A while ago I had this conversation on Facebook:
Me: Toying with the idea of a male pen name to publish under, but I keep getting the sillies. So far I’ve gotten Mann Riter, Duke Longcock, Dude Macho, Kevin Realguy, and Birk Totesman.
1: Jock Manbro?
Me: Slab McRib
1: Stan McDudeguy
2: Chin McNads
Me: Harry Guymember
1: Brock Blokeyfist
Me: Stache Von Surham
1: Sir Male Mansome of the Muscle-upon-Hardbody Mansomes.
Me: Tor Ironbatch
3: Bob Johnson (oh wait.)
It was funny enough at first, and I got something like an unprecedented 65 responses, all in the vein of silly names. It was a lot of fun, but in the end it made me very depressed. I kept thinking about what might of happened if I HAD been a male writing Fantasy instead of a woman.
First of all, this discussion popped up after a fellow writer Emma Newman had done a large initiative towards Waterstones books after they published a sort of “Dummy’s Guide to Fantasy Authors” which featured predominately white male authors. I’m usually pretty much in the dark about this kind of bias. I grew up with brothers, most of my friends growing up were guys, and so on, so I usually think of myself as “one of the guys.” I’d toyed with the idea of a pen name or doing the ‘initial thing’ early on, but decided not to because I naively thought that it wouldn’t matter. “No one is going to care, right?”
It’s only when I see the surprise on people’s face when I tell them I’m an author and the genre is NOT romance or erotica that it hits home. It hits home further when I see people stop at my table to look at my books or comics, only to see that I’m the author/artist and then put it down with a sneer (ouch).
It’s disheartening and annoying to think that people aren’t judging my books by what I wrote in them. Instead they’re judging me and something I can’t control.
I know, I know. Total pity-party time. “Cry me river. Ever think it’s because you just suck and it’s nothing to do with your gender?”
It’s possible. But thanks to the common myth that “women can’t/don’t write Fantasy,” I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure which it is. I have no “control group.” Unless I were to engage in some rom-com worthy gender-bending disguise antic that would fool the world into thinking I’m a male writer only to have it backfire on me with hilarious results and teaching the world a lesson about gender equality. And then we all have pie and coffee.
Seriously, though, I’m half considering showing up at my next con looking like this:
I’m out. Peace.