Guess again.

Remember my post titled “Guess” from back in the autumn of 2016, in which I discussed the results of feeding samples of writing to the “Gender Guesser” program to see if it really could accurately identify the writer’s sex/gender, based on word choice, sentence structure, etc.? (Spoiler: It often can’t.)

It’s come to my attention that you don’t know who I am I haven’t done anything with the “guesser” in a while to demonstrate once again that no, really, there is not some clear and innate difference between writing styles determined by the writer’s sex/gender. And as you all know, I do love stirring up trouble gathering data on writing-related topics in the name of shaking worldviews and shattering unfounded assumptions science.

Anyway. A few days ago, I fed the “guesser” a fragment of my clone-sibling’s current WIP (from the scene in which one of my favorite minor characters from the series first appears “on screen”), and the result was… female.

The POV character (Hrothgar Tebrey) is male. Of the other characters in the scene, one (Xia) is female and the other four (Geoffrey, Hunter, Jon, and Em) are male. The author (Paul) is male.

And the “guesser” says the sample was clearly written by a woman, because of course.

So let’s try that stupid thing once more…

Feed it the “sequel” scene to the other one. It says male this time, by a factor of two to one. Maybe the difference is due to the “Easter Egg” of a joke in Jon’s choice of expression when warning Tebrey that travel was gonna get… weird. 🙂 Not really… Fed the “guesser” some samples from the author to whom we’re paying homage with that joke, and the “guesser” thought he wrote like a woman half the time, too. Because of course a speculative fiction writer who was influenced by Hemingway’s sparse and to-the-point narrative style is gonna get all false-stereotypical purple-prose “girly” in sentence structure and word choice, right? (*rolls eyes so hard they fall out* I think the previous sentence may have hit my minimum sarcasm quota for at least two weeks…)

And now that I’m thinking of it, I should try the “guesser” on something by Lois McMaster Bujold, since I know she was influenced somewhat by romance author Georgette Heyer. (I don’t read romances, but I am seriously considering reading some of hers, since Ms. Bujold isn’t the only sci-fi author I like who’s a fan of Ms. Heyer’s novels.) The obvious choice (for multiple reasons) is that scene from A Civil Campaign. The author, of course, is female. The viewpoint character in the scene is female; the only other character there is her nine-year-old son. The “guesser” says… female, definitely. So there’s that.

And, since I’m discussing A Civil Campaign at all, and since I have the relevant passage in front of me, here’s the paragraph from it that I keep mentioning but not quoting:

She managed not to glower at him. Her work meant nothing to him — what did? If you could say anything to anyone… “Would you like it, if somebody promised to help you become a jump pilot, and then it turned out they were tricking you into doing something else?”

(Think about this, folks… And yeah, that paragraph is exactly why I’m kinda obsessed with finding out whether the kid really does become a pilot when he grows up. Taura is gone, Arde had to retire, we’ll probably never hear from Terrence again, but dammit, the author had better let us know if Nikki Vorsoisson gets to pilot jump ships someday!)




About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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