MIND MELD: What’s The Importance of ‘The Russ Pledge’ For Science Fiction Today?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Recently, a poll in The Guardian created to the readers nominate their favorite SF writers revealed an appalling result: 500 men in the list – but only 18 women made it. This result sparked a chain of reactions in the blogosphere, from Nicola Griffith to Cheryl Morgan to Ian Sales and many other critics and writers, including this Mind Meld moderator. However, one of the most interesting results of this discussion was a proposition made by Nicola Griffith of what she called The Russ Pledge. Please read the links above before reading below.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What’s the Importance of the Russ Pledge for Science Fiction Today?

Here’s what they said…

Farah Mendlesohn
Farah Mendlesohn used to edit Foundation, and is now Immediate Past President of the IAFA. She won the Hugo for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, and nominations for Rhetorics of Fantasy, The Inter-Galactic Playground, and On Joanna Russ. She is currently writing The Cambridge Introduction to Children’s Fantasy Literature with Michael M. Levy.

I am more interested in hearing why male writers think the Russ Pledge is important for science fiction, and then watching them act it out, than I am in writing yet one more exhausted rant stating the obvious.

Lavie Tidhar
Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman and sequel Camera Obscura. Other books include linked-story collection HebrewPunk, novel The Tel Aviv Dossier (with Nir Yaniv), and recent novellas Cloud Permutations and Osama. He also edited The Apex Book of World SF and runs the World SF News Blog.

I think discussing women writers in SF is always valuable, though it seems to me at least some of this discussion focuses on the false dichotomy between fantasy and science fiction. If we take a recent genre masterpiece – Mary Gentle’s incredible Ash: A Secret History – it’s the sort of novel that can be easily both – is it SF? Is it fantasy? Does it matter?

And obviously in genre some of our most successful writers are women. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books, for instance, are everywhere – and are simply addictive!

I seem to have less of an interest in discussing the classics (that whole SF Mistressworks meme) simply because, to me, the classics are such an ingrained part of my reading of SF I sort of expect everyone else to have already read them! One simply can’t imagine SF/F without C.L. Moore or Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.), or to discuss fantasy without mentioning Patricia McKillip’s The Riddle Master of Hed trilogy…while I realise a lot of people haven’t read, say, Zenna Henderson (one of the great and only Pastorals of SF) – but at the same time, a lot of old SF gets left behind as new readers get into genre from a different angle – through media SF or newer works.

You know, Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See”? That’s one of the all-time great SF stories – and it was the inspiration for my first professional sale, “Alienation and Love in the Hebrew Alphabet”. Or C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, she was the direct influence for me to start writing my Gorel of Goliris stories, starting with “Black Gods Kiss”, a reference to Moore’s “Black God’s Kiss”, obviously… (these are published by PS Publishing in the UK, incidentally).

So to me these are very relevant, very living writers, works. I’m not going to make up lists of them, like they belong in some encyclopedia! They’re still shaping fiction and ideas today, they’re still a fabric of my writer identity.

As an editor, particularly as an editor of international SF/F stories (via the World SF Blog and the Apex Book of World SF series of anthologies, of which the second one is coming out soon), I think we’re at a pretty exciting time! It was interesting, in that I saw a Twitter conversation recently, when someone said her impression was that a lot of the young, up-and-coming genre writers were women, and someone else replied that his perception was that this was not the case.

Well, I’m with the former, not the latter. If I look at the writers I’m excited about today, the ones working in short fiction or getting into novels, the ones in my two (to date) Apex Book of World SF anthologies, they’re people like Lauren Beukes, who picked up the Clarke Award recently for her novel Zoo City; it’s Aliette de Bodard, who won the BSFA Award for short story, was up for a Nebula and is still up for a Hugo; it’s Kaaron Warren, who just has this very weird mind… all three happen to be with Angry Robot (also my publishers for the Bookman books), but that just shows we may have similar editorial tastes! AR are also bringing out debut novelist Anne Lyle soon, which is very exciting.

The second Apex Book of World SF volume opens with a writer I’m very excited about (can you tell there’s a recurrent theme here??) – Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, with “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life”, from Interzone. I think she’s a wonderful writer and I know she’s working on a novel, and I can’t wait to see it!

And we have, for instance, Joyce Chng from Singapore, who recently released a novel, A Wolf at the Door (as by J. Damask) – werewolves in Singapore! Who could resist that?

And we have Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is working on a couple of very exciting novels, writes wonderful stuff. Shweta Narayan, who was up for a Nebula recently. Ekaterina Sedia, who is just such a great writer – you have to read A Secret History of Moscow! And I just love her short stories. We were lucky to get a story from Nnedi Okorafor, who is incredible. Or Gail Har’even, a highly regarded Israeli author who does both mainstream and SF (the story we reprint is from the New Yorker). We have original stories from Anabel Enriquez PiƱeiro from Cuba, and Csilla Kleinheincz from Hungary.

So, you know, do we want to talk about women writers? Well, obviously I do! They’re such a vital and vibrant part of the field that I see – and this is just talking international stuff, you know. If you open it up a bit…you have Nina Allan making some waves in the UK with her short stories, you have Catherynne Valente, who hardly needs me to shout about, she’s everywhere, you have Cat Rambo, Amal El-Mohtar, Genevieve Valentine, Kij Johnson, Sarah Monette, Yoon Ha Lee, Rachel Swirsky, N.K. Jemisin, Karen Lord – do you want me to go on? The problem would be getting me to shut up! There’s a new collection Apex have just put out, Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke, that you should really check out. And let’s not forget Ellen Datlow, one of the truly great editors in the field, who I, personally, just owe so much to.

But, is there an issue with the invisibility of women in SF? Of course there is. There are a lot of deep-rooted problems in the world of SF, from a sort of ingrained, unconscious racism that goes all the way back to Campbell, to an unthinking, unblinking sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and, weirdly, a deep-seated conservatism of the WASP variety, a sort of fear of the future that exhibits itself in the stories that win awards, in the way magazines receive (or don’t) submissions, in bizarre rambling editorials from once-great writers in the field…

But I have very little interest in what was, in yesterday’s tomorrows. The future is here, and it can be female, it can be black, it can be transgender, it can be Jewish or Muslim (Campbellian orthodoxy and American xenophobia notwithstanding), it can be queer – it can be _fun_ again, and it can be serious again, and it _is_ glorious, and exciting, and I learn every day from those writers above, the living and the dead, may their smoke rise up forever.

Brit Mandelo
Brit Mandelo is a writer and occasional critic. Her primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. Also, comics. Her work has recently appeared at Tor.com (“Though Smoke Shall Hide the Sun“) and Clarkesworld Magazine (“Linguistics for the World-builder“). She is a Louisville native and lives there with her partner in an apartment that doesn’t have room for all the books.

I’d say that the Russ Pledge, and any movement towards bringing attention to women’s writing in SF (& by doing so combating creeping invisibility and suppression), is as important today as it’s ever been. Though the presence of women in the speculative field is undeniable throughout our history, when it comes to critical consideration like reviews, awards, et cetera, all of those talented women tend to disappear. When discussing the pulps/the “golden age,” for example, how many people will talk about the women who were writing? How many people even know there were women writing?

While I’m not going to say it hasn’t gotten better in recent years–it has–that’s because we’ve tried to make it so, by drawing attention to the fact that women writing SF are being erased in the critical arena. Sexism is rarely intentional–it’s cultural, and it’s hard to kick until you see it and acknowledge it. (Once seen, it can’t be unseen, either–Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing is quite the eye-opener in this regard, because it’s so very clear and concise.) Only further effort will continue the steps we’re making as a community toward recognizing as many women as we do men for the brilliant books they’re writing. Books like Helen Merrick’s The Secret Feminist Cabal, while focused specifically on feminist SF, also collect the history of women writing in the genre since its beginnings–damned important work, in my opinion.

On the less positive hand, the recent discussions in places like The Guardian about invisibility of women writers in SF go to show that there are still hurdles to clear when it comes to women writing in the speculative field getting the same kind of recognition that men do. It’s a life’s work, it is, but with things like the Russ Pledge we can all try to work toward a better future for the field.

Personal anecdote time: last December, I reviewed Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing for Tor.com. I’d encountered it in a search for more feminist science-fiction criticism, and it blew me away, so I wrote about it. The response to the review was one of the coolest, weirdest things I’ve experience so far in writing criticism–it spread. For days and weeks after that review went live, people were reposting, retweeting, emailing me, everything you can think of, talking about how they’d found the book through that review, or how it had reminded them of it, or how it put the book on their reading list. It was kind of awesome, seeing how the internet facilitated the spread of discussion about books like Russ’s.

But, the thing about all of that renewed interest and people asking where they could find How to Suppress Women’s Writing is that it ended up just underscoring the problems Joanna herself talked about in the book–guess what: it’s difficult to find in bookstores, because it’s no longer fully in print from the press and is only available as a print-on-demand title. The most important, cogent, incisive work I’ve ever read on the suppression of women’s writing is treading invisibility in its own way, unless we–as readers, as writers, as critics, as fans–keep it alive and remember it and recommend it to our friends. It’s a big responsibility, but one I think we can handle as a community.

(And maybe we could get to work on reprinting some other out-of-print texts, too, as folks like the wonderful Cheryl Morgan have suggested.)

Judith Tarr
Judith Tarr is the author of numerous novels, mostly with a historical bent–whether straight historical or historical fantasy. Her latest book, House of the Star, a magical horse novel by her alter ego, Caitlin Brennan, was published by Tor Starscape in November. She lives near Tucson, Arizona, where she raises and trains Lipizzan horses.

What’s interesting about the Russ Pledge is not that it exists–it’s a tribute to a great luminary in the field who died recently, who would have been pleased with it, I think–but that it’s essentially gone viral. There’s been a rising awareness in recent years that science fiction, the literature of all that’s possible, has been remarkably limited in its human dimension. In short–mostly written by white American males, about issues that concern white American males, and evaluated and awarded and anthologized by still more white American males. This is reflected in lists of “greats” in the field. Women and minorities are seriously underrepresented.

That’s changing, and the Russ Pledge is an important part of it. Writers and readers and listmakers are stopping to think, and making new (and exciting and extensive) lists, and coming to the realization that not only have quite a few women been writing sf over the years, they’ve been writing it pretty damn well.

But inertia is a powerful force, and so is cultural conditioning. As long as we’re trained to minimize the importance of women’s work, we’ll continue to favor men’s work and downplay or disregard that of women.

I see the Russ Pledge not as (s)training myself to find a comparable woman writer for every male writer I list (at the risk of creating false equivalencies or marriages of convenience), but as asking myself, when I consider the landscape of the field, whether I’ve really seen the whole of it. Have even I, with my feminist leanings, committed a case of “The Women Men Don’t See”?

I want to open my eyes and really see. And if I do that, maybe others will, too. Then we’ll find ourselves in a much wider, more diverse, and more truly wonderful field than we already thought we had.

Nicola Griffith
Nicola Griffith lives in Seattle where she takes enormous delight in everything and drinks just the right amount of beer.

Talking about science fiction by women is important because women are half the world. SF as a genre will be stronger if women’s contribution is spread, talked about, and supported–as opposed to suppressed, ignored, or belittled. Diversity is strength. It’s that simple.

Ian Sales
Ian Sales reviews books for Interzone and DVDs for VideoVista.net, and writes his own fiction. He is represented by the John Jarrold Literary Agency. His blogs can be found at iansales.com, spacebookspace.wordpress.com and SF Mistressworks.

“We should take the pledge to make a considerable and consistent effort to mention women’s work which, consciously or unconsciously, has been suppressed.”

Why should we single out women’s writing? Surely they want to succeed on their own merits, as writers first not as women?

Well… how’s that been working out? Not too good, in fact. Treating women’s sf writing equally hasn’t been a resounding success. Since they were created, the Hugo Award for Best Novel has gone to 15 women out of 55, the BSFA Award to two women out of 42 – and these are the two largest popular-choice sf awards in the US and UK. But, I hear you ask, isn’t treating women sf writers differently, giving them preferential treatment, a form of discrimination? Er, no. It’s not discrimination to give women preferential treatment in your reading habits, but it *is* discrimination to refuse to read books because they were written by women. It’s not a level playing-field, and pretending it is does nothing to change that unfairness.

Most people’s views of sf were formed by the books they read when they entered the genre as young teenagers, the books that gave them their first hit of sense of wonder. They were typically indiscriminate readers then – I know I was – which is probably why Asimov’s blandly-written Foundation appears in so many lists of classic or great science fiction, and why (male) sf fans will happily excuse the appalling sexism in EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman series. And in the days those books were written, and for many decades following, the genre was indeed dominated by male writers – so women sf writers such as CJ Cherryh, CL Moore, MJ Engh and SN Lewitt chose to disguise their gender by using their initials. There was a perception that sf was for boys, and readers chose not to question that assumption – perhaps because they liked being part of a special club their sister could not, or would not, join. Which is rubbish, as there’s nothing inherently masculine about science fiction, just as there’s nothing inherently masculine about science, engineering or technology.

