On the latest episode of Live and Sassy*, Jonathan Strahan, in responding to a question from Alisa Krasnostein, says that a lazy default for any sort of anthology or collection should be a 30% – 70% split.  That is 30% female and 70% male.  He goes onto emphasise that this is the lazy default and that really a well read editor should get much closer to a 50 / 50 split.**

A few days ago, Gardner Dozois released his Table of Contents for the Year’s Best SF29.  Of the 35 stories featured, 7 of them are by women.  That’s a 20% / 80% split.***

Now, in the three minutes of google searching I’ve done there doesn’t seem to be much discussion in regard to the gender disparity of Dozois’ Years Best.  There may be a few reasons for this.  For one the TOC was only announced… what… 4 days ago… and it does take a little bit of time for the hive mind that is the Internet to absorb the news.  There’s also the chance that the people who usually note this sort of thing are tried of having to be the ones to stand up and say, “here we go, another example of female SF writers being ignored.”

And then there’s the fact that the anthology is edited by Gardner Dozios and it might be seen as a career limiting move – from a writers perspective at least – to bite the hand that has the potential to feed.****

But, the fact this collection does not meet the lazy default***** is something we should be talking about.  When I was younger, reading Gardner’s Years Best was the primary way I discovered what was going on in the field.  It also acquainted me with the works of so many different and exciting writers like Doctorow and Stross and Reed and Kessel and Bishop and Kage Baker (the only female author who sprung out at me at the time).  Even with the introduction of more Years Best collections on the market, the Dozois is still an influential resource.  And as a result it needs to be doing so much better when it comes to gender.

Sill, rather than yell and scream I thought I’d do something constructive and point out a few SF stories from 2011 written by woman which I thought were worthy of featuring in anyone’s Years Best:

  • Nancy Fulda, “Movement,” Asimov’s Science Fiction MagazineMarch
  • Rachel Swirsky, “Diving After the Moon” Clarkesworld – February (though some might debate the SFnal content of this piece)
  • An Owomoyela, “Frozen Voice” ClarkesworldJuly 2011
  • Nnedi Okorafor, “The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book)” ClarkesworldMarch 2011
  • Caitlin R Kiernan, “Tidal Forces”, Eclipse Four
  • Kate Wilhelm, “Music Makers”,  Fantasy & Science FictionMay/Jun
  • Ellen Klages, “Goodnight Moons”, Life on Mars
  • Nnedi Okorafor “Wahala”, Life on Mars

*A podcast that’s really beginning to hit its stride.  This episode, in particular, is recommended listening for anyone interested in the future of bookstores and the book as a physical object.

** You really you should listen to the podcast to hear exactly what Jonathan said.

*** It looks like that meeting the 30% / 70% split has been a struggle for Dozios over the last five years.

**** And I don’t blame people for remaining quiet.

***** Or for that matter Charles Stross who states that a 30% / 70% split is the minimum he requires before he will feature in a collection or anthology.  (He also requires 10% of the authors to be of a different race).