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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

pecunium
Jan. 13th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
You said a lot more than that. You did some dismissive handwaving of the decline; with imputations it might be the fault of more women being published. Anyone can play that game. It might be the decline of this slice of SF might be slower than otherwise because of the wider range of writers.

There isn't a real "moral" equity between romance and SF, because the issue isn't who's writing, it's who's being bought (and not by the public, though suppositions about market is part of the (at least subconcious) decision making process.

I have seen someone (girliejones, IIRC> saying they'd like to see more male writers of romance. I recall some heated debates on the subject, at least a decade ago (when I was more active in running a bookstore, and such things mattered more to me, as the sales of romance paid the bills).

Honsestly, from a purely personal experience, women do a better job of emulating the male voice in literature than men seem to manage women. I suspect this (which is tangiental) is because the male voice in literature is predominant (in character POV), and so they have better models of how it's modelled.

Then again, it might be that because I'm male it irks me to see women who are either flat, or just male sorts of characters whom I am told are female.

That this question keeps coming up, and the responses are so typically defensive (and repetitive) tells me 1: There is a problem and 2: most people aren't willing to admit it.
davefreer
Jan. 13th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
Terry, that's not dismissive handwaving. That's statistical demolition. The only handwaving was me trying not to be utterly brutal about it. There is no statistical evidence to support the conclusion that the decline of short fiction markets for sf has anything to do with there being lower proportions of female writers on the TOC. The short fiction market has been in decline for a LONG time. At the same time the female representivity on the TOC has slowly risen. These are both provable and well established facts. Those are two trends running in opposite directions and there is no direct correlation whatsoever between them. Is that clear enough? The only correlation there is, is a directly inverse one - which could be interpreted as more female TOC: less readers. I stated clearly and unequivocally that I belived that to be spurious. There is a correlation for example between the number of ducks seen flying and inches of rain. I do not believe ducks cause rain, but I can't deny the correlation exists. It's possible that rain causes ducks to fly or that both are caused by something else. What did you want me to do? pretend the correlation - which is very obvious - didn't exist? I am saying it again. I think it a spurious correlation. Short fiction is struggling for other reasons.

That does not mean I wouldn't like to see more female writers writing sf. I would. All it means is that this is a weak argument to support that idea, and actually supports the opposite conclusion. If you want, for example, to build a bridge to an island to aid tourism, and argue that it would be good for the wildlife -- when someone points out that that would be a disaster for the wildlife, that doesn't mean they don't want the bridge built or that it isn't a good idea for tourism. It just means that's a bad justification for doing so. Leaving up there simply makes it easier to shoot the project down. The sooner you get rid of it, the better.

I dealt with moral issues in a seperate post. But it's not about direct equivalences, its about showing willing.
girliejones
Jan. 16th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)
That this question keeps coming up, and the responses are so typically defensive (and repetitive) tells me 1: There is a problem and 2: most people aren't willing to admit it.

I have to agree with that. It's so frustrating to see (mostly men) blogging that says "oh this again" and I keep thinking - "well yes, we didn't fix it yet, you bet it's going to come up again"

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