February 3rd, 2009



Yesterday I was gleeful because my loud officemate was out of the office for three days this week. Three glorious quiet days out of five. This was what I was looking forward to.

Bloody hell but this other, temp person - I dunno who she is but sometimes she's here and mostly she's not - seems to be in today. One of those fucking loud people who need to read aloud the phone number they are about to dial and then have the loudest conversation that I can still hear her over my blaring music in the headphones and she's three offices away.

There goes my peace and serenity for today. And I was so looking forward to it too.


Locus Recommended Reading List 2008

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).


Alternative Reading - Locus Recommended Reading List 2008

If you take a look at the list from a different direction (to that of my analysis here), very very little of the Locus Recommended Reading List 2008 features work from small/indie press (or non American outlets). If you were to conclude that the List features all the top works and they just happen to be dominated by male writers, does it follow too that all the top works also just happen to be published by big American press houses?



My life is kind of full of weird and wonderful surprises. Things coming to me from way off in left and right field.

When you let go of expectation and entitlement, and expect nothing, all good things that come your way become awesome surprises. And I have a few of them at the moment - new and special friends, opportunities. All sorts.

It's pretty cool and uplifting.


Natcon in Adelaide

Snurched from ladnews

A quick note, not of disgruntlement but general advice:

I know just as little about what's happening with Conjecture as anyone else, so emailing me to find out is not going to get you very far. All we can do is whinge about it together, after I've suggested you contact the con committee and see if they'll respond.

I do suggest you do that, btw. Or post to your blogs. Just generally raise some hell, any way you can. If the natcon isn't dead, it's going to take a little more evidence than stone cold silence to convince anyone of the fact.


Health Update

Thankfully, I think my Crohn's flare up has calmed down. I've still got a bit of IBS but that's normal after your gut experiences aggravation or inflammation. Hopefully it too will settle down in the next week or so. I feel better about it because IBS feels like something I can control - I know my triggers and I know when it's (usually) my fault.

My brain has felt so much clearer today and yesterday and I have felt so much more effective both at work and in TPP things. I can't help but think that has to be a result of my body no longer trying to fight, well, itself.

I've used this flare up as a good excuse to take a closer look at my diet and lifestyle and tweak a few things that maybe needed tweaking to better manage my disease. I'm not overly convinced that anything I did triggered it this time but I can see some aspects that could use improvement, in a general sense:

Sleep more. Take more personal downtime.

Drink more water! I fail at this every single day. But I am trying to do better and hope to.

I've cut back on caffeine, not by actual choice or decision but because mostly I just haven't wanted to put a second cup of coffee inside my body at lunchtime. I didn't suffer too much withdrawal, I still don't really want that second cup at lunch so ... I'm just not having it.

I've cut down on processed white sugars and flours. I need to go fully gluten-free, which I haven't quite done. Mostly I just have not been able to stomach the thought of lots of the processed foods I normally eat. It's not a bad thing healthwise, so I'm actually quite cool with it. It's meant eating a lot more raw foods and meals prepared from scratch which make you crave more raw foods, I find, and less the processed ones. I think I am addicted to the processed carbs and can never really quit them by choice. Stomach saying no though has been good for that and I am not in a big hurry to amp back up to the processed stuff. Hoping I can quit that habit for good. I haven't been able to stomach the thought of a Tim Tam or a piece of chocolate in two weeks - it's been weird.

The biggest change though has been on the fruit front. I haven't really been able to eat fruit for the last 10 years - yes, I do often worry about scurvy. Fruit is a complicating factor of one or all depending on the fruit for - fibre, fructose, salicylates and acidity. When I first was diagnosed with Crohn's I also had several stomach ulcers - some were Crohn's related, some were not. Even though I got treated, I have to be careful with the acid factor and the hives. However, fruit is now back on the menu! I'm quite excited by that - upping in test quantities, dried fruit and juices. And some (very safe) raw fruits (kiwi, mango etc).

Overall, I feel much much better both in terms of the flare up and pre-flare up. So that's a good thing! Yay!

Awesome day!

So what made it an awesome day? It turns out, a day filled with the best of friends - in the flesh, online and by text and people I have met through work and the internet and the sf community and from school and from whereever - with messages of love, fun, advice and secrets. I spent the day spilling my guts about my fears and my failings to people I can say anything to. And was accepted and loved back unconditionally (though it's not like any of that stuff was criminal or anything).

A day of laughter and sharing and fun and love. Those are the days that are why we are alive, right? It's like today I totally get IT. (And no I am not high right now) It's not the big things, it's the inane small ones. It's having friends you can be unbelievably frank and open with and they return it.

And it turns out, that I have seen more of the world than I give myself credit for *grins* Ahhh ... the exuberance of my youth, I miss it. I just told a tall tale to someone about my dark and distant past and I cannot believe I had forgotten it! I am going to refer to it as the Nexus but I suspect the person I told the story to will not understand the reference, alas.

On the other hand, there is much still that I do not know, that I still suck at and do the exact opposite to what I should do and I am but the grasshopper.

But something I was thinking about on the drive home today. When drowning in the abyss I often looked at other people and their perfect lives and wondered what that must be like. Here, staring out to where the abyss is - far away and on the horizon - I have perspective and understand that everyone's life has struggle in it. Noone is excempt from that. Noone gets a free ride. And it's not fair to assume that because someone is smiling that their life is stressfree. And then on the Biggest Loser I caught this exchange:

Does it get easier?
But surely it gets easier?
NO. It gets harder, but you get tougher.

And that's just it, right? Nothing really is all that different in my life, standing here on the outskirts of the abyss compared to when I was in it, spiralling ever downwards. Not really. But my perspective and attitude totally are. And when you get that everyone is just doing the best they can and noone really is just plain sailing through life ... well, I dunno, it made me feel better to think of it that way. And that yeah, I'm much tougher than I was last year and the year before that. And I can do this. I can. And that helps too.