It’s still happening now, although the situation is worse in the UK than it is in the US – only two women sf writers are currently under contract with major publishers in the UK: Jaine Fenn and Tricia Sullivan. Yet the editorial staff at those publishers are mostly female. Publishers, however, only publish books that sell – the days of the midlist have long since gone – which suggests readers are simply not buying books by women writers. Even now, some, such as MM Bruckner, hide their gender behind their initials. If the playing field truly were level, or had levelled in the decades since a woman first won the Hugo (Ursula K Le Guin in 1970 for The Left Hand of Darkness), this shouldn’t be happening. Even CJ Cherryh, whose books I remember filling the shelves of WH Smith during the 1980s, is no longer published by a UK imprint. Perhaps it’s because books by women writers are not reviewed as often as those by men – Niall Harrison investigated this back in March and published his findings at Strange Horizons. The results indicated there is a problem: in the US 41.7% of books received by Locus were by women; in the UK, it was 37% (for the four months taken as samples). And yet, across all those review venues considered by Niall, only 29.6% of books reviewed were by women. You can see the full results here: http://www.strangehorizons.com/blog/2011/03/the_sf_count.shtml

Perhaps there’s a perception that all sf novels written by women are feminist. Though why this should be seen as a bad thing is beyond me. Is gender equality so frightening a prospect that men don’t even want to read books which discuss or comment on it? Except that can’t be the case, because men can write sf novels which are arguably feminist and no one complains – just look at the works of Robert Heinlein: he’s praised for his strong women characters, though they don’t actually appear all that feminist to me. On a recent Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, Gwyneth Jones admitted she wished she had written her earlier sf novels under a male pseudonym, because “books by a significant male writer expressing feminist views would reach a much, much wider public”. And, “if you’re a feminist, it’s much better to be a man, with the science fiction public”.

Why should this be the case? What is it that’s so scary about a feminist sf novel written by a woman? Is it that it challenges firmly-held beliefs? But isn’t that what science fiction is all about, showing new ways of thinking about the world? It’s not as though implementing the Russ Pledge is a difficult thing to do. That conditioning from your early years reading sf is easy to break. All it takes is a conscious effort to remove the rose-tinted spectacles and take a proper look at the sf books that have been, and are being, published. All it takes is a conscious effort to buy, or borrow from a library, a science fiction novel or collection written by a female sf writer.

But that’s not enough, you need to do more. Review those books by women sf writers on your blog. If you’ve just read a great book by a woman sf writer, then tell everyone about it. Nominate those writers for awards, and vote for them when they’re shortlisted. That’s why I put together the sf mistressworks meme, that’s why I started up the SF Mistressworks blog (at http://sfmistressworks.wordpress.com/). But it’s not something I should be doing on my own, it’s something we should *all* be doing, both men and women. Which is why you should spread the meme, and why the SF Mistressworks blog is open to reviews of relevant books – ie, sf, published before 2000, woman writer (500 words or more, please).

Things need to change, and they won’t change by themselves. It’s time for people to do something. Take the pledge.

Shaun Duke
Shaun Duke is a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, and fantasy. He is co-owner of Young Writers Online (an award winning online writing community), co-host of The Skiffy and Fanty Show (a SF/F podcast), and a published author. His fiction has appeared in Residential Aliens and Phantasmore, and he has a story forthcoming at Fae Publishing. He is currently podcasting a young adult fantasy novel and rants regularly about SF/F nonsense, both of which can be found on his blog, The World in the Satin Bag.

When I first saw folks talking about the Guardian 500 list, I started drafting what is now a post I will never put up on my blog. I didn’t agree with what people were saying about the list. This isn’t an issue about invisibility, I wanted to say, so much as a problem of wording/question choice/etc. And in a lot of ways, I think that’s true in a very general sense. When you ask people for their favorite science fiction novel, you’re already working within an extremely limited perspective, one which depends on the responding audience (age, upbringing, first science fiction experiences, etc.). If the majority of your responding audience began reading science fiction with Golden Age texts, it’s very likely that their favorite novel is a Golden Age text, and that their exposure to books will be disproportionately oriented towards male fiction by default. That doesn’t necessarily mean that said audience never reads books by women, just that their favorite book happens to be by a man (likely because their favorite book is also the book that got them into SF in the first place).

But when I started formulating all of that, it dawned on me that I was talking about something I didn’t know anything about. The Guardian 500 list was chosen almost exclusively by British readers, a segment of the world’s population that I cannot profess to know enough about to give anything approaching an informed opinion. And when I started to dig into the reality of the situation, it became clear that some British SF readers have a history of snooty behavior towards anything approaching a “feminist” discussion about gender in SF (plus: very few female writers are published in the U.K.). I don’t know if the list would change drastically if the same question were posed to U.S. readers. I’m leaning towards “probably not,” but I think that will have a little more to do with the question and limits of perspective than a continued history of silence and/or outright anti-woman opinions/behavior. That’s not to say that there isn’t a long history of anti-woman opinions/behavior in the U.S. (reading about Congress for a week will prove this). But when part of your reading community is saying things like, “well, women don’t write as well as men,” you have a huge problem that needs addressing regardless of where you live.

Which brings me to the Russ Pledge. I confess that I have never read Russ’ book on women’s writing, but Nicola Griffith is right on the money when she says we (in the SF community) need to talk about women writers. However, I think we need to be careful not to highlight women writers because they are women writers, which, to me, essentializes their gender and adds fuel for the “they’re not as good as men” camp (I believe Nicola wants to avoid this too, since her post says we should talk about women alongside men). We need to talk about female writers as great authors who just so happen to have inherited the right set of genes to make them women. Because equality has to arise from removing the conditions of exceptionalism and essentialization from *all* genders. The most important aspect of the Russ Pledge is that it aims to change the dynamic, but it can’t do that if it makes people think of women as a special case. And this is a hard thing to do, because there are people who will see the inclusion of a woman on a “best of” list or in a blog post about favorite female authors as being some kind of evil liberal feminist plot to make mediocre writing seem more important (their language, not mine). We might not be able to change their minds, but we can change what gets discussed in the community by, well, discussing works that damn well should be discussed.

And when you change what the community talks about, you change the publishing landscape. SF publishers are businesses. They follow the money. Sadly, the money in SF is more often than not centered on books by people who were “fortunate enough” to be born as men. This is a hangup from an older time when men were “in charge,” and it persists because the readership has always been exposed to writers of the male persuasion, despite a rich history of excellent writers of the female persuasion. And if the SF community isn’t reviewing, tweeting, and blogging about books that happen to be written by women, we’re left with a self-perpetuating cycle of silence about such writers. The Russ Pledge is, at its most basic, a challenge to this structure. It’s up to us to do something about the future of publishing by, well, talking about women authors. And, maybe, looking at what our friends are saying and trying someone new.

But what do I know? I’m just a crazy immoral liberal pinko commie socialist wacko…

120 thoughts on “MIND MELD: What’s The Importance of ‘The Russ Pledge’ For Science Fiction Today?”

  1. The funny thing is that this mind meld is based on bad math. the list of course does not list 500 male writers and only 18 women . It lists recommendations for books. books might appear more then once and a author may get  more then one recommendation per  book.

    It is missleading to compare 18 distinct women writers to 500 mentions of male written books.

    ursula K. Le guin appears on the list appers on the list at least 12 times (with about the same number of spelling variations …) if you are going to compare the number of women writers to the 500 entries Ursula should count for 12 .. same goes for the other female writers.

     

    On a side note.. did it seem reasonable that there were 500 noteable SF writers? I challenge even the most battle-hardend SF fan to name more then 100 SF writers (no wikipedia allowed ..)

     

     

  2. I’m not a blogger, but I’m making an effort to read more female writers. 

    The article made me realise I read significantly more male writers than female, so my to-read list has been reshuffled. Finished Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, that’s been on my list for ages, on to Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, then Oryx and Cake, and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman next.  

  3. Yuval, care to do what you’d call the “real math” and still find the women are really under-represented?

    Re: your challenge. Any hard fan can do that. But you can do better: write your own list (with or without women, we’re not forcing anyone here to take the pledge) and post it in your blog. Then spread the word! Because that’s exactly what you we talking about here: preferences. We’re not in a WASP-world any more. Look around you. (and do a favorite list, please – I’d like to see it.)

  4. Daniel, these are awesome books indeed. Orlando is great, Oryx and Crake (and The Year of the Flood, its sequel) really good stuff, and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman should be on everyone’s best-of list.

  5. @Yuval

    No, it does not seem reasonable that there are even close to 500 distinct and seperate suggestions.

    @Fabio

    If Yuval is correct then you shouldn’t be using the quotes to denegrate his statement.  If the author really did compare apples to oranges at such a basic level the original story didn’t have any “real math” in it.  This would mean the orgininal author either made a mistake, doesn’t know what they are doing with stats, or is purposefully misleading.  I would lean towards purposefully misleading, as the math and statistical analysis is about as simple as it gets.  Yuval doesn’t deserve the scorn the original author does.

    ————————–

    On top of that, I really don’t care if women are underrepresented.  If publishers are actively saying no just because an author is a woman then yes, I would care, but obviously they aren’t.  Not every single piece of human activity has to be 50-50 between men and women.  The idea that it should be is ludicrous.  Of course, someone will suggest that this isn’t what is being suggested, but then tell me what is being suggested?  70-30 ratio of men to women?  40-60?  What is good enough?  What is right?  Nothing ever is.

    I don’t care if a book is by a man or a woman.  If I like the synopsis then the book gets a chance.  No Russ pledge from me.

  6. The “Russ Pledge”, it reminds me of the “Rooney Rule” in the NFL. (For those that dont know, the “Rooney Rule” says that for any coaching opening the team has to interview at least one minority candidate)

    I wonder if it will have the same criticisms…

    The Rooney Rule may have increased the number of minority coaches, or it may not have (those in favor of it say it has been effective, those that arent say that any increase in minority coaches is more a reflection of the changing times) but one thing it certainly caused is an increase in the number of phony and superficial interviews conducted simply to satisfy the rule.

     

    TW

     

     

     

  7. This type of thing drives me up a wall. If I give a list of my favorite authors am I obliged to pick an equal number of females and males? What if my favorites don’t work out like that, am I being “appallingly” sexist in my tastes? This is abusrd. As Chad pointed out, it doesn’t help at all with promoting discussion if you’re being disingenuous with numbers either. There are not anywhere near “500 men on the list”. Here are a few of the numbers of male mentions by my rough count: Iain M. Banks: 32, Philip K. Dick: 28, Frank Herbert: 18, Isaac Asmiov: 15, Arthur C. Clarke: 13, Robert Heinlein: 13…

  8. If you support the status quo, you are sexist. End of story.

     

    Women are under-represented when discussions of science fiction take place. Women contribute equally to the genre, but their contributions are ignored. If you ignore the gender of an author when choosing a book to read, but all your choices turn out be male, then you are not ignoring the gender of the author. Because if you truly were, you’d end up with a 50 – 50 split. So, in order to break that pattern, you have to consciously choose to read books written by women. You have to take the Russ Pledge. It’s not exceptionalism, it’s not positive discrimination, it’s not affirmative action. It’s redressing an imbalance – which might well be unconscious, but takes a conscious effort to redress.

    So yes, Picard, when you pick your favourite authors, put some women authors on the list. Chris, don’t ignore the gender of the author, because it does matter. Books do not “stand on their own merits”, because it is not a level playing-field. Same for you, Chad.

  9. Ian, you don’t at all seem bothered by the grossly distorted numberts here. Instead you attack dissinting opinions and those who point out your faulty statistics with personal attacks and straw men arguments. I don’t “ignore the gender of the author”, I’m not “supporting the status quo”, and I am under no social obligation to have my favorites dictated to me by a bunch of sanctimonious reactionaries.

  10. Picard, there are no “grossly distorted numbers” in my contribution to this mind meld.

     

    Besides, arguing over a couple of percent is missing the point. Was 50% of the list by women writers? Or 40%, perhaps? Nope.Whatever the percentage is recalculated to be, it’s still much, much lower than it should be. Unless, of course, you think it’s okay for there to be only 12% of women on the list. I don’t. I think that’s still still a piss-poor number. So harping on about whether it should be 4% or 12% is stupid and of no benefit to the discussion.

     

    By the way, you need to look up the term “reactionary”. I think you’ll find your own attitude is a better fit.

  11. I’m not “supporting the status quo”

    I am under no social obligation to have my favorites dictated to me by a bunch of sanctimonious reactionaries

    You do realise these two sentences are mutually contradictory, yes?

    You do realise that dictation is implicitly the preserve of the privileged and empowered status quo in any given system, yes?

    You do realise that the phrase “sanctimonious reactionaries” is at least as patronising as my tone in these rhetorical questions, yes?

    And with reference to your “grossly distorted figures”, I assume you’ve got the proper maths all done out to prove your point, yes? Or are you, as is traditional, laying the onus of proving that the status quo is biased upon those whom it is biased against?

  12. You’re right Ian, apparently the only opinions that benefit this discussion are the ones you agree with. Sorry I intruded on your orgy of groupthink.

  13. You do realise these two sentences are mutually contradictory, yes?

    Not necessarily, no they aren’t.

    You do realise that the phrase “sanctimonious reactionaries” is at least as patronising as my tone in these rhetorical questions, yes?

    Yes, I do. I was defending myself from personal attack.

    And with reference to your “grossly distorted figures”, I assume you’ve got the proper maths all done out to prove your point, yes? Or are you, as is traditional, laying the onus of proving that the status quo is biased upon those whom it is biased against?

    No, just enough to prove that there are nowhere near “500 men on the list”.

     

  14. Picard, you don’t have an opinion.You’re just mindlessly repeating the same old crap which maintains the status quo in all its unfairness. Take the pledge, make a change in your reading habits. It’ll be good for you.

     

  15. I set two goals for myself this year.  1) Read at least 26 books 2) Read one <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-female-authors”>female written book</a> for every <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-male-authors”>male written book</a> that I read.  In addition I’m pushing myself to read more authors that I’ve never read before. 

