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Where Have All the Women Gone?

(Charlie's away and his blog has been taken over by invisible assassins.)

It's as regular as summer thunder. A very serious article or a very serious tweet or a very serious wonder-aloud in a convention bar.

"How come women don't write science fiction/fantasy/insert subgenre-not-romance here? Or why haven't they written it since, like, well, last week when I read one by a lady and I thought it was pretty good and I think, did it win an award or something? But there aren't any others and I don't get it." Sometimes with bonus, "Do I have to write it myself?"

I used to say I had a superpower. In person, online, you name it. I'm invisible. A very famous publisher once said, "She might as well write in invisible ink for all the notice she gets."

That Buffy episode with Invisible Girl? Yep. Except the part where (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) she's whisked away at the end to a secret training facility for spies and assassins.

Point being that not only was she not alone, she had a whole tribe to belong to, doing important and deadly things. And the visibles of the world would never see her coming.

It's that dratted second X chromosome. The X factor. Crosses you right out.

Women have a shelf life. When they're young and cute, they get attention--a fraction as much by the numbers as the boys, and often relegated to the short reviews or the niche commentators, but it happens. Then as they age, the boys become revered elders. The girls undergo a winnowing process that pulls out one or two as tokens of their gender, and those are the wise ones, the names always cited when listing women in genre. The rest are erased. And the very serious pundits inquire, "Why aren't there any women in genre?" Or, "Why didn't women write in genre before, like, last week?"

They did. We did. All the way back. We have always been here. We have always written science fiction.

This is what the Women in Science Fiction project is about. And the Women in Science Fiction Storybundle ((link explains the concept, and lists the books in the bundle). Along with many lists and shout-outs and twitterstorms.

It's not even conscious. Hear a woman's voice, see a woman's name, slide right on by. Just today I had a twitter conversation with a very nice man, very concerned that women writers weren't featured in a certain popular series on a certain eminent blog. He was trying to redress what he saw as unfairness.

And yet that series contains multiple entries by and about women writers. They're talked about, read, commented on. They get good numbers. My contribution has been going on for over a year now and is in its second set of books by one woman writer.

Invisible ink. Hear no women, see no women, take no notice when women speak.

And the older the women are? The more invisible, inaudible, unnoticed they are. Unless they're the tokens, of course. The "I included her, therefore I included all women" names that are on every list, because that makes it all right. Right?

Lucky for us publishing has changed so profoundly in this millennium, and works that used to be erased are now coming back--and with them, the authors who were dropped and silenced over the years. Lucky too that the culture has shifted and people of all genders are more aware of what's been happening, for the most part subliminally, to anyone not straight, white, male.

We were here all along. We never stopped being here. Now, finally, we're not letting ourselves be dumped off the shelf. Even by very serious people with very good intentions who just, you know, didn't notice. And think it's terribly unfair.

409 Comments

1:

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Sorry, but I don't even recognise what you are talking about, and I have always felt that women were well represented in many areas of fiction, including fantasy. But perhaps I am not truly male because I do recognise women in other contexts than being dolly birds or matriarchs, as well as in those contexts :-) Part of this is because men who judge women on the same basis that they judge men are often taken to task for sexual discrimination - often by the women being treated equally! Yes, seriously. That would automatically lead to many of them (the pronoun is deliberate) using different standards, with all the discrepancies that implies.

2:

Largely ( but not wholly ) agree with "Elderly Cynic" - who is younger than I ....
Last time I looked, Ursula K. Le Guin was still alive.
I believe Vonda Macintyre & Ms Vinge are still around, though not necessarily writing SF any more .....
There's the lady writing the "not time-travel" novels regarding St Mary's (Whose books I can't seem to find, grrr .... )

3:

AE van Vogt claimed that SF had a cycle of about 11 years. The styles change, and the writers who fit the old style are obsolete unless they change with it. He was successful in one decade, and then he changed his style and was moderately successful a second time. Maybe lots of writers turn invisible as they age.

There are a few who don't need to fit the styles. It looks to me like Ursula K LeGuin (one of the token Wise Ones) didn't change her style much over the years. She just wrote deeper LeGuin. But then, RA Lafferty was a Wise One who didn't change to fit the times, and he became unpublishable.

Then as they age, the boys become revered elders.

Is this true? How often is it true? I could probably list a double handful of living revered elder male science fiction writers. I doubt it happens to very many of them. But I know my memory is biased. Of the hundreds or thousands of science fiction writers I've read something by, I have trouble remembering more than a few of them. The rest have somehow turned invisible.

4:

Sorry, but just because you are blind to a phenomenon does not mean that it doesn't exist. I assure you, it does.

Moderation note: Life's too short for me to take time out from various travel/social/public commitments to school the commentariat on Sexism in SF 101. If any of the other mods/bloggers feel up to the task, they're welcome to step in. Meanwhile, I'm going to issue a wildcard yellow card to anyone asserting that there's no structural sexism in SF/F publishing, or applying the No True Scotsman argument ("Ursula K. LeGuin is still published, therefore ...") or who apply the Smurf argument ("there's a female Smurf, so The Smurfs are not problematic gender-wise") and so on and so forth. To wit: I may get annoyed and delete comments that start by arguing that older women don't increasingly become invisible.

(Hint: I just published a novel where this is a major thematic element ...)

5:

Thank you, Charlie. Very nuch.

Vonda, who has never been prolific, is still writing. She just published a new short work. I copyedited it and I can tell you she hasn't lost a bit of her edge. Io9 called it "disturbingly weird."

Joan Vinge: still writing. Still publishing. Again, never prolific, never stopped, though being literally hit head-on by a truck slowed her down for some years.

6:

I don't know if women become invisible with age. It's alien to my life experience, but then so's Australia and I trust that exists.

I will however offer an explanation of the nice man who was wondering where all the women writers were in a strangely counterfactual way: I think that the reason that phenomenon is quite so prevalent is that honest inquiries for information are being swamped by signaling. The signal is, roughly: I DO CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN SF PLEASE DON'T STAB ME[1], or in cases of less nice people, I DO CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN SF, GIVE ME A COOKIE. Obviously, I may not be correct in this instance, but I think the explanation stands in general.

[1] Note just how annoyed our gracious host is with the merest hint of dissent on this topic. I'm not saying he shouldn't be annoyed. I'm just saying that no matter how justified the annoyance is, it is disquieting and may prompt people to transmit frantic DO NOT STAB signals.

7:

I don't know if women become invisible with age.

My (currently unsupported) hypothesis is that most people become invisible with age. Like, in the military there's a tendency for "up or out". The big majority of aging military men (and women too) are just not there. They didn't get promoted enough so they're gone.

It's quite possible that women are *more* likely to become *less* visible with age. I don't have the data and I'm likely not to take the time to research it adequately to publish.

I think that the reason that phenomenon is quite so prevalent is that honest inquiries for information are being swamped by signaling. The signal is, roughly: I DO CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN SF PLEASE DON'T STAB ME[1], or in cases of less nice people, I DO CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN SF, GIVE ME A COOKIE.

Yes! When people are trying hard to say whatever they think the potential punisher wants to hear, they often do not think about how true what they're saying is.

8:

It's not just an abstract problem: I have friends who can't publish books any more because incrementally, somehow, they've slid off the radar of the genre and don't get reviews or bookstore orders or sales. I have other friends who are still publishing, but get book advances less than half as large as mine -- despite being multiple Hugo winners with a similar publication track in book length work. I have other friends who recount tales of being told "no, no, we don't want you to write space opera or SF, SF by women isn't any good, why don't you write urban fantasy like all the other women?" -- both by editors and by the SF readership at large.

The thing all these friends have in common is that they're identified as of female gender.

And I hate it profoundly because -- even after you strip out all ethical and moral considerations, even if you view it through the most selfishly egocentric distorting lens available -- their experience of system-wide discrimination undermines my satisfaction with my own success. How valuable is a winner's medal in a race if you only won it because half the competitors were hobbled with a lead weight chained to each ankle? Yes, that's my beef: even my inner four year old thinks the system sucks. And when I look at the damage it's done to people I respect, it makes me angry.

9:

So comments one and two have just proved the theory.

Can you not name a female SFF author who is not Ursula Le Guin?

Robin Hobb probably doesn't count


Go on

name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year

Name me ONE who gets on the "I need a recc, last ten years, give me some names" lists as a rule

And then tell me how much they are not ignored. Because we are out there. Just our names are tumbleweed in the western of SFF

10:

I am one of those invisible women. Have been for a long time. When I speak up, I get, "Oh, yeah, you're damned good. Why didn't we remember you?"

It's a superpower.

I am also one of those many women told not to write science fiction, not to write space opera. Told to my face, "You're a girl. You have to write about girls. You have to write romance."

Now there's a genre that gets excoriated for being heavily female, despite being the single biggest by numbers and sales. And I suck at writing it. Suck giant hairy rocks.

Don't tell me those things do not exist. Because when you do, you're telling me I'm exactly right about invisibility. You're saying my experience never happened. You're proving my point in every particular.

If you feel uncomfortable, that's good. Makes you think. May make you mad, may drive you into denial, but maybe you'll see the world a little differently.

Privilege never sees itself. It just assumes everyone has the same settings, and can't believe it when someone else says, no, you got the easy button. For us, it's a totally different game.

11:

name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year

Allow me: Rachel Bach, Madeline Ashby, K. B. Spangler, Rhonda Mason, Jacqueline Koyanagi. That's in the past three months, mind you. A couple of them I filed under "that's three hours of my life I won't get back again", two went under "hmm, I can read more of this", and one goes under "I am going to offer a cover blurb for this and anxiously hope it sells well enough to see more".

But yes, your point stands. It's much harder for a new SF writer to gain traction if they're seen to be female. Why this should be is a complex question -- frank, open sexism is by no means the obvious and sole reason. But it's clearly happening.

12:

Whenever I read comments like those from the Elderly Cynic and Mr. Tingey, I am reminded of Jon Stewart's discussion with Bill O'Reilly about white privilege.

I am 71. I lived the early part of my life, up until my mid 30's, as ongoing witness to male and white privilege. Fortunately, I was then married to a successful woman professional whose mother was also a highly successful professional. My own mother was a hard working professional librarian.

It was not until I started working for a company, which was itself a stellar example of white male privilege, that I learned that there were guys who seemed to believe that women a) should not work and b) when they did work, they were sub-par.

I didn't realize until then that I was a feminist. I am quite confident that male privilege persists. The tempest in a teapot surrounding the Hugos exemplifies the ongoing problem.

The incessant denial by a certain segment of the male population is proof of the continued existence anti-woman prejudice. The failure of that segment to understand that there is still a glass ceiling and that women still have a harder time at work than men shows a complete lack of both cultural and self awareness.

13:

I know I'm not the target audience, but let'let's see who have I read recently that's a woman?

Granted, I've learned looking outside people like me and challenging my comfort zone pays off. Linda Nagata, Mary Robinette Kowal, PC Hodgell, Sarah Monette, Nnedi Okrafor.

14:

Linda Nagata, Mary Robinette Kowal, PC Hodgell, Sarah Monette, Nnedi Okrafor.

Of these, only Linda Nagata and Nnedi Okrafor (in some of her works, not all) are writing SF as opposed to genre fantasy.

That's not to say that they aren't all very good authors and well worth reading, but this is specifically about women writing SF, as opposed to being pushed to write in a different genre determined on the basis of their gender.

15:

Not counting the ones here, or that Charlie mentioned?

N. K. Jemisin. Aliette De Bodard. Lexie Dunne. Naomi Novik. Melissa Scott. Seanan McGuire.

Those are within the last dozen authors whose books I've purchased.

Note that I am assuming gender for some of those.

16:

Windle_poons said SFF, not just SF.

There's also Rosemary Kirstein, whose books everyone should buy.

17:

Don't know if I should be listing this since I am not disagreeing with the OP's premise, but:

CJ Cherryh
Lois McMaster Bujold
Virginia DeMarce
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Patricia A. McKillip
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(Or are we knocking off the last three as fantasy writers?)

None new writers, no, but I really don't read new stuff by anyone these days, except new books by favorite authors.

I'll recc Bujold or Cherryh if asked.

18:

None new writers, no, but I really don't read new stuff by anyone these days, except new books by favorite authors.

Forgot to add, this is a personal situation thing, not a "Nobody writes good stuff anymore!" thing. I see discussion of a lot of new authors and new books I am sure I would like, but I never get around to buying or reading them somehow.

19:

As the aforementioned 'nice man' I recognise the irony in my exchange with Judith earlier. I have for some time now actively sought to promote women authors in my blog, in conversation, at cons etc. It is demonstrably true that women get less promotion in all its forms than men do, so I try to do my little bit to restore the balance. But despite that, a series of discussion about women passed me by. Now, if I'm actively looking yet miss this stuff something is wrong. Partly me looking in the wrong places, but partly a general blindness of the kind Judith is talking about. So why do we miss these great writers? The repeated myths that women rarely write SF, that men don't want to read women, etc gradually become imprinted on our brains and even with good intentions we start to believe them.
I try, now, to do this at least. Whenever I'm asked for recommendations or offer them, I ask myself first, "which women should I include." "Who am I forgetting?" And I try also to think of both older and newer writers, and not just the same obvious names.
Think about it, no offense intended to Neil Gaiman but does he need my recommendation? Lisa Goldstein on the other hand, who I believe is as good or better, might be unknown to you.
As for 5 recent reads? In SF, Judith Moffett, Jenn Brissett, Andrea Hairston, Kit Reed (still active 57 years into a brilliant career!) and Molly Gloss.
In fantasy, Elizabeth Hand, Silvia Garcia Moreno, Kate Elliott, KT Davies, and Zen Cho.

20:

None new writers, no, but I really don't read new stuff by anyone these days, except new books by favorite authors.

Appetite for novelty does tend to decrease with age.

No-one's mentioned Pamela Dean yet, so I will. If you want to complain that's not SF, go read The Dubious Hills and Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary and tell me what that is. (I think I vote for horror, narrowly. But it sure is something and I'd like for there to be more of it in the world.)

The remarkable Shirley Meier, who seems to have stopped writing, the which is a considerable pity. (We can note that the male contributor to the Fifth Millennium books is on best seller lists, and both female contributors seem to have stopped writing. It's not because the fellow was a better writer, because they sure-as-death weren't.)

Patricia McKillip; see if you can find a copy of Fool's Run if you are still insisting on the particular trappings of SF. (While you're at it, see if you can find a better prose stylist. If you do, I want to read them.)

Ursula Vernon. Who may have the Kipling/Pratchett never-you-tell-them-a-lie kid's author token.

Patricia Wrede, who has -- aside from writing well for years and years -- been doing their best to teach writing well for years and years.

Recent best novel Hugo winner Jo Walton.

21:

In addition to OGH's latest novel, the topic of middle-aged (and greater) female invisibility came up to great comic effect in a recent episode of the Netflix show Grace and Frankie, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They had been ignored at a store when trying to buy cigarettes. At the denouement, Lily Tomlin pulls out a pack of cigarettes she had shoplifted while being ignored. Jane Fonda looks at her dumbfounded and Tomlin replied: "I've discovered I have a superpower. You can't see me, you can't stop me."

The show isn't that good from what I've seen, but at their best Fonda and Tomlin rise above the premise and the writing.

Here's another data point re women having a harder time writing SF. Kate Elliott used to write both SF and fantasy (under this pen name and her real name), but has written that she only writes fantasy these days because that's where the contracts are.

22:

Partly me looking in the wrong places, but partly a general blindness of the kind Judith is talking about. So why do we miss these great writers?

Male gender socialization -- which starts really early in infancy -- trains us to ignore or discount opposite-gendered people and activities as inferior or not worthy of attention. It's very insidious, but it shows up statistically: for example, when asked to recommend work by their peers, female authors/performers/musicians/professionals tend to recommend members of both genders equally, but males asked the same question disproportionately (and I mean 90-100%) mention only other males.

I find it takes constant, serious effort just to be aware of the bias, never mind redressing it.

23:

name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year

When I tried to remember, I got this.

nancy kress
patricia briggs
yoon ha lee

Add in rereading things I liked before:

Lois McMaster Bujold
Rebecca Ore
Kage Baker
RA McAvoy

A quick lookup got me a few names I'd forgotten: Caitlin Kiernan, Cherie Priest, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, and Holly Phillips.

Name me ONE who gets on the "I need a recc, last ten years, give me some names" lists as a rule

I have trouble with that because there's so much good stuff out there, and tastes vary. I'd recommend Lois McMaster Bujold to a lot of people, particularly if they don't mind some romance. Patricia Briggs is good for people who like SF/fantasy romance with ridiculous dominance games. It's more fun to read than it sounds. I've liked everything I've found from Rebecca Ore but she hasn't been very prolific in the last 10 years. She's most famous for her earliest novels.

I think some of my memory problem is that there are lots of men and women who write great SF with high literary quality, great ideas, alien cultures that almost make sense, great characters, subtle character interactions, superb plotting, etc. And somehow they all kind of blend together for me. They're all much better than what I grew up with, and it's hard for me to value them because there's more great stuff than I can read, and somehow it isn't that different. Even though it is.

24:

The odd thing about "women don't write SF", I think, is that it comes from both sides. People say "women don't write SF" meaning "women shouldn't write SF", but they also say "women don't write SF" meaning "not enough women write SF". It's somewhat interesting to note how a syntactic collision combines with the blinding effects of socialization to produce two phrases that have the same denotation but entirely contradictory connotations.

25:

Let's see, I haven't read much SF in the last year, but on my shelves:

Rebecca Ore
Jane Lindskold
Mercedes Lackey
Marion Zimmer Bradley
CJ Cherryh
Ann Leckie
Robin Hobb
Elizabeth Moon
Margaret Ronald
Julie Czerneda
Ursula Le Guin
Anne McCaffrey

Of course, none of this mean that Ms. Tarr's complaints are unfounded, because there are probably more male authors than female. Shelf life is a problem too. I'd have liked to see what Rebecca Ore wrote after her alien trilogy, but she largely disappeared from shelves.

I will say that, since I'm working on a book on a post-climate change world, almost all the authors I read for that book were white men, including most but not all of the climatologists. Part of that's the bias in science against people who want to have a family before 45, part of that's undoubted bigotry, conscious or not, part of that's the attraction of joining a shrinking field with decreasing salaries and job choices (most of ecology at the moment). Actually, the last applies to science fiction, doesn't it?

I guess all I can say about this situation is that this all sucks. Time to read Forty Thousand in Gehenna again, I guess.

26:

Bujold is another Smurfette. I'm surprised Connie Willis isn't getting mentioned; she's another of the one-name-to-include-them-all writers.

The rest of the names range from Oh yeah, they're on the lists, to, Good lord, I had forgotten her. Rebecca Ore!

Women just aren't important the way men are. I've been told that to my face, as a writer and a person. I am lesser because I have that other X chromosome.

It's pervasive. It takes constant pushing and fighting. I've been fighting this fight since I entered the genre, and that was in the early Eighties.

And oh yes, we are steered away from math and science, from science fiction, from male preserves. It takes great strength and stubbornness to fight that pressure. Most of us buckle and collapse, or just plain need to make a living. So we write fantasy with romantic elements because that's what we're allowed to sell. And we get the "She should go back to writing romance" zings in the review columns, too.

I had to ditch my career to be able to write what I really wanted to write, which is intergenre SF. I just could not generate one more romantic fantasy. It's a grand and valid genre, but it's not me.

One thing about being of the age of invisibility, as noted above. If they can't see you, you can be amazingly free.

27:

One thing I've noticed is that, just as some men can't write a believable female character, some women can't write a decent man to save their lives. I think I was reading Elizabeth Bear when I noticed that her characters all seemed female, even the straight men. They seemed much too insecure, too concerned with subtle social signals, and not nearly focused enough on the job at hand. I should note that these characters did not seem to be deliberately written as neurotic wrecks; it seemed to be unintentional.

28:

I'd have liked to see what Rebecca Ore wrote after her alien trilogy, but she largely disappeared from shelves.

You have a treat in store if you can find them. For you I would particularly recommend Gaia's Toys. In the first five pages you get ecoterrorists with nukes, who believe that the west florida coast can handle residual radiation better than it can handle tourists. It goes on from there.

29:

Hmmm. Speaking as someone who worked in a field with a majority of women grad students (botany, which has always been a field that's "safe" for women, since plants aren't sexual or something), here's the problem I saw:

Yes, most of the professors were men. Often they were on their second or third wives, or divorced, devoted themselves to their careers, and had poor social skills. Several of my female grad student friends managed to get married and/or have kids while in grad school. Of those, most got jobs outside the field, or divorced (and are now remarried). Only one of my female friends who landed a professorship has kids.

Rather more of my male botany friends who landed professorships have kids, with wives who aren't in academia.

Now, I'm not saying that women's purpose in life is to have kids, but I am saying that academic science does make it an either work or kids choice for far too many women and a fair number of men, and that sucks. If you go into academia, you get out of school in your early 30s, work at unstable post-doc positions with lower-than-average salaries to land a professorship in your late 30s, struggle mightily to get tenure, and then get job security in your mid-forties with tenure, whereupon you can, if you're not already married, start dating again if you are so inclined, since your work week has now decreased from 75 hours/week to 60 hours/week. At this point, you'll be making about 30% less than your female friends who went into the business world with a bachelors or masters. You're also working in a field with shrinking job prospects, decreasing funding, and a little mass extinction starting to accelerate around you that you are more aware of than most people. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it?

At this point, I have to ask how many people of any gender would want to put up with this shit. This isn't about women getting steered away from STEM in academia because bigots think it's too hard for their intellects, it's because the field is massively oversubscribed, your chance of rising to the top is about as good as making it as an actress in Hollywood, and if you do make it, you'll still be seen as a second-class citizen in an increasingly anti-intellectual society and get paid appropriately.

And, if you're thoughtful enough to avoid this mess, you still have to put up with all this noise about how we need more STEM education, despite the huge number of post-docs clogging the system and pushing down salaries all over the world.

30:

In lofty Gnossus, for the Cretan Queen,
Form’d by Dædalean art: A comely band
Of youths and maidens, bounding hand in hand;
The maids in soft cymars of linen dress’d
The youths all graceful in the glossy vest;
Of those the locks with flowery wreaths inroll’d,
Of these the sides adorn’d with swords of gold,
That, glitt’ring gay, from silver belts depend.
Now all at once they rise, at once descend,
With well-taught feet: now shape, in oblique ways,
Confusedly regular, the moving maze:
Now forth at once, too swift for sight, they spring,
And undistinguish’d blend the flying ring:
So whirls a wheel, in giddy circle toss’d,
And, rapid as it runs, the single spokes are lost


Naming Names would just be cheating (I read, on average, 20 books a month. Then again, I have advantages - notably it only takes 1-2 hrs each and I have no compunctions about sourcing illegally if required).

One thing about being of the age of invisibility, as noted above. If they can't see you, you can be amazingly free.


Be wary. The scrutiny of the wider swirl, once imagined to be wise and respectful of truth and love, has been revealed.

Craven, dull, childish and vain. And not particularly smart.

So are the all Gods that men make, immanentized.

As Homer broke that mould, so did modern man attempt to regain it via Ideology, Religion, Brands and Belief.

And it will try to destroy that which it doesn't find 'profitable'. Mostly by lies and 20th Century tricks, so novel in their time, so outmoded now.


Our Kind Do Not Go Mad.

We might, so hurting, howl at the moon and cry at blood split and hatred thrown at times of menses. If it were so desired, I'd make love to all said invisible voices for a thousand years.


But then again ~ a world changed, and Titans loose. All for love, consent and respect...

31:

...her characters all seemed female, even the straight men. They seemed much too insecure, too concerned with subtle social signals, and not nearly focused enough on the job at hand.

Wow. That's just ignorant (first word that comes to mind).
What? Male character all need to me Capable Macho He-Men™?
Wheaton's Law applies.

32:

Apologies for potential descent into rantiness, incoherence or both. I seem to be approaching cat-throwing levels of both at times. At the moment this is just Stella plus an easy going, good natured Pinot Grigio.

While it's too easy to say this sort of thing online, and it pays to take a circumspect approach and not cast asparagus willy-nilly, I do take the view that those men who insist there are no longstanding, deeply seated institutionalised biases against equal opportunity for and treatment of women in any walk of life, but apparently (by all reliable measures) especially SF genre fiction (among other spaces in the cultural landscape) are actively self-pleasuring in direct proportion to their volume and energy on the issue. Gentlemen, I exhort you to take your hands out of your pockets and put them on the table... actually no, that's disgusting - please go wash your hands and *then* put them on the table.

When I look at the on-device list in the Kindle app on my current phone, 2-3 months old, the only female writers in there currently are Naomi Klein and Connie Willis (versus a dozen or so male writers). I know there's no conscious choice behind that, but I do find a need to take a relatively unsympathetic look at myself and why that is.

I'm a bit late to SF&F in a general way. I read a lot of it as a teenager, but mostly followed the lit lit rabbit hole for a decade or two afterward, at least till you could no longer credibly argue it isn't just another genre (yes there are some books that "have something" that most don't, but my experience is that working in genre conventions isn't a reliable predictor of the absence of that "something").

So I only started Pratchett in my 30s and Banks in my 40s. And coming late gave me the luxury of gorging on opera more or less whole (the mortality rate of authors I become interested in is high). I have been planning to do this with Le Guin at some stage, but there's some conscious reflection behind needing to do that.

I've started to do similar exercises with crime fiction, though I wonder if the bias is quite so pronounced there(*). Maybe it is, but there certainly doesn't seem to be the same voluble backlash rhetoric, there does not seem to be an equivalent to the Sad Puppies in the crime world. So my question in context is - does "geek" culture embed something unpleasant? I mean, more unpleasant than previously considered, anyhow. I mean, there's contested ownership of the tropes, but there is also a massive distance between the white, male, US-centric, upper-middle-class experience and actual lived experience for most people. But it seems the more of those boxes you tick, the more you think that people who don't are less likely to be interesting in SF.

I can't help think of China Mieville and Eric S. Raymond close to blows over questions that in the end are the same ones about ownership of parts of a culture that may not really be shared, at least to the extent we'd like to think. But think I must also must recognise those are both straight, white men of a certain degree of privilege. Like Charlie says, an underlying pervasive bias that excludes or attenuates entire classes of people will always diminish your own achievements if you're in the lucky class. You crash into a space and somehow always seem welcome anyway. You may have a story to tell, but even if it's important and interesting, you're aware there are more important stories to tell that aren't necessarily yours, and there's an extent to which even getting involved in promoting them is patronising.

But ultimately you do what you can. In the context Judith raises here, it means that if the culture of which you are a part if according this invisibility superpower to unwilling people, then at the very least you can stop consenting to it, blink enough times to ensure you actually are paying some attention to voices other than the normative.


(*) On my phone it is: 5 male crime writers to 0 female ones - it could be argued that is to do with catching up on the genre in some areas, but that isn't a good argument; one of these men though is Stieg Larsson, which I only offer as mitigation

33:

...but it shows up statistically: for example, when asked to recommend work by their peers, female authors/performers/musicians/professionals tend to recommend members of both genders equally, but males asked the same question disproportionately (and I mean 90-100%) mention only other males.

Sorry Charlie, but I'm calling you on that one. You know that what you have stated doesn't demonstrate what you purport it to show.

In a scenario where the proportions of successful authors are gender skewed, AND each gender has gender specific likes, AND the proportions of each gender reading SF is also skewed - well you can't say boys are being sexist if they end up reading and recommending more male SF. That's 'republican candidate' level statistics right there.

It's more correct to say that different literature has different gender bias in who will read it and be interested, thus who will write it, thus who will be successful in a game where if the book isn't on the shelf, it's not there to be bought (alpha and the rest). That basic, natural, difference in the wiring of interests of the brain is entirely sufficient to explain things.

You might have a case in arts where the interest and numbers are more balanced (say painting), but even then the system interactions, without any 'sexist' behaviour, may well be enough to explain things.

Maybe we should be agitating for more male written romantic fiction? As a position, it's equivalent.

34:

If none of an author's characters seem relatable to me I'm probably not going to finish the book. Part of that is that the men don't all have to be Manly He-Men, but they should feel like authentic men. For reasons that I may not be describing well, some female writers can't seem to write men that seem authentic to me.

35:

33: When a man writes romance under his own name, it's literature. Or at least, a bestseller.

q.v. Nicholas Sparks.

When women wrote Jane Austen pastiches, it was fanfic. Nobody wanted it. When a man wrote it, it was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The recent blog by the woman who shopped the same ms. under both male and female names and got markedly different responses (and far more of them for the male byline) is pretty much in line with how it looks from here. You won't see the same view because you're up on the Privilege hill. Hence the false equivalency of "more men should write romance." No, dear. That's not how it works.

36:

I think you're making an incorrect assumption about what Charlie believes is being demonstrated and actually his motivation in calling out certain kinds of behaviours and effects. It looks to me like you want to find a pointing finger of individual blame in these sorts of statements. It demonstrates that you are actually not interested in establishing the truth of the situation, rather you are defending a version of it to which you are committed.

This is an oddly unreflective theme - the scientific form of knowledge is almost definitively around descriptive rather than prescriptive understanding of phenomena. Yet whenever the "descriptive" bit is focussed on people who are used to being on the other side of the lens, you get a lot of backlashy fuss and bother and indignant righteousness about how some other people are just the same. It isn't everyone of course, or even these days a majority. But the interesting thing is that with this SF community, the ones it shakes out seem to be the ones who don't understand how the knowledge part of the scientific endeavour works.

I suspect there's a a more general theme to explore - that people attracted to SF with really strange ideas about the S part. I guess exhibit A is usually going to look something like Eric Raymond, but whatever... "That basic, natural, difference in the wiring of interests of the brain is entirely sufficient to explain things" comes pretty close

37:

No Australia really doesn't exist. Trust me, I live here. On the other hand I believe you will find that gender bias is more real than Australia for many people.

