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TOC: The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley

Here are the contents of The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley.

  1. “Out of the Sun” by Arthur C. Clarke
  2. “The Pevatron Rats” by Stephen Baxter *
  3. “The Edge of the Map” by Ian Creasey
  4. “Cascade Point” by Timothy Zahn
  5. “A Dance to Strange Musics” by Gregory Benford
  6. “Palindromic” by Peter Crowther
  7. “Castle in the Sky” by Robert Reed *
  8. “The Hole in the Hole” by Terry Bisson
  9. “Hotrider” by Keith Brooke
  10. “Mother Grasshopper” by Michael Swanwick
  11. “Waves and Smart Magma” by Paul Di Filippo *
  12. “The Black Hole Passes” by John Varley
  13. “The Peacock King” by Ted White & Larry McCombs
  14. “Bridge” by James Blish
  15. “Anhedonia” by Adam Roberts *
  16. “Tiger Burning” by Alastair Reynolds
  17. “The Width of the World” by Ian Watson
  18. “Our Lady of the Sauropods” by Robert Silverberg
  19. “Into the Miranda Rift” by G. David Nordley
  20. “The Rest is Speculation” by Eric Brown *
  21. “Vacuum States” by Geoffrey A. Landis

* = New story written for this anthology

[via Marooned and Mike Ashley]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

205 Comments on TOC: The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley

  1. Wow…not a woman in the lot. Been awhile since I’ve run smack into that.

    My fragile female mind, she is…not exactly blown.

  2. Not even one single female author. Seem, that’s mindblowing.

  3. I’ve treid to make a comment on this for 10 minutes now.  I guess my mind really is blown.

  4. Charlie Stross // August 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm //


    Nothing by James Tiptree Jr., Ursula le Guin, C. J. Cherryh, C. L. Moore, or (insert list here)? I note an interesting mixture of classics with rather newer, more obscure items … where’s Elizabeth Bear? Or —

    Aaagh: fail!

  5. Charlie Stross has the right of it – While it’s quite possible that everyone of hte 21 stories listed is Mind Blowing, it would hardly have been difficult to print a more representative collection of Mind Blowing SF.

    Anyone?  I’d love to see “Mind Blowing SF from the rest of us” or some such.  I’d buy both books and shelve them together for all to see.

  6. So, it would appear the SF in “Mindblowing SF” stands for “sans females”…


  8. I somehow think that the lack of female authors here would be less… glaring if the book were not titled in such a way as to imply that it is both comprehensive and excellent. The Mammoth book of Mindblowing SF would seem a) like it ought to have more stories in it, and b) would suggest… I don’t know, some level greater representation. As it is, it kind of sends a message of exclusivity beyond, “exlusive to the actual best.” It gives an impression that certain segments of the population do not, perhaps cannot, fit into the canon of best.

    Though such can hardly have been the editor’s intention, I am sure it looks a bit awkward– a case of foot-in-mouth, or in the intarwebs parlance, “Epic Fail”, in retrospect.

    That all said, my conception of mindblowing SF includes Asimov in it, so YMMV.

  9. Huh.

    I guess we only get dick blowing, as that’s all we’re good for, apparently.

  10. Wow. Agreed with Charles, Cat, and the other folks above. This is especailly galling because, as Rabbit notes above, the title implies a degree of comprehensiveness here that sorely lacking. The use of classic reprints also undercuts the traditional “these are the best stories sent to us” canard that’s usually dragged out; as Charles notes, there are plenty of classic mind-blowing stories written by women.

  11. I would also like to point out that there is not a single author I recognize as being POC up there. I am willing to be told I’m wrong about that, but I’m betting I’m not.

    So here we have mind-blowing mammothness that includes no women and no non-whites. *confetti*

  12. I noticed the lack of women immediately. I needed Tempest to point out to me the paleness of all the writers. I still have work to do.

  13. Yes, my mind is blown — by the narrow range of writers chosen.

    In addition to the women already mentioned, where is Joanna Russ? Olivia Butler? Judith Merrill? Vonda McIntyre? And those are just a few of the classic SF writers.

    Twenty-one stories by (apparently white) males do not a mammoth make. A dinosaur, yes.

  14. Octavia. That’s OCTAVIA Butler. Sheesh.

  15. Glad to see I’m not the only one who thought this is way, way off.

  16. And you know, my grammar is inexplicable today…

  17. Sandra McDonald // August 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm //

    Wow.  There’s another book I won’t be buying or endorsing.

  18. Reminds me of the International Astronomical Union’s failure to name a crater on Mars for a woman science fiction writer. 7 craters named for male SF writers, 0 craters named for female SF writers.

  19. No, seriously, where’s the real table of contents?

  20. Wow, no women, evidently no people of color.  Mindblowing that it is apparantly the fifties again and no one sent me the memo.

  21. I can’t see how Kress can be overlooked at the very least. 

    Normally I don’t hop on these Fail Bandwagons but I’ve got to say that given the fracas that has been raised over the last three years, it seems odd that Ashley would not pump some gender and racial diversity into this anthology.

    So for once, I concur with others that there is a problem here. 


    S. F. Murphy

  22. Well, there’s the joke that SF is dominated by old, white men. If you take that perspective, this ToC is quite certainly representative of the genre.

    :: sigh :: Oh, well. There’s another missed opportunity for SF to really show what it’s got.

  23. Personally, I like what Shweta Narayan had to say on this: “I dunno, “Mammoth” seems like a great name for an anthology of ‘classic’ SF by an all-white all-male cast. Only the word doesn’t mean ‘big’ so much as ‘badly adapted to the current climate and thus extinct, though possibly preserved in ice and unaware of its own extinction’.”

  24. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 11:16 am //

    Dear Friends of SF–

    I generally steer clear of controversies in my senescense, having participated in more than my share as a card-carrying cyberpunk–but I simply cannot allow the unanimity of asinine comments on exhibit here to go unremarked-upon.

    Every single commenter here seems to me to be committing a logical fallacy of tremendous dimension, one so big it distorts entire worldviews:


    You know what:  a potato field is not likely to contain corn plants.  A pine forest might feature an oak or three, but be 99% pine trees.  The Beatles were 4 white guys.  Sonic Youth has no people of color!  My ream of copy paper is all white, with no sheets of lettuce included!

    Variety is great.  Heterogeniety is great.  Bias and prejudice suck.  A genre–VIEWED AS A WHOLE–must feature a million different voices to be accurate and interesting.


  25. Paul, I’ll see your asinine and raise you a fatuous.

    A potato field is one thing, for potatoes.  That is homogenous.  The Beatles were one unit.  Your copy paper is copy paper.

    If the anthology had been entitled White Men Writing Science Fiction, that would’ve been rightfully homogenous.  But it wasn’t.  All it seemed to want was mind-blowing stories.  And apparently the editor seems to think that the only stories which were mind-blowing were written by men.

    Had the anthology been entitled Mindblowing Science Fiction and consisted only of stories written by women, I would have questioned it as well.

  26. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 11:49 am //

    Marguerite–I take your point.  But let me reiterate that there is no law of the universe or of sensible human culture that demands that every institution or product fully represent every possible choice in its compositional makeup.


    If you go to a restaurant, do you demand to see the staff of the kitchen to ensure that they represent the full spectrum or genders and races and ethnicities?  I hope not!  You order food and if you like it you patronize the place again.  (We’re omitting elements of atmosphere, price, fellow customers, etc. here.)


    If this particular anthology delivers stories that fulfill its premise and title, then it’s done its job.  If you or someone else chooses not to support its existence because it does not meet extra-literary criteria, then that is perhaps a morally superior, wonderfully principled, honorable stance.  Or perhaps it’s an addled, PC, chip-on-the-shoulder stance.  But there was never any obligation or constraint on Mike Ashely to satisfy these demands.


    Now, if you got the annual LOCUS survey of books published and pointed out to me that there were N number of anthologies published in 2008 featuring Y number of stories, and that only X percent of these stories were written by folks who were not WASP males, and then you argued that X percent was way too low, I would consider you had the beginnings of a rational argument and gripe.

  27. Sean Wallace // August 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm //

    Paul, I completely disagree with your position. Any publisher who actually wants to maximise their sales has to take into account whom they’re targeting . . . and how. In this case the packaging is obviously aiming for a male demographic, but the message it conveys is worse. Mind you, I’ve no issue, as someone else noted, if this was titled something closer to that market, but as it stands now, it’s a bit beyond the pale. And as Jim noted: “Here we go again.”

  28. Kelly Robson // August 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm //

    What matters more than the gender and race of the writers is who and what they’re writing about.

    Are all the main characters in this antho white men? Do the stories only deal with sitations and themes that white men care about? Is the antho devoid of diverse subject matter? Are the morals, ethics, and topics lifted straight from the 1950s? Are the few female characters there for T&A? Are the characters of color mere props? If so, that’s something to complain about.

    But even white men from the 1950s can write mindblowing stories that critique the view from the top of the food chain — for example Ward Moor’s story “Lot.”

    The writers may be mammoths, but are the stories fossils?

  29. Dear Paul Di Filippo,

    What the hell is wrong with you? I mean, I feel I could answer that question on my own (you’re a man, you write SF, you have a vested interest in status quo and keeping things the way they are: to your benefit) but I’m really hoping that maybe this morning you woke up and took a FailPill or maybe hit your head on something or maybe just forgot to insert the hard drive that allows you to make logical comments and not sound like a completely out of touch, boorish, privileged jerk.

    Here’s a fact: women write amazing science fiction. Here’s another fact: people of color write amazing science fiction. And while anthologies that are meant to show some slice of a pretty widely-defined genre need not consult the census in order to determine how many women or POC one should include in a volume, SOME is expected, not NONE. Any volume that proclaims it’s “mammothness” should include, at the very, very least, writers like Kress and Willis and, I daresay, Elizabeth Hand, James Tiptree Jr., Nisi Shawl, Octavia Butler, need I go on? And that’s  not even bringing POC males into the equation. Must I list them for you, too?

    You fail, on every level, to understand the point here. You fail, as a reader and lover and writer of SF to be “with it” as the kids used to say. Because the landscape of this genre includes more than white men. MORE THAN. No matter how much you have decided to rail against that, you will not be the one to determine the future.

    Statistics DO NOT MATTER, what matters is that anthologies that showcase the genre that do not include women or people of color are Wrong. In principle. It is never okay to exclude or marginalize women or POC because you (the editor or whoever) don’t care to seek out their work or dismiss it simply because it doesn’t appeal to your white maleness. That’s simply unacceptable in these days, kind of like it’s simply unacceptable for you to come along and compare women and minorities TO FUCKING VEGETABLES.

  30. No indeed, it is a free country, and nobody twisted the editor’s arm to represent women in SF.  Only sanity dictates that he shouldn’t have alienated a huge part of the SF audience by running a bunch of stories by the old boys club we can already find in a YBSF anthology, or some dusty trunk stories from established names.  Logic dictates that amid 20 stories, at least somebody without a Y chromosome would have made it. 

    Any “PC” spin on this aside, as far as “mind-blowing” goes, the editor has given that promise by the title.  There is THAT obligation, and with all due respect the majority of this TOC just isn’t delivering the goods. 

    X percent of N stories by folks not in the WASP demographic is not the issue.  ZERO percent within this sample community (which is an extrapolation of apparently ALL “mind-blowing” SF is the issue.  That number COMPLETELY defies the odds and turns precipitous events into deliberate acts of assholery.

    Maybe his mind was blown, but my is still sufficiently intact, albiet disappointed in yet another example of why people are worried SF is in a death-rattle.

  31. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm //

    Sean–I am very grateful to you for that link to the Jim Hines post, and for the chance to read the commentary attached to it.  Everyone involved in this debate is passionate and concerned:  two important qualities that can only help improve the field.


    However, I’d like to raise two matters:


    First, how are anthologies assembled?  By 1)  an editor’s reference to his past reading experience, for reprints; 2) “invitation only” for new stories; 3) “open call” for new stories.

    The book in question was assembled by a combo of 1) and 2).  Obviously, Mike Ashley recalled only stories by men and invited stories only from males.  (Or possibly, invited women who did not respond or qualify.)  This resulted in a men-only book.  Is this sexism, or is it a function of the phenomenon illustrated in the SEINFELD episode of the big-breasted waitresses?  Elaine was incensed that a certain diner featured only big-breasted waitresses–until she discovered that all the women were the owner’s daughters.  In other words, what seemed to be sexism was “family bias.”  Mike relied on his “family connections,” to the dead or living.  And that family included no women.  Limited family maybe, but sexism?  Your call.


    Second, I think in any such argument it’s always useful to ask “whose ox is being gored?” and to “follow the money.”


    I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s motives, or attempt to mind-read.  But I have to say that when ANY WRITER (not just female writers or writers of color) complains about being excluded from a venue and cites issues of platonic principle and idealism, I always first posit underlying jealousy and a desire for status underneath all the lofty hypothetical talk.  Why do I posit such a cynical thing?  Because I’m a fucking writer, and guilty as all others!  I vividly recall my sense of exclusion from the “adult table” after having had one or two stories published, but before being able to sell regularly.  Hell, I still feel this way, being without a major publisher.


    Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting a place at the table for one’s personal, individual works.  If a writer did not believe in her stuff, why would she bother?  And if you believe in your stuff, you’ll want it to get the best possible treatment.  But to cloak one’s personal gripes, however subconsciously, in the cloak of solidarity with all downtrodden is just plain disingenuous–to use the nicest word.


    I really wonder, as an unperformable thought experiment, whether if the MAMMOTH book had included a token one or two writers of color or female gender, if these writers would have returned their paychecks or even spoken out when the current controversy arose.