    I’ve <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-1966-2010″>always read female authors</a> but I’m trying to read more.  So far this year I’ve been enjoying the female written titles slightly better.

  16. No, just enough to prove that there are nowhere near “500 men on the list”.

    Well, I’m sure you’re very busy, so I just ran through and did a recount on the original list; I make it 47 mentions for books by non-male authors, so let’s round up to fifty just in case I missed any.

    Now, you’ve already quite rightly mentioned that not comparing like to like isn’t fair, so let’s be clear: that’s fifty mentions for any book written by any woman… alongside 450 mentions for any book written by any man. Maths has never been my strong point, but I’m pretty sure that’s 10%

    So, if we leave aside the error in the initial introduction to this post (which you seem to assume is Ian’s mistake, and seems to be your personal straw man in this afternoon’s arena) to address the real numbers – so as not to be disingenuous about the matter, you understand – how does your response change?

    I’m not a betting man, but my money is – with great regret – on “not at all”.

    But heaven forbid anyone accuse you of supporting the status quo, AMIRITES?

  17. And getting annoyed at attempts to broaden the inclusion and visibility of women in genre fiction (or anywhere else) in a manner that suggests the entire notion is some sort of personal affront is what exactly, if not sexism?

    The point here is this: sexism can be passive, and culturally inherited; sexual discrimination does not begin or end with someone making a conscious and deliberate decision to disenfranchise or exploit another person. You can be sexist without meaning to be sexist.

    Maybe an analogy will help: You can hold someone’s head beneath the water, or you can simply walk on by as they flail and shout for help. The former is certainly the greater wrong, but in both cases, the person still drowns.

  18. So, if we leave aside the error in the initial introduction to this post (which you seem to assume is Ian’s mistake, and seems to be your personal straw man in this afternoon’s arena)

    I never accused Ian of making the mistake, just for not being at all bothered by it when it’s pointed out and for attacking dissenters. I’m getting tired of writing this but that’s a straw man arugment, dude.

    If you change the numbers accuratly then I’m happy with that. But that doens’t mean that the people who listed more male authors than female authors did anything wrong. I stand by that. By all means, promote female authors, there are some great ones out there, but be honest and don’t find fault where no fault lies.

  19. Paul, I’m not even going to continue to point out your straw men but that’s all you have anymore. I’m done with this discussion.

    Ciao

  20. I’m getting tired of writing this but that’s a straw man arugment, dude.

    You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    (You seem to think that any argument from analogy is a straw man argument; that is in itself a fallacious argument, but never mind.)

    … that doens’t mean that the people who listed more male authors than female authors did anything wrong.

    They certainly didn’t intend to, no. But those results are indicative of an underlying problem, namely the comparative invisibility of women in the field. That is the problem the Russ Pledge is intended to address. Now, you may consider that to be a problem not worth addressing; I’d find that an unpleasant viewpoint, but one that at least has an intellectual integrity to it, and it’s one you have every right to hold. But refusing to accept any metric as proof that such a problem even exists, whether generally or personally (not to mention moving your goalposts every time a proof is provided) smacks of a certain dishonesty, whether to oneself or the world at large.

    Put it this way: if you repeatedly find yourself getting rubbed up the wrong way by suggestions that perhaps you’re not reading as widely as you could be with respect to gender, race, nationality or whatever else, perhaps it’s time to consider that maybe the “sanctimonious reactionaries” are in fact people who care deeply about a problem that just isn’t going away, and which – unwittingly or otherwise – you are helping to perpetuate. I’ve done it too, and still do, sometimes. I’m not a saint. None of us are.

    But some of us are trying to be better. And if our efforts to do so, and at the same time encourage others to do so, are so incredibly infuriating to you, erhaps you’d get some mileage from asking yourself why that is… because if you’re really as open-minded a reader as you believe yourself to be, surely you’d not have taken the original post as a personal affront?

    I’m done with this discussion.

    Ah, the opponent quits the joust. Never mind, I’m sure you’d have beaten me in the end. Nothing can stand firm in the face of truth for ever, after all. ;)

  21. I think many of the commenters do not understand the power of unconscious bias. I think many commenters don’t realize that a book ‘looking uninteresting to them’ is such a subjective, subconscious statement

    I equate the Russ pledge to two things: Title IX, and teaching girls circuits and computers, while teaching boys cooking.

    Title IX: Because the boys are ‘naturally’ sportier, right? So it’s just natural to give their sports 90% of the money, right? Which of course explains why so many girls have become so involved in school sports since Title IX. Their lives, everyone’s lives, are so much richer and healthier and happier because girls get some decent money and decent coaches now. 

    Teaching girls circuits and computers: because as a girl, I ‘naturally’ found that I had no interest in circuits or computers, while my little brother was ‘naturally’ interested them. I was forced into circuits and coding as part of my Physics major. And lo and behold, not only was I good at them, but they were FUN. My entire life I’d been somehow tricked into thinking they were boring— how?

    So by all means, read for pleasure. Read what you want. But consider reading some books you wouldn’t normally, just because you “should” read more women. You may find you enjoy it in spite of yourself. You may find you enjoy lots of things you didn’t know you would. You may find you’re a little richer and happier. 

  22. [quote]

    Women are under-represented when discussions of science fiction take place. Women contribute equally to the genre, but their contributions are ignored.

    [/quote]

     

    Where did you get this information? It’s facinating to me to see that the division of writers would be split so evenly. Perhaps it’s my sexist bias that makes me think that way.

     

    [quote]

    If you ignore the gender of an author when choosing a book to read, but all your choices turn out be male, then you are not ignoring the gender of the author. Because if you truly were, you’d end up with a 50 – 50 split.

    [/quote]

    This equation assumes that there is, in fact, a 50-50 split of men and women in published science fiction. I’m going to need to see some numbers before I can believe that ratio.

    Does this inequality break down as well into the subgenres as well?

    If it does turn out that sci-fi publishing is run by a bunch of misogynists, and I’m not finding these literary gems because of their bias and hatred, I’d like to think that i have enough information to get them into my reading queue. Sites like Goodreads, and this site, are much better references for new reading material than the display at my local Barnes and Noble.

    And I will stand by my position that the books stand on their own merits. I read to be entertained. I do not read to support the author. That is a byproduct of my purchase.

    Reading a book based on anything other than the author’s skill to tell a story you like is pandering at it’s finest.

  23. I find the argument that people should be reading 50-50 women-men authors or they are sexist to be complete nonsense. The only way for that to be true is if there were an equal amount of men and women SF authors. Does someone have that number? It’s a list of favorite books. How many women authors were there writing in the golden age when a lot of those books were written? What was the men to women ratio then?

    Should women authors be promoted? Most certainly. Should a reader go out of the way to read exactly 50% men and women authors? Not a chance. I base my decisions on what interests me and what I think I’ll like. The gender of the author is the last thing I look at. But looking back at the books I’ve read this year I’m about 60-40 men-women with my two favorites being by women.

    I’ll never hesitate to read a book by a woman, but I’ll never read one just because it was written by a woman.

  24. Samuel Delany made the whole need for the Russ Pledge very clear in an essay (which I can’t track down at the moment) in which he responded to an editor’s claim that he (the editor) had “never made a sexist decision in my life!”  Delany’s rejoinder was, “There are no sexist decisions to be made.  Only anti-sexist decisions.”  

    His point was, when the context is intrinsically sexist, not making an active decision means supporting the sexism.  Because sexism is the default position.

    Good example from pop culture:  In three out of the first four “Alien” films, near or at the climax of the narrative, the major black character Sacrifices Himself for the Good of the Group.  (In “Aliens,” the major black character [with one minor one] is simply killed off early in the story.)  Would any of the writers for these four films identify themselves as racist?  Almost certainly not.  But because all four of them are asleep at the wheel when it comes to race — because they are *not making active decisions* about how race plugs into the larger narrative — they default to an existing convention, which says black characters must be tamed, neutered, gotten rid of, MADE LESS SCARY TO WHITES before the narrative is done.  It’s a racist convention.  It’s the default.  It’s exactly what you affirm when you *don’t* make a decision.

    You don’t have to “have” sexist “attitudes” to be sexist.  You just have to inhabit a sexist structure and not contest it.

    Hence the Russ Pledge.

     

  25. If you support the status quo, you are sexist. End of story.

     

    Ian nailed it down. He, plus Paul Graham Raven, Jackie M., and Kenneth James helped make this comments section clear, straight-to-the-point, and, more importantly, non-hysterical. Quoting Bertolt Brecht (excuse me, I’m in the university and don’t have much time today, doing it from memory): “If you don’t take sides, you already took the side of the majority”. The majority (not just that, but you get the gist) is what creates the status quo.

    This is not a war – so, please, no belligerent comments, ok? I’d simply suggest those of you who don’t *approve* of the idea of a pledge who refrain from even comment here, if you think that’s a crazy / commie / straw man arugment (sic) / sanctimonious reactionaries (sic). Open your minds. Or don’t. I know I already did it a long time ago and I feel great about it, as many of my friends.

    The world is a-changing, dudes. Deal with that.

    And thank you for the audience!

  26. Thank you, Paul, but I really didn’t do that. I just invited the malcontents out. You may stay and rant if that makes you happy.

    Now, who wants to talk about what the authors REALLY said up there? ;)

  27. There has been a recent and ongoing debate concerning young readers (certainly here in the UK) where it has been noted that, in general, girls read books and boys don’t. A partly-successful solution to this has been a determined attempt to target books specifically at boys, such as the young-adult thrillers written by Anthony Horowitz and Charlie Higson. While this is commendable as a short term solution, I can’t help worrying about the long-term implications. If those boys do become adult readers then the Russ Pledge will have to remain at the forefront of discussions. This is a problem that is not going to go away, I fear.

  28. I wouldn’t go quite so far as Mr. Sales to say that supporting the status quo makes you sexist.  One can support the status quo without being aware in any way that doing so inhibits participation by certain genders (this applies to race too).  A lot of people are oblivious to discussions like the ones had about the Guardian list.  Most readers probably are just based on the fact that they aren’t involved in the SF community (but that’s a guess).

    But the things being said about the Russ Pledge, the list, all the strawman arguments and haggling over the accuracy of the statistics (which aren’t wholly accurate, I’ll grant you, but don’t distort reality so far as to somehow discount the issue at hand), and the general disdain for the actual pledge, which is asking for little more than for people to talk about women authors… well, that’s about as close to blatant sexism as you can get, and it’s an attitude that a handful of people decided to express in the comments on the Guardian list.  You’re free to that opinion, but let’s stop pretending it’s an opinion that expresses anything approaching care or interest in fairness, equality, and so on.  When we talk about isolated events, we can argue about whether sexism is involved.  When we’re talking about a well documented absence of female authors from the SF community, that’s a completely different thing.

    That said:  please keep proving our point by getting uppity about this.  The more you fight against even including women into the discussion (not including them at the expense of constructive criticism or honest opinion of their work, but general, honest inclusion), the more you betray the subconscious and conscious levels of bias against them based solely on the fact that they were born with vaginas and breasts.  And if you’re okay with thinking like that, with discounting the discussion, the documentation, and so on, then have at it.  But don’t be shocked when that attitude contributes to the continued absence of women in the SF publishing world, from discussions about classic works of SF literature, to the unequal pay of women even in modern industrialized countries like the United State, the continued assault on issues relevant to gender equality, etc. etc. etc.

    On a final note:  can we please get away from babbling about quotas and related bullcrap?  It’s a silly argument to be had by either side and detracts from the real issue.  The Russ Pledge asks you to talk about women authors, and it’s implied that you would talk about authors you enjoy reading.

    But whatever…

  29. I don’t think anyone is arguing that people should be talking about women authors. At least, I’m not. I think what people are getting defensive about is people dictating what they should read. Or that they should somehow feel guilty if they aren’t reading enough women authors. By saying with finality that a person is sexist if you don’t prescribe to their way of thinking is inflammatory. Dictating what someone should read is dangerous.

    Talking about women authors is something we should do. No question. But I don’t need someone to tell me what to read. I don’t text while driving but don’t feel the need to take Oprah’s pledge either.

    I tell anyone who asks, to read “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okafor or “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obhret. Others I really liked were “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”  by Aimee Bender and “Among Others” by Jo Walton. But I also loved Ted Chiang’s “Stories of Your Life and Others” and promote that as well. 

     

  30. I’m thoroughly amused that in a discussion about women authors and an inherent bias in publishing/reading, there’s a lot of dudes telling us “There Is No Sexism!” Really? You’re a woman, and you’ve lived this experience how? When women and male allies say they’re being discriminated against, perhaps you should stop and listen instead of protection your privileged little patch. And if anyone wants to break out the Tone Argument, maybe you should stop to consider WHY women are so angry at being ignored for so long. Some deal with it with a ton of grace, and I commend them, but I can tell you it gets very tiring when an entire career, your entire LIFE, is dismissed as being some sort of “shrill” “lie”. Why would someone lie about being ignored or being treated like carp, and why shouldn’t they be justifiably angry about this?

    I know it will be piquing your privilege to examine your socialized biases, but you will become a better person for trying. It’s time to stop making the discussion a mess of Derailing for Dummies and simply take action. Ask:

    Do I read female authors? If I do, can I read more? If I don’t, why not?

    When I go to the bookstore/library, can I find female authors? If not, why not?