38:

The good thing about going digital is that you have a perfect record of the books you read, when you bought them and when you read them. I started keeping a a spreadsheet of the books I read, with column for the author's gender, which I fill with different colors for male or female (green and orange, cause fuck blue/pink). This makes it very obvious when my reading is too imbalanced and has caused me to actively seek out - and find - women writers. I've not achieved parity but I'm pretty close.

But looking at the list and reading the comments I see that not many of those are explicitly SF (as opposed to fantasy) - either by male or female authors. And I'd like to change that. So I'm using this opportunity to ask for recommendations. I'm looking for authors similar to Ann Leckie, joan slonczewski (whose last I can now apparently spell correctly with no help from Google) or Aliette De Bodard, in other words authors who write space opera in posthuman futures. Bonus points for AI, advanced biology and the like. I like weirdness, as long as it's sort of plausible and not just made-up nonsense. My big turnoff is misuse of scientific terms, espially quantum-related ones (Looking at you, Chris Moriarty!)

Lastly, Carlie, if you're reading this, I have to go through hoops every time I want to comment here. the movable type login is broken for me, I tried resetting the password multiple times and all I get is "invalid password", then I have to use the TypePad login using the Google signup (only one that works for me( which is a 5-step process every time I want to leave a comment.

39:

"Go on name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year"

I couldn't name even one, male or female.
However, having spent the first 30 years of my life as a chronic introvert with serious autistic symptoms my observation is this: The squeaky wheel get the oil.

Charles is a case in point. He has a very popular blog (is there a more popular one in the SF field?) He travels to just about every convention and event he can. A finger in every pie, a willingness to stand up and mouth off in front of audiences numbering from one to thousands.. etc.

In other words, a very "in your face", assertive self publicist. In the arts far more than the sciences success depends on how you present yourself. I know a woman (artist) who went to school with Tracy Emin. Nowhere near as successful yet in many peoples opinions a better artist. Why? (rhetorical question)

Charles is an example of what males do and what females mostly don't. They shout loud until someone takes notice or they kick the door in. The "why" can be left for the rest of you to pick over.

40:

One more observation which underlies just about every prejudice: "I only like people like me"

41:

The recent blog by the woman who shopped the same ms. under both male and female names and got markedly different responses (and far more of them for the male byline) is pretty much in line with how it looks from here.

Woo! Link? I'm not doubting you, that looks really interesting!

You can do that. Electronic submissions, you can control exactly what they see, the same data except for what you change!

You shouldn't send both datasets to the same editor, though likely it won't matter. Unless it's particularly good each will be seen by only one junior employee, and probably not the same one.

This is potentially workable. You can actually get real honest-to-god data this way.

When it's all subjective I tend to think there's something to it but I have some doubts. Like, it seems like I've recently become invisible to beautiful women. They don't even look at me with disgust or fear or anything, they don't notice me at all. But then I was always invisible to a lot of them.... But this could be testable, without a lot of bias. At least about editors, and if they sign their names it may say something about male versus female editors.

42:
The recent blog by the woman who shopped the same ms. under both male and female names and got markedly different responses (and far more of them for the male byline) is pretty much in line with how it looks from here.

Woo! Link? I'm not doubting you, that looks really interesting!

I tried to find this last night, this morning I succeeded...
Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name

43:

What is your basis for asserting that different literature has different gender bias? Isn't it socialization that tells us that 'real' men don't wear pink, read romance, etc, rather than something inherent about a colour or genre?
An example of how things work: A major publisher was questioned about a promotion of SF that was 100% male. The response was that these were the top 10 sellers, seemingly oblivious to the logic that promoting these 10 made it more likely that next time they run a promotion these will still be the top 10. Most of us, including those who try to seek out the neglected, are inevitably more aware of the authors on the display tables rather than tucked away in a corner. So our (unconscious) prejudices are constantly reinforced. That is why men outsell women on average, not that women don't write or aren't as interested or as good.

44:

The first thing that makes me pick up a book is the cover. The next thing I look at is the blurb on the back. Author comes last. Books that do not have a decent blurb describing what it is about get put back on the shelf immediately irrespective of author.

45:

Judith
Thanks for that - I was unaware of the current fates of either Ms Vinge or McIntyre ....
However, don't some male authors also become invisible with age?
Is it more to do with fashions changing & writer's styles evolving & the interaction between those two, as J Thomas almost says in #3??

46:

Isn't the answer to that to use a male nom-de-plume, as several C19th female writers did - which then shafted the system quite thoroughly?
Or is that unacceptable, because it is pandering to the bigots?
I must say I find your notes on the current treatment of female SF authors quite shocking.
Anyone would think this was 1832 (When women were formally deprived of the vote)

47:

It doesn't really matter that, like quite a few people, I can add new female author names to this list: Jodi Taylor and Justina Robson for female SF authors I've read in the last 6 weeks or so, if you add the second F, Ilona Andrews, Katherine Addison, I'm pretty sure K. F. Breene, Kate Danley, Megan Cianna Doidge Jennifer Estep and Namoi Novik are all recent reads. In fact OGH is the only male author I can remember (although Ilona Andrews us a bit of a cheat being a husband and wife team but marketed under her name).

All that suggests is, yet again, I'm not normal. That is, my behaviour is at odds with the norms of our society's. I'm not suggesting in any way that my list says the experience of female authors is other than terrible.

It's also worth noting on my list of authors about 2/3 self publish although all do well enough to pay for an editor so they're not a read as bad as many vanity publications of the pre-eBook era and a lot of fanfic.

To head back towards the older women becoming invisible theme, I can't help but remember the recent story about Maggie Gyllenhall. She was turned down for the role of romantic interest of a 55 year old man in movie because she's "too old,". She's 37!

48:

5 Joanna Russ ( dead? )
4 M Z Bradley ( dead )
3 J Vinge
2 C Q Yarboro'
1 Kate Wilhhelm
0 Katherine Kurtz

And your problem was?

( & a re-read of a large part of "Earthsea", but we've already agreed that U K le G is off limits, so she doesn't count, I think )

Incidentally - did anyone note my comment about not being able to get ( in a bookshop rather than $BIG_RIVER ) the "St Mary's" books?
Is that a secondary part of the phenomenon - even if published, you can't get the damn things?

49:

But as I pointed out, you're much more likely to have a male author put in front of you than a female author. So you're probably picking up and putting down a disproportionate number of books by men. That's even before issues about gender in how books are blurbed or illustrated or categorised. It isn't a level playing field. That may not be your fault per se, but you can accept the inequality or try to overcome it.

50:

Actually, I agree with you.
I realised this one quite early, through an accident of local history, though.
When I was about 8, there was an awful fuss about women becoming airline pilots ( this was mid 1950's remember ) & I thought ....
"Err ... didn't quite a few women pilot all sorts of delivery aircraft [note] during WWII. And what's your problem?"
Turned out to be true - see the book "Spitfire Women" & the explanation was pure bigotry, of course.
What bothers me, like Charlie, is that this shit is either still around, or is making a come-back, or both.

note] Up to & including 4-engine heavy bombers & the first jets, um.

51:

OOPS!
It really IS an invisibility superpower, isn't it?
Can I add Bujold, McKillip to my list.
Oh dear.

52:

"That may not be your fault per se, but you can accept the inequality or try to overcome it."

I cannot see how I can have any effect at all, apart from buying books I don't like just because they have a female author. The problem lies in the book publishing industry which sounds like a very small clique compared to others.

53:

So are the all Gods that men make, immanentized.

Got it.
Yes, all the gods have been made by men.
Not humans, men.
( It's one of my main principles about religion, which we were discussing elsewhere. )

54:

Here's another aspect of invisibility. I can find in my local chain bookstore great sff novels by Angela Carter, Sarah Hall, Susannah Clarke, Karen Joy Fowler, Helen Oyeyemi, Liz Jensen, Margaret Atwood etc. but not one of these are on the SFF shelves.
Bigger stores might have a small Urban Fantasy shelf with the likes of seanan Maguire, but Tim Powers, Neil Gaiman and China Miéville are in the main SFF section not ghettoised.
See comment above about what is put in front of us being disproportionate.

55:

You mean they have broken out of the nerd ghetto and are considered Real Authors - oh the humanity!

56:

Disagree
I know slightly (She's a school-friend of a very old friend) a very famous female "classical" conductor, whose performances always seem to bring out the best in people & gets rapturous responses from the audience.

Warning you-tube of a classic performance - lasts for over 2 hours.

Awards, honours, official recognition?
Nah, only a woman.

57:

Why are you more likely to buy a book you don't like by a female author? Trying to be more aware of the women out there and looking at their books doesn't mean you will pick up any more good or bad books at all. It just means you choose from a bigger pool.

58:

"Why are you more likely to buy a book you don't like by a female author? "

I am not. I used it to illustrate that it would be the only way I could actually have any real influence in publishing decisions.

59:

When one person went into NEMS music store asking for a record called 'My Bonnie'the owner said sorry, never heard of it. When a lot of people asked him, Brian Epstein went looking and launched The Beatles.

60:

Taking C. J. Cherryh as a case study, she might be seen as part of the getting older therefore more invisible bracket.
There's also the seeming tendency of the SFF commentariat, the ones running magazines, blogs etc to concentrate on people, and therefore if they don't look at women so much, the women simply slide off people's radar. It isn't that the readers don't like the books, but unless the books are regularly appearing in their bookshops or on websites that review books or something like that, the reader can end up not knowing that the author exists.

So, back to Cherryh. She got a prize or three back in the 70's-80's, and was obviously famous enough that the faded sun trilogy was published in the UK by the Science ficiton book club, which back in that time was an indicator that someone expected her to sell well, no matter her gender or anything else.
Whether they sold well or not I don't know, but it has taken until this year to find the other two of the series.
She seems to have fallen off the radar due to sexism and a mix of other reasons, but I get the impression that most people nowadays haven't heard of her except the people who have known her for years. OKay, she's still getting published and people still buy her books, but actually having any of the commentariat pay attention to her, why would they do that? (That was sarcasm by the way)

61:

Well, that's not the way I shop, except for technical equipment. I am not what would be called "a science fiction fan", despite reading thousands of SF books.

62:

Publish or perish.

63:

No, the point is that Cherryh is at least still getting published and has been for decades, but her profile simply isn't that high at all.

64:

This seems a relevant example to those who think that lack of female authors is all about what they do, rather than more systematic issues in the industry/world.

"Total data: George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25."

Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name

Unconscious bias a a "wonderful" thing.

65:
It's not even conscious. Hear a woman's voice, see a woman's name, slide right on by. Just today I had a twitter conversation with a very nice man, very concerned that women writers weren't featured in a certain popular series on a certain eminent blog. He was trying to redress what he saw as unfairness.

This reminds me of an episode a few years back. I'd co-organised a conference track at a large multi-track technical conference.

A little after the conference ended and a similar well-intentioned gentleman contacted me an asked me why we didn't have more female speakers. I pointed out we actually had a 50/50 male/female split in the sessions (this wasn't through selection by gender - it just happened to turn out that way).

He expressed disbelief that this was true. I sent him a link to the schedule and forgot about it. Life's too short.

The next day he came back to me and somewhat bashfully admitted that he had somehow managed to go to sessions on other tracks every time a female speaker was on our track.

Interesting that.

66:

She lacks publicity. It's not enough to write a good book, whether male or female. If Charles stopped swimming for his life he would sink out of sight quite rapidly as well.
Another author I always liked in a similar position: Ian Watson

67:

At the risk of being yellow (or even red) carded, I shall try to explain. I apologise for being obscure - a common failing of mine!

If you were talking about solely the behaviour of publishers or publicists, I and most of the posters cannot usefully contribute, and we have been completely at cross-purposes. I was assuming that you were talking about the population and society as a whole.

I am NOT denying that discrimination exists, NOR that discrimination against women is still rife. But I am DOUBTING that the phenomenon in your blog entry is as described, and denying that the claims in this thread (except in the original posting) are even anecdotal evidence that it does.

The point is that MOST people don't form their opinions from the evidence they see - it ISN'T that they don't notice it, but that they seem to lose it somewhere between the observation and its acceptance and use. I am one of the few (mainly male, because it's an Asperger's spectrum feature) people who are right at the other end of the spectrum, and this leads me into frequent rows where I try to get people to actually ACCEPT what their eyes see, even in a mathematical context! Dammit, I had precisely that problem all last week in a technical conference - with men - and I failed, dismally :-(

We have had half a century of polemic about women being underrepresented in XXX, and that this needs changing. Originally, and still in some contexts, that was due to discrimination and/or was socially harmful, but it's often now held as an Article of Faith. And that's what I think is happening here. It's NOT that those people don't notice the works by women - it's that doing so isn't enough to change their prejudices.

I have seen it in other contexts, and 'against' other groups - e.g. the claim that women are underrepresented in science. Well, as somone who has spent his life in the midst of top science, is married to one etc., it's not true in the leading science establishments in the UK. It was once, and is still claimed, but hasn't been true for some time. That blindness is NOT against the subgroup, nor even discrimination as such, though it can fuel discrimination.

What IS true is that there are few women at very senior levels in science - but there are even fewer people like me (though there used to be). That is EXACTLY the same for pretty well every other field, and has two main reasons. One is that there is active discrimination, and the other is that extreme power-hunger (and its associated character defects) is vastly more common in men. And the latter is by far the more important.

68:

"Of these, only Linda Nagata and Nnedi Okrafor (in some of her works, not all) are writing SF as opposed to genre fantasy."

One of the reasons that I am reading more fantasy, and more women, nowadays is that I find so much of modern science fiction so ghastly. That's at least as much a matter of personal taste as critical judgement, of course. And my experience is that fantasy is one of the forms of literature at which women tend to be better than men though, as always, the differences between authors vastly dominate the difference between sexes.

I cannot remember who I have read recently, because my memory is not what it was, but ones that I have bought Ebooks of recently have been mostly women: Wen Spencer, Marie Brennan and Judith Tarr. My problem is always finding suitable sources for the books/authors I want to read.

Aside: I am puzzled about where Baen fits into this, because it seems to me that it doesn't fit the descriptions in this thread. Perhaps all is not what it seems, or it pays peanuts.

If the problem is really with the existing publishers and publicists, then one approach is to set up a friendly society / cooperative and bypass them (e.g. Book View Cafe). But the NEXT step is to turn such things into a proper commercial organisation, with planned marketing etc. No, it can't compete with Amazon, but an increasing number of smaller sellers of other products are using Ebay because it is less rapacious. But is the niche market big enough to support such a thing? You would know, I don't.

If the problem is with the population as a whole, the traditional solution is pseudonyms. Distasteful, yes, and it does rather obviate personal tours, except by an actor with an earplug prompting :-) That's probably insane.

69:

the movable type login is broken for me, I tried resetting the password multiple times and all I get is "invalid password",

I don't have specific information about movable type, and this is far from rigorously confirmed, but maybe your password is too long.

A few times I have had problems like this and experimentation suggested that my password had been too long, i.e. long passwords would be accepted for password changes but refused for logins, but shorter ones worked for both. Presumably the login function truncates the input but the change function does not.

A slightly better version of this truncates in both cases, so you think your password is qwertyuiopiasdffgghj while it really is qwertyuiopiasd.

Note that password systems almost never tell you a maximum length, but there has to be one.

A specific case of password systems that don't tell you all of the real rules for what passwords are acceptable.

Again, I haven't confirmed this carefully, I have just observed behavior that suggests this.

70:

Women just aren't important the way men are. I've been told that to my face, as a writer and a person. I am lesser because I have that other X chromosome.

Look at it this way: all humans have two X chromosomes, but one of each male pair had an arm broken off.
(IIRC that's in fact one theory how the female/male separation came about)

71:

"Note that password systems almost never tell you a maximum length, but there has to be one."

Actually, no, there doesn't. You are right about the issue, but it can also affect strange characters - and, way back when, I have seen it do so on the case of characters. If you have fallen foul of that trap, the only solution is for a superuser to reset your password for you (if even that works). For truncated passwords, you can try using each initial string, but don't get your hopes up.

72:

Jodi Taylor, the author of the St. Mary's books, is probably only on $BIG_RIVER (and a few other eBook vendors) because she's a self-publisher, or was originally and they make it comparatively easy to do. BTW, if you use your favourite search engine for Ms. Taylor, be careful. There's a porn star with the same name! jodi-taylor.com is the website to look for.

I believe she's now signed to a tiny independent publishing firm but I'm not sure how much they're really a publishing firm and how much they're a collective for self-publishers to get the support staff a vaguely stable place to work.

Amazon and the like offers a chance for those sorts of places to exist and work because they just say to Amazon "here's our title" and it never has to appear on your local bookshop's shelves. Getting it onto the shelves is still a game for the big publishers by and large. I honestly don't think that one's down to gender, at least not directly. Her inability to get published by a bigger publisher and go down the self-publishing route in the first place might be of course.

73:

I think Chris Moriarty should have taken off as far and as high as Morgan or Reynolds or our good host here.

Ann Leckie is pretty, pretty good, though Sword was not nearly as awesome as Justice.

C. J. Cherryh is the paragon of a genre writer to me. Multiple genres, subgenres, modes, lengths, consistently good enough to excellent even when she was doing 3 or more books a year. For me, she basically fills the spot RAH does for many other.

Tiptree is timeless.

Melissa Scott had a pretty damn good run, though I have not read any of her recent stuff.

I don't know about Leckie but I suspect that none of the others have gotten the equivalent respect their male counterparts at the same level have in terms of money, influence and publication freedom. The publication history of Scott and Moriarty in particular looks suspiciously like they were undervalued in the long run.

74:
Jodi Taylor, the author of the St. Mary's books

Was it you who mentioned those books a few posts back? In which case — thank you. Devoured the whole series last month. Most entertaining.

75:

As a child, my governor and my Congress-person were both female. Maybe this role model thing is important after all because I never gawped at a women having influence or respect.

76:

I believe I have read more fantasy by female authors than by male, but just for starters:

Hambly; Elizabeth Lynn; Evangeline Walton; Tepper (also SF) and Hobb.

77:

Elderly Cynic @ 67-68
There's also the phenomenon (which has been touched on by others here)of the "Token Woman"
It's particularly bad in "The City", where lots of high-profile firms make sure that they have one woman on the board or equity-partner list, to protect their backsides.
The next tier down , you'll be very lucky to find any women, or even the one after that, then, suddenly you will find 50-60% women.
The glass ceiling still exists.
[ I have very up-close-&-personal observation of this one & it stinks. ]

78:

"The glass ceiling still exists. [ I have very up-close-&-personal observation of this one & it stinks. ]"

So do I. I have also had repeated personal experience (at work) of being treated as inferior because I am male (in comparable words to the ones used against Judith Tarr), and being actively discriminated against by women because of my sex (and that discrimination being supported by men). But the fact that there is discrimination by X (and Y) against Y does not justify discrimination by Y (and X) against X, and I did not describe cases because a blame fest is not helpful.

My point (which I admit I made massively unclear) is that the 'blindness' to women is, in the many cases where it is demonstrably no longer true, the result of half a century of assertions that women are underrepresented in that area and not because women are invisible. People now have that belief fixed in their 'minds' and mere evidence won't change that. Therefore, the way to change it is to reverse the polemic, and/or change their beliefs in another way, not look for another cause.

Whether this is a factor in the genuine discrimination is less clear, but I doubt that it is a major one.

79:

If none of an author's characters seem relatable to me I'm probably not going to finish the book. Part of that is that the men don't all have to be Manly He-Men, but they should feel like authentic men. For reasons that I may not be describing well, some female writers can't seem to write men that seem authentic to me.


Okay, first go back to what I quoted from you. You're basically saying gay men, and women, are:
"much too insecure, too concerned with subtle social signals, and not nearly focused enough on the job at hand."

Now you're complaining about not being able to relate to characters, and that male characters should be "Authentic Men" --whatever that means. I've already had the relatable character argument, and don't feel like rehashing that. But an obvious fact is that in real life you're going to encounter people that you can't relate to, and make you uncomfortable. Perhaps meeting them in books is a way to expand notions of what the variety of people is like (apologies for preachiness). Put it another way; It's safe to say that if you came across truly alien Aliens you aren't going to be able to relate to them. Will that put you out of the story, or make you intrigued to learn more?

I'm not sure I've encountered the problem you describe about writers not being able to create characters not their gender (so, no, I'm not getting your point there). But problems of characterization (particularly not being able to tell characters apart) is a writing failing, not a gender one. Or something like that.

80:

Cherryh is an interesting case study - firstly by some random act of publishing lunacy her last 5-6 books have not been available in ebook in the UK (afaik they still arent) which idiot was responsible for that?

Secondly everything recently has been an entry in the foreigner series - which begs the question is she choosing only to publish Foreigner novels or are those the only one she has been "allowed" to publish?

On a more positive note Hambly seems to be having a bit of a renaissance and my "recommended" section on BigRiver is chock full of shorts and novella's from female authors who if not invisible were certainly trending towards the transparent.

One thing I thing that others have touched on that needs to be corrected for is that all authors have a "natural lifetime" imo and we should not assume that all females who have disappeared did so because they became invisible.

81:

No one's mentioned Octavia Butler? Bloodchild was amazing. I would have to agree, the deck seems stacked against Women, and writing doesn't strike me as a gender-specific thing, when it comes down to it, there's not much that is.

82:

Framing the problem as sexism in the book-buying public probably isn't going to lead to any real improvement, at least in the short term. Trying to understand why your work isn't resonating with some demographics is more likely to pay off.

Hollywood has made a science of storytelling that appeals to as many viewers as possible. They typically use a four-quadrant model - men and women, over and under 25 years old. Each of those demographics likes to see certain things in a movie, and hates to see other things in a movie. A short explanation is here: https://studios.amazon.com/discussions/TxUYPQF1R40Q2T

If you want young men and/or older men to pay more attention to your work, you can deliberately craft your novels to appeal to them.

83:

Nope, I read them courtesy of Ben Aaronovitch's blog post but I'm pretty sure since Charlie's last post here.

84:

I'm just putting in a nice word for Delia Marshall Turner, a remarkably good writer from the nineties who seems to have been forgotten.

I'm not tracking back through what I've been reading lately (though perhaps I should start keeping records), but Rachel Caine's recent _Ink and Bone_ is a solid piece of science-flavored fantasy.

I'm off to see what Joan Vinge's written lately-- I hadn't heard about anything new from her for a long time.

85:

If you haven't seen what I saw in that short story, you haven't seen it. It's the sort of thing where it takes a really bad example to get you to notice it when you aren't looking for it, but once you've seen it you start to notice it more.

86:

"For reasons that I may not be describing well, some female writers can't seem to write men that seem authentic to me."

And conversely. After reading a fair amount of "his", I deduced that James Tiptree Jr was a woman by the fact that "he" described a mood I had (and have) never seen a man do successfully; I can't now remember the passage. Being able to convey the character of a different flavour of human is hard, at best. It's worth trying to do for yourself; write something from such a viewpoint; leave it a month and look at it again; have a good laugh at yourself; and move on.

87:

Thank you EVER SO MUCH for tying me to YET ANOTHER bundling site. So now I have humble Bundle, Bundle of Holding, and now this. I really needed to flood my Dropbox with more ePubs.

Makes me increasingly glad that I started a good job last year.

A few years back we drove to Dallas rather last minute to catch Bujold as GoH at a convention before Cryoburn was released, her Vorkosigan series is definitely Top 10 material for me. I love Moon's SciFi, that's a collection that I'd really like to re-read again.

88:

Libraries. A sample size of two (an admittedly small sample) where I know for a fact the people responsible for new acquisitions are all female . . . end up ordering at least two male authors to every female one for the segregated sf shelving. This discrimination apparently extends to women selecting sf, make of that what you will.

Oddly enough, the juvenile stacks don't seem to have this disparity. At least, not from back when I was a tad, and not from the books my daughter checked out as a so-called 'young adult'.

89:

Oh, I suppose we shouldn't mention J.K. Rowling's experiment of writing a book as a male author. Even though it got a starred review, it sank like a stone until someone leaked that it was her book, and then it shot to the top of the lists. Her other non-Harry Potter book did okay, even though it seems to have been purchased primarily due to the author's name, not its innate high quality.

Um.

I keep thinking about Hollywood, which is also highly sexist. There are two different issues there. One is that it's institutionally sexist and ageist: the people who last the longest tend to be boyish men with a lot of energy (looking at you, Harrison Ford). Women reportedly don't do so well, except for Meryl Streep, Judy Dench, and company.

What's driving this?
--There is way too much talent in the lower rungs. Succeeding as an actor of any gender is about as likely as succeeding in academia or professional sports.
--Success is a matter of brand, rather than talent. Once you've made a few hits, people will buy you just to see what you do next, until you make too many flops.
--It's an innately conservative medium, especially when we're dealing with billion dollar projects like summer blockbusters. In the upper leagues, the challenge is to convince investors they won't lose huge amounts of money on a project, and that pretty much requires following a formula, rather than doing something different and therefore risky.
--Worst of all, the studies have shown that choosing which scripts get made is largely a random process. Scripts that get panned as dogs by one studio win awards when produced by another.

Literature seems to differ primarily in the amount of money in each project. It certainly is a conservative medium, and there is a lot of talent out in the self-published sphere.

The question may be why such chaotic regimes seem to favor men (except when we're talking about romances, rom-coms, HGTV, E, Life, O, Hallmark, and a few other markets I'm missing). Is it embedded bigotry, or is it that such mugs' games attract more men than women, and men who are inside the system deduce, perhaps wrongly, that women are therefore inferior in such systems? I honestly don't know.

90:

There are very few obviously-female names on the spines of the books in my shelves, maybe 5% of the total... and almost all of those are 30+ years old.

I don't read many female authors, not because they're female, but because they typically don't write (or manage to sell) the sort of books I want to read.

91:

I have no reason to question Judith Tarr's experience. Speaking for myself alone, though, probably at least half the sf&f I read is by women. I just finished The Fifth Season, I just pre-ordered Ancillary Mercy, and I'm waiting eagerly for Jo Walton to finish writing the Thessaly trilogy. I don't have to fish among even the recent dead (Russ, Wynne-Jones, Baker) to come up with names.

92:

Right. One should write one's books to cater to the male taste.

Because everything in this culture isn't about that.

Yes, yes, I see the point, but the males I've met who refuse to read books by women tend to exclude them automatically based on assumptions about what women write. "I don't like romancey stuff." "I don't like comfy-cozy fantasy." "I don't care for touchy-feely stories."

Tiptree was seen as such a muscular, masculine writer, until he was outed as she.

As "George" learned, the name alone determines the perception of the work. It's been studied in academia and in music as well. Blind auditions and blind submissions result in much higher selection of female candidates than when the candidate's gender is known.

And please, oh, please, don't give me "she reached the end of her writing life." For every writer I have met who has run out of words to write, I have met a dozen--two dozen--more--who still has them, but can't sell them. Or couldn't before the ebook revolution.

I was one of those. I was silenced for years, could not write, because I felt I had nothing anyone wanted to see. What brought me back was realizing that despite the publishers' crashing lack of interest, the readers were still there and still wanting the words. Then the words came back. And now I won't shut up.

Of the women who have persisted, or who have managed to survive, the pay gap is notable. So is the review gap, the sales gap, and the prestige gap.

I live this. If you won't or can't see it, that's your blindness, not my nonexistence. And that's the point of my post.

93:

I don't think I've encountered the discussions you're talking about, but I have to say it astonishes me to think that anyone could be so ignorant. I've been reading science fiction by women effectively all my life, starting with Andre Norton in the 1950s (my library had written in "Alice Mary Norton" on the book information, so her pseudonym didn't conceal her actual sex) and Zenna Henderson in the 1960s; and Judith Merrill's "Year's Best Sf" were a big influence on my early reading. There were women writers in the magazines and collections that I read then, too: Mildred Clingerman and Carol Emshwiller and Judith Merrill and C.L. Moore. . . . It's rather disturbing to think that this has all vanished from many people's memory, though I suppose it's partly a mark of increasing age that an increasing part of my personal memory is history that other people have never heard of.

94:

The whole point of the "four-quadrant movie" concept is that a work can cater to multiple tastes at once. Doing so deliberately is just solid business.

95:

I was going to reply to myself with:
I'm not sure I've encountered the problem you describe about writers not being able to create characters not their gender (so, no, I'm not getting your point there)
Okay, I take that part somewhat back; Clarke had a problem with his female characters, but he was never really known for his characterization in general.

A dozen comments had come in and that's going of-topic, so didn't bother with at the time.


But, please tell me you aren't judging a writer's entire work based on one short story (especially if it was an early one).

96:

I've read some other stuff by that author. Some was OK, but I'm not really a fan.

97:

33: When a man writes romance under his own name, it's literature. Or at least, a bestseller.

You are only looking at the hits, and not the misses.

When a man writes romance under his own name, the big majority of the time he can't get it published. He might eventually self-publish and then the big majority of the time it hardly sells at all.

I don't understand SF publishing, and I will try to compare it to some other markets I don't understand and see if anything comes clear.

---------------
France was traditionally known for making the best wines, but the big majority of the wine France produced was not very good. It was tradition. The best wine sold for high prices. Poor people could not afford expensive wine, they needed cheap wine. Cheap wine had to be worse than expensive wine or the expensive wine would not sell. There was no incentive to make cheap wines better, and for expensive wines, what was best was determined by tradition and by expert wine tasters.

Imagine that your family-owned business has traditionally made grapes for bad wine. Some of it gets blended with other bad wines to make something passable, some of it gets sold as is. It's a reasonably steady income. Should you improve your grapes? If you do, you will compete in a new market where you are the newcomer who is at a disadvantage. Your new product will not blend the way the old one did. You have an incentive to fit into the system.

But foreigners who started making wine did not have that incentive. They chose the best grapes they could get, and studied the local climate to find the best grapes for their land or the best land for their grapes. They tried to make the best wine they could, and now relatively cheap wine from california or chile is pretty good. France had an organized system where the elite stayed in control, but the rest of the world did not.

