The subject of female authors and bloggers, and the tendency for their work to often be overlooked, has been spreading through the blogosphere over the past couple of days. I want to point you towards two that I feel are worth reading.
The first is from Lady Business, which examines the reviewing habits of bloggers in 2011 and the ration of male:female authors reviewed on each blog. The results are not surprising, but disheartening nonetheless.
Are there answers in these numbers? I’m only finding more questions. There are no good, easy answers. Of course, some like to pretend there are easy answers and that’s where I’ve watched this debate fall apart in the past whenever it’s cropped up. It goes to Disasterland immediately and becomes a shame spiral. Someone inevitably shows up and starts talking about why quotas are bad and no, no, how dare you call them sexist and a game of Defensive Assholes is launched. The entire situation devolves into Don’t Read the Comments™ and it’s Gender Catastrophe Theater and general badness, which accomplishes less than nothing, because if we go back to the beginning, no one called anyone any names at all. I want to avoid that as much as possible. Reading diversity is a complicated subject and book selection often a process that we’re not conscious of. We’re impacted on all sides by a myriad of things influencing our decisions. But reviewing and talking about titles on public blogs and journals is an active decision that we’re making every time we put a book down and go, “I’m going to write 1000 words about that and share it with the Internet!”
As friends finalized this data for me, made the graphs you see above and I started thinking about what to say about them, VIDA released The 2011 Count. It’s not specific to SF/F like my project and and it’s professionally focused, but I think it’s fascinating to look and see the same trends in an unrelated sphere repeated in this one.
What are we saying to those who trust our reading choices? What are we saying to the publishers who send us materials to review about the books that deserve that kind of virtual hand-selling? Does it impact what they think is relevant and sellable? What does it mean when we review that book by a man, and that one, and that other one and pass over the women writing the same kind of story? There’s worth in examining the reviewing choices we’re making. There’s worth in thinking about what messages we’re sending when our promotional energies favor the dominant gender without letting ourselves get mired in arguments grounded in gender essentialism.
The real meat of the discussion is just getting underway in the comments section, with one reader analyzing the ratio of male:female novels being published and selling well in the genres. A Dribble of Ink was included in the research (listed as article ‘A’ in the charts), and I’ll keep any explanation to a minimum, in fear of coming off as defensive and petulant. Bottom line, my male:female reviewing ration in 2011 was poor, something I will consider heavily as we move into 2012. I hope that other bloggers/critics will do the same.
As a former art student, I’m a visual person, but music has always played a big role in my life. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in the back of my parents’ car with “Hit the Road, Jack” playing on the radio. My parents had just had an argument where my father had walked out the door and then turned around and come back. That song perfectly fit a moment I’d lived through not twenty minutes before. My mother says I might have been two years old at the time — tops. Ever since then, I’ve associated songs with certain events in my life. So, it was a natural transition from real life to novel scenes.
I used music to help me travel back in time to the ‘70s. While I was writing Of Blood and Honey, I dumped anything I remembered hearing in addition to anything I might like from the era into a huge playlist. (Of course, Charles de Lint had more than a few suggestions, thank goodness.) I usually run through the giant list a few times until a select few frame up into something that tells the story of the novel I’m working on. That becomes my final list. Here’s the list for Of Blood and Honey:
Every year, George R.R. Martin takes the time to talk about some of the authors/artists/editors/fan writers/novels/etc… that he feels deserve to be on the Hugo Award ballot. I always look forward to these posts and it’s something I wish more voters would do. Give fans (and other Hugo voters) a taste of what you think are the best of the best in any given year. Martin has always been a big proponent of trying to get blogs and bloggers on the ‘Best Fanzine’ and ‘Best Fan Writer’ short lists. This year, he’s gone further than just suggesting that we all think of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and instead wrote at some length about why he feels that bloggers deserve a shot. From his latest post:
The Best Fanzine category is one of the oldest Hugo Awards, but is currently embroiled in controversy. Traditional print fanzines are still around, though both their numbers and their readership are dwindling, and in recent years the fans have been nominating things like e-zines, blogs, and podcasts in this category. Last year at Reno, a rules change was enacted to exclude all those new forms of fanac from this category. If that change is ratified in Chicago, Best Fanzine will once again become the exclusive property of traditional fanzines. If you don’t own a mimeograph machine, you need not apply. However, (1) the change needs to be ratified, if it is defeated at this year’s business meeting, it will not take effect, (2) it is NOT in effect this year, so this may be the last year when e-zines, blogs, and podcasts can be nominated in the category. As I think you can tell by my sarcastic tone, I am opposed to the change. I think there are some great fannish blogs and e-zines and podcasts out there, I think they are the future, and I’m going to nominate a bunch of them. Some of my own favorites include PAT’S FANTASY HOTLIST, THE WERTZONE, MAKING LIGHT, THE BLOG OF THE FALLEN (okay, he doesn’t like my stuff, but it’s still a good read), STOMPING ON YETI, CHEESE MAGNETS, HATHOR LEGACY, and PUNKADIDDLE. And for Best Fan Writer, I’d suggest you consider some of the folks who write for these blogs and e-zines, including Patrick St. Denis, Adam Whitehead, Adam Roberts, and John J. Miller.
(I can’t guarantee the completeness or veracity of this account of the D&D game at Epic ConFusion. As a kid, I never got past rolling a character before my friends lost interest, so if it appears that some players didn’t do much, that’s likely because I spent their turns squinting at the handbook.)
“Wait,” I say, “we’re going to role play this, right? I mean, we’re not all just going to go for the racial min/maxes on stats, are we?”
Nine flat stares.
Everyone does racial min/maxes.
We’re rolling stats the night before our Epic ConFusion D&D game. I notice Joe Abercrombie (The First Law Trilogy) is definitely rolling more than six times. “My first rolls weren’t very good,” he explains, perfectly nonchalant.
Huh, guess I don’t understand the rules very well.
Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle) claims to have only rolled once. And he’s gloating. I’m too wrapped up in Abercrombie’s cheating to tell if Brett got that many 17′s naturally.
We’re playing old school D&D. First Edition old school. Everyone agrees an assassin is gimped at level 2, so because I’ve played the least, I buddy up with Peter Brett. He’s going with a half-elf cleric named Glendrin Smythe. I’ll be his little brother by 22 years, also a cleric: Grrthog Smythe, half-orc. (Clearly, Dad Smythe’s charms declined with age.)
Yarr! There be spoilers ahead. Ye’ve been warned!
Wow, what a movie.
As a boy, I watched and read very little Fantasy. It was for girls, full of unicorns and princesses, quests for jewels and other things no boy would be interested in. Until I discovered Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I lived in spaceships, slavered over the high-tech gadgetry of Tom Swift and loved to see the fall of evil scientists as their plans went awry at the hands of a too-clever teen. This was through no fault of my parents, who are both generous, open-minded people with little interest in drawing gender lines for their children, but rather because I adored Science Fiction, loved the conflict and, in my youth and naivety, had strong misconceptions about the Fantasy genre. Despite this love for Science Fiction, however, Alien, and its sequels, were never on my radar. Even as a teen, when the films first became age-appropriate for me, I was a bit of a lightweight where horror was concerned and stayed far away from anything that was remotely frightening. Blame my over-active imagination, blame the monsters under my bed, blame whatever you’d like, but I skipped out on Alien, not realizing that years later I’d discover it for the genre classic that it is.