    I’m annoyed that dissenting male voices are louder here, and you wanna know why? Because women get so heartily sick of fighting the same thing over and over and over. There are some days we feel like a broken record trying to get through on the basic 101/derailing of their invisibility in SF. They are there, you have to make the conscious effort to find them. You must question WHY you have to make that conscious effort. There are some excellent blogposts, academia and textbooks out there – why yes, some written by women – that detail the history of women’s invisibility in SF (hint: they wrote, lots of it, but nobody wanted to look).

  31. So…I’m a woman, and I’m a writer, and until embarrassingly recently I was totally on the side of “the gender of the author doesn’t matter.” I really believed that I was gender-blind, and that everyone else was too. I sincerely bought into the argument of dangerous quotas and all of that nonsense.

    And it’s funny, because I read a lot about cognitive biases. I try very hard to be aware of my own. And I’m also usually pretty good at asking “Why?” But for some reason when it came down to the massive underrepresentation of women and people of color in publishing, it did not occur to me to ask “Why?”

    Until that Mammoth Book of All Male Writers thing happened. Again, I was on the side of “But those were the stories that he thought were mind-blowing! Is he supposed to pick stories he *doesn’t* think are mind-blowing just to get the genders right?” But then I started to think about what my own favorites were. I looked at my bookshelves. I tried to remember my favorite books. Most of them were by men. And I finally asked myself “Why?” 

    Fortunately I’m in a position now where I’m actually doing some work in the SF field and have access to a ridiculous amount of fiction by authors of all kinds, and am required to read things I wouldn’t have necessarily picked on my own before. As a result I’ve become aware of this thing that happens in my head when faced with two choices: Do I read Ted Chiang’s collection, or Karen Joy Fowler’s? My head automatically leans toward Chiang’s, and I have to ask myself–why? Is it because he’s a man? Is it because I’ve heard more about him, and my friends have geeked out over him at conventions more? And if that’s the case, why? 

    I read Karen Joy Fowler’s for work, and discovered an author I now absolutely adore. But I had to *discover* her. Because despite being a writer, and female, and working in the SFF field, I am NOT gender-blind. I *am* biased. I need to change that  bias in myself by seeking out work by underrepresented groups and continue to discover authors I love, instead of just blindly following “If you like x, you may also like y” which is probably going to keep leading me to more white, male writers. That’s the how the bias started, I think. 

    So, that’s my author plug for the discussion: Karen Joy Fowler’s WHAT I DIDN’T SEE, which may be my favorite thing I read in the past year, and which I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t been required to.

    Because I am biased.  

  32. This is a fine start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. What about writers of color? What about writers who work in languages other than English? Both of those groups are vastly more underrepresented in the original list, and thus any efforts to increase the market-share of marginalized groups should begin in those areas, rather than with women.

    For that matter, the list utterly ignores writers of romances, westerns, and nurse novels, not to mention non-fiction. Clearly, Guardian readers don’t know what their favorite SF novels should be, and it’s time for a massive reeducation effort.

    What we need now is a body to determine what we all should read, in what order, and how much we all should prefer each of those works and authors — perhaps Paul Graham Raven and Ian Sales can form the nucleus of such a group, since they seem to be the most keenly interested in proportional representation of readership.

    And perhaps they can begin by assigning those of us in this comment thread our appropriate favorite novels, so we can immediately stop “perpetuating the status quo.”

  33. I know Andrew, there’s too many battles to fight, so we might as well give up without trying. We’re not going to change anything, so what’s the point? All we’re going to get snark. Let’s carry on as before, everyone was happy then – I mean, well, it’s the easiest thing to do, isn’t it? Doesn’t require much in the way of decision-making. Except, not everyone was happy. Half the human race wasn’t happy. And they have just as much right to happiness as the half that is happy. So, Andrew, don’t bother doing anything about the situation, just sit on the sidelines and try a little sarcasm and, who knows, maybe it will all change magically by itself.

    Or maybe it won’t.

  34. It’s fascinating to note that all of the “there is no bias” and “this is tyranny” and “you are far overstating the case,” not to mention the “you are forcing quotas upon us and constricting our freedoms” commenters are, by the evidence of their handles, male. (These days you really can’t be sure.)

    The Russ Pledge is simply an agreement among thinking readers of both genders to talk about women’s writing, and examine their cultural biases as Cerebral Magpie has, and then expand their vision of the field in a particular direction that pays tribute to the late and much missed Joanna Russ. It strikes me as, in its basic principles, a good and constructive thing. It says, “Don’t just complain. Do something about it.” I’m in favor of that.

    If that makes you angry, or makes you feel constricted or tyrannized or forced against your will, you might examine why you feel that way. That could be constructive, too.

  35. Judith:  I’m still trying to figure out where in Nicola’s call for a Russ Pledge it says “we will enforce reading quotas” or “every best-of list must consist of at least 50% female authors, and must include, in this order X, Y, and Z” or “you are no longer allowed to read what you want” and so forth.

    But maybe that’s because it’s not in the pledge.

  36. Shaun: If I were to make a guess, I’d say it’s projection.”You will of course do what I would do if I were you.”

    Also, fear. 

    We used to get a lot of the latter when men’s colleges were discussing admitting women. At Cambridge, the two main arguments against it were:

    “But we don’t have enough white wine in the cellars!” (I like a nice sturdy red, myself)

    and

    “But we can’t do that! All those women will pull up the [Cambridge equivalent of] grade-point averages!” (thereby eliminating the bottom third of the male students and forcing the rest to step up their game)

    I like to think a genre, unlike a university, doesn’t have a limited number of slots available, and that there’s room in it for more than the white male demographic. If that demographic feels threatened, as I said above–why? Great men’s works will still be great. Great women’s works don’t, in the grand scheme of things, devalue them. But great women’s works have been devalued and ignored and quota-ized for quite a long time.

    Which takes us right back to Joanna Russ and her writings on that very subject.

  37. Again, I will ask what I asked earlier.  Which, of course, no one answered:

    “Not every single piece of human activity has to be 50-50 between men and women.  The idea that it should be is ludicrous.  Of course, someone will suggest that this isn’t what is being suggested, but then tell me what is being suggested?  70-30 ratio of men to women?  40-60?  What is good enough?  What is right?  Nothing ever is.”

    What is good enough?  What is right?  Someone said 50-50.  Really?  You know for a fact that SF fans are a 50-50 split?  It certainly doesn’t seem like it at the conventions.  I don’t have hard facts claiming it isn’t, but you would have to have hard facts claiming it is to suggest it is currently unfair to women.

    Should all MMA fights be 50-50?  Absolutely not.  Why?  Because, the martial arts gyms aren’t even close to being 50-50.  Some interests, events, subjects, etc. just don’t hold the same interest for both sexes. 

    Another example is college.  The split is roughly 40-60 men to women.  Should the colleges recruit men harder?  Should they interview more men?  Should they have more activities men gravitate to like sports (can’t because of Title IX)?  My answer to all of those is no.  This is not discrimination.

     

    @Paul Raven

    The 10% number is better.  It’s apples to apples.  It does show a possible problem.  But, agian, what is the actual split in SF fandom and how do we know what it should be? 

    Also, how am I responsable for the fact that women were definitely repressed during the SF golden age and shortly after? That entire era is a big part of the list because they are “classics.”  I don’t see why I have to make up for something I didn’t do, which weighted the list against women.

     

    @Ian

    Nothings a level playing field for anyone.  Maybe gingers are underrepresented on that SF list or fat people because people unconciously shy away from a fat authors photo inside the back cover.  We better make sure they aren’t.  Yes, I realize it’s a ridiculous example, but we could also find real examples were they have been discriminated against.

    Not that anything I say will matter to you.  I’m sexist because I don’t want to provide an artificial advantage to someone else.

     

  38. @Judith

    It’s not projection.  It’s anger.  It’s being tired of being told you are evil, a racist and a sexist since you were born, because you are a white male.  That you should provide every advantage possible to everyone else, even though you have never conciously discriminated against anyone.  That you are constantly being told that every negative thing that happens to everyone else is either racist or sexist.  You get tired of hearing the boy cry wolf so much that you struggle to listen to legit issues anymore.

    Maybe this is a legit issue, but I obviously don’t think it is.

  39. @Chad 

    Here’s the thing. I honestly can sympathize with where you’re coming from. I believe you when you say you haven’t consciously discriminated against anyone. But that’s the problem with what we call “privelege”–it’s not conscious. It’s the thing that happens automatically in my head when given a choice between two unknowns–I choose the one I’m biased toward. It’s not a conscious decision, but I just discriminated against the one I didn’t pick. In this case, that bias leads me to pick the work of men.

    The other thing that was really hard for me to grasp was what you called an “articificial advantage.” That’s not what we’re shooting for here–it’s the acknowledgement that women and minorities are currently at a disadvantage. And we can help change that by sometimes making a conscious effort to defeat our subconsious biases. 

    I hope you don’t leave the discussion angry. It’s a really uncomfortable change to make, and again, I sympathize, having made it pretty recently myself. 

    Cheers

  40. Should MMA fights be 50-50? Not necessarily. Should women be encouraged to do martial arts, especially the real ones? Of course. There are any number of ways to encourage this sort of thing, including highlighting accomplished female martial artists—and without going on and on about their tits.

    So Chad, would you think such a thing is a good idea? Because that’s pretty much what the Russ Pledge is.

  41. I will talk about what the authors really said, Fabio. 

    Judith Tarr said:

    But inertia is a powerful force, and so is cultural conditioning. As long as we’re trained to minimize the importance of women’s work, we’ll continue to favor men’s work and downplay or disregard that of women.

     

    The cultural conditioning is the real insidious one.  The instinctual reaction, to seeing a list of new authors from, say, Pyr or Night Shade and being attracted to the books written by men, first.  *Especially* if, for example, its a branch of genre or Fantastika (to quote John Ginsberg Stevens) that is not normally associated with women.  Hard SF, for example. 

    How do I beat that?Hoes does anyone?

    “Thinking about thinking”.

    This is something that a work seminar recently brought to light, about positivity in thought. Do you stop and think about your thought process when you instinctively gravitate toward the male authors in genre?

    Thinking about thinking can overcome the cultural conditioning Ms. Tarr mentioned.And its a way to fight that inertia.

     

     

     

  42. @Nick and to a lessor extent Christie

    I’m perfectly fine with women doing martial arts.  Do I think a gym owner should turn a guy away for a woman because most of the gym is mostly male and there is only one spot left? No.  This is what is being suggested by many of the Russ supporters.  You can only read so many books in a year, so there are limited spots.  This means you have to kick a male out for woman, thus the advantage comment.  Examples:

    “All it takes is a conscious effort to buy, or borrow from a library, a science fiction novel or collection written by a female sf writer.” – Ian

    “I have tried to make a conscious effort to read more female authors and support their work, especially new writers.” – Paul

    “So, in order to break that pattern, you have to consciously choose to read books written by women” – Ian

    “Read one <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-female-authors”>female written book</a> for every <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-male-authors”>male written book</a> that I read.  In addition I’m pushing myself to read more authors that I’ve never read before. 

    I’ve <a href=”http://www.listology.com/dgeiser13/list/books-read-1966-2010″>always read female authors</a> but I’m trying to read more.  So far this year I’ve been enjoying the female written titles slightly better.” – Dan

    “But consider reading some books you wouldn’t normally, just because you “should” read more women.” – Jackie M

    None of these are what the Russ Pledge suggests to do and no one taking the pledge called them out.  Yet, I’m the bad guy, because I only want to talk about books I like, which could be by women.

    I appreciate the even tone Christie.

     

     

  43. @Andrew Wheeler: I’ve been a reader of your reviews and opinion for a long time, and have always considered you to be a very level-headed and concise thinker on matters of minority representation in publishing, genre or otherwise (ot to mention the mechanics and business of publishing in general). I’m disappointed in myself to see that you’ve misunderstood my position as taken above so thoroughly, and I will think more carefully about the way I present my case in future as a result.

    That said, I am in some ways thankful for you providing the most canonical example of a straw man argument thus far in this thread. I’m happy to debate the points I’ve made, but not the ones you’ve placed in mine and Ian’s mouths; I’d have thought you’re way too clued up about the industry and its readership demographics to fall back on accusations of us “setting quotas”, especially after others have done so, albeit in a more rhetorically sloppy manner.

    I have no interest in telling people exactly what they should read; equally, I see no tyranny in advocating that people read as widely and diversely as possible – yes, this thread is about the sex of authors, but genre and colour and race and all the other factors are equally relevant; wars are won as a series of battles on multiple fronts.

    And arguing in favour of one’s point is rather different to threatening one’s ideological opponent with the gulag if they don’t toe the party line, no? (Leaving aside the point that the gulag of obscurity is a power-threat held and used by the status quo we’re arguing against, rather than by those of us opposing it.)

    ***

    @chad:

    … how am I responsable for the fact that women were definitely repressed during the SF golden age and shortly after?

    You’re not, no. But if you can see that it happened then, can you not see it’s still happening? And, seeing that, can you say it’s no longer a problem, or even not a problem to which you’re unconsciously contributing? Is it fixed sufficiently now that we don’t need to worry about it? If 50/50 isn’t a reasonable split to aim for, then what is? 20/50? Less than that? More? If equal isn’t fair or reasonable, where should we be aiming?

    I don’t see why I have to make up for something I didn’t do, which weighted the list against women.

    You don’t *have* to. That you can admit the injustice exists is a good start. But when an injustice is so easily fixed – reading a few new-to-you authors who just happen to be female, and talking about them with other people – is there any need to be so vehemently opposed to such a suggestion? If you don’t want to help, well, that’s fine – but why obstruct the mission? That’s where the accusations of sexism arise, here – not because you haven’t or don’t read many female authors, but because the idea of promoting the reading of female authors is sufficiently repellant to you that you feel you must protest against it.