--------------
Each popular music genre in the USA had an elite controlling it. Many songs would come out on .45 records, but only a few would get played much over the radio. If a song got through all the hurdles before the radio one, and then if people liked it, they would go to the record store where they would find the .45 ready for them to buy, and it might become a hit. Many others were also available in the record stores in small numbers, for customers to pick over. Some of them would achieve cult status, and small numbers of customers would wait for their new records to arrive so they could buy them. The also-rans on average made enough of a profit to continue. The songwriters or musicians who didn't get enough sales were discontinued.

I know a little about bookstores. Typically they did not pay ahead of time for their books, they got them on spec. When the time came to pay for a book, they would pay if it sold and otherwise rip off the cover and send it back as proof the book hadn't sold, and discard the rest.

I presume it was that way for record stores too. Destroy the vinyl records and return proof of the destruction. Records that didn't sell quick enough weren't worth the shelf space, they got replaced by something new that might sell. The business model was kind of like that for tomatoes. One way or another, get rid of them before they go bad.

It cost a lot of money to create a hit. I don't know how they got disk-jockeys to play their songs, but my guess is that they bribed them. Give them nice stuff (or cash) with the implicit understanding that if they don't give your songs enough exposure then the nice stuff will stop. Disk jockeys of course repeated songs more if they got requests, but it was expensive to get people to make requests if they didn't want to. Once the demand was created, the records had to be in the shops ready to sell or it was wasted. And then if the customers didn't want to buy, the money was lost.

It was pretty cheap to make songs that could sit in the stores and sell a few copies.

Each recording company had to have somebody to manage the hit process. He had to make sure all the pieces came together correctly. A lot of money at risk. He -- or someone he hired -- chose the songs that could be hits. If he chose your song something could still go wrong. But if he didn't, you could not have a hit. If by some miracle a lot of people heard about your song and wanted it, there would only be a few copies for sale, and by the time more were made they would already be listening to something else.

I want to suggest that likely traditional book publishing followed this model. There was an elite who decided what would be marketed as great wine or great songs. That's one market where they were gate-keepers.

There was a second market of authors who had established a following. They could predictably sell a reasonable number of books, and they could keep doing that until they had a failure that made them look like has-beens.

There was a third market of authors who needed a chance. They could on average make a little money for the publisher etc, and they might get as many as three or even four chances to show they sold better than average before they would be discarded.

I say that Lois McMaster Bujold is an example of the first. She didn't particularly like writing war porn or engineering, but she was good at both. She wrote things she thought would sell well despite her own artistic judgement, and she got pushed as a hit. She continued until she had a large following, and then she switched to writing what she wanted -- paranormal romance. Possibly because she occasionally needs money, she occasionally writes another Vorkosigan novel, centering on diplomacy, mystery, romance, and in one case a Vorkosigan Regency romance. No more war porn.

CJ Cherryh is an example of the second. She was chosen to be a hit early on, and now she's settled into a niche where she can get reliable sales.

Both of these are kind of blurred between hits and following. I think the obvious way to get a following in the old days was to get a hit first. If you couldn't do that then you needed to find some other way.

I wanted to use Eleanor Arnason as an example of the third. She wrote three novels I liked and then she dropped out of sight. But Wikipedia says she wrote a fourth novel I never heard of 8 years before the first I knew, she wrote a fifth I never heard of in 1993, after A Woman of the Iron People 1991, a sixth in 2010, plus a lot of short stories that have gone into three collections. She's had a bigger career than I thought, that I never heard about.

OK, how about Maureen McHugh? She wrote a novel that got multiple awards. Then she wrote three other great novels in 10 years that didn't win anything. When I looked, I saw she's published a whole lot of short stories and two collections. It's likely that she didn't fit the needs of the hit men because she wasn't prolific enough, and she didn't get enough of a following to keep publishing. Or maybe she just didn't enjoy writing novels.

There is a very large number of men and women who've written a few novels and stopped publishing. I don't know how many were men versus women.

I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I'm going to speculate. I'm guessing that getting a hit used to be the main way to get a following so you didn't become unpublishable after a few tries. To get a hit, you needed to get a hit-man to bet on you. I'm guessing that the main criteria hit men had was that first, you wrote something that he thought could be a hit, and second that you expressed a firm commitment to continue to write whatever would sell well, producing one every 12 to 18 months.

I'll test whether Bujold carried out that commitment. Her publication dates were: 1986 1986 1988 1989 1991 1994 1995 1996 1998 2000 2002 2010 2012 2016

Books she published for herself, for a different market, were in 1993 2001 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Yes, she did. There was only one delay between 1986 and 2000, when she published a paranormal romance and delayed her Vorkosigan schedule. That didn't sell well, and she never delayed the series again until she was secure.

Possibly hit men tended to think that men would usually be more willing than women to sacrifice their artistic integrity and their personal lives to publish what the public wanted on a tight schedule.

Now it's different. Anybody can publish, but still only major publishing houses can create hits. But they are tottering on the edge of profitability. Authors need new ways to become known.

I note that Vox Day and Eric Flint have succeeded at that. A whole lot of people have heard of them, and many have read something they wrote and had the chance to decide whether they liked it. It came cheap for money but maybe expensive for personal reputation. But Flint especially may have found more readers, people who otherwise would not have heard of him who decided they liked his style.

You can create an unlimited number of e-books quickly if you have customers. The trick is to get large numbers of customers to notice you without spending a lot of money to do it. The game has changed.

98:

"For reasons that I may not be describing well, some female writers can't seem to write men that seem authentic to me."

And conversely.

Yes. For example, pretty much throughout his career, Heinlein wrote women who did not seem believable to me. In general, they would choose a man and be loyal to him. He would make all the decisions and the woman would go along with anything. This does not fit my experience the least little bit.

But then his last book was from a woman's point of view. She was married in the early 20th century, and one day her husband took her for a walk. He walked into an empty house. She was worried they would be arrested for trespassing. He had sex with her on the dirty floor. Then he handed her a key -- he had bought the house and wanted to surprise her with it. She thanked him and acted completely happy. After he died she talked about how she would have chosen one of several other houses that fit the family's needs better. But that was just the way the culture worked then. She put up with him being that way because that's how he was, and she had to have somebody like him for her family.

It was like maybe he got it, and I don't know when he got it.

In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite in an alien society that was genetically engineered, there was a family of cloned women that was gradually taking over the world by manipulating national leaders and other men. They occasionally produced hybrid babies and tested them, and ones that were sufficiently successful would be cloned. A southern man I knew could not accept that. He insisted that women were simply not like that. These women were insanely manipulative, they had coldly manipulative long-term goals, their assassins would have sex with victims to help arrange their murders, some of them were extremely good at physics etc. Completely unlike real women.

I figure that if you are from the US south and you read a story about southern women, you have a right to claim you are an expert on southern women. They may be fooling you, but you have the right. If you claim you're an expert on real women from all cultures, you're wrong. If you claim you're an expert on real genetically-engineered women from all cultures, that's more wrong.

On the other hand you have a perfect right to say what you like and what you don't like.

And maybe a writer's style doesn't convince you about his characters. There could be people like that, and he didn't flesh them out in a convincing way. That's a fair criticism of a particular writer's writing style.

99:

Ignoring non-fiction and shot stories, I read 8 full novels during the last four months, written by five authors. The female authors were Katherine Addison (Goblin Emperor) and Julie Czerneda (Species Imperative 1-3).

This is actually a lot more fiction than I usually read - I usually end up at some 6 novels each year. Going back the full year, I may also have read a novel by Justine Robson. I think I finished it in August last year.

Depending on the person asking, I would recommend all three, and I certainly expect that more of their wordsmithing will end up in my hand.

Regarding female SFF authors being ignored, I think it is quite true. Whenever people are talking or writing of the great old ones or the new exiting stuff, they will usually mention male authors. Hell, if I look over my own fiction book shelf as it looked in 2010, I have books by Enid Blyton, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Shelly and Margaret Weis. All other authors are male.

Some of this is due to there being a lot of classics that were written by men (Asimov, Tolkien, etc), but even if I look at books published after 2000, male authors still dominate my book shelf. This is changing, partly due to this here site pointing me in the direction of interesting female (and male) authors, as well as the internet providing some new ways for female authors to get out there and show off their work.

100:

Go on

name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year

In the last year I've read Charlie, Peter Watts, Bujold, and Laura Ruby*. That's it for SFF. Haven't been reading much fiction, let alone SFF.

If you include graphic novels/manga, then Kaoru Mori (F, Bride's Story), Mamoru Hosoda (M, Wold Children), Kieron Gillen (M, Wicked + Divine), Yumi Unita (F, Bunny Drop), Yukiko Seike (F?, 5 cm per second), and Tony Cliff (M, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant).

So about 50% female, not that I bother checking before reading a book. (And I had to look the Japanese authors up, as I don't know enough Japanese to determine gender from name.)

Not certain what this proves, as I'm basically not an SFF reader anymore, and certainly don't keep up with new authors or the politics of fandom. (And everything I hear about the politics makes me glad I'm not involved, right now.) Bujold, Watts, and Stross are the only "buy or borrow their latest book" authors I have left anymore. Any new fiction I read I basically discover by reading Martin Wisse's blog.


*I confess to having to look her name up on the book. I remembered plot and cover, but not title and author.

101:

"What brought me back was realizing that despite the publishers' crashing lack of interest, the readers were still there and still wanting the words. ... Of the women who have persisted, or who have managed to survive, the pay gap is notable. So is the review gap, the sales gap, and the prestige gap. ... I live this. If you won't or can't see it, that's your blindness, not my nonexistence. And that's the point of my post."

I don't think that any of the intelligent posters are denying that (certainly I am not). I don't know exactly what the cause of the discrimination is, but I would bet a guinea to a groat that it lies in some self-delusion of the publishing industry.

Given that science fiction readers are no longer predominately male, I doubt that the bigotry you refer to is still a major factor, though it definitely was at one time. But a lot of that is itself due to the publishing industry which, at one time, DID select works by women that fit those insulting descriptions.

What I am saying is that none of this is due to the failure to recognise your existence, at least not in the reading public, and addressing the wrong problem is a sure way of ensuring that you don't solve it.

I am truly befuddled by your remarks about age, because I know virtually no readers who judge an author by age, though such lunacies wouldn't astound me about the publishing industry. However, my guess is that J Thomas has pointed at the main reason that writers 'fade'. It is quite possible that the publishers apply that more rigorously to women than men, which would account for the apparent age link.

102:

I can find in my local chain bookstore great sff novels by Angela Carter, Sarah Hall, Susannah Clarke, Karen Joy Fowler, Helen Oyeyemi, Liz Jensen, Margaret Atwood etc. but not one of these are on the SFF shelves.

Margret Atwood, at least, used to insist that she writes literature not SF, because her books don't have spaceships. Don't know if she still does, because I don't really like her books that much. (She's a good writer, just not to my taste.)

103:

Don't forget Doris Lessing. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and all her late novels were sf.

104:

102: Atwood has surrendered to the inevitable. She now embraces her SFF label.

101: You're trying hard, I know, but you really are proving my points.

As for age, when I ran my space opera past my (male, sixtyish) agent, he said, "I don't think I can sell this. OTOH, if you were a twentysomething guy..."

Agents and publishers most certainly do practice ageism against women writers. The younger and cuter you are, the more likely you are to get the sweet perks. I've been told this in so many words.

I'd say I'm sorry this disturbs your world view, but I'm really not. Maybe it needs a bit of shaking up. Other commenters are showing definite signs of this, and that's good. Every little bit helps.

105:

I thought the reason Bujold wrote the Sharing Knife books was that she was writing what she wanted, discovered romance fans were delighted with her work, so she wrote a romance series and had more conventional romance elements in her Vorkosigan novels. I'd count "Winterfair Gifts" and _Captain Vorpatril's Alliance_ as romance-influenced.

106:

I've been reading science fiction by women effectively all my life, starting with Andre Norton in the 1950s (my library had written in "Alice Mary Norton" on the book information, so her pseudonym didn't conceal her actual sex) and Zenna Henderson in the 1960s; and Judith Merrill's "Year's Best Sf" were a big influence on my early reading. There were women writers in the magazines and collections that I read then, too: Mildred Clingerman and Carol Emshwiller and Judith Merrill and C.L. Moore. . . . It's rather disturbing to think that this has all vanished from many people's memory, though I suppose it's partly a mark of increasing age that an increasing part of my personal memory is history that other people have never heard of.

A quick summary of short-story authors from one oldish second-hand book I have around, Donald Wollheim and Terry Carr's World's Best S.F.1: Richard Wilson ("See Me Not"); Samuel Delaney ("Driftglass"); Colin Kapp ("Ambassador to Verdammt"); R. A. Lafferty ("The Man Who Never Was", "Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne"); Asimov ("The Billiard Ball"); Robert Silverberg ("Hawksbill Station"); Thomas Disch ("The Number You Have Reached"); Roger Zelazny ("The Man Who Loved The Faioli"); Andrew J. Offut ("Population Implosion"); Harlan Ellison ("I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream"); Ron Goulart ("The Sword Swallower"); Keith Roberts ("Coranda"); Larry Niven ("Handicap"); Brian Aldiss ("Full Sun"); D. G. Compton ("It's Smart To Have An English Address").

But maybe that's not representative? In my copy of Judith Merril's The Best of Sci-Fi 4, there are two female authors: Zenna Henderson ("Subcommittee"); and Karen Anderson ("The Piebald Hippogriff"). That's out of 28 stories.

107:

If you are talking solely about your experiences with agents and publishers, then we are at cross-purposes; most of the posters here (definitely including me) have NO experience of attempting to publish fiction. I can speak only from things I have observed or seen proper evidence for. As I said in 101, I can believe such lunacies as age discrimination in the publishing industry - it has a reputation for outdated and irrational prejudices, and it is a small step from there to ones that are just plain insane.

Regrettably (and I mean that seriously), you have not disturbed my world view, but I am saddened for your sake that you have not.

108:

No, that's very representative - of 1970. This is 2015, or so I have been told.

109:

OK, anyone want to count the numbers in, say, one of Gardner Dozois's recent anthologies? I don't have mine to hand.

110:

I may be accused of cherry picking quotes, but from your post:

I can speak only from things I have observed or seen proper evidence for

Seems that you have come full circle back to the point of: If I can't see the bias in operation then it doesn't exist. Which really does rather prove Judith, Charlie and others' point about privilege. No?

111:

My first time here. I haven't read all of the comments, just enough to sigh heavily and see the same old tired arguments.

I'm doing a series of projects to elevate the discussion of women in sf. This Storybundle is just one of them. I also have a website womeninsciencefiction.com and am putting together an anthology for Baen on this very topic, as well as many other projects on the similar topic.

When young female writers told me that no women wrote sf (me, a double Hugo winner), and said it repeatedly to my face, I got mad. Then when I heard this comment over and over again, I wondered what was going on. I went and looked. In most Year's Bests, very few women. The Hugo and award-anthologies of the 1970s and 1980s stopped in the 1990s, and haven't been revived (except for a few straggly Nebula ones).

The best short stories by women in sf are getting lost because they're not being reprinted. Add to that the fact that many in the sf field consistently "forget" or dismiss books by women as "unimportant," and women have become invisible--in a field we helped found.

This is just one project to recover the history of the field. Women's history is our history, folks. And just because you don't see a problem doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Honestly, I didn't see it either. After all, I've written sf for 30 years. What do you mean there are no women? And then I kept getting told over and over again that women have done nothing in this field.

Time to redress this, even if it makes a few of you mad.

112:

I'd say I'm sorry this disturbs your world view, but I'm really not.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that you're not disturbing my world view, but you're also not saying anything very interesting. If you want to lament the injustices of the world, there's a support group for that. It's called humanity; we meet in every bar on the planet after work.

113:

Found the "Look Inside" contents page for The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Vol. 2008, edited by George Mann.

Total number of stories: 15. Number by women: 3 (Kay Kenyon, Brenda Cooper, Mary Robinette Kowal.

114:

Oops. That should have read Vol. 2, 2008. It was the first relatively recent short-story anthology whose contents I could easily find. Not encouraging.

115:
Given that science fiction readers are no longer predominately male, I doubt that the bigotry you refer to is still a major factor

Bigotry is maybe a deceptive word to apply to the behaviour and causes. For me it evokes an image of the villain twirling their moustache.

It's more subtle than that.

Sure there are still many sexist misogynistic bigots out there. The asshat will never become extinct.

But people's biases are shaped by the society they live in. Men and women. Which means that there are a lot of default behaviours that are small, and subtle, but each snowflake piles up into an avalanche of bias.

Judith referenced orchestra blind auditions earlier — and how that affected the number of female recruits. What might have been unclear is that bias was there in both men and women on the interviewing side of the table. This is a cultural thing. Not a men being deliberately evil and hating women thing (at least — not all of the time).

I also born in 1970. In a 100% white village that was feeling vaguely threatened by all these [insert racial slurs for half a dozen different varieties of immigrants here] in the nearby town. Where "nice" mum's stayed at home, and Miss X was a slut because she wasn't married and was sleeping with Mr Y. Where teacher needed 'two strong BOYS" to move the table. And so on.

I like to think that I'm a pretty good person. I'll happily call myself a feminist. Go on protests against the BNP/NF. Politically I'm stupidly left wing. I try my very best to live my life to my personal ethical standards.

But I'd be an idiot if I didn't think my upbringing and the society I live in doesn't affect my behaviour. I am, as Louis CK puts it "mildly racist". And while I don't have a convenient comic routine to link to I'm sure I'm mildly sexist too. I'm not a bigot. At least not consciously. But I'm sure I occasionally contributed in my own small snowflake way to bigotry. Because it's been occasionally pointed out to me (and I try and get better).

That doesn't make me a bad person or horrible. I'm not part of an evil sexist conspiracy. I'm not subscribed to Patriarchy4Evar. But I am somebody whose had a whole bunch of background and default behaviour and assumptions installed in me that biases me in a certain direction. Because, human.

If you have a google around terms like "unconscious bias" and "implicit social cognition" you'll find a bunch of research around the topic. You may find poking around Harvard's Project Implicit of interest.

For example…

I tried to write down all the male and female authors I'd read in the last year. I managed to dredge up 15 men and 3 women. When I went and looked at who I'd read (coz I'm anal and keep a list ;-) I'd read 10 women and 20 men.

Odd that. I wonder why.

116:

Go on name five female SFF authors you have read in the past year

Jennifer Foehner Wells, Kameron Hurley [new book coming out sooooon], Ann Leckie, Joan Slonczewski [think I spelt that right] and....and....

bugger

I have heard it said that if men see a room with 33% women in it, and 67% men, they will think the men are outnumbered. Women consist of 51% of the population, IIRC

Same rules apply in publishing I should think.

"The monstrous regiment are taking over, what can we do to stop them!"

The chances of finding a book by the above mentioned-authors in your local [insert bookseller here] are probably nil.

117:

Strangely, I feel as if I'm finding and reading more female SF/F authors than before, even though I don't doubt that the discrimination exists... a good proof of bias might be to ask "how many female SF/F authors do you see published in hardback" - as one measure of publisher confidence and support.

As a child, I read Andre Norton, Zenna Henderson, Ursula LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey.

Ten or fifteen years ago, it was Lois McMaster Bujold, Maureen McHugh, Connie Willis (I've got well-read copies of China Mountain Zhang and Bellwether).

After reading the thread about RequiresHate, I decided that the best response to a sociopath is to buy a book by every name on the "females harrassed by Benjanun" page - (e.g. N.K. Jemisin).

This month alone, it's been Lauren Beukes, Naomi Novik, Mira Grant, Erika Johansen, Rachel Aaron/Rachel Bach, a reread of LMB. I'm about to buy something by Aliette de Bodard. I'll buy something by anyone that OGH invites to guest-blog, and generally go on to buy everything they write (congratulations, now I have another author on the to-read list).

I'm now at the point where my speculative purchases of ebooks deliberately bias towards female authors - by assuming that the existing bias means a published female author will have had to work harder and written better to get her book published, and is thus more likely to be a good read...

118:

I have written 200+ stories, a good number of which have appeared in places like Asimov's, Clarkesworld, and Tor.com. I've got a near-future SF story coming out soon with the Mag of F&SF. I can testify that yeah, for women working in SF, there's a certain constant drag, a little like Harrison Bergerac's chains, and all some of us can do is dance the best we can despite the handicap. I wrote a little about it in a column for Clarkesworld titled #purplesf.

For those complaining that they don't know names, here's a starting list of some of the wonderful dancers whose novels manage to transcend (beyond my compatriots in the bundle, which staggers me to be included in) to name a few and confine myself strictly to SF: Kage Baker, Elizabeth Bear, Lois McMaster Bujold, Octavia Butler, Pat Cadigan, C.J. Cherrryh, Aliette de Bodard, L. Timmel DuChamp, Suzette Haden Elgin, Carol Emshwiller, Robin Hobb, M.C.A. Hogarth, N.K. Jemisin, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kay Kenyon, Rosemary Kirstein, Ann Leckie, Tanith Lee, Ursula K. LeGuin, M.J. Locke, Louise Marley, Maureen McHugh, Elizabeth Moon, Nnedi Okarafor, Susan Palwick, Justina Robson, Mary Rosenblum, Joanna Russ, Mary Doria Russell, Joan Slonczewski, Sherri Tepper, James Tiptree Jr., Joan Vinge, Kate Wilhelm, and Connie Willis. That's off the top of my head and I am certain there are plenty more. There are plenty of us writing, and a number doing it quite well indeed.

119:

What's your plan to "redress" this?

If you want my money, you have to write what I want to read. Seems pretty simple to me.

If you're being discriminated against by the established publishing system, you're whipping the wrong horse. I'm not in any way connected with that. Go lecture them, not me.

120:

My, my, my TRX. Either you're defensive or you didn't read carefully. I did tell you how I'm redressing this. I'm publishing a series of reprint anthologies, starting with one for Baen, reprinting classic stories by women. And I just did the Storybundle. And I have the website.

121:

For a value of "recent" of 2002:
The Year's Best Science Fiction 26 stories, 21 by male names, 5 by female names, by my offhand judgement.

122:

Just so you know, an anthology of stories "by women" gives the impression of being specifically marketed to women. The gender of the author isn't a selling point for most men. I'd be more likely to buy it if you called it an anthology of classic space opera/cyberpunk/whatever, even if the contents were exactly the same.

123:

We haven't settled on a title yet. We're thinking TOUGH MOTHERS, GREAT DAMES, AND WARRIOR PRINCESSES, but not all the stories' protagonists are female, so I'm not sure yet. We'll be discussing the title at Worldcon. And for exactly the reason you mention.

124:

One book that I've found informative in talking about why women might sometimes seem underrepresented in both the genre and larger literary landscape is Joanna Russ's wonderful nonfiction book, How to Suppress Women's Writing.

125:

Number 23: 7 women out of 32. What the proportions of the sexes writing relevant stories are, I can't say.

126:

"Seems that you have come full circle back to the point of: If I can't see the bias in operation then it doesn't exist."

That is a gross misrepresentation, as you would tell if you had read what I posted. I have repeatedly said that I know that there is a bias - just that it's not what it is being claimed to be. That remark was about publishing and publicity, where I have made no assertion except that I could believe almost anything of it.

127:

Windle_poons : per your request, a list of five+ female SFF authors I read regularly.

1.Lois McMaster Bujold
2. C J Cherryh
3. Catherine Asaro
4. Anne McCafrey
5. Julie Czerneda
6. Aliette de Bodard
7. Madeline L'Engle
8. Lisa Mantchev

and, bonus! a husband and wife team:
9. Ilona Andrews

Yes, underrepresentation of women writers in SF&F is a problem. Look at the listings on Amazon if you tell it " -romance." What I am doing abut it is to run an S&SF magazine that publishes, on average, 43% female writers on merit. We help people get established in the field: 25% are new writers.

128:

Was browsing the science fiction shelves in a second hand bookshop and many of the female authors mentioned in this discussion seem have to written Star Trek novels.

Do shared world settings help female authors, either by giving them a starting point or a more secure income while they're establishing themselves?

(Would it help if OGH allowed female authors to write anthologies or spin-offs set in the Laundry?)

129:

It's hard because the men often don't see the problem and think nothing's wrong. I've picked up anthologies or issues of SF magazines and there have been no women writers in them. An anthology recently did a call with the guidelines, "Women writers only" to help publish more women (there have been similar calls for writers with disabilities and persons of color). A male writer I know didn't understand why the magazine had to do a women only call and was frustrated because he couldn't submit to it.

I write action SF/Fantasy primarily, with women characters. I've been surprised at the nasty reactions I've gotten from male writers, who think I should only write romance. One sneered and said, "Why would anyone want to read that?" (um, women like me?). I even had a male reader, upon hearing I was a writer, sneer openly at me and say in a tone dripping with disgust, "Oh, you write romance." One reviewer in the Washington Post said that if women wanted to respected as writers, they needed to write like men (what does that mean anyway?).

The five: Linda Nagata, Holly Black (both rocking in a military SF/space opera anthology), Brenda Cooper, Nancy Kress (currently reading), and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

130:

I know I've read at least sixteen of the authors you mention.

By the way, don't forget classic sf writers like Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore. Brackett's first name is no giveaway of her sex, and Moore (with or without her husband, Henry Kuttner) wrote under dozens of pseudonyms, the best-known being Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O'Donnell.

131:

I can certainly agree with a lot of that, though the phrase The best short stories by women in sf are getting lost because they're not being reprinted can easily be extended to MANY good stories are not being reprinted. Men or women. I have dozens of books in my collection at home in NZ which I tracked down in second hand stores over the years, and none of them are available now except as dodgy OCRs from some kid with a photocopier.

The short fiction market I'm not an active reader in, and my tastes have run heavier to fantasy in recent years which makes picking current names hard.

However I have to admit that while growing up the SF&F shelves I saw were pretty well balanced - authors like Octavia Butler, Anne McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye, Andre Norton, Julian May, Barbara Hambly, Mary Gentle, Tanith Lee, Sherri S Tepper all prominent among them. And most of them are barely in physical print any more in Waterstones. Heck, half are only just in print in Forbidden Planet.
When the backlist of authors on the level of Anne McCaffrey are hard to find, you know there is something odd going on.

On the other hand, I wonder how much of this is a particularly US problem. Ignoring the elephant of the US being the biggest market, it was noticeable that the smaller Australasian market was - and still is - very well balanced in terms of female authors in both SF and Fantasy. Most of whom were attached to UK based imprints I believe.

132:

"What do you mean there are no women? And then I kept getting told over and over again that women have done nothing in this field.
Time to redress this, even if it makes a few of you mad."

Yes, but WHO says this, and WHY do they do so? Every poster to this thread has agreed that it's crap. As I said, there is nothing so certain of failure as tackling the wrong problem. And please don't make the mistake of damning anyone that criticises assertions of detail or methods as One Of The Enemy. There may have been some assertions that the discrimination doesn't exist, but I haven't spotted any, except for one troll.

There IS an issue, but it's unclear exactly what the causes are, or how to resolve it. And attempting to redress it in any reasonable way is vanishingly unlikely to make any of the posters mad - indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the 'opposition' were at least as likely to buy from the Storybundle as anyone else :-)

133:

My, my, my Kristine. I think you've just lost a sale. Please, don't get hostile. Though admittedly you're not the first one.

134:

With regards the Baen reprints - I'll be quietly looking forward to that. I've really rather enjoyed Eric Flint's efforts at bringing a lot of well regarded but out of print authors back to life, like Keith Laumer.

It will be good to see the equivalent female authors get the same respect and treatment.

I am also looking forward to a ghastly inappropriate cover though - Baen does them so so well ;)

135:

"When young female writers told me that no women wrote sf (me, a double Hugo winner), and said it repeatedly to my face, I got mad."
When I hear stories like that, I'm always reminded of my own surprise when reading the 2007 report from the Entertainment Software Association. It stated that 38% of video gamers were female, that the average gamer was 33 years of age, and had been playing for 13 years. I checked up on the 2014 report. 48% of gamers were female.

And yet ... I find it hard not to picture a pimpled 12 year old boy when asked to describe the arch typical gamer. 20 years ago that may have been true, but it is hard to shake that knee-jerk, even when you know it is false. The same thing goes for women in SF and comic books because it was (mostly?) true for long periods of time, and it has become a part of our cultural stereotype and bias.

Changing cultural stereotypes is hard and takes a lot of time (at least a few generations), but it is my impression that it is happening in comic books, and I hope change is also moving forward in SF.

Shaking that up is hard, and I can hear from some of you that the publishing industry is not helping.

136:

My take on this is a bit complicated. I have said publicly that I am not aware that I have ever been discriminated against by the publishing establishment because I am female. Many editors and agents in SF are women. HOWEVER--

And it's a big HOWEVER--

I can't definitively say anything about unconscious biases because they are unconscious. I will say this: The blog by Homme de Plume is startling and disturbing. I will also say this (at great risk of being badly misunderstood -- I am NOT making a desperate cry for attention; I am genuinely puzzled)):
I am a middle-aged woman writer and only once did my name come up in everyone's lists in all these comments about women writers that the male commenters claim to read -- which might merely indicate that I'm not a particularly good writer. Except that I've won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and a John W. Campbell, so some people must consider me passable as a fictioneer. Is my relative obscurity (as indicated by the admittedly unscientific sampling of these comments) due to my being older, being female, having a low on-line profile, or to what I write? This relative obscurity does not,incidentally, exist only in this eclectic collection of blog posts; it is reflected elsewhere.
Yet...my books are hard SF, for the most part, often to do with genetic engineering. Five of my novels are space opera, including the one in this story bundle and the one that won the Campbell (PROBABILITY SPACE). So why does no one mention me? IS it because I'm a middle-aged woman? Or that people assume my work must not be hard SF because I'm a woman? Or bad publicity efforts on my part (that much is certainly true)? Or what?
Again, I don't mean this post as a cry for more attention. I'm genuinely puzzled by the entire gender-bias thing in SF, and genuinely unsure how widespread it is. Maybe a lot more than I have paid attention to. But here is an actual hard statistic: A few years ago I went through the SFWA Directory and tabulated names. Woman made up about 40% of the membership (I say about because there are always writers I happen to not know who use either initials or androgynous names like "Terry"). Then I went through the awards for thirty years. Women have won more Nebulas than their representation in SFWA, and far fewer Hugos than that representation. I suppose this can be interpreted in many ways.
I am not looking to get into any on-line wrangles over this (for one thing, I'm not on line very much). But if I am a sort of test case, then why isn't the critical acclaim I usually receive translated into more recognition amongst readers? IS it that I'm female? Or older? Or something else entirely?

