The contest portion of this experiment is over. Please feel free to go through the stories and test your ability to guess the author's gender. There are a total of ten excerpts and stories. If you just want to skip to the big reveal, click here.
The original post:
I want to do an experiment, and I need you, the readers, to be my lab rats.
Now before you protest, you must know that I'll be gentle and there will be cheese.
Last week, a group of us were talking about whether readers make automatic assumptions about the contents of a novel when they see a woman's name on the cover. Part of this has to do with the Guardian article that talked about women taking male pseudonyms in order to trick male readers into reading their novels. The other part has to do with my own experience using my real (read: female) name when publishing Miserere and some of the assumptions that were made about Miserere's themes.
I question whether readers can really tell if a book is written by a man or a woman based on the prose alone.
So I and one other author, who shall remained unnamed until the end of this contest, summoned some of the finest writers in the SFF community, and they have kindly pledged a sample of their work for us. Each author has written a short scene (approximately 500-1000 words) or a short-story and has chosen a pseudonym. There is a mix of men and women. I will post one scene or story a day (omitting weekends and holidays).
THE TASK: Tell us, based on the prose, whether the scene was written by a man or a woman. At the end, I want to tabulate the results and see if readers can really tell the difference. If you want to, you may say why you feel a particular scene was written by a man or woman, but you don't have to.
Yes, as a scientific study, it is full of holes and sucks, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. This little test is an itch that I've been wanting to scratch for a long time, especially when I read the Fantasy Reddit and I don't see a single woman listed for best novel in 2012. I know women released books in 2012. Perhaps I'm hanging out in all the wrong places.
Or maybe the "female-authors-equal-romance-y/YA-ish-themes" connotation is true in readers' minds, so maybe some of you are skipping novels by women entirely. I wonder. And when I think too much, I tend to get into trouble ... or hold a contest.
THE CHEESE: You have a chance to win free books.
After the last scene or story is posted, I'll draw one grand prize winner. Each author who has participated in this exercise will send the grand prize winner one copy of a novel of their choice (some of the authors have multiple books published, so I've left it to the author to choose). You will have a chance to win a novel from one of these authors: Mary Robinette Kowal, Myke Cole, Mazarkis Williams, Mark Lawrence, Alex Bledsoe, Shiloh Walker, Damien Walters Grintalis, and Diana Rowland. When I announce the grand prize winner, I will hook the pseudonyms up with the real authors' names.
I will throw in a copy of Miserere, so the grand prize winner will be eligible to win at least nine books at this time.
THE RULES: The contest is open internationally. You may comment once on each sample. All you have to put in your comment is whether you believe the sample was written by a man or a woman.
I will drop the name of each commenter who guesses correctly into an Excel sheet. That means that if you correctly guess that scenes #1, #3, and #6 were written by a man, you've got three entries in the contest.
You've got a 50/50 chance of getting it right.
The cheese will be awesome.
And I will be gentle.
The contest will begin tomorrow (December 20, 2012) with the very first sample. Help me spead the word ... and let's see if we really can tell whether the prose is written by a man or a woman ... or is it all in a name?
Questions? Put them in the comments of this post.