girlie jones (girliejones) wrote,
girlie jones

the latest in female presence in SF ToCs

So, as I was working through the 70 odd submissions to Sprawl, I read each submission and I judged it on the quality of the writing, the execution of the plot, the tone of the piece and how close the work was to my idea of a suburban story. Just before I sent out my acceptances, I pulled out all the stories I was choosing and put them in a new sheet of the spreadsheet with their word counts to check how much I was going to buy and take a final look at the line up. At that point I had a look at the gender balance - which at that point was 50:50, this might shift a bit as I tie up a few loose ends.

I just don't seem to have a problem with the gender balance thing. And I don't specifically slush for it.

Here then is the latest in the ongoing attempt to deal with other people's issues of selecting stories: Realms of Fantasy is having an all female issue. Um, be warned that the submission guidelines are highly offensive, referring to professional female writers as "girl writers" (sorry I vomited a bit in my mouth typing that) whilst female artists are referred to as "ladies" (I always read that in a pimp-voice - layyydiees).

Catherynne Valente says it best here:

But creating Very Special Issues once in a 15 year run isn't the same as addressing the problem head on by understanding the psychology at play and changing the editorial paradigm. It's just a bone, thrown.

And she's right because it not only acknowledges that you have a problem, but it seeks out not to address the why, not even to address if it is somehow to do with how the editor reads and selects stories. Instead it sets up a series of assumptions - in the world where Douglas Cohen is only selecting from female submitters, he will select the best stories and put together a female-heavy ToC. But he is unable to do that under other circumstances. That says to me that the problem is not with the submissions.

I also like this comment from Valente, cause it sums up why I am no longer a buyer of this magazine:

I also shudder to think what the cover will be on this. It's gonna be bad, y'all. Bad.

Tansy Rayner Roberts discusses the issue of tokenism here. She says:

Publishing is a meritocracy. But merit is subjective, and it is fluid. Editors who read “without considering matters or gender, race or author background” and yet consistently publish work which is about the default white male gaze do need to be challenged by their audience, if that audience has an interest in diversity in fiction. Sometimes affirmative action, of whatever kind, is necessary to help editors (not necessarily male editors) find value in stories that they might have missed out on otherwise – not because they are deliberately creating a culture of sexism (or racism, etc, let’s stick to sexism for now) but because their actions and to some extent their personal taste are unconsciously supporting said culture.

Which, you know, if you’re only interested in an (aging) readership of a certain kind of bloke, is just fine. Slap a label on the magazine which says ‘SF/Fantasy for Men’ and be done with it. (or just put a cover on it where a madeuppy woman has her boobs falling out of chain mail, this has a similar effect) Sure, you might lose some audience – both male and female readers – but at least you’re being honest about where your priorities are.

Personally I spent a lot of 2009 thinking about the issue of sexism in specfic fiction, some of it was done here on this blog, some of it done offline with friends and colleagues. At the end of the day, I think that there is an enormous untapped niche readership market in specfic. I'm part of that market and I want to publish books that are the kind of books that *I* want to read. Books with stories that speak to me, represent me, explore the kind of issues I am grappling with and validate me as an equal, interesting and important part of society and the world. I don't want to be invisible in the future or not part of someone's magically fantastic world. I wanna play. And the older I get, and the more pressed for time I am, the less tolerant I am of outlets that don't care about the kind of reader that I am. Do I care that Realms of Fantasy will have an all female issue? Will it change whether I buy their magazine or not? No.

Tags: breaking through the glass ceiling of sf, feminism
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