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Data, books, and bias

In May, I posted on my blog brightly-coloured pie charts presenting some data about literary awards. They weren't the most gorgeous graphics ever, but they conveyed my point: that the more prestigious the prize, the more likely the subject of the winning narrative will be male. Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but solidly presented. I considered the thing done and went to bed. I woke up to a world gone mad: the post had gone viral. I spent the next three weeks fielding emails and interview requests from global media.

This response took me by surprise because, as I've said, what I was saying was not new. I've been talking about it for years; many have talked about it. But what was new, apparently, was how I presented the data.1 Pictures speak louder than words. Pictures about numbers seem to speak very loudly indeed.

Many of us aren't very good at seeing past our own assumptions (Just look at some of the comments on Judith's post.) We are biased towards our own experience. Data can mitigate that bias. It's hard to deny numbers. Especially if they're numbers others can verify, taken from acknowledge and expert public sources, collated using consistent, transparent methods.

If we want to understand something, we have to be able to see it clearly. Numbers help with that. That's what I've been doing the last couple of months: counting, talking about counting, persuading others to count, and hammering out methods and process.

But I'm a novelist. My forte is words. Numbers are less familiar territory. The last time I paid any attention to the manipulation of numbers was a very long time ago when I studied Mathematics at 'A' level. (And, full disclosure, I ended up dropping that A level in favour of English.) In other words, I do not self-identify as a data geek. I've had my road-to-Damascus conversion, yes; I believe; but (sadly) the conversion did not come packaged with instant mastery of statistical manipulation. At best, then, I'm data-curious.

For that blog post in May, I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen prestigious book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal.The method was simple: for each prize I read the winning book of each year, or a couple of reviews of same plus a sample of the text, and assigned the book to one of four columns: from the point of view of a woman or girl, from a man/boy, from both, or from a character whose gender in some can't be slotted neatly into the usual gender binary. (For the sake of brevity I labelled that Unsure.) Then I collated the gender of the writer 3 with that of their protagonist/s. Then I found a free, web-based chart-making site, and turned the results into pie charts.4

Here's what the one for the Hugo Award for best novel looked like:

hugo.png

"Unsure" can apply to both author and protagonist. In this single case it is Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice.

At this stage I'm less interested in the Why than the What and the How Many. Why, in my opinion, can only emerge when we dig deeper and get a clear picture of what's actually happening (and manage to look past our biases--we all have biases). That will take time. We need surveys of writers' organisations and ask: When you began your book, what influenced the gender of your protagonist? And then ask agents how they chose the books to represent. And then publishers what numbers of books about women and about men were submitted, accepted, supported etc. Which were submitted for review, and where. Which were praised, and by whom. Which were put on new fiction tables at the front of bookstores and libraries. Which submitted to prizes, and why. Which were long-listed, then short-listed, then chosen for the prize. Then remembered.5

But it has to start somewhere. And that's what I've done. I started Literary Prize Data6, a group to count, share, collate, present, and discuss book numbers. Right now we number about 35 from three continents.7

The group is new: one week old. But already we have people working on the Edgars, the Campbell, taking a more granular look at the Hugos, and more. Some of us are genuine data geeks. Some novelists. Some academic researchers. Some readers. We could use all the help we can get. If you want to help, sign up. Count something. Help design the best way to interpret and present what you and others have counted. Actually counting, and then finding different ways to parse the results, and different ways to display those results, makes the reality more concrete than ever. If we're transparent about what we're counting and how, the conclusion—that not only more men than women win prizes, but that even the women who win are likely to win for writing about men—is difficult to argue.

To go back to the Hugos, another of our group, Eric, plotted the running ten-year average for the percentage of women authors nominated for the Hugo award. As he says, "As Nicola suspected8 things were getting better for a while before dipping in the 90's and then partially recovering more recently... But what's really interesting...is what we see if we show the percentage of women in the membership of the SFWA."9

women and sf stats graphic.png

See the caveats in the footnote, but from the mid 70's to the mid 90's, the percentage of women nominated for the Hugo award tracks the percentage of women in the field. That is, setting aside any barriers to entering the field, once "you're writing SF/F professionally the odds of being nominated for a Hugo were roughly the same for men and women. Since then, the percentage of women in the field has continued to rise, indicating falling barriers to entry, but the award nominations no longer track the number of women in the field, which suggests a higher level of discrimination in the awards selection."10

Soon we'll be able to update the Hugo information. We hope also to have a breakdown of the shortlists in each category. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if this effort intrigues you and you'd like to help, please consider joining the volunteers who last week began a concerted effort to track and collate this information. The more who count, the less each has to do.


1 Pie charts have been used a lot to show bias in publishing. See, for example, VIDA and the work Niall Harris is doing at Strange Horizons.
These are awards that, in my opinion, influence the author’s subsequent book sales and/or career arcs. It’s subjective: I haven’t pulled together reliable data on book sales pre- and post-awards. (Though here are links to three articles which include cherry-picked numbers and anecdata on the National Book Award, the Man Booker, and the Hugo Award.)
3 I assumed that when reviews talked about an author as “she” or “he” that author identifies as female or male respectively.
4 I made it clear on my blog that I was open to corrections. I still am.
5 I talk about this in more detail in an interview with the Seattle Review of Books. And also explain why it's so important that we have stories about women.
6 I have also taken the Russ Pledge, to talk about books by women whenever I talk about books. I then tweaked the pledge to privilege books not only by but about women.
7 I'm not the only one counting. See footnote 1.
8 I have an idea about why, but zero data to support it.
9 "I'm using SFWA membership as a proxy for 'people professionally writing science fiction and fantasy.' It's the best proxy I can think of, but it's not perfect. The other caveat is that I could only find data for three years: 1974, 1999, and 2015 (from [Nerds of a Feather]." If you have more/better data, please share!
10 Eric goes on to say that "one significant aspect of this pattern is that it mirrors what has gone on in other fields. If we look at scientists working in the life sciences, for example, the number of women entering the field has approached parity in recent years, but this hasn't been reflected in the percentage of women in higher-level positions (such as full professor) or the most prestigious awards (see, for example, here and here. A succinct way of putting this is that 44% of biological scientists were women by 2000, but 16% of Nobel prizes for physiology and medicine have gone to women in the last ten years)."

246 Comments

1:

Sadly, you have provided the final proof that I do have a bias in my reading choices
As I did read Ammonite when it came out and haven't read you since
One likes to think of oneself as not being an an ..ist, but this post confirms that I am indeed an ...ist
Ok, stops beating oneself up, and move on to reading a lot of people's back catalogues

2:

While I support your activities, and I'll be signing up for your campaign after work, Erik's comments in footnote 10 are comparing chalk and cheese.

Nobel prizes are typically awarded 1-2 decades, sometimes closer to 3, after the work was done. That's why there's a rule about no one being eligible for the prize if they're already dead and it rules out otherwise worthy winners every year. For example, the guy that won the 50% share of last year's prize won for work that he started publishing in 1971, and published in the 1970's and 1980's in the main.

The 2009 winners won for work published in 1985 and 1989 and so on.

Nobel prizes don't weigh the "best science this year" they weigh impactful science. They may also be sexist, but the data isn't clear yet: they're looking at science that was done a long time ago and is still important today. But 20 years ago science at the top level was still a strongly male preserve, even in life sciences. If in 20-30 years the Nobel Prizes are still picking only men, there's a problem. Right now, it's not clear.

3:

It'll be an interesting comparison to see if the Nebula nominations correspond more to the SFWA membership or the Hugo nominations.


One thing I'm particularly taking from this was Niall's comment on your post back in 2007 on the physical nature of reviewing.
SH, for instance, routinely receives more books for review by men than by women (I had to chase down Flora Segunda, I had to chase down the new Nalo Hopkinson, the new Kathleen Ann Goonan, the new Susan Palwick); and if I send out a list of books for review and ask people to pick the ones they're interested in, the books by women get left for last, and I have fewer women reviewing for me than men; and the women reviewing for me tend to be busier than the men, and review less frequently.

If we hypothetically extrapolate that out across the spectrum of publishing, then we can definitely see why men would dominate - the bias effect magnifies with every step in the chain.

On the other hand, we don't see the same biases with childrens literature or mysteries. I wonder if some of that is to do with the big names of the past who effectively created the field - it is very hard to argue women can't write mysteries when you have Agatha Christie to point at for example.


We do see a distinct bias in the Grand Master awards as well - 27 men : 4 women for SF, while the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement is somewhat better balanced at 44 men : 18 women

4:

Awesome work :) I wish the Literary Prize Data group well (though I'm not sure I have anything to contribute).

In business and academia I've often heard the argument that women are underrepresented at the top end, even if the worker gender split is ~50:50, due to lag. In other words it takes a few decades to get to the top so the top end is staffed mostly by males because the gender split when they started was closer to 90:10.

I don't accept that as a complete answer, I'm sure there's more involved than just that. Relevant to this though I'd be interested in knowing what the gender split is for the judges in these competitions and whether or not that has any bearing on the outcomes. Any data on that?

5:

Thanks for the interesting post, Nicola. I didn't see your original blog post when it went viral, but it does a pretty neat job of illustrating its point.

Hope this is not off-topic, but as someone who is interested in learning more about data visualisation I took up a course on the programming language R that is currently being run on edX. I was actually prompted to by the recent Nate Silver AMA. Thought I might share the link in case there are other people out there who have similar reasons for learning how to do these sorts of things. (Mine is as someone hoping to start their history PhD next year, where I'm hoping a little knowledge of data visualisation will allow me some insights that are sometimes beyond historians. What is to be determined is how naive that hope is, but the only way to find out is by trying.)

6:

Thank you for putting so much work into this, Nicola.

SFWA is interesting: I would be curious to know what the international demographic is (English speaking or otherwise). This is purely anecdotal on my part: I joined SFWA towards the early 2000s, saw a lot of value to it for US writers (especially the EMF) but did not renew my membership because it wasn't serving me as a British writer. Not sure how many UK writers are members. Recent arguments in it seem to have put a number of younger writers off joining. So this is likely to skew the demographic.

7:

The pie chart kinda shows that if you are only concerned about the proportion of female protagonists in Hugo winning novels (which is obviously untrue, but...), then it is not, in fact about the number of women winning the awards. It is in fact overwhelmingly about not enough male authors writing good novels with female viewpoints.

From that dataset, we have 57% male viewpoints, 29% both, 14% female, with 35% of winners being female. If this was increased to 50%, and the proportions stayed the same, then the breakdown would be

53% male viewpoints, 27% both, 20% female.

In other words, scarcely a change at all.

8:

I always find it indicative, when this subject comes up, that it's drawn so as to ignore :

J K Rowling - Harry Potter
Stephenie Meyer - Twilight
Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games
Veronica Roth - Divergent
etc.

Frankly all the while genre books written by women are making mint both on their own, and in eventual film adaptations, I can't get too worked up. I'm sure those authors will be crying themselves to sleep over their lack of a Hugo award ... on their mountains of cash.

9:

Recent arguments in it seem to have put a number of younger writers off joining.

Including at least one recent Hugo winner IIRC, having followed her ponderings on LJ. It may be that she has joined since (and she is in the US).

(EMF? Elderly Male Fantasists? <googles/> Oh! The Emergency Medical Fund. Yes, I can see why that is much more necessary for the USians.)

10:

So that a tiny proportion (a really tiny proportion) are actually doing very nicely, that's an argument for ignoring the systemic problems at the bottom of the heap?

That's like saying that because there are people out there rich enough to own their own airliners, we shouldn't worry about poverty.

11:

When you ignore the 'tiny' proportion that are objectively doing better than anyone else in the genre - you are trying to reach a particular answer, independent of the facts.

The reality is not only is the biggest selling genre author a woman, but there are several others who have done very well out of movie adaptations.

Now, go ahead and name the male genre authors that have done the same recently...

12:

My first reaction is that many male-written female main characters are men with tits (e.g. Honor Harrington), and a fair number of female-written male main characters are women with balls (sorry, can't remember a good example offhand). Women tend to be better at such social nuances. How many of those reached the Hugos, I can't say. Which doesn't mean that your charts aren't interesting, and reflective of social attitudes, but I don't know how to classify the more subtle aspects.

Well, maybe your first reaction could also be indicative of social prejudice against male authors writing from the female perspective? I mean, I would note the presence of male award winners who successfully wrote in *both*, which means that it isn't that they are incapable of writing from the female perspective, but rather that when they do, they prefer to 'balance' that perspective with a male one.

13:

Er, the first paragraph there is a quote, I guess the QUOTE tag doesn't work the way I had hoped.

[[ I've changed it to a <cite> pair for you. In future, I suggest you use the Preview option - mod ]]

14:

I always find it indicative, when this subject comes up, that it's drawn so as to ignore :

J K Rowling - Harry Potter
Stephenie Meyer - Twilight
Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games
Veronica Roth - Divergent
etc.

All of these, though read by adults, are branded as YA books. If you'd bothered to read Nicola's original article (linked in the OP), you'd have seen that the gender bias does not operate in the "children's" sector (which I'd guess includes YA). So these are ignored because they are not relevant to the issue at hand.

It is an interesting question as to why the gender bias is not operating in the YA/children's market. Perhaps because women are stereotypically associated with children, and therefore writing for children, like romance writing, is considered "appropriate"?

It would also be interesting to do the statistics for crime fiction prizes. My entirely non-quantitative impression is that both women writers and female protagonists are much more common in that genre than in SF.

15:

Interesting results about the Hugo winners.

At this stage they don't show whether the bias is at the Hugo selection stage, the publishing stage, or the submission stage. Teasing that out will require more data, which will take a lot more work to gather. (And will have to be gathered carefully to avoid introducing more bias in sample selection.)

To determine if the Hugos are biased, we'd need to see the same breakdown for the works published in a given year (that were eligible for the Hugo). That's a huge amount of effort required to gather this data. Short of analysing every book published, we'd need a way of sampling that didn't introduce a bias of its own, which is harder than most people think*.

Ideally we'd need a list of all book eligible in a given year, or a list of enough of them that randomly sampling from that list gives a reasonable picture of the whole population. After randomly** picking a sufficient sample from that list, we'd need volunteers to read/skim the selected books to determine viewpoint character.

(Apologies to those who already know this. At my workplace, people who remember/understand stats are in enough of a minority that recapping the requirements for meaningful statistics is necessary.)

Anyway, it would be a lot of work, but it would let us determine if the population of Hugo winners is significantly different from the population of eligible books published. And hence, what if any bias exists in the Hugo awards.

What I think would be a lot more interesting would be to see how the population of books published differs from the population of manuscripts written. Maybe we could use self-published books as a proxy for 'manuscripts rejected by a publisher'?

There's a chap at work who's a self-described data-monkey. When he gets back from holiday I'll ask him if he can think of a good test protocol for this.


*I've looked at enough papers published in research journals to realize that many social science researchers don't understand sampling and statistics. And don't get me started on the 'educational researchers' who extrapolate from "hand-picked group of five children" to "redesign the entire school system based on my incredible results" :-(

**This part is key. We can't 'adjust' the books selected; not for quality, not for their bias, not for author's gender. If the sample's not random, the analysis gets a lot harder, or even impossible.

16:

The other thing you are overlooking Ian is that the Genre writers you mention are all Children/Young Adult authors.

Which as previously mentioned is a category where gender imbalance is far less out of whack.

The main reason that they are being turned into films is that the stories are relatively straightforward, easy to convert, and have provably large customer bases to work from. Hollywood is all about the simple story with a good hook, which also explains the massive surge in toy and comic book based movies in recent years.

GRRM and Game of Thrones is the poster child for the more complex story, and it is completely unfilmable - TV is a natural home for the more complicated exposition as they can afford to spend the time to build intrigue.

Outside of Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick and Michael Crichton, very few SF authors have been cleanly converted to films, and most of Dicks have been short stories.

17:

I suggest you have a look at here where Jo Walton goes through every Hugo year up to 2000 and compares the nominees, the winners, and what else was being talked about/awarded elsewhere that year.

She also looks at the Campbell nominees for best new writer to see if they sank or swam.

The series stops at 2000, since at that point she herself was nominated, plus it provided a minimum of 10 years distance to see if the works were truly notable.

Unfortunately that is right at the point that the rot set in according to the graph above, so it may prove valuable for someone to continue the data up to 2005.

18:

It is also interesting that the Newbery Medal is the only one in which there are ANY stories by men about women or girls. It would be interesting to know whether they were all about completely asexual girls. And I am NOT referring to even the most limited sexual activity but about the way they interact with their peers and which sexes they interact with!

19:

Since there is only one Hugo award a year, and we aren't that interested in the bad old days, the pie chart is necessarily limited to 15 entries. There were 9 male winners and 6 female winners. The 9 men included 6 with male protagonists and 3 with both male and female protagonists.

These are small numbers. They have to be small numbers because there is only one Hugo winner per year. 9 to 6 does not say very much. My guess is that the number of SF novels published by men is double that by women, but I haven't found any solid numbers. If that's right, it would imply that novels by women are somewhat more likely to win the Hugo.

The 6 women are split kind of evenly over protagonists, 2:2:1:1 while the 9 men have no books written with only woman protagonists.

This is not surprising. We all know that men tend not to write books about woman protagonists. I can think of a few famous ones. Podkayne of Mars by Heinlein. Rite of Passage by Panshin, homage to the first. Escape Velocity by Barnes, homage to the first two. Friday by Heinlein. Etc. Maybe people tend not to like books by men about women. Almost every example I've seen, women complained that the author didn't get it.

Charlie Stross has been careful -- he has written two novels about robots who were designed to behave as courtesans, who were sort of like women. His latest was about a middle-aged woman in dire straits, suffering fatigue, extreme situations, telepathic attacks, etc who was an unreliable narrator. A whole lot of what she did was dictated by the situation so that her gendered mind didn't matter for that. A few times her gender was central. Like, she snogged a man on short acquaintance in a car, and men on this blog debated at great length what it meant. There was no consensus. (If a random female Laundry agent had snogged Howard in a car, I predict there wouldn't have been much discussion about what it meant to him.)

He wrote a whole series with a woman protagonist, and she spent a lot of the time thinking and behaving as a competent manager. She was thrown into a dangerous sexist society and spent most of her efforts attempting to get some personal freedom and to transform that society. Her gender was important -- like when she was about to be married off to an idiot -- but her behavior was so constrained that there was not much opportunity for women to complain that she didn't behave or think like a woman.

By some ways of thinking, since Charlie is a man he cannot possibly understand women or how they think. Women routinely understand men but no man can ever understand a woman. But I believe he effectively avoided that criticism.

None of these books won the Hugo, but the two about the robot women placed second and fourth.

