Jane C. Hines
In an alternate universe back in 1974, a girl named Jane C. Hines was born. Her family moved to Michigan when she was four years old. She grew up with a little brother, had a three-legged black lab named Silver (after Long John Silver), and wanted to be a teacher, a veterinarian, a psychologist, and ultimately an author.
Her first fantasy novel, Goblin Quest, came out in 2006 from DAW. She sold two more goblin books, then published a series about three kick-ass fairy tale princesses. She’s currently writing the third draft of a modern fantasy book called Libriomancer. She also maintains a moderately popular blog.
But while she and I have had parallel careers, the results haven’t matched up exactly.
- Jane’s sales haven’t been as good as mine. The books were the same, but hers weren’t reviewed quite as widely, and there are some people who simply won’t read female authors.
- As a blogger, I’ve been accused of being an asshole, a pretentious asshat, told to die in a fire and so on. It’s not common, but it happens. Jane, on the other hand, recently started up a “Bitchometer” feature which tracks how many times people call her a bitch. It’s currently in the triple digits.
- A few years back, I had a fan squee and ambush-hug me at a convention, which was … disconcerting. That’s only happened to me once. Jane can’t recall the last con she attended where at least one person didn’t touch, grab, or grope her without permission.
- Remember last year when Jane and I wrote about obesity? We both included a photo of ourselves to illustrate what “overweight” looks like (I was topless; Jane wore a bikini top and jeans). I received hundreds of comments praising me for that post. Jane received a lot of positive comments as well, but she also received e-mails calling her a fat cow, and to this day gets follow-ups from that post demanding that she “Show us your tits!”
- I receive significantly more comments and linkbacks to my posts about rape than Jane, despite the fact that we’re writing the same words. Jane does, however, receive e-mails and anonymous trolls telling her she needs to get laid, or threatening to “Do to her what a ‘real man’ should have done a long time ago.”
- Like me, Jane works a full-time job because she needs the benefits and a steady salary for herself and her family. But where I’m occasionally told what a great father I must be, Jane is criticized for being a neglectful mother and not spending enough time with her husband and children.
- Both my authorly name and my legal name are Hines. Jane began writing as Jane C. Hines, and got married after beginning to build a reputation with that name. To this day, she questions if she made the right choice about whether or not to change her name.
- No one has threatened me, my family, or my pets. I have never received death threats. Jane has not been so fortunate.
- When I post this, I expect the comments will be generally positive, with some argument and discussion. Jane expects to be told, “Shouldn’t this all boil down to quality? Isn’t this really about YOUR books not getting enough attention?”
Both Jane and I intend to continue writing and blogging. We plan to finish Libriomancer, and to blog about everything from fandom to sexual harassment to poverty to kick-ass books, and maybe even to post a few more stick figure comics.
But Jane is stronger than I am. She’s braver than I am. Because for more than ten years now, she’s faced far more negativity and ugliness when she writes, and she hasn’t let that stop her.
This post was informed in part by statements and posts from Shauna James Ahern, Seanan McGuire, Laura Anne Gilman, John Scalzi, and Juliet E. McKenna.
September 6, 2011 @ 10:08 am
I don’t really know what to say to this. Perhaps because I am female and I tend to read a large variety of work – both by male and female authors. But there have also been those hints and whispers floating around that a woman’s writing in certain genres, isn’t as accepted as being good writing.
Until this weekend I never realized how much it extended into the publishing industry. Even though, like I mentioned, I’m not yet published, I opted (over 18 months ago) to make my pen name K.T. Hanna largely because it would be more difficult to definitively say whether or not the author (me) is female. I did this because I didn’t want my work to be judged on my gender, just from a personal point of view – not because I thought it would be necessary.
As it stands perhaps the difference between K.T. and Katie will be more pronounced than I realized. I didn’t realize how brave some of my favourite authors are.
I didn’t think they should have to be.
Thank you for writing this. As usual, you’ve provided food for thought.
Jim C. Hines
September 6, 2011 @ 10:15 am
Thanks! From the discussions I’ve had, it sounds like women are much more open to reading books by men and women, just as they’re more willing to read about male or female protagonists. (I think this relates to the fact that, as a straight white man in the U.S., it’s incredibly easy for me to find plenty of books written about people like me, so there’s no need or pressure to read outside of that “comfort zone.”)
