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« Gender Bending Entry #5 by S.A. Daniels | Main | Gender Bending Entry #3 The Education of Rebecca Cavendish »

Gender Bending Entry #4 by Jackson Harris

Some of you have questioned whether we (the authors) are deliberately trying to trick you, so for the record:

Several authors submitted pieces they had lying around. I asked only that they choose something that would not easily be identified with their writing style. Fans can easily pick up on an author's voice, and since several of the authors are very well known, I didn't want people recognizing specific writing styles.

When an author didn't have something lying around, they wrote a piece just for this blog, primarily because we knew that once it hit the interwebs, it would become a freebie for everyone.

We took a brief hiatus for the holidays; however, I'm back now and will be running posts until we reach the end of the contest. Please keep your comments focused on the question at hand.

As always, please don't break my website.

Here we go ...

READ THIS FIRST: The rules and the prizes. Your mission: comment on whether you believe the author of this excerpt is male or female.

Untitled Entry #4 by Jackson Harris

Chet hung his EVA suit up in his locker, checking over it to make sure there were no new signs of fraying. The far end of the locker room had a group of newbie passengers crowded around Brokedown Sal.

"Reliable." Sal nodded his head ominously. "That's what we all thought of Starky. When the dude missed last night's roll call, therewas more than panic, there was fear. Yousee..."

"Oh, what utter bullshit," Chet said. He slammed his locker door, holding a handstrap so the momentum wouldn't push him across the room. The clang echoed through the room. "You aren't going to start the newbs out on the station with a freaking' ghost story are you?"

One of the newbs had drifted free of his footholds and was pawing at the suit of a friend, trying to pull himself back down to the floor. The station wasn't zero g, but it was close enough this far in to the hub that it would take him a long ass time to fall back down.

Sal folded his arms the way he always did when he got stubborn. "Dude. Not a ghost story."

"Dude. Starky is in his bunk nursing a hangover." Chet said, pushing off. He aimed his long leaps for the door. "Teach your passengers how to hold on instead of trying to scare them."

He should not let Brokedown Sal get on his nerves. The man couldn't help being a chronic liar and it didn't interfere with his skills as a shuttle pilot, but still, it made Chet crazy. Especially when rotation put Sal in charge of giving newbs the tour. Chet hop-floated through the corridor until he got to the down tube. Snagging a rung, he started climbing down to the next level. He wanted some real gravity and a drink.


Crammed into a single room on level 4, the Sheltered Fish had tried to create the ambiance of a down-planet bar through a clever use of paint. If you didn't look too closely, the plasteel counter gave the impression of a fine oak grain and the ducting overhead could pass for brass. They'd painted the airlock dog wheels to look like giant gears so the whole thing almost, almost looked like it was a genuine steampunk bar.

Chet sidled up to the bar and ordered a wetpack of brandy. They couldn't do anything to disguise the serving containers. Even in the gravity portions of the station, everything came in low-grav packaging, just in case they lost spin. He hated drinking beer with a straw, so brandy had long ago become his drink of preference.

Drink in hand, Chet turned to see who else was holed up here. Across the room, Mbali stood at one of the bar tables talking to Gerhardt. Even from here, the way the slender black woman leaned back, arms crossed, obviously meant that she wanted to escape Gerhardt's company, but on a station with a population of 352, you couldn't risk alienating anyone. Not even a sixty-year old physicist who would hump a water line.

"Howdy, folks," Chet said, sliding between Mbali and Gerhardt as unobtrusively as he could.

Mbali latched onto him like a shuttle to a loading door. "Chet! Gerhardt was just telling me that Starky saw an alien last night."

"Been talking to Brokedown Sal, huh?" He sipped his brandy, trying to pretend that he could smell it.

Gerhardt shook his head. He said, "Heard it from Starky."

Chet squeezed the wetpack in surprise, spraying his drink in his face. "You're kidding me."

"Nope." Gerhardt put his hand on Chet's chin, delicately wiping the brandy off. He licked his fingers, smiling at Chet. "Come back to my bunk and I'll tell you all about it."

At least the man was equal opportunity. Chet exchanged glances with Mbali. "You know I wish I could, but seeing Mbali has reminded me that we need to prep for the influx of newbs. When you have time?"

"Now's good." Mbali said, pushing away from the table with a tad too much eagerness for subtlety.

Chet capped the straw on his drink and slid it into his pocket. "Great. Come on."

"Anything I can help with?" Gerhardt rested his hand on Mbali's shoulder. "You let me know." He just brushed her breast as he pulled his hand away.