137:

Don't worry, I'd call you a good writer. I've got your Beggars series in paperback, and really rather enjoyed them :) I just haven't read any of your books in the last month...

I should also mention Mary Doria Russell - I enjoyed The Sparrow / Children of God.

In my case, a lot of credit goes to Mike Calder at Transreal in Edinburgh; in both cases, I picked up the first of series on his recommendation.

So: there isn't just a publisher filter, and a publicity filter - there's also a bookshop buyer filter. This may be less significant in these days of ebooks :) Although of my particular list, I picked up Erika Johansen's "Queen of the Tearling" at a bookshop in Gatwick Airport...

138:

I love Moore - Jirel of Joiry influenced several of my early D&D characters. And you have some good stuff in store if some of those names are new to you.

139:

I was reminded on twitter of Helen Lewis' Law. There's a fair bit of it around here today.

I'm having a great deal of fun with this, and when I see a male reader/writer who wants to push against his programming, that makes me happy. There will always be denialists and resisters, but that makes sense: when you're the default mode with the Easy button, you want to keep your comforts.

Meanwhile we're hearing from the likes of Nancy Kress and Kris Rusch, who have serious chops and the plaques and statues to prove it, and their story is the same one I hear over and over.

Because it's true.

140:

I think you're right. John Helfers and I are setting up a project to put a lot of old stories back into print by male and female authors. I'm finding all kinds of wonderful stories as I dig into back issues of pulp magazines.

141:

You also might be right about the US problem. I'm glad to hear that much is still around in NZ and other places. that's good news.

142:

Oh, you'd know if I were getting hostile. I'm just amused. I already mentioned in my post what I'm doing, and the tone of the other poster was a bit…well, supply your own word. Fascinating that I lost a sale by being honest. [shrug] Such things happen.

143:

I'm arguing for a ghastly inappropriate cover. A reprint by Rowena or Margaret Brundage. Or something like that. I loooove that idea.

144:

Oh. I thought you had an actual plan. Forgive me if I doubt that publishing an anthology of short stories is going to accomplish much for your cause. And a web site. That'll show them, sure enough.

I guess it's easier than writing stuff people are willing to pay for.

145:

Speaking as a self-described typical reader, I don't really pay attention to the author's gender[1] (I barely pay attention to names.) Nevertheless -- as I've already indicated -- most of what I see on our local library shelves is male product. Heck, James Nicoll has done excellent work promoting female writers in his reviews, and I can't find one tenth of those names in the stacks. And I know for a fact that in at least two such instances, the decisions as to what to put there have been made by an all-female staff.

Whatever problems there may be with gender balance in sf, I don't think it starts at the level of the reader.


[1]As a kid, I was much more an Eleanor Cameron/A. M. Lightner/Andre Norton reader. Heinlein was a distant sixth or seventh behind del Rey and Hugh Walters.

146:

[RED CARD - Deleted by moderator for gratuitous aggression in violation of moderation policy ]

147:

I thought the reason Bujold wrote the Sharing Knife books was that she was writing what she wanted, discovered romance fans were delighted with her work, so she wrote a romance series and had more conventional romance elements in her Vorkosigan novels.

Yes, that entirely fits my (limited) understanding of it.

148:

You continue not getting some things that have been said in this thread a number of times. It comes across as defensive (which due to the misunderstanding in question might be understandable) but is also at cross purposes with the actual topic of discussion.

It's not about individual people being consciously sexist (I'm sure this happens, but it isn't at all common: it's this uncommon thing you seem to be trying to refute); it's about everyone having all sorts of defaults set by their cultural background. Female librarians are as much a part of the culture and are just as capable of defaulting to choices that preserve the status quo as anyone is. The point is that this stuff is entrenched and as invisible to most of us as air. And if there even are actions as such, they are collective rather than individual.

The way to redress this stuff isn't some sort of neo-normative behaviour modification compliance campaign. It's in awareness raising, opportunity creating, profile renovating, but above all communication and a preparedness to listen and accept that what people say about their own lived experience is actually quite likely to be more epistemologically valid than your own perspective on it. Because you understand that even in relatively enlightened *here* in this very thread there are people saying the opposite to that last clause.

149:

[RED CARD - Deleted by moderator for gratuitous aggression in violation of moderation policy ]

150:

I didn't think she came across as hostile. You, however, come across as patronising at a level sufficient to cheese off even disinterested bystanders like myself. You might consider a more self-reflective approach*.

There are patterns of speech that I associate with a shopkeeper of limited intelligence trying his absolute best to cheat you. There's a sort of semi-belligerent assumption on his part that even when he must surely know that you are aware what he is up to, it is possible for him outsmart you.

Not sure if you agree that "mansplaining" is a thing, but it drifts into that when you start doing this sort of thing.

*Pot, kettle, yeah whatevah

151:

That's a pretty over the top response.
She appears to be attempting to redress the situation by raising awareness of SF written by women through a variety of media.
You're dismissing that as publishing a book of short stories, and Scent is dismissing it as selling stuff noone wants.

If she is creating a collection of short stories, she can initially cherry pick the good ones from out of a pretty large back catalogue of published works. That's a fairly high guarantee that most readers would pay for enough of them to buy the collection.

The key argument appears to be that if you are an established author, you have the mechanisms and contacts today to bypass a lot of the established publishing system in order to get your physical book out there, and the cheap promotional material - like for example this website - to get it noticed by the relevant buyers and readers.
That sounds like a productive way of bringing SF written by women back into the consciousness of the establishment again - if this sells well, then others might too.

152:

Since I specifically mentioned librarians acting as a filter -- twice -- and since you have apparently missed this -- twice -- would you please read what I write more carefully before commenting? It would save a lot of back-and-forth.

153:

And there we see one way to suppress women's writing (or editing): belittle the efforts of a woman who has set out to raise the visibility of women in SF.

Helen Lewis, you are so right.

154:

I am a middle-aged woman writer and only once did my name come up in everyone's lists in all these comments about women writers that the male commenters claim to read --

Twice.

which might merely indicate that I'm not a particularly good writer.

What I've read of yours, I consider excellent. I happened to remember something you wrote that I read within the last year, that I happened to have your name connected to. I can almost remember the cover of the book, it had NANCY KRESS across the front in very big letters. That might be part of why I remember your name.

I can't definitively say anything about unconscious biases because they are unconscious.

Same here. That's a problem with unconscious bias. It can apply to any data that isn't machine-collected and machine-analyzed. If it is machine-collected and machine-analyzed there could be unconscious bias in the programming that chooses which data to censor etc. And so we should never be completely sure about anything. Unfortunately that doesn't tell us how to choose what to believe.

Is my relative obscurity (as indicated by the admittedly unscientific sampling of these comments) due to my being older, being female, having a low on-line profile, or to what I write?

No. People read a whole lot of things by women writers. A few of them get a tremendous amount of publicity, and tremendous numbers of copies were printed on paper. Lots of people read them. If you aren't one of those, if your following is by word-of-mouth, it says a whole lot for you to be mentioned once (twice) by a handful of random people. You may have gotten a boost by winning awards. I don't know how much that helps, but it's plausible that it could help some. On the other hand the awards could be mostly a recognition that a lot of people like what you write.

So why does no one mention me?

Because you are not one of the most prominent smurfs. A few women writers get mentioned a whole lot, whenever the topic of women writers comes up. You aren't one of those few.

But if I am a sort of test case, then why isn't the critical acclaim I usually receive translated into more recognition amongst readers?

If you're interested in this question, you could possibly go through the list of other writers who have gotten approximately your level of critical acclaim. Notice how many men and how many women are on the list. Estimate how much recognition they get compared to you. I haven't done that. It's possible that the men who have about your level of critical acclaim are ignored as much as you are.

Here's another possibility that probably ought to be considered. I don't mean to be inflammatory suggesting it. Imagine that SFWA has about 50% women, but that the men are far more prolific. Imagine that they write 9 times as much. Then if the quality is about the same, it would be natural that they might get published 90% of the time. And it would be plausible that 90% of the awards would go to them. But maybe they get fewer than 90% of the awards because people who give out awards are biased in favor of women.

I don't say that's true. It probably isn't. To test it, we would do no good to look at awards and try to guess about their biases. That way lies bias. But it might be possible to get publishers to estimate what percent of their candidates come from women. We'd want them to actually count that because if they just estimate off the top of their heads they might have exactly the unconscious bias we're discussing.

Assuming that quality is random may not be accurate. Maybe on average unpublished female writers are much better than unpublished male writers. But it's a better starting place.

Meanwhile the "Homme de Plume" effort looks amazing! A ratio of 17 responses to 2. That implies a real difference in the way agents handle their slushpiles.

Anyone who doesn't already have a solid writing career can repeat this study. There are lots of agents, so you can send things out to a whole lot of them. It looks easy. If it works, you might try it more often as a marketing tactic rather than an experiment.

It wouldn't help you, an accomplished author who already has an agent. But I can imagine it. After it gets accepted then you say "I've decided I want a nom de plume, it will be a woman's name". Maybe they argue that a woman's name will hurt sales. "I want to publish under the name Nancy Kress." "But you can't use that name, it's taken." "Yes I can."

155:

Yes you did - both in the "if female librarians did it then it can't be sexist behaviour, hnur hnur" mode. Sorry fellah, from where I sit you're working harder than ever at missing the point.

Not that this is necessarily related, but I think there's scope for a "Donald Trump and the infantilisation of white men" discussion off the back of this one. But elsewhere because derailing into such a sub-thread would be horrifyingly unreflective.

156:

My, my, my, Kristen.

That's a patronizing sentence there. Just because somebody else does it, is not a good reason for you to do it. Well, maybe it's an OK reason. I dunno. But in general two patronizing assholes are not an improvement over one.

TRX said that if you don't write what they want to read, they won't buy. Since that describes, oh, 99% of all reader's habits, it would be amusing to know what you thought was wrong with the tone.

It wasn't the particular claim. It was the tone.

This is something that gets in my way a lot. People don't respond just to what you say, they respond to their whole environment around them. So if you say something that reminds them of some monstrous evil, they are likely to think you are monstrously evil. If you mention Nazis in any context apart from consigning them to a flaming hell for eternity, people are likely to decide you are a Nazi.

If he says that writing things people don't want to buy will not generate sales, it's only natural for women to interpret this as saying that people don't want to read things women write. That women should write like men to get published. That women are not as good as men.

This sort of argument gets made a lot, and it can be infuriating.

"Group X is getting discriminated against. We should work to stop this discrimination."

"No, if people don't want to buy what they have to offer, it means they're no good. What they need to do is get better, and then the market will take care of them. The first rule for publishing (getting jobs, getting loans, etc) is DON'T SUCK."

"This bias is wrong and it has to end."

"Think of it as evolution in action. When they are inherently inferior, they can't compete so they should give up."

If you remind people of social darwinism, they will think you are a social darwinist. It isn't fair, but it's how they think. If you want them to treat you well, you need to stop reminding them of people they hate.

If you tell people who feel persecuted that they are being treated fairly, they are likely to persecute you.

157:

Agents and publishers most certainly do practice ageism against women writers. The younger and cuter you are, the more likely you are to get the sweet perks. I've been told this in so many words.

I would expect this to be less true for men. Young cute men do not get as many sweet perks.

And older men don't feel like it's ageist when they still don't get them.

One possible way to deal with this is to write with a male name. If more young women writers pretended to be men, they wouldn't suffer as much discrimination.

158:

Just shaking my head and attempting to ignore the Shmucks (in a fairly literal sense). It's rather disappointing to see the fragile little egos lashing out, particularly from some of the long-time commenters. And their sense of entitlement/privilege.

FWIW, the writer guests; Tarr, Rusch, Kress, and some of those in various lists above, have likely made new future sales.

Might as well add my list (I'm fudging slightly due to slow reading, so last 18 months): Aliette de Bodard, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Tiptree, G. Willow Wilson, Kameron Hurley, and Stina Leicht. That's half of what I read in that time. Admittedly not a typical year for me, call it finally catching up on my To Read list. For a few years I've noticed that I'm buying more books by women authors, their work just seems to be more interesting to me lately.

159:

FWIW, the writer guests; Tarr, Rusch, Kress, and some of those in various lists above, have likely made new future sales.

Strike out "likely".

160:

The way to redress this stuff [is] awareness raising, opportunity creating, profile renovating, but above all communication

It seems to me that we've tried all that for about fifty years, and it hasn't done much, except provoke backlash. We're all adults. We all know that each sex finds some of the opposite sex's behaviors to be incredibly annoying, and that probably won't change any time soon. If anyone has a specific plan I'm listening, but otherwise I suggest we all try to make the best of it.

161:

It's intriguing to me how many of the posts disagreeing with Judith's posit that women writers of SFF are often dismissed... commence their argument by dismissing one or more woman SFF writers.

162:

It's intriguing to me how many of the posts disagreeing with Judith's posit that women writers of SFF are often dismissed... commence their argument by dismissing one or more woman SFF writers.

Possibly it's the German influence.

(Assuming you haven't tracked other discussions here, there was some discussion about whether or not Germans respect anybody, and one of the possibilities mentioned was that some Germans might tend to have vociferous argument without a lot of deference to the sensibilities of the people they were arguing against, and that this might be interpreted as a lack of respect.)

That is, maybe there's a cultural difference involved. Maybe men and women don't always share exactly the same culture, and maybe british men and women don't, and so what seems like "dismissing" to women might for men be treating women the same way men treat each other.

Does it seem to you that men in this discussion dismiss you more than they dismiss each other?

163:

Thanks for the feedback, Jay.

I like to think I try to write a variety of male characters, as I try to write a variety of female characters, and a variety of trans and intersexed and asexed characters.

When I am creating my characters, I don't actually separate them out by gender when I am contemplating which are go-getters and which are more introspective--and I like to think that some are both. I try to write people of all genders who are in touch with social nuance, as well as people of all genders who are blind to it. (My partner happens to be male, and I realized some years ago that he's better at parsing social interactions than I am, for example.)

Although, I do worry a bit that you've assigned the characteristics you describe as "feminine" as "neurotic."

164:

Perhaps you've noticed that I've been occasionally commenting and occasionally guest blogging here for a number of years?

No?

Oh.

165:

Female sf authors I've read and enjoyed: Margaret St. Clair (I wish her stuff would come back into print), Anne McCaffrey (recently attended a Gencon panel on future tanks in which her "Ship Who Sang" stories were mentioned by one of the gentlemen giving the talk), Laura Mixon, E. Lily Yu, Chris Moriarty.

There are others but (like Moriarty) they've pretty much all been mentioned.

I wonder if, as an experiment, a bunch of us, male, female, and other, should just write under initials or gender-neutral pseudonyms. ("Yoon Ha" is actually gender-neutral, but you'd have to be Korean to know that.)

166:

I find it interesting, and perhaps relevant to Ms Tarr's point about invisibility, that no one so far has mentioned that the best selling science fiction writer in the US is a woman, J.D.Robb (aka Nora Roberts) author of the "... in Death" series of science fiction/police procedurals. Ignoring her romance novels written as Nora Roberts (who sells at the Stephen King/JK Rowling levels), every one of her SF "... in Death" novels published since 1999 has hit the New York Times bestseller list. That's over 35 books.

She's never been nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula, and the science fictional aspects of her "... in Death" are routinely discounted by SF/Fantasy fans. I've read lots of her books and can't understand why they are ignored in discussions of the genre. Is she invisible? Or too big to see?

167:

Perhaps you've noticed that I've been occasionally commenting and occasionally guest blogging here for a number of years?

Very often you refrain from commenting, so I don't know how many of the threads you don't comment on that you track.

168:

I suspect invisible, partly because I've never heard of her. A quick look on Big Muddy indicates that her books are marketed as "suspense thrillers", which typically appeal to a mature female demographic. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my mother has read every one.

169:

I like to think I try to write a variety of male characters, as I try to write a variety of female characters, and a variety of trans and intersexed and asexed characters.

I don't want to discount Jay's take on this, but imagine that there are six dimensions where he expects men and women to be different, and that in most fiction people line up on at least five out of the six. And then you assign them randomly. Then hardly any of your characters will fit expectations of gender roles. They won't all look alike, but the men and women will be alike -- you'd be writing about a society that completely lacks the traditional gender roles.

People who expect those rules might be bothered. Particularly bothered by whiny indecisive men. They'd hate to read about men that in our society get utterly scorned and discredited.

I say it's a good thing for you to write about societies where traditional gender roles don't apply. And it's fine for some people not to enjoy reading that. The customer base is diverse and you can't expect to please everybody.

Maybe there's nothing wrong here. (At least about this part of it.)

170:

But maybe that's not representative?

Well, it depends on what point you think I'm making. I'm not saying that women were anthologized in numbers equal to men. I'm saying that I read a lot of collections and magazines back in the sixties, and there were women in them. For example, I have Boucher's A Treasure of Great Science Fiction, and it has C.L. Moore, Judith Merrill, and Mildred Clingerman.

So what I'm saying is, "Not nonexistent." The idea that there were no women writers before (insert recent year) is historically false. And Ms. Tarr was writing about the belief that NO women write sf. That's the belief I'm finding astonishing. I'm not saying at all that Ms. Tarr is wrong to report it; I'm just expressing surprise that such a belief apparently exists.

171:

Greg: I am truly befuddled by your remarks about age, because I know virtually no readers who judge an author by age, though such lunacies wouldn't astound me about the publishing industry.

I suggest you go into a bookstore and look at the dust jacket author photos.

It probably won't take you long to notice the differences of presentation between author photos of male and female authors..

(TL:DR; Pretty young women are marketable, as are young handsome men. But while older men remain marketable, older women are another matter ...)

172:

Thanks for being gracious. I would have written that post differently if I'd known you were around. I think that if the character had been female, I would have just assumed that you knew better than I did.

@J Thomas: Most personality and psychological traits in humans are mainly determined by genetics. Socialization makes a fairly large difference in childhood, but tends to wear off in early adulthood. A brief review of the scientific literature (with references) can be found at http://161.45.251.150/s-drive/TEFF/Bouchard%202004%20survey%20of%20genetic%20influence%20on%20psych%20traits.pdf

173:

Jay: Just so you know, an anthology of stories "by women" gives the impression of being specifically marketed to women.

You might want to consider that this says more about your own prejudices than you realize.

Beware: I'm catching up on your past comments and I think you're becoming increasingly obnoxious in reaction to something that is provoking cognitive dissonance with your world view. That, or you're trolling. And you know how I deal with trolls, right?

174:

Would it help if OGH allowed female authors to write anthologies or spin-offs set in the Laundry?

The Laundry Files aren't anything like high enough profile to support a spin-off sharecropping ecosystem. (Alas.)

175:

Scent of Violets: RED CARD

You do not threaten authors on my blog, even implicitly.

(Yes, I know that your "lost sale" threat is a paper tiger; the royalties an author gets for a single book sale are somewhere in the range $0.5-$3, depending on format. Nevertheless. I read your comment as a passive-aggressive threat, and if you do it again you will be banned and your comments un-published.)

176:

We all know that each sex finds some of the opposite sex's behaviors to be incredibly annoying, and that probably won't change any time soon.

Bullshit.

Problem exists between eyeballs and keyboard. I suggest you go and introspect about your own cognitive biases in a corner for a while ... quietly

(PS: I don't have much time for gender essentialism. But that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Meanwhile, use of language is something all able-bodied humans do, with roughly the same spectrum of capabilities.)

177:

only once did my name come up in everyone's lists in all these comments about women writers that the male commenters claim to read

Most of those lists are for books read in the last year, which limits the pool. Certainly you weren't on my list, but that's because I read very few SFF books in the last year (so few I could list every author).

I know I've read a couple of your books after reading a story in Analog (I think) about gene-engineered sleepless children. The Beggars series? It was back in the 90s and all my paperbacks and SFBC books went to a nephew last summer, so checking is difficult. (My memory works by cover and place on the shelf, so "just checking the internet" is usually less useful than I'd like.)

A big problem with these lists, it seems to me, is confounding causes. If I read 90% male authors, is that because I avoid women, because where I get my books has 90% male authors*, because male authors get 90% of the advertising budget…

It's way past my bedtime now. Tomorrow I'm going to try to list every fiction author I remember reading, to see how the split goes. (Unreliable, given my memory for names, but I'm curious.)

*I'm certain I read mostly male authors as a boy, but I read every SF book our library had, so it wasn't really me choosing them.

178:

I'll probably get a yellow card from this. I'm not denying that women get an unfair time of it, nor am I arguing that the world is a good and happy place.

But for *me* I generally don't know if the author is Male, Female, bi, trans, homo, hetro, tall, short, dark, fair, ginger, blonde, bald, right handed, left handed, ambidextrous or colour blind and I *don't care*. I *might* recall their surname as an aid to finding their other works (as that's how they appeared on a bookshelf in a decent bookshop) however since the demise of bookshops and given that I have a terrible memory for names, I would be more likely to recall a book title and search from there. I clearly remember realising (with some shock) that the Laundry stuff was by the same person as the lobster thing that I'd enjoyed so much, some years before. I had completely forgotten OGH's name was attached to the lobster story. If they have a common surname I might (with difficulty) manage to recall their first name. I literally found out in this thread that Vinge is of the female persuasion, however their handedness remains a mystery to me of equal (zero) interest. In the days of dead tree books I chose them by picking them up and reading the first page and if I wanted to read the second page I'd buy it and if not I'd put it back and pick up the next one. I never bothered to look at the name or artwork. (As an aside I think, Greg Egan writes the best first page in the industry and it has *just* occurred to me, is quite likely hiding being female, given their reluctance to have any photographs of them appear anywhere)

So while there are undoubtedly publishers or agents or whomever who treat them differently, for me *personally* there isn't the slightest difference whatsoever.

179:

Oh, and I'd *specifically* avoid looking at the back of the book or the dust jacket as it seems to be publisher's main goal in life to put terrible spoilers in both locations. I would actually stand angled in a particular way and draw books from the shelf with care so that there was no chance of even picking up a couple of words.

180:

The 'you' you're talking about is only the story you tell yourself about 'you', and is neither the majority of the entity that inhabits your skull, nor necessarily a true story. It certainly isn't an accurate one.

'You', the fictional character in the story of your life, may well be unaware of those myriad details, but 'you' — the sum of the actions visible to the statisticians, psychologists, publishers and suchlike — makes decisions based on inputs that you are similarly unaware of, and that you rationalise later to conform to your story.

'You' are more than your consciousness. If you deny that your unconscious has any influence on you, that in fact gives it total control of you, and you're left scrambling to come up with rationalisations for what it decides.

181:

If you deny that your unconscious has any influence on you, that in fact gives it total control of you

Similar to the paraphrase Eagleton attributes to Keynes* - "that those economists who disliked theory, or claimed to get along better without it, were simply in the grip of an older theory" of which they were unconscious.

Raises interesting questions about what consciousness is, though. I am not convinced you can have a disembodied consciousness in a compute substrate. I think you have to sim the body too, or at least some analogue to it.

That means that while I go along with those saying identity resides in the brain, in the context of mind/body dualism because I think dualism is bullshit, on the other hand I want to say focusing on the brain is misdirection because consciousness resides in the body**.

Of course then our modern western concept of self and personal identity, with all the various boxes you need to tick to create one, is not a universal outcome of the human experience by any means and is more or less specific to and located in our modern historical and cultural context***. The point being many of our concepts of self are not just socially constructed, but constructed in a way that only our culture does.

I guess I fall to more phenomenological metaphors, like certain things being part of the water we swim in. Which is my way of suggesting that certain communters are like the fish who says the world doesn't taste like cadmium, okay it might do but it is supposed to, it used to taste like cadmium but..., etc.

But please don't mind me, just riffing.

* I'm not familiar with the original source and after a few minutes of fruitless google haven't found it, though there's a full text of the Eagleton here.

** I realise that saying "you are your body" has problems too, and I'm not really going there, but the general idea that conscious is embodied, and possibly *must* be is the main thrust. I understand this handwaves over an enormous diversity of lived experience but I think there's a way to navigate that.

*** This may seem radical, but is actually relatively non-controversial academically. It was the topic of a lecture by Marcel Mauss, an early sociologist/anthropologist protege of Durkheim.

182:
FWIW, the writer guests; Tarr, Rusch, Kress, and some of those in various lists above, have likely made new future sales.
Strike out "likely".

Ditto.

Yesterday I added a "make a reading list from this post" entry to my to do list for next month after it all calms down. And seriously pondering having a year-of-reading-women.

Because after breaking down the numbers of the folk I'd read over the last year, and looking at the names I could remember from that year, I find that my discovery mechanisms for new authors and books are apparently borked.

183:

Hmm
About the turn of the millenium, Penguin & others published two anthologies: "women of Wonder" & either More w of w or New w of w ...

Is it dangerous to mention that this discussion is as we are approaching Worldcon & the, err ... shall I say "Small immature dogs groupings".
And may be relevant thereto?

184:

Just a thought in the "if you want me to read your work, you need to write the things I want to read",comments.
Isn't that the entire point here. These various women *are* writing all sorts of different types of SFF so you need to ask yourself why are you assuming they don't? Why did I assume that those fantasy series by wonen weren't being discussed?

NOTE There has not been a single strand or trend in SFF ever where women were not amongst the pioneers, the first writers. There is no single strand now where women do not continue to write in significant numbers.

185:

Like the one for "Saturns Children" you mean with the sexually-attractive oops ROBOT on the cover?
Even I might say ROFL for that idea!

186:

Oh bum.
Doe that mean no more either Vorkosigan or Chalion stories, then?

187:

Greetings from the friggin' outer darkness, 37 years and counting.

188:

Sorry, false assumption there, that we've already dealt with.
That D Trump is err allegedly a human being (never mind a "man") & who knew?
Agree that "Not Here" is a good idea, though.

189:

Off topic but:
If you tell people who feel persecuted that they are being treated fairly, they are likely to persecute you.
Christians in the UK when atheists or secularists suggest that their privilege is unwarranted, you mean?
Or almost any speaker for (their sect of) islam?

You have to remember that some people & groups are unjustifiably paranoid.
Though I'm certain that in the specific case we are discussing here ( Derogation of female authors, & specifically in SF ) it is genuine, just to be clear.

190:

I shall be vulgar enough to mention myself. I've published around 15 books and nearly 100 short stories, with a number in the Year's Best. I've been nominated for the Philip K Dick and the Clarke. I am generally regarded as one of the invisibles, but the company's great - Pat Cadigan, Tricia Sullivan, Leigh Kennedy, Chris Moriarty, Lyda Moorhouse, Lisa Tuttle...I could be here all day writing a list.

Ironically, I just visited the Wikipedia page for British SF writers looking for someone else, and I'm not on there, along with a lot of other writers, male and female. Neither is Tanith Lee.

It was Tanith's death which marked my own decision about my own career. I no longer consider myself a pro writer: I may continue it as a hobby, but it is not a career. I've had a decent run with it, and a lot of support from people like Gardner, David Pringle, Chris Priest, Harry Harrison, and Charlie, as well as many female writers and editors.

However, I'm not prepared to spend the rest of my life struggling with it. American readers won't be aware of this, but at least one article came out from a younger (female) SF fan last year saying, basically, that all the women writing in the UK were has-beens who should have the decency to pop their clogs and leave the field to the young women. At the time, I was 49.

And an editor who should know better suggested that the last year's Worldcon guest, Robin Hobb, had no relevance to the younger generation and should be replaced by a much younger woman. This is not only empirically rubbish, since Hobb has a big following, but I venture to suggest that this guy would not even think of making such a suggestion about a male GOH.

I could give example after example. However, I have things to do and people's eyeballs will give out, so I'll finish by thanking Charlie and Judith.

191:
@J Thomas: Most personality and psychological traits in humans are mainly determined by genetics. Socialization makes a fairly large difference in childhood, but tends to wear off in early adulthood. A brief review of the scientific literature (with references) can be found at http://161.45.251.150/s-drive/TEFF/Bouchard%202004%20survey%20of%20genetic%20influence%20on%20psych%20traits.pdf

I'd gently suggest that's a mild oversimplification of the paper (and of research in this area in general).

Firstly "psychological traits" is a term of art referring to fairly broad aspects of people's behaviour. Things like where you sit on the big 5 or susceptibility to various mental illnesses — extraversion, agreeableness, depression, etc. (You probably know this — I point it out because I've experienced lay readers interpreting "psychological trait" as things like "being a good coder", etc.)

Secondly the expression of those genetic factors are often driven by environmental factors. There's a pretty good link between stress and depression for example. So if I see group X being more susceptible to depression (or whatever) is that genetics, or society putting that group in more stressful situations?

Thirdly, the "socialisation wears off in early adulthood" thing only applies to some of the factors explored. Not all.

Fourthly "Most" and "mainly" needs defining. Because while the research does show that genetic factors play a major part in some aspects of personality – it's a long way from universal. Yes — folk with a variant of the serotonin transporter gene do exhibit more depressive symptoms, diagnosable depression, etc. in relation to stressful life events. But "more" isn't "all". A hell of a lot of people with that gene don't get depression. A hell of a lot of people without that gene do get depressed. Look at the heritability numbers in the paper's summary table. They vary between the low .2s and the high .8s. Even if you ignore the usual rants about interpreting heritability numbers anything under .5 pushes the boundaries of any reasonable interpretation of "mainly". The conclusion uses the much more accurate phrase "most psychological traits are moderately heritable".