September 6, 2011 @ 10:26 am
Some women might be annoyed that men get more attention when writing about discrimination against females. But I am just glad someone is talking about it. I also understand why men have to be the ones who talk about it. Talking about your own problems just sounds like whining. Talking about a third party’s problems has a stronger ring of truth, because why would you exaggerate?
September 6, 2011 @ 10:38 am
Funny, my three preferred authors (Fantasy and Science-Fiction) are CJ Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Jacqueline Carrey. I however don’t know how much flak they have taken before getting “established” as writers.
September 6, 2011 @ 11:03 am
*blink* People choose to read books based on gender? I was brought up to read anything that came through the door, because there weren’t enough books in the world to limit yourself to a single author, type of author, or anything else. It was more of a fight to see who got it first than caring about things like gender or perceived gender. I think that might be related to the fact I was in a RPG/techy household, most people played different genders/names all the time, so names are just a handle and nothing else.
I never understood hate and bigotry, probably why I struggle so much to write it. It seems like a waste of time and energy to hate someone. I’d rather spend it creating stuff.
Jim C. Hines
September 6, 2011 @ 11:08 am
Yep. There’s a reason so many authors go by their initials, or have used male pseudonyms. (James Tiptree being the famous example.)
The most recent instance I’ve seen was a friend describing an interaction with a fan who said something along the lines of, “I don’t generally read women writers, but I make an exception for you, because your books rock!”
I get that it was supposed to be a compliment, but…
September 6, 2011 @ 12:06 pm
I loved this. It reminded me of a modern take on Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” where she talks about the hypothetical sister of Shakespeare. Great post, Jim. Very smart; you make a wonderful point with these parallels.
September 6, 2011 @ 1:23 pm
If I’m recalling correctly and the story isn’t apocryphal, Joanne Rowling was told to use initials or boys wouldn’t read her book about a boy wizard. I know that’s been a while back, but I doubt if things have changed much.
September 6, 2011 @ 1:27 pm
Dammit. I thought we got past all of this in the 1970’s and 80’s! I’ve been hearing that there is a conservative conspiracy to silence women’s voices online (especially in the political arena), but I didn’t realize it spilled over into genre fiction. Women have always had to have thicker skins, it seems.
September 6, 2011 @ 1:52 pm
Very sad and annoying subject, but *great* post. Thanks. Perhaps if enough people keep up the awareness, times will continue to change.
September 6, 2011 @ 2:13 pm
In romance, it seems to be the other way around. Males names have a harder sale than female. Different names, different markets.
I consider it a compliment when someone thinks I’m a female writer. 🙂
September 6, 2011 @ 2:29 pm
Wow. Great post, just so incredibly staggering that it needs to be written. Again. Just when I think we’ve moved past this type of ignorant, hateful, archaic behavior, I learn I’m wrong — it’s out there and just has more venues from which to spout. I enjoy well-written books. I have never disregarded a book because of the author’s gender! I’m amazed and repulsed by the fact someone would. Although, I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that the very popular Nora Roberts of romance fame wrote her crime novels under J.D. Robb …
September 6, 2011 @ 2:49 pm
It’s sad. It really is. And I’m glad that someone is actually taking time to rant about this that ISN’T female. Here’s hoping that there will be more people as open minded as you in the future, Jim.
It is as equally distressing on my end. Not only am I a female writer but I’ve made my main character female – in a genre where you expect that it’s a young boy who would be waving a sword around, not a young girl. I write this because I remember how frustrating it was to read books: Tolkien: boys. Piers Anthony: boys (tempered with the occasional female character in later stories). Eddings: boy.
To even think that the Disney movie Tangled had to be changed from “Rapunzel” because they were worried about marketing to young boys. It kinda made me mad to hear that.
*shrugs* Well, here’s to the future. Let’s all do our part to make it that much better.
Jim C. Hines
September 6, 2011 @ 2:51 pm
I’ve heard the same thing, though I can’t say whether it’s accurate or not. It wouldn’t surprise me.
September 6, 2011 @ 3:21 pm
You forgot the part where Jane’s Stepsister series would be seen as romance novels, but other than that, bravo!
