Dec 14

Gender Bias, Case Number #219067

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).


Skip to comment form

  1. James Davis Nicoll

    I don’t rate a tag? *sniff*

    1. Mondyboy

      Oh dear.., and I was going to tag you! I’ll remedy that.

      1. James Davis Nicoll

        Thank you! (two lls, bw)

  2. Dave Hoskin

    I have decided to adopt a similar position to Charles Stross–I will only appear in anthologies that pay me a lot of money. If you do not like this principle, I have others.

    1. Mondyboy

      It’s always good to have principles that you never have to act on.

      1. Dave Hoskin

        They’re the *best* kind of principles.

        And as I say, I have others.

  3. midas68

    MondyBoy (ill take for granted that you are a boy)
    Sticking up for someone other then your sex is very noble Mondy, maybe you should donate any cash you make from the sexist press to one of the several Woman of Genre Benefit orgs and then “Prepare to get laid my man” Or maybe that’s already in the plan.

    I mention the above because usually when someone speaks out on the subject its either something they want(for themselves/women) or to point out that they themselves are different (i.e) Better then the average Sexist Male(Bastard)
    And again as Douglas Adams would say
    “Is a Tried and True way to get a half drunk socially progressive female in bed”

    Jonathan Strahan mentioned the number should be 50/50 yet has himself edited a anthology that had no females what so ever.(Maybe hes not getting enough)

    People are funny that way. I tend to look at things more deeply.
    There’s a reason why its hard to sale a Romantic Fantasy about long hair mopy teenagers unless your a woman. And there’s a reason why big dick hunters who beat off the enemy and gets the gals are mostly men.

    Ummm, it has to do with the Readers.
    You might see a chicadee in the horror section. but (EXPERIENCE) will show you that shes actually looking for the paranormal romance section.

    I have no idea how many actual Male writers of Horror and SF there are compared to Female writers(they never actually bring up these vital stats when mentioning sexual bias in the multitude of articles about this issue) But I’m guessing its 3 to 5 to 1. and if this is the case. Then that would mean that editors go out of their way to promote sex(women) over men in order to look right(or get laid) which is not something one should consider good(unless the one is the one getting laid)

    There are a lot of Kick Ass Female Writers. Kelly Link is Awestruckingness
    Lucy Taylor is as powerful as you can get etc etc.

    But how many of these articles have gotten the male writers laid is what I want to know.


  4. Sean the Bookonaut

    We got a live one here. Or is it a very good Edgar Allen?

  5. Joris M

    It was an immediately obvious imbalance. Especially with the explanation of Jonathan fresh in my mind.

    From my own experience the blind spot takes some effort to overcome, it is still too easy to list the well known white well-known western (or actually anglosaxon, but that doesn’t have the nice alliteration) authors all the time. And it stays a bit embarrassing every time I realize I did it again, I have to take comfort from the realization at this point and try to keep my mind a bit more open.

    I never read enough new stories in a year to add to other possible authors, especially since you already covered most of my reading/listening. Although Lightspeed had some nice works as well; among them stories by Kat Howard and Maggie Clark.

  6. Cerebral Magpie

    “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.””

    Tired yes, but always watching, and always pushing in every way we can. Eventually the argument, and the editors, will age out.

  7. Maria (BearMountainBooks)

    I’ve only read Movement–and I’d agree. It’s strong enough for any list (it will probably make mine for top short stories, but I also liked Fulda’s Backlash…which could also make the short story list.)

    I tend to enjoy reader top lists rather than those of the “industry pros.” The pros seem to go for a large amount of fiction that I don’t care for–very “literature” type, not-as-entertaining…I dunno. I gave up on them a few years back and just pick and choose my own short stories to read. (I have not read Gardner’s list and won’t bother so I’m not picking on any author who did make the list.)

    I like BlackGate magazine–usually a focus on entertaining. Some stories from Ceaseless Skies and I used to enjoy about half of what turned up in Baen’s Universe.

    1. Mondyboy

      You know, you’re the only pesrson whose commented on either here or my LJ that’s actually mentioned one of the stories I put up.

      Thank you.

  8. Rachel Swirsky

    Thank you; that’s quite flattering. I’m also chuffed to see An Owomoyela on the list; sie’s a former student of mine and I like to pretend I have something to do with hir brilliance.

    Gardner did publish one of my pieces in his anthology last year, by the way.

    1. Mondyboy

      You wrote three stories this year that I would recommend.

      And I know Gardner is well read and will publish good fiction when he sees it, I just think his defintion of what is SF is so narrow that he rarely publishes more than 7 stories by women every year.

  9. Rachel Swirsky

    Oh, and I’ll bookmark this so I can check out the stories you note when I do my Nebula Reading Binge. Thanks!

Leave a Reply