    Maybe gingers are underrepresented on that SF list or fat people because people unconciously shy away from a fat authors photo inside the back cover.  We better make sure they aren’t.  Yes, I realize it’s a ridiculous example, but we could also find real examples were they have been discriminated against.

    Those discriminations also definitely exist, and hopefully we’ll conquer those too, eventually. (Yeah, naive utopianist, I know, heard it all before.) But this one concerns pretty much half of the human race… and if you can concede that people outside the culturally acceptable norms of body weight have a hard time of it when it comes to discrimination, even within the privileged realm of the white Western male, surely you can concede that there might be some sort of lingering yet largely unjustified prejudice against people who just happen to be women? Prejudice that we’re presenting real examples of, and presenting a painless and mutually beneficial way of combating?

  44. I think what’s setting some people off is the numbers that kicked off the discussion. The numbers make people think quotas and it gets crazy from there. If someone had just said, “Hey everybody, let’s recommend our favorite women writers to everyone in the community,” I think it would have gotten a different reception. Of course, I realize that it was the numbers that got people to thinking about it in the first place.

    Stirring the nest: I think everyone is a little bit sexist and a little bit racist (as the song says). The only way we couldn’t be is if we couldn’t tell the difference between people of different sexes or races. I don’t think sexism or racism can be stamped out. We would have to become something that isn’t human for that to happen. I’m okay with people believing what they want as long as they can rise above that to make rational judgements. And yes, I know that most people can’t.

    I think everyone should be equal under the law (I know this isn’t a discussion about law). I think there aren’t enough women writing the type of stories I like to read, though I admit I’m very fussy. I don’t care much for fantasy, especially the urban kind. The idea of me making pledges, including the pledge of allegiance, feels a bit goofy, though the sentiment behind this particular one is admirable. If other people can turn me on to writers that I’ll dig, I’m all for it.

    I’ve just started Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. I love the work of Julian May, Pat Cadigan, Octavia Butler, Kate Wilhelm, Abbey Mei Otis, D.C. Fontana, Alice Sola Kim, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James Tiptree and boatloads of other women whose names aren’t leaping to mind at the moment. If you haven’t tried their stuff, you really should.

  45. Paul said “I find the argument that people should be reading 50-50 women-men authors or they are sexist to be complete nonsense.”

    OK, that’s very interesting, but nothing to do with the issue.  Neither Nicola in the post cited, nor Cheryl in the post she in turn cites say such a thing; in fact, Cheryl specifically says she isn’t advocating 50/50.  I’m not sure sure where you get the idea that anyone’s insisting that gender parity must be 50/50, simply that the exteme disproportion suggests a problem.

  46. I want to take a step back for a minute from the arguments about 50-50 and quotas and dictating who should read what, to say this (which others have said too, but I want to add to the focus on it):

    The core idea of the Russ Pledge is to raise visibility of female authors.

    Those of us who are in favor of the Pledge’s goals don’t intend to be saying “you should pretend to like inferior work” or “you should force yourself to read lots of books you hate, just because they’re by women”; I think most of us are essentially saying “there’s lots of writing by women that’s at least as good as writing by men; and there’s a lot of really good work by women that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, for a variety of reasons; so let’s try to improve the visibility of that really good work by women.”

    I wanted to respond to Paul Sparks in particular: it sounds to me like you agree with the basic point that there’s a lot of good writing by women out there. You said “looking back at the books I’ve read this year I’m about 60-40 men-women with my two favorites being by women.” Cool! And I’m delighted to hear that you tell people about Okorafor and Obreht and Bender and Walton (as well as Chiang). That’s awesome, and I agree that those I’ve read are good writers who are worth recommending. (I haven’t read Obreht yet, but your rec was a good reminder to me that I’ve heard good things about her work.)

    So it sounds to me like even though you’re not comfortable with the Pledge per se, your reading and your recommendations are in keeping with the core of what the Pledge is about, and I think that’s great. I would rather that everyone read and recommend books by women than that everyone explicitly Take The Pledge, and although I can’t speak for the other pro-Pledge folks here, I suspect most of them would agree.

    (And on a side note, I’m pleased that you went back and counted the books you’ve read recently, because a lot of people assume that they’re reading about 50/50 men/women until they actually look.)

    Likewise to Matthew Sanborn Smith’s comment: even if the Pledge idea per se doesn’t feel right for you, that’s a great list of female writers; I like the work of all the women you mentioned, and I’m pleased to see you recommending them.

    …I’m worried that my comment here might come across as condescending, or as the traditional wannabe-peacemaker tactic of telling arguing people “Look, you really don’t disagree, you should be friends, so stop arguing!” It seems clear that there are strong disagreements in this thread, and I don’t mean to dismiss or minimize those disagreements. But I do think that in some cases, it may be possible to agree on the value of talking about good work by women while disagreeing about the political underpinnings, or disagreeing about taking the Pledge per se, or disagreeing about specific details like numbers.

  47. If there’s one slot left in a gym, of course the female should get it if she meets some minimum level of quality. If the two are equal, why would the man get it? If the woman is worse than the man, but also one of the best women—and she’d have to be, given the relative size of the pool—why shouldn’t she get it?

     

    Why put mediocre men over excellent women?

     

    And that’s in martial arts, where there are some likely gaps in advantages like upper-body strength and length of training.

  48. Explaining the 101 issues does get tiresome, as others have said further up in the thread. Exhausting and disheartening, honestly. So thank you, Fabio, Ian, Nick, Paul, and all of the other men in this discussion who’ve stood up behind the Pledge. It’s pretty great to see allies arguing so thoughtfully and passionately. 

     

    Also, I agree with Christie–acknowledging privelege is painful and difficult, and it’s certainly hard to do, but it’s worth doing.

  49. Now I’m fascinated to see how few women are commenting here. Is it a factor of the venue? What’s the percentage of female members?

    I’m also interested by the number of male members who resist the resistance to the Pledge. It’s striking a chord on both sides of the chromosomal aisle. And that is excellent.

    Chad and others: I get that you’re angry. Anger is one of the ways we all react to change. You say you feel, in effect, marginalized. Your needs and desires are peripheral, your place and voice are diminished.You’re being made to deal with attitudes and ideas that you not only don’t want to deal with, you feel pressured and stressed about having to deal with them. You feel that people aren’t listening to you or giving weight to your concerns–quite the contrary. You’ve been disregarded, and you’re being told that it’s your fault for something you have no control over–namely, your gender.

    Welcome to my world.

    Am I angry at you, personally, for being a privileged white male? No. I agree, you can’t help that. I can’t help being female, either. What I can help, and so can you, is the way I perceive both of our positions, and the whole structure of cultural rules and assumptions that surrounds them.

    You know what makes me squirmy? Stories of boys who want to dress up like princesses and wear nail polish and play with dolls. Girls dressing up as GI Joe? No problem. So why does it bother me that boys want to gender-bend, too? The best answer I have right now is that that cultural assumption is so deeply ingrained that for all my attempts to be enlightened, I still have a problem with the idea that a girl can “trade up” with fairly small consequences, but for a boy to “trade down” is, well, squicky.

    And that’s not any righter or fairer than lists of great books that predominantly or totally ignore women’s works. It comes from the same place. And it’s thanks to the discussions going on here and in many other places that I’ve become aware of it and started to work on examining my feelings about it. It’s not comfortable, no. These things aren’t. They’re not supposed to be.

  50. There are a variety of different statistics that one could look at regarding the Guardian poll results (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/table/2011/may/26/best-science-fiction-books-recommendations): percentage of responses that mention a female author; percentage of unique books listed that are by women; percentage of female respondents; etc.

    I got curious about the specific question of percentages of unique authors listed. I copied the poll results into a text file, extracted all the authors, sorted them alphabetically by last name, removed duplicates (including misspelled duplicates), and counted the number of men and the number of women.

    There were three or four clear-joke entries (see the authors listed as “Dog” and “Assimove,” for example), and another few entries that were just a fragment of a word or a phrase rather than an actual book or author, and there was one author whose gender I don’t know.

    Setting those aside, there were 160 unique authors listed. Of those, 20 are female. That’s 12.5%.

    Broad Universe has a page featuring a bunch of statistics about sf publishing: http://www.broaduniverse.org/statistics/statistics (unfortunately hasn’t been updated in a while; if anyone wants to help out, I’m sure the BU people would like to see more recent stats). Any way you look at it, 12.5% is nowhere near representative of the percentages of sf books being written by women. (But I’m being slightly misleading here, because the 12.5% number is unique authors, and the BU stats mostly focus on percentages of books. I didn’t count the percentage of unique books in the Guardian poll.)

    In case anyone else wants to check my work (I may well have gotten something wrong), below is the full list of authors, with female authors starred. (If you copy and paste the list into a text editor, you can replace the commas with line breaks to get a one-author-per-line list.)

    I want to respond to two specific arguments that I’ve seen suggested to explain the imbalance:

    * It’s true that there are a fair number of Classic SF Authors on the list, some of them female. But there are also a fair number of authors whose best-known work has appeared in the last, say, thirty years, during which time there’ve been a bunch of good female writers. So I don’t agree with the idea that these are all authors from the Golden Age Of SF When There Were No Women. (Also, there were in fact female sf authors before the 1960s, though not as many as today, and I’m not seeing them on this list. Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Katherine MacLean, Margaret St. Clair, et alia–if the gender imbalance of this list were primarily due to it being focused on pre-1960s authors, I would expect those authors to appear on it.) (See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_speculative_fiction#Writers_and_professionals)

    * I think someone argued that the Guardian asked for Science Fiction per se, not fantasy, and that that increased the imbalance. But the Guardian specifically said “We don’t want to limit your interpretation of SF either. If it fits your definition of those enigmatic initials, be it fantasy, horror, speculative, weird or any any flavour of imagnative literature, then we want to know about it.”

    Here are the authors:

    Edwin Abbott Abbott, Douglas Adams, Brian W. Aldiss, Buzz Aldrin, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, * Margaret Atwood, J. G. Ballard, Iain M. Banks, John Barnes, Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, Alfred Bester, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, David Brin, John Brunner, Orson Scott Card, * Angela Carter, William H. Cash, * C. J. Cherryh, John Christopher, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael G. Coney, Michael Crichton, John Crowley, Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, Gordon R. Dickson, Thomas M. Disch, Stephen R. Donaldson, Greg Egan, Warren Ellis, Harlan Ellison, Steven Erikson, Michel Faber, Philip Jose Farmer, Jack Finney, Michael Flynn, R. L. Forward, Alan Dean Foster, Neil Gaiman, D. F. Galouye, David Gemmell, * Mary Gentle, * Stella Gibbons, William Gibson, Simon R. Green, Joe Haldeman, Peter F. Hamilton, Stuart Hammal, Harry Harrison, M. John Harrison, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Russell Hoban, * Robin Hobb, Robert Holdstock, * Cecelia Holland, Fred Hoyle, L. Ron Hubbard, Aldous Huxley, Simon Ings, K. W. Jeter, Robert Jordan, George Karnikis, Daniel Keyes, Dean Koontz, Cyril M. Kornbluth, * Madeleine L’Engle, * Ursula K. Le Guin, Stanislaw Lem, * Doris Lessing, Ira Levin, C. S. Lewis, David Lindsay, H. P. Lovecraft, Cormac MacCarthy, George R. R. Martin, Richard Mattheson, * Julian May, Robert R. McCammon, Herman Melville, China Mieville, Walter M. Miller, Jr., David Mitchell, Michael Moorcock, Richard Morgan, Grant Morrison, James Morrow, Haruki Murakami, Larry Niven, Jeff Noon, ? Robin Oram, George Orwell, Alexei Panshin, Paul Park, Mervyn Peake, * Marge Piercy, Frederik Pohl, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Priest, Thomas Pynchon, Alastair Reynolds, Apollonius Rhodius, Adam Roberts, Keith Roberts, Kim Stanley Robinson, Tony Rothman, * Joanna Russ, * Mary Doria Russell, Eric Frank Russell, R. A. Salvatore, John Scalzi, Vikram Seth, Bob Shaw, Robert Shea, Robert Sheckley, * James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), * Mary Shelley, Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, John Sladek, * Joan Slonczewski, E. E. “Doc” Smith, Michael Marshall Smith, Cordwainer Smith, Norman Spinrad, Olaf Stapledon, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Charles Stross, Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, Theodore Sturgeon, * Tricia Sullivan, Koushun Takami, * Sheri Tepper, Walter Tevis, E. P. Thompson, Jack Vance, John Varley, Gore Vidal, Vernor Vinge, Kurt Vonnegut, A. C. Weisbecker, H. G. Wells, Robert Westall, James White, * Kate Wilhelm, Tad Williams, Jack Williamson, R. A. Wilson, Colin Wilson, Bernard Wolfe, Gene Wolfe, Jack Womack, John Wyndham, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Roger Zelazny, David Zindell

  51. I participated in the Guardian Study and along with Token Gesture chose Neverness by David Zindell as my favorite SF novel. If I had known that someone who had incomplete information as to the sexes of the responders and a very poor knowledge of basic statistics was going to make unwarranted statements regarding male bias or sexism I never would have responded to the survey. And I wonder how many offended responders in this blog took the opportunity to participate in the Guardian Study. I am not British and saw the study and link in this blog and participted. If those complaining HAD participated they may have obtained results closer to their liking or is that bias.

