Sunday, December 25, 2005

Women Writers

So, the other day, I was compiling a list of my favorite authors (for no apparent reason). After much thought, I came up with the following list: Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Eric S. Nylund, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Larry Niven, Peter F. Hamilton, Ian M. Banks, Ray Bradbury, Stephen Baxter, Mike Brotherton, Charles Stross, George Orwell, Orson Scott Card, David Zindell, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse, G.B. Shaw, Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, R.A. Salvatore, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, Michael Moorcock, H. Rider Haggard, J.K. Rowling, Robert E. Howard, Alan Moore, Masamune Shirow, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, H.H. Munro, Arthur Connan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Jorge Borges, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, Joseph Heller, Anthony Burgess, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Linda Schele, John Lloyd Stevens, William L. Shirer, Jared Diamond. Now, The Cydonian looked at the list and made an observation that set me thinking - there are very few women-writers in that list. The only women-writers in that list are Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, Linda Schele and Susanna Clarke (you have to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell). Out of more than fifty authors, there are four who happen to be women. Now, that just came as a shock to me, particularly because I was not aware that my reading list was so obviously male dominated. Now, there are a few possibilities. For one, my reading preferences strongly lean towards SF, i.e. Speculative Fiction, the over-arching genre of science fiction, cyberpunk, fantasy, alternate history, speculative narrative and speculative anthropology. Is it possible that such reading preferences are primarily catered by male writers? I mean, not to stereotype, but I do not exactly have a predisposition towards romantic literature! Secondly, is it possible that there are fewer women-writers in general? That would indeed be surprising, because I was under the impression that women were more literature-oriented than most men are. Don't believe me? Well, good lord, you just have to read some of the more verbose e-mails that girlfriends write. And finally, it could be that women's writing styles do not particularly appeal to me. Not that I can recall reading any particular women authors whose writings did not appeal to me, apart from being generally picky the way I'm when it comes to authors. I consider most of the fluff writers to be pop-authors (like how Britney is considered trash by the hard-rock crowd) - Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham and the like fall under this category of cliched rubbish that I'd rather not read. These, of course, are authors whose ideas and whose writing skills are absolute trash. There are some, like Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Clive Cussler, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum who occasionally have good ideas and write well, but their writing more often than not borders on the fluff-nonsense category. The only woman-author I can think of whom I'm not fond of is Ayn Rand - but still, it's just that while I do not agree with her ideas, I think that she is a great author. While I may not agree with what she stands for, she is a good writer whom I respect (you see, respect and dislike can come hand in hand -- I'd never respect any of the fluff authors). So, why is my reading list so obviously male-dominated? Any ideas? Clues? Insights?