Also if Jane was black? Way worse. We have a lot of institutionalized bigotry and sexism in bookselling based on anecdotal folklore and publishers alternately challenge it and pander to it.
September 6, 2011 @ 4:22 pm
It’s interesting to me how the cultures of the world are subdivided further into subcultures, and sub-sub-cultures. There are a great many people who consider themselves witty when commenting with remarks just like, “Show us your tits!” Not only would they consider themselves witty, but their friends might as well. There are inside jokes galore out there, and there are people anxious to include respected personalities in their circles by spouting out something their particular group usually finds funny, yet is mostly offensive to others.
This is not a disagreement, because your post hits the issue on its head; rather it’s a tangental addition of a trend I keep seeing in all sort of Con/Festival/social crowds I tend to run in.
The quickest way to nip the crap in the bud, is to reply with the fact that their actions are uncalled for and offensive. No one hangs over the back of my chair and tells me they wished I was dead for crunching the numbers wrong in a spreadsheet. The idea is ridiculous. The people who think they have a right to say those things, or make those cruel observations, are ridiculous. It’s about time someone stood up and said so.
Count me in.
September 6, 2011 @ 4:23 pm
Its sad that some people are still like that but its nothing new – ask George Elliot! – I read any thing so long as i enjoy the story and the writing and my must reads are a mix of male and female writers with a mix of male and female lead characters.Though now i think about it the women are leading that list at present but that is perhaps due to publishing dates…
Kathleen Boston McCune
September 6, 2011 @ 4:39 pm
We were brought up to read for content and discern the quality of the author as we read, never once was the gender brought up or decisions made based upon gender. It is unfathomable to me to be cruel to someone who is still blooming in their chosen field or who perhaps is just sharing a story that needs shared. Judgements are so very much relative to who you are and what your background and experience has been that to take ugly comments to heart should never be acceptable for an author. However, it seems some folks are born without a soul and we must all beware of things worse than anything the most frightening story could dream up.
Karen S. Elliott
September 6, 2011 @ 5:48 pm
Tell Jane she’s got me in her corner.
September 6, 2011 @ 5:56 pm
I just looked at my books (around 600 of them) and many are by females some by males and some based on the name Im just not sure.Are we still in the 50’s and 60’s where a woman must be the good little house wife and have no voice?I read way to much to worry if the writer is male or female.A book is a book no matter how you cut the pages.Jane Im very sorry you get so much slack over writeing dont let the nay sayers stop you.
September 6, 2011 @ 6:45 pm
Nice work, Jim.
I wonder if because you are a man, your post will be read by more male readers and reach them?
Jim C. Hines
September 6, 2011 @ 6:49 pm
My guess? Almost certainly…
September 6, 2011 @ 7:02 pm
Once again you force me to share your wise words.
September 6, 2011 @ 7:45 pm
Yeah. I remember an early conversation with Pat Rothfuss, where he mentioned being told that his books would definitely be published under Patrick, since that was obviously masculine, whereas Pat was ambiguous. And if Jane’s “contact me” emails are anything like mine, the most frequent request she gets is for naked pics.
Jim C. Hines
September 6, 2011 @ 8:06 pm
And if Jane’s “contact me” emails are anything like mine, the most frequent request she gets is for naked pics.
Okay seriously, what the hell is wrong with people???
September 6, 2011 @ 8:18 pm
Tell Jane that I’m in her corner too. This a topic I feel very strongly about and wrote about it on my blog. Recently, a female entrepreneur blogger has been receiving death threats from hate monger bloggers and websites. Death threats, sexual harassment and cyber bullying against female writers MUST stop. Thanks so much for bringing this very serious issue to people’s attention. We must stand up against these hate crimes against women – actually, against ALL people. Cyber bullies against children must stop (and offline bullies as well!)
I really hope Jane has a good lawyer on her side. She shouldn’t have to put up with that BS and I hope she did NOT take the death threats lightly. It makes me sad and angry that women still feel they need to hide behind a male or gender-neutral pen name when they write. The saddest part is that I have seen personal attacks against female business professionals by male professionals on professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn. It’s disgusting and I’ve had to put a few of these jerks in their place (and reported their nasty, rude comments). This has also happened to me on Facebook. The block and ignore feature come in very handy. Keep spreading the word, Jim!! Thank you!
