Apparently Christian Men Don’t Read, Or Something

I have a Twitter feed, #swordcrossrockt. I use it to keep tabs on Christian authors, because it seems to be more reliable than following their blogs. It’s not perfect, as the feed needs to be checked constantly and is vulnerable to become a column of undecipherable gibberish and photo links. But it’s nice to be able to get the news in a concise form.

One thing that is interesting though is the “news” you get when you don’t expect it.

It seems that about 75% of the authors I follow are female. About 90% of books on my feed or promotions from the big Christian presses are targeted towards women. When I do see male-oriented books, from a website like Spirit-Filled Kindle, the male books tend to fall into two categories:

  1. Non-fiction, mostly teaching.
  2. Thrillers.

Not to say non-fiction or thrillers don’t have a place. But it seems to be hard to find anything but.

Or say on a popular site like Goodreads. The “Christian Reader” type forums are absolutely dominated by women and female books. It’s understandable that women tend to use social media more than men. But it seems dominated almost to Pinterest levels, and topics for men really are few and far between.

This has been a personal peeve of mine, both as a reader and as a reviewer. For reading, it means that while I read widely and enjoy books regardless of gender, I read a LOT of YA books and others with women protags and targeted towards women. There’s little else to read at times, and genres like Hard SF or Military SF are increasingly rare among Christian speculative fiction.

As a reviewer, it can be tough because even though I do like and read all types of books, a constant diet of female-centered fiction can wear you down. Not because it’s bad; what strikes me is just how many strong women writers and novels are out there, even more so than the world. It’s humorous that people rag on Christianity for being patriarchal when I can’t see even secular SF matching the gender balance and openness to female views Christian spec fic has. But it leads to a weird situation where guys don’t exist except as love interests or as flavor, and there’s only so much of this as a male reader I can take.

Apparently I’m rare though. Increasingly it seems that men don’t read, with a host of articles popping up bewailing why. It’s even worse than that; not only do they don’t read, they don’t even attend church.

It’s tough. When this is combined with the seeming disinterest in Christian speculative fiction as a whole, it makes me want to pack it in. I’m doing a tremendous amount against type; I’m a man (men don’t read) who reads and reviews Christian (people don’t read Christian fiction) speculative fiction (good Christians are wary of it.) ┬áIt doesn’t also help that mainstream Christian publishers ignore us, and there’s little to no fandom around Christian spec fiction as such.

Frustration. Ah well. The reviews are still going on: next up is Circle Girls.

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6 comments

  1. This is fascinating to me. I came through via Aquila et Infans, and must immediately confess to ignorance where Christian speculative fiction is concerned. There probably aren’t any answers I can give you, but I have a whole lot of questions!

    First: what does you mean by Christian fiction being “targeted towards women”? You note that the “male books” are non-fiction or thrillers; are all the womanly books simply concerned with relationships, or is there greater diversity within the genre? Do the *womanly* books manage to have a solidly speculative element?

    (Part of the reason I ask is that last summer, exhausted with books featuring women who more or less were in stories for relationships and nothing else, I asked my blog readers for books involving single women: women who weren’t dating or married *and* content that way. The suggestions I got? Miss Marple, and non-fiction about nuns.)

    Second: what exactly are you looking for? What is your yardstick for the Christian-ness of your fiction?

    Last question: is the problem that men don’t read, or that they don’t write? Or is this a chicken-and-egg spiral of non-action. Perhaps the only thing for it is for you to write what you’d want to read, sir.

    Annnd two comments. 1) Totally understandable grief re: Goodreads. I’ve only been using it a short while, but the options presented from searches can be…wanting.

    2) You’ve read the Cosmic Trilogy; hooray! It might not be quite what you’re looking for, but you should most certainly read The Ballad of the White Horse if you have not yet. I’d also recommend the Father Brown stories if you are interested in mysteries at all.

  2. 1. Well the genre itself isn’t particularly speculative, but by targeted to women, I mean things like more YA, Fantasy, and soft-sf often with female protags tend to make up a lot of the books. Like Kathy Tyers; she’s a good author, but every book so far I’ve read by her has a female lead and is about that female lead’s reconnection to life and emotional development. It’s not bad at all; I rank her very high here, but it feels like 60-75% of the books are like this.

    Actually a lot of Christian spec fiction books deal with single women, ironically. Not sure about how content they are, but books like Never to Live or The Land Beyond the Portal don’t make it all about the love interest.

    2. I want Christianity to be explicit, but that doesn’t mean an altar call every book. How Christianity deals with things like space travel, genetic engineering, or cultural changes works. Or how Christians deal with things as people; jealousy, dealing with unbelievers, finding purpose. Even just showing how we live our lives accurately.

    3. Men do write. I don’t know how many Christian men read CSF seriously.

    The writing what I want to read…I get this often. Short answer is that it’s hard to be a writer and a fan in the same genre; you can’t do things like review and your words can be held against you in terms of professional development. There are very few fans that seem to cover specifically Christian spec fic, so it’s not an easy thing to give up being one.