This chart might benefit by looking at the top five Hugo nominees. For some years, the top 15 are available, maybe even better. (The top 15 may include some that got less than 2% of the vote. Do you want to count those? You have to decide what level of support you care about.)

The second graph looks like a tremendous amount of work. I think it might be better to look only at the top 15 (which should be much less work) or look at some cutoff number of votes (which would be a lot of work and maybe can't be done at all).

Each year there are hundreds or even more than a thousand works nominated, and many of them get one vote. Another large fraction gets two votes. When you look at percentage of nominations, a big part of it is how many works by women got one vote versus works by men with one vote. This may say something interesting, but I'm not sure what. If you look at the top 15 you get more of a sense of what's popular. On the other hand it makes the graph look less authoritative because instead of small intervals that look kind of smooth, the intervals would be about 6% apart. There's probably a way to graph it that would look better.

20:

"We all know that men tend not to write books about woman protagonists. ... Almost every example I've seen, women complained that the author didn't get it."

Quite. As I posted above :-)

"Women routinely understand men but no man can ever understand a woman."

That's too simplistic, but there is a strong bias that way. On an individual basis, it can go either way (e.g. there are men who completely baffle almost all women).

"There's probably a way to graph it that would look better."

There are, several, but there is also a high chance of making a meaningless fluctuation look significant.

21:

Apart from Ken MacLeod, who writes very good female protagonists. I've never had a problem with women in the Laundry novels, either. To name but two: give me time and I'll think of some more.

Also I would not want to fall into the trap of assuming that, as a female writer and reader, gender is my only concern. Jack Vance's women tended to come to horrible ends and were often thoroughly stererotyped, but I love his worldbuilding and prose.

22:
"Women routinely understand men but no man can ever understand a woman."

That's too simplistic, but there is a strong bias that way.

An explicable one: guys are free not to expend energy understanding women, but a serviceable "how men think" model is a survival requirement for women in our patriachal society.
23:

As noted in previous post, the fact you are blind to it does not mean it does not exist.

The statement is, for my experience as a woman in the Western (specifically US) world, accurate.

24:

Sorry, you have evidence that they're not relevant in this context? Or just your anecdotal experience?

25:

Women routinely understand men but no man can ever understand a woman.

Not buying it. Women might be able to write men better because there is a larger corpus of work with male characters for them to draw on, but I don't think they're inherently better at writing men than men are at writing women. It's just most of the time female characters are put into fiction to serve the interests of male characters, while women write male characters with fleshed-out personalities and a sense of agency because it is expected of them. The lazy sort of writing you can do with your female characters, that is, would get you pilloried if you did it with all your male characters (outside of a romance novel, at least). I'm convinced men could write decent women if they were expected to.

26:

guys are free not to expend energy understanding women, but a serviceable "how men think" model is a survival requirement for women in our patriachal society

Not just women. According to Mullainathan and Shafir (in "Scarcity"), all under-privileged have to pay this 'cognitive tax'.

In a hierarchical system, underlings must understand the boss, but the boss doesn't need to understand the underlings. (Indeed, trying to understand their subordinates is one of the behaviours I've seen female executives criticized for — it's taken as a sign of weakness, a sign that they aren't really a leader.) The secretary needs to know that the manager is in a bad mood and adjust behaviour to match; the manager doesn't care that the secretary is in a bad mood, they are expected to 'suck it up' and work professionally anyway.

According to Mullainathan and Shafir, you can see this in older societies too — it's where we get the 'wise slave' and 'peasant wisdom' tropes from. (They quote research to back this up, but I don't have the book to hand right now to track down their references.)

I'd recommend reading the book. It's got some fascinating (and off-topic) data on cognitive bandwidth and the effects of scarcity on it. (Including how priming people to worry about money shortages can lower their performance on reasoning-based tasks; it's not that "the poor are stupid", the data shows that being poor lowers things like academic performance and financial management, which is one hell of a vicious circle.)

But getting back to the topic at hand, we do have empirical data that shows that women still shoulder more of the cognitive burden of understanding the other side than men do.

27:

Thanks, all, for the thoughtful comments so far. I have a morning full of appointments but I should be back in a few hours to respond properly.

Meanwhile, Eric, the compiler of the interesting Hugo running average data, might step in to answer any questions about that.

28:

... that was a case of a ruling class genuinely attempting to do the best for other classes.

It's quite possible for that to happen. Knobless oblige and all that.

But I'm pretty sure that they wanted to do good things for lower classes who would remain lower classes. They wanted to continue to be a ruling class that did good things for lower classes, and not share ruling class status.

People are funny that way.

29:

In a hierarchical system, underlings must understand the boss, but the boss doesn't need to understand the underlings.

Yes, and there are usually more underlings, and on average about half of them are males. If your boss is middle-management, she's maybe 45% likely to be a woman. It's only at the top levels that it's mostly men.

Also, men who are not high in the hierarchy do much better at seduction if they try hard to understand women.

Some men can get by with "Look at me, I'm rich and powerful" and get their choice of bimbos. And "My daddy can fire your daddy on a whim" might work more often. But even for a one-night-stand most men do better to not be oblivious, and desirable girlfriends take a lot of careful attention.

There probably was a time when all it took was to be a "good provider", but a whole lot of women are pickier now.

30:

Well yes, that's the general case. :-) Thanks for the rec!

31:

Who is the second courtesan? The sequel to Saturn's did not feature a comfort bot or far as I can remember the descendant of a line of comfort bots.

We did discuss similar behavior with respect to Bob. If Bob had been more transparently open to light extra-marital snogging, we definitely would have taken note. He's an unreliable narrator* so maybe he is putting a good face on the circumstances of his temptations, but we have to live with the evidence as presented. There's an entire book about Bob trying as hard as possible not to "snog" someone his soul has been entangled with.

I thought the protagonist in Merchant Princes was not particularly convincing as a woman or an American. I suspected Charlie felt the same way, as he took every opportunity as the series developed to run away from his protagonist, usually to the improvement of the work.

*I tend to agree with Gene Wolfe that unreliable narrators are simply narrators. As a term of art writers use "unreliable narrators" to signal the particular game they are playing with the audience in this work, but any realistic narrator is an unreliable narrator in fact simply due to the limits of human understanding.

32:

MODERATION NOTICE

Right, I'm officially fed up.

Greg, Elderly Cynic, Dirk: your comments on this topic are all being shoveled into moderation until you have something to say that contributes to the discussion rather than derailing it.

Others may take this as a warning.

33:

I suspect that you have hit upon one major way that bias in the system affects and probably usually degrades the art we receive.

34:

To start with: I didn't include the word "survival" in my post for fun. Being good or bad at seduction is a choice (within bounds); if you are (to broaden to sickeningly close-to-hand examples) a Black American, if you don't model white or authority reactions well enough you die.

35:

Simple answer: they're outliers.

(You could equally well cite Terry Pratchett, GRRM, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King ...)

The sad fact is that the income distribution among authors is wildly skewed, with about 50% of the profits going to about 0.01% of the population. You can't draw reasonable conclusions about wealth in society at large by studying a handful of billionaires; so for the same reason we discount the extreme outlying superstars.

36:

If this is reality then it has not percolated up into the media yet. As far as I know the template: a husband is your training for how to deal with a baby/child is still the norm.

37:

The fact J K Rowling's published as "J K" not "Joanne" also relates, I'd think.

38:

That's pretty close to what I was going to say. We try to teach our children not to fear strangers, but not to get taken advantage of and/or not to be preyed upon. The difference is that women, even as adults, more often need a similar strategy set for acquaintances and/or family, and they need it everyday, not just at a time of their choosing. With the added happy that a woman who protects herself too much will also face consequences.

39:

@14:
It is an interesting question as to why the gender bias is not operating in the YA/children's market.
---
I'd look at who does the purchasing for school and public libraries to start with, and assigned reading in schools.

The chart at nces.ed.gov shows over 93,000 elementary and secondary schools in the USA; get a title on the approved list and you have a huge leg up on sales.

Children seldom have money to purchase their own books. Teens... demographics have probably changed some since I was one, but I'd guess the number of teens who buy books with their own money is very small.

tl;dr: the purchaser isn't necessarily the reader

40:

Wild hypothesis time: J K Rowling was published as J K Rowling explicitly so as not to put off boys. All the other YA authors listed above were published since. Did Harry Potter's wild success open a crack?

42:

Did Harry Potter's wild success open a crack?

Yes.

Also, other factors contributed to its success; the decision to issue an edition with an "adult" cover so that parents and other non-children could read it without being embarrassed in public seems to have had an impact. And it wasn't an overnight synthetic success: it just spread by word-of-mouth after first publication and the publisher was sufficiently on-the-ball to reprint as long as it kept selling, then to ask why it was selling so well and to get behind the downhill-rolling snowball and start pushing.

43:

Who is the second courtesan?

Sorry. I remembered it as female, and not neuter.

I thought the protagonist in Merchant Princes was not particularly convincing as a woman or an American.

I didn't see her as unconvincing. I didn't even see her mother as unconvincing. They both responded to a dangerous situation with the skills they had trained. It could be argued that the heroine was not passive enough -- almost every time she had an opportunity to do something effective, she tried it. But for someone with her experience that doesn't seem to me inappropriate either. Sometimes women are taught to be passive, but lots of women get taught not to be.

44:

... if you are (to broaden to sickeningly close-to-hand examples) a Black American, if you don't model white or authority reactions well enough you die.

Yes, and that's particularly true for black males. Particularly black males who look black.

That's about 1/8 the males in the USA.

I don't know where we get the idea that men can't do this, when for the large majority of men it's as important to do as it is for the large majority of women.

45:

I don't particularly read crime fiction, so can't quickly do the full analysis Nicola has done. I'd guess there's a lot of females represented in the genre but I wonder how many are victims rather than investigators?

But winners of the Golden Dagger: last ten are 6 male and 4 female. I wonder how much of that is because, if you ask a non-reader of the genre like me for famous crime novelists I bet you'd get Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. I'm sure if you said some other names, male or female, I'd go "Oh, yes, I knew him/her" but actually they're the only names that spring to my mind without prompting. (Having looked at the nominees Val McDermid for example, although she is the only other one in the last decade.) The nominees for the last eleven years (including this year's award) are even closer to 50% female, 28 women, 34 men.

There is one interesting bias though - there are a fair few people of either gender who write using their initials as their nom de plume. ALL of the men have a wikipedia page. Only 25% of the women do, the others I had to find out via their Amazon pages or similar.

46:

I don't know where we get the idea that men can't do this, when for the large majority of men it's as important to do as it is for the large majority of women.

We're told men can't do this. History is written by the victors and all that...

With apologies for the sweeping generalisations:

The story of how our culture works (and by "our" I'm meaning modern Western civilisation, with apologies to readers from others) is written by those in the position of most power. That's white, heterosexual males. Whether you want to phrase it as they have the privileges or they "play life on default easy settings" or something else, if you're white, male and straight you pretty much don't have to learn how to fit in AND you get to write the cultural guidelines. They write the ones that say "Boys don't cry" the ones that say "women are either sluts or virgins" and then get confused and go to counsellors. They also write the one that says "Men don't have to learn how to fit in" because if they're white, male and straight, they don't, by and large. If you're not-white, gay or female (or God help you more than one of those!) you have to do more and more to fit in.

We are doing more and more to even things up but anyone who claims it's got there yet is deluding themselves, or as Grayson Perry recently so succinctly said "Screaming as the privilege is being dragged from the wrinkled, white claws."

47:

Perhaps I missed it in the comments, but I'd like some clarification on that graph.

Yes, it's really frustrating to see, and it sure needs to be changed.

My question is whether it reflects the bias of the publishers in what they're selling, or does it reflect the bias of the awards in what they're awarding?

The only reason this is worth asking is that SF has been criticized as increasingly a literature of military SF and alt-history, both of which tend to focus on, well, let's call them lad's literature. A bunch of women authors have proven that neither of these fields has to be about males, but it still seems to be thought of that way.

If the problem is in the literature, then the solution appears to be to find ways to break that stranglehold, find ways to make best selling SF that has female protagonists.

If the problem is in the awards process, then I guess the best thing that could have happened was Puppygate, simply because it brought the problem to the surface with all its ugliness.

But still, where does the problem lie in the industry? Agents, editors, corporate bosses, marketing, or customers? Or is it ubiquitous?

48:

Hi, I'm the Eric quoted in the article. Some notes:

re #2: I agree the Nobel prizes are often given for work several decades old (though not always--see the 2010 physics prize for example). But the percentage of biological scientists who are women was 35% in 1970, 33% in 1980, and 41% in 1990. So the fact that 16% of Nobel prizes from 2005-2014 went to women still represents a bias with respect to the number of women working in the field. (Data from the AAUW report cited in note 10).

Robert Prior's suggestion is an interesting one. One difficulty in sampling all eligible works for each year is that after all that work we might still not have answered the questions we're interested in. If we see a bias in award nominations relative to the total eligible works, is that because the awards were biased or because more women published with small or independent presses that afforded less exposure? One could then look at the rates for various categories of publisher to be nominated independent of gender and then correct for that, but this would rapidly become a monumental study. That's not to say it's not worth doing, but there might be more efficient ways to estimate the data we need.

A couple of people have commented on the issue of small sample size. This issue is exactly why the plot of Hugo nominees used a rolling ten-year average rather than the year-to-year numbers. Even here there's some uncertainty: if 30% of 50 nominees are women, the expected uncertainty on that number is 6% or so. Sadly, as in so many other areas, our options are to proceed to the best of our ability without all the data we'd like, or to wait a couple decades so we can look back and say, "yep, that was part of a trend."

Finally, there's been a couple comments about the enormous sales figures some women have accrued. In addition to the valid points about YA vs adult literature, I will add this: part of the point was that award nominations for women are perhaps biased even when compared to the percentage of female authors. Pointing out that some women have huge sales doesn't challenge this conclusion at all.

49:

I'd guess there's a lot of females represented in the genre but I wonder how many are victims rather than investigators?

I read a fair amount, and I'd say that females are over-represented compared to reality both as victims (IIRC victims of violent crime are overwhelmingly young males) and as investigators. Many but not all of the latter are written by women.

I think the percentage of women as investigators has increased over time, probably through social factors: people writing police procedurals in the early to mid 20th century (e.g. Ngaio Marsh) would naturally have male protagonists because women police in those days simply didn't get to be detectives. This is no longer the case, and that does get reflected in the fiction. (I know Charlie doesn't watch TV, but I do find it striking that many TV police procedurals have a male principal character, but he reports to a female boss. I'm sure there's a larger proportion of female Chief Superintendents on the box than in real life!)

This is probably not unrelated to the fact that women make up a significant (though not overwhelming) majority of crime fiction readers. This may make agents and publishers feel that novels with prominent female characters are likely to sell.

50:

Something to remember is that these things change with time, and it's unusual for somebody new to get an award. So there's some lag. But there are also some bizarre events affecting awards. No names, but the Hugo Awards last year and this year will definitely be different, because of the well-known manipulation of the nomination process.

We'll find out soon enough what the end result is for this year, but the majority of the male writers nominated would be hard to describe as a glowing talent. I tried to read the stuff, and failed.

And the bias of the manipulation makes it harder to tell anything from the one novel that wins. It's not as bad for the novels as for the novellas.

For sundry reasons, mostly to do with that one book a year sample size, I don't have much regard for a time series produced from the Hugo Winners. It's not so unlike tossing a coin, and runs of heads or tails will happen. That graph comparing award winners to the shift in SFWA membership is suggestive of something happening but it needs work.

51:

The story of how our culture works (and by "our" I'm meaning modern Western civilisation, with apologies to readers from others) is written by those in the position of most power. That's white, heterosexual males. Whether you want to phrase it as they have the privileges or they "play life on default easy settings" or something else, if you're white, male and straight you pretty much don't have to learn how to fit in AND you get to write the cultural guidelines.

Are you an average white, heterosexual male?

What you are saying does not fit my experience at all.

The way I see it, there is a small group of people who are in the position of most power. Those are probably mostly white, heterosexual males.

But most white, heterosexual males are not in that position. In a hierarchy, there are usually people below you and a smaller number of people above you. The people above you feel just as important to you wherever you are in the hierarchy. They can hurt you and you can only hurt them back in sneaky ways that somebody might catch you doing. You have to pay the same sort of attention to them that the people below you are paying to you.

There are people at the bottom who have nobody paying that attention to them. That doesn't affect their experience all that much.

I am an ostensibly-white, ostensibly-heterosexual male. I don't get to write the cultural guidelines. If I could then you'd see something interesting -- you betcha! I don't get to not learn how to fit in. If I act out the police don't treat me like they would if I was observably black, but they don't put up with much either.

Telling boys they don't have to fit in is a trap. If they believe it, they typically wind up in jail and then they are no competition for the rest of their lives for people who have not been to jail.

There is a tiny fraction of men who don't have to fit in, and who can get away with it. I think. They are an elite that I mostly don't meet, and it's just as well since they can abuse me and I'd have to be real sneaky to get back at them. And it isn't that satisfying either, because if they suspect it was me they can just abuse me some more without evidence.

52:

Stop it. Now.

You want to go on about how it's not really white male power, it's actually elitist power and everyone is screwed? Do it somewhere else.

The only reasons I have not unapproved that comment are because I am telling you to stop it, and also because it is such an amazingly perfect example of what has been discussed: a topic is taken over by a man, dismissing the complaints by the oppressed in question.

53:

OK. I will stop it now.

I know when to back down and obey the power structure.

54:

Naughty Eric, your quote in the footnote is for Nobel Prizes in Medicine and Physiology. They're all for decades old work.

Physics is a bit of a rebel and occasionally breaks the rules. The 2013 Physics prize is another one... the theoretical work was done a long time before but proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson was only obtained that year.

And the total percentage of people in the field really doesn't necessarily reflect sexism on the part of the Nobel committee, sorry. Nobel prizes typical go to senior researchers. If there were a lot women doing PhDs and post docs and not yet penetrating deeper into research fields then they're not likely to be first authors and they're not going to get the Nobel Prizes.

I'm not saying the Nobel committee isn't sexist. I'm just not convinced the data support the hypothesis, we need to check back over the next 10-20 years to see.

55:

Are you an average white, heterosexual male?
White. Average, probably not. As anyone that reads comments here often enough knows, no and no to heterosexual and male.

56:

Sorry, I read Sean's comments saying stop about this thread as I hit reply. I'll be good.

57:

I'm not sure I understand "how men think" & I' male ( & pink & etc ... )
P.S. On scanning up this comments-list I see also Charlie @ 32 - sorry, but I did note OGH's pervios comment, but obviously my attempt to steer round didn't work, Oops, as they say.

