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The argument ... in pieces

I probably should have waited till I had all the bits of the maths in my hands and not said anything in advance. My intention is not to sit and point at men and say how much they suck and how sexist they are. Or how sexist male editors are - that's not remotely interesting to me as an argument. A lot of my closest friends are male editors (heh) and it's not the point, you know? I don't think male editors look at names and dismiss female authors. I don't think they set out to only like stories written by men. That's a boring position in the argument to take.

I blogged my comments earlier because I was looking at the big name overseas markets, many of which struggle to hit 25% female authorship across a bunch of issues in a single year. I was depressed because that's not a lot of places for female writers to be competing with and doesn't leave many spots for new female writers to break in. For new voices to be heard.

My argument was going to be more looking at the business model. Taking into consideration the drop in circulation of the top mags, I thought I would look into various stats. Here's the thing, they struggle to publish women. It's possible that then, they also struggle to appeal to female readers. If you look at the last two publishing phenonemona that swept the world - JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyers - the one thing you can't deny --> they sell. The other thing you'll note is that women read. Two somewhat important factors, I would think, when looking at markets. If it were me, I'd want to look into why those sold and how I can get a piece of the action.

What's interesting to me is that the female audience is never ever (at least publicly) considered. It's not even allowed to be openly discussed without defensive males (editors) jumping up and down and telling you it's not a problem. But what if it IS? What if declining readership could be correlated to declining or low numbers of stories appealing to female readers? Why wouldn't you look at your product and see what market you want or could target it to?

It seems to me, that female writers tend to write female stories - not always, and not necessarily overtly or through only using female protagonists. But ... can men really argue that they write so well that they can write *for* women and thus we don't need to give voice and page space to them in order to hear what they have to say? For me, it's not about needing gender equality in ToCs to show that we're all fair and equal or that sexism is dead. It's actually about there being products out there that appeal to ME, that are made with ME in mind and that give voice to issues and concerns that affect ME. And I don't think you can effectively argue that magazine and anthology after magazine and anthology that only print stories written by white men can do that.

You might not care. You might not want to produce that kind of product. And I don't have to pay for products like that. But the thing is? When I look around at what I have actually handed cash over for lately? It's novels written by women. I used to subscribe to several mags - online and print. And I used to hunt others down in the newsagent. But the truth is, they bored me and they felt like a waste of money for me because I am clearly not the target audience. So when you talk about declining circulations and you wonder why, why not ask around and why not take notice of the answers? Because I am included in many of those stats for readers taking their money elsewhere.


Comments

bluetyson
Jan. 11th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
Two of them are edited by women now, of course. Asimov's/Realms Of Fantasy.
oldcharliebrown
Jan. 11th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
I'm going to catch fire or go straight to hell for suggesting this, and I apologise: but breaking the status quo just by being there isn't necessarily all that is expected or should be done to advance the issue. There has to be more.
cassiphone
Jan. 11th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
I agree completely - just having female editors on the scene is not enough, and it's pretty clear that this doesn't necessarily help with the gender balance in authors. Having editors who think the gender balance is important is more effective at addressing gender than having female editors. It's sad but true.

I do wonder why that is, though. And of course I think it's important to have balance and diversity in editorial power, whether or not that translates to more women published.
oldcharliebrown
Jan. 11th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Even more important: having managing editors or fiction editors or publishers or a mix of all three who know what they're trying to accomplish, with a roadmap . . . it's too easy, in a lot of cases to blame editors, but in most situations they're just (fiction) editors. They don't run the show. Too much in science fiction and fantasy is centered around the concept that "editors" control everything, but people forget that there's an entire support system behind most magazines. It isn't possible to accomplish what you need without their support or even the publisher.

I suppose that complicates the picture a bit. :p
cassiphone
Jan. 11th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
It's absolutely true - I can see where being a female editor in the SF world you would be in a precarious position too, because as soon as balances start to change there are accusations of things like 'softening' SF.

But yes it's difficult cos we can't SEE the publisher. It makes it harder to figure out what's going on.

I really think it's relevant that the reviewers and voices who have declared what is 'best' out of what's published have overwhelmingly been male, and equally relevant that this is changing, maybe not with the print mags of reviews, and most of the 'best of' editors are still male too, but the blogosphere has changed a lot, and it means there are more female voices adding to the general image of what in the scene is worth reading.
girliejones
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:00 am (UTC)
How can we look at reviewers and voices who declare the best stuff? What would be the best way to tackle that?
cassiphone
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)
Well as far as I'm concerned, LSS is a great step forward in that. It's one of the reasons I'm so proud to be part of it.

The loss of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is a blow as it's the only of the Big Year's Bests with female editors, but I'm pleased to see Ellen is continuing in her role as arbiter of the best of the year's horror.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
but the picture IS complicated, it has to be otherwise we are just saying that women don't write as well as men, or that men deliberately only buy male written stories, neither of which I think is true.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Absolutely. Which has to be the next step in my analysis because Asimov's still reads as a very male product.
oldcharliebrown
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
It's not just the short fiction, however. It's the overall experience, the packaging that screams "male male male." It's so much more, and ultimately there's very little you or I can do anything about it, beyond not subscribing, which is our way of voting . . . and we vote them off the island, as it were.
girliejones
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
I guess. It's sad though, but yeah.

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