I was sitting with Jules last week watching The Voice on fast forward (we record it then zip through all the boring bits) and I suddenly has this urge to number crunch the Ditmars. Admittedly, it was an urge sparked by the recent Ditmar ballot which can be found here.
Of course, whenever anyone says number crunch in the same sentence as awards, it usually means a look at the gender split. And hey, why buck the trend now.
At first I decided to start at 2007, but tonight I thought it’d be more interesting looking at the last 10 years starting with 2003.
I was also only interested in the three fiction categories – Novel, Novella and Short Story. I did consider throwing in Collected Works / Anthologies but decided against it because what I wanted to look at was whether female writers were being recognised in Australia.
This is what I discovered:
So what does this well put together chart tell us?*
I have no idea, I just like fiddling with Excel Well, obviously it shows a shift, starting around 2008, from an award that mostly featured male writers to a ballot that, by 2012, had an 84% / 16% split in favour of female writers.
On its own that shift is pretty remarkable when compared to genre award ballots across the world. But it’s more then that, it also shows the amazing work that has been done in this country by female (and some male) writers and pundits to not only promote brilliant works written by woman, but also publish them.
And that’s what I really want to focus on. Not the number themselves – which are always just an output, a symptom, a result – but at the causes, at the reasons why a shift like the one above has occurred. In the last few years, Twelfth Planet Press and Ticonderoga Publications have taken great strides in ensuring that high quality fiction by women is published.** And not just a book here and a book there, but on a regular basis. Case in point, the Twelve Planets project.
Yes, the effect is only local. Australia is tiny when compared to genre giants in the US and UK. And if only 60 or 70 people are nominating for the Ditmars, and if Twelfth Planet Press or Ticon books are only selling a handful of copies then does it really mean anything.
Fuck yes, it does. It shows that even in a tiny little pond like Australia, women writers can find a voice, they can be published and their work will be read, even if it’s only by the locals who know that the wider world is missing out.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m a little bit proud that in Australia we have people who have put in the hard work – both time and money – to allow women to be heard. Sue me for being parochial.
The Ditmar does get flack for being an award open to all sorts of corruption. But if we can look past the cynicism and the bitchiness we should see this ballot as reflecting a progressive fan culture not afraid to publish, to read, to nominate and to award works written by women in Australia.
*Sorry about the colour selection, but I’m colour blind so I like to pick bold colours that I can tell apart.
** I also shouldn’t forget some of the larger Australian publishers, especially Voyager, who’ve never been afraid at publishing novels by women.