I hope the comment above IS on-topic, though?

58:

Um
Demographics.
I wonder if it's relevant ..
[ Note to moderators - if NOT relevant, please delete whole comment, okay? ]
Small piece in today's "torygraph" showing, apparently that 25-30% of a well-known porn site's viewers are (shock, horror) WOMEN.
Well, colour me purple with yellow stripes ....
IIRC even the Marquis de Sade noted that women have their own (sexual in this case) desires & not necessarily what the "Power-structure" wanted them to do.

Or is this just a matter of "Public Face" as opposed to what "everybody" actually says & does: Institutionalised hypocrisy in other words - & there's nothing new about THAT.

59:

El, I never claimed the Nobel prize committee was sexist, just that the prizes are not reflective of the overall make-up of the field. It's entirely possible that the discrimination is happening at the PhD to postdoc transition or the junior faculty to tenure transition, just as (to get back to the actual topic of the post) the bias between female authors and Hugo nominations could be happening at the level of publisher support, or at the level of influential reviews, or at the level of actual Hugo voting. We can't really say without more detailed data.

More importantly, the point was that there is a trend across a number of fields that lowering barriers to women at the entry level has not necessarily been reflected in senior positions and awards. It's a conclusion broadly supported by the reports linked to in note 10 of the original post.

If you would like to wait for another 20 years of data before continuing the conversation, I'm okay with that. I look forward to hearing from you then.

60:

Dave, the time series plot is a rolling ten year average of Hugo nominees, not a list of year-to-year winners. So each point represents 50 books, give or take the odd year with 4 or 6 nominees. There is still some uncertainty in that, as I mentioned above, but it's not overwhelming. The rolling average also means aberrant years do not significantly shift the graph.

I agree that there is more work to be done! There are more awards to count and compile, and better estimates of the number of women in the field to consider. But the chart as it stands is not quite so uncertain as you suggest.

61:

As a male, I can't guarantee that I can speak to the psychological accuracy of female characters written by male writers. I sure can tell when they don't sound like people, though, and I've seen an awful lot of that. (The god-like Robert Heinlein was a gigantic bucket of FAIL in that area.) On the other hand, the women of Stross, MacLeod, and the late Iain [M.] Banks seem lifelike to me. Something in the Scottish air?

62:

Here's another example - analysis of sports coverage by NBC during the Olympics; unsurprisingly, there's demonstrable bias on grounds of race and gender (and nationality, but that's not a surprise*):

http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2012/jun/Olympic-commentary-061812.html

I mention it, because it shows off the unconscious biases really, really well - with gender isolated from debate over attempts to declare the bias to be one of agency or skin tone.

While the above link demonstrates bias amongst commentators, ISTR another study (can't find a link) that attempted to assess the effect of competitive success on the "attractiveness" of an athlete to the other gender - large multi-sport events with an athletes' village being full of young, fit, and frequently single young people (from experience, serious levels of participation in sport tend to screw up your social life - and never get accommodation near the swimmers, those sods are always finished competing and in party mode from about day five...) IIRC it demonstrated gender bias amongst the athletes in the absence of any organisational hierarchy.

* The Americans yend to ignore any athlete who isn't American; the Australians likewise... The BBC isn't quite as bad (see "2012 Olympics, and the father of a certain South African swimmer", or their employment of foreign athletes as expert commentators), but is still going to focus on Team GB...

63:

Just though of a better example - the recent and infamous tweet from the Football Association that "attempted" to congratulate the England womens' team on their success in the World Cup.

You can work much harder, for much less money, and be more successful than any UK team in fifty years - and still get patronised purely for reason of gender.

64:
I thought the protagonist in Merchant Princes was not particularly convincing as a woman or an American. I suspected Charlie felt the same way, as he took every opportunity as the series developed to run away from his protagonist, usually to the improvement of the work.

Shows how opinions can differ ;-)

Personally I found Miriam a spot on example of the kind of american tech journos I encountered during dot-com-boom 1.0. Several of them women.

Suzanne Church in Doctorow's "Makers" would be another example.

65:

Interesting results about the Hugo winners.

At this stage they don't show whether the bias is at the Hugo selection stage, the publishing stage, or the submission stage. Teasing that out will require more data, which will take a lot more work to gather. (And will have to be gathered carefully to avoid introducing more bias in sample selection.)

To determine if the Hugos are biased, we'd need to see the same breakdown for the works published in a given year (that were eligible for the Hugo). That's a huge amount of effort required to gather this data. Short of analysing every book published, we'd need a way of sampling that didn't introduce a bias of its own, which is harder than most people think*.

I so hear you on this, Robert! The amount of sheer...stuff to be looked at feels overwhelming sometimes.

66:

SFWA is interesting: I would be curious to know what the international demographic is (English speaking or otherwise).

At some point I'd love to talk to SFWA about what kind of data they do/n't have. I think it would prove useful.

67:

"... and also because it is such an amazingly perfect example of what has been discussed: a topic is taken over by a man, dismissing the complaints by the oppressed in question."

If that is what was read into my posts, I am saddened. But I do not propose to argue, whatever my feelings on the matter.

68:

More importantly, the point was that there is a trend across a number of fields that lowering barriers to women at the entry level has not necessarily been reflected in senior positions

There's also considerable evidence that when large numbers of women enter a field, it suffers a devaluing in prestige and autonomy. (Sorry, no cites right now — I'm away from my library.) Consider how 'secretary' moved from a respected position to a servant, for example. Or look at doctors in the USSR.

Which can be a fascinating (and frustrating) discussion, but it's straying from this blog posts topic so I won't continue.

Getting back to SFF authors in particular, if we note that more men than women are winning the Hugo (or another award) there are several not-mutually-exclusive possibilities.

1) Men are more likely to write that type of fiction.
2) Men are more likely to get their stories published.
3) Men are more likely to get publicity for their work (ie. get their work noticed).
4) Men's work is more likely to be selected for the award.

Teasing apart where the m/f splits happen would be, as Eric said earlier, a monumental study. Even if we simplify it to look only at the gender of the authors, and ignore the viewpoint characters, that's still a lot of data to gather in a statistically rigorous manner.

I wonder if it's possible to scrape Amazon for SFF books and filter those results by publication date. That wouldn't get every publisher, but would it get enough to give meaningful results? And could we quantify any bias from 'only sold by Amazon'?

(I'll admit that with the current immature canine imbroglio, I'm rather curious as to whether the Hugo selection process has a m/f bias when measured against the background m/f publication ratio. If, for example, the Hugo are won 60% by males but novels are published 50% by males then the selection process seems to have a bias. If Hugos are won 60% by males, and novels are published 60% by males, that indicates that any bias is operating elsewhere in the system. OTOH, if the Hugos are won 60% by male but novels are published 80% by males*, that would indicate that the Hugo process appears to favour women. At which point we'd need another grant** to determine if being a woman is an advantage in the Hugos, or if only the very best women get published so on average books by women are better than books by men***. My gut feel is that Hugo selection probably correlates most strongly to 'buzz', but absent data that is only a speculation.)

So the Hugos have been analysed. How much work would it be to analyze the population that the Hugos are drawn from? Is there a reasonably complete list of publishers (who one hopes would have online catalogues)?

*Numbers anally extracted for illustration purposes.

**Always leave yourself room to apply for a follow-up grant :-)

***Given what I read on the other thread, I'd certainly suspect this. I remember back in the 80s one of my managers preferred to hire female engineers, all other qualifications being equal. Not because of "equality", but because as people who had succeeded with the odds stacked against them**** they had already demonstrated tenacity (what we now call "grit"). But we all remember that the plural of anecdote is not data — we need hard numbers to analyze this properly.

****These were the days when many schools advised women to go into nursing or teaching, not engineering, because it was 'more suited' as a career for them.

69:

I'm not sure how clear my post here was, so a clarification:

I worry about the relative lack of women's voices. That is, stories written by women about women. Stories help us empathise (there's a lot of research e.g. this). With a dearth of women to empathise with (or books about them deemed important enough to win prizes), the vicious circle will tighten.

Books are part of what creates and sustains culture; women’s perspectives are vital to society. The more this gender bias is discussed, believed, and—most importantly—understood, the more effectively we’ll be able to put it right. First, we need to understand how we get to the current lop-sided results. In other words, we need to understand the inflection points in the system: Where does this bias begin? Where is it most pervasive? What are the bottlenecks? Think of it as the world having back pain. It is impaired, every day. It needs attention. But is it a pulled muscle or a herniated disc? To treat it, to take the pain away, we need to know exactly where and what the problem is. We need data. Data is like an MRI. It will give us a picture of the problem. Then we can fix it.

So, we need data. But I'm not skilled in data collection, analysis, or presentation. I need help--and people are volunteering. Yay! But it's going to take time. So meanwhile my hope is that we all pay just a bit more attention to bias--conscious or unconscious--in our daily book-related lives. This is not an Us vs Them situation; it's not about pointing fingers. It's about figuring shit out.

So make your own counts--publicly, or privately--and ponder the results (ditto). Change requires many hands and minds.

70:

Ok, I'm getting stupid in my old age. That's not what I took from the note and its context and I'm sorry.

I STILL object that including Nobel data is constitutively different to Hugo data. You can, theoretically, win a Hugo for your first novel, biases and fixed voting recently this year notwithstanding. You win it in the year of publication roughly speaking. People are routinely nominated for and even win multiple Hugos.

I'd be surprised if anyone has won a Nobel prize on a first publication, although in over 100 years and several categories it's possible. Apart from graphene (even that was 5 or 6 years later) how many are within a decade in the research subjects? In fact apart from Peace maybe, I don't follow the Economics and Literature prizes closely enough. Marie Curie famously won two Nobel prizes. Sanger I know without looking them up. A quick google says Pauling and someone called Bardeen I've never heard of won two, although Pauling's second was Peace.

I think they might reflect what you're suggesting they do but they're so indirect and removed from the direct phenomenon it's hard to be sure. I'm on my iPad, what categories does a proper Wikipedia page give for a book? Cross-referencing books by year, by genre and then author name gives you a quick count for authors published by gender within a genre per year. You might also extract some interesting data about women who have to 'hide' behind initials. Adding data about which genders are represented is then a huge task but set up a wiki with moderation or a blog and let people contribute that way and a tiny bit of MySQL and something to plot a graph and you can have a live pie chart of the data on the front end.

71:

"Stories help us empathise..."
It certainly seems to be needed, because the USA at least is headed in the other direction:
http://ranprieur.com/readings/americanpsycho.html

72:

That is EXACTLY how I read your comments, and how I attempted to respond. But the story of my life is failing to communicate :-( "This is not an Us vs Them situation; it's not about pointing fingers. It's about figuring shit out." Yes, absolutely. I had exactly that problem with my daughters - I wanted them to be exposed to "go and do it" role models in their reading, and there was a dearth. This is a very long-standing problem.

I have been told not to continue, so I won't, except to say that I am virtually certain that this problem is not where most people are looking, and I believe that there is no solution except positive discrimination of such works. And data analysis IS one of my skills, which doesn't mean that I am correct.

73:

Surprising you never heard of Bardeen. First Nobel was for the transistor, second for superconductivity.

Brian Josephson won his physics Nobel when he was 33, for work done when he was 22. Rudolf Mössbauer's Nobel in 1961 was for work done in 1957. Physics Nobels often come early. Medicine, not so much: Werner Forssmann, who performed the first heart catheterization (on himself!!) in 1929, was enNobeled in 1957, long after he had left the field of cardiology.

74:

Well, descending from data to anecdote, the only economics Nobel winner I have time for is the late Elinor Ostrom, who's also the only female economics prize winner.

I've read she she was excoriated as a "sociologist" when she won, and there were complaints that a lot of really good men were overlooked to give her the medal, and that she wasn't a proper enough economist for her work to be eligible.

Her work showed quite clearly how to construct commons that don't undergo the Tragedy of the Commons, based on research into commons that lasted for decades to centuries with their resource base intact. To put it bluntly, the Tragedy of the Commons is BS, and even Garrett Hardin, the inventor of the term, said as much.

Her work is largely ignored to this day. The Tragedy of the Commons still regarded as gospel and given as a throw-away reason for why any large number of environmental problems can only be solved by privatization.

In contrast, male winners like Paul Krugman, who declared personal bankruptcy in 2013, are still widely listened to, even though they can't manage their own finances.

So do I think the Nobel process is biased? Anecdotally, yes.

75:

You can, theoretically, win a Hugo for your first novel, biases and fixed voting recently this year notwithstanding

Not just theoretically - Ann Leckie did last year, in what was an almost clean sweep for Ancillary Justice (she drew for the BSFA award with Gareth L Powell, much to his great shock - he really didn't think he had a chance). The previous example I can think of was ten years earlier, with Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Sadly Clarke has yet to complete a second novel, but if she does it's going to sell like hot cakes, so you can be pretty sure her publishers aren't going to be stinting if and when it happens.

76:

Not that surprising, I'm a biologist by trade and if I read the names of the P&M Nobel prize winners from the last decade I recognise about half. If I read the titles of the citations I can tell you something about almost all the fields of study though, and for some of them I can you a lot in excruciating detail.

I know roughly what a transistor is and certainly what later iteration have become, and I know what superconductors are but I've never formally studied them.

77:

I've not heard of Bardeen, and I'm a chemist who spent an afternoon trying to understand superconductors, and failed due to lack of mathematical knowledge. As for Josephson I only really heard about him due to Anne McCaffrey's books, the ones which have a baddy who is a whiz kid at computer design using Josephson junctions.
(Of course when he showed up somewhere I hung out online spouting new age anti-science it was a shame, although a bit good for my ego knowing that I knew more materials science than a nobel prize winner)

78:

I worry about the relative lack of women's voices. That is, stories written by women about women.

You have six categories, women about men, women about women, women about both, and similarly for men.

If each category got the same number of stories, then 1/6 of them would be women about women, or 2 out of 12.

What you actually found among Hugo winners was 2 out of 15. Not such a big deficit. It could be statistical fluctuation or maybe a small increase would do it.

Or maybe more study will find that there's a big deficit that could be corrected if more women would write about women.

79:

Charlie@35 & Mayham@16 & Susan@14

The problem here is you are selecting just a particular part of the genre to focus on. I could equally well produce a stat of 'total earnings of genre authors' to demonstrate the entirely opposite point of view that "women genre authors do far better than male ones". It would be no more correct or reasonable.

This is a pet peeve of mine; politician statistics. The type of stats that say "the rate of increase is decreasing" as proof of some political position.

Saying 'but it's childrens/YA' ignores the fact that in terms of genre consumption of the population at large, they dwarf the readership of the entire Hugo list. Like it or no, 'simplistic' genre massively outweighs and defines the genre market, over 'intelligent' genre. With a nod to OGH, it's a 'no true scotsman' argument.

Saying they are 'outliers' is true, but that is just defining the marketplace (as you recognise). It has nothing to say about gender, just that it's a case of 'alpha and the rest'. What is important is that in the field of genre books getting turned into money, those outliers define the field. You can't ignore them because they didn't fit your case - particularly since, as is pretty obvious, the women are wiping the floor with the men over the last decade or so. I'm sure GRRM is doing nicely, but he's not getting movie cash - and he's virtually the only one to really earn serious male money from "books into ...." .

Standing back a bit, I'll give my own perspective on what I think's happening.

I'd suggest, as I have before, that the agents, editors, etc. in the book industry are not great at picking winners. Instead, what they have are rules of thumb about what they think will sell - based on the past. Fair enough, not great for business, but it's a hard task.

At the same time, men tend to have particular likes and dislikes in narrative, and thus what they want to write; AS DO WOMEN. 'Should' doesn't come into it - there is a natural affinity for the viewpoints of the reader and the author to line up.

Put those together and editors/agents pick the type of story they think from past experience will do well, which then get greater push, and thus are more likely to do well with a readership already attuned to those viewpoints.

However.

What we have seen is that this is not the whole story. There are big, and very lucrative, market segments that have different needs and expectations, and where women seem evidentially to do very well. Coupled with the rise of eBooks (and thus self publishing) those books find their markets, and in particular movie outlets, and make mountains of cash.

No need to invoke explicit institutionalised sexism, nor to exclaim "something must be done" - it's pretty much self correcting.

To present it in metaphor - it's like the age of mechanical watchmakers, with intricate and exquisitely crafted timepieces, fashioned in gold and precious gems. Then along comes plastic digital watches. Sure they are cheaply finished and often ugly - but they do the job at least as well and are very lucrative by accessing a much wider marketplace. Focusing on if watches should be allowed to be made of plastic, or if they should be admitted to a competition for the best timepiece, is massively missing the point.

80:

No need to invoke explicit institutionalised sexism, nor to exclaim "something must be done" - it's pretty much self correcting.

Well, you might be right.

On the other hand we have more than forty years of studies showing that there is massive explicit institutionalized sexism everywhere researchers have looked for it. Researchers who look for sexism always find it. It's everywhere.

We don't have a lot of evidence that's what's going on here, but apply Occam's Razor. Is it more likely that there's massive institutionalized sexism in SF publishing, or is it more likely that this is the only exception? And again applying Occam's razor, once we have one perfectly good explanation for the problem, why do we need extra explanations on top of that?

We should work out the details because that's the right thing to do, and also we might get some interesting and useful results. But there's reason to think that when we do find out, the reason that women can't publish as much as men and have shorter careers in which they make less money, is sheer sexism and that will be the only reason.

81:

Would like to add to Robert Prior's (68) comment ...

As per Wikipedia: "Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event."

Accordingly, the pro-male author bias may be among the electorate, therefore a comparison between Hugo voters and the SF/F readership at large may be needed.

Another item: Reward for past service to a favorite and aging author who's not yet been officially recognized. This is basically a catch-up award ... it happens with the Oscars every once in a while.

In much of SF/F you're writing/reading about people in highly stylized social and inter-personal situations, where the focus is most often about how a specific individual is perceiving, feeling, reacting, etc. So - does it really make sense to spell out or dwell on having that character be a male or a female. Reading fiction helps inform us of what humanity means or can mean. So, maybe we should discuss what the differences between male and female are likely to be 100, 1,000 or 10,000 years hence.

Out of curiosity ... what about male/female co-author teams? (Dragonlance series)


82:

The 'in contrast' remark fails because its premise is false.

The Paul Krugman bankruptcy story is not true, as the simplest of google searches will show. It was a joke from the satire site http://dailycurrant.com that was briefly propagated to news sites.

83:

I could equally well produce a stat of 'total earnings of genre authors' to demonstrate the entirely opposite point of view that "women genre authors do far better than male ones".

