Hello I am Zin and we all were UNSTRIPPED on February 1!
Rewind: last summer my friend Jeanne Holtzman (hi, Jeanne!) sent me a copy of STRIPPED, an anthology with a twist! The names of the authors were stripped from the stories! Editor Nicole Monaghan hoped readers would investigate whether they could tell if the writers were male or female.
I read the book and did some work to post some background about the project, and a table of my opinion, and that of two online gender analzyers! And now Nicole has posted The Big Reveal matching up stories and authors!
Here is the good news: I did better than the computers! Score one for people!
Here is the not-so-good-news: I still did very badly!
Overall I guessed correctly on 29 out of 47 stories, for a score of 62%. That is only a little better than random guessing which would have been 50%.
The computers did not even hit 50%: Stevens Institute got 20 of 47 (43%) and the Gender Genie got 23 of 47, or 49%! Ok, I guess you could say Gender Genie hit the 50/50 mark. And Stevens came close.
I will talk more about numbers but first I want to talk about the stories because I was surprised by some of them! Many I just guessed on, but some I was pretty sure, and I was pretty sure of a couple of authors as well, and I was usually wrong, wrong, wrong! I will put the three evaluations (Zin, Stevens, Gender Genie) in parens, and when I say “we” it means me and the computers in this case. for the stories that are available online, either as text or in a video of a reading, I will make the title clickable.
The “IT” section: Editor Nicole Monaghan said, ” The stories I put in “It” were ones I felt either had objects as their center or used an inanimate thing to reveal the desire(s) of the character(s) and motivation(s) of the character(s).”
“Boy-Girl” – Sara Lippmann (F) (MMM): In my notes I wrote, “Male style, female content” and I am not sure what I meant by that! I could not tell if the narrator was male or female, and it is a story about the “poly-gender parade” and “neuter people” and she fooled all three of us so I think she did an excellent job!
“Found Objects” by Tara L. Masih (F) (FMF): This was one of my favorites and I felt it had a clearly female sensibility (even though I am not sure what I mean by “female sensibility”). The protagonist is male, or perhaps in a larger sense the protagonist is the house and “he” is just the most predominant person! I do not think I have read anything else by this author, though I know the name, so I will have to make sure to look for her work!
“The Bear” by Len Kuntz (M) (FMF): In this story the female protagonist, in a uniquely female situation, must make a terrible choice, and it read very authentically to me! Len did a great job!
“Moratorium” by Sean Lovelace (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It reminds me of some of the flash Courtney Bledsoe wrote a few years ago. We all agreed the writer was male, but here is the twist: until I saw the list Nicole put up, I had thought Sean Lovelace was female! I think I may be mixing him up with another Sean! The narrator/protagonist could be either male or female, but I got a very clear sense it was a man swearing off women.
“Afterglow” by Michelle Reale (F) (MFM): I am not sure why I thought this was male, as I reread it I clearly get female, but that is hindsight for you! It is easy to know the answers once you know the answers!
“Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion” by Kierstin Bridger (F) (FMM): I was the only one who got this right! I am glad because I liked this story a lot! As I read it the first time I thought the narrator was female but then at the end it becomes clear he is male but that might have affected my vote. A house again is at the center of the piece. Houses are interesting characters! I need to consider that more!
“Cisco” by Darlin’ Neal (F) (FMF): I liked the very clear focus of this story. The narrator could be either but I thought he was male, still I thought it had that undefinable female sensibility to it.
“Sculpted” by Rae Bryant (F) (FMF): I thought the erotic elements read feminine, and I am happy to see I was right! I think the narrator is female but not necessarily.
“A Conservator In The National Museum of American History Rigged Into a Suspended Harness Floats Inches Above the Star-Spangled Banner” by Michael Martone (M) (MMM): The story is only five words longer than the title! I love that! I was sure either Randall Brown or Robert Swartwood wrote this, but I was wrong. I need to find out more about Michael Martone! There is no reason the narrator could not be female, but it read strongly male to me.
“HER” – stories where a female character is at the heart of the piece.