Finally, since much of this thread has been about gender and I've experienced some folk use "genetics" as a dog whistle for sexism (don't think you are ;-) I'd point out that the "Sex differences in heritability" column in that paper is a mostly "No".

192:

"Greg: I am truly befuddled by your remarks about age, because I know virtually no readers who judge an author by age, though such lunacies wouldn't astound me about the publishing industry.

I suggest you go into a bookstore and look at the dust jacket author photos."

Actually, that was me, not Greg. I am fully aware of that perception, and some of the circumstances under which being young, pretty, sexy and female helps sell completely unrelated things. But my point stands in this particular case: do the READERS make that judgement, or is it yet another delusion of the publishing industry that they do?

I know that I don't use such things, and rarely even look at such blurb, but I am also aware that many people (with some reason) regard me as not part of the human race :-) The thing that really puzzles me is not knowing other people who DO use such things to choose books, though that might be the company I keep.

193:

Which reminds me... Although I don't read much SF any more I do regularly listen to it via sites like Clarkesworld and the Pods. My impression is that female SF writers are reasonably well represented on the new media, although I generally don't pay much attention to the author unless the piece is outstanding (for example, 13 Ways of Looking at Spacetime byValente)
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/valente_08_10/

194:

"Oversimplification" is a bit generous, I think. My understanding of the state of the art is that there isn't much point drawing a distinction between nature and nurture: all or most traits depend on a combination of both for their expression. Then there's epigenetics.

195:

"And yet ... I find it hard not to picture a pimpled 12 year old boy when asked to describe the arch typical gamer. "

IIRC the average age now is in the 30s.
Anyway, does anyone have any real numbers to illustrate these discussions? For example, the number of male/female SF writers /readers versus male/fe,ale publications ratios? It would also have to be separated by media, since I think most of the problem lies with books and conventional publishing.

196:

Which reminds me...Athough I don't read much SF any more I do regularly listen to it via sites like Clarkesworld and the Pods. My impression is that female SF writers are reasonably well represented on the new media, although I generally don't pay much attention to the author unless the piece is outstanding...

Uh-huh. What's wrong with this picture?

197:

"-- which might merely indicate that I'm not a particularly good writer."

And pigs might fly. The reason for the selection of names is that humans are very bad at remembering exhaustive lists, and some of us suffer from a lack of junior moments. So the names I gave were those on a list I could get from my computer, and I would guess that some others did similarly!

I still think that the problem is almost entirely in the publishing industry, and not in the readership, and that is certainly true for the posters here. I am damn certain if we turned it around, many of us would be much less polite about many of the big-name male authors. However, are the posters here representative of the readership as a whole? I really don't know.

198:

"I am a middle-aged woman writer and only once did my name come up in everyone's lists in all these comments about women writers that the male commenters claim to read -- which might merely indicate that I'm not a particularly good writer."

Not necessarily true. However, I do recognize your name so I have probably read something by you. It's just that I remember titles and the work far better than authors. It's always been that way. I remember content and have no interest in authors. I don't read stuff *about* authors. Nor musicians. Nor scientists. People do not interest me, as opposed to their creations.

199:
The thing that really puzzles me is not knowing other people who DO use such things to choose books, though that might be the company I keep.

I would bet almost nobody has a checklist where "attractive back cover photo" has to be ticked before they buy a book.

I certainly don't.

However I do strongly suspect that there's a chunk of my brain that will make it slightly more likely that I give books that I pick up with attractive photos and boy author names a bit more weight.

Because my consciousness is instantiated on a mildly tweaked east african plains ape brain that was trained on data from a culture that's only a scant few decades away from thinking slavery was a pretty good idea and that women didn't have the brains to vote. I know my brain is terribly, terribly bad at logic and easily biased by things that I'm not consciously aware of.

So why I personally don't think that the cover photo influences my behaviour in the slightest when it comes to book purchases — I bet it actually does.

Because, human.

200:

"Uh-huh. What's wrong with this picture?"

Nothing, if you were in a similar situation to Dunsany :-)

201:

"I say it's a good thing for you to write about societies where traditional gender roles don't apply."

Agree 100%, but I suspect for the "wrong" reason. I don't like personalities to distract from the Big Ideas. That's why I used to read a SF book a day years ago - the ideas. All that characterization BS used to piss me off to the point where I would just skip paragraphs.
I imagine authors who aspire to be artists really don't like readers like me.

202:

IIRC the average age now is in the 30s.

I think Zumbs actually said this.

203:

"Uh-huh. What's wrong with this picture?"

No idea.

204:

"FWIW, the writer guests; Tarr, Rusch, Kress, and some of those in various lists above, have likely made new future sales.
Strike out "likely".
Ditto."

Yes. Almost all of those who have posted were already on my mental list of authors to check out when I am looking for books, though not all of them write to my taste, but I have some new ones to add.

205:

"IIRC the average age now is in the 30s.
Anyway, does anyone have any real numbers to illustrate these discussions?"
You may want to read the paragraph just before the line you quoted ;-)

The Entertainment Software Association publishes annual reports on the industry. Here is a link to the 2014 report. Others can be found using your favorite search engine.

206:

I was asking about SF publications. The age of gamers remark was just an aside

207:

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. - Thomas Paine, Common Sense.
Still true 240 years on.

208:

So to provide a little comparison with hard numbers, I went through The Recommended Fantasy Author List and counted all the authors recommended.
It came out as approx 169 male vs 129 female, a 56:44 split.
That seems pretty reasonable, with an underlying assumption that male authors were published more easily so there are probably more of them.

That list was compiled off Usenet suggestions from 1994 to 1999, with a few standouts added since, as a resource for people to go "look here" when asked the same questions over again.

I'm not aware of any similar projects done for SF, but it might be well worth looking into based on the small reference pool problem described above.

209:

To Liz Williams - The wikipedia category pages for SF writers in the British Isles seem to need a bit of work. You're listed under English writers, Tanith Lee is on the British writers page. More writers are listed as English/Irish/Scots/Welsh (300+), some as British (113), few as both (?). And obviously some not at all. Perhaps a weekend project for some lurker who likes editing Wiki pages?

The 'has been' and 'irrelevant' comments are quite mindboggling in their arrogance/ignorance. The former sounds like sour grapes from someone with a bad rejection slip to publishing ratio.

General ramble: Data point - I'm a NZer, my teens spanned the 1980s. 90%+ of fiction at that time in bookshops, libraries & book exchanges came from UK imprints.

As a kid & teen I read whatever the school & public library had catalogued as SF/F. Novels/collections by women included Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Engdahl, Susan Cooper, Monica Hughes, Julian May, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tanith Lee, Joan Vinge, Ursula Le Guin, CJ Cherryh, (and probably some kids/YA writers I'd only remember by seeing the book cover again). There were woman writers in anthologies - granted, only a couple in any given one, but still there. SF mags came into the newsagents: Analog, Asimov's, F&SF (hello KKR), Interzone - and plenty of book exchanges had some back issues. I see some familiar names from them back then posting here now. At the tail-end of that time there were even the Star Trek novels.

I'm not taking into account post-1990 writing here, or novelists who weren't UK published. What I find hard to understand is how people of my generation - Gen X - could say with a straight face that women don't/can't write SF. I don't get it. How did they miss *all* of those growing up? I also wonder, is this more prevalent in the US than the rest of the english speaking world?

I was interested in the anecdotes about blindness/invisibility - not 'seeing' female authors, not 'seeing' female panelists, despite the people concerned apparently being aware of the issues of inequity. How do we unblock the mental blinkers? I suppose, as adults, by self-awareness and self-monitoring, by having discussions like this - again and again - and bringing it up with those around us. For children, by trying to mitigate those social filters & constructs to whatever extent we can, so that they will be less ingrained.

The Agent test was interesting too, in the depressing way that confirmation of bias by testing is. Publishing under a male nom de plume might be something a given writer is prepared to do, but it creates problems down the line for publicity and once the alias is known the unconscious bias would rise again.

210:

No.

Lois McMaster Bujold Announces New Cordelia Vorkosigan Novel Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen [...] will be published in February of 2016 (tentatively) from Baen Books.

And a Five Gods universe (Chalion) short novella is out now, ebook only: Penric's Demon (sample).

211:

I literally found out in this thread that Vinge is of the female persuasion, however their handedness remains a mystery to me of equal (zero) interest.

Vinge is ambiguous, because there are two of them.

Female SF writer Joan D. Vinge started publishing her SF when she was married to male SF writer Vernor Vinge. After they divorced she continued publishing as Joan D. Vinge. He continued publishing as Vernor Vinge.

212:

"To Liz Williams - The wikipedia category pages for SF writers in the British Isles seem to need a bit of work. ... Perhaps a weekend project for some lurker who likes editing Wiki pages?"

No - a LOT of work, and it would take a lot longer. It's indicative that it has neither Ballard (nor under fantasy) nor Wells :-)

213:

I'm not going to deny the existence of sexism in the sf industry, but I do wonder about the test (comment #9) of naming five women sf authors you've read in the past year. People's memories don't necessarily work that way-- there's common advice to make a record of sf you might nominate for a Hugo because people can't necessarily remember what they especially liked a few months or a year ago.

214:
I'm not going to deny the existence of sexism in the sf industry, but I do wonder about the test (comment #9) of naming five women sf authors you've read in the past year. People's memories don't necessarily work that way-- there's common advice to make a record of sf you might nominate for a Hugo because people can't necessarily remember what they especially liked a few months or a year ago.

I thought that was one of the points of the test. For example my recollections, when sanity checked against reality, seemed to have a strong gender bias.

215:

Thanks very much for the info - I noticed that a lot of people aren't on the Wiki, when I went back (male and female). You're right, it does need work. I can't believe they left out Ballard.

Dai, we're probably around the same age: there were a lot of women SFF writers in the local library, which was small and provincial. I must have read all of Andre Norton's work from there, just as one example. So this invisibility issue is curious.

216:

It wasn't until my late teens that I realised Andre Norton was a woman ;)

217:

Re. British SF Writers page on Wikipedia
Well, I was only thinking about getting the people already on the English/Scots/Welsh/(Northern) Irish pages added to the British page, not a full project.

Ballard and Wells are both under the 'English' SF writers category, rather than 'British'.

218:

"... people can't necessarily remember what they especially liked a few months or a year ago."

I thought that was one of the points of the test.

Yes, but to demonstrate the bias we want to show, we should also have them remember five male writers they read in the last year and see which is easier.

If it's easier to remember male writers then that proves either we had the bias of reading more male writers, or else we have the bias of remembering them more.

For me that includes Kim Stanley Robinson (recommended here), Harry Connolly (gets no respect), Charlie Stross (duh, of course), Patrick Rothfuss ... and I start to draw a blank.

I reread things by Van Vogt, Heinlein (it came out with a new edit), Michael Scott (My daughter said to), and Terry Pratchett.

A quick search shows Michael Marshall Smith, John Longan, Marc Laidlaw, Dale Bailey, Nathan Ballingrud, Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, Tim Pratt, Steve Duffy, WH Pugmire, Neil Gaiman, John Shirley, Paul McAuley, etc.

That reminds me, Harry Connolly seems to be in the same boat with the women. He writes excellent SF that he's managed to get published, and it seems like nobody notices him. The reason I notice that nobody notices him is that he makes a great big deal out of it. Lots of men that publish and get ignored just accept the situation and quit, but he keeps trying, and he writes a lot about his relative failure. He might turn into the Rodney Dangerfield of SF, famous for being ignored. I hope it helps his career. He writes good stuff.

219:

OGH alluded to JD Robb in a previous post (i think) when he mentioned the some romance subgenres outweigh a good chunk of the entire SFF market (I'm paraphrasing from memory). Given shes the proverbial 800lb Gorilla it's also possible she could be used to prove the negative point that Women SFF writers should stick to romance.

I'm also in awe of her huge volime and rate of output which although it could be accused of following a template generally differs significantly in the details of each novel.

220:

Does that mean no more either Vorkosigan or Chalion stories, then?

No. I believe that Vorkosigan is a cash cow for her. (I don't have numbers on that and don't know how to get them. Is there a public source for book sale numbers?)

What she has stopped doing is writing jolly stories about space mercenaries who get involved in humorous hijinks, achieve the mission against impossible odds, and then escape under fire with low but deplorable casualties.

She started with an expanding space empire complete with propagandized jackbooted thugs in uniform supporting a hereditary dictator, who routinely did torture etc. She made it look admirable, and gradually transformed it into something mostly innocuous. The romance element was there all along, but now it's central. Pretty much everybody gets married off.

I liked it the old way and I like it now.

221:

Publishing under a male nom de plume might be something a given writer is prepared to do, but it creates problems down the line for publicity and once the alias is known the unconscious bias would rise again.

If it helps get an agent, that's a plus. At that stage it isn't about what name you publish under, it's about what name you get an agent under. After you have your first sale, your agent is not likely to drop you for being a woman.

But it's possible he would do less for your career because you are a woman. I don't know how to test for that. We don't even have the custom that you have two or three agents and give more business to the one that gets you the best results. Much less the idea of giving the same work to multiple agents and see which does best for it.

Is it hard to tell how well an agent does his job, unless he makes obvious mistakes?

An individual male author can have all the problems that women do. Agents and publishers may unconsciously be biased against him. Maybe he said something on a blog ten years ago that they haven't forgiven. There doesn't have to be anything overt about it. Just, things don't quite work out and after awhile they tell him he's unpublishable.

I saw a blog article by a woman who thought she was being discriminated against not because she was female, but because she was a Sad Puppy. She was writing military SF, and it was hard to get published, and she thought the New York editors just didn't like her work and didn't like her. She saw a couple of editors talking and they broke off and looked a little embarrassed when they saw her, she thought they were saying bad things about her. I don't want to take the effort to find the link, it might take awhile.

In general Sad Puppy authors appear to feel exactly the same way the women here do about publishing. Except they think that feminist writers have a big advantage over them.

222:

It wasn't until my late teens that I realised Andre Norton was a woman

Which is when I realized Andre was actually a male name :-)

(The only "Andre" I knew of was Andre Norton, who I knew was female, until I met a French exchange student when I was 17, so my assumption had been that "Andre" was a female name.)

223:

So to provide a little comparison with hard numbers, I went through The Recommended Fantasy Author List and counted all the authors recommended.

Here's part of what the list says about itself:

This is NOT a listing of the FAQmaster's personal favorites.

Series titles are in bold italics, and titles within the series follow. Comments, if any, follow the listing. Authors/series listed by 10% of the recommenders are marked with an "*". Two "**" means that 20% or more have endorsed the author. The total number of recommendations per author follows the List.

This listing was created in April 1994, following what seemed like the 900th posting of "what other authors should I read?" in the alt.fan.eddings newsgroup.

This is a list of everything that anybody recommended. So even a work that almost everybody has ignored can get on it, provided that *somebody* remembered it.

It might be interesting to see the numbers recommended by 10% or 20% or recommenders, but those numbers are likely to be too small to tell much.

I enjoy suggesting work for other people to do. This one time I started to do it myself. The ones with 20% were:

**Terry Brooks
**Stephen Donaldson
**David Eddings
**Raymond Feist
**Robert Jordan
**Guy Gavriel Kay
**Mercedes Lackey
**Anne McCaffrey
**Terry Pratchett
**Melanie Rawn
**J.R.R. Tolkien
**Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
**Tad Williams

11 men and 4 women. Too small a sample to say much by itself but it fits the pattern.

I dunno. I liked Pratchett and Tolkien was OK, but I'm not sure how many of these I'd put on my own list of the 15 all-time best. Some of them are good, but not *that* good.

It looks like to get on the ** list you should write multiple series. The only ones who didn't are Kay (who wrote one series, a duology, and some singles) and Tolkien who wrote one series and a welter of stuff.

Of course to publish two series you have to sell reasonably well. But likely a bunch of individual novels wouldn't do it.

224:

Of course any blog comment addressing the effects of genetics on psychology is an oversimplification. It's a limit of the medium.

225:

Sorry to hear about your decision. I almost mentioned you, but I wanted to keep my lists short.

226:

Arguing with moderators. Commenter now banned

227:

"What she has stopped doing is writing jolly stories about space mercenaries who get involved in humorous hijinks, achieve the mission against impossible odds, and then escape under fire with low but deplorable casualties.

She started with an expanding space empire complete with propagandized jackbooted thugs in uniform supporting a hereditary dictator, who routinely did torture etc. She made it look admirable, and gradually transformed it into something mostly innocuous. The romance element was there all along, but now it's central. Pretty much everybody gets married off."

The jolly space mercenary elements were getting downplayed long before the romance elements became dominant. Bujold started writing about the emotional costs of the amount of lying it took to be the space mercenary. Eventually, Miles became too untrustworthy to be allowed to keep the job.

There was a caper in Cryoburn, and I both enjoyed it and felt as though Bujold was doing it as a finger exercise.

228:

"Which reminds me...Athough I don't read much SF any more I do regularly listen to it via sites like Clarkesworld and the Pods. My impression is that female SF writers are reasonably well represented on the new media, although I generally don't pay much attention to the author unless the piece is outstanding..."

Uh-huh. What's wrong with this picture?

He thinks that women are represented well, but he doesn't pay much attention. The topic is unconscious bias, and it might be his unconscious bias which makes him think that.

On the other hand, the women who think they are being discriminated against might also have unconscious bias.

We have women who think that women don't do as well in SF as they should.

We have military SF writers who think that they are discriminated against.

We have libertarian SF writers who think that they are being discriminated against.

Black writers, of course.

Harry Connolly all by himself.

"Traditional" SF writers.

I think the pattern is, if you are a SF writer and you belong to a recognizable group, you will feel like you and your group are being discriminated against. Unless you are so successful that the cognitive dissonance hurts.

(I can imagine it might be true even for wildly successful writers. I can imagine, say, GRR Martin or Terry Pratchett cackling to himself. "They threw every obstacle in my way. They thought I couldn't do it. Nobody thought I could do it. But I did. I showed them, I showed them all! MWaaaaahahaha!")

Here is my hypothesis about what publishers want. They want an author who will reliably push out a book that sells well, once a year. Once every six months is better. Every 18 months is tolerable if it sells well. They want that reliability.

People who are not reliable are much harder for them to use.

If I am right about this, then if you shop around a book that doesn't sell, and then a year later you shop around the sequel, and a year later you shop the third in the trilogy, they are likely to get more interested. You have proven you can write a book a year. And if you fumble once they might have a cushion.

I met Rebecca Ore on Usenet. She was hanging out with the Meowers, computer hackers etc. She used the background in her novel Time's Child. She explained that she was facing a career choice. If she went one direction, she needed to write a novel every year, without fail. If she went the other direction, she needed to learn a new computer language every 3 years. She probably couldn't do both. Time's Child was her last published full novel. Now she works as a systems administrator. Her bio implies she may finish a novel that's 5 or 6 years overdue.
http://www.rebeccaore.com/biography.htm

Most people have trouble writing a novel a year and also hold down a full-time job. If you are marginally successful as a novelist there is no job security whatsoever, if you sales are low for one or two books you may become unpublishable. Then probably doesn't look good on your resume when you look for other work. It takes a special kind of person to try to be a professional novelist. And it takes an even more special sort to be good at it.

Publishers have to guess who can win at that game. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they have theories about how to pick winners. They might really be discriminating against all the people who think they are.

229:

I can easily give you a list of authors I read in 2014 that I believe to be female. Some of these I have read books by in the last 12 months, some I haven't, for one reason or another.

  • Angela Highland
  • Ann Leckie
  • Catherine Asaro
  • Cherie Priest
  • Dia Reeves
  • Holly Black
  • Jaine Fenn
  • Jody Lynn Nye
  • Julie Kagawa
  • Justine Larbalestier
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Kate Elliott
  • Linda Nagata
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Mercedes Lackey
  • Rosemary Edgehill
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Sharon Lee
  • Wen Spencer
230:

"He thinks that women are represented well, but he doesn't pay much attention. The topic is unconscious bias, and it might be his unconscious bias which makes him think that."

Obviously unconscious bias, because I usually only look at the story title and blurb. The fact that the name of the author is often written above the title led me to the "feeling" that female authors were better represented than the usual shelves of books I see in Waterstones or even Forbidden Planet.
However, I have never been interested enough in the topic to do any counting.
Only if I really like a story will I note the author, either male or female.

231:

If you clicked on the link that said Total Votes Per Author you would see the breakdown by numbers for votes >6.
That falls out as 55 men 31 women or 64:36.

Keep in mind the initial recommendations are from people who *really* liked David Eddings, so the most frequently recommended will be similar in tone, or widely published and influential at the time. The long list is far more exhaustive, because it was supposed to be a broad list of good potentials.

It was a curated list where the message board reputation of the recommenders held a certain amount of weight, not just a grab bag of everyone possible.


But this is a thread for SF, not fantasy, so I don't want to derail things further.

232:

"I met Rebecca Ore on Usenet. She was hanging out with the Meowers, computer hackers etc."

I thought the name was familiar. I was around at the time and I believe now as I did then that the meowers and hangers on killed Usenet and paved the way for all the walled gardens that followed, most notably FB. So I do not have a good opinion of her.

233:

If you clicked on the link that said Total Votes Per Author you would see the breakdown by numbers for votes >6.
That falls out as 55 men 31 women or 64:36.

Thank you!

Keep in mind the initial recommendations are from people who *really* liked David Eddings

That explains the bias. I consider Terry Brooks an OK writer for children, not anywhere among the best. But there he was with 20% recommendations. I'm reassured that I'm not *that* out of touch.

234:

I think you need to take a second look at the published order of the Vorkosigan books.
All the books prior to Memory were written out of sequence, and the first four were wildly different in plot, style and characters.
The Mountains of Mourning in particular is an early look at a reflective Miles rather than a romp.

The big thing Bujold has done that differs to many other long running series is that her characters mature as things go on. Miles now is emphatically not the little Admiral, and acknowledges himself in Memory that he no longer could be. Wrestling his conscience indeed.

Contrast that with say David Weber, whose Honor today may have increased in rank and authority, but isn't much different in character to the early books. Only the stakes are growing, not the people.

235:

There is a useful yearly report, the Vida Report, that looks at women and representation in writing. Strange Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine, has been doing something similar focused on speculative fiction. Here's the one from 2014: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150330/sfcount-a.shtml , looking at magazines that review F&SF to see what books are being reviewed and who's doing the reviewing. Some of the discrepancies may be accounted for right there, I think.

There's not one force, one thing, creating the imbalance. It's not a question of going "Oh, that widget is broken and once we fix that, everything will be equal." There's a lot of pervasive, subtle stuff that we don't notice because we live with it everyday. Some days it's overt, and the choice is to be a bitch or let them do it, a constant grind. Somedays it's little stuff, niggling stuff. A cartoonist described it as "the background radiation of our lives" and I think that's true. Most of us just keep shoulder to the wheel and going. It's that or give up -- and I totally respect Liz Williams' decision, because I know what's gone into it.

My reaction to it has been to volunteer with SFWA is because it seems to me that's one way to help affect positive change, to bring it about, albeit slowly, grindingly, and at a frustrating pace. But still. Onward. Forward. Excelsior.

(Thank you for providing a forum for this discussion, Charlie, and for not letting it become the ugly bearpit that sometimes seems to happen.

236:

I was around at the time and I believe now as I did then that the meowers and hangers on killed Usenet and paved the way for all the walled gardens that followed, most notably FB. So I do not have a good opinion of her.

They were showing her around. She talked like she was impressed, which encouraged them to show her around more. I thought she was a tourist and not really a meower.

SPOILER

In Time's Child some people in the future find a way to bring a few people from their past to their time. Strictly limited time travel. They bring somebody I didn't myself recognize who appears to me to be a meower. He repeatedly figures out technical systems and uses the knowledge to cause trouble for other people, typically arranging patsies to take the blame. He makes no friends and appears to have no real fun in his life. He feels superior to everybody which is not much consolation. He is not the main character.

/SPOILER

237:

However, I have never been interested enough in the topic to do any counting.

I suspect it would be instructive to count. If your 'feeling' is right, you'll know it, and if it's wrong, you'll have learned something. Would also be instructive to count what books/stories you see on the shelves/reviews/etc, to get an idea of how what you read differs from the pool available to you.

Hard data is always useful. Unfortunately, it's usually a lot of trouble to get it.

For example, at work last minute excusals pulling kids from class* were really bugging me. When I brought this up colleagues told me that I was imagining things — that most events had adequate notice. So I started keeping track, and after a year I was able to show that 3/4 of the events didn't have adequate notice, and furthermore discovered that many excusals were happening at high-stress times of the year for our students.

Which led the school admin to insist that regular sports seasons be publicly posted when set**, and more importantly (for the kids) events which we controlled the scheduling of got moved to less-busy times of the school year. None of this would have happened if I hadn't had hard data to back up my gut feeling.

*Field trips, sports, concerts, etc.

**I still don't understand why this wasn't done originally — it's less work than posting every game just before it happens.

238:

It seemed fairly obvious to me and others that she was their side of the fence. It didn't help that she tried to sell us s/w created by one of them in order to block from our view what her associates were doing ie appear to clean up the groups they were wrecking. Their natural response was to mass post under a vast variety of names, so anyone stupid enough to buy the s/w would find it was useless.
The whole thing degenerated into DoS attacks, doxing, death threats, alleged real life "visits" and spilled over to the point where questions about what was happening were asked in the NZ Parliament.
However, I would say that their low was posting animated spam running at flicker fit frequencies to a Usenet group for people suffering from epilepsy. I can just image the LOLs that got...

239:

I think you're misremembering the early vorkosigan novels, or possibly overly influenced by the the order you read them in. The Barryans in general have only very rarely been portrayed as admirable starting from 1st published Shards of Honor onwards.

240:

All the books prior to Memory were written out of sequence, and the first four were wildly different in plot, style and characters.
The Mountains of Mourning in particular is an early look at a reflective Miles rather than a romp.

Yes, agreed. My claim is not that she did nothing else in the early books. (Falling Free had no military at all, for example.) It's that she mostly stopped doing that.

My hypothetical idea about her intentions is that she started doing it because she had a shrewd idea what would sell, and she quit doing it when she thought she no longer needed to. Of course all my guesses about other people's intentions are tentative.

It fits into my narrative that successful writers are sensitive to what their readers want.

Further, I think the market is changing. When readers were limited to what they found in the bookstores, it made good sense to write military SF romance action-adventure with embedded detective and spy stories from a feminist perspective, with deep characterization. Something for lots of readers.

But when people can more easily find what they want, then the generalist approach loses the readers who don't want any romance in their military, it loses the readers who don't want any military in their subtle cultural stuff, etc etc etc. Maybe it's becoming more important to specialize. And if so, the rewards will not be as large. It's hard to generate giant sales when the market is split into little incompatible segments.

OK, I know the market is changing but it might not be changing that way. It's just one possible idea.

241:

This is about as far as I am willing to spend my time on researching the topic:
http://escapepod.org/?s=authors&x=0&y=0

I checked 40 stories out of which 18 were by female authors.
So my unconscious bias seems spot on. Feel free to do the same for the rest of the pages and then drop into Clarkesworld

242:

It seemed fairly obvious to me and others that she was their side of the fence. It didn't help that she tried to sell us s/w created by one of them in order to block from our view what her associates were doing ie appear to clean up the groups they were wrecking.

Ouch. You saw more of her than I did. I liked her work and wanted to believe she was just visiting with them to get material, because that let me like her. They didn't do much to the groups I was with, and I didn't notice her doing anything except talk about interesting topics. I started out not sure it was her, but she implied it was and she knew as much about herself as I did.

I like her novels. There aren't enough of them.

243:

The Vorkosigan story that I found most interesting, by far, was Ethan of Athos. It is the only story I have seen about a single-sex society that steered very close to the middle path between eulogy and dystopia and yet gave any kind of a feel for the society.

244:

The link is slightly mangled (the comma needs removing). I didn't see anything about the representation of women in that, but my comment about that aspect is that the representation of men is pretty dire, too :-( It's also damn hard to analyse!

245:

Hi Cat,

That link you posted snagged the end comma. It's http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150330/sfcount-a.shtml

[[ Now fixed in the original - mod ]]

Anyway, I think you hit it on the head by saying it's not a simple problem. One thought that's run through my head is from the bigoted white man, H. L. Mencken. Whatever I think of his personal politics, I treasure his quote: "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

The clear, simple answer appears to be to work hard to get gender and race balance across the spectrum of SFF, fantasy, and romance. I'm not sure it's the wrong answer, but I wonder how many people would answer the call, either to devote themselves to an unstable career (if they belong to an under-represented group), or to shut up and let someone else make the money, get the fame, and have the career they dream of having for years (if they're white and male).

As a white male who's loved SFF since childhood, who would love to break into the field and to help other people express themselves, should I simply shut up and go away, so that someone else who represents a marginalized group can have a better chance at one of those limited publishing slots?

It's the ethical thing to do in this situation, but it's not like anyone gets anything out of me acting that way. If anything, it leaves the field more open for white men who don't value diversity to fight for what they perceive as their deserved place at the table.

As I understand it, SFF is a fairly small pond and SF readership is stable or declining. Increasing diversity in such situations can be a zero-sum game, unless increasing the diversity of writers and reviewers brings in more readers.

That's another challenge to face, really: does promoting minority writers (minority in the Strange Horizon stats sense) bring in more readers? Has anybody looked at that? Do SFF books and stories by black, asian, hispanic writers (for example*) bring more people into SFF, even if it's just to read those book?

*By the way, here's what I believe to be true about race, which is why I'm gritting my teeth as I write this:

Racism and discrimination are very real, and they have very real biological effects. There's no evidence for race as a biological reality (http://www.physanth.org/about/position-statements/biological-aspects-race/). It's a cultural construct, and many of the supposed biological differences among races are the biological effects of discrimination, not the effects of biological race. I'm very much for fighting discrimination, but I'd add anyone who does this has got to be very careful about using discriminatory categories as a way to fight discrimination.