    A. Yeah, Goodreads. It has its issues.

    B. I’ve read everything of his but the Ballad of the White Horse, his poems, and his literary criticism. My favorite is The Ball and the Cross, with The Napoleon of Notting Hill a close second. I’ve read all of Lewis, and even his influences, like George Macdonald. I don’t say to brag, but I read rather voraciously although retention suffers at times.

    I loved the Father Brown Mysteries, and have read the other ones he wrote, like the paradoxes of mr pond, or the club of queer trades.

  3. Interesting thoughts! I wonder if the shortage of male Christian authors isn’t also somewhat affected by the belief that a man should be the primary bread-winner for his family as an extension of his biblical role as the spiritual leader of the household. Whether it’s really “biblical” or not, it’s a widely-taught idea that a Christian husband should be the one providing for and protecting his family financially. Unfortunately, making money as a professional author can be challenging.

    On the other hand, becoming a stay-at-home mom, which some strands of the church really promote, is a lifestyle that perhaps lends itself better to writing on the side and eventually becoming a published/well-read author who doesn’t have to necessarily make enough money writing to feed a full family – and that’s a writing career that’s more sustainable long-term.

  4. This is OLD news! For a long time now most readers have been women, and as time goes on there are ever more women who are authors, editors, agents, and publishers. Here is a review I did of a book which the author addresses to men as well as women, but which the publisher makes it appear is a book for women only. The reason being, of course, that most readers of books today are women. Although the publisher did not change anything the author wrote, they did force him to accept the cover and their preface both of which make it appear this is a book for women. I learned this from an email exchange from him, beginning with him thanking me for what I said about this in my review.

    Forrest

    Southside Book Reviews

    Reviews Of Books Recently Written By Southside Authors

    Compiled by:Forrest W. Schultz770-583-3258schultz_forrest@ yahoo.com

    May 28, 2010

    Former Southside Author “Cec” Murphey Speaks Out On Sexual Abuse of Boys

    Veteran author Cecil Murphey, who lived in Riverdale for many years while serving as Pastor of the Riverdale Presbyterian Church has returned to Georgia after a hiatus spent in Kentucky. He now lives on the Northside, so he normally would not be included in these reviews but because he was a former Southside author and because of the great importance of the subject of his newly published book, I have decided to include here the review I recently wrote of it. You should note carefully, as I indicate in the closing words of my review, that, contra the title, this book is for men as well as women. Here now is my review:

    Shattering The Silence:

    Revelations Of The Sexual Abuse Of Boys

    And What To Do About It

    A Review of

    Cecil Murphey When a Man You Love was Abused (Grand Rapids. MI: Kregel, 2010)

    256 pp ISBN 978-0-8254-3353- 5

    Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

    In spite of his track record as a veteran author — over 100 books, several of them best sellers — “Cec” Murphey had a very difficult time getting his latest book published. This is not actually surprising when you consider that it deals with such an explosive subject — the sexual abuse of boys.

    It also is not suprising that Murphey would be concerned about this horrendous subject: he himself was a victim of sexual abuse when he was a boy — a fact he brings to light in this book. He thereby sets an example for what he encourages other male sexual abuse victims to do — admit it and seek help! Part I of his book presents information on the abuse which has been occurring, the devastating effects it has on the victims, and the need for healing. Part II is particulary addressed to women wishing to help a man they love who is suffering from having been molested as a child.

    There are two caveats which need to be stated here. First, the author does not “pull any punches”, so that some of the material will be very difficult to read for some. For example, one thing he discusses is cases in which mothers have sexually abused their sons! The second caveat is that, although Part II is specifically addressed to women, much of the advice given there is useful for anyone — man or woman — wishing to help a man find healing from molestation. This book should be read by everyone — male and female — not just by women. The wording of the title should be altered to reflect that fact. Also, in this regard, it is noteworthy that the general remarks section, Part I, is much longer (160 pp), than the remarks specifically directed to women, Part II (only 89 pages).

    I stole the first line of my title of this review from the blog Cec established to discuss this subject: Shattering The Silence. The blog address is http://shatteringthesilence. blogspot. com. Anyone interested in this subject — either reading about it or contributing to it — is welcome to visit this blog, and, if interested, share his thoughts. Anyone having suffered from this horrific sin is encouraged to share with others anything which may be helpful in gaining a better understanding of this matter and how to gain healing from it.

    1. I don’t think it was as bad as before, though. I remember in the eighties and nineties a decent mix of men’s and women’s fiction, and while Amish fiction existed, it didn’t seem as prevalent in the Christian market as now. I mean back then, I would go to Christian bookstores and always find some fiction to read, but now it feels impossible. Maybe a 60-40 or 70-30 ratio of women to men has changed to a 90-10.

      Also man, I don’t mind you linking to and talking about reviews on your own site, but can you please avoid copy and pasting them whole? Clutters up the comment box and loses whatever point you try to make.

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