So I mentioned that I am a fangirl of Awards and Lists. I've been looking forward to the Locus list for a while, just to you know, compare theirs to mine. It's one of the main perks of doing Last Short Story
In addition to mild curiosity, I'm still working on and thinking through a lot of issues and points of discussion that were raised in the gender debate several weeks ago. For me, it's not a topic that rears its ugly head once a year for crazy ladies to yell and shout and then be placated back to their corners for another year. Gender balance is something that is on my mind almost everyday and is a significant part of my reading perspective. I'm working on an analytical piece that came out of that first discussion, for which I am still gathering data, and hope to put out later in the year.
But something that piqued my interest came, as usual from cassiphone
, who suggested that an influence that is often ignored is that of the reviewers and critics within the genre. Being a critic and reviewer myself, at times, I thought I would have a closer look at what she means by this and so have been doing so for a while (we talked about it in our podcast earlier this year).
So first up, under the spotlight, is the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2008.
According to the Locus website
, the list is compiled as a consensus between 10 Locus editors and reviewers, as well as including input from other reviewers, publishers and lists, and is published in the February 2009 issue of the magazine. So, that's 3 women out of the team of 10 contributing directly to the compilation of this list, with some indirect outside influence to the final outcome. (Though on confirmation, there is an error on the website as it stands and it should read as 4 females out of the team of 11 Locus editors and reviewers.)
A quick breakdown by obvious gender for the various categories in the list looks like this:
SF Novels -- 2 female out of 20 (10%)
Fantasy Novels -- 6 female out of 18 (33%)
First Novels -- 5 female out of 14 (35%)
YA Books -- 9 female out of 15 (60%)
Collections -- 5 female out of 24 (20%)
Anthologies -- 2 books had female editors or coeditors out of 14 (14%)
Anthology Reprints -- 2 books had female coeditors out of 6 (33%)
Anthology Best Of the Year-- 3 books had female coeditors out of 8 (38%)
Nonfiction -- 3 books had female (co)authors out of 12 (25%)
Art -- 2 females out of 6 (33%)
Novellas -- 5 females out of 19 (26%)
Novelettes -- 12 females out of 48 (25%)
Shorts -- 14 females out of 50 (28%)
Having some knowledge of other females who assisted in the compilation of this list, it's important to note the double up that many of these are also listed above as editors. And that several of the females above are doing more than their fair share at representing the female voice.
Also of interest was noting the female names that are actually included in the list above. I bet if you had to name some female writers and editors, the main ones you could name would be these (Ellen, Ann, Kelly, Margo and Nancy - see? They don't even need surnames anymore!). The only list that really shows diversity in terms of who is on the list, interestingly enough, is the Young Adult category which also has a 60% gender imbalance towards women.
So what conclusions am I drawing from this?
I should probably mention at this point that we at the Last Short Story on Earth project are included in the "contributed indirectly to the compilation" as part of the "other lists" - Jonathan Strahan has access to our list throughout the year and is an honorary member of the team (meaning he gets to be on the mailing list for the snark). And in 2008, we comprised a 75% female team and were not the "same old names" as you often see around the traps.
For me, I think the most important conclusion to draw from this piece is that there aren't very many (diverse) female names on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2008. Now, we could argue that of course that will be the case given the debate we already had where across the board I'm lucky for any random market to publish more than 35% of their yearly ToCs with female names and if you take the cream of that ... blah blah blah. That's true, it's just not a very interesting conclusion for me.
What is of interest to me, is that if you use this list as your sole or even your main guide for what to read (and buy) from the 2008 crop of published works, you will have a very unbalanced diet of mostly male fiction, nonfiction and art. It's a very strong list, I won't say it's not. But like any wholesome diet, you have to make sure you try a little of everything and don't overload in any one food group. Balance is the key. And so, like I told my friend yesterday, she can borrow my copy of Twilight
AS LONG AS she also borrows something else of mine that is soul nourishing to balance out the junk food.
So for me, having read the batch of nigh on 3000 (cough - I read about 1500) stories from which the shorts, novellas and novelettes are drawn from, I know that there are different, and I would argue, equally engaging, enjoyable and worthy lists of the year's best fiction that could have been compiled and that would have had a higher female representation. I can say that because I helped compile one
If there are readers out there who use the Locus list as the sole guide for their reading within the modern day published genre, then I can see how cassiphone
's argument holds that if most reviewers are male and they push male works as the standout for the year, then ... less female writers may be published in the following years. I think you can see that most blatantly in the best Collections category where only 5 female writers' collections are listed and they are of pretty big names (ie are listed elsewhere on this list alone).