outsider there. My family and my church and (some of) my neighbors loved me anyway, but there you are. And since I grew up inside and outside at the same time, I might as well toss off whatever insight that might give me, when it might be useful.

              1. . Ten minute prayers of which maybe thirty seconds were actually directed at God.

                *shudder* Preachy prayer.
                There’s a bleeping REASON that the guys doing performance art in the form of prayer were scolded by Himself.

                1. My point precisely. They will quote Him on such prayer with unfeigned approval. And then pray like that anyway.

                  It took me half a lifetime to realize — and accept — that they aren’t being hypocritical. They do it because it’s *expected * of them. The logical contradiction doesn’t register. If you pointed it out they would just look at you funny.

                  Like adding a sermon to a comedy skit, or a novel. The culture demands it.

      2. Yep. K. Tyers (sp?) Series differently that. If you can find the originals prior to her being picked up by a Christian publishing house. They’re a treat. After? Pass.

        That said give Ten Naple’s Ghostopolis, and the Rust and Cleopatra in Space graphic novels a try. They’re brilliant!

      3. Okay, I need to mention my mom’s and sister’s book again: How Huge the Night. (It has a sequel, which I won’t link so this doesn’t go into moderation — but the sequel’s title is Defy the Night.) The characters in their book pray, or preach, because that’s who they are, not because a message needs to be squeezed into the book. (It’s historical fiction set in France during WWII, and one of the supporting characters is a pastor who’s based on a real historical figure. His sermons are word-for-word, barring translation, what the historical pastor actually preached on those Sundays.)

        When I read it, I was expecting to like it because, naturally, I’m biased towards thinking it was good. But I was surprised by how good it really was: nothing like what one usually thinks of when one thinks “Christian fiction”. This book is simply fiction where the main characters are Christian — which is a totally different thing.

        Basically, as you’ve pointed out, most “Christian fiction” is message fic, which is a turn-off even when you agree with the message. But this book, at least, is NOT message fic.

        Anyway, this has been your shameless (but on-topic) promo comment for the day.

        1. I have read their two books mentioned (How Huge the Night and Defy the Night). I was eager for the second after having read the first. The story involves well draw characters who have depth and breath to them. Hard circumstances are faced and difficult decisions have to be made. The best of choices are not always the ones made and the results have to be faced. But throughout these challenges there is a note of grace that shines in the darkness of WWII. I now await the next story in the series…

  29. Thanks for the write-up about Enid Blyton. Focusing on the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, Jr., I missed her as a child. I’ve read some of her books as an adult, but it’s not quite the same. Sad.

    Alas, it has been so long since the librarians in the U.S., envious at her popularity, drove her from our market, that’s it is hard to find her in used bookstores. Here’s a good guide to where you can get them, postage-free, from a publisher in India.


    Each year the American Library Association sneers at parents’ efforts to control what their children reads, calling the targets of their efforts, “banned books.” Yet the real censorship in the country has been the efforts the librarian clique itself has made to keep kids from knowing about and enjoying her. And as paid government employees, what they do is censorship.

    Why not strike a blow for the First Amendment. Insist that your local library acquire a collection of Enid Blyton and prominently display it for kids. I missed her when I was a child. Today’s kids shouldn’t suffer that same fate.

  30. Looking back, it was a long time (for values of long to a thirty-six year old) before I thought of authors as people. Not in any negative sense, you understand. It’s just that they were, well, the *author.* Some strange being that told you stories, not creepy like “stranger-danger!” but not someone you know or knows you.

    It didn’t matter if it was Tolkien or Heinlein or Kipling or Seuss. Those were authors, if they registered at all, and the most recognized weren’t more than “person who wrote that book I like.” The about the stuff in the back of the book was seldom read, unless it told you when the next book was coming out. Or was the quick ref dictionary/catalogue of characters, for those tomes that needed it.

    For the vast majority (I just wrote mast vajority- tell me *that’s* not funny in light of the topic, *chuckle*) of readers, I’d say that’s what most do. Like picking our dessert toppings, we usually don’t care what the guy/gal/stainless steel robot that made them looks like. What matters is, is it tasty? If so, can I have seconds?

    The author’s life can and does impact the story. Of course (duh). Look at mil-sf. Authors who *have* served, who have been at the sharp end, who’ve seen and done and come back, if not whole, then filled with a different concoction o experience than the rest, that can make a difference. This isn’t to say that those who *haven’t* write poor stories, or those that have will automatically be better. But authenticity is something folks look for in mil-sf… just like we might look for in other stories, too.

    Aaand, I had a thought (or a rant) about how big F Feminism ain’t exactly *feminine,* but got distracted with a couple hours of work, and lost it. Crap. Ah well, small loss, that. *grin*

  31. I buy Diana Wynne Jones and Connie Willis in hardback, too! (Or did. I wish Jones were still living on this green earth and writing more of her marvelous stories.)

  32. When I was a boy I read tons of women authors and never thought about it. At some point the selling point for the novel became that the author was a woman.

    How in the world could that matter? Except to someone who was publishing her simply because she was female. That guaranteed that the quality would not be up to the standards of writers who were selected because they were great writers. C.L.Moore, Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton? Great writers and I never had a bad moment reading them.

    The new ‘gals’? Some were so bad I cringed reading them. So unless it is somebody recommended by someone I trust, I just say, “No thanks.”

  33. It struck me there is a very simple way of expressing my attitude on this: I do not care whether I am reading men or women authors, but I cannot abide womyn authors.

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