  52. Eh, if you were really all thet hepped up about “basic statistics” honey, you wouldn’t have participated in a poll with such haphazard sampling, nor would you be suggesting that the results would be more interesting or appropriate if some more people haphazardly jumped in to give their responses.

  53. Wow, these are some powerful reactions to a suggestion. Enlightened minds will take the suggestion for what it is and grow from it. Others, well, you can always do whatever it is you want. No ones stopping you. Geesh…

  54. It’s amazing how strongly many men on this thread are reacting to a suggestion which reads, in full,

    We should take the pledge to make a considerable and consistent effort to mention women’s work which, consciously or unconsciously, has been suppressed. “

    Is this controversial? Really? No mention of caps or quotas, just. . . effort. And this is too much? GMAFB.

  55. There are a lot of very reasonable and well-argued comments here explaining why the Russ Pledge is a Good Thing. But all the reasonableness in the world is not going to change a thing. Doing changes things. So don’t think about perhaps maybe sort of choosing a book by a woman writer the next time you reach for something to read. Make a conscious effort to choose a book by a woman writer. And once you’ve read it, tell people about it. You don’t have to even like the book, you just have to talk about it.

    And Jed, saying “I think most of us are essentially saying “there’s lots of writing by women that’s at least as good as writing by men…”” is not helpful. There is lots of writing by women that is as good as writing by men. There’s no “least” in it.

  56. As Ian says, Doing changes things. I’m not really interested in trying to change the minds of those who’ve commented earlier in the thread. Why are there so few women commenting? Because we’re all fucking tired, that’s way. And the moment we try to say something, we’re usually told we’re being “too aggressive” or “getting hysterical” about any issue that fires us up. It’s just all so energy-sapping that all I can do is follow the blogs of those whose opinions I respect, and dump the rest (sorry Andrew; thought you were a decent guy).

    So, to that end… I homeschool my children. Today, they got their second lesson in computer programming. Our daughter, Little Dinosaur, loves robots and says she wants to be a robotics engineer. (Actually, she’s a damned fine intuitive engineer already.) We encourage that. Our son, The Wast, likes cooking. Sometimes, I prep and he cooks. The point is, I refuse to buy into this “tales-toys-skills for girls”/”tales-toys-skills for boys” demarcation shit, which is where I think a lot of cultural conditioning began.

    Oh, and one other thing. Don’t assume that norms in English-speaking cultures translate to non-English-speaking ones. For those who know me, they know I have a Polish husband and he tells me that the best mathematicians and physicists he had teaching him at university were ALL WOMEN. To me, that says that all this “well, sf doesn’t hold much interest for wimmin” crap is exactly that. Crap cultural conditioning. We’ve got to start rising above it if we are ever to have a future as the human race. (hu-MAN, for fuck’s sake! You can see why I get exhausted, can’t you?)

    PS And this is a storm in a bloody teacup compared to what I face in Asia every goddamn day.

  57. Ian said:

    So why are you being so defensive?

    And The Picard replied:

    Uh, because you unjustly accused me of being sexist?

    Yes, because everyone knows that being accused of sexism is much, much worse than being on the receiving end of it. Won’t somebody think of how the (white) men are suffering in all of this?

    To the people who are so offended by this idea on the basis of “ewww, quotas!”: so you’re assuming, sight unseen, that adding a few more books by women to your reading pile for this year will result in you reading inferior stuff? No, that couldn’t be the case, because you certainly aren’t sexist and you certainly wouldn’t make a decision about whether or not to pick up a book based on the gender of its author, it’s all about the quality of the work, etc etc etc. That being so, and given that you can’t know whether a book will be any good until you’ve read it, in what universe could you believe that “I just want good stories” is a counter-argument to the idea of trying a few more books by women?

    And why aren’t there more women posting on this thread? Because we’re all so tired of banging our heads against the wall of this ‘debate’. Because we’re tired of the way that simply suggesting that people think about the effects their choices and actions might have on others, regardless of their intent, reduces certain sections of the internet’s menfolk to screaming fits of defensiveness and/or derailing nitpicking. Feminists and our allies are so unjust, don’t you know: how dare we suggest that a popular vote Best SF list is 10% books by women and 90% books by men might be skewed by factors extrinisic to the quality of the works?

    As to the original purpose of the thread: I’m currently reading an enjoying God’s War by Kameron Hurley; I also recently finished Maureen McHugh’s excellent China Mountain Zhang.

  58. @Paul Raven

    And, seeing that, can you say it’s no longer a problem, or even not a problem to which you’re unconsciously contributing? Is it fixed sufficiently now that we don’t need to worry about it?

    Obviously, I don’t think it is a problem or we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    If 50/50 isn’t a reasonable split to aim for, then what is? 20/50? Less than that? More? If equal isn’t fair or reasonable, where should we be aiming?

    You are asking me almost the exact same question I already asked twice.  Did no one, including you, answer it before because there is no answer?  No one has the stats to show the m/f split of SF fans, so there is no way to even get a rough idea of where the perfect line is.  Not every human endeavor has 50/50 interest.

    That you can admit the injustice exists is a good start.

    Made my day that you approve.

    But this one concerns pretty much half of the human race…

    No, it doesn’t.  Probably not even 5% of the human race reads SF.  If it were more than that the authors would make more money.  And, again, we have no idea of the split….none.

    even within the privileged realm of the white Western male, surely you can concede that there might be some sort of lingering yet largely unjustified prejudice against people who just happen to be women? Prejudice that we’re presenting real examples of, and presenting a painless and mutually beneficial way of combating?

    Yes…yes…yes.  The evil white male.  No, I don’t feel guilty.  Yes, I can acknowledge there could be predudice against women in SF.  No, I don’t think there is.  I could be wrong.  Just like you could, but you haven’t admited the possibility either and neither has anyone else supporting the Russ Pledge.

    Yes, the Russ Pledge does only ask for discussion.  Does that bother me?  No, I probably overreacted with my initial post.  However, as I proved with my quotes from others (which everyone ignored because the quotes do call for quotas or forced reading), it didn’t take long for some Russ supporters to tell me I SHOULD read women.  Not that I should take a look and see if there is anything I like (which some have suggested), but that I SHOULD read them no matter what.

     

    @Nick

    Dude, you know I wasn’t suggesting that.  I guess I should have added more so you wouldn’t have put words in my mouth.  The deciding factor wouldn’t be their sex.  It would be which one showed up first, which one has the cash, which one has experience or not (depending on the gym’s goals/preference), etc.  If the man showed up first he should get it.  If she showed up first she would get it.  If a woman showed up the next day he shouldn’t lose his spot.

     

    @Judith

    I get that you’re angry. Anger is one of the ways we all react to change. You say you feel, in effect, marginalized. Your needs and desires are peripheral, your place and voice are diminished.You’re being made to deal with attitudes and ideas that you not only don’t want to deal with, you feel pressured and stressed about having to deal with them. You feel that people aren’t listening to you or giving weight to your concerns–quite the contrary. You’ve been disregarded, and you’re being told that it’s your fault for something you have no control over–namely, your gender.

    My reaction is not a reaction to change.  It is a reaction to what I view as an overreaction.

    Actually, I don’t feel marginalized.  I do feel pressure to marginalize myself based on supposed guilt I should feel for stuff I haven’t done or that happened before I was born.

    ________________

    I will ask it again, because, of course, I didn’t get an answer to it the first time:

    Another example is college.  The split is roughly 40-60 men to women.  Should the colleges recruit men harder?  Should they interview more men?  Should they have more activities men gravitate to like sports (can’t because of Title IX)?  My answer to all of those is no.  This is not discrimination. 

  59. Chad, in the US in four sample months, 41.7% of books mentioned by Locus were written by women. If any list of sf books shows only 4% or 12% written by women, then there is clear under-representation. I call that a problem. And if you can’t see that there is a problem, then you’re clearly part of it. Stop whingeing and moaning because people are questioning your privilege. Try doing something a little bit different and thinking about your choices.

  60. Now I’m fascinated to see how few women are commenting here. Is it a factor of the venue?

    No, it’s a factor of boredom.  People who go from the simple “make an effort” of the pledge to “OMG YOUS WIMMINS ARE OPPRESHING ME QUOTAS GULAGS MEN REDUCED TO NEKKID CASTRATED SLAVES WOMEN PLAYING FOOTBALL CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER THE END OF THE WORLD!!!1!” …aren’t worth trying to have a reasoned discussion with.  And given that this is repetition 39728 of sexism-in-genre discussions here at SF Signal that have gone pear-shaped due to these kinds of hysterical sexist reactions, they’re not even entertaining anymore.  So imma go write some more books.

  61. The most important SF writer and arguably the first one was a woman: Mary Shelley.

    Surely the importance and lasting influence of Frankenstein (she also wrote The Last Man, not as well known today) cannot be understated — when so much else in the field springs directly from it.

    Perhaps people forget what a trailblazer Shelley was — she was not expected to write something so different and new as SF, certainly not in that era, and certainly not as a young woman. There wasn’t even a genre yet.

    But it seems natural — in hindsight — that the most interesting writers in the genre should be the marginalized ones, who approach the genre from a different perspective and don’t feel too “comfortable” in it.

    SF literature as a whole cannot remain vital, or even interesting, without the greatest possible diversity of voices. That means all kinds of people should write SF — men, women, young, old, minorities, anyone who wants to join in the conversation. There should be no membership cards, no clubs, no “Men Only” or “WASPs Only” signs.

    SF is an ongoing conversation about ideas. Many of those ideas center around questions like “What does it mean to be human?” or “How will our lives change when the world changes?” or “How will science change humanity?” Women have a lot to say about these issues, and many men and women are prepared to listen.

    I don’t read SF to feel comfortable. I want to be challenged, to feel the rug of perceived reality get pulled from under my feet. At her peak, a writer like Alice Sheldon( a.k.a. “James Tiptree Jr.”) did so better than anyone else.

    That being said — I think there are different kinds of SF readers: those who want the surprising, the different, the challenging, the downright uncomfortable… and those who fear the unknown and read mostly for a cozy sense of familiarity… expecting the same tired old tropes being rehashed over and over.

    Please, do promote talented female SF writers. Loudly. I only have one request in return: that female SF writers reach outside their “comfort zone” while writing. Dare to take risks, even when critics and readers (and fans!) will demand that you stay predictable and unchallenging.

     

  62. What Nora Jemisin said.

    After doing the 101 stuff for literally decades, I realized that I have dwindling time and stamina left to complete my scientific research and my writing.  So I won’t waste more of my precious resources explaining why a suggestion to read more books by women is not the same as a forcible penectomy.

    I suspect that Russ herself suffered from the same fatigue.  Judging from the “sophistication” of the arguments on this thread, distressingly little has changed since she wrote How to Suppress Women’s Writing — including the instant baboonization of many participants the moment such discussions come up.

     

     

  63. The Guardian asked us to name favourite SF novels that they’d overlooked. I named Greg Egan’s Quarantine. It’s ALL my fault!

     

    Nwerp. I had no idea so few female SF writers were published in my country. Also it dawns on me that I have been naive in my wonderings about why Connie Willis’s books are so hard to get here.

     

    Male pseudonym here I come.

  64. I suppose it’s pointless at this point to reiterate the following, which I’m going to reiterate anyway:

    • The Russ Pledge doesn’t call for quotas.
    • The Russ Pledge only calls for people to talk about female SF writers.
    • The Russ Pledge does not demand you to enjoy every book you read by a woman.  A bad book is a bad book.  A lot of people really like Justina Robson.  I don’t.  Some people don’t like Kage Baker.  I do.  Etc etc etc.
    • The split of the reading audience is irrelevant, particularly when a sports analogy is being used.  If the majority of the audience who watches American football are men, does that mean women are not allowed to participate in reporting the event?  Does that mean the absence of women in reporting on football shouldn’t be a concern, since most of the people who watch are men?  The real question you should be asking is this:  if the majority of people who read SF are men, could that have anything at all to do with the fact that most of the people who write it are men, most of the people who get published are men, and most of the people who get attention and recognition, even though there are women who deserve equal recognition, are men?  I’m not even a well-read feminist and I can see the lines of causality here… At least with American football, things are changing.  There’s always a woman on the field talking to the coaches or players.  They’re still very much a minority, but at least with TV…we can see them.
    • All the discussion of quotas, 50/50 splits, and what not is little more than a distraction from the actual problem at hand, which is that female authors in this genre are underrepresented in the genre.
    • You shouldn’t be terribly surprised that getting pissy about being asked to talk about women writers and to think about your reading selections results in discussions of sexism, even of the subconscious variety.  Why?  Because this is how sexism operates in many cases.  It’s culturally ingrained.  We grow up in a largely patriarchal society and most of us are raised with social cues that indoctrinate us with “gender standards.”  That doesn’t mean that you should be blamed for your subconscious biases, because we all have them.  It does mean that people who want an equal society are free to call you out when you’re contributing to the conditions which make female exile possible.  Because if you’re not even willing to interrogate your biases when they are apparent, you’re subconsciously (and, perhaps, consciously) against equality.

    But I suppose asking people to take a chill pill and get to the original point is, well, pointless.  Feathers are fuffled.  Hackles are raised.  And in the end, the people suffering from all this bickering are the same people the Russ Pledge is supposed to help:  female science fiction authors.

    *sigh*

  65. I would like to thank Christie Yant and Jed for their insightful and thoughtful responses.  I will be picking up Karen Joy Fowler’s “What I Didn’t See”.

