Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Check this out:

First, here‘s Chachic’s review of BLACK DOG. I’ve been keeping an eye out for this — I knew she’d write her review eventually!

Chachic says: “I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue.” And, “There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters.”

To which I can only say: patience! Actually, it will take quite a lot of patience for one of those points to be addressed: Miguel is not a pov character in the sequel either — but I hope a third book will appear in time, in which he will be a very important pov character. It’s actually his scenes from the middle of the book which have written themselves in my head.

I tend to have pov characters multiply, which in my opinion can be a problem if it goes too far, so if I do write Book III and Miguel is a pov character, I believe I will have to restrict one of the other current pov characters to secondary status for that book. But we’ll see. This is all for the future.

Meanwhile! Here is a guest post of mine, up today at Write All The Words. This post was supposed to address gender, and it does. I will say that my personal experience with female protagonists and female authors seems to have been broader than many other girls apparently experienced. It may not be clear from the post, so I will just say that I was in high school in the eighties. I hope that people comment on this post, because I am always very interested in other people’s experiences with regard to this issue.

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16 Comments Check this out:

  1. Elaine+T

    I’ll comment here rather than there – I started reading sf/f in the 60s if you count things like the Mushroom Planet books, or Edward Eager’s seven books, and I never noticed much in the way of missing females either. I do remember wondering at one point if Andre Norton was male or female. Otherwise, I just read what looked interesting, whatever the genre. So did my brothers, who raided my weekly library take. They might be why I dragged home Tarzan, I suppose, but we all enjoyed that enough to go back and get more. We also went through sea adventure stories, such as Howard Pease wrote, and historicals and well, everything. I don’t know where the people who complain about a dearth of female writers or a lack of role models grew up, but they weren’t reading what I was reading.

    Of course, I also remember playing Prince [whoever, it was a Disney historical movie about an Irish prince approx Elizabethan era] cheerfully enough with my friends. We didn’t care that we were girls and playing guys. It was fun, that was what mattered.

  2. Maureen+E

    I wasn’t aware of a lack on my end, but rather the fact that for my brother certain books were considered “too girly”. This gets talked about in the mg/YA world a lot–girls are expected to read anything, but boys can’t read a book with a girl protagonist, unless it’s Hungre Games.

  3. Maureen+E

    I’ll also note that I’m a wee thing of 26 and my brother is even younger (19…WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN???) so there may well be a kind of generational shift at work.

  4. Rachel

    Maureen, your comment is making me wonder if there wasn’t a shift in there somewhere. My (twin) brother says he just cannot understand why any boy would care one way or another about the gender of the protagonist. I wonder if maybe some kind of shift in the way books are marketed might have driven this phenomenon? Girly covers, prom-dress covers, perhaps a shift in YA toward romance and away from adventure?

    I don’t think I have the patience to go look at original covers by decade, but I wonder if the cover art would show a change from covers that were less gendered toward covers that are more clearly aimed at girls vs boys.

  5. Craig

    (Twin) brother here: actually, I can imagine a boy — or a girl, for that matter — caring about the gender of the protagonist. More so when it’s a matter of all the characters of one sex or the other: one hears that more often as complaints about books full of “weak” female characters (which, as has been discussed here, can mean more than one thing), but I recall seeing a parallel complaint about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s men.

    The thing that I just can’t get my head around is caring about the gender of the *author,* which apparently some boys do. Except for J.K. Rowling, I guess.

  6. L. Shelby

    My 22 year old son says:
    “I think it all depends on what you want to do with your protagonist. I don’t have any inherent problem with a female protagonist, but a lot of things an author might want to do with a female protagonist are less interesting to me.”

    He then went on to explain this using my books as examples, which would probably not be too helpful here. But the point is, although he basically likes all my books, the ones with the male protagonists he seems to like better. He says this is because he feels a stronger connection to the story problem. Not the character, the problem that the character has. I find that in interesting distinction. For a non-me example, he says he prefers Bujold’s Miles stories to the Cordelia stories.

    My husband is not available to ask right now, but he doesn’t seem to have this issue. I don’t think its a generational thingy, though. I’m a bit dubious that my brothers would share my husband’s taste for regency romances.

  7. Rachel

    Hi, Craig — sorry for misrepresenting what you said! Yes, okay. As you know, I thought Gordon Dickson had a real tendency to make all his female characters helpless and naive; while I couldn’t stand MISTS OF AVALON because every single male character was incompetent or evil.

  8. Rachel

    Interesting distinction, but I’m not sure I totally buy it. Miles is so different from Cordelia, I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison. I wonder who I might really juxtapose with either.

