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Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Maryanne (IP Logged)
Date: 27 May, 2005 06:23PM
Long have I lurked, and it has been my obvservation that the population of CAS fandom seems well, very male.

As a longtime female reader of CAS & HPL, I find this very puzzling.

It's true that both CAS and HPL avoid treating women as "human beings" in their stories. By this I mean that the sexless narrators are assumed male; the sexed narrators are male; women only appear in the stories at all in their roles relative to men (as erotic or maternal figures). There are no female wizards; no female intrepid investigators; no female friends, professional rivals, or peers.

This does not account for the lack of female readers. Literate women are used to reading genre fiction from that period that's low on female representation. Like the racism of the times (Black characters, Asian characters are just as limited), it's a given to the period.

I was just struck by this upon reading "Ampoi". CAS was clearly having a bit of fun on the idea of an ideal matriarchy and points to male size & strength, not any other characterstic, justifying the lesser role of women in our own society. Were the physiques reversed, then so too would the roles be reversed, and men would be subservient and fearful due to their upbringing.

Back to the mysterious absence. Is it because CAS fandom--as represented here--is still so small? A matter of personal friendships? Are female participants more likely to lurk and less likely to post?

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: geocorona (IP Logged)
Date: 27 May, 2005 10:37PM
I think you're right about the small fan base. Sci-fi & fantasy were almost exclusively the realm of male readers in the pulp days, and in modern times, vintage sci-fi & fantasy fans are still mostly male. Yeah, we're nerds.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: voleboy (IP Logged)
Date: 28 May, 2005 01:56AM
There's also a few female fans out there that are pretty quiet. I can name two that I know who are fans, have posted in the forum, and yet remain pretty well silent, for whatever reason, for the most part.

I'm trying to introduce another SF fan to CAS at the moment. Going slowly, going slowly.

*Author of Strange Gardens [www.lulu.com]


*Editor of Calenture: a Journal of Studies in Speculative Verse [calenture.fcpages.com]

*Visit my homepage: [voleboy.freewebpages.org]

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: hplscentury (IP Logged)
Date: 28 May, 2005 04:15AM
> Long have I lurked, and it has been my
> observation that the population of CAS fandom
> seems well, very male.

That's because it is very male, but how many aspects of human culture can you name that aren't? Men create and run almost everything, whether it's good or bad.

> As a longtime female reader of CAS & HPL, I
> find this very puzzling.

Why? Men's and women's psychology differs greatly on average, so why should they be interested equally in the same things?

> It's true that both CAS and HPL avoid treating
> women as "human beings" in their stories. By this
> I mean that the sexless narrators are assumed
> male; the sexed narrators are male; women only
> appear in the stories at all in their roles
> relative to men (as erotic or maternal figures).
> There are no female wizards; no female intrepid
> investigators; no female friends, professional
> rivals, or peers.
>
> This does not account for the lack of female
> readers.

It does partly.

> Literate women are used to reading genre
> fiction from that period that's low on female
> representation. Like the racism of the times
> (Black characters, Asian characters are just as
> limited), it's a given to the period.

Yes, which is why white men find it easier to identify with CAS's and HPL's characters. Blacks and Asians of both sexes are "under-represented" in weird fandom too.

> I was just struck by this upon reading "Ampoi".
> CAS was clearly having a bit of fun on the idea of
> an ideal matriarchy and points to male size &
> strength, not any other characterstic, justifying
> the lesser role of women in our own society. Were
> the physiques reversed, then so too would the
> roles be reversed, and men would be subservient
> and fearful due to their upbringing.

There's more to sex differences than physique and upbringing.

> Back to the mysterious absence. Is it because CAS
> fandom--as represented here--is still so small?

Well, sports fandom is huge, but women are still mostly absent, and more the "masculine" the sport, the more absent they are.

> A
> matter of personal friendships? Are female
> participants more likely to lurk and less likely
> to post?

