Feminism, Initials, JK Rowling, and Me

533642_552932778076373_588861722_nA writer friend posted this picture on Facebook this morning and invited my comment. You really don’t do that unless you mean it. I don’t like to get political and I don’t really like the term “feminism.” I’ve always joked that women who seek to be equal to men are underachievers.

The fact of the matter is that I strongly believe that each gender has its strengths and both male and female should support and encourage each other. The traditionally “male” role complements the traditionally “female” role and one is neither superior nor inferior to the other. I also believe that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and my gender has less to do with it than my determination and skill.

I believe that the term “feminism” is insulting to me. It implies that women cannot gain true equality to men without the help of enlightened men making adjustments and setting the bar lower so we poor, weak creatures can reach it. That’s not equality. It’s condescension.

Growing up in a home with three brothers and eight male cousins, there was very little doll-playing going on. When playing with my brothers, I crawled on my belly taking the beaches of Normandy with my stick rifle across my forearms along with everyone else. The taunt of “You can’t because you’re a girl” always resulted in “Watch me!” followed by my doing just what their friends said I couldn’t.

Of course my accomplishments were declared a fluke and I was shoved aside and told to go play with dolls while they went off to do “important” boy things.

My mother once told me that boys didn’t like when girls beat them, so I needed to let the boys win.

Screw that!

No power in the verseWhy should I hide who I am or pretend to be less than I am to make someone else feel better about themselves? By the same token, why should I expect someone else to lower the bar so I can reach it. If I want it badly enough, ‘no power in the ‘verse can stop me’ regardless of how high it sits.

I’ve been called a “femi-nazi” an “Amazon” and several obscenities that my brothers would have decked them for using. I knew going in what I was in-for by working in a male-dominated industry. Some men are intimidated by women and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better.

Buffy_CheerleaderI’ve got news for you, some women are intimidated by strong women who don’t fit into the typical cheerleader mold and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better, too.

I don’t feel that’s an issue that falls under feminism. That’s an issue that falls under some-people-who-have-a-sense-of-power-over-others-fear-those-who-will-not-fall-in-line-with-their-world-view. That’s not being a feminist. That’s being a free-thinking, intelligent human being. If there is an obstacle in the way of my goals, I will overcome it on my own, thanks. I don’t need a group of condescending men and women in power legislating it away for me.

Whether we like it or not, prejudice against women writers is alive and well. I see it with SF more so than with Fantasy, mostly because I’m most active in that genre. The stereotype of the SF fan being primarily male, between the ages of 13 and 30, socially awkward, living in his parents’ basement is still strong, but oh-so-outdated.

Recent scandals of sexual bias and harassment have rocked the SFWA. Women in the genre are marginalized and often vilified. Unless one is writing SF Erotica or SFR, having a feminine name on the cover does reduce sales.

When it first came out in my town that I’m a novelist, the local editor/owner for the free newspaper asked if I wrote about “trips to the grocery store.”

upwords-board-730x485Rather than start beating my chest and crying over the unfairness of it, I considered the source. He’s a condescending blowhard with few friends in town who is still angry over the fact that I beat him like a red-headed step child the one and only time he challenged me to a game of “Upwords.” I tried to warn him that I play cutthroat Scrabble and tend to make my opponents cry, but he just had to challenge me.

In case you’re wondering, I looked at him in disgust, told him to stop being an ass and said I was writing a SF series filled with political intrigue following a military officer wanted for treason while she tries to find her kidnapped father, clear her name, and prevent an assassination plot that will plunge the galaxy into civil war. I doubted she had much time for grocery shopping.

Women and girls are less likely to care about the gender of the author. Men and boys have preconceived ideas of what women write. It may not be right, but the fact remains that it *IS*.

We can stubbornly stick our given names on the covers of our books and whine about pathetic sales and wonder why men don’t buy them. We can also suffer the ridicule of males threatened by intelligent women while we’re tilting windmills over it.

ChewieMen in power are like wookiees, they don’t like to lose and tend to get upset and pull people’s arms out of their sockets. Let’s face it, it’s not about prejudice as much as it is about a group of people in power over an industry who are loathe to relinquish said power.

For now, that is the nature of the industry. Ideas do not change overnight. In the decades that I’ve been writing, I’ve seen many, many changes within society and within the industry. When I first began, the strong, kick butt heroine was anathema and completely unheard of. She was the kiss of death for a manuscript.

