A couple of days into this year’s Women in SF&F Month and, judging by the Twitter response and other social traffic, it looks like people are well into the swing of it! I’m so very happy about the response from the community and can only say that we’ve just scratched the surface of the great posts that people have contributed.
We’re continuing today with science fiction and fantasy author Karin Lowachee! She’s best known for her books set in the Warchild universe, a place that is not filled with rainbows and fluffy bunnies. Though I have yet to read these books myself, I’ve heard nothing but praise for them from those who have read them. During last year’s event, Shara from Calico Reaction shared that Warchild was easily her favorite science fiction novel EVER, and Janice from Specfic Romantic said she enjoyed Karin Lowachee’s Warchild books because “the voices of her protagonists are always so distinctive and so compelling.”
After hearing those recommendations and more for these books, I was excited when Karin Lowachee accepted my invitation to participate in this year’s series. She is going to talk about the common assumption that people have upon hearing that she’s an author: she either writes children’s books or romances.
“You Mean You Don’t Write Children’s Books?”
Let’s talk about when people ask you about your writing, you a female – perhaps you’ve even published – but they don’t know anything else. Maybe they’re friends of the family but not particularly your friends; maybe just acquaintances; maybe people you meet for the first time at a random (non-writerly) event, and the conversation goes as most do in casual situations: So what do you do? I’m a writer. Oh that’s cool! What do you write – children’s books? No, actually. Romances? No, actually—books about war.
If I had a dollar for every time…as they say.
For some reason the go-to assumption when I tell random people that I write is that I write children’s books. Let me put it out there that I’m not the kind of girl who has a burning desire to hold babies or be around kids, so I don’t really know why they’d assume that association; of course a stranger or casual acquaintance might not know that. Okay, so what about the fact I look sort of young? Is the assumption then that I write romance novels? I have nothing against romance writers or romance books, even if it’s not my thing. But over the years it’s become a point of great amusement that both men and women I’ve casually met seem to find it shocking that I, a multiracial kind-of-young-looking woman, would write about war.
Not only war, but children in perilous situations, real-world not-pretty topics that occur in our day and age, only – even more shocking! – set in space. Science fiction is surely for teenaged boys or Trekkies, right? Or, as the case may be with my fantasy, war set in a second world Victorian Wild West. Oh let’s just toss the Western genre in there too, because that’s also unusual for women to be into…right? In a matter of seconds I can practically hear their thoughts, and I have no actual irritation or animosity about the assumption. It’s a constant source of curiosity that here we are in the 21st century, where women have gone into space, driven in the Indy 500, and directed movies – but you, as a woman, meet random people who hear that you’re a writer and they automatically assume it’s for romance or children’s books. (By the way, when it’s another woman in the conversation, there might follow the admission that they’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and when I tell them that they are actually rather difficult to write, they look like they don’t believe me. Surely something that’s only 1000 words can’t be that hard? I just let it go.) Maybe it’s just me…I’d be interested to know if any of my fellow female writers have met up with this.
These encounters stand in stark contrast to conventions or reading series or book launches we might all go to where it’s not unusual to hear women talk about future weaponry in fiction, ancient warriors, or astrophysics. It dawned on me early that we, as female genre writers – while sometimes (or rarely) we do encounter a certain amount of gender inequality in the field – are ultimately moving around in an environment where people readily accept that you write anything you damn well please. And it’s not surprising; there are no such assumptions that your protagonist must fall in love, or it’s somehow unusual that you know Alexander the Great’s military strategy as well as most PBS specials. “What do you write?” as a question amongst other genre writers is one without many preconceived notions. “Books about faeries” is just as likely to come out of a woman’s mouth as “Military space opera.” Nobody bats an eye.
And that’s as it should be.
Ladies, own what you write. Don’t give in to the temptation to downplay your interests just because they might be unusual to the general (uninitiated) public. Once in awhile you might even change someone’s perspective when it comes to such assumptions, or open up a conversation about things that person may have never considered because their general reading interests are relegated to Oprah’s Book Club (not that all of her choices are bad…I love The Road. Which, incidentally, is obviously post-apoc science fiction, though I’m sure her demographic didn’t really think about that or admit it.)
By the way, I do want to write a children’s book. I have an idea and an outline. It’s just on the list after the few novels and short stories – and yes, at least one is post-apoc – that I need to finish. Whatever you write, and especially if you’re a writer who has very little to no outside support in your passion, be determined to write what you love. In the end that matters more than the casual opinion or assumption of others.
About Karin Lowachee:
Karin was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic. Her first novel WARCHILD won the 2001 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Both WARCHILD (2002) and her third novel CAGEBIRD (2005) were finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. CAGEBIRD won the Prix Aurora Award in 2006 for Best Long-Form Work in English and the Spectrum Award also in 2006. Her second novel BURNDIVE debuted at #7 on the Locus Bestseller List. Her books have been translated into French, Hebrew, and Japanese, and her short stories have appeared in anthologies edited by Julie Czerneda, Nalo Hopkinson, and John Joseph Adams. Her fantasy novel, THE GASLIGHT DOGS, was published through Orbit Books USA. Follow her on Twitter @karinlow or on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/107732.Karin_Lowachee.