The Dreaded “A” Question | writing in the water
September 6, 2011 @ 11:06 pm
[…] posts like this about women writers doesn’t make answering the “A” question any […]
September 6, 2011 @ 11:58 pm
the joy of the web is you can’t tell if I am male or female or a dragon..all you get to judge me by is my work.. how people respond to me as a writer, and artist, is very often affected by if they think I am male or female.. the kind of work I am asked to do is affected.. if they think I’m a girl they want me to paint cute baby animal art.. if they think I’m a guy they want zombies and girls.
September 7, 2011 @ 3:18 am
many thanks for this blog post. It’s amazing how much gender still matters, despite decades of change. I’m linking to it from my own small writing forum, because it’s so important.
As far as I know, there is no German female writer of fantasy who can live on her books (the exceptions are in the kids and YA markets). There are several male ones. Telling, eh?
September 7, 2011 @ 11:37 am
many thanks for that blog post. I’ve linked it in my little authors’ forum, too. It’s sad to see that after decades of work, gender still influences how the written word is received and how the author is treated.
Here in Germany, there is no female author of fantasy who can live on her books (the exceptions are in kiddie and YA books). There are several male ones who do.
Eric James Stone
September 8, 2011 @ 1:17 am
Of course, it’s quite possible that Jane’s princess books sold substantially better than yours did. (Meanwhile, Stephen Meyer’s vampire YA romances might not have dominated the bestseller lists.)
But that doesn’t really contradict the point of your post. Women shouldn’t have to write about what might be considered traditionally female topics in order to sell well.
Juliet E McKenna
September 8, 2011 @ 5:00 am
Quick question – before she married, how often was it suggested that Jane had only got her publishing contract by sleeping with an Editor of Influence*?
That’s never happened to me (married before publication) but happens frequently to a single, petite, attractive blonde writer I know – because, clearly her success has nothing to do with her prodigious talent and incredible hard work.
*who must, self-evidently be male to be in such a position
September 11, 2011 @ 9:51 pm
First, love your name! That’s always been one of my favorite words in German.
My first thought was of Cornelia Funke, but of course she is YA. I wonder if a book by Michaela Ende would have done as well as Michael Ende.
And a last note: In college in CH in the late 80s, we read a book of stories by a German author whose name I can’t think of right now. The book made us, a class of all girls, so annoyed with the fact that the women were either evil, whores (or both), or then missing completely, that we wrote the author a letter. We never did hear back from him. Silly man.
September 15, 2011 @ 10:27 am
I really, really hope you’re familiar with the works of Tamora Pierce. If you aren’t, stop what you’re doing and go read them right now.
September 23, 2011 @ 7:33 pm
First time poster here—really moved by the initial post and your reply to this comment.
I always wanted to write a paper on just this subject (if only I were more intelligent and less lazy). It’s a gross generalization, but I’ve long held the view that women will read “men books,” but men won’t read “women books.” A “man book” being, loosely, anything written by a man (or by someone with a name ambiguous enough to pass as a man’s name, ie, Rob Thurman, JA Jance, etc.), with a male protagonist, or about manly subjects (Nicholas Sparks wouldn’t pass that test). Sometimes a male author can get away with a female protagonist, but even then she’ll probably fit into a few specific molds. For instance, if she’s a detective of some sort, she’ll most likely be a real ass-kicker, preferably hot. “Women’s books” on the other hand. . .well, you get the idea.
This definitely starts young. Back in the old days (which I well remember, BTW), a girl could read The Hardy Boys books, but how many boys ever cracked the spine of a Nancy Drew? Today, girls read JK Rowling’s (note name) books and identify with Harry Potter, but would they have been nearly as popular with boys if the main protagonist had been Harriet Potter? Are there many boys reading and identifying with Pullman’s Lyra or Collins’s Katniss?
Is there a grown man alive who has read The Help? Anything by Amy Tan or Barbara Kingsolver? Or is that grounds for revoking his man Club membership?
You’ll see women reading Stieg Larsson, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, or Lee Child, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man on the train with anything by Janet Evanovich, Kathy Reichs, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Anne Perry, etc. Likewise, women read Martin, Butcher, Pratchett, Jordan, but not so many men reading Aguirre, McCaffrey, Bradley, Huff, or Lackey.