“Momma” by Casey Hannan (M) (MMF): I am not sure why I read this as male, maybe it was all the blood and the knife and Dracula. It is a very female story though. And a good one!
“Behind the Eight-Ball” by Robert Vaughan (M) (FFM): I went back and forth on this so I am not surprised I got it wrong! It started very male, but the issues were so female I changed my mind.
” The Distance Between the Bridge and the Water” by Will Henderson (M) (FFF): He fooled us all! The female protagonist comes through very strongly! Excellent job!
“Santa Caterina” by Christopher Allen (M) (FFF): Again we were all fooled! I am surprised! This protagonist was really well-written as a very specific woman. Great job!
” Jericho Beach” by Gay Degani (F) (MMF): I know Gay a little from Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am happy that she fooled me!
“Chips from the Broken Sky” by Ethel Rohan (F) (FFF): It is a beautiful story and something about the banana felt like such a thing a woman would think of!
“Rosalia” by Gill Hoffs (F) (FFM): I went back and forth on the gender of the writer but I was entranced by this story! It seems to hang perilously close to a “trick” ending that we all get scolded for, but I think it is not, the issue goes deeper than the one detail, it is a matter of what one believes rather than fact. I do not want to spoil the story by being more specific but it is very impressive! I even looked up Gill to make sure the “F” was not a little mistake and sure enough Gillian is female! So even after I knew I wanted to check!
“Seven Happy Endings” by Ashley Inguanta (F) (MFF): Here is where the computers had an advantage over me, just looking at language without actually reading! I thought the sexual elements and the humor read more male than female, but I was wrong!
“Gorgo, Queen of Sparta” by Aubrey Hirsch (F) (FFF): Historical flash, maybe a new thing!
“Eruptions” by Heather Fowler (F) (MFF): Oops! My bad!
“Go Deejay” by Roxane Gay (F) (FMF): At the time I read this I had not read any fiction by Roxane, only her essays. I am glad I got it right! “I decided to become the girl I normally hate” was my clue.
“The Turn” by Marc Schuster (M) (MNF): I was surprised this was not in the “Them” category since the reaction of the man felt so strong to me, even though the main character is the woman. It is a very interesting story!
“Porch Light” by Sherrie Flick (F) (FFF): Again we all agreed and we were all right!
“Love Letter” by Kerri D. Schuster (F) (FFF): And again!
HIM: the focus is on a male character
“Limp” by Sheldon Lee Compton (M) (MMM): I liked this, and I felt sorry for the narrator!
“Almost Ivory” by Randall Brown (M) (FNF): I would never have guessed this was a Randall story! Even though the main character is male, I think the female character is so strong and well-written it became to me a “female” story. Or maybe I just paid more attention to the female character!
“Life Without Operas” by Peter Schwartz (M) (MMF): I think I read this as male because I did not really follow it but liked the structure! This is my habit of thinking of experimental writing as more male, and I need to stop that!
“Grover Cleveland Has It Out With America On the Eve Of His Second Inauguration” by Amber Sparks (F) (MMM): Amber fooled us all! I have enjoyed several of her flashes and I need to get my hands on May We Shed These Human Bodies! This is such a wonderful story and she did a terrific job of writing not only a male but a historical, powerful male and still incorporating a lyric by Don McLean which not everyone will realize! When I read this I immediately thought of Jeff Rose because he sometimes writes about historical characters in a way that is totally authentic but very human but he was not on the list of authors so I knew it was not him but I could see him writing this!
“Jerry’s Life as sung to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’” by Kenneth Pobo (M) (MMF): What an interesting idea! I have such a visceral negative reaction to the song (which was very popular in my youth and was decried by the people I was hanging out with at the time as being the epitome of raunchiness, which shows you why I stopped hanging out with them) I had trouble reading the story!
“Dog Beach” Jess Charest (F) (FMM): I got a little mixed up in here so I am surprised I got it right!
“Give Me License” by Nicole Monaghan (F) (FNF): Nicole is the editor of the collection so I am glad I guessed her story right!
“What Is Best In Life?” by Erin Fitzgerald (F) (FNF): I thought this would turn out to be written by Ellen Parker since it just seemed like something she would do so I got it right for the wrong reason!
