The whole world of readers, writers, publishers and book sellers is abuzz: J.K. Rowling wrote the crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, a debut writer. I’m with those think it was the act of someone who loves writing, despite never needing to write again, just wanting to write, free of the hype cycle and free of reviews of the author rather than of the work.
I even understand why she chose to write under a man’s name: There is an endemic sexism in the world of books. It’s why Harry Potter was published under the name J.K. instead of Joanne Rowling: The assumption persists that good crime, sci-fi, fantasy and horror can only be written by men, and that men and boys are reluctant to read books written by women.
But there is also a snarky narrative that Galbraith’s book tanked, selling a mere 1500 copies, pre-revelation. Sadly, those are very respectable sales for a debut writer with good reviews over a three-month timeframe. And so…
To Those Saying The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith Tanked: Please Stop
25 Things To Know About Sexism & Misogyny in Writing & Publishing
This, its initial triggers and fallout caused quite a stir in writing circles. Sometimes even for the right reasons, as Chuck speaks with truth and passion.
It was therefore followed up by:
Challenging Responses to Sexism & Misogyny
Wherein Chuck responds to his detractors. On the accusation that having solid female characters “doesn’t serve the story”, he responds:
I hate this excuse. I hate it like I hate the DMV, hemorrhoids, airline travel delays, and bad coffee. I hate it because it suggests that writers are not in control of their own stories, that they are merely conduits for some kind of divine unicorn breath, some heady Musefart that they can’t help but gassily breathe onto the page. I AM VESSEL. STORY IS LOA.
I hate it because it absolves you of ever having to change anything — whether that means changing a character’s race or sex or even just making edits to improve a story.
I hate it because it allows you to rely on lazy crutches, institutional biases, stereotypical culture patterns, and a whole lot of horrible shit-ass storytelling.
I hate it because it excuses you from making effort or taking responsibility.
See also: The Sexy Lamp Test.
“So, there’s the Bechdel test.
I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.”
Kelly Sue DeConnick, at ECCC’s ‘From Victim to Hero’ panel.