Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 22 April 2012

Gender Schmender!

When I’m not being Nicola Vincent-Abnett, I write some genre fiction. It’s a man’s world, or at least a big chunk of it is, but I’m happy to admit that women  writers might bring something else to the table. it might not be any more new and exciting than the stuff the guys bring, but... you know what? It might just be ‘other’.
I heard a woman writer of genre fiction (space opera as it happens), say that her being a woman was irrelevant and that she wouldn’t answer questions on a ‘woman’s perspective’, because there was no such thing as far as she was concerned. She was just another writer. 
I think she was wrong. 
I wanted to stand up and say, “That’s OK, if you want a woman’s perspective you can ask me.” 
You see, some readers will pick up her books for the very reason that she is a woman, and for the very reason that she might have something new and different to say, and that reader has as much right to have his or her question answered as anyone else in the audience.
I’ve heard it said that 85% of all books are bought by women. To be fair, I don’t know what the figures are for genre fiction, but I don’t know why any writer would want to alienate any of his or, in this case, more accurately, HER audience. It’s not good for her and it’s not good for other women writers. 
Gender has never been an issue for me. I have never hidden the fact that I am a woman, and, once or twice, I’ve been surprised to find my readers surprised to find that I am one. I call myself Nik Vincent when I’m writing genre fiction because that’s what my husband calls me, and always has, but you only have to Google me to know I’m a girl... there are photos and everything.
The Brontes felt they had to adopt masculine personae, and so did George Eliot, and various other women writers, but surely we’re past that. We’re past it in all forms of fiction, except perhaps for genre. We have a female Poet Laureate for goodness sake!
So, if you ever see me on a panel or you’re invited to ask questions for an interview with me, do feel free to ask about me being a woman, it’s one of the very few subjects that I actually know anything about.


  1. Lol, I read something from both female Bl writers within a day about their views on being a woman in a male-dominated genre. And they were both very interesting

  2. Funny how some writers you can tell gender from their work and some you can't. Lois (middle bit I've forgotten) Bujold's space opera is fun for being a female view of masculinity, and makes no bones about it. Alex Bell was a surprise though :)

  3. It's funny that, as a male writer trying for literary representation, I find the majority of the people I'm competing against are female. More than that, of all the rejection letters I've received from agents, a surprising number of them inquire as to whether or not I do "Women's Fiction". When I respond in the negative, I never hear from them again.

    I don't have any statistics to back up my perceptions on the matter, but it appears that a great many debuting commercially-published authors (if not the majority) are female. And, with a background in gender psychology, I did a simple experiment several years ago to see if there was any basis to this.

    I wrote three science fiction short stories and submitted them to three professional magazines whose names I would prefer to withhold. They were each rejected by junior editors within the normal reading periods until I had 9 rejection letters in hand, which I've come to expect. I then resubmitted them under new titles, changed my name to a female one, and altered my bio so it contained nothing which would give away my gender. One story was published. The other two made it to the third and final readings to be deliberated upon by the head editors of the two remaining magazines.

    I understand that writing and reading are both subjective experiences, else coming up with something truly incredible would be formulaic and we would not hold authors like Dan Abnett and yourself in such high esteem. Because of that, the possibility that each story got so much further on its own merit the second time around because the readers were more receptive at the time creates a confounding variable. As such, the best I can do is say that the significant difference in the two outcomes suggests a strong correlation between the author's gender and the manner in which the stories were received.

    I'm not trying to claim reverse sexism, lay blame, point fingers, or say I and new male authors in general are being cheated. That's jumping the gun and would achieve nothing regardless. But I am surprised that anyone thinks women are underrepresented in any part of the literary industry or have to "be one of the guys" to blend in.