Two weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Rockin Rooster Comics and Games in Cincinnati for National Free Comic Book Day. As I set up my table, I put out Blackout – my dystopian zombie novel – and Awakening – an urban fantasy featuring demons and lighthouses and a little steam to warm the sheets at night.
Men and women, boys and girls, people of all ages came out. Some loved comics. Some loved games. Some loved reading in general. As I was pitching my book to potential readers, I caught myself profiling the people who walked up to me. The women, I tried to sell on my urban fantasy. Then men, I stressed my zombie novel.
Afterwards, I thought to myself: why?
Why did I try to pitch Awakening to just men? One of my two protagonists is a man. So is the demon who likes to sip women’s blood by using their arteries as a straw. That’s gruesome, right? Men should like the bits of blood and guts. But I still found myself starting to pitch the zombie novel to all the guys who came to the table. Somehow, somewhere, the idea had entered my mind that only women would want to read urban fantasy.
Back when the “novel” genre first emerged – we’re talking Jane Austin time here – novels were considered short, trashy things fit only for women to read. They were considered fanciful and foolish. Flash forward to today where novels are written and consumed by both genders and hold quite a respectable place in the minds of academics and casual readers alike. Yet…some genres are still considered only “for women” and lesser works. Romance. Urban fantasy. Probably others I don’t know about.
When I spoke to readers on Free Comic Book Day, a large percentage of them turned their heads when I mentioned that Awakening was an urban fantasy novel. They dismissed the book as soon as I mentioned the element of romance. Many of these people were women.
They weren’t those kind of people. You know. Them. The ones who read that trash.
Do I write trash?
Bolderdash. This prejudice is unfair. Urban fantasy has quite a lot to offer readers – mystery, murder, mayhem, and yes – sex. Fans of the television show True Blood didn’t seem to mind it. Neither did Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, and that was long before anyone had realized that the genre of urban fantasy existed. Women are looked down upon for reading stories with sexual elements, yet I don’t think I need to cite here just how much money the porn industry brings in each year. Clearly, urban fantasy and romance are classier than that. So why do people still turn up their noses?
Reading should be the end and reward of itself. It offers an adventure, a discovery, a new experience with every page. How else might I imagine what it feels like to protect the ones I love? How else might I contemplate the vast possibilities that seem to lurk beneath the banalities of day to day life? This doesn’t make me weaker. Reading makes anyone strong, no matter what it is. Go on, all you men out there, pick up an urban fantasy and give it a shot. You may be surprised to find that you love it!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!