Causes? I think part of it is definitely due to the unfair, but real, stigma men face (a la my snarky Man Club remark). A guy reading Jane Austen is going to get ribbed, period. Also, if it’s true that statistics indicate men just don’t read as much as women, their range is bound to be more limited. But, ultimately, and here’s a big stereotype, I think men simply don’t empathize or identify that much with women characters in any medium.
OK, it needs polishing but there’s my rant, I mean mini-paper. And now, having said all that, I’m feeling that I, in turn, have been narrow-minded and unfair.
September 23, 2011 @ 10:41 pm
I’ll happily admit, I grew up on both Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. And I’ve read Jane Austen, Janet Evanovich (wifetype and I usually fight over those), and a bunch of other ones you mention. I think it has to do with culture and upbringing. While I’m male, I grew up with a “lot” of books and I just wanted to read. I didn’t care about names, only cared about a story I enjoyed.
September 24, 2011 @ 7:26 pm
In the burgeoning genre of Urban Fantasy, there are now several writers (Male) that use initials ( e.g. J.A. Pitts) or pseudonyms because Women authors are perceived to have a lock on sales of this type of story. Yes, Pitts’ main character is a kick-ass woman (and a lesbian, to boot), but who wants to read a story about a total wimp that constantly gets his/her Ass Whupped Hard ? I guess “What Goes Around, Comes Around” has some validity here.
For the record, I am Male, in my early fifties, straight and sort-of a liberal-redneck-hippie-hunter-organic gardener-mechanic. I read Evanovich’s books up through #4 or 5 before I got tired of a heroine that NEVER learned a single Damn Lesson and so kept making the same stupid assumptions/mistakes book after book. I read L.K. Hamilton until her books turned into One Long Smut Fest (I prefer a story that LEADS to Sex as opposed to a story that is ALL ABOUT Sex) ! A last note before submitting this post. My Wife and I have instilled in our children some basic values that hopefully will serve them well, such as… Taste before you say “YUK !”, Skin Colors are ALL Beautiful and “READ What You LIKE !”
September 24, 2011 @ 9:13 pm
huh. I really had no idea this kind of thing still went on. I’ll admit that while growing up I found a lack of strong female main characters (something that REALLY irritated me since most main female characters were whiny) but I’m beginning to find more of those both in the adult and children section so it no longer bothers me. I can understand a male’s adversion to reading ‘girly looking’ books; they are aimed for the girl population and probably contian things no guy wants details of (books like princess daries comes to mind). Yet looking at my books (and I have a lot of them)there are only one or two that I would not hand over to my brother or male friends to read and know that they would enjoy them, even if some are more on the romance side.
I have a bad habbit of not even remembering the name of the author of my favourite books, let alone considering their gender – that doesn’t mean I like them any less. You base work on it’s quality, not who it is done by and any idiot who judges otherwise is simply missing out some of the best books out there.
September 26, 2011 @ 5:55 pm
Yep, I freely admit that my comments were gross generalizations and I worried that I was overstating things and being unfair to huge segments of the male (reading) population. I’m happy to say that, like you, one of my closest friends also doesn’t fit into this mold, so I know it’s not an absolute. (Yay!)
The sad truth is that few of my friends, male or female, read for pleasure at all. But my observations of the readers I do know support the notion that the men tend to have a less varied range of reading material.
Jim C. Hines
October 1, 2011 @ 5:12 pm
Welcome, and thanks for commenting!
I think as a general trend, women are more likely to read books about men than men are to read books about or by women. (From what I’ve seen, you get a similar effect with race and books by/about white people vs. books by/about nonwhite people.)
I’d be careful about generalizations, though. Heck, I’ve read Kingsolver and Tan, though I haven’t read The Help.
Some of it might be due to stigma. I’ve gotten e-mail from people who said they loved my goblin stuff, but weren’t comfortable being seen reading my princess books. But I think another piece is simple availability. White men have a tremendous range of popular, well-promoted books about characters like them. But go into a bookstore and count the number of white men on the covers of fantasy novels vs. nonwhite women.
When there are fewer books about people like you, you’re much more likely to just read whatever’s available. And while I think it’s good to read outside of the “like you” zone, I think we still do a pretty poor job of representing everyone fairly in fiction.