    “Walk it like you talk it” remains the operative phrase.

  32. Sean Wallace // August 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm //

    Paul, attacking authors for putting out legitimate gripes against an anthology purporting to be a compilation of the most mindblowing stories ever, by implying that their self-interests are what’s at heart here, is going way over the top. Are you saying Charles Stross, Caitlin Kiernan, Jim Hines, and any of the other professional authors who have criticised this lineup are jealous that they aren’t in this project? Are you crazy? :p

  33. Paul,

    You act as if we in the genre have not already had this conversation dozens of times and as if people have not trotted out the same silly argument you just did and as if people have not picked that argument apart again and again. Yet here you are, toddling into the conversation as if this is all new, no one has pointed out these very obvious truths, and sitting back all satisfied with yourself for pointing out that white men enjoy reading stories by white men and why doesn’t anyone see that this is not wrong at all!?

    I can’t even give you benefit of the doubt anymore. You’re just captaining the Failboat now.

  34. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm //

    Come, come, now, Tempest!  Are not potatoes and trees a beautiful, vital part of Gaia?  Just as Walt Whitman (a male, but forgivable since gay) wanted to be reincarnated as humble grass, so too do I myself dream someday of being a tree or potato–if I am not one already.

    And in a shifty debating technique, you neglect to mention my implicit comparison with Kim Gordon.  Kim Gordon, man!  Like, punk, you know?  (Am I “with it” yet?)



  35. Paul, you bet your ass I’m jealous.  I’m jealous of my future.  I’m jealous of my daughters’ future, should they decide to pick up the pen.  Being a kick-ass writer is not enough of a guarantor, anymore.

  36. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm //

    My Failboat has been sunk!  I go down bravely yet moronically at the helm.  Farewell, dear world!


    Actually, all this useless talk has diverted me from working on a new story.  For a Mike Ashley anthology!  Yes, it’s true.  The Secret Masters are continuing their malicious depradations.  My protagonist, however, is a Person of Color.  This choice was made ages ago.  I hope this might in some small way exculpate my sins.


    Have fun!

  37. … I fail to understand how being gay makes Walt Whitman “forgiveable”. I guess you’re implying that someone around here has said that men are bad? But I guess you think those imaginary people would think gay men are okay because… they like other men? I… really, I’m trying to see the logic here and missing it. Explain, please.

  38. Thanks, Paul Di Filippo!  You’ve just saved me a ton of money!  Not only will I not be purchasing the Mammoth Book of Fail, I now know to stay far away from your books.

  39. I really wonder, as an unperformable thought experiment, whether if the MAMMOTH book had included a token one or two writers of color or female gender, if these writers would have returned their paychecks or even spoken out when the current controversy arose.


    1) The current controversy wouldn’t have arisen. 😉  From what I’ve seen of these controversies in the past, it really only takes 1-2 authors to move a book from “Oh, no, here we go again” into “Well, at least there were some.”

    2) There’s no way to tell a token from non-token unless either a) the editor declares them tokens, or b) they’re clearly manifestly inferior.  I somehow suspect that if Mr. Ashley has the editorial chops to edit a mammoth anthology of anything, he could have found some mind-blowing stories that would not have been tokens.

    In reference to other points made:

    “Family Bias” arguments come, I should warn you, painfully close to “Old Boys’ Network” realities.  To quote Chip Delany: “It is not enough to make non-racist decisions; we have to make anti-racist ones.” I believe that one can generalize to other Xisms as required.

    There are sometimes innocent explanations for such bias, for individuals. There are more or less never innocent explanations for systems — and blaming “the system” in the abstract does nothing to change the individuals who make up the parts of that system.

    I don’t know Mr. Ashley.  It’s very likely that he didn’t make a single consciously biased decision in putting together this anthology. But until it gets pointed out to him, and to the people who read about what he did, that “no conscious bias” means “going along with a biased system”, nothing’s going to change.

     (Oh, and it may well be that people’s self-interests are very much involved here. And you know what? When the system is biased against you, that’s the result you’re going to see.  If only non-involved parties could generate an uproar, well….)

  40. Samantha Henderson // August 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm //

    Paul,  the idea that women get a little sick of male-dominated TOCS (and that POC get a little sick of white-dominated TOCS) because they are jealous is kinda old.  Personally, I don’t write much SF, I’m certainly not known for it, and it’s rather unlikely I’d be asked to contribute to an SF anthology. But I do like to read SF, I especially like good SF short stories, and I like anthologies.  I even like SF stories by men and white people. But it gets simply wearying seeing this over and over again. As a consumer – and when it comes to SF that’s what I am – I am far more likely to put money down for an anthology if I think it has more variety going for it, and when I see women* somewhere in the TOC that’s what I think I ‘m going to get.

    *POC too, although that’s not as obvious.

  41. Veronica Schanoes // August 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm //

    You see, Tempest, the only possible reason anybody could want to see women in an anthology whose title implies a comprehensive overview of the field could be that that person hates men–that’s the only reason to include women in anything ever, just like the only reason to acknowledge the work of people of color is because one hates whites!  But gay men aren’t real men, so such a person would find Whitman OK.  

    There’s a level of misogyny/homophobia there that boggles the mind.

  42. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 1:09 pm //

    Tempest–why my reference to Walt Whitman and his sexuality, as if someone in these comments had derided all men with a prejudice-sodden paintbrush?


    To quote you from half-an-hour prior:


    Dear Paul Di Filippo,

    What the hell is wrong with you? I mean, I feel I could answer that question on my own (you’re a man,



    If you really can’t recall your own remarks for longer than half an hour, it should tell you something about how your passions are distorting your logic.

  43. Veronica Schanoes // August 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm //

    I believe the entire quotation is “you’re a man, you write SF, you have a vested interest in status quo and keeping things the way they are: to your benefit.”  You’ll note that the group being tarred here is male SF-writers who want to maintain their undeserved privilege over other groups.”  Thus this is a group Walt Whitman would have almost nothing in common with.

  44. Paul, your argument about personal stakes might be more effective (and sound bushels less defensive to boot) if *your* name wasn’t in the TOC.

    It would still be a bankrupt argument, but at least it wouldn’t be bankrupt *and* embarrassing.

    P.S. The kids these days don’t have any clue who Kim Gordon is.

  45. Paul Di Filippo // August 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm //

    Friends–and I do address everyone here in this honest manner, not ironically, since we are all SF partisans, not stinking mundanes; man, are those mundane inhuman trash below all consideration, or what?!?–anyhow, where was I?–oh, yeah–


    Friends–I will be happy to continue this discussion with anyone who wants to write me via email: 



    But I simply cannot continue on in this particular venue, as it’s chewing up my whole day and achieving nothing.


    As I said in my first post, I’ve generally avoided all controversies since learning my lessons circa 1985.  I’m very sorry I broke my own self-imposed hard-won prohibition, and cause anyone undue stress or anger–and that sorrow extends to myself.  I’m just glad I got out before anyone called me “Hitler.”


  46. Paul, for a writer, you seem to have a poor grasp on how sentences work. Because, as Veronica has already pointed out, that statement contains a lot more words.

    There’s nothing wrong with you being a man, or even a man who writes SF, in general, nor did I say so. But when you’re a man who writes SF who then posts privilege-laden screens on the internet about how women being in the pages of an anthology is like having leaves of lettuce shoved in with regular paper, then there IS something wrong with you. And that something probably has a lot to do with the fact that your kind is being challenged and told that you no longer get to have unearned privilege and you don’t like it.

    Furthermore, I still fail to see what Walt Whitman’s sexuality has to do with anything we’re talking about here.

  47. I’d like to see what the editor has to say….

  48. … you realise white men are, in fact, a minority on this planet, right? And a minority in the US? And that just because the editor might not have been able to think of a single story by a woman or PoC and thus didn’t include them, doesn’t mean he can’t pause for a second and realise that, hey, maybe he should go look for them?

    I don’t care about the reasoning behind the initial choices, there’s not a single excuse for not realising and fixing the mistake after taking a glance at the TOC.

  49. Oh my. Kind of like dipping a ladle into soup and getting only one kind of beans.

    Either selection or incredible coincidence. Incredible as in unbelievable.

    On the other hand, I’d hate to see a quota system where women or non-whites are included merely to avoid ire.

  50. I’m not going to boycott the book.

    I mean, I probably won’t be able to buy it right now, as I don’t have the scratch, but I’m not going to boycott it.  I’m not going to not buy it, or urge others to not buy it.

    I would rather urge people to buy anthologies rather than not buy them.

    So on my LJ, I’ll post some that could be purchased to show support for the writers we don’t see….  

  51. Why do people assume that, in order for this kind of issue to be corrected, quotas have to come into play? Are people just that ingrained in racism and sexism that they cannot just learn to be thoughtful and aware?

    Somehow I really just don’t think that is the case.

  52. I seem to use the word “just” a lot.

  53. Meg Stout,

    I don’t think they should be included to avoid ire, but considered to be fair. People make mistakes – that happens. The trick is to realise it. If you’re composing a mammoth book of something-something-genre, you have to read wide, and not just stick with what you know and what’s been seen a million times. I highly doubt that there isn’t a single story in the world written by a PoC/woman that wouldn’t be worthy of being in this anthology – the editor probably just didn’t go out of his way to look for them. In a genre that has plenty of issues with sexism and racism, that’s a painful mistake to make.

  54. I highly doubt that there isn’t a single story in the world written by a PoC/woman that wouldn’t be worthy of being in this anthology — umm, I’d make an effort to make this sentence somewhat more legible, but I’m sure you all know what I mean. My brain does not appear to be cooperating.

  55. Jay Blanc // August 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm //

    I’ve said it before, and it looks like I’ll have to say it again and again and again. Why is Science Fiction Publishing still stuck in the Future of the 1950s?

  56. The tagline (when I blow up the cover) is this:

    “The 21 finest stories of awesome science fiction”

    Now that, to me, is a HUGE claim by any stretch of the imagination, especially for a compilation that lacks authers from Asimov to Zelazny (hey!   two more white guys!).   Not “21 awesome stories” but THE 21 FINEST”.

    There are certain fields where (for example) you might legitimately exclude women – let’s say “the 21 fastest 100m sprinters ever” (though I think there wouldn’t be too many white guys in that list, either).   SF is not, however, such a field.

    SF has a long history of being dominated by white guys, so any compilation of “the finest” stories is likely to be dominated by by stories by white guys; that’s statistics.   But there are several people in this anthology that I’m barely familiar with, and some huge names that aren’t.   I think if you’re going to put an ambitious tagline like that on your book, you really should be able to back it up.   And this doesn’t, not by a long chalk.



  57. Liz Williams // August 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm //

    I don’t know how Mike works out his invite list for these anthos. I should point out that I do get asked to contribute on a regular basis for the Mammoth books (as do a number of female writer friends), though not for this one, and he’s published my stuff in a number of these anthologies, including the Jules Verne one, which one might have expected to be a bit more Boys’ Own. Paul di F has also been supportive of my novels over the years, and personally I have not found either Mike or Paul to be sexist. That isn’t to say that the net couldn’t have been cast wider for this particular anthology, of course, and obviously I am speaking as a white writer – there may indeed be issues with WOC in this particular arena.

    Dunno about the potato analogy, though, although I do feel a bit like one at the moment.

  58. Ian Osmond // August 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm //

    It seems to me that Mr Di Fillipo argument is that it’s perfectly reasonable that, in a random selection of 21 stories, every one of them would be written by a white male.

    So, what are the odds?

    Let’s say that the percentage of stories that are written by white males is X.  That means that, by random chance, the odds of at least one story in 21 being written by white males is X^21.

    So, if the science fiction field is 97% white males, then there’d be a 50% chance that this would happen just by chance.  If the field was 99% white males, then there would be an 80% chance of this happening.

    On the other hand, if a quarter of science fiction writers are women or POC, then the odds of every story being written by a white male are about 0.2%

    Anyone know what the distribution is?  I am not certain, but I get the feeling that at least 1 out of 4 writers I know are something other than white males.  Is that reasonably representative, or is the field actually more than 97% white male?

  59. I would also like to note, because this is going to come up, that the only people who have mentioned Sexism or Sexist are a troll and someone speaking in defence of the editor. These two people aren’t connected by anything other than these words, mind, and Liz is certainly not in here being a horrible troll. But I just wanted to note that.

  60. just so no one can say I am only talking smack behind people’s backs, I will say it here too, that I feel it is possible Mr. Difilippo is defending this anthology so hard because if it hadn’t been all whiteboys, and he had had to compete with say, stories by Connie Willis or Octavia Butler, he may feel his story would not have made the cut.

  61. Paul, I’m sorry, but I fail to be convinced by your emphatic capital letters. No one is demanding that editors take a census of SF writers and figure out the exact percentages that should be represented in their analogies. There is a world of difference between that and not bothering to include the work of a single person of color or a single woman. This anthology may not be SF as a whole, or even this year’s anthologies as a whole, but the word “mammoth” does imply that it’s big enough to fairly sample the field — it explicitly claims to contain the “21 finest stories of awesome science fiction” — and it does not. You’re right — Mike Ashley was in no way obligated to make choices that did not reflect his own racism or sexism, or those of the field at large. But neither are those who are offended by those choices obligated to keep their mouths shut about it or pretend that it’s not symptomatic of a larger problem.