Xena Thanks to Xena, Buffy, and Charmed, or rather Sam Raimi, Joss Whedon, and Aaron Spelling, the female action hero is no longer a thing of the past, although I doubt without the male of the species putting his weight behind the notion, women writing and producing these characters would ever have gotten past the elevator pitch. Right or wrong, it’s the nature of the industry.charmed_season_1_promo-2

Feminist? Perhaps. Capitalistic? Certainly. I’d be willing to bet that these men who produced these cutting edge women saw the potential fan-base for strong female characters in the rising numbers of young men of the 90’s having grown up in single parent households and tended to view their mother as provider and protector.

I’m jaded enough to attribute their choices to dollar signs rather than any sense of social justice or feminist responsibility.

The gatekeepers of the industry can’t argue with sales. While the traditional SF/F publishers are less inclined to give shelf space to women writing in the genre, it *is* a business and sales are the bottom line. When the sales of female authors match or outstrip the male of the species, you’ll see change. To first get those sales at this point in time, one must play the game.

For the time being, women using initials or a male pseudonym in order to be taken seriously in a male-dominated genre is simply the way things are done. In time, with networking, the rise of self and indie publishers more inclined to take a chance on women writers, that will change.

Our daughters and granddaughters will thank our initialed nom de plumes for paving the way for them to use their own names on their own SF/F covers.

Guest Blogger Frances Pauli

Speculative Fiction Romance author Frances Pauli decided to stop by today to celebrate Valentine’s Day with us with an irreverent and fun interview as well as a giveaway! Frances is currently on her Blog Tour, Fairies in February , which wraps up today! She’s here promoting the third book of her trilogy SPIDERS FROM MEMORY but we decided to talk about the silly things that writers don’t often get asked.

  • “Toilet paper – over or under?”

Over, but only out of pure rebellion. I had a horrid, controlling ex who insisted on under. Once I’d ditched him, it’s been over ever since. How’s that for too much information?

  • “If your characters had to help you move into a new place, what do you think that would be like?”

I write fairies. Can you imagine the chaos? Lamps would be broken, papers scattered. Don’t even get me started on the dishes. Still, the little buggers can lift a lot for their size, and there are a lot of them. I suppose if I didn’t mind my books sorted by color and my clothes hung up inside out, it might not be a bad idea.

  • “Coke or Pepsi?”

Pepsi all the way. Coke tastes like syrup. Pepsi, good. Do you remember the Pepsi challenge? Ah, the olden days. I took it many times at fairs and such. I’m a Pepsi girl nine times out of ten.

Now that is a fun scene. I’ve always loved it, not to mention the childhood crush I nurse for Dick Van Dyke’s character in Marry Poppins. But, I assume you mean the random writing prompt and the ensuing, chaotic brilliance. I’m pro penguin—fish slapping ninja or not. Random is good. It makes you stretch, twist, contort (sometimes giggle). I’m also pro writing group. Anything that keeps the brain churning and the fingers tapping is worth its weight in gold…or fish.

  • “House elf or android domestic?”

Android. First off, I couldn’t take the guilt—those sulky looks and mumbled curses. Ugh. House elves are a great idea, but an android can be programmed to do its duty with a smile. They also have more attachments and would be a better line of defense in the case of apocalypse—zombie or otherwise.

  • “What is your favorite trick for getting over being stuck while writing?”

Sex or death. Not for the reason you might think, though. I always swear if I get stuck that I must either write a sex scene or kill off a character. Since I naturally resist doing either, I rarely get stuck. The pure fear of the ultimatum hanging overhead keeps my fingers moving. I have only once had to bring said threat into play, and I’m not about to admit which I chose.

  • “What is your writing-related vice?”

Chocolate. Okay, that’s not writing related. Escapism, possibly. I tend to live in my head, in my dreams, anywhere but in my own ordinary shoes. But when it comes to rejection letters, bad reviews, good reviews, acceptance letters, deadlines or releases, I find that chocolate always manages to fit the purpose.

  • “Why Speculative Fiction? Why not historical or mystery or men’s adventure?”

I’ve read Speculative Fiction my entire life. I adore it. I’m passionate about it. I live in those worlds in my innermost imaginings. Writing anything else would be very much like writing another culture. I’d have to learn it, and even then, would I understand it fully? Could I lend it the same passion and fervor? It might be fun to try, but I think I’ll always know where home is.

  • “Who are your favorite Speculative Fiction authors?”

Andre Norton, Tanith Lee, and Patricia McKillip are my all-time top three. They moved me at a very impressionable age, opened doors to worlds that still enchant my thoughts and taught me just how fantastic speculative fiction could be. My more contemporary favorites lean toward humor (which may have something to do with getting old and jaded) I read Christopher Moore, Gregory MaGuire, and Terry Pratchett as well as a great deal of amazing fiction by authors I know personally.

