Girls don’t read fantasy.

I have just been killing myself laughing at the comments over at this: A Forum of Ice and Fire

I shan’t comment on being called a “girl” (as I think the poster of the topic actually meant women) …but I am wondering what planet some of those leaving comments live on.

About half the fanmail I get comes from women.

Leaving aside paranormal urban fantasy such as Twilight, with its female teenage following, I know just as many female readers of epic fantasy as I know men readers.

 I myself – over the past year or so – have read male writers such as Peter V. Brett, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert V.S. Reddick, M.D. Lachlan, Adrian Tchaikosvsky, Ben Aaronovitch, Brent Weeks, Joe Abercrombie, Tad Williams and Paul Hoffman. And of course, I read George R.R.Martin. And a stack of women fantasy writers as well.

My closest friend who lives around here reads the same books I do. And you know what? Our respective husbands don’t read fantasy at all. Ever.

However, I imagine many of those posting on the site will just say in answer: “Ah, then you’re the exception.”

So maybe I will ask…do you think female fantasy writers don’t like fantasy? (And once again, I’m not talking urban or  romantic fantasy of the kind that male readers largely seem to dodge.)

Try telling the following people they don’t like fantasy and see how far you get: 

Kate Elliott.  Jennifer Fallon.  Alma Alexander. 
Alison Goodman. Robin Hobb.  N.K.Jemisin.  
J.K.Rowling. Martha Wells. Margo Lanagan.  
Julian May.  Rowena Corey Daniels. Michelle West.
Trudi Canavan.  Mary Victoria.  Jo Anderton. 
Lois Mcmaster Bujold. Karen Miller. Patricia Wrede.
Fiona McIntosh.  Tansy Raynor Roberts.
Kate Forsyth.  Celia Friedman.  Katherine Kerr.
Jennifer Roberson.  Pamela Freeman.  Carol Berg.
Kim Westwood.  Sara Douglass.  Lynn Flewelling.

 And that’s just a start — all the names that popped into my head in the last few minutes. I am sure if I spent half an hour thinking, I could put up the names of 100 women writers who write the large fantasy canvas. And I wouldn’t mind betting that everyone of them LOVES epic fantasy and reads a great deal of it.

And I’d love to ask everyone of the writers mentioned what proportion of their fanmail is from female readers!


Girls don’t read fantasy. — 13 Comments

  1. I've always read Fantasy, from The Hobbit and the coloured Fairy Tale books when I was 10 or 11. I think that women who read and like Fantasy are actually treated far more nicely than the men who do. They are often seen as unable to engage socially in a positive way. I think it is probably 50-50. I don't imagine you can be a Fantasy writer without enjoying the genre?? Very strange. Oh I met Fiona McIntosh last Wednesday, it was very exciting. I'll add Tamora Pierce, Maria V Snyder, Anne McCaffrey for the Dragon books and maybe Katherine Kurtz??

  2. What about Brandon Sanderson who is doing such a fantastic job of finishing Wheel of Time as well as writing great novels of his own. I don't know those authors you say you read this year, many of the female authors I have definitely read. Including Glenda Larke of course. Peter F. Hamilton is another who springs to mind.

  3. My wife reads fantasy, Tolkien, MZB, Roberson, Butcher.

    It's a close run thing as to who is the bigger Tolkien fan, certainly I'm the more competitive

    My mum read LoTR when it first came out & my wife got her into MZB

    I have several female friends & colleagues who like Fantasy & SF

    Silly, silly notion

  4. Well, you can't ask Sara Douglas anymore. 🙁

    Nice list though. Kerr has been doing gritty medieval fantasy before GoT was even a blip on the radar. (No offensive to thrones, I love it).

  5. I must say I was sooooo astonished by some of those comments. I thought the perceived (also rather wobbly) general perception was that women read fantasy and men read science fiction.

    However, so many of the comments seem to agree with the statement without giving any thought to the idea. And without considering just how many great women fantasy writers of epic, large canvas worlds there are out there. My list was very perfunctory!

    I suspect this buys into the perception — for which there is considerable evidence — that there are a great many men out there who won't read women writers.

    They know not what they miss…

  6. I certainly read fantasy – have pretty much read books by all the writers you and others have listed and many more. I read other genres too, of course, but speculative fiction is my first preference.

  7. I used to spend quite a bit of my time on that board. It's odd that this was even mentioned since many of the members are *gasp* female and therefore you would assume they've read some fantasy- especially since they're posting about it.

  8. Come to think of it, my first fantasy read as an adult was because of a recommendation from a woman too — my sister.

  9. I started out with books like Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree, and I was probably six or seven at the time? My primary reading genre IS fantasy – I don't really like to stray away from what I know and what I love. Occasionally, I'll dip into a bit of Stephen King or some Chuck Palahniuk. Yourself, Glenda, Robin Hobb and Isobelle Carmody to name a few females, Patrick Rothfuss (amazing) and Garth Nix on the male side.

    I haven't read the Game of Thrones Series, yet. But I intend to.

    It seems an ignorant summation to suggest that the primary market for fantasy novels is men.

  10. I adore epic fantasy, and was introduced to it with Wheel of Time (as much as I love the movie adaptations of Lord of the Rings, I find it incredibly hard to read Tolkien, for some odd reason)… ever since I started reading WoT, and will read anything I can get my hands on. It is sad somebody would make such a statement without a bigger understanding of the fantasy audience at large.

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