    And actually, what you describe as family bias is not family in the literal sense (science fiction as a field does not have three daughters and three open waitressing positions; your analogy is on far too small a scale to be applicable), and it *is* sexism and racism. Sexism and racism are not not just individual prejudice; they’re systems of oppression. And part of how that system works is that white men get ahead because they have better connections to other, more powerful white men — it is not a level playing field. And your points about jealousy over exclusion, aside from being absurd (of course people will be frustrated and offended when they are not only repeatedly excluded, but so is everyone who looks like them; when they don’t have a chance to succeed on their merits because the deck is stacked against them), but they don’t apply to me. I’m a reader. And I find this reprehensible.

    And oh dear, I seem to have missed my opportunity to have my comment read by a window of a few hours. I suppose I can bother to send it as an email as well, seeing as it’s already typed out.

    What do people gain by advancing these arguments, anyway? If it gains them readers, can it possibly equal the number of readers they lose by spouting this nonsense? After all, all of the racist, sexist SF fans are *already* reading the white men to the exclusion of everyone else. And I can’t be the only person who will never feel the need to read another Paul Di Filippo story again.

  62. Interesting, too, that Paul leaves the conversation because it’s taking too much of his time. What about the time that all of us spend pointing out these idiocies when they occur? And yet it’s important that we take the time to point out the problems (sexism, racism, and other idiocies) in order to help make the problems go away. Thank you for acknowledging the valuable resources that these conversations continue to require, Paul.

    Also, the field of SF hasn’t consisted mainly of white men since what, the ’60s? — i.e., the middle portion of the last century. It is just pathetic that the field that supposedly looks to the future cannot manage to drag itself even to the present.

  63. Being a kick-ass writer is not enough of a guarantor, anymore.

    Marguerite, I have very bad news for you.  Being a kick ass writer has NEVER been a guarantor, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

    I can see the direction this debate is going in.  I’m not pleased with the comment made above comparing “mammoth” and white writers to a species headed toward extinction.  Frankly it isn’t fair to folks who are in this anthology who may not have known what the eventual gender and ethnic composition would be. 

    So do we penalize Alastair Reynolds, who is one of those white guys, who is also progressive AND a scientist because Ashley didn’t include women and minorities?  Reynolds, who had a fairly impassioned entry on Racefail 09 awhile back? 

    Just great.


    S. F. Murphy

  64. (Sorry, Tempest, I didn’t mean to wreck your point there…)

  65. S.F.,   I think the ‘mammoth’ analogy is more referring to sf as a whiteboy playground going extinct, not about the authors themselves.

  66. Yeah. No one’s complaining about the presence of the white guys, just about the absence of anything but white guys.


  67. S.F. — As maevele said.  I was referring to the whiteboy-only playground version of SF, which is too often stagnant and kills itself by being so, shedding readers with every repetition of a played-out notion. 

    Certainly not every writer in the anthology is part of that playground; my comment is on the editor and the publication, not on the authors.  Having said that, one writer in the anthology has certainly given me reason to believe the worst in this thread.

  68. Jennie V.H. // August 4, 2009 at 5:39 pm //

    I’m loving this comment thread–I’m gathering names of terrific women (and PoC, I hope) SF writers. I’d forgotten how much I’d loved Connie Willis’ writings and look forward to reading her and all the others! Yeah!

  69. Westprog // August 4, 2009 at 5:45 pm //

    I was considering this in the context of sub-genre. To have a general SF anthology which does not feature women authors would be an obvious absurdity. The only explanation would be prejudice. 


    However, is this a general SF anthology? It’s not easy to tell, but I get the impression that it’s an anthology of big engineering stories. The Bridge, for example, deals with the mechanics of building a huge bridge on Jupiter. It’s not a bad story – it’s largely concerned with the psychological implications – but it might well be the kind of story more likely to be written by a man.

    Would there be any equivalent sub-genres more likely to feature women? A few minutes search turned up . It’s even another mammoth. Mammoths are extinct, of course.


  70. Westprog: Oh yes, let’s be for gender biases because Mammoth does ’em both ways.

    This book does not claim to be a book of engineering stories.  It claims to be representative of SF.  There is no getting around that, certainly not with “And the same people want only female names on their romance anthology”.

  71. How dare they not include a woman!  Waaah!  Waaah!

    Pathetic fucking children.

  72. For anyone interested in checking out POC and Female authors, you should take a look at the FeministSF wiki and the Carl Brandon Society wiki. Both excellent resources.

  73. Westprog // August 4, 2009 at 6:50 pm //

    No, the book doesn’t claim to be “The Boys Favourite Book Of Huge Interstellar Structures”, but that is what it appears to be, judging by the titles in the table of contents. If the book were indeed just the best available SF stories, then the selection of authors is strange on many counts – it certainly doesn’t represent the biggest names in the field on any basis. Some of the authors are completely unknown to me.

    The use of terms like “Mindblowing” and “Awesome” are a bit vague, but what Mr Ashley and the blurb writers seem to be trying to get at is some kind of SF that emphasizes a particular kind of writing. It’s unfortunate that the words can reasonably be applied to /any/ good SF story. It seems to me that this particular selection does not represent anyone’s idea of the best dozen SF stories ever written.

    Whether or not Vampire Romance stories should be written almost exclusively by women I don’t know. Were there male authors queueing up with fantastic stories that would have satisfied the readership?

  74. First RoF/Ellison, now this. Let alone the Singularity Summit and a few other self-defined “futurist” venues and individuals.  Did something get in the water that is specifically affecting the neocortex of aging white men??

  75. Colleen Anderson // August 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm //

    I would be willing to wait on my final judgment depending on the editor’s introduction. Say he described mindblowing SF as what he experienced when he took acid and then read submissions, then I could accept his list. Or perhaps it is small mindblowing SF and doesn’t reach big minds.Maybe it’s the best he could get but I very much doubt that as we know there are many other writers of mindblowing quality.

    The “Mammoth” books are usually largish collections of tales, and there are many many Mammoth collections. So this fails in the Mammoth series because it only has 21 stories. Again 21 stories would support the small mind theory. I certainly wouldn’t count these authors as the most mindblowing SF writers even if it was only picked from males.

    So what is the criteria? Authors he knows; he solicited stories from some (write me a mindblowing story, why doncha). Authors he likes or whose name might sell the book (though I would consider that impact nebulous). It wasn’t an open submission process so it certainly isn’t the best and current mindblowing SF. Maybe it should be titled the best mindblowing SF by these particular authors.

    So I could give the benefit of the doubt without reading the intro but I doubt I would ever pick up this book. Like a few people said about SF publishing being stuck in the 60s, so is the cover art. I spent many years as a book buyer and these were the covers that rarely ever sold.

    And one last comment on Paul di F’s tirade that we’re all jealous we’re not in the book. Well, sure, maybe. But I would make this comment regardless, because the book is just too arrogant in its title and I would never have expected to be in such a limiting antho. Mindblowing, maybe. Far reaching, no.

  76. As for the Vampire Romance book?  Nope, not impressed by that gender exclusivity either.

  77. The point about the probabilities not working out if even a quarter of all SF writers are not white men is an excellent one, and one I’m going to keep in mind. If this sort of thing happened once, it’d be an interesting anomaly. The fact that it happens regularly is another thing entirely — and disturbing regardless of whether it’s “family bias” or gender/race bias.

    There’s a funny thing going on with SF/fantasy, the past few years — it’s been experiencing an upsurge in sales — when sold via mystery, romance, mainstream, and YA imprints. It’s only within the actual SF/fantasy genre and community that people moan about how SF/fantasy is contracting, even dying, and about how readers just don’t seem very interested in reading it anymore.

    Some days I think that there just might be a reason for this.

  78. The emphasis of this anthology is on “stories that took unusual scientific concepts and developed them in even more unusual ways.”  (See the first comment to:

    My knowledge of current short fiction is severely lacking (I blame it on catching up with the Dresden Files, but I digress).  Can those more learned out there provide a list of 20 or so stories by female authors and non-white-guy-authors which deal with unusual scientific concepts and develop them in even more unusual ways? 

    Maybe if we pass over a goodly list to Mr. Ashley, he might create a sequel to this Mammoth Book?  Call it “Another Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF”  or “Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF II” or something.

    And if Mr. Ashley is unable to create said sequel, maybe we can pool resources and publish a book in response to this.  Call it “Beyond Mindblowing SF” or “Better Than Mammoth Mindblowing SF” or “Mindblowing? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” 

    Or even “The Other Mammoth Book…”

  79. Almost all US and England too, isn’t it?  Alastair Reynolds aside.


    No Australians, Canadians, whichever bit of Ireland, Africa, NZ, etc. etc.

  80. Liz Williams // August 5, 2009 at 1:47 am //

    >I would also like to note, because this is going to come up, that the only people who have mentioned Sexism or Sexist are a troll and someone speaking in defence of the editor. These two people aren’t connected by anything other than these words, mind, and Liz is certainly not in here >being a horrible troll. But I just wanted to note that.


    Thanks – in fact, I should add that I have not seen anyone else mention the ‘sexist’ word either, but did want to say that my experience with both these guys has been very positive. I’m not just saying that because Mike’s my editor, btw – for all I know, I won’t be asked to contribute to one of these things again, but I have to call it as I see it. However, obviously, I am only speaking from limited personal experience and I do feel strongly that there are much wider issues regarding both women writers and WOC, who are not represented nearly as widely as they should be in SF/F generally – this being one of the main points of the winter Fail. It *is* a fail, in my view. And for the record, I regard myself as being part of that wider problem rather than part of the solution, which is something that I need to address. (I also realise that this is veering into All About Me territory, so will shut up now). 



  81. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan // August 5, 2009 at 1:49 am //

    I just can’t wrap my mind around how this thing could have happened. I mean, if you want mindblowing SF, how can you POSSIBLY overlook Tiptree? How? She has written more mindblowing stories by her own lonesome than anybody else I can think of save perhaps Greg Egan. And has the Hugo nomination to prove it. And Connie Willis? Connie might be the most short-story nominated writer of the last fifty years or so. She’s not obscure, she’s not a token, and she has written some pretty mindblowing stories. And not all of them are “Even the Queen” or “All my darling daughers.”

    And another thing: if the editor didn’t realize what he had done, how could this pass under the noses of copyeditors, publishers, and so on – how could anyone fail to notice?

  82. Westprog // August 5, 2009 at 5:37 am //

    All the best female sf writers write “mindblowing” sf. It’s part of the job description. The Left Hand Of Darkness is mindblowing. The Screwfly Solution is mindblowing. But would those stories fit comfortably in this particular anthology?

    Clearly the description of the anthology gives the impression that it covers the entire field. Clearly it doesn’t. So it’s at fault for that.

    It’s then a matter of deciding whether specialist anthologies of SF should be representative or not.

    I also note that the fact that the anthology, in common with almost all US/British anthologies except for Aldiss/Harrisson excludes most of the world. 

  83. Mark Gerrits // August 5, 2009 at 8:27 am //

    I actually bought this anthology the other day and didn’t give the ToC another thought (except for “an original story by Adam Roberts, sweet!”) until stumbling across this discussion. So thanks for illuminating a cultural blind spot in me. Even as someone who keeps up with most of the genre’s ***fails, it’s apparently still depressingly easy for me to miss this kind of stuff.

    @Westprog As for the theme of the anthology, in the introduction Mike Ashley says it’s about how the sense of wonder of golden age science fiction stories survived into the modern day. He also links this sense of wonder with stories being uplifting. I do get the feeling that the cover’s hyperbole and packaging was put there by the publisher and not Ashley.

  84. Robin Alvarez // August 5, 2009 at 9:28 am //

    There needs to be more diversity in sci-fi but it’s not fair to condemn the writers who are in this anthology. I’m sure they didn’t know what the race gender make up would be.

    “Second, I think in any such argument it’s always useful to ask “whose ox is being gored?” and to “follow the money.”

    I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s motives, or attempt to mind-read.  But I have to say that when ANY WRITER (not just female writers or writers of color) complains about being excluded from a venue and cites issues of platonic principle and idealism, I always first posit underlying jealousy and a desire for status underneath all the lofty hypothetical talk.  Why do I posit such a cynical thing?  Because I’m a fucking writer, and guilty as all others!  I vividly recall my sense of exclusion from the “adult table” after having had one or two stories published, but before being able to sell regularly.  Hell, I still feel this way, being without a major publisher.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting a place at the table for one’s personal, individual works.  If a writer did not believe in her stuff, why would she bother?  And if you believe in your stuff, you’ll want it to get the best possible treatment.  But to cloak one’s personal gripes, however subconsciously, in the cloak of solidarity with all downtrodden is just plain disingenuous–to use the nicest word.”

    Paul makes a very excellent point in this regard.

    While race and gender are always legitimate issues worth exploring, I can’t help but note that the ringleader leading this latest witch hunt is the same individual who chronically picks fights on forums and attack writers unjustly under the guise of race and gender. It seems to be the only way she can make sales, and stay relevant.

    She seems to remain in one controversy or another which has been her schtick for many years.

    As a woman of color, I have problem with that because it makes the fight against sexism and racism all the more difficult. I genuinely empathized with her over the Ellison debacle (because I thought he was out of line), but now that’s died down, she’s attacking other writers in order to hold on to her limelight.

    Don’t believe me? Let’s see if she’s not in the middle of another controversy in about a month.

    If that long.

  85. My experience has been, when one person is regularly the one who speaks up about issues in a community?

    It’s because they’re the ones actually willing to speak up, even if they take heat for it.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve mentioned an issue on, say, a listserv, only to be met with mostly-silence on the list, and then a whole bunch of emails from “nice” community members who agree with me and are really glad I said something — yet who, apparently, even though their emails claim they felt as strongly about the issues involved as me — were utterly unwilling to say so anywhere but in private email. The impression I get is that a lot of people, even while agreeing when an issue comes up, are so invested in maintaining their “nice” status — or, maybe are just simply so conflict averse — that they won’t jump in in support of that issue themselves. So the same few are left to be the first to speak, over and over again.