  • “Jed-Head, Trekkie, or Browncoat?”

Trekkie forever. I love Star Wars (or the older half of it) and I do enjoy Firefly immensely. But my fan levels spike when anything has to do with Trek–Original, Next Gen or DS9 in particular. I’m dating myself there, but I also have an uber soft spot for the Ferengi and an appreciation for the abundance of romantic subplots in the Star Trek franchise. Also, I own a Klingon headpiece, which a woman my age should probably never admit publicly.

  • “What inspired you to create this particular romantic hero, Lockland?”

I dreamed of Lockland, actually. He showed up in trouble and in need of serious rescue. He demanded, in fact, and I had no choice to provide a story to explain and solve his predicament. I can’t resist an elf, in particular not one with long white-blond hair.

  • “Why do you feel Elizabeth is perfect for him?”

Elizabeth is perfect for Lockland primarily because she is so intensely human. She is flawed, mundane, and at the same time inherently noble. He’s fascinated with her world, and she’s devoted her life and work to protecting his. They both struggle with not fitting exactly into their people’s expectations, and they both are working for the same ideal—equality and acceptance.

  • “Do you happen to have a number where he can be reached?”

If I do, and I’m not admitting anything, I’m not going to share it. Not for all the chocolate and fairy candy in the known universe.


Thanks so much for having me and for the FUN questions! I am offering a free pdf of any book from my backlist to one commenter today, and for each stop on the tour that you comment on, you will earn one entry into the final drawing for print copies of all three books. Follow along and enter to win!

Frances Pauli writes speculative fiction with romantic touches. Her books are published through Mundania Press LLC, Awe-Struck, and Devine Destinies, and her short stories are featured in various anthologies. More information on her worlds and writing can be found on her website and blog, and she offers free online stories, web serials, podcasts there as well.







A Moth in Darkness

The boundaries between the worlds have fallen. Forced to integrate the creatures of fantasy into real life, humanity struggles against its disillusionment, prejudice and an inevitable feeling of inadequacy.

Once an agent for the embassy that mediates between the worlds, Elizabeth Larson has abandoned her past and slipped into a world of nostalgic addiction to fairy revels, dancing, and the dark lure of her own memories. But when Lockland Sheen, her former partner and lover, goes missing, she is pulled reluctantly back into service. She must venture once more across the borders, into the land that haunts her, facing a string of gruesome murders, the imposing Sidhe rulers and her own addiction in the process.

While the Embassy’s agents attempt to soothe tensions between the races, Liz and her new partner search the fairy realm for Lockland. Fighting the constant temptation of the revels, they piece together the trail of an unknown enemy. But the longer they follow it, the more it appears that the man they came to rescue is more villain than victim. And the more they rely on Elizabeth’s ties to the fairies, the closer she inches toward the madness that lurks behind her fantasies.


The Fly in Paradise

Something’s rotten in the Fey lands. While Marcus Bramble tracks the lunatic who started it all, Elizabeth and the crew at the Embassy sort through the evidence he left behind. With Lockland back, and the revels behind her, Liz’s world is slowly returning to normal. But on both sides of the borders, shadow creatures spring out of nowhere, and the dark legends surrounding the fey take on a whole new meaning.

Now time is against them.  On the mortal side of things, protesters rally to close the borders, politicians descend on the Embassy, and something that shouldn’t exist stalks Elizabeth through the city.

In his world, Marcus faces a madman with answers he doesn’t want to hear. The Fey rulers turn a blind eye on forests teeming with imaginary monsters, and the Sidhe tower stands silent amidst the chaos. Will the race to uncover its secrets solve the mystery of the elves’ past or unleash even more horrors on them all?


Spiders From Memory

The Seelie court is gone, and the Tower has fallen into darker hands. Now nightmare creatures terrorize the Fey races, and the whole Fey world turns to frost and shadow.

Liz Larson holds the last remnant of the Seelie Sidhe’s power. The elves look to her for guidance, but all she has to offer them is the disturbing story of their origin, the final truth that will turn many of them against her. With her dwindling number of allies, Liz needs to reopen the borders, to find the missing Marcus Bramble, and to avoid the sudden, terrifiying attention of the new Fey ruler, the Unseelie Speaker and new master of the Sidhe Tower.

While her friends in Mundanity race to pry open the gates, and Marcus searches for the answer to a puzzle that could save or damn them all, the Unseelie Speaker marches north, bringing his army and his wrath to focus on Elizabeth. What can one, fairy-touched human do in the face of the Unseelie court’s full fury? How can she fight when the enemy’s anger is only partly blind, when she can see all too clearly the traces of justice behind it?