246:

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned James Nicoll's ongoing project to track and record female:male ratios in lists of the greatest SF, award nominations, anthology stories, and so on. They make depressing reading.
http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/tag/f%2Fm

A couple of commenters have said "Nobody discriminates against authors by appearance." Unfortunately, there are discriminations that go unnoticed. In the town where I lived twenty-plus years ago, a romance author had written what her agent thought would be her breakout novel; it was an epistolary romance in e-mails back when that was still new. She was going to go on a book tour to support it. Either her agent or her publisher, I forget which, said she should lose weight for the book tour in order to draw more readers. The author took fen-phen during the brief period before the side effects became known. She was dying the last time I saw an interview.

There are pressures you don't even know about on authors. Authors right here and now have said that they have been told they aren't pretty enough to publish. To reach the bookstores, you have to satisfy publishers, marketers, and book buyers that the author, not just the book, is marketable. The deck is stacked, and touting the virtue of individual book buyers misses the point.

The recommendation to "just pretend to be men" seems to accept the premise that book buyers don't buy books written by men, and puts the burden on the author rather than the system.

247:

Just wanted to give a shout out to Margaret St. Clair's alter ego Idris Seabright.

248:

I just checked my upper sanctum (where I keep my favourite authors, rather than the thousands of books in the lower sanctum, because Time)
Depressingly, only 22% of the authors are women, so while I am not so much of an idiot that I would forgo a great book because of an authors sex, I can't claim to be gender neutral in my choices (unless, grasping at straws here, the gender split in SFF is 4 to 1).
And anecdotely, looking up the careers of two of my favourite authors, Mary Gentle and Linda Nagata (though Linda Nagata is claiming out of the swamp of not being published), the narrative that when female authors reach a certain age they become invisible, becomes very plausible

249:

"... puts the burden on the author rather than the system."

Well, yes. And the first thing that people should realise is that the assumptions of systems that need changing are frequently wrong about claims like "we must do ... because people demand it." The second is that there are two effective ways of changing systems: subversion from within, and setting up an alternative system.

250:

I'm pretty certain Mary Gentle is a special case (invisibility due to something other than the usual women-becoming-invisible) but I'm not going to discuss the matter in public.

251:

"Depressingly, only 22% of the authors are women"

Depends. What is the ratio, changing year by year, of male:female aspiring SF writers?

252:

The question then becomes, if whatever the reasons she stopped writing were hadn't existed, would she have fallen into the invisible middle aged woman trap.
I mean she had a fantastic, varied output, was clearly a real talent, and would that have been enough to escape.....

253:

Dirk, see the grasping at straws, part of my comment

254:

What-ifs have no bearing on the question raised by the initial post, by a specific author who found herself becoming invisible. There's no reason to talk about imaginary late-career Mary Gentle (or anybody else imaginary) when there are multiple real people in the thread talking about their own real experiences.

255:

My how this thread has grown when I've been away climing mountains.

Another example of what has been discussed - I rahter enjoyed Gail Carrigers books, and noted an author photograph on the cover of some or in some publicity online. IMagine my surprise to find her own actual website and realise that the photos of her had been extremely artfully posed and taken to basically make her look younger and prettier in the approved way. Or so it looked to me.

256:

As for becoming invisible, how many male authors over 60 are still publishing? I suspect that most people give up writing because either they are not making much money and its not worth the effort, or they have made enough so that continuing to write is not a necessity. The only ones we see who are successful and still publishing are the observation bias ones.
Ian Watson, who I mentioned earlier, disappeared off my screen apparently because he started writing stuff I would never touch, like Warhammer novels. Presumably for the money because the excellent early stuff just didn't pay the bills.

257:

It suddenly occurs to me that Julian May could be another example of this phenomenum. I can't niece I had forgotten about her until now. Although a credible case cN be made for simple retirement since she's 84 according to wiki. But I remember being surprised BITD that she hadn't been more prolific and her run rate seemed quite irrelgular. I don't actually recall if I'm correct in thinking the Many Coloured Land was huge in its time.

258:

Big enough for me to have bought the whole series

259:

Dirk, that's a reasonable point, I still have my tattered seventies Watson paperbacks, and I thought he was bloody brilliant, if he had to start writing Warhammer.....
Similarly, we could look at Bruce Sterling, who I think wrote the three best novels in succession ever, in Holy Fire, heavy Weather and Distraction
However, the fact we can find examples of this kind, does not mean that there isnt systemic bias in the publishing industry to women once they become middle-aged
the number of authors whom I know who have chimed in on this thread, makes believe that however blinkered and ridiculous the premise sounds, it may be true

260:

The question is, what to do about it.

If there are a fixed number of publishing houses, and they publish a fixed number of books, and most of them are owned by large companies that require a high return on investment, then what's in it for them to be more diverse, and to support more writers who have fewer sales?

--It appears, from the outside, that they have to justify any choice they make in terms of sales. Can they do that by carrying established but less-performing writers, people in under-represented communities for any genre, etc.?

--Can they market to under-represented readers? Case in point: I belong to a large and mixed-race family. Several of my non-white nieces pretty much stopped reading when they got out of middle school, so Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings were about as far as they got. I have absolutely no idea how to get them back into SFF. They're online constantly and are currently into Korean drama videos. Anyone know how to write the book that will get them to be SFF fans again? This is a silly example, but hopefully you see the point. If you want to increase diversity in the field, it's girls like these you need to attract with your products. How can SFF marketing reach out and pull them back in?

--Can they support under-performing writers? This is a problem for most businesses, and as in many businesses, people who have to balance work-family loads and/or health issues are the ones who tend to get hurt the worst.

I'm not saying this is fair, I'm not saying discrimination is right or useful, but I am suggesting that it's symptomatic of structural problems in our society.

261:

There is systemic bias throughout society when it comes to people over 40. And old engineering joke I once heard, now out of fashion:
Q: What do you do with a 40 year old engineer?
A: Take him out and shoot him

One guy I work with is in his late 50s and he told me he was offered a job at a hitech startup on condition he dyed his white hair dark. They were the enlightened ones. Presumably most of the others just dumped his CV after they saw how much was on it.

262:

Complety wrong what-ifs allow us to map the scope and shape of this thing and ensure that this isn't just another internet echo chamber with a handful of vocal posters - more data is always good.

Also we ponteially can understand if it has evolved over time - gender and age politics and the publishing industry itself have evolved so it's a possible this has to - say maybe from a conscious bias to an unconcious one.

263:

To me, that is a VERY SICK bad joke...
Having done an engineering MSc at age 44/45 and got ..
how many days paid employment as a result?
Zero.
Meanwhile, politicians & "business leaders" keep telling us:
"We can't get the trained (or educated as the case may be) staff.
LIARS all of them

264:

If we are still listing the missing: Kristine Smith and Patricia Anthony were two promising writers who I have not seen any sign of lately.

265:

In the (small) company I work for, almost all the engineers and scientists under 40 are foreign born. A few others are much older, like me. AFAIK I am the oldest person in the company and I apparently got the job because they were looking for a generalist with wide experience - s/w, electronics, physics and some chem knowledge. The bit that impressed them was my answer to the usual BS PR question: "What technical achievement are you most proud of".
Turned out it was my attempted replication of a NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Project of a pseudo-reactionless drive by Woodward.
BTW, what was you MSc in?

266:

Heteromeles
I had some of those thoughts myself, if I remember correctly 25,000 sales is considered a good result for a mid-list author, so tiny income and in the US that means the other 9,999 people didn't buy your book
If you have have the self discipline, talent and experience to be a mid-list author, you can almost certainly be earning more doing something else
I have ended up doing technical writing, and I am fairly sure I am earning a lot more per word than most authors.
However, we have some strong testimony above that women of a certain age stop being published, and the fact that that might even be true, has challenged me to search out things that the imdustry may have refused to promote at me
So Judith et al, if nothing else may well get some sales from me

267:

And final fun fact, I follow 61 people on Twitter and five of the female authors
In this thread are in that 61, and three of them I have never read
So obviously on some sub-conscious level this has been bugging me, probably started when I did my big whatever happened to Linda Nagata search on line

268:

As it happens, I've been reading the book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett. He has a section on how some of the things one learns — such as a derogatory attitude towards people with ginger hair — might be stored in the brain.

One way, he suggests, is as subtle pieces of cognitive machinery which tweak all sorts of parameters in the rest of one's cognitive machinery. In the case of ginger-haired people, this tweaking might, for example, make one more aggressive towards them, less likely to think well of their abilities, and so on. Googling "a thing about redheads dennett" will find a few versions of his discussion, including that in his book. (Google Books lets me see all the text.)

His point is that the things one learns do not necessarily have to be stored as sentences in a Language Of Thought. Mine is that his example shows how pervasive and hard to adjust such attitudes might be.

269:

My point is that attitudes can be adjusted. If we're aware, if we watch for the unconscious assumptions, if we question and point out and if necessary raise some hell, we can shift the narrative.

I'm watching the script play out here like a performance of "How to Suppress Women's Writing," and watching some attitudes shift even as others dig themselves ever deeper. Amid the barking of the sea lions and the keening of the denialists and the siren song of the "men suffer TOO"ists, there's a thin thread of, "Hey, maybe I am biased." My work will never be done, but that's a good result for the time being.

270:

There is also the script which says "I am a consumer and I don't particularly care about the workers". I'm afraid that is where most of my conscious bias lies. I have other issues that are far closer to my ethical center (assuming I have one) than SF writers woes. For me SF is a tiny part of my life and is solely entertainment I can take or leave. I'm really not interested in the internal industrial politics of publishing.
And the only reason I'm in this thread is because it's a Sunday night and I'm bored.

271:

Okay, the name is vaguely familiar to me too. I only hung around c.l.p.* and a.s.r, only for around 5 years and stopped pretty much altogether about 15 years ago. I don't recall what "meowers" were, perhaps they were before or after my time?

272:

It's way past my bedtime now. Tomorrow I'm going to try to list every fiction author I remember reading, to see how the split goes. (Unreliable, given my memory for names, but I'm curious.)

Done the list (well, jotted names down all morning, as they occurred to me). 22 male, 16 female for SFF authors I've read. Which I think only proves that my memory for names really sucks, as I know I've read way more authors than this. (And some of them it was only one book I didn't really enjoy, so I have no idea why I remember their name.

Looking through the SFF on my iPad, I get 48 male, 34 female, with half a dozen I don't know (either can't figure out from name, or only initials). About half of these are old favourites replacing the books gone to my nephew (like the complete Terry Pratchett set), the rest were picked up to read when I have time. Only about a third overlap with the list from memory, which I think is further evidence my memory is unreliable.

273:

Probably 1998/1999, alt.religion.asatru among a few others. After a while the "war" got so serious most people on either side did not want to continue with the escalation. In the end the main perp exited the scene rather abruptly. There was a rumor of his death, but I don't really believe it. More likely was the possibility of him being outed and having his career ended.

274:

The question is, what to do about it.

If there are a fixed number of publishing houses, and they publish a fixed number of books, and most of them are owned by large companies that require a high return on investment, then what's in it for them to be more diverse, and to support more writers who have fewer sales?

I'll guess. There are fixed costs for publishing paper, and variable costs. If an author pays off the costs and makes a profit, what's the problem?

I will guess that the limiting factor is that paper bookstores have limited shelf space. A book has to be on the shelves long enough to get bought, so they can display only a limited number of titles. The best-sellers take up a lot of that space leaving room for a limited number of others.

So if an author is mid-list, there is the question of their prospects. Are their sales going up or down? You want to prune the ones with limited prospects so you can try out others.

But if it isn't paper, things are different. You can keep selling the same book as long as anyone wants to buy. If somebody at random buys one of your e-books and really likes it, they may come back for the rest. They may tell their friends about it. (And they may pirate it.)

Traditional book sales depend on epidemics. Infect as many people as possible, quickly. The new model may be endemic. You can hope for an irregular trickle of sales that continues until you lose copyright.

One thing which could help with that would be if someone were to host a sort of semantic web of titles. You tell the website "I really liked Red Mars, what is there that's similar to that?" and it shows you things that other readers thought were similar. Maybe you'll like the others. Maybe you could list two or three or more things you like, and it tries to triangulate among them.

The more effort your readers spend describing your work in ways that other people -- particularly people who will like it -- can find it, the better your long-term sales will be. They don't need to say how it's similar (though they can do that), intangible similarities are fine provided people like the result.

There would be little pressure to write a book a year. Write good things that you like doing, and it might be a significant help to your retirement. Or maybe not. More room for semi-pro.

People might accept things like a collection of novelettes that fit into a grand theme. Not so big an investment on your part outside your day job, not so big an investment for them to get started into them. Giant sprawling novel series are for people who have a lot of time on their hands, readers and writers both.

Possibly something like crowd-sourcing might work. You ask for money to write something. The people who pay get it first. Sometime later -- maybe a year, maybe less -- you release it for free and it helps bring in funding for the next one. People can cheat on you, but they have the opportunity to be patrons.

I don't know what the possibilities really are. But it doesn't need to work anything like the old model. And yet the old model paid a few authors very very well. There's no guarantee that anything will replace that.

275:

Hi Rex,

I'm not saying that women writers are wrong in any way about their testimony and the evidence from their lives. Whether that leads to a correct diagnosis of the problem or a solution to it is another question.

The reason I'm playing devil's advocate is that I'm an enviornmentalist, and I've spent the last five years tending a last-of-its-kind oak stand that was closed to the public because mountain bikers carved a bunch of trails through it and insisted that their recreational needs had to be satisfied, because all the other trails they had illegally built were getting built-over by nearby housing developments. Environmentalists had been working since 1990 to preserve those oaks, and the bikers showed up in 2005. I showed up in 2010, and managed to get some influence in part by being a botanist, and more by taking a hoe out and maintaining the trails and doing a lot of weeding as a park volunteer while I talked with the bikers.

What I've heard over the years is a lot of middle-aged people, mostly white, mostly well off, coming up with elaborate theories about why they're being picked on, why their recreational needs are being ignored, and why people like me are the problem. Now, the agencies that own the land didn't do a very good job on talking with the bikers or pointing who owned what, and it took seven years of arguing to get a trails plan out that closed a bunch of the bikers' trails. Now I'm defending it against some loud-mouths who don't understand that their preferred trails plan would be illegal, and that fighting over which trails should be open is distracting the coalition of mountain bikers and environmentalists from dealing with the big effin' shopping center and dense housing development they want to build right next to this last-of-its-kind oak stand.

So yes, I trust people to know when their interests have been damaged. I seldom trust them (or myself) to know what the best answer is, until we have a bit more data. This isn't a "we need more data until the problem dies of old age" approach, this is trying to get beyond the "simple, clear, and wrong" solution to what appears to be a hellishly complex problem that we really need to do something about.

And I'm sorry if this offends Ms. Tarr.

276:

In the end the main perp exited the scene rather abruptly. There was a rumor of his death, but I don't really believe it.

That's exactly how it went in the book! I vaguely remember he was divorced, he didn't have a lot of visitation rights with his children who didn't much like him, he had an accident that would have surely kill him, and he disappeared into the future.

He's probably the model for that character.

277:

Well, I can only hope he is dead. That would make my day...
[You may notice a trace of unforgivingness here, and get an idea of how bitterly all this went down and how close it came to some real physical damage]

278:

In other words, everyone has their pet cause. I can sympathize with both of your problems, but in the end they are not mine. I have my own, which would probably be just as boring to you all. I won't go out of my way to ride my trail bike over your oaks, or put a book back on the shelf if I notice it is a female author. But that's where my involvement ends.

279:

@heteromeles I work in environmental clean ups, and I have massive personal issues about wether the dollars I spend are well spent, the issues are complex and a right answer is not obvious
Nevertheless, if you want to discuss further, it would most probably be polite to discuss further off this thread my email is rexgatch@yahoo.co.uk
Regards

280:

Belittling. That's a big one on the Suppression list. We've seen a lot of it here.

281:

Its one I trot out every time someone tries to involve me in their "issue". So, what do you really expect of me? Why don't you tell me what I can actually do to make a difference in this issue - besides spending my time or money on it?

282:

Pure curiosity here, not trying to troll.

Why are you being so defensive about being dragged into her "issue"?

This is an open thread ... you aren't obliged to comment on it, nor to take anything away from it.

Besides spending time and or money ... that's pretty much the only way to get anything done. At all.
Either through time spent talking with people or money spent getting it done yourself.

283:

Seconding this. You're coming off as though just by existing and speaking, we're somehow demanding your engagement and effort and that's not it.

Want some good SF? We got a bundle for you. Or if you'd like some names of people you might have overlooked in your reading -- that you're likely to have overlooked, in some cases -- we're providing this too. Want to talk about why some of that overlooking is happening? Plenty of entirely optional conversational on that subject too.

Thanks to everyone who's buying the bundle -- I hope to see you at Worldcon next week!

284:

Bloody hell...of all the depressing posts in this thread (and let's face it there have been a few) you had to get the worst one in early.

Be honest, I don't know what the answer is. There's obviously a problem but whether it's with the publishing industry or the audience I don't know. Reading the rest of the thread I'm inclined to think six of one, half a dozen of the other.

285:

What it sounds like is the local Catholic priest trawling through the faithful eliciting confessions of sin, and the biggest sin is refusing to confess.

"You're coming off as though just by existing and speaking, we're somehow demanding your engagement and effort and that's not it."

It seems very much like that to me.

286:

BTW, as I mentioned, most of my SF now comes from podcasts where female writers appear to be as equally well represented as male.
Except when I mentioned that I got an extra dose of "unconscious bias" dismissal, and when I actually did a little work to illustrate the truth of my impressions I got silence.
Anyway, since the only book I intend to buy this year is Charles latest (unless there is a new Harry Dresden novel or GoT) I am not your target audience because I'm not spending $$$

287:

Dirk, Greg, MODERATION NOTICE: Please shut up about ageism in engineering already, this is not a suitable thread for that topic and you are derailing the discussion. (Your point is valid; I'm just asking you to stop because you're drowning out an interesting debate.)

288:

My point is that attitudes can be adjusted. If we're aware, if we watch for the unconscious assumptions, if we question and point out and if necessary raise some hell, we can shift the narrative.

I enjoy doing that kind of thing too.

But consider -- Marx devoted his life to showing that the economic system was unfair to workers. Eventually a whole lot of people agreed. The system is unfair to workers. And the result has been ... what?

Now, just for the moment, assume Marx was right. Still, it's worse for people who can't get jobs. Just like in the slavery days it wasn't great being a slave, but being somebody with no food that nobody would even accept as a slave was even worse.

And let's go farther and say that automation is removing a whole lot of jobs, and making the competition for remaining jobs even harder.

And make one last assumption, that blacks have it harder, the job selection process is even more unfair to them than it is to others.

Conclusion -- we can convince people that blacks have it bad. Easy to get evidence for that. Harder to get specific evidence about illegal hiring behavior. Once we convince people that the system is unfair to blacks, maybe we can eventually get a whole lot of HR departments to hire more blacks and fewer of everybody else. Of course in general HR workers have no more concept of being fair to job applicants than ginseng hunters do of being fair to ginseng plants. They're just doing their jobs. But they can hire more blacks if that's what they're supposed to do.

That will make it less unfair to blacks. It's still unfair to workers generally, and unfair to people who try their best to get jobs but can't. Yet the bad system evens out some between blacks and non-blacks.

Of course that was an entirely hypothetical situation. I can't prove that Marx was right, or that jobs are declining, or much of it.

But I think we do better to try to understand how the system works, than to just assume that other people have unconscious biases that keep them from seeing our truth, and that if we explain it enough they will see we are right.

If we figure out how it works, we may find ways to manipulate it in our favor, or build something better and then break the old system.

I've seen the hypothesis that readers looking for new authors tend not to read women they haven't read before. (I'm pretty sure if they've read something of yours and liked it a lot, then your name will not keep them from reading the second story.) That would imply that new authors would do better not to use names that are obviously female.

I've seen the hypothesis that publishers tend to allow women shorter writing careers than men. I don't see a way to use that. I can't tell how true it is. How many men that you can't remember have shortened publishing careers?

Publishers might be less likely to accept new women authors. If so, then agents would be less likely to accept new women authors.

You have shown evidence that agents are less likely to accept new women authors. It's a single study and it could suffer from unconscious bias. Like, the choice of which agents to send which submission might have an unconscious bias. But it looks plausible. Again, the obvious response is not to present a female name until after the agent is interested, and then see what you can learn. If your agent is disappointed to have a woman client, he/she might reveal why.

If the old model of publishing is failing, you might do better to figure out how to do better. You don't want to be the rat trying hard to climb into a sinking ship.

In general, people who are looking for something new to read are not thinking about being fair to authors. They just want something they like. Similarly, publishers and agents are not thinking about being fair to authors. They just want a product that will sell.

I personally try to avoid libertarian writers. They tend to be too preachy, and I don't like it. I very much like what I've read of Vernor Vinge, though. He has a solid libertarian background but he doesn't preach about it. (Sometimes I have trouble with suspension of disbelief, like with the libertarian cottage-industry computer chip guys who produced computer chips in secret and the authorities couldn't find them. But I could still read the story.)

I tend to avoid feminist SF writers for the same reason. They write stuff that isn't fun for me in a preachy way. But I've read everything I can find from Joanna Russ, including the preachiest stuff. It's something about the way she did it.

289:

J Thomas, YELLOW CARD:

I think you might just have been very clumsy with your wording, which is why this isn't a red card ban right now, but, just so it's clear to everyone: this blog has a zero-tolerance policy towards apologias for slavery.

290:

Dirk, YELLOW CARD.

You are gumming up this discussion with MeMeMeMe!!! posts that don't illuminate the issue and just emit large amounts of smoke and noise about the state of the matter between your ears.

Stop doing that.

Either engage constructively in the discussion, or go somewhere else. I don't mind which. But if you keep shitting in the nest, you're heading for a ban.

291:

readers looking for new authors tend not to read women they haven't read before

Hmm. I think I know what you're trying to say, but pretty much the definition of a new author is one you haven't read before ;)

Actually that's a good point.
Since I shifted countries a decade ago, I've been having increasing difficulty picking up new authors, particularly in SF, where I'm not so widely read any more. And a lot of that comes down to a lack of good library resources near me.

Growing up, I had a superb library system available, that had a well curated SF&F section. That lets you regularly try out new authors without the financial risk of actually buying a book. I then branched out to second hand shops, where I could track down the back catalogues of authors I had heard of, or seen named in the back of other books.

These days all I can do is buy full priced books from a grand total of three stores ... in London, a capital city. Anywhere else, the selection is so poor as to not be worth my effort.
(I'm ignoring BigRiver on principle, and have a strong preference for physically browsing to find new stuff, although the web is good for sourcing specific titles)

If you're a newer reader, just starting out looking for SF works ... the options available in the standard bookstores are severely limited. The options for female authors are probably extremely poor, but also so are your chances of finding all the books in a popular series together, unless the newest has just come out and they've all been given new covers.

These days the main ways I learn about potential books are either through Tor.com, which regularly gave new release info, through a few blogs like this one who occasionally go "check this out", or from the new section in Forbidden Planet once every few months. SFSite used to be good, before they closed up shop. I've also spent much of the past two years working my way through the back catalogues of a lot of the bigger names, who I never had the opportunity to read before they appeared as electronic copies. Ironically that includes a number of names mentioned above, although I have to be honest and admit that until Judith popped up on Tor for the Melanie Rawn reread I didn't actually realise she was still alive.
(And was very pleased to see she was!)
A literal publish or perish as it were.

292:

Fixed. Someone got to Tanith Lee before me, but you are now both listed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:British_science_fiction_writers. It only needed the addition of the correct category tag to your entry.

BTW, been a fan of your writing for years, especially the Detective Inspector Chen stories.

293:

The article is correct. Just as women have been in the field (both the narrower field of science fiction and the broader field of SF/F) from the get-go, the response to women in the field has been like my aunt in a wildlife refuge she wanted to visit. She stomped around loudly for an hour demanding to know where the birds were, not seeing any birds...because she didn't really look. Women writers in every branch of the broad field are here, were here decades before I was published, are still here and still invisible to those who haven't quietly walked along the shelves and noticed them.

Women writing epic fantasy are told "women don't write epic fantasy" just as women writing straight-up science fiction are told "women don't write science fiction." That what they write "isn't really" what it is, or that it won't sell and they should write something else. And of course that they should be writing something else. Urban fantasy with a sexy kick-ass heroine. "Soft" science fiction. Always with the romance. (Though, when women's books do have a even a slight romance element, they're slammed for that on the grounds of contaminating the purity of whatever-it-is. Ooooh...got girlie cooties all over it with that touchy-feely stuff...)

Anyone remember the great Cover Reveal of a few years ago? Women written books too often get covers approved by marketing, which reinforces the notion that only women by women-written books and they want a romance. I had to be extremely firm to prevent one of those on my last book (having lost sales on a previous book in that group because of a cover that looked exactly like a romance novel. I was told, by some regular readers, that they could not buy that book with that cover.) Nobody puts a middle-aged female main character in a scarlet sexy dress plunging down to there on one of George R.R. Martin's or Brandon Sanderson's big fantasy novels.

So yeah. Structural sexism. It's there. A lot of us don't talk about it much because annoying one's editors, their bosses, the art department, marketing department, buyers for the retailers, and reviewers looks like a losing strategy. And writers whose careers haven't gotten traction, or are sliding down, feel isolated, feel sure that anything they say will be used against them. But accepting it without saying anything doesn't change the situation, or the downward slide of too many good writers. Invisibility is not defense. So go look at the shelves. Look at the women writers with 10, 20, 30 and more novels, dozens of shorter works. Then read them. Not just the new ones, though those also need to be recognized, but those still publishing after decades of good work.

294:

I think you might just have been very clumsy with your wording, which is why this isn't a red card ban right now, but, just so it's clear to everyone: this blog has a zero-tolerance policy towards apologias for slavery.

I don't consider that an apology for slavery at all. In slavery days, some people got a choice between slavery and death. Not a good thing. Some other people were not offered slavery but only death. This is if anything worse.

The idea that sometimes some people were given only something worse is not at all saying that slavery was good enough.

295:

Thanks for bringing Paksennarion to our shelves; it is appreciated. I always assumed writing was a tough gig, that woman generally have things worse in general and that this area would be no exception. However, it is depressing to find that people whom I always considered to be at the "top of the food chain" encounter these issues as well. And I still have the lingering subconscious impression from childhood that people who had books all over the store's shelves must be the most successful people in the world. The internet has really put a dent in that notion.

296:

If you're really interested in getting young readers like your niece back into SFF (y'know, teenagers who prefer kdramas to reading?) It would help a lot to cultivate a culture that respects SFF fiction targeted at teens, even if it has icky romance cooties too. Heck, develop a culture that respects straight up romance. Kids have no incentive to engage with an environment that doesn't respect them. And while viewing young people as nothing more than blank templates to clone your own preferences onto is a very SFF idea, it's not how you attract new readers.

297:

I tend to avoid feminist SF writers for the same reason. They write stuff that isn't fun for me

IMHO that says more about you than those you categorise as "feminist SF"...

I like to try new things. I'll read things I don't naturally align with, at least once (I draw the line at ignorant fanboys for torture and the SS, so no more Kratman). I'm not a communist, but I enjoy Ian Macleod; I'm not a libertarian, but I'll enjoy Michael Z Williamson. I'm a Kinsey Zero, but I loved China Mountain Zhang, and Tricia Sullivan's work, and Ethan of Athos. Elizabeth Moon does better MilSF than most I've read (helps being one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, I suppose); I really enjoyed LMB's Chalion series.

But I don't regard female authors as "challenging myself" - all those I listed, I really enjoyed. What, decent characterisation and interaction, even "gooey stuff" ;), rather than wooden cutouts and a naive rollcall of weaponry and tactics? Count me in. As I said, I increasingly find myself choosing female over male authors if I'm faced with two plausible unknown-to-me authors' works, for the reasons I gave earlier. This month it was Erika Johansen and Jane Lindskold...

298:

"One thing which could help with that would be if someone were to host a sort of semantic web of titles. You tell the website "I really liked Red Mars, what is there that's similar to that?" and it shows you things that other readers thought were similar. Maybe you'll like the others. Maybe you could list two or three or more things you like, and it tries to triangulate among them."

Not titles but authors. As this website tracks "liking" rather than "buying" it might be interesting to see if females and males cluster in groups. ie. do people tend to like one particular gender. I'm not seeing that on first look. http://www.literature-map.com/charles+stross.html

299:

Seconding PrivateIron, thanks for Vatta as well. I pointed my just-teenage son at Paksenarrion and Vatta, he tore through them all.

300:

So go look at the shelves. Look at the women writers with 10, 20, 30 and more novels, dozens of shorter works. Then read them. Not just the new ones, though those also need to be recognized, but those still publishing after decades of good work.

As Mayhem and others have pointed out, it's hard to find books you're looking for in bookstores. Mostly they have the books that are being pushed onto them this month.

You can try a library. I have a great library system that has a lot of different books among its various branches, and they'll send them to the branch I prefer if I ask them to. They tend to get rid of older books and not replace them except for the most famous ones.

So for Algis Budrys they have Who?, not his best work, in a book with four other classic novels by other writers. That's all.

For Alfred Bester they have five titles.

RA Lafferty has none.

Patricia McKillip has 20.

For Andre Norton they have 52, I didn't go through to search for repeats.

Nothing at all for Joanna Russ.

Their ebooks section has two for Andre Norton that they also have in paper, none for the others.

My library tends to be pretty quick, too. By the time they let people read a book it's usually available in paperback, though typically too late to get in hardback.

It's one way to find new authors without paying. Another way is they sometimes have some free stuff online. It might seem counterintuitive to give away your great writing for free, but you catch more fish if you use bait....

301:

I'm not a communist, but I enjoy Ian Macleod;

Thank you, I'll try him. I like Steven Brust but he doesn't put his politics into his novels in any obvious way.