    If the same person is calling our community on its issues consistently (something I’m not convinced of, actually, even just based on all the voices in this thread), then that tells me not that there are not issues, but that the rest of us need to stop being quiet when these things bug us — need to stop holding these conversations only where others can’t hear and take exception with us for our words.

  86. Not a single person here is condemning the writers. To continue the crazy food-related analogies going on here: if I’m getting sick of eating apples 24/7, it’s not because I hate apples, it’s because I’d like a damned pear on occasion.

    Also, there were nine comments disapproving of the TOC before Tempest’s, and many of the people upset about this are white and/or men and/or don’t even write in this genre – or at all. Where’s the personal stake there?

  87. Robin Alvarez:

    Your comment was really creepy.

    Have you noticed how many people have posted on this thread? You really think there’s some sort of “ringleader?” Way to pay no attention. Way to ignore the dozens of other voices.

    This part particularly galled me:

    “It seems to be the only way she can make sales, and stay relevant.”

    Do you really think that pissing off the establishment of a tiny genre is a way to make sales? You really think that’s Tempest’s motivation? That’s utterly absurd.

    And to dismiss concerns that more than half of the sf writing community was completely ignored in a supposedly sweeping anthology as jealousy — look at the names on this thread. That argument is equally absurd.

  88. Robin Alvarez:

    The idea that there is a ring leader stirring up trouble to fuel her fiction sales is…..weird and inaccurate. Also, as a way to generate sales, pointing out the foibles of sci-fi editors is unlikely to be effective. 


    You’re also ignoring that many people talking about this are not writers.  I’m not a sci-fi writer, I’m a reader. I’m a reader who thinks something described as a “Mammoth” shouldn’t secretly be a Mammoth Manthology.   Ian Osmond upthread points out that a TOC of all white men is actually statistically improbable. Several people have mentioned stories they think are mind blowing, which are not their stories.  Trying to reframe this as “Jealous Authors/Tempest stir up shit to improve their sales” is a massive misreading of what has actually been said.

  89. “I really wonder, as an unperformable thought experiment, whether if the MAMMOTH book had included a token one or two writers of color or female gender, if these writers would have returned their paychecks or even spoken out when the current controversy arose.”

    As others have pointed out, there wouldn’t be a controversy if there were any diversity in the TOC. For example, I’m the sole woman in the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 3, and I don’t recall anyone noting that publicly.

  90. Robin:

    A) As many have already pointed out, no one is condemning the writers for this (although, thanks to his ill-thought-out participation in this thread, many are condemning one of the writers for being an ass).

    B) The most charitable thing that can be said about your post is that it’s a classic case of projecting. Assuming that your issues are everyone’s issues is egotistical and shows an inabilty to actually comprehend many of the comments being made (or possibly an unwillingness to do so).

  91. Robin,

    Congratulations on speaking some against-the-grain sense in the midst of a mindless stampede.  I know it can be hard speaking up against the lemmings.


  92. If you took a survey and got a list of a hundred or two SFF stories that blow minds, then picked out 20 for a book, you’d have to work to miss those by non-white non-heterosexual non-men, and that would drop out some of the best and most venerated examples of mindblowers. Why would anyone bother?

  93. I would like to point out that, until Paul Di Filippo entered the conversation, the tone was generally “here we go again” with no slight against any specific writer or even comments made against the editor. The most strongly-worded comment came from Marguerite Reed (and the obvious troll comment which is almost beneath mention, but here I am, mentoining it anyway).

    There are many other issues I’d like to bring up, but I’ve long-since realized that minds aren’t changed, no matter how clearly you present your argument.

  94. Hmm, are you saying my strongly-worded comment was also a troll comment?

  95. @Marguerite Reed —

    No no! Not at all! That was in reference to the “HURP DURP” comment, not at all to you 🙂 Sorry for any confusion!

    All I was trying to get at is your comment was the most strongly worded, which sort of set the upper limit for how much ire was in that segment of the discussion, helping draw a stronger comparison for the tone of the conversation pre- and post- Di Filippo’s comments.

    That’s all 🙂 Sorry, again.

  96. Given A) the amount of shit heaped upon other recent all male anthologies and B) the colossal shit-storm that was Racefail, I think that the table of content for this anthology displays a truly lamentable lack of awareness.

    I do feel slightly uneasy about a lot of the methods and the vitriol chucked about in cases such as this but I actually think it’s defensible.  People have been quietly bemoaning the lack of non-white SF authors for ages but nothing ever gets done about it as fandom gets older, whiter and more and more conservative.  As a result, I think a proper rhetorical smack-down is a good way of making sure that editors get the message : all male, all-white, all-straight?  Not. Good. Enough.

  97. Where do you get the data that fandom is getting “older, whiter and more and more conservative”?

  98. Robin Alvarez, that’s faithless argumentation.

    1) No one has condemned writers for appearing in the anthology, though Paul Di Filippo has gotten some flack for comments he chose to make <em>on this page.</em>

    2) “ringleader” “witch hunt” “chronically” “picks fights” “attack” “unjustly” “guise” Who are you trying to discredit with your ridiculous loaded words? Cat Valente, the first commenter? Caitlin R. Kieran, the second? lee? Charlie Stross? Twilight2000? Livia Llewellyn? linger? Rabbit? Marguerite Reed? Adam Lipkin? In the first ten comments alone, there are ten different people talking about this issue. If you are seeing only one person or one voice, it’s because you have a personal grudge against someone.


  99. Jennifer,

    I noticed yesterday, but then I was going back through recent TOCs. truth is, I rarely pay attention to anthologies because so many of them just don’t grab me as interesting. I suspect this may be a common problem. I’m writing a post for another blog talking about recent titles, including Solaris.

    Though you could bring it up yourself, you know.

  100. Tempest,

    I did mention it in my blog, actually, and in my WisCon bio.  What amuses me is that I was invited to submit because they didn’t have “enough” stories by women.  Imagine my surprise when I looked at the TOC and discovered that “not enough” meant “zero before we got your piece.”  In the case of Solaris, I do suspect it was a genuine oversight, as the previous two volumes had a better gender balance.

  101. @Ace asked: Can those more learned out there provide a list of 20 or so stories by female authors and non-white-guy-authors which deal with unusual scientific concepts and develop them in even more unusual ways? 

    I think people have already given some names. Off the top of my head (and I’m not up to date on the newest SF) are: Le Guin, Tiptree, Tepper, Cadigan, Cherryh, (Mary Shelley if we want to go to the advent of SF & women writers), Norton, McCaffery, Bear, Henderson, Butler, Scyoc, Hambly… That’s not 20 but then I’m not looking at my bookshelf either. Whether each of these women wrote mindblowing SF or not is in the eye of the beholder, or the editor. But at their time, like the male writers in the anthology, yes, many were mindblowing.

    The fact is that anthologies are already of a narrow scope because they are almost always themed. The Mammoth anthologies tend to mostly come out of the UK and sometimes the US depending on distribution rights with the publisher. Many anthologies are also invitational or part invitational. That alone narrows the choice of stories, so in reality no anthology gives you the best of everything. They are selective, and editors, being like you and me, have their biases.

    When I edit I look first for the best story or poem and I try to not let the name influence me. With Aberrant Dreams (on hiatus) I noticed when I had accepted four women in a row but it was on the merit of the tales not on their gender. But I did notice. I’ve been in a British anthology where I was the only woman and only Canadian (but still white). I will be in another anthology that will be only Canadian but there are men and women authors.

    I only add this as balance, that there are often many more male, and white writers in SF. To choose someone only by gender (whether man or woman) is not representative of the best but the Mammoth collection here has shown a very narrow scope that could have been avoided, especially since some of it was invitational. I do believe that this was an oversight more than intentional but hopefully won’t be repeated.

    Oh and, @Luke, it really is too bad that since you disagree you find all the comments mindless and lemming like. There have been some very well thought out discussions here. Because people don’t agree with you doesn’t make them stupid or mindless.

  102. Well, there is always Descended from Darkness: Apex Magazine Volume One

    Here is the TOC for this anthology.

    Descended from Darkness: Apex Magazine Volume One

    Publication date: December 1st, 2009
    Contains the following dark SF stories from the online zine Apex Magazine:

    “Post Apocalypse” – James Walton Langolf
    “These Days” – Katherine Sparrow
    “In the Seams” – Andrew C. Porter
    “The Nature of Blood” – George Mann
    “Scenting the Dark” – Mary Robinette Kowal
    “The Limb Knitter” – Steven Francis Murphy
    “I Know an Old Lady” – Nathan Rosen
    “Blakenjel” – Lavie Tidhar
    “Behold: Skowt!” – Jason Heller
    “A Splash of Color” – William T. Vandemark
    “A Night at the Empire” – Joy Marchand
    “Organ Nell” – Jennifer Pelland
    “Starter House” – Jason Palmer
    “On the Shadow Side of the Beast” – Ruth Nestvold
    “Cai and Her Ten Thousand Husbands” – Gord Sellar
    “Dark Planet” – Lavie Tidhar
    “The Puma” – Theodora Goss
    “Mind of a Pig” – Ekaterina Sedia
    “Waiting for Jakie” – Barbara Krasnoff
    “Hindsight, In Neon” – Jamie Todd Rubin
    “Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens” – Peter M. Ball
    “Hideki and the Gnomes” – Mark Lee Pearson
    “Plebiscite AV3X” – Jason Fischer
    “Shaded Streams Run Clearest” – Geoffrey W. Cole

    Cover art by Vitaly S. Alexius
    Cover design by Justin Stewart


    S. F. Murphy

  103. Westprog // August 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm //

    I’m pretty sure it’s not an all-straight list.

  104. @Westprog Well Clarke’s on it so no, it probably isn’t 😉

    I was just making the point that a policy of active inclusion (as opposed to passive or active exclusion) is really the only way forward.  To its credit, fandom does have a better track record of being open to non-straights than it has been to non-whites.

  105. Without looking at my bookshelf, here’s a very partial list of women who have written mindblowing SF/F (or genre-crossing work, which is even better).  And these are “established” writers, mind, not the current and upcoming generations, several of whom posted responses to this thread:


    Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Melissa Scott, Joanna Russ, Sheri Tepper, Pat Cadigan, Bharati Mukherjee, Doris Lessing, Andre Norton, Kate Wilhelm, C. J. Cherryh, C. S. Friedman, Sydney van Scyoc, Joan Slonczewski, Eleanor Arnason, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, Mary Doria Russell, Emma Bull, Carol Emshwiller, Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Lynn, Elizabeth Moon, Vonda McIntyre, Joan Vinge, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Pat Murphy, Jane Yolen


    So Mr. Ashley couldn’t anthologize from any of these, given that 2/3 of the anthology is repostings?  Perhaps his anthology should be titled Mindblowing SF for/by Me and My Friends.  And I’m saying this even though I personally know two of the authors in it.

  106. Al Reynolds // August 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm //

    I’m in it and I’ve never met Mike Ashley, or had any contact with him beyond the usual negotiations for story use. So please can we at least excuse Mike from croneyism?

    For my part, as a contributor to anthologies, I don’t think I’ve ever been aware of the TOC until the book is well along the road to publication. However for my part in future negotiations I will strive to ensure that if there is a story of mine in a book, there should also be at least one from a woman.

  107. Variety is the spice of life, and when I, mere reader, look at a general SF anthology TOC that has all male writers, preponderance of well-known male genre authors, no stories in translation, no known non-Caucasian writers, I tend to look for another choice. I peg the editor as being unadventuresome in reading habits. I might borrow it from the library, but I am unlikely to spend money on it.

  108. Meredith Schwartz // August 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm //

    Agreed with Rabbit also that “Mammoth Book Of” implies at the least, a hefty and representative chunk of the genre in question. 

    You wouldn’t expect the Mammoth Book of Really Funny Jokes to have 10 jokes in it, all about Rabbis, even if you agree that all 10 Rabbi jokes are Really Funny. You’d expect it to have 1,000 jokes that cover a range of humor. 

    And you would probably expect the author to not just print their 1,000 favorite jokes, but to give some thought to finding the best of what’s available in a variety of subgenres —  puns, riddles, shaggy dog stories — as well as on a variety of topics.

    OTOH if you want to write a book called “The Little Book of My Favorite Rabbi Jokes,” good on you. But I probably won’t buy it. And if I buy the former and get the latter, I’m going to be pissed.

    If I buy a Best of Anthology, I know I’m not going to agree with every choice in it or everything left out of it. That’s part of the fun. But I have never yet bought a year’s best fantasy anthology and found it was 100 percent urban fantasy, or a year’s best SF anthology and found it was 100 percent cyberpunk. And if I did, I would find it both weird and offensive — implying that no worthy work was being done by anyone else.

    BTW I nominate Ted Chiang for Ace’s Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction by the Rest of Us, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, LeGuin seconded yet again, Pat Cadigan, Maureen McHugh (does she do short fiction?), Caitlin Keirnan, Linda Nagata, and that’s just from a fast scan of my front layer of bookshelf.

  109. Mr. Reynolds, the post by Mr. Ashley speaks for itself:

    “When I checked out stories for these books I just picked stories that worked for me.
    That probably has something to do with my concept of “mind-blowing”.
    Maybe, in retrospect, I should’ve looked harder, but I didn’t want to include women writers on a purely token basis.”

