Wednesday, September 1, 2021

​Fooling Mother Nature

According to C.W. Hawes, writing in Tag: Writing for Men, “Male readers prefer, for the most part, the genres of adventure, humor, horror, and science fiction. They also tend to shy away from books that are focused on relationships (such as romance).” 

Anytime I see a writer use initials instead of a full name, I assume the writer simply doesn’t want to be categorized by gender, a practice used for many years by women who didn’t want to be excluded or belittled by a male-dominated industry.

I assume C.W. is British as he/she uses the term “throw a spanner,” which few Americans understand. (spanner is a British term for an open-end wrench). Many male Americans my age can sing the lyrics to Dire Straits’ Industrial Disease without knowing what was thrown, but is that a sign men don’t read? Maybe they just don’t read what women read.

First, C.W. Hawes is male, and second, he is not British. Born in Ohio, he now lives in Texas. I have no idea why he used the term "spanner" instead of wrench, but I’m sure it fit the need. When Joanne Rowling published her first book, the publishers decided to use initials instead of her real name. This was to disguise her being a female so the Harry Potter novels would appeal to a young, male audience, who the publishers had decided would be the primary market. Joanne is now known to the entire world as J.K. Rowling. Many of her readers do not know her first name.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” wrote Virginia Woolf. So, have we gone half-cycle? Do male authors need to use abbreviations now just to get an agent to call back? One of my favorite writer’s magazines - yes, I have a subscription – lists a current issue’s article’s authors as: Jera, Catherine, Kara, Sharon, Whitney, Amy, Cassandra, Barbara, Estelle, Sadie, Kristie, and Robert. That's ten to one against male writers. What's the opposite of misogynistic?

I don’t have the figures for the book publishing universe about gender diversity, but the realm of writing, editing and marketing has flash-banged into a new reality. I wonder how Tom Clancy would have broken into the Best Sellers lists if his books about submarines and warfare had been universally seen as insensitive or unemotional, basically considered unmarketable in today’s writing environment? Kind of smells too much like machine oil and grimy hands for today's book buying public?

I really think if a man had written Fifty Shades of Grey, he’d have been physically accosted and emotionally assaulted until he “crumbled asunder” in front of the “Me, Too!” movement. A man would have had to have hidden behind his initials just like the women used to do... Oh, wait a minute! E. L. James wrote the now famous, blog-inspired, self-published phenomena that jumped not just to the corporate publishing world, but the movies as well. Erika Mitchell, E.L James’s real name, just threw a wrench into the works. Or was it a spanner?