If you have actual data on genre author earnings I would love to see it. (That wasn't sarcastic; I actually would love to see it.) At the moment though it seems like you're using hypothetical data which you're confident you could collect to argue against actual data that somebody did collect.

Even if we accept your argument that women authors make more than men on average, why does that mean we shouldn't care about bias in literary awards? The absence of bias in one aspect of the publishing landscape doesn't excuse its presence in another.

84:

The point was Eric, if you specifically included those authors of genre series that went on to be turned into franchise movies, who have been predominately female in recent years, you could easily get a 'top ten earnings' stats list that said women were doing great and that it was men that were suffering. JK '£1bn' Rowling would top the scales, if you picked your boundaries correctly.

The point was you can prove anything, if you draw those bounds appropriately.

PTerry really never won a serious literary award - does that matter in the end? Nope, because he sold books by the boat load. Literary awards might not favour women (for a variety of possible reasons, many of which are not out and out sexism). Does that matter when it's pretty obvious they are doing extremely well from the movie franchise standpoint?

And if you are going to go into battle over one instance of 'bias', to avoid being classified a hypocrite, shouldn't you going into battle over the other one too? I mean, arguably the pound in your pocket is more meaningful than a trophy.

Too many people looking at the stats lamppost for support rather than illumination.

85:

Question:
Are we supposed to be concentrating on female authors in SF ONLY as the subject?
Or are some side-observations permitted?
Remuneraton of authors in SF is obviously OK, but what about comparators in other fields, f'rinstance?
I will say no more than that for fear of the dreaded ["SNIP"]

86:
The point was you can prove anything, if you draw those bounds appropriately.

Yes, but you have to start somewhere. And you have to draw those boundaries in sensible places.

We have some numbers around some of the major awards. We have a big wasteland of no data in the middle. And we have some guesstimate numbers for the unicorn-authors who make $(stupid x insane) breakthrough money.

As others have pointed out we also have numerous examples of institutional bias in many, many, many other areas.

Now, you maybe right. Maybe if we poke at the wasteland of unexamined data we'll discover that women authors are no better/worse off in general. Personally I doubt that for the same reason as J Thomas.

But arguing from the tiny number of breakthrough authors like PTerry & Rowling onto the population of authors in general seems… questionable to me.

It's like arguing that about racism in the US from the point of Obama being president.

Or looking to the few unicorn startups with multi-billion IPOs for insights in the vastly larger number of startups that make little money or fail. Sure those unicorns make a lot of money — but making general conclusions from very, very small numbers is almost never a good idea.

The data we have now isn't looking under the lamppost. It's looking at data from one of the major awards in the industry. At the very least it says something interesting about the Hugos. Possibly SF/fandom in general — possibly not. But it's a start.

Nicola Griffith acknowledged it was a start. And is asking for more help. Doesn't that seem like a good idea?

(Also — isn't the only reason PTerry doesn't have a serious award that he turned down a Hugo at least once?)

87:

Too many people looking at the stats lamppost for support rather than illumination.

I think the characterisation of Nicola as a lamppost drunk is pretty unreasonable. She has openly expressed her ambitions to delve deeper into the issue so as to better understand it, which is not the approach of someone who only wants to support their pre-conceived notions with some cooked-up data. And she has similarly been careful in her language to include a reasonable element of doubt in her conclusions i.e. use of phrases such as 'seem' and 'it's hard to escape the conclusion that'.

Meanwhile, you're doubling down on this heavily contrived category of 'women in genre fiction who have received movie deals'. It's already been pointed out to you that this ignores the experience of the bulk of female authors in genre fiction, who get neither the literary recognition nor that sweet Hollywood renumeration. I'd also note that it's easy to generate a list of male fantasy authors that have received the movie-deal treatment on the same timeline as the HP franchise i.e.

CS Lewis
Tolkien
Rick Riordan
Christopher Paolini
Philip Pullman
Neil Gaiman

If your point is that data surrounding literary awards isn't representative of the issue as a whole then I think you can rest assured that you've made it. No one's even disputing that. Nevertheless, the charts that Nicola posted, here and on her blog, are indicative of an existing problem which at the very least is perfectly worthy of further examination.

88:

Wikipedia seems to suggest that only 4 people (as you name) have won 2 Nobels as individuals or members of a named team, and no-one has won 3 or more Nobels. I do note that there is very little discussion of the Literature prize in the article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize though.

89:

You need to be careful with such quick assumptions. There are 7 pools, there's an empty pool of men writing about women/girls which we really shouldn't expect to be empty. We should expect 15/7 entries (~2.14) in each pool. Although the one of immediate interest is very close to expectation, the pool of most direct contrast men writing only about men is way off at 6.

Fortunately statistics gives us a test for this - chi-squared. A quick bit of stats later and as a biologist I'd be dubious about the null hypothesis, but lots of sociologists would be happy rejecting it. We get a p=0.099 that this set of results arise by chance, in other words p

The biologist in me would say "do another experiment or get more data." Fortunately Nicola's original post that she linked to provides the same data for 5 other literary prizes over the same period. If we pool the six sets of data, which seems not unreasonable: they're all literary prizes over the same period looking at the gender of the author against the gender of the subjects, then chi-squared gives us p-13 (p=0.33x10^-13). In other words there's a cat in hell's chance (no that's not a technical term) that these distributions arise by chance. Unsurprisingly 39 of the 90 possibles are men writing about men. Women writing about men, then women writing about both are the next biggest categories.

We can argue ad nauseam about what this all means but, at the level of awards there is clearly a statistically significant deviation from an even distribution between categories and it disproportionately favours men writing about men.

90:

Josephson is an incredibly smart idiot and way full of himself. The story goes that after he got an effect AND a unique device named after him (not very common in science and technology, you will admit) he was pissed because he thought them to be trivial and he'd probably invent or discover something else better in the future and the name would be "used up". Ego much?

91:

Awards are a reasonable measure of the industry, your criticism seems to be that they aren't a total measure but has anyone actually said that?

Regardless the number of authors recieving movie franchises is also limited as others have pointed out. Out of interest though here's a list of 100 books that are in the process of being turned into movies:
http://www.popsugar.co.uk/celebrity/Books-Made-Movies-List-32193133?stream_view=1#photo-32539439

Totalling that up that's 61 male authors and 39 female authors that are having their books turned into films.

(Mods if this is off topic then please do shut the conversation down)

Taking it away from cinema and back more firmly into books your measure of success seems to be linked to income, is that correct? If so what do you think the median average income is for male vs female authors? I can't find any hard stats on it atm but this news article cites a figure that professional female authors earn 80% that of male authors:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/20/earnings-authors-below-minimum-wage

92:

"Awards are a reasonable measure of the industry"

I disagree. In every industry I know they are not a reasonable measure at all. They are skewed by money, advertising, mutual backscratching, "in" cliques, fashion, politics etc.
The only valid question here is why SF awards are skewed in the way they are and not some other way.

93:

I rarely agree with Dirk, but I'm inclined to agree, awards on an industry level are rarely a useful indicator of the industry and I'd have my doubts about how representative a sample of the population they are.

OTOH it's an easily accessible data set, well publicised and easily accessible. It's far from the worst place to start looking to see if there might be bias.

94:

For a cool looking and user friendly data visualisations there is this cool startup called InfoGram.

95:

Poxy html, p<0.1 for the first one, p<0.5x10-13 for the second. Too long writing in markup editors and not thinking about it

96:

There are 7 pools, there's an empty pool of men writing about women/girls which we really shouldn't expect to be empty.

The way I count it, that's one of the six. Three varieties of main characters for men, and three varieties for women. If you want to include people who don't count as men or women for authors, or for main characters, that adds more but it doesn't affect my point.

Nicola Griffith said she wanted more stories about women written by women. That was two out of the fifteen, fewer than the two out of twelve we would have gotten if it was exactly even. If there had been one more, it would have been three out of fifteen, more than the two out of twelve that would be exactly even.

This particular number is about as close as it can get to balanced. It is precisely 1/3 of the women, and it's a little low because there were a few more men winners.

I think the immediate conclusion from this is "Hugo winners are more likely to be men writing about men than men writing about women".

Maybe when men write about women they don't on average do it well enough to win the Hugo? That would fit the stereotype about men not understanding women.

97:

[Awards are] an easily accessible data set, well publicised and easily accessible. It's far from the worst place to start looking to see if there might be bias.

And like de-cluttering, it's best to start with something you know you can finish :-/

Although to my mind, the more interesting questions concern what biases* are faced by the majority of writers who neither win awards nor get media deals.

*Note plural: there are many biases.

98:

... I'd have my doubts about how representative a sample of the population they are.

OTOH it's an easily accessible data set, well publicised and easily accessible.

Choosing an unrepresentative sample because it's easy to get, is *precisely* the error that the lamppost story is supposed to warn about.

99:

Absolutely agree. That's why I said to start looking.

I've suggested ways to look at much bigger data sets elsewhere in this thread. Although I'm not sore what sort of analysis would let you start to determine all the possible biases in operation.

100:

Its very easy to throw conceptual stones without actually thinking through the difficulties of getting better data.

To do any meaningful analysis we need data at book, author, text granularity (if we want protagonist gender).

Obviously the 2 best measures would be sales volume, and author revenue. The first is behind Paywalls (Amazon sales rank), the second locked up tight by publisher/author commercial agreements.

Providing Nicola and Co. always constrain/caveat any conclusions by defining them as "author success measured by industry awards" I don't see the problem. Especially since these kind of analyses are quite often spurs to release more data.

I think its a trifle mean spirited to describe it as an unrepresentative sample. Its a valid sample for a given set of constraints.

Where I would critique Nicola's approach from a pure statistical point of view is the inclusion of Protagonist gender as whilst its interesting from an Author POV we have grounds to strongly suspect its a dependent variable of Author Gender. Additionally its not a particularly actionable variable in its own right. (ie lets fix author gender bias first and observe the effects on Protagonist PoV.)

101:

We have some numbers around some of the major awards. We have a big wasteland of no data in the middle.

Yes. This is an example. I think that all corporate data should be free to anyone in the cloud. As it is, we have no way to keep the bad guys from finding out whatever they want, and this would help good guys like us try to catch up.

If it was available, we could track author careers from publisher data. As it is, that's hard.

But apart from the data it's obvious that the system is not fair to women. First, men on average have more money than women and more disposable income. So they can buy more SF if they want to.

Men probably buy more SF written by men because they probably like it better. If they were fair, they would buy just as much SF written by women. They wouldn't decide after reading one novel by a woman that they didn't like, that they wouldn't like one by another woman. They wouldn't decide after reading one book by a woman that they didn't like, that they wouldn't like her next book. To be fair, they should buy everything that women write whether they expect to like it or not.

Publishers probably publish more SF written by men. This isn't fair to women. Also they probably do more marketing for SF written by men. To be fair they should market all SF equally regardless how well they think it will sell.

Publishers probably give more slack to male writers who write a flop or two than to female writers, so that the male careers last longer. It isn't fair. They shouldn't use their own judgement to predict which writers will recover, but instead use some formula that treats everyone the same.

Agents probably work harder for male writers than for female writers. It isn't fair.

Agents probably prefer to work with male writers than female writers. We have evidence that on one occasion 50 agents were more interested in working with one male writer than another 50 agents were with an equal female writer. It isn't fair. Agents should treat male and female writers the same regardless whether they think one will make more money than the other or whatever other reason they may have to treat them different.

Starting male writers likely have more resources to fall back on than female writers, on average. Lois McMaster Bujold wrote about getting up early every morning and having one hour to write each day, an hour she treasured. A man who could get two hours a day could get things done twice as fast. It isn't fair. To succeed at writing you need to make it a full-time career, but unless you have enough money saved that's likely to fail. Just as men probably have more money on average to buy SF, men probably have more money to take the gamble of a writing career. That would result in more men writing science fiction, more chances for agents and publishers to find good ones who can sell, etc.

The whole society is unfair to women. Why would we expect this be different?

But there's something you can do about it. If you see a book written by a woman, you can buy it whether or not you think you'd like it. If you think you might not like it, that could be your unconscious bias. Buy it anyway. And tell your friends it's good, and stress the woman's name.

And you can buy anthologies that only accept women for writers.

Also you can pressure publishers and agents to be fair to women. They will pay attention to their vocal customers.

It isn't fair, but we can help make it become more fair.

102:

But there's something you can do about it...

Yup. Educate the next generation.

I grew up in an environment where I went to a single-sex boarding school outside a small town; the majority of adult single women I met were my mother's and my father's colleagues (teachers working in a foreign country in Service Schools, Foreign Office diplomats, plainclothes soldiers in Northern Ireland); I ended up with an expectation of normality skewed very heavily towards strong, independent, capable. Unsurprisingly, I married a strong, independent, and extremely (more than me!) capable woman.

I've already taught my sons about the Bechdel Test; I expose them to fiction by female authors, and as many strong female role models as possible; my wife and I stamp hard on any comments that suggest "girly" or similar as a descriptive, or predictive of behaviour. They compete in Judo, and had a female judoka as their initial coach (they continue to train against girls of similar size and weight, and occasionally get chucked around like ragdolls...)

We're trying...

103:

Its very easy to throw conceptual stones without actually thinking through the difficulties of getting better data.

Yes, and it's easy to go after bad data and try to draw conclusions from it, because it's available. GIGO.

To do any meaningful analysis we need data at book, author, text granularity (if we want protagonist gender).

I'm not at all clear that protagonist gender would help with Judith Tarr's concerns. It can be an interesting question for other purposes, though. There's nothing wrong with looking at that. It gets answers to other questions, though.

Obviously the 2 best measures would be sales volume, and author revenue. The first is behind Paywalls (Amazon sales rank), the second locked up tight by publisher/author commercial agreements.

I think Amazon sales rank would be hard to interpret.
http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/amazon-sales-ranking-explained/

Publishers might possibly release sanitized data if asked politely. It doesn't hurt to ask. I try to imagine myself with the authority at a publishing company to allow that. I'm sympathetic, but I have two concerns. One is that somebody has to do some work on it, and the time they spend on it they aren't doing work that pays off. The other is that if I give data to a group that's trying to show that my publishing house is systematically sexist, there's no telling what they'll think they've discovered and probably they'll publish something that makes us look bad.

I think its a trifle mean spirited to describe it as an unrepresentative sample. Its a valid sample for a given set of constraints.

The original concern was about women who turn invisible as they age, who can't maintain writing careers. They get less support from their publishers, their sales drop, the publishers give them less support still and eventually drop them. Looking at the ratio of women who win Hugos and what they write about, probably will not address that.

It might help to look at the ages that women win Hugos. Or when in their publishing history it happens. Maybe a woman who wins a Hugo for her first or second novel gets to have a longer career because of it, while few women will win their first Hugo for a sixth or tenth novel because they are less likely to be able to publish a tenth novel unless they've already had a big success.

That might be true for men, too. It might be less true for men.

OK! If you get onto the final ballot for a Hugo, that means at least 5% of the nominators have read your book and liked it. And then a thousand or more voters will read it who might otherwise not have. That ought to be some kind of sales boost for your next book. We can compare the genders of finalists, and check how many further books they have written. Maybe there will be enough of them to detect a difference between the length of men's and women's careers after being finalists.

You can't say that a Hugo finalist is a bad writer.

Of course, some people stop writing because they want to and not because they can't publish.

There might be some ways to massage the data to remove things we aren't interested in.

I haven't though this out but it might have potential.

104:

"Where I would critique Nicola's approach from a pure statistical point of view is the inclusion of Protagonist gender as whilst its interesting from an Author POV we have grounds to strongly suspect its a dependent variable of Author Gender."

If you analyse solely the awards to women, the distribution is 12:15:14 (or 7:12:12 if you exclude the Newbery). There isn't enough data to give decent error bounds on what the population bias could be, though. The (data) bias is almost entirely in the awards to men and, as people have said, it scarcely needs formal testing!

105:

I'm not sure whether to hope that you're reaching for irony and sarcasm or being deadly serious.

If irony and sarcasm, I'm not sure what your intended point is. Are you trying to say that the system is unfair because people use their own judgement rather than some "buy one male author/buy one female author" type system? Are you trying to suggest that the only way to be "fair" is to completely ignore your own judgement and personal experience? Or are you just reiterating that the whole system is so tipped against women, that doing anything is pointless?

If you're being serious? Well, I just don't know where to start then.

(Final thought: If you're serious about "only buy female authors", isn't that just treating all female authors as charity cases, and reinforcing that they can't succeed on their own merits?)

106:

Apologies, final sentence should read: "reinforcing that you think they can't succeed on their own merits"

107:

Ah, apparently someone else did read J Thomas' #103 the same way that I did!

For the record, when I buy a book by $new_to_me_author I normally buy one new release or "friend's recommendation" (in this context consider this blog as a friend), irrespective of the author's age and sex. When I read it, I will then decide whether or not I wish to read more of that author's works.
I'm actually reading more female than male authors first recommended by this blog, but that's based on works, not chromosomes.

108:

Are you trying to say that the system is unfair because people use their own judgement rather than some "buy one male author/buy one female author" type system?

That's one way it's unfair. Your judgement may have unconscious bias against women, and to remove the possible bias you can remove the judgement.

Are you trying to suggest that the only way to be "fair" is to completely ignore your own judgement and personal experience?

There's an alternative approach. You can meditate deeply and perhaps also go to self-criticism sessions and decide that you do have unconscious bias, and resolve to correct it. But the only way to tell that you have in fact resolved your unconscious issues is when half of your purchases are from women. The result is the same.

Or are you just reiterating that the whole system is so tipped against women, that doing anything is pointless?

No, it isn't true that there's nothing that can be done. We can work to transform the society. Today, whenever people look for unfairness to women, they always find it. We might eventually create a system in which people who look for unfairness to women will only find it half the time, and often the amount of unfairness will be small.

109:

So you're saying that it's "unfair to women" that I in my role as a reader treat them exactly the same way as I treat men?

110:

I'm wary of continuing this exchange, because I fear that you're either being willfully silly and I'm going to preach to the choir, or you're making genuine suggestions that you really can't see any problems with (in which case I'm entering into a head/wall interface type of situation).

Your judgement may have unconscious bias against women, and to remove the possible bias you can remove the judgement.

It seems to me that female authors want to be judged on a level playing field, without unconscious sexism; this suggestion simply implies that the best thing to do is to tip the playing in their favour and they'll all be happy. Seems a little condescending to female authors, no?

But the only way to tell that you have in fact resolved your unconscious issues is when half of your purchases are from women.

This is blatantly nonsense. It makes the assumption that if we remove the sex/gender of the author from the equation all books are equal. Do I have to labour this point? No? Good.