    Maybe HELLFLOWER by Eluki bes Shahar would present a female character who is, well, not like Miles, but possibly, well, I’m bogging down looking for why I think that might be a good choice. Let’s just say that I can’t see contrasting this with a story with a male protagonist and finding a significant difference in the “type of problem.”

    Same with CARPE DIEM by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee.

    HUNTING PARTY by Elizabeth Moon.

    Oh, the entire VALOR series by Tanya Huff.

    I believe it would be impossible to read these and say that the problems are different because the protagonists are female. I don’t suppose your son is looking for a reading assignment as a research subject, though.

  9. L. Shelby

    “Interesting distinction, but I’m not sure I totally buy it. Miles is so different from Cordelia, I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison. I wonder who I might really juxtapose with either.”

    I think he’s read some Moon, if not that exact book, I’ll ask him about it…

    … He says it’s not the same thing. Military problems are external to the character, and could happen to anyone. He says he’s talking about something that is there on a very internal level. “Character problems” not “plot problems”.

    But he claims its an internal level about whose story it is, not who he’s interacting with the story through. So Across a Jade Sea reads as Batiya’s story to him, and changing to Chunru’s viewpoint doesn’t change anything. And one of my other stories does the reverse, with a story that has a male protagonist but spends half of it’s time in a female viewpoint.

    His counter example is… ::drum roll:: …Disney’s Brave. Brave has female protagonists, but their “character problem” does not strike him as being an overtly female problem, and he finds it just as interesting as anything with a male protagonist.

    If anyone can figure that one out, please clue me in. :)

    …I happen to have a male protagonist whose most notable talents are gossiping, embroidery and flower-arranging. My son does not do handcrafts, is only vaguely artistic, and is described by his sisters as “anti-social”. He is an engineering student, signed up for the ROTC, and sword-fighting is his favorite form of exercise. That he would like a story about a guy who does embroidery better than Across a Jade Sea, is not AT ALL what one would expect looking at the surface of things. And yet, he claims that’s his preference.

    I find that fascinating, but very, very weird.

  10. Pete+Mack

    Hmm. The only distinction I make is that there are more female romance authors, and I don’t like romance. But among my favorite authors, the split is about 50-50. Gender (in character or author) doesn’t matter; dialog and world-building do.

    My only sort-of gripe about female authors is that they are a bit more likely to get military things horribly wrong; I assume this is because they are, on average, less interested in doing the necessary research.

  11. Pete+Mack

    Oh, right. And my only sort-of gripe about male authors is that they are a bit more likely to botch the dialog.

  12. Rachel

    I also think that is a) fascinating and b) very very weird. Huh. Yeah, I’m having trouble quite wrapping my mind around this. Also . . . I am embarrassed to admit this, but I haven’t seen “Brave.” Maybe I will rent it, because now I am significantly more curious about it than I was before.

  13. Rachel

    Pete, I wonder if a greater proportion of male authors who write military SF or military fantasy have been in the military, and therefore have a substantial leg up on research? That’s just a guess, though. As an author who isn’t at all interested in doing massive research, I will probably never take a stab at military SFF. Or historical fantasy, which is even worse.

  14. Elaine T

    Brave’s character problem is not a female problem? That’s … odd. Can you ask him to articulate what he sees as the problem?

    I tend to see it as mother/daughter issues. HOWEVER, now that I’m thinking about it, another way to look at it is fixing what you screw up. And that strikes me as a more male perspective on the world. Is the protagonist who gossips and embroiders in CANTATA, or from something you haven’t talked much about? IIRC CANTATA’s guy had been a seafarer…?

  15. L. Shelby

    Brave’s “character problems” hmm… “getting along with Mom” I think is way too surface. “Fixing what you screw up”, does sound a lot closer to the heart of things… Maybe also, “how to reconcile doing the right thing for you, and doing the right thing for everyone”? I’m not sure how male vs female that rates, but I can easily see both that and the fixing your screw-ups as being “problems” my son could feel connected to.

    But he seems to have given up on explaining it to me, for now. I think I caught him on a subject he’d never really thought about much, and now he wants to ponder for a while before he tries putting any more of it into words.

    “Is the protagonist who gossips and embroiders in CANTATA”
    He’s from my other Coral Palace book, Pavane. I intend to publish them both this year, but I’d like to finish the first draft of the current WIP, before I start working on the covers. Current wordcount: 47 428. Nearly half way there, I hope. ::crosses fingers::

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