Probably, but the absence is not mysterious. Weird fiction was created by men for men. That doesn't mean no women can enjoy and appreciate it, because some women will have a "weird" psychology too (just as some men don't), but it does mean female fans will remain in a minority. A good thing too. If CAS or HPL appealed equally to men and women, he wouldn't be CAS or HPL any more but something much blander and weaker.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 May 05 | 04:31AM by hplscentury.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Mikey_C (IP Logged)
Date: 28 May, 2005 12:07PM
Put me in the "nurture not nature" camp. I've read HPL and CAS stories to my partner and she's enjoyed them immensely. She admits, however, that she likes to read books she can share with her friends, and they would think her "weird" for reading such things!

However, there has been a tradition of women not only reading but also writing fantastic fiction - Mary Shelley (a huge influence on HPL and CAS) is just the first who springs to mind. Often women would pick a male protagonist or even a male pseudonym (for instance sci-fi writer James Tiptree Jr.'s real name was Alice Sheldon).

I wouldn't be surprised if the wonderfully lurid covers of 'Weird Tales' (designed by a woman - Margaret Brundage) would have put many female readers off at the time CAS's stories were first published, but I think it is probably mainly the undeserved obscurity of his work that creates a barrier nowadays.

There seems to be quite a few female contributors to the discussion boards on www.conan.com, so if women can enjoy REH's testosterone-drenched adventures, I see no reason why they shouldn't get into CAS as well!

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Maryanne (IP Logged)
Date: 28 May, 2005 02:27PM
>A good thing too.
> If CAS or HPL appealed equally to men and women,
> he wouldn't be CAS or HPL any more but something
> much blander and weaker.

I'll have to disagree strongly with this.

Let's take another genre that was heavily male dominated and written for male readership in the pulp era. That was lurid, immoral and banned and also had an intellectual componant that was considered beyond feminine ratiocination.

It now has primarily female readership and several leading female authors.

True crime.

If Ted Bundy can cross the gender divide, I don't see why CAS can't.









Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: hplscentury (IP Logged)
Date: 29 May, 2005 04:40AM
Mikey_C Wrote:

> Put me in the "nurture not nature" camp. I've
> read HPL and CAS stories to my partner and she's
> enjoyed them immensely. She admits, however, that
> she likes to read books she can share with her
> friends, and they would think her "weird" for
> reading such things!

You seem to be arguing that male nurture is the standard to which women should aspire. Also, if nurture explains our tastes in literature, presumably your partner, Maryanne and other female CAS/HPL fans all had a male nurture like male fans. If not, then nature must play its part too and because male and female nature differs, on average, we would expect precisely what we get: more men than women interested in CAS/HPL.

> There seems to be quite a few female contributors
> to the discussion boards on www.conan.com, so if
> women can enjoy REH's testosterone-drenched
> adventures, I see no reason why they shouldn't get
> into CAS as well!

There is no reason, because there are women who are into CAS. Your attitude smacks disturbingly of male cultural imperialism, because the much bigger problem is in fact that of male readers avoiding female authors, not vice versa:

Quote:
But a gender gap remains in what people choose to read, at least among the cultural elite. Four out of five men said the last novel they read was by a man, whereas women were almost as likely to have read a book by a male author as a female. When asked what novel by a woman they had read most recently, a majority of men found it hard to recall or could not answer. Women, however, often gave several titles. The report said: 'Men who read fiction tend to read fiction by men, while women read fiction by both women and men.
'Consequently, fiction by women remains "special interest", while fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.'

[observer.guardian.co.uk]

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: hplscentury (IP Logged)
Date: 29 May, 2005 04:53AM
Maryanne Wrote:

> >A good thing too.
> > If CAS or HPL appealed equally to men and
> women,
> > he wouldn't be CAS or HPL any more but
> something
> > much blander and weaker.
>
> I'll have to disagree strongly with this.
>
> Let's take another genre that was heavily male
> dominated and written for male readership in the
> pulp era. That was lurid, immoral and banned and
> also had an intellectual componant that was
> considered beyond feminine ratiocination.
>
> It now has primarily female readership and several
> leading female authors.
>
> True crime.
>
> If Ted Bundy can cross the gender divide, I don't
> see why CAS can't.