I'm not a libertarian, but I'll enjoy Michael Z Williamson.

I'll try him. I've only found one libertarian I liked so far, I'd be happy to have two.

I'm a Kinsey Zero, but I loved China Mountain Zhang,

Same here.

and Tricia Sullivan's work,

I'm pretty sure I haven't read any of hers. Thank you. I notice her publication schedule: 1995, 1997, 1999, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014. She's slowed down but still getting published.

and Ethan of Athos.

Yes.

Elizabeth Moon does better MilSF than most I've read (helps being one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, I suppose);

I read one of hers and didn't much like it. Reading a little about others on Wikipedia, they sound interesting. I'll try more.

I really enjoyed LMB's Chalion series.

Same here.

This month it was Erika Johansen and Jane Lindskold...

I'll watch for those.

I like lots of women writers. I tend not to like science fiction stories where the author preaches about an ideology.

302:

Elizabeth Moon -immediately- comes to mind (ok, maybe because I've been reading a lot of her novels recently and because she wrote one of the best novels (The Speed of Dark) I have _ever_ read with an autistic/ASpergers main character - was even better on the rereading; go read, I say...) - but ... I agree with the thesis, not the dissenting comments...

303:

Libraries have increasingly moved to using circulation numbers to guide their buying and shelf weeding policies. That mirrors bookstores enough that it eliminates the countervailing force that my public library offered when I was a kid. Whether through shrewd intuition or probably just laziness, our librarian tended to buy starred Kirkus selections and then loyally buy subsequent books by that author (and acquire paperback copies of their back catalog). That translated into devouring entire series during endless holiday reading binges, with the newest books often reserved months in advance at the bookstore. Aggregated across dozens of libraries, such policies probably boosted sales of loads of new authors, including women.

Now sophisticated cataloging software highlights the low circulation of a new book and dooms future purchases from an author. Hell, some integrated systems algorithmically create buy lists every month and shoot them off to Ingram. Worse, the formulaic weeding policy often sees the 2nd and 4th book in a five book series pulled from the shelf because they don't circulate well enough.

It's harder for new authors to break into the comfortable zone of being on the library automatic-buy list (and so many libraries share purchase policies that can guarantee a few hundred to several thousand sales).

I suspect that women are pushed off the cliff first by publishers since there's already so many available rationalizations ready to fire off to explain poor sales. Editors certainly find it more palatable to recite a generalization "people don't buy sf by women authors" than to look a man in the face and state "you're just not a good enough writer."

304:

politicians & "business leaders" keep telling us:
"We can't get the trained (or educated as the case may be) staff.
LIARS all of them

Oh, it's true, but incomplete. You're just not hearing the second, silent part of that sentence — the bit that goes "…who will work for £12,000 a year."

305:

(And have also read and enjoyed many works by Bujold, Cherryh, have read so far somewhat fewer by Willis - but I'll also readily admit that of 842 pages listed

in this Wikipedia category (some of whom, of course, by the definition of the category, are not our contemporaries - e.g. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860-1935), a higher percentage draw a memory blank for me than among men or in the category as a whole. Unfortunately!)

306:

http://www.literature-map.com/charles+stross.html

Thank you! Gnod is just what I was asking for!

307:

You're right that digital distribution can remove a lot of barriers, but the traditionally-published authors in this thread are on the nice side of those barriers. On the other side of those barriers are millions of obscure writers who can't get past the slushpile of a major publisher. For OGH and those like him, tearing down the barriers is less like liberation and more like the final reel of a zombie film.

308:

Libraries have increasingly moved to using circulation numbers to guide their buying and shelf weeding policies.

I've got a friend who has a list of books she and her husband sign out, keep a week, and return, so that they aren't moved to the 'not circulating' list and weeded out.

Which might be a good strategy for encouraging libraries to get/keep books by certain authors.

309:

... in this Wikipedia category (some of whom, of course, by the definition of the category, are not our contemporaries - e.g. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860-1935), a higher percentage draw a memory blank for me than among men or in the category as a whole.

I may be having an incompetent moment, but I couldn't find a similar category for male writers.

And the two general lists -- one for science fiction writers and one for fantasy writers, which overlapped a lot -- neither of them had many of the women in the women's list whose names began with A. I couldn't see how to compare.

I did find this:
http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2013/07/10/sexism-in-genre-publishing-a-publishers-perspective

A woman editor at TOR UK published some inadequate stastistics.

Out of 503 submissions in 6 months, about 2/3 were from men.

This was split into subgenres.

Historical/epic/high-fantasy was 2/3 men.
Science fiction was about 4/5 men.
Urban fantasy/paranormal romance was about 3/5 women.

They don't say how big any one subcategory was, so we can't tell much about how reliable the figures are even under assumptions that they don't change much over time. And it was Britain and not the USA.

To the extent we can depend on these numbers, we should expect four times as many submissions from men as from women in science fiction. Assuming the quality is the same, that would give four times as many published novels from men, and four times as many best sellers from men, in science fiction.

Hard to tell about fantasy, because their categories are split badly for that purpose. But averaged over a collection of sub-genres, about twice as many men.

One possible interpretation of this is that women have been discriminated against so much that they don't submit as many manuscripts. It isn't an argument that it isn't discrimination. But it brings up the possibility that part of the discrimination could be at the level of the woman writers, instead of agents, publishers, and readers.

Another observation -- TOR UK adds about four new writers a year. (That appears to be 2 out of 503. Not good odds.) Maybe they can keep expanding their list. But when they reach steady state, and must prune as many old authors each year as they add new ones, that's 4 old authors who must go to allow room for the new ones. New authors have a potential for greatness, and only time will tell how well they do.

If it was me choosing which old authors to let go, I'd want to choose the ones that seem to have the least potential. I wouldn't expect those to be women, but they could be. It would be a subjective choice, and it could possibly be anybody in the lower half of sales, and anybody who missed deadlines.

310:

Amid the barking of the sea lions and the keening of the denialists and the siren song of the "men suffer TOO"ists, there's a thin thread of, "Hey, maybe I am biased." My work will never be done, but that's a good result for the time being.

I made a promise in an earlier thread not to cause our host undue irritation when he's on a tour that protects his lively hood and so on.

Sadly, looks like I'm not a significant attractor to prevent it.

Ah, but... if and only if, you'd read the Greek and learnt the lessons therein:

The Grief of Achilles, and New Armour Made Him by Vulcan

If nothing else, I have an extreme sense of irony and an ability to see in 4D. Read the fucking links and quotations already, it saves us all a lot of time.


~


At any rate: I've not contributed, because, honestly, I don't think I should:

So many great women have posted here, who have spent their lives enriching other's imaginations, it's been an honour just to read it. (Although, I am somewhat Dionysian, and would love to party and hoot at the moon with them all, no matter their chronological age).


~

Wiggle. You peeps are fucking fantastic, and I love ever moment spent in your imaginations!

Love! Not sure that's ok here. Perhaps: deep and mature respect, I will give you a medallion that denotes the privileges and respect of our class bestown upon you so that we might be able to see you as an almost-outsider-equal.


And, yeah. That's the crux of the matter.


(I'd do the Greek, but hey. No-one reads it or cares anymore)

311:

But, no: REALLY

WIGGLE

WIGGLE

WIGGLE

So many great writers here!!

(!!!)

312:

Ironic re-appropriation of a sexist 70's song: Oh, it's gotta be done.

Whole lotta love [YouTube: music: 5:35]

And if you need it parsed... the woman writers are the ones singing it, and the men are listening.


(Circle closed. Tripartite done. New history engaged)

313:

Hi there!
I'm a woman, and I've stopped writing romance in the 20th century, mostly!
I've started publishing only in 2011 and it's mostly fantasy with some science fantasy. Not many love stories. Probably because that's not what interests me at the moment! ;)
Here's to a new world of equality between writers of all sexes!
QUILTBAG Barb

314:

Ugh, forgetting English semantics, so an apology. (And sorry - it's only supposed to be a x3 post, this is manners, incarnate).

"You" there is vocative and not 2nd personal. It's not directed at the person I was responding to, it's a "Oh, lucky man" statement. "Oh, you! Who stands before the edge of..."

Sigh. I prefer ancient Greek. Not knowing Sumerian these days I can forgive, but losing these ladders into your modernity is hard.

p.s.


I won't bend or break


315:

I'm fairly sure, given the calibre of writers in this thread, a self-link won't harm anyone.

316:

General *cheer* for having this discussion. It needs to keep being be said, apparently. Discrimination against female SF writers exists (and it's not the only discrimination, sadly).

Second, thanks, Judith, for posting the blog link and the storybundle. Well worth it, and very nicely curated. Keep flying!

317:

Note: I'm also keeping an eye on Charlie's polite warning @ 287, so I'll try to be careful.

Not just £12 000 a year, but also, because "young", gullible & inexperienced enough to let (mis)management's little tricks & deceptions to screw you around - a principal reason for ageism, I suspect.
Even worse for women, of course, because "older woman" + cynical & won't-be-cheated woman - a definite non-no from most employers' p.o.v.
Um.

Yeah, well ( sand14 @ 316 ) .....
And we are coming up to the err, controversial Hugo awards, are we not?
Um, again.

318:

Soon Lee - thank you very much, both for your comments and your editing of the Wiki entry.

I must apologise if this point has been made before - I'm working with a badly cracked screen and have tried to read through all entries, but may have missed something.

One point I would like to make is regarding promotion. Most publishers don't do much of it, unless you're already well known: Game of Thrones will get promo'd much more than First Novel. First novels are usually expected to sink or swim, unless they have something unusual behind them like a big advance deal. I consider myself lucky to have had the run I had, which is typical oif a declining midlist writer: a set of standard paperback runs, a foray into hardback in the UK, and then deals with much smaller houses. Of this, we all know about Night Shade; of Prime, Paula Guran was very professional and Sean Wallace not at all. I'm grateful not to be dealing with either outfit.

However, I am currently reprinted by Open Road in New York, who describe themselves as marketers more than publishers and they have been excellent: they do more to market the Chen novels and to keep me informed than any other publishing organisation I've worked with, including Bantam and Macmillan. And I have higher royalties from them than from anyone else.

So books do sell if you promote them. Who knew?

319:

Sandra MacDonald has an interesting trilogy starting with The Outback Stars.

Kristine Smith published a series of five books out a documents specialist named Jani Killian starting with Code of Conduct

320:

"So books do sell if you promote them. Who knew?"

Quite. Which is why I said that one effective solution is to set up an alternative system. I find the differing experiences of the female authors thought-provoking, but I am not sure how to interpret it. I am sure that investigating it in detail would be enlightening but, as with all genuine research, the answer isn't clear in advance. Overall, I think that heteromeles summed the situation up well in 275.

321:

Just an a slightly interesting single data point, I took some recommendations from the above discussion and hit my local library with a set of inter-library loan requests.

Got back an eMail today regarding Spangler's "Digital Divide", stating "going to have to cancel the request above as we have been unable obtain a loan copy of this item in the UK and there are no international locations". WorldCat comes up very nearly blank as well. Some of these did not sell well.

322:

"When a man wrote it, it was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

And to add insult to injury, it was awful.

As my local bookshop is poor and my local library non existent I'm finding this thread v useful for picking up names.

Looking at the names on the covers of the books I have read in the last year I find that I have done quite poorly.

323:

I can think of one male friend who has this problem - he's been unpublished in-genre for years. And you do know him, in as much as you've shared a dinner table in the Jaipur on George Street with him and his (better published) wife. However this is a single counter-example to your list, and it's quite possible you weren't aware.

The difficulty is that it's all too easy not to notice those who are absent.

What might make an interesting project (Nicola, you listening this far down this thread?) would be to take the Campbell nominees and see what proportions of the males and of the females were still being published twenty years later.

Or in the case of Steph Swainston, even 10 years :(

324:

Disclaimer: I know I'm not representative and this comment is in no way intended to contradict Judith's point.

Aside a few old trusted male authors from whom I will buy basically anything, every last piece of fiction I have finished (note that I started way more than I finished, I'm pretty ruthless these days) during 2015 has been by a woman. I'm not gonna list them, too damn many, but I read primarily SF.

I didn't set out to do this, it just happened organically. Here's how: Ann Leckie's Ancillary books totally blew me away. In the process of looking for work of comparable quality many authors were recommended. The point of initial interest happened to be a woman author, so perhaps that influenced the recommendations. Almost certainly true for algorithms but I'd have thought not from actual people, at least not the ones I personally know.

Then I noticed that I was doing it, and in the wake of that caught up with the existence of efforts of the kind Kristine is engaged in, then focused on threads like this one, in that order.

Then last but not least, as a number of previous posters have pointed out,] this thread has itself functioned as a list of recommendations. After due research I will doubtless buy at least some of the books. Lots of tabs open in the background here to that end.

Points: 1. Most of the new SF that I have considered interesting enough to finish in the last 12 months has been by women. It may be that women's voices are the ones least content to rest on tradition, or just that it's been a great year for women writers, but there it is.

2. Contra sarcastic remarks belittling Kristine's effort, such things do in fact work. I accept that I'm an outlier but there will be others influenced to a smaller extent.

Incidental: despite the name, I'm male. cf Johnny Cash, A Boy Named Sue.

325:

Many writers are less visible in our culture than they should be. I personally struggle to recall the names of female writers even though I consciously attempt to favour women artists. Thanks to Judith Tarr for the pointer to StoryBundle and for kicking off an interesting discussion about pernicious biases, complete with many reminders.

Now off to add previously hard-to-find books by women authors to my ebook shopping basket. At least the recent increase in availability of ebook editions allow previously invisible books to be found, if one goes to the trouble of looking.

326:

First novels are usually expected to sink or swim, unless they have something unusual behind them like a big advance deal. I consider myself lucky to have had the run I had, which is typical of a declining midlist writer: a set of standard paperback runs, a foray into hardback in the UK, and then deals with much smaller houses.

Thank you for the data points.

Consider Harry Potter. Harry Potter is an example of a genre, there were various quite similar things written before, some of them in my opinion much better than HP book 1. But they sank or swam. Harry Potter got a lot of support.

Why did they choose her to turn into a best seller? Why not one of the others? I have the hypothesis that one of the vital criteria is that whoever chose, believed that she would reliably crank out sequels. If that's true, how did she convince him/her of that?

You can't do better than midlist unless your publisher wants you to, for paper books. You can't sell more than they print. Also, much of the funding they provide to market your book is likely not very effective. Say they have you go on book tours and sign autographs. Likely if you don't do this you will sell fewer books than if you do, but it couldn't generate all that many sales directly. Maybe it could help generate word-of-mouth sales if the people you meet really like you. I can't help but imagine that part of the purpose might be to show you that you aren't popular or important.

Meanwhile, if you go with a smaller publishing house they may not have the marketing clout to reliably get your books onto the shelves, much less spend much to publicize it.

So books do sell if you promote them. Who knew?

"Quite. Which is why I said that one effective solution is to set up an alternative system."

That has potential. Of course it means you or somebody has to do a lot of work that isn't writing. If you're innovative you might find something that works for you, that wouldn't work for everybody if everybody did it.

I read that Louis L'Amour used to take donuts early in the morning to the drivers who transported his books. Possibly his experience as a merchant seaman persuaded him that deliveries often didn't arrive, and if they liked him then his books were more likely to actually get to bookstores. That's probably less of an issue today.

The founder of the Mannheim Steamroller music team found that he couldn't break into the music distribution system. He couldn't get his music published. His works were very good for demonstrating high-priced stereo systems, so he started leaving them with places that sold audio equipment. The customers wanted to buy the music as well as the players, and he started making money and getting a following. Later he settled into one particular christmas music niche where he could reliably sell.

There might be special things you could do that would help you beat the competition. If everybody did them they wouldn't bring an advantage.

But if you could find a better way to cheaply connect ebooks to the buyers who would want them, then depending on how it was done it might bring in more income than writing.

327:

Alan, there's a very smelly back-story to said male author's publishing death spiral that I will not discuss in writing (ask me over a beer -- or ask him in person). Let's just say that active malice appears to have been involved.

328:

There are certain subjects where seemingly entirely uncontroversial statements produce voluminous angry debate, thus clearly justifying the original position. Feminism, as a whole, is one of these.

Reading Ms. Tarr's original post, I was conflicted -- it seemed information-free. But reading just a handful of comments (from regulars here, who are generally a fairly intelligent and sensitive lot by internet standards) reminded me why we have these posts, and why they don't tend to reach into unexplored territory. These ideas are still not only alien but somewhere inbetween inconceivable and enemy to a lot of otherwise worldly people, somehow.

329:

Ah, if malice is why you weren't counting him, then fair enough.

(I'm aware of the back story - he's usually pretty discreet, but if sat late night round the kitchen table with only friends in the house he can open up on the subject. It does come over as a particularly messy break up.)

330:

Do bookshops note if potential customers come in & ask for something & it's not even on their distribution lists, never mind "in-shop"?
This is getting depressingly common at my local Waterstone's ....

331:

Since my name has come up in this several times (followed the link from Eleanor Arnason's FaceBook page), I thought I'd drop round. I haven't been in IT since 2002, still friends with some of the people from the troll side of my former Usenet server and with some of the people from the sysadmin hierarchy side. Not everyone in any group is all one thing, and a lot of people have changed since then.

I'm now living in Nicaragua, have been since 2010. One of the huge things about living here was stepping outside US cultural biases. There's acceptance in the general culture of fiction writers, poets, and artists whether they're making a living at it or not. All of us in Anglo culture got bent by the "get big or get out" meme. There's also none of the stereotyping of computer culture (the prominent recent example was in the last season of "The Americans" with the computer guy being child-like). My computer and gamer friends are as socialized and good looking as Nicaraguans in general, and are not loners. The other huge thing was realizing that having a black grandfather or even father didn't make a person black. (Not that there isn't colorism). The other thing was that sexism here isn't about women being frivolous or less intelligent, as gendered as the society is. The national police force is lead by a woman. The sexism is based on women supposedly being treacherous.

Best known current Nicaraguan writer is a woman.

The other very large thing is that I'm introduced as a writer, not as a science fiction writer. The word for me ends in an "a", but that's not a dismissal, just the way the language works. "Science fiction writer" is a reduction from writer; YA writer is a further reduction from writer. A North American who told people I was a science fiction writer found the way to say that in Spanish because by our cultural values, the designation is important. It wasn't here.

Many of us tend to think that the cultures we grew up in are biological imperatives for how humans are. There is some substrate that's humankind, but yow, I'm not planning on coming back to the US to live any time soon.

Another thing was discovering how much North American people accepted writers who don't really appear to have been in Central America as authorities on these places because the writers confirmed the biases of their North American audiences. I compared a writer's fake trip to Guatemala that was allegedly happening at the same time as a friend's real trip. The friend saw things similar to what I saw in NIcaragua; the fantasy writer's account was cultural cliches.

If anyone is interested, my back list except for the Harper Collins books is available through Aqueduct Press as ebooks; and my Harper Collins books are also available as ebooks from the usual sources.

Last book is a short novels set in an England that I have never visited, written the first year I lived in Jinotega.


332:

Apologies if this was already covered ... TL;DNR

Gender bias in music ... blind auditions ... . The below is one of the most cited papers on this topic.

http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903

(Available in PDF) ..

Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians
Claudia Goldin, Cecilia Rouse

NBER Working Paper No. 5903
Issued in January 1997
NBER Program(s): LS

Excerpt:

'Discrimination against women has been alleged in hiring practices for many occupations, but it is extremely difficult to demonstrate sex-biased hiring. A change in the way symphony orchestras recruit musicians provides an unusual way to test for sex-biased hiring. To overcome possible biases in hiring, most orchestras revised their audition policies in the 1970s and 1980s. A major change involved the use of blind' auditions with a screen' to conceal the identity of the candidate from the jury. Female musicians in the top five symphony orchestras in the United States were less than 5% of all players in 1970 but are 25% today. We ask whether women were more likely to be advanced and/or hired with the use of blind' auditions. Using data from actual auditions in an individual fixed-effects framework, we find that the screen increases by 50% the probability a woman will be advanced out of certain preliminary rounds. The screen also enhances, by severalfold, the likelihood a female contestant will be the winner in the final round. Using data on orchestra personnel, the switch to blind' auditions can explain between 30% and 55% of the increase in the proportion female among new hires and between 25% and 46% of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras since 1970.'


-------

Personally, I read whoever writes what I like: male, female, gender-not-specified. But, it's really hard to find new authors because of the triteness of the book jacket blurbs! I increasingly rely on word-of-mouth, blogs (have purchased books by authors guest-blogging here on Charlie's Diary or those whose works were discussed in great detail, e.g., Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century). Probably like many other SF/F readers, once I find an author I like, I buy every single book they've ever written. From a marketing perspective, this means that getting an author discovered is not a time-limited opportunity. In fact, the publishing industry has a name for it: back-selling.

A question to the publishers: Do you sell/market your female authors as assiduously as your male authors? (Are you sure? Really sure ... as in, can you show us a financial spreadsheet/analysis showing this?)

A question to published SF authors: Do you 'endorse' new/break-out female authors as enthusiastically as male authors?

333:

"But, it's really hard to find new authors because of the triteness of the book jacket blurbs!"

This. It is what makes me buy a book or put it back on the shelves. Authors really should have control over this as it is the single most important piece of cheap advertising.
The second most important thing, with the book in my hands, is the first page.

334:

I'm usually too far behind the curve to rec most new books coming out (and also, er, not a big fish, so I don't think people are really getting book recs from me anyway). But I give away extra contributor's copies of anthologies and when I list "here are a few authors in this antho," I make a point of weighting toward (a) female authors and (b) authors of color. So, for example, I might say, "This antho includes stories by" (made-up example) "Genevieve Valentine, E. Lily Yu, and Ken Liu, among others," and leave the rest to a link to the ToC. This is a conscious decision. I bet if I didn't think about this on purpose, I'd be just as apt to overwhelmingly list (a) male (b) white authors.

(NOTE: Sometimes I can't tell an author's gender from their name, or for all I know they're stealth or they're nonbinary. Nothing's perfect...)

Oh, and another female sf author I should have listed: Jane Yolen, whose _Dragon's Blood_ I reread recently, but I wasn't thinking about YA, which is my fault, and I'm too used to thinking of her as a fantasy author.

335:

I'd like to mention that Susan R. Matthews is still publishing Jurisdiction work, and that she will be at Sasquan. Baen has decided to take on the new one, last I heard. (for me it's a guilty pleasure, but I do so loves me my Andrej...). She's on Facebook, mostly, but she is still around.

336:

SF conventions are great places to buy bags & bags of books! And if you're okay with waiting in line, also a great place to hear/meet/get an autograph from favorite authors.

Speaking of which ... How are your hands holding out, Charlie?

337:

Hello Rebecca

You are one of the three authors I hadn't previously heard of whose work I had not heard prior to reading threads

I went so far as to buy 2 of your books, Gaia's Toys and Centuries Ago and Very Fast.

The fact that I hadn't heard of your work, nor Linda Nagata's, nor Judith Tarr's herself, more or less confirms the point of this blog post.

You work is invisible until someone makes it visible.

Thank you to whomever supplied the various recommendations.

338:

"Here is my hypothesis about what publishers want. They want an author who will reliably push out a book that sells well, once a year. Once every six months is better. Every 18 months is tolerable if it sells well. They want that reliability."

Agree ... and I think that this is part of the back-selling story. As soon as an author starts selling, both readers and publishers will want more right away. Pretty similar in pop music ... one-hit wonders were the folks who took a few years off after their first major hit so that they could coddle a second album out.

So ... this suggests that if you're a beginning author, you probably should have at least two finished novels ready before you shop a publisher.

339:

One other thing -- women who try to do massive sorts of self-promotion tend to have that count against them, not for them. Or they end up with subscribers who are looking for mother figures and everything interesting gets derailed to do quasi therapy (I wonder if Aminta Granera has this problem). Whatever our own personalities are like, we're swamped by people who want us to conform to their comfortable stereotypes, which tend to be useless for anyone in the arts.

340:

One other thing -- women who try to do massive sorts of self-promotion tend to have that count against them, not for them.

Ouch!

Appearing to be a man is looking better all the time.

Maybe find ways to do self-promotion so it doesn't look like it's you doing it?

Get other people to promote you in ways that don't count against you?

Division of labor? Find a man who can pretend to be the author. He does the glad-handing while you write. Get somebody who's good at that kind of thing. He does self-promotion while you do what you're good at.

Except he might die in a plane crash on the way to a bookstore signing in Toledo, Ohio or Burley, Idaho. Better him than you, but you can only publish so many posthumus novels.

Or they end up with subscribers who are looking for mother figures and everything interesting gets derailed to do quasi therapy

That almost sounds like fun. I'd want to do a mixture of CBT (I wonder if the therapy people knew about the fetish acronym when they chose that), Gendlin's Focusing, and Tibetan acupressure. Develop a collection of short spiels that fit different contexts. Create sentences that serve as mnemonics to the spiels, and then a word or two that are mnemonics to the sentences, and it's in the FAQ anyway. Somebody wants therapy and you say "Focus!" or "Accept!" and they either decide you're a genius or they look elsewhere.

341:

Division of labor? Find a man who can pretend to be the author. He does the glad-handing while you write.

Been done in fiction :) Pierce Brosnan's breakout role in TV was the 1980s series "Remington Steele"... which used exactly that as a plot point.

342:

No problem. Glad to do something positive for a change. Normally all I do is complain.

343:

Apropos of my previous comment about my local library being unable to source at least one thread-inspired request, I find today that they have simply purchased a copy of not one but TWO of my other requests (this is my first time managing a double; I've provoked them into buying books in the past, but never two at once).

Inter-library loans are a wonderful thing and surprisingly cheap (although the late fees can be painful; books I get that came from the British Library cost me over a hundred and fifty pounds for the first day late, and go up from there), but sometimes when I make such a request (as in this case) the library simply buys it for me.

I suspect that ordering books for the library is a tricky job, and when someone specifically requests a book the buyer knows for sure that at least one person wants to borrow that book badly enough to be willing to pay two pounds and fifty pence (which is what my local charges for a loan from anywhere else in the UK or Ireland) for the pleasure.

So, if you want to support some authors but don't want to buy the book for whatever reason, but are willing to pay your local library's ILL fee, it's worth asking for it there - they might just go out and buy a copy.

344:

..."I know virtually no readers who judge an author by age, though such lunacies wouldn't astound me about the publishing industry."

"I suggest you go into a bookstore and look at the dust jacket author photos"...

I'm not buying this. Dustjacket photos? In 2015? The market split between ebook and paper is, what, close on 50/50 these days? (Yes, wild variance depending on genre/author/other, but overall around there). No dustjackets on electrons.

And of those buying paper, how many buy hardback, which often have a picture, vs paper back, which usually don't? 10% hardback? 5%?

And of those buying hardback, how many of those are looking at an author they've never seen before, compared to those who are buying hardback because they know the author, love them, and want the new one now, dammit, now!, and are prepared to pay the premium for that?

No, I can buy readers making unconscious (or sometimes even conscious) decisions based on gender inferred from author's names. And I can certainly buy the publishing industry making judgements based on an author's age/attractiveness, because at some point they're going to meet them. But the vast, vast majority of readers aren't going to make that kind of judgement, not because they're nice, non-sexist, non-ageist people, even unconsciously, but because they simply won't know.

345:

Luckily, I have been tracking my reading on goodreads and can answer with some specificity.

In the past year (8/17/14-8/17/15), I have read 10 science fiction books. 9 of them were by women. 5 of them were by Kate Elliott. The other woman authors were Alexandra Bracken, Jo Walton, Emily St. John Mandel, and Stephanie Littlefield.

In the past year, I have read 22 fantasy books. 19 of them were by women. 6 were by Diana Gabaldon (Gabaldon is hard to classify but I had her under fantasy and historical fiction). 5 were by Brigid Kemmerer. 2 were by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. 2 were by Liane Merciel. The other women authors were Rainy Kaye, Sarah Zettel, Lisa McMann, and Erika Johansen. (I think Kemmerer and McMann are also considered YA authors).

I LOVE reading great milSF/space opera about women and/or by women. Lois Bujold, Rachel Bach, Elizabeth Moon, Sarah Hoyt, and Tanya Huff are among my favorite authors in this subgenre. I would read much more of these kinds of books, if they were out there.

As a sex, women read the most books and buy the most books. My voracious-reader friends and I (the 100+ books a year crowd; all of us women, although that may be a product of how we met, on a messageboard for new mothers) read promiscuously across many genres, so may not meet any SF "fan" profile. But we are out there spending ourselves into oblivion on books. So; more?

346:

I'd agree with you about Diana Galbadon (based on having read some of her work myself).

347:

This is why I am excited about the recent conversation on women in SF. I'm honestly and selfishly hoping to discover a bunch of amazing new-to-me authors out of this (and already have, through Nicoll's reviews and other sources--including this thread, just put Nancy Kress on my to-be-read). I will acknowledge that I read books with enormous gender skew toward women already, and that itself may be problematic from the other end; who knows?

348:

Andrea K. Host had a post on the booksmugglers last year where she listed the female sff writers she had on her “keepers” shelf. Since I knew and liked a number of these I have been slowly buying one or two books by other authors of this list who were unknown to me and have in a number of cases then bought a lot more books. This list also reminded me of authors I had read years ago and who I have now “re-found” and discovered that they have new books out which I must buy ;-).
As the list is sff there is a lot of fantasy but also a lot of scifi (and I like both anyway). The comments are also very good at listing even more authors that other people recommend.
It should also be noted that the availability of a number of books which she initially listed as not being available in ebook has already changed and a number are now newly available in that format.
This list and posts similar to this thread has hugely increased the number of female authors I have read in the last year. I think therefore that marketing and word of mouth definitely have an impact on what we read and I am glad that these discussions are highlighting books and authors I might not have found otherwise.
The link:
http://thebooksmugglers.com/2014/01/sff-in-conversation-women-write-sff-andrea-k-hosts-keeper-bookshelf.html

349:

Someone may have already made this point, but I'm not going to read through 350 comments to find out. I think that, even in genre fiction, there's a lot of variation. It seems to me that books by women are more welcomed, more appreciated, and a larger share of what's published in mystery/crime fiction than in at least some other genres. And, at least recently, doing better in awards.

