RARA-AVIS: Re: realism vs fantasy

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 18 Dec 2000

Richard raised some really interesting points but, whatever it is, myth or fantasy, the one problem with dividing hard-boiled fiction along gender lines, especially these days, is that not all "female" fantasies or whatever are written or read by women, anymore than
"male" fantasies are written or read exclusively by men. Never have been, and certainly aren't now. Leigh Brackett, whom Maura recently mentioned, didn't just write great hard-boiled fiction -- she was also a fan.

If I read Paretsky or Grafton or whoever, that doesn't make me one of those "chicks without tits or a dick." I'm confident enough in my masculinity that I don't worry about schoolboy crap like that. Likewise, Marianne and Maura and Victoria are not rendered any less female because they read "male fantasies," and they probably don't lose too much sleep over it, either.

In fact, despite all the chest-thumping and pigeon-holing, what's the actual gender breakdown of readership of all these "male" fantasies? It might be interesting to find out. Given that more women read fiction in general than men, my guess is that an awful lot of women
(perhaps even most?) are doing the reading of all these "male" fantasies. I do know that maybe thirty percent of the mail I get on my site is from women, and the internet is currently mostly a male domain, for what that's worth. There are some writers of hard-boiled fiction on this list. Any idea of the gender-breakdown of your readership?

So what's in it for these women? Maybe it goes beyond gender fantasies, and is actually more about trying to be a strong and decent person, trying to survive in an unfair and menacing world. Maybe it's more about hero fantasies, than anything else. Of course, gender's part of everything, but surely when a woman reads, say, THE MALTESE FALCON, she identifies with Spade, not Brigid.

Of course, in noirish books, there are rarely any heroes at all, but that's a whole other thing....

Oh, and Maura, it's really hard to read your stuff. Not all of us have the Antigua font installed, and those of us who receive the digest can't receive formatted text anyway, so we receive a jumble of confusing codes as well as the text.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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