Then if true crime readers have become "primarily female", you've simply exchanged one imbalance for another and provided evidence that particular genres can never appeal to men and women in equal numbers. One sex or the other will always supply more fans. In the case of true crime, I'd also suggest that male and female fans read for different reasons. IOW, Ted Bundy hasn't crossed the gender divide: men are interested in him for different reasons than women are, and neither set of reasons seems to me to be particularly savoury. :(

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Mikey_C (IP Logged)
Date: 29 May, 2005 05:45AM
> Your attitude smacks disturbingly of
> male cultural imperialism,

Eeek! First time I've been accused of that. It serves me right - because it seems that I've been contradicting myself like crazy. Talk of 'nurture', then reference to 'testosterone-soaked' fiction indeed.

It's an interesting point about men reading women writers, but I thought we were specifically looking at why CAS has less female readers. Now, I would have thought that the example of Mary Shelley would have done away with this sweeping comment:
> Weird fiction was created by men for men.

So we need to look for cultural / historical reasons.

Just because 'nurture' steers us in a certain direction, it doesn't mean we can't overcome it. Look at the growing numbers of women taking up traditinally 'male' careers such as engineering, for instance, or even joining the armed forces and taking up an increasing role in warfare. Is that "male cultural imperialism"?

There are also more men in the traditionally female 'caring professions' - myself among them. The problem is, the 'women's jobs' still pay less than men's. Now - that's what I call imperialism!!!

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: lokilokust (IP Logged)
Date: 29 May, 2005 09:55AM
i do think a large reason that, during the first half of the last century, weird fiction and especially the pulps became entrenched as being viewed as the prrovenance and stomping ground of adolescent males is simply one of marketing. that was the demographic that the magazines were marketed to aggressively, and that attitude stuck for a bit. well, that combined with the nigh ludicrously patriarchal nature of the publishing industry.
it's only been in the last two decades, really, that the publishing industry has opened it's doors a bit more to science fiction and horror from and for women.
as to the criticism of smith being a misogyinst, which i hear a bit often, i think it should be looked at more along the lines of his own homosexuality. he had no need for women in his life, and seemed to barely think of them AT ALL, let alone in a negative light.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: hplscentury (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 03:38AM
Mikey_C Wrote:

> > Your attitude smacks disturbingly of
> > male cultural imperialism,
>
> Eeek! First time I've been accused of that. It
> serves me right - because it seems that I've been
> contradicting myself like crazy. Talk of
> 'nurture', then reference to 'testosterone-soaked'
> fiction indeed.

Women have testosterone too, but the phrase isn't usually literal anyway.

> It's an interesting point about men reading women
> writers, but I thought we were specifically
> looking at why CAS has less female readers. Now,
> I would have thought that the example of Mary
> Shelley would have done away with this sweeping
> comment:
> > Weird fiction was created by men for men.

I wouldn't call MS a Weird fictioneer but Gothic, which had far more female writers and was much more anthropocentric.

> So we need to look for cultural / historical
> reasons.

You can't separate culture/history neatly from biology, otherwise you could start looking for cultural/historical reasons for the underrepresentation of chimpanzees and slime moulds in Weird fiction. Evolution didn't stop when Homo sapiens appeared and didn't make men and women identical as it continued.

> Just because 'nurture' steers us in a certain
> direction, it doesn't mean we can't overcome it.

Obviously not, or the nurture of female CAS fans would have stopped them ever becoming CAS fans. HPL's nurture was female too, remember.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: NightHalo (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 04:19AM
I am female and I tend to lurk here, but only because I prefer to listen and learn.

I cannot comment upon the previous theories above as to why females do not read CAS as much as males, because honestly, I am a fan of his poetry more than his fiction and I feel that the tone in which CAS addresses women in these two areas is different.