“Hard” by Jeanne Holtzman (F) (FMF): Jeanne is the writer who gave me the book in the first place so I am glad I guessed her story!
“And the One Guy Turns to the Other and Says, ‘I’ll Trade You Mine for Yours’” by Tara Laskowski (F) (MMM): I know Tara from the Flash Factory on Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am very happy she fooled us all! This is a very male story! Great job!
“Sniffing Out The Boundaries” by Eric Bosse (M) (FMF): I was very surprised to find this was written by a male but when I look at it I am not sure why, I suppose because it involves children! I really need to keep an eye on my assumptions!
“One More Thing I Didn’t Do” by Ellen Parker (F) (MFM): I love Ellen Parker so I am glad she fooled me writing a male voice! Good job Ellen!
“Beasts and Men” by Curtis Smith (M) (FMM): Here I was too smart for my own good and that is not something I am often! I thought this was a counterreaction and a woman wrote the most masculine elements she could think of into a story to fool us! So I was fooled instead!
“The Taster’s Last Meal” by Devan Goldstein (M) (FFF): This was a wonderful flash that fooled us all with the subtle emotional element and themes of love and loyalty and betrayal!
THEM – Nicole placed stories in this section if they “gave a hard look into both male and female perspectives or struck me as portraying their characters as connecting as humans, with gender being less of a focus.”
“Breaking Tradition” by Nathan Alling Long (M) (FFF): Again I think I was fooled by a child character! I love the play on the word “break” it is a very interesting word linguistically speaking and Nathan has made great use of it!
“The Ballad of This and That” by Robert Swartwood (M) (MNM): When I posted about this story last summer, I said this was “a very Zin story” and it is, it is the Zinnest story in the book, so I am very happy to find it was written by the “inventor” of “hint fiction!” And surprised! But mostly happy!
“Locked” by Myfanwy Collins (F) (FMM): I enjoyed this story about religion and I am surprised that the computers read it as male because to me it was very female.
“Waffles and Honey” by J. Bradley (M) (MMF): I thought this was written by Randall Brown! I was wrong! It has that enigmatic echo where the words just feel right.
“Circling the Flame” by Meg Tuite (F) (FNM): I think this would depend on which character you identify with and I went back and forth on it several times! I got it right by luck!
“The Breaking Heart of God” by Rusty Barnes (M) (FFF): Again I read a powerfully emotional story as female! Good for you Rusty!
“Lies” by Pamela Painter (F) (FMF): Now that I reread this, I am surprised I thought it was female since it has mechanics I would think of as male. Well, I should not complain since I got it right but I am not sure why!
“Emergency” by Mark Nieson (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It is written in the form of a medical chart but the end really works! It is a story that lets the reader write the story!
“Let’s Get Together Again Soon” by Scott Garson (M) (MFF): Scott is a hero of the online flash community for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 List (and Wigleaf just got their first Pushcart Prize, congratulations!) so I was very happy that I enjoyed his story so much.
“Akimbo” by Kathy Fish (F) (FMF): An earthquake through a different point of view! This has some wonderful images and is very sad!
Here is a chart with all the data from last time, with the names of the authors added in. Correct guesses are in red! I am not sure what to make of all this data (if anyone understands statistical analysis I would love a consult)! I do not see any particular patters, other than the computers did particularly poorly on stories in the “Them” section. I looked at stories we all agreed on: sometimes we were all right, sometimes all wrong!
This was a fantastic project! More than anything else it has reminded me that we all have underlying attitudes and we need to understand them and recognize them so we know when they are misleading us! And that good writers can write characters who are different from them because that is what writers do! But we knew that already, yes? If you want to know more about how they do it, four participants, still anonymous, discussed the project and how they write in the opposite gender at Necessary Fiction.