We can work to transform the society.

Yes, indeed we can. But none of your suggestions really seem to be trying to do that in a serious way.

I shall leave the deep dark pessimism of your last paragraph to fester on its own.

111:

You clearly have a different training in stats to me. I read the lamppost story as a warning to question how representative your sample and test it.

I'm doubtful about the quality of the awards data as a representative sample and have made a number of suggestions for expanding the data set to get better data, as have others. (BTW Nicola and Eric, feel free to use any or all of my suggestions, or none as you like.) I'm doubtful for a number of reasons but lets start with the really obvious one: it's a tiny sample from the total books published (even in relevant genres) per year. There is virtually no way to test how representative they are of the population, at least in part because we have no population data to look at. But it's almost certainly a better sample than "these are books I've read that were published in the last year" - at least they're books that have probably been read by many people.

But using data where it's not clear that it's a good sample as a starting point to see if it might be worth carrying on is not necessarily a bad thing. There are entire industries based on the idea of pilot studies where you test on non-representative samples first and then go for bigger and more useful samples.

It's only if, as in the lamppost story, you assume your lamppost is truly representative you're in trouble.

112:

I do think that he's found a very long winded way of defining and suggesting "positive discrimination".

113:

Hardly the only smart/stupid Nobelist. Kary Mullis is an AIDS- and climate-change-denialist, William Shockley was a racialist and eugenics-promoter, Philipp Lenard was an early and enthusiastic Nazi who insisted that Relativity was a "Jewish fraud". And let's not forget James D. Watson, whose foot seems to interfere with his articulation.

114:

I'm doubtful about the quality of the awards data as a representative sample and have made a number of suggestions for expanding the data set to get better data, as have others.

Awards data is definitely not representative of writers who have not gotten awards. If we figure that 6 years is the average career span, and there are say 2000 SF novelists at a time, that doesn't leave room for many of them to get prestigious awards.

And the awards are definitely supposed to be awarded nonrandomly. Novels that get awards are supposed to be different from novels that don't.

Looking at awards confounds a whole collection of variables. There's the bias from writers (how many women try to publish), from agents (how many agents accept women writers), from publishers (choosing what to publish, how many copies, how much marketing, when to pull the plug), from customers, from nominators, and from voters. If you find a difference from small samples of award winners, what have you learned?

However, one of the confounding variables in general is quality of the work. People may argue that the novels that don't do well, don't do well because they just aren't that good. If an agent or publisher doesn't like them, it could be because they recognize they aren't good enough to deserve more effort. If readers don't buy them, ditto. There can be unconscious bias that leaves people thinking that the work isn't that good, and how can we sort that out?

When we look at award winners, winners that have won because of votes by readers, that excuse is gone. A bunch of readers thought it was good.

And look at Judith Tarr. Counting from Wikipedia which might not be updated well, she has written and published 43 novels, a few of them collaborations with difficult collaborators. That's impressive! She has won awards, the last of them in 1994. Her first books were published by Bluejay, an "independent" publisher, then Tor, Spectra, Doubleday, Baen, Forge, Roc -- all big publishers that could do a lot. In 2004 2005 2006 she published a trilogy with a small press under a pseudonym, while also publishing a couple of her own with Roc. In 2007, 2008, 2009 she published a trilogy with Tor under a different pseudonym, while publishing one with Tor under her own name. 2010 she published one with Tor Kids under the small-press pseudonym. In 2014 she published under her own name with Book View Cafe, an authors' co-op.

I would be pleased to hear the truth about this. What it looks like, is a 25-year career with traditional publishers, and toward the end it was plausible that her name was not a selling point. It was worth testing whether she could sell better with a new name, as if she was a new author, than with her own. Like she'd turned worse than invisible. The new kind of publishing may be the best way to go, and yet it looks risky. Easier for established authors to continue with what works for them -- if it still works. Presumably it stopped working.

How many writers win awards and then turn invisible considerably faster? Does it happen to women more than men? This may be testable, though it would be best to confirm with the writers whether they chose to stop writing versus could no longer sell to major publishers. And that's even more work.

115:

If you're going to demand a "big picture", then the biggest picture of all is trade fiction publishing as a field -- remember, SF makes up around 2.5% of fiction book sales, and Fantasy about 5%. By far the largest tranche of fiction sales go to Romance, with around 48-52% of all novels sold being sold within that category. There's an SF Romance sub-genre that is about the same size, if not larger than the sort of SF publishing we're talking about.

Want to guess what the gender breakdown of romance authors and readers looks like? (It's by no means 100% female but there is a big skew in that direction.) And would you like to guess what the chances are of anything marketed in the SF/Romance category of gaining traction in the SF/F field awards are?

Now here's a hint for you: go google on Harlequin's contractual terms and conditions for authors who want to write for them (as the 500kg gorilla in the field). Hint: I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. 'Nother hint: I know someone who writes a novel a month for them. (She has hypergraphia, compulsive writing; she's basically using them to mop up the overspill.) Despite a level of output about 12 times higher than my own, she doesn't really earn a decent living from them. (But I mentioned this was over-spill, and under another name and in another genre she's an NYTimes Top 10 bestselling author, and that does earn her a living.) The point is, about half of all commercial trade fiction is written under relatively onerous conditions -- I hesitate to use the term "sweat shop" but it's not too far off -- by people who get no respect (and not much money, either).

116:

(Also — isn't the only reason PTerry doesn't have a serious award that he turned down a Hugo at least once?)

PTerry got a frickin' knighthood for "services to literature". And a few million pounds. So there's that.

(He didn't turn down a Hugo; he was nominated but declined the nomination on more than one occasion. When that happens, the next-in-line gets pushed forward: in one case, that was me, so I asked him and he said waiting for the announcement was too stressful -- he had angina, you'll recall.)

117:

In the spirit of Alexander and the Gordian Knot, let me offer a tongue-firmly-in-cheek solution to the whole bias problem, at almost every level.

Rather than publish under their own name, every author is assigned a unique codename (or more than one) at random*. All correspondence with agents, publishers, and readers uses this codename. Events like author signings can be handled by gender-neutral telepresence robots, conferences done as teleconferences with neutral avatars instead of images.

After all, if no one knows an author's gender/race/colour/age/etc, then biases, unconscious or otherwise, don't come into play.

This wouldn't end any bias in terms of protagonist's gender/race/etc, but fans could have endless hours of fun arguing over whether the female characters in that new novel are cardboard-thin because CRIMSON AARDVARK is a guy, or because they just suck at characterization.

Of course, authors would have to forgo the ego-boo and adulation of seeing their name in print. Against that, they could set the satisfaction of knowing that any awards were won on their work's merit alone, and code names and other spy stuff would appeal to their inner 12-year-old. And attending cons could be done without all that tedious travelling, which I'm certain would come as a relief to OGH :-)

As I said above, tongue firmly in cheek. Or blame the hot weather — with humidity the temperature is over 40°, and what little brains I have feel like they're leaking out my ears.

*I originally went with random numbers, but it's easier for people to remember QUILTED GIRAFFE** than 5138236 when they're looking for another book by that talented person who writes about a magical secret service…

**It shouldn't be too much trouble for someone to whip up a codename generator. Especially if we don't bother tailoring it to genre expectations. After all, if readers associate FLUFFY UNICORN with that 12-volume series on space warfare, while THUNDERING EAGLE writes teen romances, well, that should do a bit to stop stereotyping.

118:

That calls for the obvious response:
"Would a male author in one of the "Romance" sub-categories get a better chance at being published if he used a female nom-de-plume?"
Though, given the total shit payment-&-conditions you speak of, not so much of a temptation to do that, unless you can get $NOT_Harlequin to publish you, maybe?

119:

I believe QUILTED GIRAFFE is taken.

121:

"After all, if no one knows an author's gender/race/colour/age/etc, then biases, unconscious or otherwise, don't come into play."

Don't bet on it. That approach obviously helps with the gender of the author, and is one reason for pseudonyms, but doesn't help at all about the gender of the character, which (as I understand it)
was Nicola Griffith's main point.

122:

I'd figured it was fairly clear that I was talking about the author in that sentence. Did you read the next sentence?

"This wouldn't end any bias in terms of protagonist's gender/race/etc, "

123:

I'm doubtful about the quality of the awards data as a representative sample and have made a number of suggestions for expanding the data set to get better data, as have others. (BTW Nicola and Eric, feel free to use any or all of my suggestions, or none as you like.) I'm doubtful for a number of reasons but lets start with the really obvious one: it's a tiny sample from the total books published (even in relevant genres) per year.

In my opinion, awards can boost a writer's career. (It's hard to get decent data on that, but some awards have that reputation. See, for example, these pieces on the National Book Award, the Man Booker, and the Hugo.) A prize-winning writer's next novel gets a bigger advance, which means the publisher supports the book with better marketing, which improves the likelihood of getting reviews in bigger journals, which increases general visibility, and so on and so forth.

As I've said, the prizes I've looked at (a small set, yes, and parsed by a definite non-expert, so to be treated with caution) indicate that stories about women are less likely to win awards than those about men. I can make guesses about what that means in terms of influence on a writer's internal process: they are discouraged from writing a story about women because it will be found less worthy. This can be at the initial conceptual stage or (see my personal experience of this here) to an agent or publisher--consciously or not--preferring books about men.

Again, I'm aware that much of this is supposition. This is why I want more raw data, and for that data to be analysed by those who know what they're doing!

124:

Sorry - my mistake. But my first point stands, unfortunately.

125:

I'm assuming that someone is going to do a stepwise multiple regression to identify/quantify the 'Drivers of sales/Hugo winner'* ^. So, another few items to toss into the statistics pot:

Country hosting the Worldcon and Hugo winner ... and proportion of male/female book sales in the host country, proportion of male/female Worldcon attendees.

BTW, the HUGO voting/award process includes a potentially (statistically) significant financial barrier (bias): you have to pay (pay membership fee) in order to vote. Females in virtually all parts of the world have the financial deck stacked against them (earnings, net worth, etc.)


* Anyone using SPSS can do this fairly easily. Not sure if it can be done on Excel.


^ BTW, you need to run this Drivers analysis on a 'total - male plus female authors combined' basis, plus by gender. This is because what might be a factor (driver) for one subgroup, may be completely irrelevant for the other subgroup.

126:

The Hugos are an adjunct to the Worldcon, not a separate award in isolation. That fact sometimes get lost, especially with the heat and fury surrounding the Hugos currently consuming the faanish community. Quite a few Worldcon members, both attending and supporting, never nominate for the Hugos and never vote once the short list is published (they might download the voting packet though). They have other reasons to be members of the Worldcon for which they are willing to pay the required membership fee. Hugo voting is free, membership of WSFS is what costs money. Anyone who pays to join WSFS only to vote in the Hugos is foolish in my opinion but that's just me.

Worldcon like many of other SF conventions still has a majority male membership and the Hugos reflect that mostly-male nominating and voting population and, presumably, if there is a selection bias in the voting due to peculiarly male tastes then those tastes are what is going to be reflected in the results. It is at heart a popular vote, not juried or otherwise filtered in terms of quality or workmanship as most other literary awards are.

Why Worldcon is still mostly-male even with the large influx of female members, readers, authors etc. over the past decades is another matter.

127:

Sorry for going all geeky, but stepwise regression is considered Bad Practice by statisticians et al. Here's a comment by Andrew Gelman (statistician), who characterises it as "a bit of a joke", followed by a long discussion on his blog:

http://andrewgelman.com/2014/06/02/hate-stepwise-regression/

And here's a good FAQ:

http://www.stata.com/support/faqs/statistics/stepwise-regression-problems/

(The interesting question for me: is the data analysis to be predictive or causal, and how much does it matter here? But I'm afraid of starting off on a detour when OGH has said he wants a focused discussion, so I will stop there.)

128:

Your data, despite the shouting of some, seem to support your supposition that stories about men are more likely to win awards than stories about women.

Your sectioning for your pie charts doesn't make that the most obvious thing, but presents the data clearly enough to let us extract it.

It also lets us extract other things, like men are more likely to win than women, and men writing stories about men are 3x more likely to win an award than the average.

It's really hard to go from this to measuring things like agent's attitudes, publishing policies and the like. You probably need an ethnographer or similar to make some suggestions about collecting the data for that.

I'm not saying you're wrong my anecdotal evidence would agree with yours. But maybe the fact that most (probably 80%) of the women authors I read self-publish in all, part or started by self-publishing suggests but none of the men go down that route suggests there's a barrier to women.

However, maybe there's some selection bias that makes me read more books by women that self-publish. Most of the new authors I read are women that self-publish for example but that could be BookBub's fault - I'm willing to spend a bit of time on a book that's free and throw it away, that tends to be a self-published author who hopes I'll like it enough to read the rest of the books. The fact I move on to read more when it's a woman author says something about my tastes. But boom - a lot of self-publishing women in recent authors' list without a barrier to women entering publishing, I just happen to like books that agents don't. (I don't believe that explanation but the details are true and it is plausible.)

And this is why I'm cautious about what I say about your data. You may be right. But you need to be careful about what you believe and what your data can demonstrate.

129:

I went back to crime novels, for a comparison.

Looking at a list of British crime writers, I found that in the As and Bs (no, not going through whole alphabet, lost will to live) about 1/4 of the authors were female (41 women to 117 men, 26%). This may not be representative of current activity, since the source list includes everyone from the 19th century onwards.

Looking at the Golden Dagger awards for the last 15 years gave 10 men and 5 women. If the 26% is fair, women are slightly but not significantly over-represented (17% chance of having more than 5 female winners by chance, if 26% of the pool is female). However, as Nicola found, the protagonists are much more male-dominated: 12 male, 1 female, 2 both. It's unclear what probability to assign a priori to female protagonists: if 50%, the probability of this happening by chance is 0.4%; if 26% (following the author percentage, assuming people are more likely to write about protagonists of their own gender), then there's a 21% chance, so on this model female protagonists are under-represented, but not with great statistical significance.

I also looked at a Sunday Times list of "best crime books of the past 5 years". That had 14 male writers and 11 female, which is an over-representation of women for 26% of the writing population (the chance of getting at least this many women is only 4%), and perfectly plausible for an underlying gender ratio of 50:50 (you'd get 11 or fewer women 35% of the time). But the number of female protagonists was only 6 – about half the women were writing about men, but only one out of the 14 men was writing about a woman. That's clearly very skewed, but I don't know what the underlying population is: do half of all female crime writers have male principal characters? My impression is not, but the plural of anecdote is not data. It does, however, square with Nicola's finding that very few highly rated books feature male authors with female protagonists.

130:

I don't know if this is useful or redundant. The Edgar, awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, has been awarded to (by my count) 15 women in 61 years, but to 13 in the last 28 years. FWIw.

131:

The other thing which would be really interesting is if we could get some figures for works in other languages - the major Spanish/French/Russian/Japanese et al blocks must have their own literature awards.

I would be very interested to see if the biases seen in the western publishing world correspond to those elsewhere.

132:

Thanks for the correction, Dirk. I was looking for the Chapter 11 filing of the Trinsun group, which employed Robert Merton (another Nobel Prize economist) as its "chief science officer" and fell for the bait instead.

The point still stands. When was the last time you quoted Dr. Ostrom's work to tell someone that the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons was BS? Or are you still trying to figure out the optimal way to price options (Merton's work)?

133:

Apologies. I mean OldFatBoring. Typing in haste.

134:

Your data, despite the shouting of some, seem to support your supposition that stories about men are more likely to win awards than stories about women.

Your sectioning for your pie charts doesn't make that the most obvious thing, but presents the data clearly enough to let us extract it.

In terms of the pie charts, yes, I agree: we have someone working on better ways to present data even as we speak. I am open to ideas,,,

135:

Susan, sadly this skewing seems to obtain for many genres. My approach is to assemble enough numbers that the skewing is documented (and we can compare and contrast genres if desirable). And then start to experiment and see what makes a difference...

136:

Don, we have some preliminary numbers on the Edgars but haven't yet translated that into graphics--partly because as say in #134, I think we can do better than pie charts :)

137:

Her work showed quite clearly how to construct commons that don't undergo the Tragedy of the Commons, based on research into commons that lasted for decades to centuries with their resource base intact. To put it bluntly, the Tragedy of the Commons is BS, and even Garrett Hardin, the inventor of the term, said as much.

Well, but you still have to construct a commons in a special way to make it work. You don't just automatically get commonses that work, just like you don't automatically get free markets that optimize everything you want them to optimize.

So the Tragedy of the Commons concept is not bullshit, what's bullshit is deciding that there can never be a commons that works so everything must always be given to individual people to own. Just like (in reverse) the concept of free markets is not bullshit, they can be useful but must be carefully managed.

138:

Indeed, the Tragedy of the Commons is not BS, nor is the study of mechanisms to overcome it. And Ostrom's work on this is not unappreciated in at least some parts of the economics profession. A very nice discussion of her work by Kevin Bryan (economic theorist) is here:

https://afinetheorem.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/beyond-markets-and-states-polycentric-governance-of-complex-economic-systems-e-ostrom-2010/

Selected extract:

"Though she is very well known in her field (common property), she was generally unknown to the profession as a whole. ... Ostrom is at heart an applied game theorist. She studies what happens when people face tragedy of the commons problems, whether they be fisheries, forests, municipal policing, or whatever. ... [Ostrom] essentially gathered every empirical study on common property management done by sociologists, historians, economists and political scientists, and, in a consistent, game-theoretic manner, coded the methods used to overcome (or not overcome!) the tragedy of the commons. Such paradigmatic theory is close to economists' heart...." [much more at the link - Bryan is an excellent expositor of economic concepts]

More relevant to the discussion here: why is Ostrom the only woman recipient of the economics Nobel to date? The reason is at least in part because the award is usually given to someone late in their career, with a long lag between when the Nobel-worthy work was done and when the award is made.

A good indicator of where the discipline is going is the John Bates Clark medal, given by the American Economic Association to an under-40 economist. 40% of recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel, with an average lag of 22 years (numbers from Wikipedia, not me). The first woman recipient was Susan Athey in 2007, which is pretty poor for an award that started in 1947. On the other hand, of the 8 recipients starting with Athey in 2007, 3 have been women, which is not bad. More women Nobelists should follow in due course.

139:

Interesting ...

Stepwise multiple regression is in widespread use in marketing research specifically for identifying/quantifying 'Drivers of...'. In most marketing research applications, the variables input into the models are well-known/understood, i.e., lots of previous studies/analyses have confirmed that these variables matter, and the direction/relationship is usually also well-understood.

There's also SEM (structural equation modeling) that would work on/for this type of data/analysis.