    So part of the alternative title I proposed, “SF that Blew Mike Ashley’s Mind” is literally correct, if we take him at his word.  His other response, “Do you want me to include _token_ women?” is routinely invoked by people who have already made up their minds that anything by women, whether writing or science, is “soft” (based exclusively on the author’s gender independently of intrinsic content). Which, inter alia, suggests that there’s something inherently good about “hard”, routinely conflated with “manly”, even when women’s work is harder than diamonds.  To give a well-known example from SF, there was the famous verdict of Robert Silverberg: “It has been suggested to me that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.  This state of affairs prompted Russ to write her famous How to Suppress Women’s Writing.  Slow forward half a century and we might as well still be in the fifties.


    As for choosing, there’s a simple and effective method: delete the names from the entries.  When musicians started auditioning behind curtains, the number of women in orchestras skyrocketed.  So did admissions to colleges when they judged them blind.  The response to the latter was lamentations that standards would inevitably dro(o)p and threats to withhold alumnus donations.  Meanwhile, legacy admissions didn’t/don’t bother anyone.

  110. I personally am more offended by anthologies that feature only women, or “PoC”.  I find the inclusion of only us white males refreshing.  I supposed the inclusion of a homosexual can be overlooked.  Finally we white men get the acknowledgement that we deserve.


    That’s it, I’m buying several copies of the damn thing to show my support!

  111. Sean Wallace // August 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm //

    Jennifer: I actually have all three volumes on my shelf, for Solaris. Your memory must be conflating the second volume, with the first. I count just one woman, in the first volume, out of sixteen contributors. The second volume improved a bit, with three women, and then with the third it dropped back to one. Oddly enough you find similar issues with the fantasy volume, which is bizarre: only two, out of sixteen, where you might have expected better proportions. That’s not a genuine oversight. That’s a problem.


  112. Just to clarify–

    I’m familiar with a number of female authors.  That wasn’t my question, however.

    I was looking for titles of stories by female authors that fit Ashley’s description of the anthology and might have merited inclusion.  In that area I am severely lacking. 

    That’s why I asked.

  113. For the record, Tempest isn’t some ring leader stirring up this issue. Cat Valente was the first to notice there were no women listed in the table of contents, and Tempest followed that up by noting there were no people of color either. It is not stirring things up to make note of stuff like this. It’s called an observation. The people who stirred this up were those who went crazy at having these simple observations pointed out.

    BTW, when people keep quiet and don’t point out the wrong stuff in life, that’s when people need to be worried. Not when people simply comment that the emperor has no clothes.

  114. I should mention that my previous comment was in response to Robin Alvare’s post earlier on. And as for the commentor who said people shouldn’t blame the writers in this anthology, no one is blaming them or saying anything but good about them and their stories.

    Now writers who say stupid stuff in this thread–yeah, people will take exception to that.

  115. Al Reynolds // August 5, 2009 at 6:23 pm //

    Athena: I wasn’t quibbling with the problem of the lack of women in the TOC, merely pointing out that Mike didn’t pick the stories purely because he was friendly with the authors. I would also find it strange if the selection criterion was anything other than “SF that Blew Mike Ashley’s Mind”. Clearly we can all think of mindblowing SF stories by women, but I think that point is well made by now.

    Re: blind submission – that’s a good point and it’s how we ran the BSFA 50th anniversary short competition. I’m not an anthologist, though, so I can’t say how it would work in terms of putting a book together. Even with the relatively simple set-up of the BSFA judging process it was possible for me to accidentally discover the identity of one of the authors.

  116. Yes, Virginia, there are various entrenched forms of discrimination and/or blinkered thinking in sf. Yes, we’re all shocked and offended.  Again.  Blah blah blah.  So don’t buy the anthology, or anything else you consider dull, derivative, or limited.  Vote with your pocketbook (is it offensive if I say purse?). 

    And writers, if you feel that the sf genre is discriminating against you, try publishing *outside* of the ghetto.  I hear people read all kinds of books out there, even good ones.  

  117. In the 80s, it was pretty scandalous when an edited volume in cultural anthropology, cultural studies, or English lit failed to include women or minority participants.  The family bias argument never, ever worked, but tokenism didn’t really work either, as volumes that did include a woman or Hispanic or other token point of view were nonetheless subject to critique if they weren’t inclusive in proportion to the eventual impact of the volume (as if the editors could know how that would turn out).  And it was amazing to see women themselves using arguments straight out of How to Suppress Women’s Writing to discount the contributions of other women if those women didn’t really try to represent other women.  But either I stopped noticing those debates, or the issue died out as those disciplines became dramatically more diverse.

    Either way, I don’t think it matters how many people point out that the editor is a good and totally non-sexist guy, that this anthology isn’t trying to be representative of anything but mind-blowingness, that people from Japan and Germany write mind-blowing SF too yet there’s no one complaining about the lack of translated stories, that including a Tiptree or other pseudonymous story would fail to function as an obvious indicator to an uninformed reader that the editor was trying to be inclusive of multiple social perspectives, etc.  That’s all tangential to the fact that some people are always going to notice that the table of contents reminds them of things about the world that they don’t like (sexism, ignoring/discounting women, racism, etc.) even if none of those things factored into the editing.

    The editor chose not to make a stand of any kind on a point these readers care about, when he might well have done so without compromising the project, and excuses aren’t going to make anyone happy.  He chose instead to put together something he thought would make sense as a collection anyway and stand on its own artistic merit, and indeed it may, but until SF is obviously and normally diverse as a field (such that no one would dream of “pointing out” women or minority authors, because they’re ubiquitous), there’s at least this nominal tempest-in-a-teapot cost to pay for not signalling that you share an interest in that diversity, even if you think the volume really will please most readers.

    Incidentally, a cursory look at some new release lists shows male SF authors still in a ~3:1 lead or so, but it’s better every year, I think.

  118. Oh good lord. What kind of idiots care about an author’s sex, gender, ethnicity, hair type, recessive alleles, blood types, or astrological signs for that matter when picking out mindblowing SF anyway?  What does that have to do with the quality of the writing involved?  Please, speak up below, because I sure want to know if you wouldn’t just pick out the best stories you’ve read, but rather let other things that have nothing to do with writing come into play with your choices.

    You know what matters to me, a woman, when I buy an anthology?  That the stories in the book are the best the editor knows of that address the theme.  This is *ONE PERSON’S* list of mindblowing SF stories.  When that person made the choices, they were probably made because the stories excited him more than any others.  If you don’t like his choices, go make your own anthologies.  Just don’t expect me to buy them,  because believe it or not, when a book is supposed to contain good stories, I want an editor who cares more about the writing than the author’s genetic makeup.


  119. Shorter Jaded: America, Love it or Leave it.

  120. Westprog // August 6, 2009 at 4:45 am //

    It would really have been very easy to slip below the radar. One or two women, and one or two “people of colo(u)r” and nothing would have been noticed. (An Octavia Butler story would handily tick two boxes). All the authors could be English speaking, from the USA and Britain – and the claim that the stories were the best in the world would be nodded through.

    A side effect of a list which is all white males is that the alternatives are all lumped together as ~White and ~Male, as if that’s a classification in itself.

  121. Wait, what? No mindblowing authors writing about space monkeys represented on the list? FAIL! FAIL!

  122. What kind of idiots care about an author’s sex, gender, ethnicity, hair type, recessive alleles, blood types, or astrological signs for that matter when picking out mindblowing SF anyway?

    The kind of idiot who gets tired of explaining to brilliant minds like yours why someone producing an anthology that claims to be definitive of a genre should actually make it representative of the genre’s writers.

  123. Representative of the genre’s writers? At least one person gave a list – and to be fair, it wasn’t claimed that it was comprehensive, but it was the list of women authors that sprang to mind. It included the following:

    Margaret Atwood – Canadian

    Doris Lessing – Zimbabwean-British

    Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree, Octavia Butler, Melissa Scott, Joanna Russ, Sheri Tepper, Pat Cadigan, Bharati Mukherjee, Andre Norton, Kate Wilhelm, C. J. Cherryh, C. S. Friedman, Sydney van Scyoc, Joan Slonczewski, Eleanor Arnason, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, Mary Doria Russell, Emma Bull, Carol Emshwiller, Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Lynn, Elizabeth Moon, Vonda McIntyre, Joan Vinge, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Pat Murphy, Jane Yolen – American

    Asians? Australasians? South of Texas? Zero. One woman, who is considered to write outside genre boundaries, has to stand in for the whole of Africa and Europe.

    Now, bear in mind that this was a list that was produced as a rebuke to someone who produced an anthology insufficiently representative of the genre.

    So, is this anthology representative of the best authors and stories who’ve written SF? Probably not. But has anyone come up with anything better? Does anyone know the name of a French (i.e. home of Jules Verne) woman SF writer? I certainly don’t.

    Just what kind of diversity is required? What kind of representation?


  124. Al Reynolds // August 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm //

    “Does anyone know the name of a French (i.e. home of Jules Verne) woman SF writer? I certainly don’t.”

    Alliette de Bodard – Interzone, Year’s Best SF, Campbell award finalist etc.

  125. My apologies; that should have been Aliette, not Alliette.

  126. Keri Hulme, New Zealander, part-Maori.  Her collection Te Kaihau contains several SF stories.  I should have included her in my original off-the-cuff list.

  127. And from my own culture, Evgenia Fakinou, to just name one.  But I wanted to make the point with works easily accessible to Anglosaxon editors.  Who reads Greek SF authors except someone like me?

  128. Lysana: The kind of idiot who gets tired of explaining to brilliant minds like yours why someone producing an anthology that claims to be definitive of a genre should actually make it representative of the genre’s writers.

    Where does the anthology claim to be definitive?

    As I look at the title of the anthology, I see ‘Mammoth’ (which I take to big more ‘my brand to sell a line of anthologies’ than ‘mammoth, an anthology which is comprehensive and definitive and politically-correct with regard to diversity’).

    What I see in these comments is the additional baggage people read into the list, sort of a literary rorshach test.

  129. olympiasepiriot // August 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm //

    For me, the FIRST mindblowing thing I noticed was the inapplicability of Mammoth here. 21 stories is NOT mammoth. It is not even mammoth calf. In fact, I’d personally not even really call 21 sotries an omnibus.

    Considering the incredible imagination shown in stories by so many people AROUND THE WORLD that could fall into the science fiction or speculative fiction section of the library — even if many of them might not think of themselves that way, I’m putting Borges and Perec in this category — I am appalled that the editor and publisher stopped with only 21 stories. 21 is Blackjack, not a collection worthy of being called Mammoth.

    If I were publishing this, I’d be envisioning something on onion skin paper, along the lines of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Delaney would be in it; and my recent new favorite Nalo Hopkinson; and Borges even though I dislike his politics but his stories blow MY mind; and I’d get a really good translator to help out with Zheng Wenguang who I have never read in person as I don’t know chinese, but a classmate once read one of his stories to me parsing as he went and it was fascinating even that way; and, oh, probably about 250 others. At least.

    And, I wouldn’t have to have any “quota”, because, well, if I’m going for mind-blowing, I think the most mind-blowing writers are, in fact, outsiders and they end up having a more mind-blowing vision than people safely ensconced in the mainstream.

  130. Westprog // August 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm //

    Well, I can imagine thirty years ago editors saying “Who reads women SF authors except someone like me”? If we’re saying that an anthology should represent a selection of familiar names, and within that small selection it should be representative, then that’s not a major issue of principle. 

    How is Evgenia Fakinou going to be accessible to a wider audience if they always go with Connie Willis and Pat Cadigan? Which they probably will because those names on the cover will sell. It seems likely that Fakinou might have something interesting to say from a different cultural viewpoint which would be especially relevant to SF.

  131. To Westprog: Yes, that was the point I was trying to make — that the “exotic” becomes familiar and incorporated, once people think of it.  But they must make the mental shift, as well as the effort of locating and translating such works.  I came to the US at 18 from a homogeneous cultural background and, for me, one of the biggest surprises was that despite the richness of hues and backstories in this place, so many “speculative fiction” authors remain/ed so stubbornly monochromatic (in the broad definition of the term).

  132. How is anyone ever even going to hear of anyone except Connie Willis and Terry Bisson if editors only publish the same 35 names over and over and over?

    I mean, I love Willis and Bisson, too. But other writers are working, and some are amazing.  Eleanor Arnason?  Tais Teng? Kij Johnson?  

    Don’t give me the “I haven’t read any of that” either: if you’re an editor, it’s your job to know what’s out there.  I’m just a reader, and I know it’s out there.


  133. Johne, before accusing folks of bringing their own baggage, please read the thread. The COVER of the book makes the claim, “The 21 finest stories of awesome science fiction.”

    Definitive enough for you?

  134. Wow, Paul di Filippo sure puts the “phallus” in “fallacy”.

  135. SatyrPhil Brucato // August 6, 2009 at 7:45 pm //

    Y’know what’s really blowing my mind, here? The vituperative tone of many of the “anti-PC” comments. Really, guys – what the hell? Are you on leave from the youtube and FOX News forums, or are you simply that threatened by the idea that people might expect – in a field that includes the likes of Ursula K. LeGuin, Tananarive Due, Elizabeth Moon, C.J. Cherryh, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, Anne McCaffrey and so forth – a book purporting to be “the most mind-blowing SF stories ever” to include a tale or two from someone who’s not a white dude? Jeeze, talk about insecure!

    As I’ve often said about Orson Scott Bigot, it continues to astound me that a field so dedicated to open minds continues to attract so many folks whose minds remain hopelessly closed… and proudly so, at that!

    Grow up and embrace the future you claim to love so well.

  136. absit invidia // August 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm //



    The LATEST census results? This TOC doesn’t even conform to the FIRST United States census results. But then I guess it’s a surprise to some that women have made up half of the population for millennia now.

