Monday, November 17, 2008

Small Details

Subterranean Press put out a release about the mysterious author K.J. Parker the other day -- and, for what I think is the first time, one of Parker's publishers was not careful about avoiding personal pronouns.

I'm not sure if this is a change in policy or a mistake, but it's long been my theory that "Parker" is female (it's sort of an inversion of Silverberg's old "ineluctable masculinity" comment about Tiptree, at base), so I was quietly satisfied to see that Subterranean refers to Parker as "her."

(You see, this is one of the things you lose when you willy-nilly allow "they" as a singular third-person pronoun.)


Anonymous said...

I'm torn by amused respect for any author who can manage to pull off a pseudonym deception in the Internet investigative age, whether it's Tom Holt or someone else, and being immensely annoyed by it. Authors like Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh and Tiptree didn't use ambiguous pen names because it was fun, but because they felt that they had to pretend to be men or keep it unclear to get readers.

And this whole K.J. Parker thing strikes the same way. Because if Parker is truly a female author, then it would help cement the view that "New Weird" fiction can be written well by female authors. And if Parker is a man, it will reinforce the views of many that New Weird can't be written well by women authors.

This isn't of course the author's fault, either way. But given the genres' contentious history on this issue, maybe the time for these sorts of games is past.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Kat: I thought the great exemplar of "New Weird" -- originally, and on China Mieville's part -- was the female writer Steph Swainston. (And I hadn't thought of Parker as being "New Weird" at all -- what I've read of Parker's is tough, down-to-earth, almost nihilistic fantasy that seemed to come most from David Gemmell and Glen Cook.)

So I didn't think of "New Weird" as being particularly sexist -- on the other hand, it's not particularly anything, since it's so amorphous.

Liz said...

I'm thinking "fab that KJ is female" and then also "maybe it's like them calling God "her" like in Dogma?"

Or maybe I'm just weird. ;-)

Ha ha - my word verification is that a sign?

Anonymous said...

Well everyone keeps classifying he/she as New Weird that I've seen, so maybe it's that amorphous thing. And Swainston has gotten attention and that's great. But really, why would anyone need to do this now? Is it just some bizarre attempt at a marketing ploy? Does it tickle the author's funnybone? Is Parker in the Witness Protection Program? When Stephen King hired a pal to pretend to be Richard Bachman, it was an experiment and a bit of a commentary on the increased rigidity of the market. But we're not supposed to have that rigidity no more, so mostly it just seems odd. Perhaps that's the point of it, but like I said before, this sort of game has gotten old.

Andrew Wheeler said...

KatG: It's my strong suspicion that it was actually a mistake; I expect Parker wanted to remain undetermined.

Anonymous said...

Well everyone keeps classifying he/she as New Weird that I've seen

That surprises me, I can't see much in common between Mieville (who's the only New Weird author I've read much of) and Parker. No strange mixtures of human and other, no odd inversions of physical law, hardly anything of magic bordering on science or vice versa. What are people seeing as the link between Parker and the New Weird?

But really, why would anyone need to do this now?

One factor may be that Parker is fascinated with stereotypically masculine topics: smithing, carpentry, weaponry and armour. Maybe she (or the publisher) felt that the audience for that sort of thing would still be deterred by a female author.

Paul Clarke

Unknown said...

Referring to K. J. Parker as a "she" was not in error, and the author is well aware of mentions I've made, so I assume has no problem with them.


Subterranean Press

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