It might be noted that I do not consider myself a fan of SF nor Fantasy really and that is not because of the aforementioned theories. In fact, I'd rather not group myself as a fan of any particular genre except poetry because it is too stereotyped to say, I like Literature, or I like Fantasy. I'd rather keep an open mind and say I read what moves me. Clark Ashton Smith's poetry moves me and personally that's all that matters.

~Alycia

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 10:17AM
A personal anecdote, nothing more....

Whenever I meet a new girlfriend, one of the first things that I do is introduce her to the poetry of Clark Ashton Smith. To a woman, each has found his poetry to be thrilling. Yet, none has ever taken an independent interest in his work. Is their interest superficial, and purely reflective of my own enthusiasm? I do not think so. Perhaps the crux of the matter is that, for some reason, men seem to be more driven to unearth obscure authors and their works. Once exposed, however, I believe that--provided that they have the sensibility that would lead them to appreciate CAS in the first place--as many women as men seem to enjoy the poetry. I cannot, however, speak for the fiction, for, as much as I appreciate it, I am firmly in the camp that believes CAS's greatet achievement to be his verse.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 30 May 05 | 10:18AM by Kyberean.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: casofile (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 11:23AM
lokilokust Wrote:

> as to the criticism of smith being a misogyinst,
> which i hear a bit often, i think it should be
> looked at more along the lines of his own
> homosexuality. he had no need for women in his
> life, and seemed to barely think of them AT ALL,
> let alone in a negative light.

I've looked over this thread with interest as well as some confusion, but the above opinion of loki is one I'm compelled to respond to. CAS a homosexual? Nothing could be further from the truth! No need for women in his life? Smith had many women, both friends and lovers, throughout his long life, had several lengthy relationships and eventually married. He did not gain a reputation as a 'Don Juan' in his hometown because of his affairs with the married MEN around town! Just read the love poems in 'Sandalwood" and "The Hill of Dionysus" and you will perceive CAS' obviously genuine love, understanding and high regard for women.

Also, it has been mentioned that Smith created no female wizards or witches. What about "The Enchantress of Sylaire," "Mother of Toads," and the many lamia and female vampires throughout Averoigne cycle? On the contrary, CAS acquits himself admirably regarding his women characters. It is no fault of his writing that his female readers do not post here nearly as often as their male counterparts.

I have also noticed that when the occasional lady does raise her voice here on the Forum, she is showered with responses and attention by the lonely boys of CAS!

-Ron


Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 12:17PM
Quote:
CAS a homosexual?

I assumed that the writer was confusing CAS with Lovecraft. I would add that lack of interest in sexual relationships, in general, as is the case with HPL, does not a homosexual make.

Quote:
I have also noticed that when the occasional lady does raise her voice here on the Forum, she is showered with responses and attention by the lonely boys of CAS!

*Chuckles* I think that it has less to do with loneliness than it has with being akin to the effect of a Passenger Pigeon flitting through a contemporary ornithologists' convention.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 30 May 05 | 12:20PM by Kyberean.

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 01:26PM
Smith having no use for women - yeah, after he died. What in the world is the source for this information? Certainly not the verse, the fiction, the letters, or any of the reminiscences from Smith's friends.

Jim

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: casofile (IP Logged)
Date: 30 May, 2005 02:03PM
Kyberean Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Quote:CAS a homosexual?

> I assumed that the writer was confusing CAS with
> Lovecraft. I would add that lack of interest in
> sexual relationships, in general, as is the case
> with HPL, does not a homosexual make.

That thought occurred to me also, but felt inclined to nip it in the bud just in case, for the sake of clarity. It seems Smith must forever be compared to and confused with Lovecraft.

> *Chuckles* I think that it has less to do with
> loneliness than it has with being akin to the
> effect of a Passenger Pigeon flitting through a
> contemporary ornithologists' convention.