140:

We always hear about the Tragedy of the Commons as the reason why any resource must be privatized and commodified in order to conserve or preserve it, since the Tragedy of the Commons says that otherwise it's doomed. That's the BS part.

As with the gender discrimination, let's flip this on its head:

Why do we never talk about the tragedy of free markets? After all, they pretty routinely blow up, causing depressions and destroying economies, unless they're heavily managed by governments. We should be railing against the privatizing of any resource, since doing so often leads to the subsequent chaos and destruction of both a local economy and the resource.

This may sound silly if you don't know anything about Ostrom's work. I posted a summary of her eight rules on my blog awhile back (link to blog entry) awhile ago. My point in posting them was that Ostrom's rules for successful commons might work really well for running markets.

So why don't we talk about the Tragedy of Markets? And why do we continue to talk about the Tragedy of the Commons as a real thing, when even the guy who came up with the term says it's not useful?

Actually, I really don't want to derail this thread, so if I get a conversation going on my blog on this topic, I'll post it here if anyone cares to pursue it separately.

141:

I'm left a little bemused.

In a SF category, there's no (prefix "by"):

Men about aliens

Women about aliens

Men about non-human earth entities (bacteria, mammals, AI etc)

Women about non-human earth entities (bacteria, mammals, AI etc)

And so on.


Because, I'm afraid - I kind find, instantly, about 6 books that don't match your initial criteria.


Sloppy. And I mean that in a nice way. Bad science is fitting the data to presupposed categories, which is exactly what you'll be hit with by detractors.

Sigh.

142:

Oh, and if you meant:

"Principle protagonist was gender and age, written by gender" then say so.


If I wanted I blow holes so big into this pie-chart you'd see the gamma pulse from Alpha Centauri.


Grr. Please contact serious people for advice (you'd be surprised just how many PhDs out there love SF etc) before publishing in future.


And no, this isn't a flame: it's a pre-emptive strike.

143:

(ah.. hilarious. Forgot formatting tags here, and a lot of things got vanished automatically. Well, reads like a post-apocalyptic rant anyhow)

144:

And, if you missed the point:

K.S.Robinson's Mars Trilogy - multiple protagonists

Iain. M. Banks - multiple protagonists, many non-human

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness, non-binary lead character

Margaret Atwood - Oryx and Crake - multiple leads, shifts over cycle

etc.

Lazy.

Context matters.

145:

Here's the link to a blog post about Elinor Ostrom and the Tragedy of the Commons. Anyone who wants to talk about the topic is more than welcome to talk about it over there.

I'd suggest that we keep this thread about the original posting.

146:

Lead character in Left Hand of Darkness is a dude? It's the planet's locals that are non-binary.

I get that not all sci-fi novels have a single male or female lead character, but it's fair to say that a lot of them do – at least, in the category of Hugo-award-winning-novels-of-the-last-fifteen-years.

147:

None of the novels you mention fit the stated parameters: Hugo award-winning novels 2000 - 2014. But if it would amuse you to blow holes in pie charts then, hey, have fun!

148:

The graph that compares Hugo Nominations to SFWA membership has a big problem.

Only 3 data points for SFWA membership.

With those three data points it could be a sigmoid curve rather than a straight line, a steeper curve around the middle point than at the start and finish.

It doesn't much matter, that huge drop in the Hugo ratio after the 1996 peak suggests something happened. But it's plausible that some of that, because of a possible lag effect, is the result of the early Nineties seeing an excess of nominated women.

But that drop comes at roughly the same time as the internet explosion. It's not just Amazon, but the way people learned about new books was changing. It took time for the specialist booksellers to fade away, but I don't think anyone whose regular catalogues I read in the Eighties is selling books now.

Back then there was still a feeling that the internet was for boys, though any bias was already far less than people thought. For Hugo Nominations it would be interesting to track the gender ratio of Worldcon members. It's possible that the increasing number of Worldcons outside the USA makes a difference too.

Anyway, the drop in women nominated after the mid-Nineties is real, whatever the reason might be. And the faster increase after the drop could be a sign that whatever happened has become less significant. But there is also research that suggests that people think there is gender parity at a rather low level—30% women is "too many"—and that seems to fit both the graph and the "Sad Puppies" explosion of the last couple of years.

Should we be expecting, allowing for noise in the signal, a graph without those huge dips? The first 30 years of the graph doesn't look odd, but after that something must have changed. What?

149:

I wonder what people in Laxton think of the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons. A working system needs social/legal systems to settle disputes, and losing them is what kills the Commons.

Successful private ownership also depends on such things. Will future theorists be looking at out history and talking about the the mirror that is essentially violent revolution. The tragedy of the commons is a memorable label. What label will they use for the collapse of greedy capitalism?

150:

"In terms of the pie charts, yes, I agree: we have someone working on better ways to present data even as we speak. I am open to ideas,,,"

This is a classic candidate for a generalised linear model (and I mean Nelder and Mead, not the dumbed-down version) with a Poisson error function. I am too rusty to try using the software I can easily get access to, and that data doesn't justify it, but a trivial check shows that the data on your first link (excluding the Newbery) is compatible with the hypothesis that authors are 5 times as likely to write about their own gender and male protagonists are 5 times as likely to be selected. That's implausible, which is why godycoale said what he did in 100.

151:

Absolutely true in respect of this data point. I have never voted for the Hugos (or Nebulas BTW), largely because I'll typically only have read/watched one of the short list in $category. My reading time is short and precious (to me) enough that I won't read $work by $established_author_whom_I_don't_read just because they have an award nomination for it.

It might bring $new_author to my attention, but that's about as fas as it goes.

152:

On the other hand I am one of those foolish non US/UK based people who started taking out supporting membership when I discovered the existence of the Hugo packet. Being able to vote in the awards is a bonus. That $40 is (usually) a great value for money for e-books and there will always be authors and publications I haven't heard of. Being nominated (usually) indicates a certain level of quality, even if a given work isn't to my own taste.

153:

I'd agree that I no longer source much from the specialists I used back in the 1980s. Having said that, with one exception, they've all retired, and were at least semi-retired by the time of the rise of "Big River".

154:

Unfortunately Genres are going to be where it gets really messy! I would put some up front consideration into how you can be flexible about having multiple genre categorisations. Are you going to take the publishers Genre classification? Do awards tightly couple to Publishers genres? How closely do major booksellers follow publisher genre's?

Then you've got your Atwoods et al to worry about where it quacks like a duck but is classified as a beautiful swan. The YA reverse ghetto-isation of certain clear SFF books that has come up multiple times on the last 2 threads. It gets cloudier if you want to distinguish between YA covers and "Adult" Covers as per Mr Potter.

You may want to consider getting your data granularity down to ISBN number to future proof it. Its likely to be a PITA now - especially connecting Hardcover, Paperback and other editions of the same book but since this is looking like a long running topic (certainly any remediation will be over years) then its something to consider.

OFFTOPIC : How come publishers are failing to convert all of those YA readers into SFF readers? (Note Im assuming they are failing without actually checking)

155:

How come publishers are failing to convert all of those YA readers into SFF readers?

I'm not sure they are failing. But the success of HP and THG at the movies has made people look for more in the same genre. A friend of mine, my age, who is normally a crime reader has read The Hunger Games, borrowed from her son who has just had his third child. She, on his behalf, has asked for more recommendations for "similar stuff to The Hunger Games, and has read them too.

There is, of course, some old-school SF dystopia out there, and you can argue cyberpunk is all dystopian and that's making a bit of a comeback. But just about anything new that's dystopian is categorised as YA these days, even though it's pretty firmly SF too. There's a big genre of UF that a lot of SFF discount that does big business too (Ilona Andrews who I've mentioned above hits the NYT best seller lists in the general lists with new releases for example and is firmly a UF author). They're clearly NOT SF of course, but why is UF not part of the F in SFF?

Some of it's about categorisation and drawing lines - the people that read the books are not necessarily the people that supposed to, and sometimes the categories excluding books oddly.

156:

Actually I'm not convinced they are failing in SFF per se, just not succeeding with the type of SF as preferred by most people here, particularly the older ones. Also adult work tends to be out of phase with the trends in YA/childrens books by a decade or more.

Urban Fantasy is booming, and has been for some time. A lot of the Twilight/True Blood/Mortal Instruments inspired readers have gone straight on to older works there.

Looking at Baen's stable for example, Fantasy is doing reasonably well, and the spaceships and rayguns type of softer SF is still going strong - see the popularity of Weber's navy in space.
Singularities, advanced AI and robots have fallen out of favour again though.

Looking at the other outliers:
Harry Potter was a phenomenon, self reinforced by the movies. It is almost a subgenre in its own right, similar to The Lord of the Rings. Percy Jackson is a successor on that line, but there isn't a clear adult follow up to Wizard growing into Powers. More UF like Dresden Files maybe?

The Hunger Games led to a small boom in dystopian fiction in YA, much of which is being frantically converted to film. See Divergent, Maze Runner et al.
They can be argued to follow on from His Dark Materials.

157:

Somehow lost the last part of that post.

They can be argued to follow on from His Dark Materials, but there isn't a clear upgrade path to adult SF. Dystopias have been somewhat out of popular adult fashion for a while, though I'd count Richard Morgan's SF and other cyberpunk works to be inheritors.

158:

Not the part of this most commentators are talking about, but...

It made a huge difference that you graphed your data in your blog post. As you noted.

But please stop using pie charts. I know they are the standard way to graph "% of the whole" but they're a terrible standard. They rely on an ability to visually compare perceived angles and areas: however, humans turn out to be very bad at both of those things. A simple bar chart makes comparisons easier.

Data visualization - the study of how to best present data graphically - is its own area of expertise. With luck your group will attract someone interested in the study of ways of displaying data as well as in the number-crunching.

159:

Justin,
If you're interested in data visualisation, I recommend you look up Edward Tufte. "Beautiful Evidence" is probably the best book of his to start with.

160:

"Would a male author in one of the "Romance" sub-categories get a better chance at being published if he used a female nom-de-plume?"

I thought that was quite common already; a sizeable percentage of female trash romance writers are actually male. I can't find a reference, though.

161:

Thanks for the rec. It looks from reviews to be more general interest than a serious instructive primer on data visualisation, though? I think I'd be interested in reading something a bit heavier.

And on that note – for people wanting to contribute to the Literary Prize Data group, how do they best educate themselves so as to be of the most use? I'm stuck in the same camp as Nicola at the moment, where I'm going back to my highschool math in trying to wrap my head around (for example) calculus with matrices.

162:

"The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" is probably the one I would have recommended.

163:

Echoing the rec above.
Tufte's "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" is pretty much the bible for this sort of thing.

Also well worth reading is "How to Lie with Statistics" by Darrell Huff, which gives a really clear explanation of lots of the ways numbers and graphs can be manipulated to promote the wrong conclusions - whether through accident or malice.

Also here's a link to my favourite graph ever for arguing a point.

164:

Well, I'm not sure about the "we" and "what we never talk about". I'm an academic economist and we teach this stuff all the time - we call it "market failure", not "Tragedy of Markets", and it's all over the place in intro econ textbooks. Just picking up the textbook that I use, basic supply/demand/efficient markets gets 3 chapters, and that's followed by 2 chapters on market failures (externalities, pollution, public goods, common resources, etc.).

And to try not to derail too far, the labour economics section later in the textbook has 3 chapters, one on basic labour demand/supply, followed by 2 chapters on earnings, discrimination, inequality and poverty. It's all mainstream stuff.

In fact, I think I can un-derail by pointing to a nice labour economics study illustrating how to obtain an estimate of a causal effect of gender discrimination. (Think I saw this study referenced in one of the links above but can't find it.) The study looked at hiring practices of symphony orchestras and how switching from open to blind auditions (behind a screen) increased the number of women hired.

Link to published version:

https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.90.4.715

A little googling will lead you to an ungated version.

The paper appeared in the American Economic Review in 2000. #1 journal in the discipline, authors were two women economists, one at Harvard and one at Princeton, so again - mainstream stuff.

May go over to your blog to comment further, not sure (life's short...).

165:

Harlequin is anything but a small press. It's an international monster that publishes romance. Luna was an imprint of HQN that tried to move more toward non-romance fantasy. It did not succeed. HQN carries on as a megabillion-dollar/euro operation selling a specific genre to a worldwide readership.

I shit-saled out, to be blunt. Couldn't meet sales expectations no matter what name I wrote under. No one could ever figure out why. I concluded that I'm a writer's writer and readers don't generally see the point. In the late years I was forced to write more and more romancey, conventional, "stay in a tiny segment of Northern Europe and DO NOT DEVIATE" historical or secondary-world fantasy. As a writer I felt progressively more constricted and crunched down and gender-typecast, until as a writer I lost the will to live. I was told, in so many words, "You're a girl. You have to write about girls. You have to write romance," and I learned by doing that I suck at it.

I chucked it. When I scraped enough self together to find the voice I'd forgotten I had, it wasn't commercial enough to get past the agents, but it found an audience, and that audience has been growing. My voice is intergenre, non-American-setting, non-romancey, non-trendy, flip the bird at the conventions--and I'm having fun.

Fun, that last decade or so, was no part of what I had to do to stay in print. I did enjoy writing the Lunas, and they did rather well, but the big corporation wanted much larger numbers (and they were still better than anything I'd had from the standard genre imprints). So they killed the series and the world moved on.

And no, I didn't run out of things to write. I ran out of air in the progressively tinier corner of genre that I had been forced into "because nothing you really want to write will sell."

This is not a unique trajectory for a woman writer in genre. The persistent pressure to write romance or write for children (both fields deemed "acceptable" for the ladies), when one's voice is not amenable to either, often ends up in driving her out of the business altogether.

Awards? generally go to the same small pool of names of either or neither gender. They reflect overall bias more than specific quality, since there may be significant numbers of well-regarded writers who never make the nomination lists at all.

166:

Couldn't meet sales expectations no matter what name I wrote under. No one could ever figure out why. I concluded that I'm a writer's writer and readers don't generally see the point.

That could partly be a failure of marketing. Readers who like what you want to write could be there, and the mass market didn't find them.

In the late years I was forced to write more and more romancey, conventional, "stay in a tiny segment of Northern Europe and DO NOT DEVIATE" historical or secondary-world fantasy. As a writer I felt progressively more constricted and crunched down and gender-typecast, until as a writer I lost the will to live.

I got it. They told you what you had to write to be marketable, and then it wasn't that marketable anyway. Ouch! That's been happening to male writers too. See for example

http://thatjohnbarnes.blogspot.com/2014/05/another-one-of-those-completely.html

He wrote a trilogy and the editors kept telling him to do it different.

So this led to a complete impasse because, frankly, I was tired of putting my name on a simplified-for-movie-morons version of my books, and I'd spent years vandalizing the work I liked on the promise that the books would sell well, but the marketing in fact was de-emphasizing most of what I was interested in, and shoehorning them into categories where the audience they would go to didn't interest me as much.

And I don't know about other writers might have done, indeed once upon a time I thought I was pretty good at "being professional" a.k.a. self-betrayal, but I found it hard to keep coming up with the energy to finish ruining an idea I had once loved.

And there was no particular reason to think that their version would sell better. But they had promised to put some effort into marketing for him....

When I scraped enough self together to find the voice I'd forgotten I had, it wasn't commercial enough to get past the agents, but it found an audience, and that audience has been growing. My voice is intergenre, non-American-setting, non-romancey, non-trendy, flip the bird at the conventions--and I'm having fun.

OK! So with the old marketing model, they basicly sold books like toilet paper. They had room for a limited number of niches. Standard, extra-soft, extra-cheap, knobbly, etc. They figured that customers basicly did not want surprises. The number of different niches was probably limited more by the ability of a limited staff to deal with market segments, than the wishes of the public.

Now you're doing what you want and you're getting growing success! Great!

Gnod says that your writing is closest to Louise Marley, Alma Alexander, Glenda Larke, Naomi Novick, and Katherine Kurtz. If this is your old constrained writing, there's nothing wrong with you yourself spending a minute telling Gnod that people who like some other writers would probably like you too. Gnod is still new, but it might get used more with time.

167:

The business changed. A flurry of corporate consolidation led to scarcity: of publishing slots, places at the front of store, independent bookshop buyers, review slots in broadsheets, etc.

I don't have data for this but (I really should make a macro for that phrase...) I have a sneaking suspicion that perception of scarcity -> competition -> women get squeezed out.

168:

The ISBN tip is a good one, thank you.

169:

I still think pie charts are useful when the disparities are so huge as to be easily discernible. But enough people have sighed at them that I'm beginning to get the message :)

We're also putting together a database and then the curious can formulate whatever queries they want and graph accordingly.

170:

Yeah, you really want to at least have the possibility of looking at more factors later.

When I first coded the spreadsheet for tracking excusal notices, I was only looking at advance notice. Then I decided to check how 'lumpy' excusals were, and added that — at the cost of making the spreadsheet really crufty. Now I'd like to track thinks like which periods are being missed, and even if particular students account for most of the absences, and I'm having to start over again. Which isn't such a big deal in something where we only care about data from one year, but for your project it makes sense to be able to add tests later, as the data reveals things about publishing/awards.

171:

We're also putting together a database and then the curious can formulate whatever queries they want and graph accordingly.

If you haven't, check out Gapminder for an idea of how powerful this can be:

http://www.gapminder.org

172:

perception of scarcity -> competition -> women get squeezed out.
More or less the narrative of the US postwar job market, no?

173:

I agree that three data points isn't very many! We hope to get more, both about the SFWA and from other sources that could speak to the number of women in the field as a whole (however you define that).

That said, given that SFWA membership is for life, I don't expect the curve to have too many wiggles when we fill in the rest of the data.

It's interesting that you hypothesize a connection with the rise of the internet, because computer science is indeed the one area of science/tech in which the percentage of women employed has decreased over the last couple decades. Maybe there's something there. Of course how you would show that connection is another problem...

174:

Minor correction -- SFWA eligibility is for life once you qualify, A fair number of members drop out for one reason or another -- often after just a couple of years, Most common reason is probably that they're no longer writing and selling SF, though I know quite a few who've left for other reasons.

175:

OFFTOPIC : How come publishers are failing to convert all of those YA readers into SFF readers? (Note Im assuming they are failing without actually checking)

Well, I can think of three possibilities, and I'll run them up the flagpole so that people can shoot them down:

1. Vocabulary (this one may be easy to test). I've heard that YA books are supposed to be limited to vocabulary that a "kid" (perhaps the MS Word Eighth grader) can understand. This works great in selling to middle schoolers, but in the US in high school, they've got to bone up their vocabulary to pass the college entrance tests, so they abandon the childishly simple fiction to go take a Kaplan course or something.