350:
Someone may have already made this point, but I'm not going to read through 350 comments to find out

Then don't make it. Yes, it's a lively discussion, which means lots of comments, but if you're going to decide it's not worth seeing if someone else made the same comment, you are contributing to the problem you are complaining about.

Searching is easy; skimming doesn't take much time.

351:

As for women in mystery writing, Sisters in Crime seems to have been at least somewhat controversial in the mystery genre.

One thing about SF is that often younger or newer male writers make their bones attacking or belittling older women writers. I had one tell me in a Usenet group that I wasn't as good as I thought I was (I don't think he had any special insight into what I thought of myself, just was being a bully). Bruce Sterling rather famously attacked Joanna Russ for the Nebula award wininng novella "Souls."

The other game is that guys can be outrageous drunks, pathological liars and such, and the other guys will be cool with that if the writing is good. Women would never be allowed to get away with that.

A weaver friend of mine came with me to World Con in SF and looked around the SFWA suite and said, "It's a male-dominated field," based on body language and how women dressed compared to how men dressed. The decorative ones are rarely the ones in power. I remember that con as where one guy writer made comments on my hair.

It's a nasty field for women and women also get points dissing other women. A number of fields have a Queen Bee and the guys (very true in poetry) as an earlier poster commented. The idea is that women are interchangeable and you only need one to represent the female position. The rest of us can write for children, apparently.

352:

I was LASFS librarian when the planning for LaConII was going on and was amazed that not only were no women authors mentioned in the initial discussions about pro guest of honor, but that the committee members did not recognize the names of the five authors I came up with off the top of my head. Over my 10 years there I added many women authors to the shelves, and have continued to suggest books for purchase to my local library.
As a woman I admit bias, I'll more readily try a book by a woman I haven't read than by a man. I've had some wonderful surprises.
Has anyone here read N. Lee Wood?

353:

Oh well, *puts WIGGLE away*.

I was excited, and fuzzy and so on to see the responses.

Not because of the bullshit crap that lies beneath, but because reading is just like having sex. (Perhaps not male sex? who knows? Then again, I find the idea of paying for sex a total dissociative concept - I don't pay for the mind / idea / story, I pay for the necessary material processes used to provide it to me. There's a categorical difference, something most here have missed).


Joy. It's the last thing standing before the void.


See above: you're doing it wrong, and mistaking the process (material production) for the outcome (and treating it like a product).


A good book, first devoured, is a slice of Time and Mind. It's not a commercial entity. The things that preclude that entering your life are the same cold reasons that slavery makes chocolate and clothes and toys and computers and you've no issue with it at all.

It's a perversion. Sad to see so many buying into it.


*shrug*


Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.

or perhaps

No banishment, indeed, to the South Pole, or to the summit of Mont Blanc, can separate us so entirely from our fellow creatures as a prolonged residence in the seclusion of a secret vice, that is to say of a state of mind that is different from theirs.

354:

One thing about SF is that often younger or newer male writers make their bones attacking or belittling older women writers.

Older male writers too. Damon Knight got prestige attacking van Vogt. Alexei Panshin got his start attacking RA Heinlein, though he claimed he didn't mean to and some fanzine writers misrepresented him.

I guess they get attention by doing something controversial.

Harlan Ellison spent his career being a bad boy doing controversial things and for a long time people seemed to like it. Nine years ago he went way too far and it probably cost him a little.

A weaver friend of mine came with me to World Con in SF and looked around the SFWA suite and said, "It's a male-dominated field," based on body language and how women dressed compared to how men dressed. The decorative ones are rarely the ones in power.

I guess there are different kinds of power. The people who actually run conventions have one sort of collective power.

Then there are the invited guests, who have a different sort. A con is kind of like a temporary zoo, and one of the reasons to go to a zoo is to look at the zoo animals. A guest who threatens not to perform is in a strong bargaining position but it doesn't make his next invitation come easier.

Traditionally women had a lot of power because conventions were full of young men who didn't know how to talk to women much, and there weren't many women there. There would be a few beautiful girls who liked to be admired, and rather more fat girls who were easy to talk to. John Barnes in Gaudeamus pointed out the stereotype of the well-paid geek doing secret military work, with the fat wiccan wife. It became a stereotype from this.

Then there are publisher's representatives who have a lot of power over anybody who wants a publisher, plus they spend money.

It's a nasty field for women and women also get points dissing other women.

Maybe people like to watch conflict. There ought to be some alternative we could push.

A number of fields have a Queen Bee and the guys (very true in poetry) as an earlier poster commented.

I've seen that. Some women seem to like that, and they find guys who'll go with it. That especially works when there's a scarcity of women who fit in. I've noticed it with military SF, where only a small fraction of women can talk the talk. A woman who's more than arm candy can get quite a coterie because lots of guys want her, but there's only one of her. If she has a marksmanship medal, it's like she's covered with whipped cream and hot fudge.

The idea is that women are interchangeable and you only need one to represent the female position.

More like they're looking for somebody who's special in a special way, and there are only a few women like that. If she wants them to compete they will, if she wants them not to compete then they're her lapdogs until she points them at somebody she considers an enemy.

Of course, women who don't want to play those games get annoyed at men who insist on being played with, and annoyed at men who ignore them. You can find good friends, but you have to sort through a lot of immature stuff. Meanwhile somebody is getting publicity by doing something that excites people.

I don't think anybody planned it to be that way. It just evolved.

355:

If she has a marksmanship medal, it's like she's covered with whipped cream and hot fudge.


Yep, there we have it. DING! Just won a bet.

The antithesis to joyous wiggle: gluttonous reveling in psychic sugar, banality and surface pandering to the rather lower levels of desire. "It's called marketing, darling".

Thanks, I guess, for making this thread so much Starbucks and McDonalds?


Who cares: it's not my culture, there's 60% obesity rates and you're all going to die soon.

I think that Oscar Wilde might be a little disappointed though.

356:

Damon Knight also attacked Phil K. Dick, who was quite a bit better than Knight. The typical literary hustler moves are (1) cultivate the young and easily flattered, (2) trash the competition, (3) put together anthologies or edit a magazine.

Same pattern held in poetry, too.

Attention from guys may not be good or honest. Dealing with this is non-trivial.

357:

"Why don't they just go off and die" is a common attitude about their elders among the young entering a competitive field. The same young who 25 years later, bemoan the lack of respectoffered and opportunities available to them.
As for putting together anthologies, Terri Windling (et al) has probably created more venues welcoming to women writers than anyone else I know. I am totally in favor of promoting your agenda by producing/editing anthologies that make available the stories and authors you support.
I'm less in favor of bashing your elders. Bashing says more about the basher, than the bashee.

358:

but there's only one of her. If she has a marksmanship medal, it's like she's covered with whipped cream and hot fudge.

My wife and I started out as club mates car-sharing to competitions, and then as training partners, and then members of the national team. So, marksmanship medal? She's been a British Champion :)

And I still think I'm lucky she said yes...

359:

A weaver friend of mine came with me to World Con in SF and looked around the SFWA suite and said, "It's a male-dominated field," based on body language and how women dressed compared to how men dressed. The decorative ones are rarely the ones in power. I remember that con as where one guy writer made comments on my hair.

Interesting. I've only been to one Worldcon, and that was London last year, but what I found there was completely not what I expected - the panellists were diverse, the programs were solidly interesting, and the general makeup of the visitors appeared fairly widely distributed across ethnicity and gender.

Going by the background murmurs I'm sensing, it seems the Loncon team went to great lengths to ensure this.

Which again brings me back to the thought that an awful lot of this could be a particularly US problem, which is spilling out onto the wider publishing world due to the weight the US wields.

360:

In a way I find the second part of this comment the most sexist in this whole thread.

It portraits women purely as objects. There's the "few beautiful girls who liked to be admired", and the "rather more fat girls", and there's the "woman who's more than arm candy", who "can get quite a coterie because lots of guys want her".

Yes, that's describing a zoo, or more precisely a zoo with purely male visitors where women can only be found in the cages.

Where are the remarks about the fat and unkempt boys, the balding middle-aged losers and their stark contrast to the few handsome guys? I don't find them in this comment. Apparently any male person—regardless of looks, intelligence, charm or any other attribute—is the normal, only women need to be defined by those attributes, and therefore have to deal with the fact that the normal and undefined (= male) population reacts to those attributes.

For me that's the essence of sexism in a nutshell.

361:

Throwing this out as a general observation (though I expect this thread to go moribund within the next day or two in any case).

While there are still interesting tidbits surfacing and some worthwhile ongoing discussions on this thread, it's really depressing how often comments fall back into the orbit of the twin attractors: But *I'm* not sexist, look at all the great stuff *I* read (so how can this sexism stuff be real); and, women aren't the only ones suffering discrimination (so this sexism stuff isn't important in the big picture).

Willing to admit that the parenthesized bits above are probably not intended in all cases, but implicit none the less.

*sigh*

362:

Too tired to agree in anything more than: yes, this.

363:

Traditionally women had a lot of power because conventions were full of young men who didn't know how to talk to women much, and there weren't many women there.

This sounds like a very old line of bullshit sexism masquerading as empowerment: Women have the power because they can make men do what they want; (and the second bit that usually goes unstated) so long as they conform to male stereotypes and/or don't seem too threatening to the male ego/power structure.

Really JT? You can do better.

364:

There's the "few beautiful girls who liked to be admired", and the "rather more fat girls", and there's the "woman who's more than arm candy", who "can get quite a coterie because lots of guys want her".

...

Where are the remarks about the fat and unkempt boys, the balding middle-aged losers and their stark contrast to the few handsome guys?

The context was who had/has "power" in fandom.

The people you mention did/do not have power. So I didn't mention them.

Apparently any male person—regardless of looks, intelligence, charm or any other attribute—is the normal, only women need to be defined by those attributes, and therefore have to deal with the fact that the normal and undefined (= male) population reacts to those attributes.

In the days when the big majority of fans were male, women who wanted to fit into male contexts had "power". Of course that "power" only worked for the women who were willing to use it, just as generals have power only if they are willing to go to war, and politicians have power only if they are willing to run for office and then play politics.

Lots of men don't play that game, with the result that they don't bother anybody. Attractive women who don't play that game get a lot of annoyance from men who do, who expect them to. I would apologize for those men. And also for ISIS and US Republicans. But I doubt it's my place to do that.

365:

<gets out popcorn, watches the hole get deeper>

No no please, keep explaining. It's helping you get out.

366:

... it's really depressing how often comments fall back into the orbit of the twin attractors: But *I'm* not sexist, look at all the great stuff *I* read (so how can this sexism stuff be real);

The second part of that of course does not follow at all. No matter what a swell guy *I* am, sexism can still be quite real.

I want to call attention to a parallel, though. The Puppies have the complaint that they are being discriminated against. Publishers don't publish as many Puppy works as they ought to. People with feminist and other agendas are pulling ahead, and causing discrimination against Puppies. These are their grievances that they say justify their behavior.

Various women make exactly the same claims with the names changed around. (And of course without the same bad behavior to justify.)

In general, we tell the Puppies that they deserve to be discriminated against because we don't like them and basicly they suck. They don't deserve any better than they get.

And we tell the women that we do like them and we do read their stuff and it's *somebody else* that wrongly discriminates against them.

I think there are two fundamental reasons for the difference in the responses. One is that women create inherently better fiction than Puppies. The other is that we like women more than we like Puppies.

367:

and, women aren't the only ones suffering discrimination (so this sexism stuff isn't important in the big picture).

I haven't found a way to compile good statistics about this yet. I have one proposal that might tell something useful, and I haven't started collecting the data yet. No one has commented on whether it would be valuable.

I've had fun thinking about it.

Publishers.

I see two possible models for traditional publishers:

Publisher's Choice: Choose a few blockbusters and advertise the hell out of them, and the public chooses some of them to be very successful and some to fail, while a lot of midlist movies make moderate profits or losses.

Chumming: Dump a variety of products onto the shelves. Advertise the ones that cost more a little extra, because it's more embarrassing if those fail. As quick as they sell, do JIT publishing to create more product to sell. Push whatever is selling best.

With Publisher's Choice, it's very hard to get beyond midlist unless your publisher has chosen you, and they have various biases about who they think can win. You do better by fitting their guess about what a winner looks like. They may have an unconscious bias about women, or it may be a bias about something else that being a woman correlates with.

With Chumming, the main things would be to be dependable, and to sell well. A publisher might be more help to a writer who doesn't switch around among publishers, because then what they do to help your reputation will help them for later books, but otherwise they can help you and then you go off with somebody else. But the bottom line ought to be more important to them.

strong>Agents.

One group of 100 agents was shown to be sexist. I can imagine four causes for that. One is unconscious bias. A second is that publishers might be biased and agents try to adapt to that. A third is that agents might find that new women writers on average are a lot more trouble. They might demand more attention, and therefore be less wanted. (I have absolutely no evidence for this, it's only a possible idea, like unconscious bias.) Fourth, the particular proposal might look like something easier to sell with a man's name. As an example, extreme war porn might not sell as well with a woman's name -- the people who want it will assume that women won't write that way, while people who buy it expecting something different may be put off.

It would be worthwhile for an unpublished writer to find out what agents expect, and try to fit that. But agents are better off not revealing that, because if it was widely known then a whole lot of people would try to fake it. If the story got out that agents prefer submissions done in green ink on red paper, then for decades some of their submissions would have green ink on red paper.... So if you can get an agent to tell you the secret, don't share it.

The public.

If the buying public is biased against you, I don't see what you can do about it in the short run except change yourself. With self-publishing, it's testable. It would be unethical to self-publish the same story under two names. (Although you could give refunds to anyone who bought it twice.) But you can still get a pretty clear idea how much the name matters. If there's a lot of sexism in the old publishing chain and not much in the new, then probably the problem is with the publishers, though it could be that the people who buy elf-published work are different from the ones who buy in mundane bookstores.

My point has been to look for ways to test how much sexism there is and where it is, and more important how to be successful in the face of whatever biases are important.

If your point is to assert that sexism is important and it's a damn shame, then we're probably at cross-purposes.

368:

The context was who had/has "power" in fandom.

The people you mention did/do not have power. So I didn't mention them.

What? Physically unattractive males don't have power in fandom? I'm not part of fandom myself, so I could be wrong with this, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that physically unattractive males basically are fandom, so of course they have power.

One indicator for the end of sexism (I'm not saying it's the only indicator, there certainly are others) will be when men are routinely judged on their physical attractiveness just as much as women have routinely been for basically forever. Or alternatively, when women stop being judged on their physical attractiveness.

369:

No no please, keep explaining. It's helping you get out.

It's fun, isn't it? Have you ever waited until the hole "large", and then driven an excavator into it to see if the digger uses it to keep digging, or as a ladder?

370:

Physically unattractive males don't have power in fandom? I'm not part of fandom myself, so I could be wrong with this, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that physically unattractive males basically are fandom, so of course they have power.

Yes, in the sense that voters have power in politics.

Anyway, to the peanut gallery, my claim is that this has existed and was important. Does anyone disagree?

I do not say that it ought to be that way.

The righteous man lives deep within a well and the sky appears to him as nothing but a small round hole.
371:

When next I need a sterling example of false equivalency, I'll link to this.

372:

My point has been to look for ways to test how much sexism there is and where it is, and more important how to be successful in the face of whatever biases are important.

My intent has always been to point out that although you may think that you are saying one thing, you are often saying or implying something else and illuminating your own bias.

(On a side note, and not wanting to derail: Are you consciously or unconsciously mimicing CatinaDiamond?)

373:

My intent has always been to point out that although you may think that you are saying one thing, you are often saying or implying something else and illuminating your own bias.

Your idea of my implications might of course come from your own bias. It's possible that I say what I mean, more than what I falsely think I mean.

(On a side note, and not wanting to derail: Are you consciously or unconsciously mimicing CatinaDiamond?)

It's conscious, but I haven't done it very much.

374:

When next I need a sterling example of false equivalency, I'll link to this.

I don't at all say those are equivalent.

While the claims made by you and by Puppies are quite similar, and the way the claims are stated are too, I point out very important differences between them.

375:

You are borderline argumentative; you continue to compare the topic of discussion to other, not particularly related, topics; you have been called out on it often, by multiple people. To be very blunt, you've run through all the patience any of the moderators have.

The Puppies are using similar arguments and statistics? Great. Discuss elsewhere. Same thing for almost everything else you've been saying.

This goes for everyone: read your comment before posting. Is it on topic? Is it short enough to be read? Does it stick to a single idea? Is it insulting or dismissive of anyone? Can it possibly be read as insulting or dismissive of anyone?

376:
Yes, but to demonstrate the bias we want to show, we should also have them remember five male writers they read in the last year and see which is easier.

Yup. I did.

377:

Just thought I'd recommend two resources that have been useful for me when tracking and adjusting my bias.

Thanks to https://www.worldswithoutend.com/authors_women.asp I can collect women SFF authors much like I collected football cards as a kid. The site also allows me to set up reading challenges such as Award Winning Books by Women Authors, YA Award Winners and Elizabeth Noun (Bear, Moon and Hand) which can help adjust the bias.

I also use Goodreads where I have added shelves for male and female authors. This shows me that even after a conscious effort to adjust for my built-in bias, of the last 298 books I read, only 100 were written by women authors. Thanks to all the recommendations in this thread, I should be able to end up on 50/50 this year. Elliott, Goldstein, Dr. Tarr and Taylor have already been added to my "read pile" thanks to this thread.

Shame we can't collect Women SFF Authors in little stricker books like we could collect sports heroes as kids. (Or other types of authors...Hugo Winners, Nebula Winnes, BSFA Winners etc.)

378:

Can you say more about Stephanie Littlefield? I have been unable to locate her on Amazon. Thanks.

379:

From this discussion so far I have added 48 names to the list I maintain of women who have published science fiction or fantasy. However, all of those mentioned who have contributed to this thread are already listed.

380:

When I'm shopping for new authors I also check (as in 'buy') anthologies. Unfortunately, for many authors, short stories seem to have become passé or are too difficult/time-consuming to write.

Is there a reference resource that the general public can access to look for writers .... along the line of 'if you like author A, you might also like author B'? (More detailed/substantive that the Big River version of 'other customers who purchased A also purchased B.)

381:

Is there a reference resource that the general public can access to look for writers .... along the line of 'if you like author A, you might also like author B'?

You could try gnod. Gasdive sugggested it here earlier.
http://www.literature-map.com/

I'm not sure how well it works. I asked for who's like RA Heinlein and it gave me Ron Goulart as a second choice, which does not seem quite right to me. It may improve over time.

382:

You probably aren't finding Stephanie Littlefield because the author's name is actually Sophie Littlefield. My thinko, sorry. The book I read is titled Aftertime and is the only zombie book I have been able to finish.

383:

Meh. Going to a little deeper here.

Mr Thomas is obviously reaching for heights of Grendel. He's well meaning (we imagine - that story about his computer blowing up, well, perhaps he is just a bumbling fool) but is obviously playing the role of a certain socio-economic patsy here.


What's worse is the entire lack of wiggle.


Joy. Excitement. Wonder. Sublime. Awe. Thrill.

Hitting #400, and not seen much of it.


Hera is only one side of the coins - there's others.

384:

He's well meaning

We all remember what a joy J Thomas in conversations about feminism on Crooked Timber before he was banned, yes?

385:

that story about his computer blowing up, well, perhaps he is just a bumbling fool

You posted about an associate's laptop blowing up and blamed me. Two days later my own computer blew up. I figured it was a coincidence and I moved my hard disk to a backup computer.

Last week that hard disk failed. I started to copy the backup disk onto a blank one, and they both failed. Yes, I was a bumbling fool. Not nearly paranoid enough. I updated the BIOS and put in a fresh hard disk and it's working for now. I lost three weeks of backups. None of my results, but a collection of links, and tax data.

Since you found me, you know that I'm not who you thought I was. I have no connection with any government beyond paying my taxes. Please call off your dogs.

386:

We all remember what a joy J Thomas in conversations about feminism on Crooked Timber before he was banned, yes?

You may not have noticed, but a moderator here told me to stop talking about it and I stopped talking about it.

Someday our society is going to go Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis. Not now.

387:

Two observations: if one wiggles too much, one will be accused of looking for cookies or being shallow. Second, a "wiggle" comment will probably not generate much response; so they will tend to fade off as the thread grows.

Remember when I said there were two; I lied: third, for what it's worth I think I did slightly wiggle for Williams and Moon, but I am not much of a dancer; so maybe it came over as Elaine Benes style lurching.

388:

You posted about an associate's laptop blowing up and blamed me...


I can honestly say that both causally and intentionally, I had nothing to do with said events.

Unless we believe in the land beyond and vast powers swirling, of course.

But that would be silly.

Since you found me, you know that I'm not who you thought I was. I have no connection with any government beyond paying my taxes. Please call off your dogs.


Not 'my' hounds (well, perhaps mine: but that's metaphysics). The Hounds of Chaos[tm] follow no-one. But, don't worry, they ravage through us all in the same manner. Very Equal opportunity like that, they are.

In my case, they are currently enjoying an alternative virtual reality which ticks a lot of their boxes at the moment which I spent a slight wiggle-in-time (thanks Heidegger) setting up over a year ago.

There's art out there for everyone, and there's even sane, wiggley versions that are fun and not cruel. Perhaps some Go is a good thing.


For the record: when I stated (many moons ago) that I deliberately don't data mine / trawl to find other poster's histories, I meant it. Any baggage brought is your own and other people seem to know history more than I do.

So, yes: fair treatment, and you got a lot of time/energy/links thrown to you. *shrug*

Two observations: if one wiggles too much, one will be accused of looking for cookies or being shallow.


The overt nature of the wiggle was an attempt to break the 4th wall to show real appreciation. I can do advanced literary criticism, a la Crooked Timber, but there's some serious swooning going on this side of the screen. Tooting amongst legends and all that.

And no, I don't mind some warnings disguised as foolishness being deleted.

389:

I can honestly say that both causally and intentionally, I had nothing to do with said events.


http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2015/08/where-have-all-the-women-gone.html#_login_6GxsJIEneS1BsTDiMt1YQvQsOqQoBVI5IKIU5cNR

Dude, you fucked up.

She is a little bit pissed at the EM nuke on the laptop (not hers) and called in her gremlins.

You're fucking toast.


We know who you are, we know where you live, we know what you paid in taxes and we know who you're spider-indexed to when you call in the cavalry.

Posting this threat and then denying you had anything to do with it is a trifle disingenuous, no?

390:

Posting this threat and then denying you had anything to do with it is a trifle disingenuous, no?


Only if you believe I can summon hordes of Chaos Hounds and missed the point about a simulated 4Chan (cuck died, FullChan) hit squad.


It's called "Art imitates Life". Or the difference between the Actual and the Virtual. Or magick to summon up a fan from a time before.


Your kind can't parse the differences between the two.


Perhaps this is the lesson. [YouTube: music: 3:05]

Be careful of Belief. It has consequences.

391:

"Posting this threat and then denying you had anything to do with it is a trifle disingenuous, no?"

Only if you believe I can summon hordes of Chaos Hounds

You made the claim, repeatedly. Then you threatened me, and my computer suffered the kind of damage you talked about. Then it got hit again with something that does not happen by accident.

I want to know what to do to persuade you to stop it. A quick look at my system showed you or whoever that I don't know much about this stuff. I don't want to spend a lot of time learning about it -- since there is no one I would threaten or attack it would be entirely defensive. Time spent keeping up is a loss for me.

Consider this a formal surrender. What do you want me to do, so you will stop attacking my hardware?

392:

It's Not Me [YouTube: film: 1:57]

Should always read the links and watch the depths.

393:

Both of you, stop it.

Further posts from either of you in these veins are subject to removal without further warning.

394:

For sure. But it did answer the OP's question of "Where have all the women gone?"


They don't like it when we play cruel, and yet everyday they use it as a weapon. And they've no idea we're using their own tactics against them.


Point proven.


" “It's not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it's the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses. " - V. Woolf "Jacob's Room". (And yes, for the literrati there's a joke there. A howling void of hurt joke, but a joke none-the-less).

You can delete, but I'd be disappointed.

395:

Sheesh.

Anyway, decades late: Ms. Ore, thank you for making my undergrad years a lot more pleasant through your alien trilogy. Wore my copies out, and it's still one of favorite multispecies societies.

Not to derail the conversation, just thought I'd add some positive feedback for a change.

Now, where did I put my hammer and tongs for dealing with this difficult issue?

396:

Ms.Ms. Ore, thank you for making my undergrad years a lot more pleasant through your alien trilogy. Ore, thank you for making my undergrad years a lot more pleasant through your alien trilogy.

Ditto. Also Gaia's Toys. And Time's Child. And others. Occasionally I would find out you'd written something new, and it would be a great few hours reading it.

It wasn't until last week that I found I had somehow missed Outlaw School and now I have that great feeling of something to look forward to again.

397:

I'm out of here. It was mostly fun but I can't stay.

398:

Hi All,
I am surprised Andre Norton was not mentioned in this thread anywhere. Maybe I did not notice.

399:

Andre Norton was mentioned in posts 93, 106, 117, 131, 145, 209, 215, 216, 222, 300, 398 and probably 399 :)

400:

Oh hai! Always late to the party. Someone told me about this convo; I've been offline.

Judith: awesome post. Thank you.

I've been thinking about all the comments, especially those from other writers. I put my thoughts on my own blog, because they are too long and personal for here and because I think maybe this conversation has run down and my timing is off.

If you're interested, here's my personal take:

http://triciasullivan.com/2015/08/22/who-walks-away/

401:

I like the tag - 'powered by bloody-mindedness'. Says what it is for many writers. I recognise your name from the Solaris anthology, which I only read recently, but I'm sad to say I don't remember seeing any of your novels make it into the bookshops down here in the antipodes. Then again, none of OGH's books are stocked by the local chains either.

This thread has given me so many people's books to check out. Mind you, since I'm *still* working my way through the list of interesting web-comics from a comment thread a couple of months ago it will be a long-term effort.

402:

@Tricia Sullivan - I like your blog. :) I've now got a notifier set for Amazon to tell me when 'Occupy Me' is available for pre-order.

403:

Thanks for bringing this bundle to our attention!

I've been aware for a little while that I don't read enough women authors, but haven't been exploring new authors recently.

As a result of this bundle, I finished reading Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the more fantastic space opera style.

I think Forgotten Suns could definitely have done with a copy editor, and possibly a regular editor (though I'm not so good at judging these things). I guess lacking these things is just a side effect of publishing with such a small outfit.

Recommendations for which author in the bundle to try next are most welcome.

404:

It had both, dear. It even had a proofreader. If you found errors, please let us know. As a "small outfit," we can make corrections easily and quickly.

Having been with the "big outfits" for decades, I can assure you that no book has ever been published without errors. (We still remember the ROUGE QUEEN debacle of the Eighties.)

The formatter, Vonda N. McIntyre, has a book in the bundle as well. It's one of my favorites.

405:

Unfortunately for proof reading, I really enjoyed your book and raced through it pretty quickly on holiday. I'm afraid I didn't take notes for corrections.

The most common issue for me was what I perceived as missing words, rather than misspellings or homonyms.

As for structural oddities, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS Aisha's brother believes that the new interns are MI/Corps infiltrators, but that's not mentioned at all at the time of Aisha and Rama's return to Nevermore. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

I didn't mean to offend with my comment.

406:

Readers like to score points by snarking at external aspects such as proofreading and editing. Generally authors grit their teeth and endure, but here, it points to one of the theses of my post, which is what women's work cannot be praised unreservedly. It must be diminished in some way.

Your post hit a number of popular diminishment points: assumption of bad or no editing, accusation of bad or no proofreading, dismissal of publisher. The fact it was more thoroughly edited and more extensively revised and rewritten than all but a handful of my major-publisher publications, and has fewer errors than most of them (today in fact we're going through the publisher-formatted ebook of a newly reverted title and oy oy scanner-trainwreck OYYY), is irrelevant. It, and I, must be cut down to size.

For future reference, when dealing with small press ebooks, notably Book View Cafe, it's quite easy to correct errors. Just send a note to customer service. Many times they'll make the corrections quickly and send you a new copy.

Also for future reference, it's not a good idea to take authors to task for errors on major-press publications. There is no recourse there.

407:

For what it's worth, I have praised your work repeatedly and enthusiastically to friends and family over the last week without mentioning my concerns about copy-editing or editing.

I think my first comment here annoyed you, and I think I understand why. I apologise for that comment and for my misunderstandings within it.

I absolutely did not intend to denigrate yourself or Book View Cafe and I am sorry that you felt/feel like I did. I will endeavour to be more careful in my expression and will try to spot unconscious bias in my judgements of women authors.

I would like to emphasise that when I said I thought the text could have done with an editor, it was solely with respect to the structural oddity I mentioned above, not some wider criticism of the text (and I don't even know if such oddities are the realm of copy editors, hence my original hedging).

Anyway, I shall stop digging.

I have since finished Linda Nagata's Memory and thoroughly enjoyed that, too.

408:

"felt/feel like I did"

Meant "like you did".

409:

Thank you. I'm really glad you like the book.

In a ms. of almost 150K words, revised multiple times and heavily rewritten three times (the editor is a stone-hearted bitch and I love her and curse her in equal measure), a continuity glitch may happen.

Or there may be a loose end that gets tied up in a sequel. :)

You missed a bigger one: what happened to the gang at Starsend. But that's definitely a driver for the next book. Along with SPOILER and EXCISED FOR SPOILERIFICITY and REDACTED.

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This page contains a single entry by Judith Tarr published on August 14, 2015 9:28 PM.

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