Posts Tagged: Blogosphere

Women in SF&FSince the beginning of April, Fantasy Cafe has been running a wonderful series of articles for Women in SF&F Month, with the hopes of exploring and celebrating the impact that women (as authors and characters) have had on our favourite genre. In addition to this, there is some discussion of the politics in the genre, gender equality and reviewer bias.

Kristen, editor of Fantasy Cafe, explains the driving force behind Women in SF&F Month:

This particular subject is one I’ve felt pretty strongly about for a while now. A few years ago, I noticed that most of the fantasy and science fiction books being talked about on many blogs and forums were written by men and started questioning whether or not there was a significant number of women writing these genres. Since then, I’ve of course found that there are many female authors of fantasy and science fiction books and it’s become very important to me to make sure their work is recognized and discussed. Usually I just do this quietly by reading and reviewing a lot of books written by women, but after the topic came up again I decided I wanted to do more to showcase the many women who are writing and reviewing all kinds of different types of fantasy and science fiction. So I started asking around to see if there was any interest in being a part of this and have spent the past 2 or 3 weeks gathering volunteers and posts.

So, here are some of the articles from the series that have caught my eye:

Vanishing the Elephant by Stina Leicht:

Addressing touchy subjects with story is one of Science Fiction and Fantasy’s best traditions. Sure, not all Sci-fi and Fantasy does this. (Some novels are intended to be fluffy and they do have their place.) However, I feel the main thing that sets Sci-fi and Fantasy apart from other genres is its capacity to make the reader think, in addition to SFF readers’ willingness (perhaps even eagerness) to contemplate complex subjects.

Elizabeth Bear, author of Range of Ghosts, on how you can support women who write SF&F:

[T]he problem is not that women are not writing science fiction, or that science fiction by women is not being published. It’s that a certain segment of fandom doesn’t pay enough attention to notice.

As you might imagine, I find this intensely frustrating. It’s as if one or two women in each generation of writers are anointed to become token representatives of our gender in the general critical discourse, and the rest–somehow never get talked about very much.

The good news is, this is easy to fix.

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Cover for GranfalloonIn the beginning, there were zines. Shortly after fish crawled out of the primordial ooze, and were greeted by First Fandom, zines started to appear. Science Fiction fandom wasn’t even invented when folks started doing the earliest things we’d call fanzines. Mostly, they were related to sports at first, and later to film stars and the like. Science Fiction fandom evolved and became the group most strongly associated with fanzines, largely because we popularized the name ‘fanzine’. Over the years, zines became the primary way that fans communicated when they couldn’t be in the same place physically. Over the years, this was slowly replaced, first by more frequent cons and ever-growing clubs, later by electronic bulletin boards, then USENET, then CompuServe, then AOL, and nowadays we’re up to blogs and such. Zines themselves evolved, first in the technology used to create them, later in the way they were presented. Most fanzines today are either done completely electronic or have a PDF version that echoes a printed version. And there are a few that have no electronic version at all. Not a lot, but there are some. We’ll get into that later.

I came into fanzines twice. My Dad loved ‘em. He had a fairly good little collection that he had for years. I used to color in them, but I learned how to read from issues of Granfalloon and Niekas. Over the years, I drifted out of fandom, only to return around 2004, finally starting my own zine, The Drink Tank, on January 31st, 2005. Over the last seven years, I’ve expanded the number of zines I’ve done, have got myself nominated a few times for the Hugo, managed to somehow win one of the things, and have made friends from around the world. That’s what zines have done for me.
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Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops: Control PointThis isn’t a eulogy for my father. The guy’s still around. In fact, every once in a while, he calls me and while I’m happy to hear from him, it takes me 3 hours to get him off the phone. But that’s not the point. The point is, that when my dad finally shuffles off this mortal coil (heaven forestall the day), there is one thing I will always remember about him.

When I was a young boy, dad would sit in the living room or in his study (he smoked a pipe back then, and the smell of pipe smoke still makes me comfortable) and read the New York Times Review of Books. He would disappear behind those venerable pages and emerge with a pronouncement, some minutes or hours later, that such-and-such a book sounded good.

What can I say? Kids are impressionable. Between my father (who, at the time, was the clear earthly authority on absolutely EVERYTHING) and that lauded institution known as the New York Times, if dad read the NYTROB and declared a book good, then it was GOOD, as objectively as anything can ever be considered in a matter of taste.

But, time has rolled on. Dad’s blind in one eye. I don’t trust his driving and he talks too much on the phone. I love him to death, but what is up with those pastel yellow pants? Just as I don’t want to be in a car with him behind the wheel, I don’t necessarily want him recommending me SF/F out of the NYTROB (not that they ever review the stuff anyway). I’m not a big Glenn Reynolds fan, but he was largely right in his Army of Davids. The Internet has diversified and broadened the arena of tastemakers, and I have long since turned to a bevy of blogs (the smaller and more independent, the better) to get advice on what to read next.
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AND BLUE SKIES FROM PAIN by Stina LeichtThe 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.
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Hugo Awards LogoOne of my favourite bloggers, Stefan Raets dropped by Staffer’s Musings to talk about an important issues that’s near-and-dear to my heart. I’ll let his words speak for themselves.

How many authors on the ballot have done blog tours? How many have websites that quote reviews from bloggers? How many have done interviews on blogs? How many, for the love of Tehlu, have only achieved the prominence and popularity they currently enjoy because of the enthusiastic, dedicated and unpaid work done by bloggers? AND YOU’RE TELLING ME YOU MAY NOT WANT TO INCLUDE BLOGS IN THIS CATEGORY IN THE FUTURE? For shame.

Seriously, the only justification I could see for this is to make sure the traditional fanzines don’t get overrun by blogs. So, let’s create a brand new category called “Best Blog”. Somehow they have seen fit to create a new category called “Best FanCast” this year, so it’s possible. The person with the gavel needs to consider this. Maybe he or she wants to go down in history as the person who brought the Hugos in line with the progress of history. We need a Best Blog category, or we need blogs to be included under “Best FanZine”. It’s one or the other. You can’t reasonably exclude the place where 90% of fan writing happens right now. Not if you want to be taken seriously as an award in this day and age. Hands up how many of you have read a fanzine this year? And now how many have read a blog? I rest my case.

So! Enough with the speechifying. I’m hoping that enough fans and bloggers and authors will include their favorite blogs in the Best Fanzine category. Personally, I’m putting only blogs on my ballot. I’m hoping that at least a few of the best ones will make it to the final ballot. And I hope that one of them will win the award.

Aside from the Fanzine/blog category, you can also nominate individual Fan Writers. Things are a bit more straightforward and less exclusive there: you can nominate anyone who writes about SF&F in any format. Including bloggers. You don’t have to use a Xerox machine to be eligible for Best Fan Writer. So, if you have a favorite blog, you can nominate “Aidan Moher” or “Adam Whitehead” under Best Fan Writer as well as “SF Signal” or “Staffer’s Musings” under Best Fanzine. Even if blogs don’t count anymore in future years, you can continue to nominate the people behind the blogs in the Best Fan Writer.

It looks like a few people have put my name on their ballots in this category. I am very flattered, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I want to make it clear that I’m not asking you to nominate me here. I’m asking you to support your favorite bloggers. If that’s me, great. If not, also great. Just support your favorite bloggers, whoever they are. Buy a membership and nominate them.

This is a subject that I’ve written about on a few occasions (like this, or this, or this). I think it’s integral to keeping the Hugo Awards relevant in the industry and among fans. You can read Raets full article, Love a Blog? Nominate It, on Staffer’s Musings or Far Beyond Reality.