Or thirteenth equal depending on your glass-half-full-glass-half-empty perspective. The winner was more than worthy, a tight tale with lovely pace and rhythm, and only the requisite number of ‘I’s. Competition over, Prune-Ella is now out in the wild via the Nano Fiction page.
Meanwhile, one of my other stories, submitted to the critiquing zoo queue, has had some quite mixed comments. To broadly simplify; half seemed baffled by the concept, didn’t quite see a plot, and wanted parts that I thought were the crucially speculative elements, more spelled out. The other half loved it, got the plot, and bought into the speculation. Both views are obviously valid as these are writers reading as such and very generously giving their time to help others, but why the huge disparity? Well, it wasn’t a massive sample size and so I’m not going to dig out my Idiots’ Guide to Statistics but it breaks down along gender lines; male (puzzled) and female (not puzzled).
I had never thought of myself as writing ‘for’ a particular audience, unless you consider the academic community to be one such. That world has its rules and, to be published, you have to follow them but on the whole, and unless your research was so tedious it requires a little creative post-production work, you don’t have to consider your readers’ tastes in literature. I’m beginning to wonder though, if my fiction is largely aimed at women and, that being the case, what women and where? I sidled up to the speculative and SF genres in my youth, cutting my teeth on a childrens’ adventure series involving kids whose names began with the same letter as their space station and moving rapidly on to Isaac Asimov’s epic Foundation Trilogy. All my favourite authors since have been male and I thought women couldn’t write SF until Elizabeth Moon popped up with her strong female characters, intricate plots, and no-messing tech talk. I’d also taken little sorties into dragon country with Anne McCaffrey and subsequently found myself on living space ships with histories and relationships all of their own. I like these authors. They give me believable future or alternative worlds, they deliver convincing technology, and they write with depth and texture. But do they write for women? What is it about these authors that makes me feel more at home in their books than I do in many of the gripping, character-driven tales of my preferred male writers?
And can I do it too?