    I almost feel like I’m arguing something that I already agree with. I read women authors and I talk about their books and I will continue to do so, even if I don’t take the pledge. I overreacted to this quote:

    “If you support the status quo, you are sexist. End of story.

     

    Women are under-represented when discussions of science fiction take place. Women contribute equally to the genre, but their contributions are ignored. If you ignore the gender of an author when choosing a book to read, but all your choices turn out be male, then you are not ignoring the gender of the author. Because if you truly were, you’d end up with a 50 – 50 split. So, in order to break that pattern, you have to consciously choose to read books written by women. You have to take the Russ Pledge. It’s not exceptionalism, it’s not positive discrimination, it’s not affirmative action. It’s redressing an imbalance – which might well be unconscious, but takes a conscious effort to redress.”

    I will say that this thread got me thinking more about women authors. So here’s a few of my favorites, not all of which are SF.

    “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith – a sparkling debut novel

    “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard – some of the most beautiful nature writing

    “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell – one of my favorite books I’ve ever read

    “Spook” by Mary Roach – hilarious

    I have some more women on my to read list, but the book I’m most looking forward to reading is “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell.

     

  66. “No one has the stats to show the m/f split of SF fans, so there is no way to even get a rough idea of where the perfect line is.”

    Untrue. In the Radio Four programme that Ian mentions, a researcher indicated that the split in the UK is 45%F 55%M. Deal with it.

  67. I completely agree with Nora. I haven’t bother to respond because there is no point in arguing with people who willingly see others at a disadvantage and still claim to be the victim. It’s unreasonable.

    “Artificial advantage?”  If something is artificial then it is not natural, right? This implies that the way things are is natural, therefore trying to change things is “unnatural.” Naturally women don’t write SF as well as well as men, so naturally they aren’t read as often.

    I can’t expend energy discussing things with people who truly feel this way.

  68. Why the hell would anyone want to read the touchy-feely, mamby-pamby, unicorns-and-rainbows, PC style monkey crap written by a WOMAN?!  *vomit*  Life is too short.

  69. I’m very comfortable taking the Russ Pledge, and I don’t see that it really amounts to much more than tying a string around a finger to remind myself that Maureen McHugh and Jo Walton and — frankly — Nicola Griffith (and on and on etc and on) have done some damn fine work.  It isn’t as though I’m being asked to celebrate mediocrity.  So sure.

    It does leave me wondering about urban fantasy and romance, though.  Would an extention of the Russ pledge be a call to celebrate the best work in genres where women writers are the rule rather than the exception and so raising the status of whole genres? 

    The literal mirror would be to a pledge to mention men who write romance or paranormal romance or urban fantasy, but I have the sense from the discussion here that raising the awareness of men who work in a woman’s genre might not be addressing the larger point?

  70. Chad, if you’re running an elite MMA gym on “first come, first serve” you won’t be running it for long.

     

    The same is so, incidentally, of publishing companies.

  71. Daniel, one thing that’s been noted a few times is that even within a “woman’s genre” the men’s work in that genre tends to be championed and rewarded to a greater extent than the women’s work in it. I suppose the canonical examples are Nicholas Sparks in romance, and Jim Butcher in urban fantasy. The Sparks example is far more clear-cut, since a significant fraction of romance writers never get the hardcover treatment or even the chance to build name or stylistic recognition before basically being assigned a new pen name and a contract for the next fad.

  72. It’s a shame nobody preserved the Tangent Online discussion on ‘What I Didn’t See’ as we could basically copy and paste it in here without any observable discrepancy.

  73. Nick:

    That’s a fair point, and it takes me back to wondering if there’s not something to be said for consciously considering the best of genres like romance and UF that are viewed with contempt and in which women writers are in the majority. 

    I can’t speak to Nicholas Sparks and romance, but for urban fantasy, I don’t see the men besides Butcher — Mike Carey and Simon Green come to mind — being particularly rewarded.  It might be there if we looked at print runs or reviews (I wouldn’t be shocked), but I don’t have the data set to judge.  My own experience is that writing UF under a gender-neutral ‘nym has gotten me some female readers who dismiss me for being a man and some male readers who think I’m slumming in women’s country to pay the bills.  The gender politics of it are pretty multivalent and (I think) really interesting.

    But then I also think that masculine defensiveness and sense of being aggrieved and wronged is interesting.  Hearing that (and feeling it myself sometimes) has always reminded me of getting editorial notes from someone who can identify that there is a problem, but has the wrong solve for it.  My take may be idiosyncratic.  :)

  74. I am not sexist.  I am not racist.  I know this how?  Because I am so acutely self-aware that every action I do is carefully neutral. 

    Actually, that’s not true.  I’m not perfect, and whilst I’m not for example racist in the full=blown KKK sense of the word, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes do or say things accidentally, maybe without realising it, that contribute slightly to the pervading historical legacy of white male privilege.  And you know something?  It hurts when that’s pointed out to me.  I get defensive and reject it.  But I’m learning, teaching myself and being taught, to pause, to think, wait, is there truth in there? 

    Which is why I am trying to raise the profiles of some favourite SF authors who happen to be women, because I think they’re bloody good books, because I think they are interesting, because you (any one of you) might like them too, and the way of the world has been that it was almost certainly harder for these books to come to your attention before. If you love SF, as you all seem to, why would you want your choice of great books restricted through some outdated misguided system?  You wouldn’t, so taking the Russ Pledge is one way of making sure that in future you have a better choice. That women writers have a better chance.  It may not be you that unbalanced the scales, but if you don’t shift slowly towards the middle it will always be unbalanced.

    It really is that simple. 

     

  75. Actually, Kev (and others on this thread), we will have achieved parity when the percentage of mediocre books by women is similar to the percentage of similar quality works written by men that are published by large presses/reviewed by highfalutin’ reviewers/given major awards.  I could generate endless lists of this, but the last few years of various SF/F awards will do instead.

  76. kev:

    I am not sexist.  I am not racist.  I know this how?  Because I am so acutely self-aware that every action I do is carefully neutral.

     

    <troll> But if you really weren’t racist or sexist, wouldn’t you be utterly neutral without having to be self-conscious about it?  :} </troll>

  77. There have been some excellent (and balanced) responses here, and I am glad to see that many people are open to taking the Russ Pledge.

    Those that are being overly defensive and trying to deflect the issue by shouting about quotas etc. are showing themselves to be not only ignorant of the facts but also resistant to the idea that there IS a clear gender imbalance in SF. Are they so afraid of reading a book by a woman and actually enjoying it? Why the resistance to reading a woman author in the first place? Do they seriously believe the writing is inferior to that of men? But then, how would they know if they never even attempt to read some of the excellent books written by women such as Ursula Le Guin, Sheri S Tepper, Tricia Sullivan, Elizabeth Bear, Jaine Fenn, Karen Fowler, Joan D Vinge, Octavia Butler…?

    Personally I don’t understand the reluctance to read a book written by a woman, but then, I am female myself. Were I to realise I never read books written by men, whether a conscious choice or not, I would seriously question why that was. I would also wonder if I was missing out on something good. Why does the reverse not apply? Are men conditioned at birth to consider anything female to be inherently inferior? These days I hope not, but old-fashioned sexist ideas seem to be flourishing, if the responses to this post are anything to go by, and this saddens me. 

    Oh, and N.K.Jemisin’s comment was spot on! Well said :-)

  78. Wow. Well.

    I just want to say how much I admire this conversation. I am not being ironic. SF is a fighty family, and we’re all here slugging it out, fighting our corner. And, you know what? I see some movement. And that’s the point. We’re not perfect. Not even close :) We’re irrational beings. But I’m so glad all us dotty uncles and potty aunts are actually talking. And coming back and talking more, despite the insults, despite some unhinged moments.

    That’s the point.

    Thank you all. I mean it. This is how change happens.

  79. A quick eyeball of bookscan tells me that Simon Green’s work sells about as well as Carrie Vaughn’s. Does one need more rewards than that?

  80. Nick:

    Well, I’d be pleased as hell to have Carrie’s sales numbers m’self, but I don’t have the context to tell whether it’s plausible to say Simon Green is benefitting from being a man writing UF.  If he’s doing as well as Carrie, that means that they’re getting market success on par with each other.  To say that he’s getting preferrential treatment, I’d need some reason to think he didn’t deserve it and she did.

    That said, Carrie’s doing pretty damn good work and I think she’s underappreciated.

  81. Over on the Tor.com forums, a US community college professor has asked for help choosing what stories to cover in an Introduction to Science Fiction course. Anyone want to pop over to the forum and suggest some suitable items?

  82. Good to see the women speaking up. I know about tired. Believe me.

    Yesterday I saw an article that talked about Joanna Russ’ chronic fatigue syndrome in a way that indicated it was probably brought on by her long war against suppression. I boinged off that line so hard I never found my way back to the rest of the article, still less found the strength to comment on it at the site.

    I have CFS, too.

    Dot dot dot.

    I am actually new to SF Signal because when I gafiated, I gafiated like holy whoa. Blew completely out of the genre and went mainstream.

    It’s not any better there. And my real heart is in the genre.But when I came back…well, it’s over on my guest blog. The world I found myself writing in narrowed down something fierce at the turn of the millennium. There just weren’t any choices, apart from a specfic few. And I was so disconcerted, and taken aback, and beaten down as it went on, that I got to the point where if I was going to post somewhere, I’d start, then delete it. “Why bother? Nobody cares what I have to say.”

    What smacked me out of it was, to a large extent, this latest battle in the old war. I’m still tired, oh hell yes. But I’m also kind of energized. And up for giving it one more go.

    So, anyway. New here. By no means new to the Cooties Wars.

    I do see good in this latest kerfuffle, in the way people are reacting. Not with the usual trolling and bitching and scripted-fighting, though there’s plenty of that, but with actual impetus to DO something. To read a few books we haven’t read before. To talk about authors we love who have been ignored or forgotten. To add to lists that have left those writers off.

    It’s good. It’s more of a concerted effort than I’ve seen before. Maybe it will stick.

  83. I wasn’t advocating 50/50.  I personally decided to go 50/50 because 1) the previous was about 95/5 in favor of men and 2) it’s easy to remember the gender of the author I last read and pick the opposite gender on the next book.

    I probably have 30 or so must read books on my radar and I’d say it’s about 2/3’s male.  Not to mentions huge lists of “good” books, e.g. Hugo and Nebula award winners and nominees, etc. that I’m slowly working my way through.

    I read the Russ Pledge as “read whatever you want from the set of things that you ‘like’ but make an attempt to broaden what the set of things that you ‘like’ includes”.  It’s a pledge not a blood oath.

  84. I’m quite happy to take the Russ Pledge, and was curious as to how well I’d done in the last few years. Fortunately I have the data to hand, as since 2007 I’ve been logging the books I’ve completed (all books, including novels, collections, anthologies, book-length novellas and non-fiction, also beta-reads of unpublished novels – three of which were SF novels by two British-based female writers, none of which has been published as yet, though the writer of two of them is agented) in that year. In an effort to reduce the ever-looming TBR pile I set myself the target of reading fifty books a year. Obviously much of these lists is not SF or fantasy.

    At first thought I think I’ve done okay. The author I have read more books by than any other alive or dead is a woman, namely Joyce Carol Oates. But anyway, I’ve now opened my spreadsheets and I’ll see how I did do.

    2007 –  38 books, 16 by women (not so good, that year)

    2008 – 51 books, 25 by women + one female/female/male collaboration

    2009 – 49 books, 25 by women + two female/male collaborations + 1 female/female collaboration

    2010 – 54 books, 34 by women

    2011 so far – 22 books, 10 by women

    As for discussing them, I have written book reviews in the past and some of the above were review copies. For various reasons I’m not actively seeking book review work at the moment, but one publisher has so far sent me four (unsolicited) review copies. Three are by men; the fourth is under an initialled byline. (A quick Google tells me that it’s the work of a man and a woman in collaboration.) What this says about that publisher and what they think I would like to review, I can only speculate. The name on the press release as the marketing contact, by the way, is female.

    Apart from that, some more of my reading is, in effect, chosen for me. Last year and this, I’ve made a point of reading the BSFA Award novel shortlist, and that has made up a large proportion of my (adult) SF reading at novel length. In 2010 there was one novel by a woman on a shortlist of four. This year, there were two out of five.  In both years, a man won. I’ve also been tracking the Carnegie Medal shortlists since 2009 – this is for children’s/YA novels in all genres, not only SF or fantasy. 2009 – two by women out of seven, one of those two being the eventual winner. 2010 – three women out of eight with a male winner. 2011 – three out of six, prize not yet awarded.  This is no doubt proper to a different discussion as to what appears on award shortlists and what wins.

    I no doubt need to read more SF, including SF by women writers. Actually I need to read more books, and wish I could read faster.

  85. How many women vs. men are published in the SF genre as a whole? I mean, is the list as disproportionate as it seems, or are we just tallying numbers without looking at proper percentages? To be honest most women I know aren’t interested in hard SF — I know I may get in trouble for saying that– but I struggle to find other women who like to read the fantasy/sf stuff I like. So I’d guess there are fewer overall female SF writers in the field. 

    I also wonder how many of the guy bloggers here read blogs written by women– as an example. I’ve been a little bit on the receiving end of some dismissive attitudes from a few male bloggers, though never from other women. I admit it, I sometimes feel left out of the club. Should I insist male bloggers give more thought to reading female written blogs? I know, silly example. But there’s something about this discussion that makes me wary. I always figured I failed or succeeded on my own merits. 