  137. Andro Genie // August 7, 2009 at 12:55 am //

    The thing that puzzles me is the apparent disconnect between the stories and the authors. This is Mike Ashley’s explanation:

    In assembling this anthology (and EXTREME SF) the emphasis was on stories that took unusual scientific concepts and developed them in even more unusual ways. When I checked out stories for these books I just picked stories that worked for me. I didn’t even always check out the by-line. In fact I was a bit surprised that as the list of likely contents grew that I didn’t have anything by women.

    As I read that, it seems apparent that Mr. Ashley didn’t intend to exclude any person based on race or gender, he set out to include the stories that best fit the criteria he had in his head that matched the theme of the anthology.

    Isn’t that what people have argued for? That strikes me as an example of someone being appropriately color- and gender- blind. Isn’t that what people want, to have their work judged on its own relative merit without regard to race, creed, color, or religion?

    His own statement suggests he pulled stories from some pool of works read by him based on the ideas contained or represented therein with little regard for the names and the subsequent race / gender attached to them. As anthologies are themed, I can understand the process.

    It seems to me that if the stories and the ideas presented were judged on their own merit, the whole gender/race thing should be a non-issue. I’m not surprised Mike Ashley sounds perplexed. This wasn’t about race or gender until people not involved with the anthology made it about that.

    Personally, I care about the composition of a story, not the composition of the author. In a weird sort of way, those clamoring about race / gender are the ones who appear racist / sexist to me, not the editor.

    The amusing thing about all this is that it is a PR dream. I’d never heard of the Mammoth series, and while the number of stories per issue isn’t unusual for an anthology, the number of different Mammoth anthologies is impressive. So, unintentional mission accomplished, awareness of the existence of the line raised.

  138. Mark Gerrits // August 7, 2009 at 3:00 am //

    @Ando Genie

    The colour/gender blindness issue always comes up in these discussions and some people probably already have a nice macro mapped out to respond to it more eloquently than I could, so I’ll leave it to them to refute it.

    But even if you accept that argument, five of the stories were not reprints but sollicited stories. Once Ashley noticed he’d ended up with an all-male, all-white ToC, even if he saw nothing wrong with that because of the supposed blindness thing, and that’s something you can argue in favour of I guess, it still would’ve been easy enough for him to sollicit some stories from female and PoC authors for the final ToC (and from what I read elsewhere, he actually did a little bit of that but not enough, contacting two female authors).

  139. “…he pulled stories from some pool of works read by him based on the ideas contained or represented therein with little regard for the names and the subsequent race / gender attached to them.”

    Yes, that is the problem.  Why is it that editors just happen to only be reading and thus just happen to only be familiar with and thus only just happen to only want to be buying the works of white straight guy writers? 

    Is this (a) because only white straight guy writers are good writers or (b) because editors are maybe a little limited in what they keep looking at?

  140. Especially, btw, when it’s the same small pool of white straight guy writers — which, essentially, it nearly always is.  Even when a woman makes it in, or a PoC makes it in, it’s the same 2-3 women or same 2-3 PoC.  

  141. Samuel Delany isn’t a white dude?Does being gay make you an honorary woman/negro?

    I don’t get this hubub, but then I just like to read science fiction. 

    I do appreciate this view into the depths of female geekdom. There’s a substance here, a chewy center of gripe  (mebbe it’s thousands of years of oppression, I dunno) that you just don’t see on Digg.

    I like Le Guin, McAffrey, Cherryh – but generally, no – female science fiction authors tend to fail to do it for me. They just go left where I’d prefer to go right, that’s all. And yes, female science fiction writers and male science fiction writers produce, in most cases, a distinctly different product.

  142. Ah, no, flenflan, as a matter of fact, Samuel Delany is <i>not</i> a white dude.  He is black.

  143. Delagar,

    Tais Teng? Tais Teng?

    Holy crap. That’s one name I NEVER expected to come up. I’m Dutch and grew up reading his stuff – but I’d never expected his name to be known outside the Netherlands. That’s so cool! What work of his do you know? How’d you find it?


    Umm, back to my righteous indignation now. Boo, hiss, etc. (Yeah, I got nuthin’ new to say. Everyone else did it better.)

  144. Westprog // August 7, 2009 at 4:22 pm //

    I have my own particular reasons for noticing Tais Teng (and David Levine, as it happens). 

    My own favoured way to select authors is to hand over an unlabelled typescript and let the editor choose from that – but it won’t happen. 

  145. flenflan // August 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm //

    Laurie. That’s so weird – he looks totally white – but yep, it says black on wikipedia.

  146. Nothing makes you more of a magic negro than taking it up the dumper.

  147. French:  Elisabeth Vonarburg

  148. Rebecca Ore // August 7, 2009 at 11:52 pm //

    It would actually help if they weren’t publishing friends of good writers who are as derivative of better writers as the title is of better drug promoters.  I don’t think all the women in the field are real meme crackers, but a fair chunk of them are more interesting writers than you, token white friend of famous writers they couldn’t afford, obviously.

    I rather like Adam Roberts, but he’s no Samuel R. Delany.  And the whole bunch of folks you imitate as well as most of the folk you ingratiate yourself with, are missing, male as well as female.  I remember that I read some of these stories but none of them were extraordinary enough to actually remember them.  I do remember “Burning Chrome,” though I would imagine that Gibson’s priced himself well beyond this market.  I remember a couple of Willis’s.  I remember nothing that you’ve written which means that either you weren’t in the magazines I was reading, or they weren’t that memorable.

    Not just where are the women.  Where’s Ballard?  Ellison?  Zelazny?  Just their present day imitators, at best.

    Complete with a cliche from the 60s for a title.  Who is the audience for this?  Aging hippies?

    When s.f. was interesting enough to intimidate me out of writing it myself, it had the widest range of sorts of people writing it, from conservative spook women like Sheldon to MDs turned artist like Ballard to screaming leftists in a time when it mattered like Ellison to women like Russ to gay guys like Delany and Disch (and those two were pretty seriously not like each other, either).

    Fiction for people who can’t figure out William Burroughs.  Some of the s.f. in the 60s and 70s was embarrassing because I did read Burroughs in the original, didn’t really need the s.f. tinted imitations, thanks.  The title alone tells me what this is — work that’d spun off the really extraordinary work that’s not in this volume at all.


  149. Ian McDonald // August 8, 2009 at 2:50 am //

    westprog: ‘One woman, who is considered to write outside genre boundaries, has to stand in for the whole of Africa and Europe.’  Off the top of my middle-aged Irish male head, and all read by me:

    UK; Justina Robson, Gwynneth Jones, Liz Williams, Trisha Sulivan

    Finland; Johanna Sinisalo

    Ireland; Maura McHugh

    Australia: Marianna de Pierres.

    North American perspectives are not the only ones.

  150. And yes, female science fiction writers and male science fiction writers produce, in most cases, a distinctly different product.

    Yes. That’s exactly the point that once Silverberg made, choosing a short story by Kate Wilhelm as  best sf story of the year from a female viewpoint, and one by James Tiptree Jr. as the best “male” story.

  151. Westprog // August 8, 2009 at 6:40 am //

    Ian McDonald: Just to clarify – that list was someone else’s, giving examples of the writers who should have been considered in order to demonstrate diversity. I went through it with the aid of Wikipaedia.

  152. Westprog // August 8, 2009 at 8:16 am //

    I don’t agree that male and female sf are on either side of a line, and that they write differently. Most sf stories aren’t obviously male or female. However, some are. 

    That some women writers, in some of their stories, can come up with a uniquely female perspective (and the same applies to men) is one reason why diversity is a good thing.

  153. paulwitcover // August 8, 2009 at 9:26 am //

    Silverberg famously and fatuously stated that it was obvious from their masculine content that the stories of James Tiptree, Jr. could only have been written by a man.  Selecting different best-of-the-year stories based on gender or any other personal characteristic is just plain stupid.  The point is not that women deserve to be included in this anthology because of past discrimination or because a particular point of view is now missing, but simply that to exclude women is to exclude some of the best writers in the field, period, and given what this anthology advertises itself to be, that’s just absurd.

  154. Hey!!

    It’s the White Men’s Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF , YOU GUYS!

    There. Problem solved. 😀

    Except that wouldn’t happen.

    A group of white men have ~*magical powers*~ POC’s and women do not have…To put out anthologies without having that pesky label.

    Because we all know WHITE MEN = DEFAULT OF HUMANITY.

    If it were all women or all POC that’s what it would be called: WOMEN’s Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF or The AFRICAN-AMERICAN/ASIAN/NATIVE AMERICAN…etc’s Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF

    You know this to be true and oh so, fucked up.



  155. I found Tais Teng over there at the Free Speculative Fiction Online link.  Hundreds and hundreds of SF & Fantasy stories online, by writers (M/F/Gay & Straight/Poc & Otherwise, from all over the planet), absolutely free and accessibly to you and me right here in our basements.  Or wherever you are.

    Even Mike Ashley could be reading Eleanor Arnason & Tais Teng, who, you want to talk mindblowing?

    Go see.  I recommend Knapsack poems by the first and you pick any by the second.  He rocks.  Yeah, he’s a white guy, but I’m no bigot.


  156. Here’s the link if you don’t have it:

  157. I will not be buying this book, nor will I be recommending it. 

    As a consumer of SF this is the most telling statement/action I can take and it WILL make a difference. 

    (no Butler, no LeGiun, no Tiptree, at the very least? Pitiful)

  158. The one thing that goes without saying, in almost all anthology construction, is that we’re basically dealing with one person’s opinion.  This book of “mind blowing SF” is essentially a single person’s pick list, and each of us is liable to have a pick list wildly different from everyone else’s pick list.

    Personally, I noted that Larry Niven was absent from this anthology.  For me, any anthology with the words “mind blowing” in its title ought to have at least one Niven story.  But that’s just me.  Others will have different authors — each of whom is deserving in their own way — left off of Mr. Ashley’s pick list.

    It’s a little like the NBA’s All-Star game.  In any given season there are far, far more players deserving to be on the All-Star roster than can possibly be on the All-Star roster.  So they let the fans vote to choose the starters for East and West — which, to my mind, is actually a lousy way to pick the “best” players, given the fact that “highly capable” and “popular” are hopelessly confused in the minds of most NBA fans.  The second team is selected by the coaches — a more valid list in my book, since we’re finally dealing with a voting body that has half a clue about what it’s actually voting on.  But still, when all is said and done, you’re going to have at least one or two dozen more players left off the starting and reserve units, through no fault of their own, and really, through no fault of the selection process.  Because there simply is not room to put them all on East and West squads.

    Thus I suspect that the number of factors impacting Mr. Ashley’s decision-making process is probably larger than some people on this thread give him credit for.

    In the end, it’s just one anthology.  There are others.  Maybe the editors who edit those other anthologies will have a pick list more similar to your own?  Expecting any given editor to always have a pick list to your liking is probably unrealistic.  It’s also unfair to read bias or prejudice into an editor’s process unless that editor has an outstanding and blatant track record of bias and prejudice.

    It also almost goes without saying that for some individuals, their bias and prejudice detectors are so accutely tuned, they will find bias and prejudice in virtually everything.  Which says — I believe — far more about them than it does about the editor in question.

    Not everything is automatic bias or prejudice.  It may be easy to assume such if your normal M.O. is to just default to, “It’s the bias/prejudice, stupid!”  But again, this is a disservice to the editor, about whom I think most people on this thread know almost nothing about.

  159. RE: Robin Alvarez’s comment….

    Robin makes a great point.  One I want to echo.

    To me, the greatest negative consequence of consistently and constantly “pointing out” racism and sexism, is that people start to become deaf to the complaints.  Like the little boy who cried wolf.  Claim racism and sexism too much, or when such claims seem stretched, specious, or flat-out unwarranted, and pretty soon a lot of people will begin ignoring you because in their minds they’re thinking, “Oh right, you always say that!”

    The obvious rebuttal to this is, “Well if COURSE it’s always racism and sexism because it’s ALWAYS been racism and sexism!”  Women and minorities have lived with an uneven playing field for so long it’s difficult to NOT automatically jump to the conclusion that racism/sexism is at fault, because so often in the past, racism and sexism have been a factor.

    But is it therefore fair, going forward, to automatically assume racism and sexism just because the past is what it is?  What good does it do to judge, try, and convict the present — or the future — for the sins and wrongs of the past?

    I’m white, my wife is not.  We have a mixed daughter.  I feel I have a vested interest in issues of race and sexism.  I also feel that discussions about race and sexism — especially within SF and F as of late — can and are damaged when people use these issues to self-agrandize, preach to the choir, manufacture large controversies out of minor oversights or disagreements, or just generally exacerbate or inflame things under the guise of “awareness” or “activism.”

    When every little thing becomes controversy, over and over, it speaks of an inability to pick and choose battles.  The little boy has cried wolf too many times.

    Ask yourselves: who are you really trying to reach with all of this?  Is what you’re doing REALLY making a difference, or is it just self-congratulatory InterToob mutual masturbation?

  160. flenflan // August 9, 2009 at 4:57 am //

    so is delany an albino or what?

  161. nonny_rat // August 9, 2009 at 9:10 am //

    I, for one, am glad of this discussion. As a new reader to SF&F, I have discovered a wealth of writers (female and PoC) to mine for my reading pleasure.

    Several good things have come out of this conversation: Frank discussion about an obvious endemic issue in the genre and a kick-ass reading list.