Great analogy! I also agree that a female readers' post here is more likely to generate interest mainly due to its rarity, unfortunately.

Jim, you wrote "Smith having no use for women - yeah, after he died." Hah! Good one, somewhat chauvinistic I suppose, but still funny . . .

-Ron


Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Maryanne (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 12:46PM
I just have to say that it's ridiculous to assert that "weird fiction" is a "male only" genre of literature. Weird Tales had several female authors. HPL encouraged women to write weird fiction just as much as he encouraged men to write weird fiction. Edgar Allen Poe was writing for a predominantly female audience in his time; is there something wrong with CAS and HPL that they were fans of his work?

It's also ridiculous to assert that men are more likely to seek out obscure writings. There's whole college departmetns of women seeking out obscure writings--of female authors, who have historically been more likely to be forgotten (Aphra Behn anyone?) than their male peers--including those who wrote weird fiction and science fiction.

It's beyond ridiculous to assert that CAS was writing for only men; if it weren't for Genevive Sully, there'd be no Smith fiction at all.









Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 02:45PM
Quote:
It's also ridiculous to assert that men are more likely to seek out obscure writings. There's whole college departmetns of women seeking out obscure writings--of female authors, who have historically been more likely to be forgotten (Aphra Behn anyone?) than their male peers--including those who wrote weird fiction and science fiction.

I thought it would be obvious to anyone that, A. my comment was merely speculative ("assertions" do not usually begin with the word "perhaps", or include the word "seem", as mine does), and B., that I was referring to the ordinary reader, not to academics who earn their living by scraping the literary barrel.


Quote:
if it weren't for Genevive Sully, there'd be no Smith fiction at all.

I'm glad to see that at least we men here do not have a monopoly on making ridiculous statements. ;-)

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 03:34PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Smith having no use for women - yeah, after he
> died.

"The Dead Will Cuckold You," anyone?

Scott "You can't keep a good man down" Connors



Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 04:57PM
"Heh-heh-heh!" he chortled chauvinistically.

Jim

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 07:24PM

All you single fellows: If you would increase female readership, read the love poetry to the girls - do not, repeat - do not! - read Mother of Toads - not a good way for a healthy girl to be brought into the circle -
Side bar - among the women I have known who knew Clark personally, all were skinny.
Among the women I have introduced to CAS who liked him, all were robust - or perhaps that's just an expression of my personal preference in les femmes, mais oui?
Dr. F

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 31 May, 2005 07:38PM
Have just returned to this forum from a trip caving in Tennessee, and found this astounding observation by LOKI. Sorry lad, there is not, never was, not even remotely the slightest shred of homosexuality in CAS' life. I cannot recall his ever writing about it, and only in casual conversation join in the common jibes at such behavior even as found in Charlie Chaplin films of his young adulthood. From the two-holers with knot-holes at his childhood country school where the boys pried on the girls, (and vice-versa) to the obvious greater experience of a 16 year old in his second novel, "Sword of Zagan", to the deeply affectioned and numerous loves of his "hay-loft" young manhood poured into his poetry, there is no shred of the irregular in his writing. For those who do not know it, one of the principal reasons for his return to Auburn from his early flirtation with the "artsy" world of Carmel-San Francisco was his weariness with being continually "hit on".

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 1 June, 2005 09:58AM
Maybe that was where I went wrong - reading this, "Morthylla", and May Sinclair's "The Villa Desiree" aloud in lieu of dinner and a movie.

Jim

Re: Where are CAS's female readers?
Posted by: voleboy (IP Logged)
Date: 3 June, 2005 02:45AM
I introduced my ex-fiancee to CAS' writings, and she, like me, fell in love with Sadastor. She was on the curvaceous side too; the unkind would say excessively so.

*Author of Strange Gardens [www.lulu.com]


*Editor of Calenture: a Journal of Studies in Speculative Verse [calenture.fcpages.com]

*Visit my homepage: [voleboy.freewebpages.org]



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