Aaron Polson posted about genderfail recently, counting up the protagonists in his stories and making a spreadsheet to see how he did with male vs. female vs. neuter/other protags. That made me think even more about my own writing. I'm not as thorough as Aaron, but I took a look through my stories this evening (published, unpublished, novels, shorts, and works in progress) and I think I'm going to have a long talk with myself.
Going by viewpoint characters alone--that is, the main character through whom we see the story events unfold--I came out about even, with 24 male and 23 female. That's good, especially since if a character appeared in more than one story, I counted him/her more than once.
But if I break this down further and look at non-human characters by gender (counting were-creatures and trolls as non-human but elves as human), 14 were male and only 3 were female. Even taking into account that weredeer Kristof Hart appears five times in the male side (one short story, three completed novels, one novel-in-progress), that's still a big disparity. I can count him only once and still get 10 male, 3 female.
I mentioned in my reply to Aaron's post that I found male characters more interesting (and challenging) to write because I have to work harder to see things through their POV. Apparently I like to take that to extremes. I'm not sure why I think maleness is more challenging to write than alien-ness.
On the other hand, I'm not writing about, say, weredeer just because weredeer are cool (weredeer are by definition uncool); I'm approaching human problems from a fresh perspective. How does a weredeer fit in among a society that is mostly human? Kristof's not always comfortable, even when he's at home. One of the issues I address over and over in my writing is belonging: as a family member, as a friend, as a part of society, and so forth; and one of the big issues that keeps coming up lately in my writing is the idea of race (and, since I write fantasy, species) and how that affects belonging. In The Taste of Magic, for instance, Ana (female!) is a half-breed elf in a society that considers half-breeds second-class citizens--but even half-breeds have things good compared to trolls; I got so into that aspect of the plot that I made it a big focus in the sequel, Blood and Taxes, where Ana and her friend Ash (male troll) keep having to face their society's assumptions and prejudices. I find this fascinating.
And yet, apparently, I also find it overwhelmingly male. Those three non-human females are two dragons and another weredeer, Rose of White Rose, and if you are playing along at home you may remember that White Rose isn't even a real project--it's just an exercise in writing a bad epic fantasy (the one where the elf lord mage has a foot fetish, because I got bored with him and decided to spice things up a little). I actually address gay issues more than I do women's issues even though all those main characters are straight too, since Kristof has to come to terms with his best friend (male human) being gay.
I'm not sure why this is. I have to think about it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue of otherness and character gender.