  162. Gee Brad, you’re right, it’s the politely silent wheel that gets the grease, isn’t it?  Oh wait…

    The only way that racism and sexism are ever going to end is if people keep pointing it out when it happens, even when it happens unintentionally.  The correct response to being caught acting in a way that promotes gender-bias or racial bias is not to sit there defending your good intentions*; it’s to fix the problem and take steps to keep it from happening again.

    The editor said himself that he was “surprised” he didn’t have any women on his list.  Apparently, though, he wasn’t surprised enough to recognize that his selection process might be deficient or have built-in biases he hadn’t been aware of.  It apparently didn’t matter enough to him to do something to fix it, even though he was the only one in a position to do anything about it.  He was in enough of a position of privilege that he could do it and not get called on it until now.  Had he actually pursued a more balanced selection of story contributors, he wouldn’t have found “token” authors; he’d have found a number of astounding authors whose own “mindblowing” works would probably put a number of his accepted submissions to shame.  They are not that hard to find if you just take a moment to care.

    And most of them probably won’t turn a polite disagreement into a PR disaster by flying off the handle and comparing women and POC to weeds in a potato field. Did Mr. Di Filippo quit appearing in Geico ads to write SF or something?  I guess he got into the Mammoth book because he used to hunt them.


    * If you don’t know which road is paved with good intentions, you have no business being an editor anyway.

  163. Ardath,

    I didn’t say silence was the answer.  I said that blowing up every little thing, over and over, into a controversy, speaks of an inability to pick and choose battles.  This is just one anthology.  How many others like it or similar to it will be produced this year and next?  There is no law written that states every anthology must contain X number of women and/or Y number of non-white writers.  We don’t know what Mr. Ashley’s selection process was, and it seems to me you and others have made some grand leaps in assuming that it’s OBVIOUSLY sexism and it MUST be racism, therefore Mr. Ashley is in the wrong for failing to “fix” himself and his process.

    Again, “mind blowing” for one person is mundane for another person.  I can think of probably a dozen or more authors I’d have liked to see on Ashley’s TOC for this anthology, but they’re not there.  It doesn’t ruin my day that they’re not there because I’m in touch with the reality that most anthologies are just pick lists by a single person.  Whether or not we perceive the anthology in question as trying to be broad or otherwise definitive, is on us.  The anthology is just a product from a single person’s POV and tastes.  Don’t like it?  Pick a different anthology from a different editor whose POV and tastes are more in line with yours.

    This debate seems like yet another molehill made into a mountain.  And as per usual with these molehills-to-mountains of late, professionals in the industry are being unnecessarily dogged out by people who seem to have made it their business to dog these people out.

    Being an advocate for race and gender issues is one thing.

    Too often, people in these threads don’t sound like advocates, they sound like shrill, accusatory jerks.

    No matter how righteous or just the cause, being a shrill, accusatory jerk is STILL being a shrill, accusatory jerk.

  164. How would this be as an amended list of authors? Better? Worse? More representative? Giving a wider range of experience? 


    Anne McCaffrey

    Stephen Baxter

    Octavia Butler

    Timothy Zahn

    Gregory Benford

    Connie Willis

    Robert Reed

    Terry Bisson

    Samuel R. Delany

    Michael Swanwick

    Paul Di Filippo

    John Varley

    Ted White

    Larry McCombs

    James Blish

    Nancy Kress

    James Tiptree Jr.

    Stephen Barnes

    Robert Silverberg

    G. David Nordley

    C.L. Moore

    Geoffrey A. Landis

  165. Here’s my global view of this phenomenon, after I had the dubious pleasure of observing it in three different venues almost at the same time:


    Is It Something in the Water? Or: Me Tarzan, You Ape


    Westprog: Your list is much more inclusive, though to include McCaffrey while excluding Le Guin is an odd decision.

  166. Strike McCaffrey and include Le Guin then. Better still?


  167. It is, but it’s still 100% anglocentric. You really can’t have mindblowing without Stanislaw Lem, for instance.

  168. Brad:

    Your complaint is so unoriginal and baseless that there is actually a dictionary entry for it:

  169. Ben J Scott // August 11, 2009 at 4:41 am //

    First Law of Anthologies: Every anothology must contain one token story written by a female, in order to avert controversy sparked by those who lack even a rudimentary understanding of statistical distribution and logic.

    Seriously, I’m just astounded at the flawed reasoning I’m seeing here.  A bunch of monkeys pounding on their keyboards could do better.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  170. I’m sure a bunch of monkeys could come up with something better than your comment. After all, they wouldn’t be at a disadvantage in the logic and reasoning department.



  171. Katie,

    Your bingo card refutation — in which you attempt to use a rhetorical device to avoid dealing with my statements — is also old and unoriginal.

    I repeat: no matter how just or righteous the banner under which you march, being a shrill, accusatory jerk is STILL being a shrill, accusatory jerk.

    People are welcome to believe that their gender or ethnicity gives them a license to ill.

    People are also welcome to be ignored by the whole after their shrill and accusatory antics cause the whole to tune out.

    Pain — regardless of its source — can only be an excuse for poor behavior for so long.

    Some of the comments on this thread, towards Mr. Ashley, towards Mr. Di Filippo, are what I’d consider poor behavior.  This imbroglio as a whole is also following a familiar pattern.  One which the InterToob world of SF and F is becoming familiar with.  I wonder sometimes if some of the voices in these pattern-following, manufactured squabbles realize that you can only baselessly accuse and/or insult industry professionals for so long, before the industry begins to shut its ears.

    In the end, flashmobbing Mr. Ashley and his anthology via the InterToob makes almost no impact on the problems faced by everyday women and minorities.  I am sure it FEELS GOOD to those doing the flashmobbing, but it’s essentially a circle of back-pattery wherein people congratulate themselves for Fighting The Good Fight, while the REAL WORLD outside the computer has not be changed one iota.

  172. Dave Bell // August 11, 2009 at 7:11 am //

    I’m a bit wary of reading too much into the title, because, here in the UK, “Mammoth Book Of” seems to be a label for a series of physically large anthologies, mostly reprinted stuff. And mostly edited by Mike Ashley. Not just SF, either.

    So I think that people are misjudging Mike Ashley by focusing on one book. It looks likely that this just happens to be the one without a story by a woman. Statistically, not so unlikely, but politically a bit careless, I think. Again, looking at titles, labels such as “extreme” or “mindblowing” are a bit vague. It’s not as if it claims to be something obvious, such as humorous. Not that I will laugh at the same things as you.



  173. Ken James // August 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm //

    Speaking as a straight white man, I’m appalled by the juvenile tone of the comments made by too many of the other men (or is it boys?  males, anyway) on this thread.  Come on, guys: have the spine to admit *at least* that an anthology that claims to be representative of the field yet contains *no* stories by women (or people of color) is, statistically speaking, pretty goofy.  If you can’t muster the levelheadedness to do even that, well… that’s what separates the men from the boys.

  174. Brad, I always get a kick out of people who come into an internet discussion demanding that the discussion stop this instant.


    For a relatively unknonwn author who wrote sentient spaceships with some originality– not to mention complex and deeply nuanced racial relations, try Jo Clayton (sadly deceased.)


  175. Brad,

      Just a quick comment.  Using the word “shrill” to describe a woman’s comments is a really effective way of coming across as a misogynist.  That and the word “hysterical”, though thankfully you don’t go there.  These are not words that people ever attach to men and as a result they reek of the idea that women somehow lack the capacity for rational argument.

      Regardless of whether you are right or wrong, that type of language makes you come across as a raging sexist and it does neither you nor the people you seek to defend any good at all.

  176. I looked up some synonyms for shrill.

    acute, argute, blaring, blatant, cacophonous, clanging, clangorous, deafening, discordant, ear-piercing, earsplitting, high, metallic, noisy, penetrating, piercing, piping, raucous, screeching, sharp, strident, thin, treble…

    I also looked up the definition.  #4 seems to apply:

    betraying some strong emotion or attitude in an exaggerated amount, as antagonism or defensiveness.

    I do catch your drift, Jonathan.  “Shrill” is a shibboleth.  One of those words men aren’t supposed to use — such as bitch — when describing any women, lest they “show their ass” as a sexist and/or misogynist.

    Honestly, I couldn’t come up with any other word that better fit than shrill.  Because that’s what seemed most accurate, for comments being made by men and women both.  I knew some people might not like that word — and my argument by association, but that’s the word I chose.

    I guess I’ll take my lumps accordingly.

  177. Look up cronyism while you’re at it, Brad.

    Michael Ashley is a long-time insider who cannot invoke beginner’s ignorance or naiveté.  

    Gender and race are not a choice.  Willful stupidity, however, is.

  178. The way anthologies are compiled to enforce prejudices — still, in this day and age! — makes it plain that SF is not exempt from politics. And it probably never will be.

    I think it is the duty of SF literature to demolish privileges at every turn. What good is it to even call oneself a “fan” of Intellectual Speculation, if one can’t get past the idea of white male privilege?

    An anthology which claims to be “mind-blowing” but fails to include Alice Sheldon a.k.a. “James Tiptree Jr.” (*bangs head against desk*) is simply not deserving of its title.

  179. From Ashley’s comments, it would appear that he was genuinely surprised by the negative reaction, and genuinely tried to explain in a way that would make everyone happy – and genuinely stepped on his Cheney with both feet.  I suppose by now he realizes that his little apologia was so lame he needed to buy it a helper monkey.

    And I wish I knew him personally, so I could put an arm around his shoulders (in a purely blokey way of course) and say, “You poor bastard, don’t feel so bad.  It wouldn’t have made any difference.  Trust me on this.  For a couple of years I ran a magazine that published the highest proportion of stories by women, AND non-white writers, of any major SF magazine; and none of that stopped the Blogiban – including many of those same writers – from getting their collective Hanes Her Ways in a knot, and spreading shit like a squadron of Piper Pawnees, the instant I got marked down on their hate list.  You can’t win with these people, lad, and trying to talk sense to them is a mug’s game.”

    Don’t get me wrong, though; I do have a certain sympathy for the people who are genuinely offended by the estrogen-challenged and persons-of-pallor nature of the contributors’ list.  Back in the 90s I got invited to contribute to an antho of “Native American fantasy”, and the editor assured me that it would contain at least a fair number of stories by Native authors.  As it turned out, there were three – Owl Goingback (Choctaw), Merle Apassingok (Inuit), and an Aleut woman whose name I’ve forgotten – or four if you count me, which I won’t say you should or shouldn’t.  All the other contributors were of the white persuasion. 

    And I was pretty hacked off, till finally Roger Zelazny told me, “Just spend the money and don’t worry about it – people will remember your story after the antho has been forgotten,” and he was right.

    But I never accused the editor of racism, or anti-Indian bias, either publicly or in my thoughts.  What I did say was that while he surely had only the best of intentions, he didn’t try hard enough to find Native writers. 

    Not the same thing, of course; this Mammoth book never claimed to be of, by, or about women – but still, I sympathize with those who would say Ashley should have made more of an effort in that direction.  And I’m sure that there are many who feel this way, without joining in with the baying of the pack. 

    (Personally I would never have been tempted to buy the book anyway.  I made the mistake of buying one of those Mammoth anthos once; the Mammoth Book of Erotica, I believe was the title, and what a ripoff.  The contents were just about as solidly anti-erotic as you could find outside a Baptist tract; there was not one single story that could have been remotely stiffigenic to anyone outside of a very small number of very strange people, and indeed the book might have been of great value to someone striving to maintain a vow of celibacy.)

    All that being said, who CARES?  This isn’t a university-level college antho, meant to be used as a textbook.  (There actually are such anthos, you know; I’m in one, in fact.)  It isn’t even a general SF antho – or one of the so-damn-many-it’s-silly “YEAR’S BEST” efforts – and as far as I can see it makes no claim to be representative of anything except the editor’s peculiar taste.  It’s just not important enough, one way or another, to justify all this mahoohah.

    But of course that doesn’t matter to people like the Big Wind.  After all, the professional attention-hustler can’t be too picky….

    You know, I’m considering going into the lingerie business.  I have in mind to put out a line of brassieres:  the Karl Marx, the Salvation Army, and the K. Tempest Bradford.  The Karl Marx uplifts the masses, the Salvation Army aids the fallen, and the K. Tempest Bradford makes mountains out of molehills.



  180. B. Ross Ashley // August 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm //

    I only came over here to read sanders’ response to this kerfuffle, but i’m wierdly fascinated by the fact that flemfan thinks Chip Delany looks totally white. Sheesh. from 1968 is a good example of how he looked when the world was younger. Not totally African, but nobody in the small North Florida towns I grew up in would have thought he was White.

  181. B. Ross Ashley // August 13, 2009 at 10:10 pm //

    Incidentally, Mike Ashley is not related to me that I know of.

  182. I hear Mike Ashley’s next collection will be _The Mammoth Book of William Sanders Makes a Lot of God-Damned Sense_.

  183. Its clearly absurd that an anthology intended to reflect SF doesn’t have any women in it – and the more I’ve thought about it the more ridiculous it becomes! I have a lot of anthologies from the forties and fifties – when the SF Club was supposed to have had signs up saying “Kno Gurls Alowed” – but evenso, most of them have at least a few stories by women!

    However, I did think it was unfair to judge Ashley by one anthology – he has done dozens (I can confirm what others have said, that “Mammoth Book of” is a publisher’s title – it means no more than “The Big Bumper Book of …”). I do have several anthologies by Ashley, so I thought I’d have a look at their author content: first up MBo SF and MBo Extreme SF … O dear, not looking good: one woman in each! I next moved on to fantasy, with the MBo Comic Fantasy … better: 6 women; the MBo Seriusly Comic Fantasy has 8 or 9 (depending on EK Grant’s gender), with 25 men. He’s also done a lot of crime anthologies: Shakespearean Detectives features 12 female authors (and 21 males); Classical Whodunnits has 5 or 6 (depending on RH Stewart’s gender) with 15 or 16 male. So, as a generalisation, I don’t think he was a problem with women writers, but he does seem to have a blind spot with enjoying SF written by women.