When I was a kid, I was reading adult fiction at YA ages, and I suspect almost all of us were. That was one reason I did so well on the college entrance exams. Here, I'm positing that some well-meaning idiots' idea of dumbing down YA to sell to kids may direct them away from adult SFF.

2. College. It's always been stressful, but it used to be that you could hit the library or the used bookstore and get really caught up in SFF just to step out of class for an hour. Nowadays, everyone's working a job to pay the rent after class. Used bookstores? They barely exist anymore. B&N's a toy shop. The online universe is infinite. Where's a budding SFF fan going to find the kind of fiction that hooked us? Amazon's not doing a great job of recreating the used book store browsing experience, that's for sure. There's very few stores full of beguiling cheap books to suck people in any more.

3. Dystopia's a pain to write. There's a fairly good set of YA books set in post-apocalyptic future Earth. Thing is, that's a hard world to build in. Yes, civilization crashes, climate changes radically, mass extinction...so what does that all look like, especially if you want to be realistic and get beyond the catastrophe? That's a non-trivial question. As I've said before, I'm finishing up a book on that topic. Now, I'm a PhD ecologist, and it took me three years to answer that question realistically. I don't think I'm demeaning any writer by saying you'd have to be nuts to try and do that in a year or less to support a genre fiction project.

What this means for a professional writer is that post-apocalypstic Cli Fi isn't rarely worth writing. The research is too time-consuming to be cost effective. Even if there's a market that would love to see such books (and this can be checked and disproven), who's going to write them? Yes, you can BS your way through, but kids get environmental science in high school. It's one of the easiest AP courses out there. You've got to know what you're talking about, or you've lost your readers.

The last might have a solution, if I can get that book published and it helps get writers' research time down to something realistic for fiction. Well, I can hope.

Other possibilities?

176:

Re: Pie charts ignore them. They are perfectly fine for your current level of detail. Whilst they are flawed they aint as bad as they made out. Its the usual fashionista bandwagoneering echo chamber coz Data Science is in vogue this decade. i.e. they have a fair to middling point that is then overemphasised by endless repetition (and people who dont read the whole thread before commenting).

As much as the chart snobs hate them the fact is everyone understands how to read them, KISS has a place even in data science and statistics.

RE your database - mail the guy behind Gnod (marek AT gibney.de) and see if he would be amenable to adding a gender filter to his book author search so it could return women men or both. I dont know what his data source is - but he might already be able to access or derive Author Gender.

There are Machine Learning libraries that can do a Gender determination based on names : https://stephenholiday.com/articles/2011/gender-prediction-with-python/

177:

I like all your reasons, although suspect the 'it's hard writing a proper SFnal dystopia' is the weakest.
Are youngsters merely pirating ebooks nowadays, so sales don't happen?
Or is it down to lack of disposable income and nowhere to put the books. Even if you manage to scavenge a large box of them where are you going to keep them when you have to move every year?

178:

I've been thinking about how to automate data collection for you - and I think its probably relatively easy to build up a bulk dataset of Author, Book, Genre, Gender data.

Both Amazon and Wikipedia support API calls (Amazon via its affiliate program api).

In a few steps you could build up the gender side of your data by several orders of magnitude.

1. Supply a list of Authors to Amazon API - it could be a list of award contenders (from a wiki page api call), or just work methodically through the alphabet with a random sampling technique.
2. Pull back as much info as Amazon will give you.
3. Machine Learning from name for Gender or Wiki lookup then ML the Author gender from their Bio page. The second method could be used to resolve nom de plumes and initialised first names or correct known opposite gender pen names.
4. Dump to database back end.
5. For simple analytics put front end in place similar to Gnod using a java data vis technology like D3 or similar.
6. For more complex analytics you can use an free Open Source package called R.

Extra Credit.
7. Investigate deriving Protagonist Gender using machine learning :
a) Back cover blurb, reviews, comments posted on Amazon (all via the api)
b) (a stretch - suspect Amazon have it blocked) Use OCR and Machine Learning on Amazons "Peek Inside" function.

8. Deploy either on amazon AWS/Azure/etc or one of the more tech literate authors servers (like OGH)

9. PROFIT! (if you are willing to cozy up to amazon you add advertising URL's to your Gnod-alike in point 5). I needn't point out that you could choose only to drive female author sales. I'd find that a little uncomfortable since there are likely some genres biased against men - but your house - your rules.

The beauty of this approach is afaik the Amazon apis are media agnostic so it would work for Music, Video or anything else they sell that might have a gender bias.

If all that sounds a bit daunting - its probably not that bad - I suspect similar proposals are percolating in your Google group. Spec it a up a bit better and put in on Freelancer.com or someone a little bit more current on coding than me might even do it for free. WAG on costs and timescales?

If I had a bit more free time I'd take a stab at the ML parts myself, but unfortunately most of my work is in proprietary vendor tools that wouldn't give you a sustainable platform to run on without serious costs. Would be great fun though!

179:

Interestingly most people think of it as the story of Rosie the Riveter, but woman were steadily growing in the professions and academia in the 20's and 30's. The postwar crunch disappeared most of these women as well as the ones who had met the new wartime labor demand.

For laughs, take a look at the kind of women who show up in Marx Brothers movies and compare them to the types you see in the 1950's through 1970's. Women with money, women who run institutions competently, women who work for criminal organizations in a very no-nonsense way, women who relate to men and romance in a much more practical, less dreamy or dependent way. And the men often speak them in a more direct and honest way as well. I don't want to overstate things, but I am a skeptic when it comes to the whole "arc of history bends towards progress" thing-a-ma-bobby.

180:

Why YA isn't converting to adult SF/F --

Maybe because most of the SF/F they hear about in class is so-o-o boring? SF/F has been around for long enough that the upcoming generation may think that it's out of step with their reality. (Comparable to calling the Beatles or Stones 'classics'.)


Data, bias, etc... Suggestion:

Cheapo alternative to some very basic/fundamental analysis is SurveyMonkey (it's free!). You can load in your data in a survey-style format (possibly up to 20 variables, sample size of at least n=100) and then run/generate some basic cross-tabulations. (Not sure if it provides basic graphs, charts.)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/academic-surveys/?ut_source=header

181:

The second method could be used to resolve nom de plumes and initialised first names or correct known opposite gender pen names.

We'd need the option of making these separate categories, of course.

It's going to be a grey area, but I suspect that those women who've chosen to write under initials or male names are doing so because they think it will help them make sales — if they are at all right (and I think they are, in many markets) then lumping them in with women writing under recognizably female names will underestimate gender differences.

Which leads me to wonder about non-European names. I had no idea what sex Ha Joon Chang was until I read the author bio, for example. I wonder how many people here would know? (Male, for the record, and I'd heartily recommend his books "Bad Samaritans" and "10 Things ABout Capitalism".) Should that name be counted as "male" or "unknown"? Male in fact, but unknown for a lot of people just hearing about it…

182:

Would it be possible to pull up everything on Amazon that's classed as Science Fiction or Fantasy and found in Books?

That would give you a huge dataset to work with (over 400,000 according to the web site). There'll be duplicate editions, of course, and other filtering to be done, but if we assume that Amazon carries a representative sample of SFF then we'd have a decent sample size :-)

And if we can filter by publisher, such that the self-published works can be separated out, then we might be able to use self-published as a proxy for "couldn't find a publisher".

183:

Gnod and Amazon API... You have officially blown my mind wide open. Give me a few hours to wrap my head around this...

184:

Ditto on the Tufte recommendation. ("The Leonardo da Vinci of data." THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Information presented à la Tufte is the antithesis of the typical PowerPoint slide: more information (variables), shown in appropriate granularity/scale, with more possible relationships observed.

Tufte was inspired by Minard's map of Napoleon's Moscow Retreat.

http://www.masswerk.at/minard/

185:

Heteromeles,

Let me suggest a different option. What is dismissively called genre YA are predominately wish fulfilment (even if it's in a dystopia) with, today, an over abundance of movie adaptations, with female protagonists, or at least strong female characters, written by female authors.

The comic book movies are predominately the same on the more male side of the same coin (though with a desire to get more of that female readership cash as well).

Genre adult readers are looking for ideas, preferably fresh ideas, preferably mind-bending enough. Stuff they haven't already seen, on a vast scope usually.

Genre authors are adamant it's all about the characters and "the human heart in conflict with itself", though they aren't interested in the simplistic wish fulfilment stuff and want to do more 'out there' things. Protagonist is a hermaphrodite triplet with claustrophobia issues.

Result, mismatches all round.

YA readers finish wish fulfilment series A and go looking for more (though maybe with more sex) and get told to look to 'serious genre author X' who they find talking about other things entirely. Most just lose interest.

Similarly, I'm not sure comic book crowd are too interested in a story where there isn't some Michael Bay action every 20 pages.

Adult genre readers, particularly SF, find elves popping up in what they thought was an SF book, and lose interest.

Serious SF authors keep contemplating their navels and declining sales figures (unless you're lucky).

In essence this entire posting is predicated on the Hugo awards meaning something - but it's very insular. Even the Booker prize, insular and pretentious as it is, gets some coverage. In the grand scheme of things the Hugo is pretty much an afterthought. The gender of the author of the nominees of that prize? It's only the people who vote on the Hugo and attend the (serious) convention that care about it.

In the end, one of the chief attributes of Terry Pratchett is he could write books that sold, were on the surface simple and knock about, but had something deeper going on underneath for those that want to see it. And even his work was on the edges of what the mass audience would accept, and didn't transfer into film or TV well.

Serious genre authors and 'YA' genre authors seem to be separated by a chasm - and I'd contend the existence of the genre YA authors as a separate category is created by the serious genre authors disappearing from the market (up their own ...) and leaving the ecological niche empty.

Maybe that is created by the short story dying off - the adaptation of which seemed to used to be the staple of past film treatments?

Either way, I'd suggest the real issue is not with gender politics, it's with those wider scale mismatches and lack of flow of reader/movie goers. Even the bespoke mechanical timepiece craftsmen begat "Swatch", eventually.

186:

Nicola wrote: I have a sneaking suspicion that perception of scarcity -> competition -> women get squeezed out

Please be more careful with wording. The data in your second graph shows the complete opposite: female membership of the SFWA has been steadily increasing. Middle aged women writers may be getting squeezed out, but they are being replaced by a larger number of younger women writers.

187:

So what happens when we look at the sales of Star Wars, Star Trek, and, to name someone I genuinely respect, Mercedes Lackey.

Formula fiction sells quite well. I'm not going to knock it, simply because I've learned that cranking out such stories is a different skill-set than crafting a unique, artisanal story that's suitable for awards.

I'm not saying I'm right, because I don't think we've hit on a good set of explanations about why kids abandon YA SFF and don't pick it up as adults.

Perhaps it's the idea that readers tend to be female, and girls tend to get dissuaded from STEM about the same time they leave SFF. I'm not sure we've got good explanations for that phenomenon either (nor for the whole mess that is STEM education vs. the reality of and availability of STEM jobs). Note that this has nothing to do with any gender's innate cognitive skills, but I'm wondering if the same things that deter people from science deter people from science fiction?

188:

Yes I believe so - My initial reading of the Api specs suggests the bulk of Amazon's metadata is retrievable so that would include Genre.

189:

Tufte himself has a few things to say about PowerPoint
Oops.

Oh, re women "disappearing" post war & recently.
The ongoing crash of 2008/9 has a lot to answer for here.
I've quoted examples which I won't repeat, right now ....

190:

Question about your classifications:-

"Unsure" can apply to both author and protagonist. In this single case it is Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice.

Why? Braq is clearly established as being physiologically female at a genetic rather than just a visual level. She also has the memories of an Artificial Intelligence, but I can't think of anything that establishes the attitudes (including any gender viewpoint it holds) of that AI other than that it is part of the Radch's military.

191:

I doubt that straight line for SFWA membership, but the first thirty years of the Hugo nomination figures has roughly the same gradient, which all leads to a feeling that something happened in the Nineties.

It'll be interesting to see better data for the SFWA membership, a more detailed series. With the two time-series we might be able to get a number for the lag, it's a standard enough problem in stats.

SFWA numbers might be a useful measure of active writers. It would be harder to check for any gender balance effects from those who cease being a member. It isn't the same as not being a writer any more. And some people could stay members because they are active in the organisation politics: are such more likely to be men or women?

I've already suggested it might be a sigmoid curve. It could fit those three data points, and it might not be very prominent, but there would be an initial period of a very slow increase, then a more rapid change, and then a final slow growth period. It's a little like the Logistic Equation in the way the growth rate slows, which would fit the idea of gender parity, but that model can go chaotic, and doesn't cover the initial slow rise.

We already have the nomination numbers for this year, and we know they've been screwed with. It was on a different scale to past incidents, such as the one book by L. Ron Hubbard which I remember happening.

I just checked the list of Best Novel nominations on Wikipedia, and extending that graph into earlier years may not tell us much.

Oh, and don't assume new writers are young. Though Ann Leckie looks older than she is—grey hair...

192:

My understanding of the "arc of history" was it was an attempt to institute a belief that would enforce progress, Moore's-Law style. Or a fantastic rhetorical flourish that's been beaten to death. :-)

193:

Im having trouble parsing your post. Havent you just said that although Braq is physiologically female, the AI doesn't identify as female - in which case unsure is a good a description as any.
Its been a while since I read it but I don't remember it being clear in AJ whether it was the personality in Braq's body that was gender blind or it was the Radsch language itself.

194:

Given that the publishing business has been rampaged in by an assortment of capitalists, then bled white by discounters, and might not have worked that well in the first place (Remembering Ellison's "Charnel house books"), there may be an opportunity to rebuild to an improved plan. Good luck.

195:

Leckie herself said "Breq herself, well, her gender is kind of complicated, isn't it. I mean, our culture, at least, mostly assigns gender by looking at genitals. But of course, One Esk will have had pretty much any and all sorts during its life as part of Justice of Toren, and Justice of Toren itself wouldn't have a human gender. I don't think Breq sees herself as being gendered, really."

196:

No; I was saying that the memories aren't what establishes gender, so having an AI's memories doesn't mean that you have its gender (if any).

Of course, that was before I was aware of the quote in #195, in light of which I withdraw the original question.

197:

Some thoughts and a third option.

You have pointed out that in YA the biases talked about by Nicola do not seem to apply, and that taking the total Genre you can see that overall the bias is not present.

Now we are looking at what seems to be a side topic of 'why do the YA readers not convert to the sort of mainstream SFF that the awards are about?'

But what if this is not a side topic? What if at least part of the reason those readers do not convert if because of the sort of Bias we are talking about?

It would be pretty stupid to be biased towards books written by men about boys in a sub genre that owes much of it's distinct existence to a Woman. It's 18 years since J.K. wrote the first Harry Potter and decided to aim the sequel set one year later at kids one year older. A few years on and she'd managed to take a mass of Children's Fantasy Readers and turn them into Young Adult Fantasy readers. This should have delivered a mass of potential adult readers not used to gender bias to Fantasy between ten and seven years ago. More recent YA science fiction should be have delivered similar SF readers more recently.

To me the reason's you suggest for lack of transition have always applied to SFF. But the point I want to make is that while they apply to YA readers, they also applied much more to Childrens SFF readers. YA is a stepping stone to which they apply less. (this applies to adults who did not jump across when they were young as well).

I'll note that fantasy publishing partly reacted to all those harry potter fans by creating a distinct sub genre which is basically Romance Fantasy. "Nothing for you here Girls, here are some Sparkly Vampires with side order of Buff Werewolves". Instead of 'Ok, now, here is a woman you can really identify with doing cool fantasy stuff'.

So I make the assertion, the reason the YA audience is not transitioning to SFF as much as you'd expect given the reduced barrier to entry is that Mainstream SFF has an entrenched Gender Bias problem.

To me this is sad in two ways. First of all you lose those readers who now don't see SFF as a natural progression as their taste matures. Of course i'm NOT saying girls want only to read about girls, i'm saying that it's less of a leap. I fully expect said readers, as they mature further, to find male protagonists who are not female fantasies interesting in exactly the same way I now find female (or unsure) protagonists interesting. Which is of course the second problem - i'd like to be reading more of those books those young women would read - the implied lack of variety.

198:

Well, a couple of things happened in the nineties. It was much easier to be openly pagan in the nineties, and that led to series authors (I'm thinking of Lackey's Valdemar) embracing an implicitly or explicitly pagan worldview, something that tends to have strong female characters, including goddesses. That's not so evident now. Lackey, for example, has been rewriting fairy tales for years.

Right now, evangelical Xtianity (to use the pagan term for people who spout authoritarian Church verbiage without attempting to practice what Jesus taught) is roaring it's self-proclaimed dominance of the culture warz, and oddly enough, we've got a problem with resurgent patriarchy all over the world and also in SFF. Are publishers responding to this, overtly or covertly? I have no clue. But superficially it sure looks like a correlation. And maybe that's part of the problem?

Switching gears very slightly, maybe part of the YA problem is that we're dealing with kids whose earliest memories are of Clinton or Bush II, who came of age in the Great Recession, and who learned to get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and who are relatively tolerant, worried about global warming, see Star Trek as their parent's obsession, and are (as with all kids) fed up with the powers that be. Which new SFF books would you select for them, if you were buying them presents?

Or, to ask the even better question, what books would you write for them, if you were trying to build your audience as a SFF writer?

199:

File the serial numbers off The Centauri Device?

200:

I have admired that Minard chart since I first came across it more than 20 years ago. I just wish I could make something like that myself.

201:

Thanks for that quote. I wasn't familiar with it, but that's certainly the sense I took away from the novel.

202:

In addition to what's been said about the YA/SF disconnect (and those reflexive sneers at "wish fulfillment" would bear examination of assumptions), I am reminded of an article I read in the Guardian a few days ago in which a young journalist attempted to read through that publication's list of 100 "best" SF novels, and found them to be seriously problematical in terms of not only gender bias but race.

Young readers trying to move out of today's YA into SF by way of "classics" and "bests" may be bouncing off them hard, as the author of the article did, and concluding that the genre is just not for them. Works that they might have found congenial, many by women and non-whites, will have been rendered invisible by the overall bias of reviewers and listmakers toward white males.

And so it goes, around and around. Studies like this one, and lists of "not your grandfather's SF," can help, but it will take time.

203:

Hmmm. Couple of things:

--Could you post a link to that Guardian article?

--If you were going to write a book that's congenial for today's college kids, what would you write?

--If you did write such a book and thought it was worth selling, how would you get it to them?