|Boy-Girl||Sara Lippmann (F)||M||M||M||571||701||61||55||616|
|Found Objects||Tara L. Masih (F)||F||M||F||390||314||63||55||356|
|The Bear||Len Kuntz (M)||F||M||F||447||410||57||52||259|
|Moratorium||Sean Lovelace (M)||M||M||M||146||492||72||77||256|
|Afterglow||Michelle Reale (F)||M||F||M||528||721||53||58||435|
|Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion||Kierstin Bridger (F)||F||M||M||593||760||54||56||574|
|Cisco||Darlin’ Neal (F)||F||M||F||243||182||62||57||244|
|Sculpted||Rae Bryant (F)||F||M||F||445||214||60||68||232|
|A Conservator…||Michael Martone (M)||M||M||M||0||30||59||100||27|
|Momma||Casey Hannan (M)||M||M||F||690||593||62||54||442|
|Behind the Eight-Ball||Robert Vaughan (M)||F||F||M||475||520||68||52||429|
|The Distance Betw the Bridge & The River||Will Henderson (M)||F||F||F||972||769||66||56||500|
|Santa Caterina||Christopher Allen (M)||F||F||F||911||707||68||56||612|
|Jericho Beach||Gay Degani (F)||M||M||F||1016||898||65||53||598|
|Chips From the Broken Sky||Ethel Rohan (F)||F||F||F||975||574||67||63||607|
|Rosalia||Gill Hoffs (F)||F||F||M||632||701||69||53||601|
|Seven Happy Endings||Ashley Inguanta (F)||M||F||F||888||511||55||63||620|
|Gorgo, Queen of Sparta||Aubrey Hirsch (F)||F||F||F||1030||865||71||54||610|
|Eruptions||Heather Fowler (F)||M||F||F||760||538||91||59||580|
|Go Deejay||Roxane Gay (F)||F||M||F||812||642||78||56||608|
|The Turn||Marc Schuster (M)||M||N||F||810||392||96||67||294|
|Porch Light||Sherrie Flick (F)||F||F||F||500||204||52||71||277|
|Love Letter||Kerri D. Schuster (F)||F||F||F||801||612||73||57||454|
|Limp||Sheldon Lee Compton (M)||M||M||M||130||197||60||100|
|Almost Ivory||Randall Brown (M)||F||N||F||545||438||96||55||497|
|Life Without Operas||Peter Schwartz (M)||M||M||F||248||191||58||56||218|
|Grover Cleveland…||Amber Sparks (F)||M||M||M||380||447||64||54||371|
|Jerry’s Life…||Kenneth Pobo (M)||M||M||F||1032||741||60||58||601|
|Dog Beach||Jess Charest (F)||F||M||M||459||760||92||62||510|
|Give Me License||Nicole Monaghan (F)||F||N||F||867||632||96||58||577|
|What Is Best In Life?||Erin Fitzgerald (F)||F||N||F||764||661||97||54||579|
|Hard||Jeane Holtzman (F)||F||M||F||1504||567||67||73||623|
|And The One Guy Turns…||Tara Laskowski (F)||M||M||M||485||742||59||60||685|
|Sniffing Out the Boundaries||Eric Bosse (M)||F||M||F||215||83||60||72||124|
|One More Thing I Didn’t Do||Ellen Parker (F)||M||F||M||562||685||54||55||618|
|Beasts and Men||Curtis Smith (M)||F||M||M||548||687||82||56||591|
|The Taster’s Last Meal||Devan Goldstein (M)||F||F||F||721||668||57||52||618|
|Breaking Tradition||Nathan Alling Long (M)||F||F||F||1019||604||61||63||615|
|The Ballad of This and That||Robert Swartwood (M)||M||N||M||407||564||96||58||439|
|Locked||Myfanwy Collins (F)||F||M||M||282||610||63||68||391|
|Waffles and Honey||J. Bradley (M)||M||M||F||339||131||66||72||92|
|Circling the Flame||Meg Tuite (F)||F||N||M||549||577||100||51||403|
|The Breaking Heart of God||Rusty Barnes (M)||F||F||F||606||472||58||56||514|
|Lies||Pamela Painter (F)||F||M||F||623||345||59||64||231|
|Emergency||Mark Nieson (M)||M||M||M||9||23||52||72||99|
|Let’s Get Together Again Soon||Scott Garson (M)||M||F||F||502||222||54||69||201|
|Akimbo||Kathy Fish (F)||F||M||F||228||152||59||60||230|