    See the following site for his anthologies and their contents to 1998 (scroll down a little)

    However, Ashley is currently writing a series of books on the history of the SF Magazines, the third was published a couple of years ago, taking the story to about 1980. They are excellent and I have noticed no problems when it comes to covering women writers – the latest volume, covering the seventies, is certainly sympathetic when it covers the rise of feminism in SF: clearly he has no intellectual problem with women in SF. It may be just an age thing – he’s in his early sixties and perhaps is from a background where editing a large book of SF stories and having no female authors is not something which makes him think “Now, that’s odd …”

  184. Stephanie // August 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm //

    Dear Brad R. Torgersen and Robin Alvarez,

    Seanan McGuire has an insightful post in her livejournal talking about if your masterpiece of fiction spits in someone’s soup, admit it. Don’t blame the person with spittle disolving in their meal for getting upset.  LINK HERE:

    “…if someone says your book has upset them, ‘you’re just’ is not the appropriate way to start your response. ‘I’m sorry’ is a much better approach, no matter how wrong-headed you may think the person’s reaction is.”

    This anthology does the above in spades.  Be adults, quit defending the bratty child, quit attacking those who are telling you it’s a bratty child. 


  185. You can actually have a reasonable discussion about this sort of thing with men. Even white men. There are possessors of the Y chromosome with intelligence and strength of character enough to keep their cockles down and their primate posturing to a minimum, and actually listen, and let the POV of others open their eyes to things privilege can obscure.

    Adolescents educated beyond their intellect poking and going “heheheheh! Anyone who doesn’t know we’re the coolest is a whiny baby?” Not so much. There’s no point in trying to have a civil debate with these tossers. “If you don’t validate me utterly you are a fishwife!” is not the response of a man who thinks with the head on his shoulders.

    “Anything that claims to contain the finest SF stories ever told should make at least a vague effort to be marginally inclusive of the incredible variety of viewpoints in the genre.”

    How did we get from that reasonable objection to some of these comments?

    I say this with all and complete respect to the men who actually behaved like men in this conversation. And to the women who adulted-up in the face of this stupidity and remained civil.

  186. Susan Elizabeth Lyons // August 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm //

    Speaking of mind blowing, mine is totally blown by the fact that there is no Tiptree story included.  How can that be possible in a “Mammoth Anthology of Mind Blowing SF”??? 21 stories hardly qualifies as “mammoth”.  More like pigmy elephant…

    I buy a lot of anthologies because I like to be exposed to a variety of writers and ideas. I look to the editor to select stories that are worthy of my time and money. I have to trust that the editor knows the field and is widely read and can do a good job of soliciting and selecting stories for the anthology – ones that really represent the chosen theme so that I am exposed to the best, or at least, some of the best examples.  

    I don’t really want to read only what the editor personally thinks are the best representatives of the chosen theme — I want and expect something more objective, as much as that is possible when it comes to fiction. I’d like to think the editor had some way of coming up with the TOC that leads to the very best stories being published.   

    However, I suspect that the method of compiling a TOC involves something along these lines: “I wrote to everyone I know personally or whose work I personally liked and asked for a submission for the anthology. I only know one woman writer personally and one writer who is a POC and both of them were busy with other projects.  Of the rest, only 50% of those I asked responded and in order to make my deadline, this is what I ended up with.”

    If anything, this speaks to the narrowness of the editor’s taste. Nothing against any of the writers in the anthology for I am sure they all belong in a TOC and anthology of mind-blowing SF.  

    Here’s a thought — maybe it might be a good idea for an anthologist to actually try to get a representative selection of stories and writers in their chosen theme rather than just one that represents their own personal taste and judgement or with whom they have a personal relationship.

    Or is that me being all Pollyannistic? 

  187. It seems to me that this is a genuine oversight. An oversight by several layers of staff, yes, but an oversight nonetheless.

    I publish a weekly short fiction eZine, and when accepting stories for publication I have never considered whether the story is by a man, woman, POC or otherwise. The quality of the story has always been the only criteria.

    I’ve been asked to compile an anthology of the “Best of” the magazine’s stories for physical publication, and in doing so, I picked the best stories I had (as well as commissioning a few originals). The question of whether the authors were male or female did not arise. Perhaps it should have. As it happens, there appears to be a 60/40 M/F split. This certainly supports the arguments made above that any representative collection would include female writers, but it also supports the other argument – that the editor chooses what he or she is familiar with.

    I’ve never met most of my contributing authors, and I don’t know their ethnic backgrounds – it just wasn’t important from an editorial perspective. Should I now ask them all to provide photographs before I decide on the final line-up? That just seems a little bit creepy.

    Ok, that question was a little facetious, but it’s important to remember that not all decisions are driven by racial or gender issues (be they pro- or anti-). Sometimes the quality of the writing and the editors’ experiences are what drives these collections, and sometimes those are the most important criteria. It’s not all #racefail.

  188. Kenneth Cavness // August 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm //

    I am sorry, but it completely stretches the bounds of reality for anyone to look at that list and expect us to think that this analogy just “fell out” that way. Add me to the list of people who won’t be purchasing this book.

  189. just a woman; who cares? // August 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm //

    Well, Brad and Paul, you’ve each lost yourselves another longtime reader. Of course, my voice is so shrill that you won’t be able to read this comment.




    Hey, my killfile still works!

  190. just a woman; who cares? // August 15, 2009 at 7:14 pm //

    Oh, and I would had been fine with the anthology.  No worse than the old anthologies from the 1970s, in their lack of diversity of POV.  But your comments are too revealing — I didn’t really want to know that either of was such a jerk (unless you are just trying to win an internet argument?). Now it’ll be hard to read without remembering.

  191. Daniel Cole // August 16, 2009 at 3:01 am //

    good greif this is ridiculous.  No where in the book did they say that it listed all the best authors no where did it say it had ALL the mindblowing stories.  A short story by Ursula Guin would have been ok but really she is the only female author of sci-fi that I have read that I would consider mind blowing.  NONE of the names here you have mentioned besides her’s do I know and I have been around in sci-fi fantasy reading for 15 years and I read widley.  All the way from Asimov to Greg Bear.  Every book DOESN”T have to include a representative sample.  The arguments I have seen that “pick this argument apart” have themselves been picked apart time and time again.  If the authors who complain about these things would actually spend their time trying to write books on the level of Clark (someone NO other sci-fi author has come even close to surpassing) rather than spending silly arguments about including them simply because of their sex or race we would all be better off.


    Yes their are sci-fi writers that are female and that are african american but they have yet to move past writing novels about “oppression” and until they do they will not rise to the level of Clark or Asimov (who really should have been included in this collection as well, but this is only one editors opinon). 

    Worry more about writing good novels and winning hugo’s and nebulas that is how to prove the bredth of the genre.

  192. Will Sanders.

    Best post yet.  Deliciously candid and not PC.


  193. I think Daniel Cole’s post is the real matchwinner. He has read sci-fi and fantasy for 15 years, widely, (he has the A-B-C, Asimov-Bear-Clarke) and apart from Le Guin doesn’t know any of the names mentioned here.

    I guess Octavia Butler, James Tiptree and Samuel Delany, even if they won their fair share of Hugos and Nebulas, should have moved past writing “novels about oppression”. That way they could have escaped the P-C niche and reached mainstream sf readers like him. Maybe even be considered for a spot among the truly mind-blowing authors collected in the anthology.


  194. I agree that Daniel Cole’s post is worthy of an award, that of solipsism: “What I don’t know doesn’t exist.”  So much for speculative fiction broadening one’s horizons.

  195. I’m a young speculative and literary fiction writer. I’m 28. I’m just starting to get published. I’m a woman.

    I wish the editors of this book understood how absurd they appear to the younger generation. And how young writers (like me) take note of them, i.e. specifically take note to never buy, endorse, or work with them in the future. There is just no excuse for this kind of thing anymore.


  196. *looks up*

    *reads controversy*

    *shrugs, goes back to her Bujold novel. Is looking forward to rereading some Moon, McIntyre, Tepper and McCaffery later. Doesn’t buy anthology.*

    Clearly I’m not part of the target marketing demographic. Or they’d have have picked a more “mindblowing” mix of authors.

  197. I don’t find the editor’s picks offensive.  Limited, yes–and as many people have pointed out, it’s not just because it doesn’t have any minorities.  It’s missing a lot of mindblowing Old White Guys and twenty-one stories isn’t mammoth.  But as far as being offended that this particular editor doesn’t have a female/black/whatever in this particular anthology?  *shrugs*  I understand the concerns people have, but it’s just a mistitled anthology to me.  No big.


    What I *do* find offensive is the defensive posturing of the hysterical screeching crap-flinging monkey brigade.  Paul, Lance, Sanders, Brad, etc.?  You realize this is an open, public thread?  And that you’ve turned off yet another (very un-PC) reader by being frothing, foaming asshats?  The height of professionalism there, dudes.  Why bother to debate your point when you can just insult the people who don’t agree?


    *another young, avid specfic reader who just added more names to her Never Buy This Hack’s Work list*

  198. I find it curious, in this debate as well as others, that the ultimate tell-off seems to be, “Since you say things that I disagree with, I shall therefore threaten to not buy your work!”

    Now, I’m all for people voting with their purses/wallets.

    But I personally don’t require the politics and opinions of a given author to be consonant with mine in order for me to enjoy that author’s fiction.  Frankly, I think a given artistic product assumes a life of its own once it’s left the artist’s or producer’s hand, and enters into the wider world. 

    In fact, I am personally uncomfortable with the mentality which demands that the creator-producer of an art product must have similar opinion to mine before I’ll consider buying the art product.

    To me, that’s the heart and soul of Political Correctness.

    Evaluate the creative product, independent of the creator.  That’s a cleaner motto.

    Oops, look at me, going and being a “foaming asshat” again.  My bad.

  199. SatyrPhil Brucato // August 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm //

    While researching an article this week, I grabbed my dog-eared copy of that landmark bastion of “mind-blowing science fiction,” DANGEROUS VISIONS. Hmmmmm…

    Originally published in 1967, DANGEROUS VISIONS features three women, and apologizes for excluding a fourth, Kate Wilhelm. Kate appears in the sequel, AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS; released in 1972, that one includes seven, including a Nebula-winning tale from Joanna Russ and the masterpiece “The Word for World is Forest” from Ursula K. Le Guin.

    In the 36 years since then, hundreds of female and non-Anglo authors have authored hundreds (if not thousands) of books and stories in the SF/ Speculative Fiction genres. Daniel Cole’s assertion above that all these authors and stories revolve around PC concepts of “oppression” is as absurd, bigoted and ill-informed as it is badly written and poorly conceived.

    Three or four decades ago, Harlan Ellision understood the frontiers of science fiction. Clearly, some folks haven’t caught up with him since.

    How did a body of literature based around the opening of minds and the possibilites of human experience get so crowded with close-minded people of limited human experience? That, I suppose, remains a question for the ages.

    Perhaps someone will write a book about it.  

    – Phil Brucato



    * – by Harlan Ellison, likewise excluded from Asheley’s “mind blowing” collection.  


  200. Okay, I’ll bite.

    (1)  The old author-vs-art canard?  It’s a load.  You can’t separate the the artist from the art.  I’ve chucked books by better authors than these across the room because of biases in their work.  (Mieville?  I love you, but your books would be better without the politics-upside-the-head.)  It’s also a handy-dandy way of defending an indefensable act of buffoonery…  remember the cries of “But Harlan’s such a great writer!”?


    (2a)  Where did I say I only buy works from authors whose views are in-line with mine?  Where did I demand that other people make their purchases according to some monolithic “PC” standard?  If the work seems biased in stupid ways, however, I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.


    (2b)  But that’s not what I said–what I said was I wouldn’t be buying any hypothetical books *due to the rude behavior exhibited here by some authors towards readers and colleagues*.  Charging in with “Waaah! Waaah! Pathetic fucking children.” is not how you carry on a public debate like an adult.


    (3)  Define PC, BTW.  The last time I heard a person use it seriously was when my elderly father, bless his heart, was complaining about the news not accurately portraying the natural criminal tendencies of “n****rs”.  I hope not typing out the word in full doesn’t tar me with that horrible PC brush.


    (4)  Point taken–you and Paul aren’t as frothy as some in this thread.  But Paul was still rude as hell–shockingly so, considering he ought to know better–and you jumping on the martyr’s bandwagon, as if you’re somehow Speaking Truth to Power!, instead of debating the point in a mature fashion, is probably not a good way to get your name out there.

  201. Appalling: sci-fi’s an area where there is LOADS of mindblowing work by women (and people of races other than white) and you’ve gone with… none of them. Won’t be buying this then. Nor will my dad or brother.

  202. Update: Graham Sleight reviewed the collection in Strange Horizons. His mind was decidedly underblown.

  203. I don’t know. For some reason most of commenters here have rather low opinion of female writers. I mean being a female is not a disability — no need for special parking places, right? I always though that anthologies are based on “hard” criterias, such as story quality and general “fitness” to anthology author vision. Seems that I was wrong (wouldn’t be the first time) as actually there are other, more important factors.

  204. Sperm Donor // October 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm //

    I guess we only get dick blowing, as that’s all we’re good for, apparently.”


    And complaining, don’t forget complaining…

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