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« Gender Bending Entry #1 by Jamie Sears | Main | random notes--the macrocosm »

Gender bending along with a contest

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.

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Reader Comments (22)

I'm in. But you knew that because I was in the discussion that lead to this project. It will be interesting if I can make any intelligent guesses at alll.
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Weimer (@princejvstin)
I've never really considered whether men and women write differently. Is this response written by a man or a woman? Hurm...
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPT Dilloway
This sounds really interesting. I'm totally in.
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley
I'm in Theresa. This promises to be an intriguing exercise.
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeagen Voss
This will be very, very interesting. I'm in.
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterQwill
I'm all in on this one :-)
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHell_On_Wheelz
I'm not really familiar with all of these names, but it appears there are more male authors than female authors. So someone gaming the system (guessing they are all written by males) will have a better than 50/50 chance. Anyway, I'll do my best in the name of research!
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean Lambert
Sounds like a fun experiment, and I'm in. But you already gave away that #1, 3, and 6 will be written by a man! </kidding>
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Warren
At last, an empirical response to 'writes like a girl' bias! I'm in, can't wait to see how it develops. Question: are you also going to look at whether the gender of the respondents affects their responses? In other words, analyse not only if people can really tell what's been written by a man or a woman, but whether men or women are more likely to get it right?
I cannot wait to prove precisely nothing of value. Why can't tomorrow start today?
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis
@Stephanie: That would be a little difficult to do since not everyone who comments is going to give their real name or gender, nor would I ask them to do such a thing with privacy being an issue. That, and I know that everyone who posts on the Internet is very, VERY honest and always represents themselves online as they are in real life--it's just that ... some don't ... so there would always be a quality control issue in the back of my mind. Interesting idea, though.

@Travis: I need some time to format some of the posts, so we will have to begin tomorrow. Alas. You'll come back. I know you're so excited to prove nothing. I am too. ;-)
December 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
I'm in! Sounds fun.
December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Came here from Reddit. This is an exciting idea... I'm bookmarking right now! :)
December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSL Hass
Female. We knew it iin the first sentence.

Aside from the gender puzzle, it was a good read. Well wrought story is a joy regardless of the junk attached to the author.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMalingus
". . . so you all are skipping novels by women entirely."

Erm, who is this "you all" you're addressing? Readers of your blog? People likely to be linked here?
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Iriarte
Crud. Mistyped email addy. Darn iPad.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Iriarte
My apologies: I should have said "some" of you rather than you all. I will amend that statement now, because I know several male reviewers and bloggers who do read both genders without leaning heavily toward one or the other. Thank you for pointing that out, Joe.
December 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
This is really intriguing. I'd definitely like to join in.
Lynn :D
December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn
I didn't realize the voting was going to close so soon after the last entry was posted. I was only reading the entries every 3 or 4 days in bulk. I voted on the first 7, but didn't not come back in time for the last 3. Is there any way to still get my last votes in before the results are officially posted? Pleeeeease???... (If yes... #8 = male, #9 = male, #10 = female; If no, I understand.)


(I'm sure I did terrible anyway, but I will be interested to see the results.)
January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDimSkip
Ack! I'm so sorry, DimSkip, but everything has been tabulated and set to run tomorrow!

Due to my day-job and the need to move forward on some of my own projects, I had to end things by a certain date in order to have time to write the post and put the results together. It was a big project and I am very fortunate that Mark Lawrence helped with the charts and analysis.

Oh, but your Pleeeeease???... just breaks my heart.

Again, I'm so sorry and thanks for understanding ...
January 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
Ah, bummer, me too. Well for the record I think 3 5 7 8 were written by females, the rest males. I only submitted 1-5 before you closed the comments.
January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean Lambert
Thanks for taking a minute to post, Sean. Again, I'm sorry, but thanks for taking a minute to let us know your vote.

I hope you enjoyed stories and excerpts. I know I did.
January 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
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