childhood, fiction, reading

Writing Gender

My weekly post at Amazing Stories is up.

Cedar Sanderson
Since I was very young, I have felt most at home alone in the woods.

And, to go along with that exercise in writing manly men, I have to go along with the posts at Mad Genius Club this week, ‘Light and Set, and Inspiration from the Past, both pondering Louis L’Amour, arguably the greatest Western author, and a master at writing vivid, distinctive characters. Men, yes, and rugged, rough men with a sense of honor so deep you couldn’t see the bottom of it. Men that, as a girl, I wanted to know, and later, wanted to model my future mate in that mold. It took me a while to get that part right.

L’Amour’s women, though, are perhaps tougher than their men. The PC police may attack his writing for portraying women who needed a man, but if you read with an open mind, then you see that they didn’t so much need a man as a partner. They needed help, but not because they were weak, because they were lonely. It is the human condition, we truly are not meant to pass through life alone, and company is sometimes the saving grace that keeps us going.

As for strong women… I have lived like that, hauling water, splitting wood, fighting nature for a garden and hunting and fishing… It’s not easy. Your average modern woman has absolutely no idea what it requires, and the idea that L’Amour’s women, left alone for months if not years while their men went yondering, were delicate flowers in need of masculine rescue is absurd. They had families to raise, and homes to keep, and not in the housecleaning sense, but the paying for, maintaining, and managing stock, sense. These are the women I try to emulate, my pioneer ancestresses who were tough old ladies who didn’t give up.

I’ve been reading some of L’Amour’s short stories, as collected in Off the Mangrove Coast, for some of his non-Western work, and rediscovering that his prose could be lyrical to the point of poetry. His characters are each so vividly brought to life, in so few words… I am trying to learn from this master of storytelling. If you haven’t read him, he’s not hard to find, with millions of copies of his books published, and it’s well worth the effort.