    And Daniel beat me to my original thought. I do believe that paranormal fiction is predominately written by women. Should there be a pledge to give more thought to reading paranormal fiction written by men? 

     

  86. I was praising Catherine L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and other female writers before Joanna Russ wrote and sold her first word; as an editor I’ve bought about as many stories from women as from men; of my 44 collaborators, 21 were women; and I resent anyone suggesting that I have praised or worked with or bought from anyone on the basis of gender, or that I -should- praise anyone on that basis.

    – Mike Resnick

  87. Mike, nobody needs to say it to you, and if anybody is, I’ll kick them for you.  (Better. I’ll have one of my horses do it. Any particular planet you want them kicked to?) You were the one editor who never cared what I was “known” for. You’d just say, “I got an idea. You. Write about it.” I got to write all over the map and halfway to the sixth galaxy from the left, and have a a damned good time doing it.

    I wish there were a lot more like you.

    sgt, there are statistics; some have been quoted in the thread. What makes me wonder though is how much of those are skewed by the inability of writers to even get through the gate. It’s like the Jane Austen fanfic trend. A male writer had to do it before anyone even realized it could be a trend. Female writers had been trying for years and being told, “That’s just fanfic. Nobody wants it.”

    As for men in paranormal, as with men in romance, I know a fair few writing under female names. But you know what? Both of those genres are regarded as fluff. Light entertainment. Not Serious. It’s still the same continuum. Do I think male writers should have parity? Do they want it? And if so, does parity actually mean they take over and the women writers land in their usual slot, three steps behind and dismissed as “not nearly as good”?

    If the answer is no, and can be proved over time, GOOD. At this point, based on previous patterns? Um. Well.

     

  88. Re: I do not know who dissed Mike but I agree with his statement.

    Re: Nick Mamatas and his criticism of me saying, “You should not have participated in a poll with such haphazard sampling.” Mike before my rant, congradulations for winning The 2011 Hugo for Best Editor Long Form for Haikasoru-Viz Media. Well not announced yet but you will. Mike the Guardian asked for your favourite SF novel. They asked for NOVEL. They did not as for SF favourite WRITER. So you and your friends are making a fundamental error in critical thinking. It is called a Categorical Error. My favorite SF Novel is Neverness by David Zindell. But David Zindell is not my favourite WRITER. Maybe Hiroshi Yamamoto is. Maybe Chohei Kambayashi is. If the Guardian had asked for my favourite Fantasy NOVEL I would have given Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrless. But she is not my favorite Fantasy WRITER. Maybe Le Guinn is. Maybe Marha Wells is. And regarding “haphazard”, can you tell exactly what is haphazard about me selecting one NOVEL when I can not see the other NOVELS selected. And why are you being such a damn kill-joy. I like to answer polls. But if my selections are going to be conflated to allow some non-critical thinkers to make conclusions based on insufficient data or incorrect data maybe I will not engage in future polls. Although you did not complain when I selected The Stories of Ibis by Yamamoto as my favorite novel of the year. Nor did you complain when I entered a poll selecting Good Luck, Yukikaze as the novel I was most looking forward to reading in 2011. Nor did you complain when I selected Rocket Girls  as one of the most enjoyable and scientifically accurate novels of 2010. Nor did you but that’s enough. And Nick you are near UC, USF, and Stanford. Show a statistics professor the original Guardian Request, the results, and the comments and if his remarks do not change your stand I would be surprised. The Guardian results can not be made to support the Russ pledge. The Russ Pledge can stand on its own feet. Finally I have bought eight of your SF NOVELS fron Haikasoru. You give no bios on your Authors. You give no genders. If some of your great authors are females aren’t you being remiss in not sharing that with us? And no I have not gone to wikipedia to look up that information. I buy a book by reading the first three pages, looking at the cover, judging how well made physically the book is, and lastly look for the editors name. When I do that I usually end up buying a Haikasoru book and I do it never knowing the gender of the author and I do not think that would influence me in any way at all.

  89. I went to dinner tonight with friends, of whom two men and two women read some science fiction but aren’t into the community. I told them about what was happening currently with gender discussions and this monster thread in particular. A lot of the points they raised were points made here by others. None of us were at either end of the political spectrum on this. One couple brought up the idea that hardly any women were writing science fiction back in the day and I found myself trying to explain the basic thoughts behind Russ’ book as I understand them since I’ve only heard about it from others and haven’t read it myself. At that, the other guy said her point was proven by the fact that he read about Amy Thomson’s The Color of Distance on i09 and couldn’t find a copy to read. This lead to my biggest surprise of the evening: I’ve been reading science fiction since the early eighties and had no idea who Amy Thomson was! And she won the flippin’ Campbell! Amy, if you’re out there, I’m sorry.

    Overall, awareness was raised all around the table.

  90. @Judith

    But if men are having to write under psedonyms, wouldn’t that argue that women are perceived at being better at paranormal fiction? I’ve talked to men who have submitted romance manuscripts to find that their work won’t be printed under their real name for the same reason. Disparities exist favoring both sexes depending on the genre. 

    I actually think N.K. Jemisin’s comment actually illustrates why these discussions aren’t very fruitful much of the time. If people are accused of sexism– or any other “ism” and they don’t feel they deserve the label, then they’re going to rebel and the result is the exact opposite of what you wanted in the first place. 

     

  91. @sgt

    “If people are accused of sexism– or any other “ism” and they don’t feel they deserve the label, then they’re going to rebel and the result is the exact opposite of what you wanted in the first place.”

    I know what you’re getting at here — but — if someone is sexist, and someone points out this fact to them, then their negative response isn’t really “rebelling”; they’re staying exactly the same.  It’s not the *accuser’s* problem if they dig in their heels.  They were doing that already.

    It’s like saying one ought not to call a racist a racist because he/she might “rebel” and — um — keep being a racist.  The accusation isn’t *causing* the damn racism.  Nor is it the accuser’s responsibility to take into account the racist’s delicate feelings in the matter.

    The reaction of the accused is their own responsibility.

    Actually, this suggests to me a positive flip side of Jemisin’s comment.  The resentful, intemperate, huffy, whacked-out responses that invariably appear in threads like this serve to demonstrate just how entrenched the problem still is.  That’s useful.

     

  92. There’ve got to be better ways of talking about these issues than those exemplified by this thread, most of which is mired in rhetoric and bloviation and name-calling. This is just utterly depressing. JeffV

  93. Always love these kinds of discussions. So, so many ways in which to view and analyze this issue, which invariably leads you to different, but not disparate conclusions. I happen to write Urban Fantasy (at least that is what it’s shelved and marketed as, despite my insistence that it’s actually paranormal crime fiction, but that’s another arguement for another day). Or maybe not. Is it just me, or does it seem that there is a bias of some kind in all genre fiction. I use my initials to disguise gender, though it’s easy enough to see who I am if one bothers to look. UF is dominated by female writers. Because of it’s ties to paranormal romance, there is a perception that UF is written pretty much by and for women. There are a fair number of male UF writers, but I’m not so sure there’s really gender bias going here as much as there is marketing bias on the part of publishers. Romance sells better than any other genre fiction. It makes financial sense that they would do this, regardless of the slew of issues around a genre being written by and for women.

    I don’t know a lot about sf, other than my favorite sf story was written by a woman. It does however strike me as a genre that has historically been written by and for males. It seems that this dichotomy plays itself out in genre fiction in general. It’s a hard mold to break. One way to fight against it of course is to do what you can to pass on word-of-mouth recommendations for works done by authors of who are in the minority of any genre. Kids need to grow up seeing authors of both genders in any given genre. Schools need to actively cultivate this. Publishers, I think, are in a difficult position, regardless of what they would prefer to do. Making a conscious effort to promote authors in the minority is all well and good unless you can’t meet your financial obligations. I suspect publishers could do more in this area without losing money. Librarians likely could. I can’t believe they’re all fighting for gender equality in genre fiction.

    All of this is pretty difficult though, when most aren’t even aware there’s an issue. Folks have to know what they’re looking at in order to be proactive. Just telling people to read more women in sf because there’s bias, won’t do much. There needs to be more.

     

  94. Maybe we need to go the real root of the problem and read Dorothy Sayers’ Are Women Human?

  95. Hi Honey,

     

    Thank you for your kind words as regards Haikasoru. (I think the smart money is on Lou Anders for the Hugo this year though.) We actually do give bios of our authors in the back pages of their books, and on our site. Two of our authors so far have been female, another female author’s book is literally on my desk right now.

    It’s always good to check out stuff with someone knowledgable about statistics. Were I to show a professor the Guardian poll, he or she would likely agree with me that the sampling was haphazard. “Haphazard sampling” is a term of art in statistics—it means a group selected without any rules. So a bunch of people coming across the Guardian blog and saying, “Oh boy, I’m gonna write in my favorite book now!” to themselves is haphazard. Nobody all that concerned with statistical purity would participate in such a poll. It’s not like applying “basic statistics” to a poll with haphazard sampling would help now, eh?

     

  96. This conversation started with a discussion of the treatment of women writers in the sf field, based on a set of statistical data*, and ended up discussing the treatment of men in a particular (and disrespected) subfield, based on anecdotal evidence with neither sales figures  nor review information to back it up, with plentiful diversions into “You’re enforcing quotas!”, “I don’t consider gender when I read and I don’t know how many female writers I read, “I don’t consider gender when I read and my purely personal taste is formed in a vacuum entirely unaffected by any social forces around me and the exact same vacuum surrounds decisions about what gets published and how it gets marketed and what constitutes valuable aesthetic elements,” and “I personally publish lots of women, so I don’t have to consider the problem.”

    I’m pointing these things out not because I consider any of the commenters bad people or people who consciously think that women or women’s work is inferior to men’s.  I’m pointing them out because they are classic avoidance techniques which are entirely typical in conversations about gender disparities and sexism, including many science fiction has been having for over 50 years (to judge by the essays of Joanna Russ and Justine Larbalestier’s The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, among other works), and that I personally have witnessed many times over the past 10 years online.

    Or, as Nora Jemisin said more succinctly, not many women are showing up here because we’ve had these conversations before and we’re really tired of them.  It’s about time more men picked up the slack.

    * I would personally go with the Strange Horizon counts for sf/f or the VIDA counts for mainstream literary works over the Guardian blog, but the numbers in the Guardian comments are certainly off enough to make a point.

  97. Nick I still think you will get the Hugo. Anyone who has read as many of your Haikasoru books as I have would have to vote for you And congradulations on winning the Stoker. But please do what I asked. You will not convince me otherwise. I just participated in another poll at SF Signal. It asked for the three NOVELS or SERIES that I would like to see produced by HBO. Now Nick there is nothing haphazard about that. But if you get 500 responses and someone bean counts and says the same thing they said on the Guardian pole, then it becomes haphazard and the bean counters are at fault not the individuals such as me who are doing what SignalPost asked us to do. Once again if you single out the WRITERS and ignore the NOVELS I insist you are making a Categorical Error. If you ever make it to the statistics professor let me know. I would do it myself but I am afraid you would say I selected the mathematician I knew that would give me the desired result. My significant other just walked by and said, “GIVE IT A REST.”

  98. Honey—that is haphazard as anyone who wanders by SF Signal can respond to the poll. It’s not sufficiently randomized.

  99. I just explained this entire situation to the two men who lived in my house and asked, “What on earth is wrong with these men who are getting all bent out of shape because they’re being asked to recommend and mention good women writers?”

    The response I received from husband was, “Well, it’s probably because they’re sexist, and they’re getting Bent out of shape because they feel defensive.”

    Son, “Yeah, they’re guilty.”

  100. I just explained this entire situation to the two men who lived in my house and asked, “What on earth is wrong with these men who are getting all bent out of shape because they’re being asked to recommend and mention good women writers?”

    The response I received from husband was, “Well, it’s probably because they’re sexist, and they’re getting Bent out of shape because they feel defensive.”

    Son, “Yeah, they’re guilty.”

    See it’s this kind of bullshit along with “If you support the status quo, you are sexist. End of story.” [implication: if you disagree with me you support the status quo].

    I support the original pledge, and I already read a widely balanced set of new books, and I agree with the aims of the pledge, but none of that justifies this kind of sloppy thinking.

    People, you are not mind readers. You may know what people have said but you don’t know why they’ve said it. And if the reason why you think they’ve said it is something incredibly self-serving such as: “My logical and self-evident arguments have tweaked an evil within you, one you don’t even know you believe, and that’s why you disagree with me” then you need to ask yourself some questions:

    1) How do I know they haven’t just got hold of the wrong end of the stick? Maybe they genuinely think this is a call for quotas or some similar thing

    2) Maybe they are seeing implications that were not intended. [Such as “and therefore you are an evil sexist]

    3) Maybe they are responding to other people’s comments in favour of the idea which have added incorrect implications [Such as “and therefore you are an evil sexist]

    4) Maybe they are seeing implications that were not intended in other people’s comments. [Such as “and therefore you are an evil sexist]

    5) Maybe they are arguing for one of the <i>infinite</i> numbers of reasons that are possible, which I cannot possibly expect to “know” as <b>I cannot read minds!</b>

    Having considered all that it should be obvious that you can call people out for things they’ve actually said (though they can retract them or clarfiy what they meant to say later and you should acknowledge that) and not for mind reading claims about their inner nature which therefore damn them for even arguing the point.

    Honestly, it’s as bad as seeing religious people say “Well, it’s probably because they’re [sexist] immoral, and they’re getting Bent out of shape because they feel defensive” – it’s a shit argument then and it’s a shit one now.

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