204:

Bit of an aside, more of an idle musing but I have John Clute's review of Singularity Sky book marked ( as an even further aside why are there so few reviews of the annihilation score online?)
Anyway, on the side bar to Clutes review are his most recent reviews, looking back this was probably my maximum reading period, I have read most of the books listed there
Whilst imperfect, it might provide a datum point of male/female authorship being reviewed at that time

205:

Yes, I'm familiar with that esp. the NASA example.

206:

Some women writers are waaay off the radar; I am self-pub due to Various Circumstances, and I figured, better Big River than nobody (and was pleasantly surprised by sales last year, about the amount of a newbie advance in print). But that keeps me waaay off the radar for any of this discussion, and I suspect that I am not alone.

Granted, that gives me the leeway to publish when I can (and since I leave the day job at the end of this year, I will actually have time to write, whee).

However, I do have difficulty getting reviews, so I plan to put DEAD MAN'S HAND (Renaissance fantasy without gunpowder, with ghosts and lotsa magic) up on Bookbub.

This is just one of the many things any self-pub write needs to do these days (Holly Lisle is another example of someone who has gone off the print chart, but is still extremely active in self-pub).

I don't know how many women writers have gone to self-pub just so their stuff gets out, but by looking at Bookview Café and other such consortiums, it would appear to be a good-sized number.

How would one crunch numbers for that phenomenon?

207:

How would one crunch numbers for that phenomenon?

To a first approximation, compare number of self-publishing authors (on Amazon, say) to the number of published authors in the same categories.

Lots of possible confounding factors, so I'd be leery of drawing sweeping conclusions based on just this, but it might give an indication of where to dig further.

No idea how to get the data from the Amazon APIs, though. It's been two decades since I programmed, three since I did it professionally, and I'm so rusty I'd basically be learning from scratch on this.

208:

(@mods ok, I'll be adult)


I think this pie chart does a fundamental disservice to Ancillary Justice as it's specifically about a non-gendered AI in a society that doesn't "do" gender. (Somewhat clumsily handled, but hey, early days).


Putting a HUGO winner into the "unsure" category isn't very trans* friendly, as the entire pie-chart is based on a normative binary gender split, which is 100% going to alienate a (small but equal) section of SF readership.


Yes, there was a reason I put "Left hand of Darkness" in there, and it wasn't to troll. It was in the hope people would see the glaringly obvious and note that it needed a bit of work.


While I understand the direction, "unsure" is just a tad too weak for my tastes.


Well, at least it wasn't labelled: "Other".

209:

And, (apologies), it has been almost 70 years since the Kinsey Reports (no matter what you make of their methodology) that put sexuality on a spectrum.


It's 2015: can't we do better?

I'll go back to horsing around now.

210:

"I still think pie charts are useful when the disparities are so huge as to be easily discernible. But enough people have sighed at them that I'm beginning to get the message :)"

Sorry. Treat us chart-pedants like grammar pedants or punctuation pedants; we have a use but don't always need to be listened to.

Pie charts shows proportions, but the details are hard to discern so comparison of one pie with another is fiddly. So they don't make it as easy to see the trends of how the proportions change as you move from the 'more prestigious' to 'less prestigious' awards. (This is ameliorated by the vast change in %s in your case, but is still true)

Line Charts are best for trends, but as not good at demonstrating proportions.

Bar charts are good for comparisons.

If you want a middle-ground that both shows proportions like a pie chart and makes it easy to do comparison and see the trend in how differences in proportions change between groups (or over time) then Stacked Bar Charts (or 'Area Charts', which are much the same thing) are often the workable compromise, though some chart snobs look down on them.

I'd suggest a Stacked Bar Chart in your case.

211:

Our group has been looking at another award set, this time in more depth—longlist, shortlist, winners of the last 15 years—and I'm seeing a pronounced and progressive winnowing of women's voices at each level. I'd love to produce an infographic as elegant as Minard's representation of Napoleon's campaign but, well, the group's talents don't (yet?) stretch so far.

But we're playing with a variety of representations. Eh, we'll get there.

212:

Nicola - if you want a bit more information on them Google Sankey Diagrams if you haven't already done so.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sankey_diagram

They are a subset of flow diagrams which (off the top of my head) could probably be used to track the number of women authors making it through each stage of an awards process :)

Or perhaps show the number of authors by age group by genre as a left to right flow of ages.

213:

Right now, evangelical Xtianity (to use the pagan term for people who spout authoritarian Church verbiage without attempting to practice what Jesus taught) is roaring it's self-proclaimed dominance of the culture warz, and oddly enough, we've got a problem with resurgent patriarchy all over the world and also in SFF.
You hint at it, but shall we put it out in to the open?
Evangelical xtianity is very loud in the USSA.
Not anywhere else, except, perhaps N Ireland ....
The religious patriarchy bit, yes - look at Da'esh & their not-quite-so-extremely nasty ( bit still deeply unpleasant ) associates.

There's a reason for this, of course:
They are frightened that they are going to lose to the Enlightenment & realise that this is probably their last chance to squash reason knowledge & learning, before it is too late.
Which of course, makes them even more dangerous.

Bringing this back to topic (!) these people will, of course do everything in their power to denigrate, downgrade & destroy any hint of female equality, opportunity or for their voices to be heard.

214:

Nicola,

Just discovered http://sankeymatic.com/

Created a dummy awards Sankey for you - click on the thumbie below. Note I've left the UI in so you can see how I did it. Also note that diagram nodes can be manipulated by clicking and dragging.

For ref the fake data is below.

Men [2000] Shortlisted
Women [500] Shortlisted
Shortlisted [400] Nominated Men
Shortlisted [100] Nominated Women
Shortlisted [2000] Rejected Authors
Nominated Men [40] Winning Men
Nominated Men [360] Rejected Men
Nominated Women [10] Winning Women
Nominated Women [90] Rejected Women

215:

"Evangelical xtianity is very loud in the USSA.
Not anywhere else, except, perhaps N Ireland ...."

Nope, sorry. Strictly, even modern evangelical Christianity doesn't imply bigotry (Wesley was an evangelist), but let's consider just the bits that treat Leviticus as Gospel and the Gospel as secondary. In the UK, yes, and it's being hammered hard even in Norn Iron, but the real growth area is in sub-Saharan Africa.

216:

(Disclaimer: I am not a serious charts wonk, but I have worked with some serious ones on occasion. I've also had to deal with a couple of situations when a few "annoying" charts "helped" people make some dumb ass decisions ;-)

You may find Save the Pies for Dessert [PDF] an interesting short read of some of the ways pie charts get misinterpreted. While I don't find them evil incarnate, they do have a surprising number of failure modes — especially with folk who don't spend most of their days looking at charts and graphs. It's a good read regardless since it helps you spot when journalists, advertisers and politicians "accidentally" abuse them!

Two bits of useful advice that I got several years ago that I've found useful again and again were:

  • Always bear in mind the intent and audience of a chart. What you do to summarise data for a bunch of science wonks is different from what you produce for the general public. What you produce for a quick skim is different from what you produce for a detailed read. What you produce for controversial data is different from what you produce for well accepted data. And so on.
  • Simpler is usually better. Don't be afraid of using multiple charts to emphasise different aspects of the same data.

Charts like the oft referenced Minard's map are wonderful things. They're works of art that pack an awful amount of information in a small space and let you see how half a dozen factors interrelate. However they need time, and sometimes a gentle introduction, for people to read them well. They're not things you skim. They're things you read.

Getting people to read things that they're disinclined to believe is hard.

If the only factor you wanted to discuss was how the army size dropped over time then a simple line graph would be a better option.

If you want to introduce people to the various factors maybe have a series of simpler charts that talk about individual factors first, before the more complex chart that lets you see the relationships.

You might also want to have a google around "data journalism". Since folk in that field are much more focused on getting complex info across to the general public with, for me, an interestingly different slant from some infoviz/dataviz folk.

217:

"Could you post a link to that Guardian article?"

Seconded. My google-fu is weak.

218:

I suspect that this link from today may be useful.

Not genre though - either there's been a bit of misremembering going on, or there's another more useful (for our purposes) article elsewhere.

219:

No, I read the article too, but I cannot find it again for anything. And my Google-fu is generally pretty strong.

220:

Aha. Perhaps it wasn't in the Guardian, but elsewhere reacting to the Guardian article? Perhaps this in the New Statesman?

222:

Having read all the way through this comments on this post I have a number of observations and comments to make in brief. Having just come back from Provence where I have been diligently destroying my brain cells by consuming some excellent French wines may not help my lucidity or clarity of thought.

1. Hypotheses are great, sound all grown up etc, but as my teachers would remind me it is better to try and prove the null-hypothesis because that way you are more likely to find the weakness int he hypothesis.

2. Statistical values and p are a guideline to further research, and only show that something is worth pursuing not that that your data is a fact.

3. Replication is everything, but even that is only useful as a metric when there is hard data; so an awareness of whether the factors being measured are quantitative or qualitative, because it can get blurry when what is measured is hard versus 'soft' data.

Moving on from my semi-professional interest in statistics and onto the Hugos.

To make this short I will point you all at my blog, and a light piece I did reflecting on what Hugo award winning novels I've read over the years.

http://ashleyrpollard.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/hugo-reflections-part-7-future.html

TL;DR Summary: 90% of the books I've read have never been nominated or won a Hugo.

223:

Am I confused, or did a bunch of posts disappear?

Anyway, to respond to the Culture Wars in general, I personally think Bob Altemeyer nailed it, and his data do go beyond North America.

As for the evangelicals, it's always worth remembering that they got their start in 1920s southern California, with people like Aimee Semple McPherson. I don't know what it is about Mediterranean climates to cook up evangelical movements--we'd better start keeping an eye on South Africa, Chile, and Australia. Who knows what God's telling them to do right now... (and yes, my tongue is ever so slightly in my cheek. Still, McPherson's history does shed some interesting light on where the Evangelical movement came from).

224:
we'd better start keeping an eye on South Africa, Chile, and Australia. Who knows what God's telling them to do right now...
Necessary, but perhaps not sufficient.
225:

Hmmm some cherry picking of books to prove a point in that article. Whilst I don't deny the point there were a quite a few positive books in that list that were skipped to drive the point home. Besides surely the point of a list of classics is that you are going to get a whole range of cultural attitudes spread over almost 100 years. Hell even the Belgariad has some strong female characters in it.

226:

Gordy, that looks like an incredibly useful tool, thank you!

227:

Ashley, I'm jealous of the wines :)

I hear you on data, statistics, and hypotheses. Thank you. My (self-appointed) job is to point things out and say, "This looks as though it could be a problem," then step back while others figure out the whys and wherefores. But I'm learning a lot here from generous commenters.

228:

Adrian, yes. Start simple and build. That's my plan (insofar as I have a plan.). We do have a data journalist in the group, though, so, hmmm...

229:

Am I confused, or did a bunch of posts disappear?

Yes. CiaD and JT got into a slanging match which, while it may have entertaining to the pair of them, was of dubious value to the rest of us. They were also strongly irritating our posters.

Because of this one of my fellow mods cancelled a whole sub-thread last night. This is not something that happens often. In fact I've not seen it happen before.

Remember, peeps, this is Charlie's Blog. It is not, despite appearances to the contrary, an open forum. And when we have guest bloggers, treat them with some respect. Disagree by all means, but be polite about it.

While we're about it, the same should apply to your fellow commenters too.

230:

Provencal wine is at least partly why I ended up marrying the woman I did. Well, drinking on your own is rather pointless.

I tasted quite a nice rosé from down there last weekend, which comes in normal and magnum bottles. Unusually, the bottles have squared off shoulders and glass stoppers. Which is different.

(Glass stoppers seem unnecessarily fancy, but given the whole bottle is made of glass, maybe it makes sense. I think I'll grab a bottle on the way hoem and see how practical it is.)

231:

My only (minor) grumble about that was that I'd posted a far-too-belated thank-you to an old favorite SF author in there, and it disappeared to. Oh well. Thank you, Rebecca Ore, once again!

232:

I'm occasionally active in trans-politics circles: 3 of my closest friends are trans.

If you wrote stories, biographies I'd guess, about their lives, all three would like to be identified by their current gender. Not as trans-whatever, not as unsure, not as anything else. They would fit into the original categories. I know, I checked with them all before I posted.

I know that's a far from universal view, even in the community of those who have transitioned. Many have a strong identity as "someone who has transitioned" rather than anything else, and would like to be identified as trans-female or trans-male.

There isn't a right answer for everyone but this isn't a clearly wrong solution, especially when it's not an issue for the books in question to date. It will need to be addressed when more books are added, yes, but it's an issue for when some of the other issues have been worked out.

233:

And the real reason I'm here:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/fantasy-forever#.pkrAY9rQN

I appreciate BuzzFeed isn't a major critical award. It's not books from the last year. It's not even (37 men, 14 women I think, unless I've missed a woman publishing with a man's name - 15 actually, one book has 2 women), but nearly 28% isn't too shabby!

234:

Your post is still there, you posted it in "Where Have All The Women Gone?", not "Data, books, and bias." (Well, maybe you posted more than one? But none of your comments were in the very annoyed sweeping from last night -- I just triple-checked.)

235:

I hear you. Any protagonist who has transitioned and identifies as a woman or man is a woman or man, not 'Unsure.' Unsure just meant, Blimey, I've no idea how to label that! E.g. an AI in a human body who doesn't acknowledge gender :) right now I'm thinking we need 4 categories: female, male, non-binary, and other (for animals, aliens, supernatural entities, inanimate objects...) but this is definitely a work in progress...

236:

Point taken.

However, there will be (and not in the too near future) a fundamental readjustment to all this binary nonsense once people start grasping the real nature of biochemistry / genetics (c.f. chimeric expression in cells, X/Y co-ords and what you really look like. For 50% of the population, they're striped like Tigers - it's going to be amazing when radicals start gene-hacking it with UV light expressing stuff. But anyhow).

The nod to Kinsey wasn't an accident - 70 years and 'society' is still struggling with basic concepts such as "sexuality is a spectrum". Ever raised cows?

And, to make sure we're not thumping the wrong drums, often those niche groups are as exclusionary and hateful as the majority they've been persecuted by. (c.f. Bisexual sexuality expression in minority groups, exclusion and reactionary labeling).


right now I'm thinking we need 4 categories: female, male, non-binary, and other (for animals, aliens, supernatural entities, inanimate objects...) but this is definitely a work in progress...

You probably need a few more.

Instead of a Pie Chart, try a chromatic spectrum where each author is gradiated on an artificial colour spectrum showing bias towards one pole or another.

If you're any good, you'll make it at least have 4 axes.

Pie Charts are outdated and mostly useless.


This is not something that happens often. In fact I've not seen it happen before.


Yes, sorry.


There was a specific thing in there that was not cool, and could have made a lot of people unsafe, so. Better to play the Joker and burn it to the ground.


~


On a totally unrelated note, HUGO awards this weekend.

237:

Sorry, but many of the vicars in the CofE church round the corner from here were & are semi-fundamentalist.
The one who was in charge approx 1949-65 refused to accept evolution - & there's a lot of it around, mostly US-based evangelicals with an admixture of "african" ones too.
But NI is the place to go for bigotry, of any xtian sort, these days ( I believe even Glasgow has lightened up of late ...)

Catina @ 236
No, they wont, unfortunately - they will refuse to believe it & SHOUT LOUDER - much like the Climate denialists.
Depressing, isn't it?

On a totally unrelated note, HUGO awards this weekend.
No - on a wholly related note, actually.
Which is why I don't think I'll comment on Linda Nagata's next thread.
We will have to wait & see what the outcome of the puppies is, won't we?

238:

Some interesting puppy analysis on the 2015 Hugos - whilst I'd take it with a pinch of salt there's an implication that without the puppies a woman may have won best novel.

https://chaoshorizon.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/2015-hugo-stats-initial-analysis/

239:

A quick count of gender split shows 15 men, 13 women (based on the list on Martin Wisse's blog) and counting everyone on a team equally (not looking at things like difference between presenter and producer). That's effectively equal as a random sample. So if the immature canines were trying to keep the girl cooties away, they failed.

240:

Hugo results out.
I see a certain "Noah Ward" is a very popular person this year .....
Wired's article is worth looking at, btw.

241:

Good article
So, does TB/VD (both appropriate initials) actually believe the crap he spews? Astounding*.

I find it amusing the the Sad/Rabid supporters (I like puppies too much to call them that) keep claiming that the results support their views.
Umm, No They Don't.
It shows that the S/Rs don't have the influence that they and their flunkies imagine they do.
Twitter conversations seem to go something like:
flunky: It shows the awards are controlled by the Elites!
"Elite": Did you vote for what you wanted?
f: Err, no.
"E": Then please STFU.

I'd be tempted to say:
You keep using these Words; I do not think they mean what you think they mean.


*And if I had a dollar for every white guy I've met who claimed to be part Native American...
I usually hear it as "I'm a quarter Cherokee". The only one I've taken seriously was a former boss who was half Cherokee, I met her father so yeah that was true.

242:

AFAIK
Theodore Beale really does believe all that shit.
If you can take it, look at his blog ....

243:

He has been recorded as stating that it's all performance art.

Hoooookayyyy.

244:
The nod to Kinsey wasn't an accident - 70 years and 'society' is still struggling with basic concepts such as "sexuality is a spectrum".

Someone I know once made the comment that Kinsey's sexuality spectrum is often used to invalidate bisexuality. That in response to telling people she is bisexual, she is often met with the response that 'we're all a little bit bisexual' or 'sexuality is fluid' – which ultimately turns into pressure for her to identify as either straight or lesbian. She also complained that talking about sexuality as a spectrum treats bisexuality as being 'half-way' between being straight and gay, rather than as a sexuality which has something of an independent identity.

You admitted that there are problems with Kinsey's methodology. I think perhaps one of the reasons his conceptualisation of sexuality as a spectrum hasn't been thoroughly adopted is because we still don't have a very good picture of sexuality, and that its acceptance presents problems for people whose sexualities are not a good fit for his spectrum.

More to the point, I'm not sure how your argument applies to the gender of characters and authors. In the current state of literature, characters tend to be cis unless the author is making a point of a character being non-cis, let alone specifically non-binary. While for placing authors on a 2D spectrum by their gender and sexuality? At best that reads to me as being fairly invasive. At worst it demands a completely unethical level of disclosure on the part of authors. Can't we just take authors at their face value, and go by their preferred pronouns in the absence of any definitive statement as to their gender?

245:

Judith
As in: "All the world's a stage & all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."
I presume?
Given TB's consistent stance on women being unfit to vote etc ... somehow I don't believe it.

246:

You wear a mask long enough, and you become the persona

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This page contains a single entry by Nicola Griffith published on August 16, 2015 11:43 PM.

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