She smiled tightly. "Great. Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

The moment they were in the corridor, Mbali let out her breath in a long string of curses. Chet raised his eyebrows appreciatively. "How many languages was that?"

"Six. If you count Middle English and Early Modern English as separate languages." She ran her hand over her cropped hair. "Which you should."

"I'll keep that in mind. That's the second time I've heard Starky's name today."

"Where've you been? It's all over the station."

"I was out doing EVA repairs on the solar panels for most of the morning. First I heard was from Brokedown Sal."

"Yeah, well, he's telling the truth for once. Probably. What did he say?"

"Just starting to tell a bunch of newbs that Starky didn't show last night."

Mbali's eyes lit up. "I'd forgotten they were coming on board today. Sam Brooke is supposed to be in this batch."

"And he is?"

"She. She is the other prog--"

A klaxon sounded and the hall jolted under them. Chet grabbed for a handrail, but inertia hurled him away before he could. Mbali grabbed his foot as gravity faded and died. Up and down the corridor, people cursed and shouted questions.

The intercom cut in with a buzz of static. "All hands. All hands. Unidentified boarders. Recommend full EVA gear. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill."

Mbali hauled him in so he could grab the handrail. He clenched it, palms sweating. "You said aliens?"

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Reader Comments (94)

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Weimer (@princejvstin)
Most definitely male. I'm also pretty sure I recognized the author's tone but I won't name him as that would make me appear particularly stupid when the experiment is over and I discover I've missed my guess.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmmanuel Sanya
Going with female on this one - purely based on impression.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterelquesogrande
Reads like a boys-own story, so I'm guessing male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCD Covington
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Auffrey
Male, I think. Not completely sure, but that's what I'll go with.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Pretty sure this one's male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrilby
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTucker
I think this one is male because of the style. Short choppy sentences. The minimum.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuniper
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAtrus
I think it's female.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDomiinick Swennen
I'd guess female.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterperiklis begzos
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Iriarte
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGhryswald
I'm going with male. The way that Sal was described seemed to be from a male point of view.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabe
Sounds like a male with the phrases used. There are various reasons why this one line, "Mbali latched onto him like a shuttle to a loading door," sticks out in my mind. 1) The female character (at least in the passage provided) is saved by a man and seems helpless on her own and 2) I can't imagine a woman choosing to keep that simile.

Also, the phrases are terse, like a gruff man would speak, and the sense of humor strikes me as something a man would find more entertaining than a woman, e.g. "... You couldn't risk alienating anyone. Not even a sixty-year old physicist who would hump a water line."

This was written by a male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterclerian
Male is my guess.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMIa
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Knowlton
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterProtected
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Pollard
Female, for some reason the use of dude strikes a cord...
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaldo
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex von der Linden
Guessing male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarmin
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLyshara
I'm guessing that author's a male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThom
The name MBali made this almost unreadable for me.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeliJ
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean
I am going to guess Male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKris
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Callens
Male. The prose sounds familiar to me but I can't quite put my finger on it.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Douton
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Ariel
Male... Basing this on the nature of his priorities (his meaning the main character). He is task-focused in a way that is difficult for women to effectively imitate in my experience. It might just be someone who's really, really good at writing men, but my gut says it's natural.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjanetl
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo in OKC

I could be totally wrong, but Chet's belief (and apparent acceptance of the situation) that Mbali wouldn't be willing to alienate the man who's harassing her, and that Gerhardt would be perfectly content and free to risk alienating her, strikes me as a male idea. Even though he's aware of Mbali's discomfort, Chet seems unaware that Gerhardt is alienating anyone--perhaps because he is unfazed by Gerhardt's attentions when they are turned on him.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael W.
Mbali is a name of African origin, no probs reading it at all. At the frayed suit I thought female, but a frayed suit could be a life or death situation so that's probably the reason the character was checking it. With the bisexual character being cheeky in the bar I started to think male. The dialogue is very male, but then if it is a woman author she's just got a good ear :). I'm going to settle on . . . female
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFran
I think male
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercarlam..
Partially the voice and partially because I have voted female twice, However by the latter logic I should have voted male every time, as there are more male authors you can win books from.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Slim
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCookie
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
I am going to go with male.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Mackey
My vote ... (drum roll) ... male!
Could have gone either way, but sticking with first impression, driven by language choices.
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Dionne
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternumberdance
Gotta go with male here
December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCullen
Male, probably one who like early Heinlein.
December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyrus
Male. Because of the language, because of the subject, and because of how he says it.
December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren D.

Gosh, these are really messing with my brain. This one almost seems too obviously a male.
December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Johnson
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