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May 03

Number crunching 10 year of the Ditmars

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.

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  1. Alex

    Hey, putting your money where your mouth is! (Or your time, or Excel skills, where your big mouth is, anyway…) Thanks for number crunching, Mondy, this is a really interesting little (boldly-coloured) graph you’ve put together.

  2. Grant

    Are you actually colour blind? I did not know that.

    1. Mondyboy

      Yep. Got teased mercilessly about it at school.

  3. Alan Baxter

    So the disparity against men for the last three years has been greater than the disparity against women in at least the previous seven years, if not ever. Inteesting.

    1. Mondyboy

      And what conclusion do you draw…?

      1. Alan Baxter

        That we still haven’t achieved parity. 😉

        1. Amanda

          You know better than to genuinely complain about “reverse sexism”, right? So you make a comment that can be sold as a “joke” to those annoying feminists, while still allowing your “what about the men?” viewpoint to get an airing.

          Alternatively, you are really terrible at “comedy” and should probably leave it to people who understand how jokes work.

          1. Alan Baxter

            That’s a fairly insulting response.

            The wink was nothing more than to indicate I was being friendly and not starting something.

            Reverse sexism? Sexism is sexism whoever it’s directed at. And I wasn’t making a joke. It was a pure observation and nothing more. Everyone is always talking about parity. These results show a swing in the opposite direction from before – a swing further in the opposite direction than at least the previous seven years. I find that interesting. It’s still not parity. Simple as that.

            1. Alisa

              I don’t think that parity is what you think parity is.

              1. Alan Baxter

                In this context, I think it’s an even spread of male and female across any given area. i.e. awards, anthology ToCs , a publisher’s contracted authors and so on.

                parity
                noun
                1. equality, as in amount, status, or character.

                Why, what do you think it means?

                1. Alisa

                  I don’t think the dream is that on every list there are the same men as women. I think parity allows for in a given year it being all women, or all men for that matter, as long as that is not the constant trediver long time.

        2. Mondyboy

          Wink aside I was hoping for something more intelligent. Personally I think it’s worth digging into the figures and noting that the only thing that made the female figures respectable was ‘short story’, because female writers could barely muster a nomination for best novel and novella. Take out short story and the figures are shocking.

          And the conclusion I draw from that is that longer fiction written bynwomen hasn’t been taken seriously until recently.

          1. Tansy Rayner Roberts

            It might also mean a shift in the voting demographic – either people who vote for Ditmars are starting to take women’s work more seriously, or the people who take women’s work more seriously are starting to vote for the Ditmars…

            I was quite stunned to realise last year (when creating my resource post of award winning Sf & fantasy Australian women writers for the AWW challenge) that only 6 women have ever won the Best Novel Ditmar, and 3 of those were in the last 3 years. The others were in 1977, 1997, and 2004.

            1. Alan Baxter

              Sorry I couldn’t offer anything more intelligent, Mondy. As I mentioned above, I simply found the data interesting, given that what we’re aiming for is parity, not a great swing in either direction.

              But I think Tansy is probably right – I don’t think it’s so much women’s writing not being taken seriously before, but more likely more people now in the voting demographic who ignore gender when voting. Or, potentially, actively vote in favour of female writers.

              Now that I think about it, however, I think it could also be to do with the fact that there is definitely more writing by women being published these days in Australia, so perhaps there’s also a part of the swing based purely on numbers. The more stuff there is out there, naturally the greater the opportunity for good stuff and subsequently more to vote for.

              1. Alisa

                Three years of data show a shift in trend, perhaps, but the fact that they didn’t end up as 50 % men and 50% women does not mean it’s not parity. A reasonable expectation of “parity” obviously allows for randomness in one or other genders favour in subsequent years. No one reasonable expects “parity” to be an equal number of men to women every single year.

                1. Alan Baxter

                  No, it means a roughly equal spread on average over many years. The currently shifting trend, as shown by the last three years of data, shows a trend even further from parity than we’ve seen before, should that trend continue. Therefore, not parity.

                  1. Alisa

                    Mm.. No. It’s three years of data. It shows possibly a reaction to an evolving conversation. Which is more interesting in the context of ongoing conversations than it is about any indication towards or away from parity.

  4. Alisa

    That’s actually what I was going to ask – how do the numbers look when you separate out the fiction categories. That would be really interesting to see.

  5. Alan Baxter

    Reply options seem to be exhausted.

    “I don’t think the dream is that on every list there are the same men as women. I think parity allows for in a given year it being all women, or all men for that matter, as long as that is not the constant trediver long time.”

    Was that supposed to be “trend over long time”? In which case, yeah, exactly. But:

    “Mm.. No. It’s three years of data. It shows possibly a reaction to an evolving conversation. Which is more interesting in the context of ongoing conversations than it is about any indication towards or away from parity.”

    Here I disagree. Of course it’s a reaction to what’s happening, but you contradict your previous comment. What the last three years of data show IS an indication of a trend over time, and that trend is currently heading further from parity than it’s ever been before. Which is why I said:

    “The currently shifting trend, as shown by the last three years of data, shows a trend even further from parity than we’ve seen before, should that trend continue. Therefore, not parity.”

    Regardless of any “ongoing conversations”, that data is interesting.

    1. Alisa

      Three years is not really “long time” though, is it.

      1. Alan Baxter

        No, but it’s an emerging trend, which is why it’s interesting.

  6. Alan Baxter

    And now Alisa has taken to passive-aggressively calling me an idiot on Twitter. So I guess I’ll leave this conversation now. So much for hoping for something more intelligent.

  7. crankynick

    Well, I think the answer is pretty obvious, Mondy. That shift in gender balance occurred at about the time that Alisa showed up in the spec fic scene and started rigging Ditmar ballots.

    1. Tansy Rayner Roberts

      *headdesk*

  8. David Cake

    I do actually get a bit grumpy at the idea that the Ditmars are open to all sorts of corruption, even in jest. They are open to that perception certainly, but we actually take committee operation fairly seriously, so there are at least soe sorts of corruption that we try hard to reject.

    The Ditmars are, however, ultimately a popularity contest, so if you are able to corruptly acquire ‘friends’, by whatever means, there isn’t much we can do about that.

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