04 July 2005

Linkdump

Various stuffs out there:

*The new issue of Strange Horizons has been posted, with a column I wrote about the impulse to collect things.

*It struck me recently that a lot of the small-press 'zines have plenty of fiction by women in them, but most of the major magazines don't. F&SF, for instance, has published three issues this year where all of the fiction is by men. In search of other people's opinions on this subject, I came across Sue Linville's SF & Fantasy in the New Millennium: Women Publishing Short Fiction, an article with data from the late '90s and early '00s. (For what it's worth, I don't think this is a case of simple prejudice; there are too many other factors involved. The unfortunate effect of the male dominance, regardless of whatever various reasons lie behind it, is that it makes the magazines appear to be men's clubs.) [Update 7/5/05: Please read the discussion in the comments section.]

*My sensitivity to the above might be explained by the fact that I just read Justine Larbelestier's The Battle of the Sexes and Science Fiction, an extraordinary book. It's worth reading just for the chapter including fan letters. But there are excellent analyses and arguments throughout, and a marvelously dry wit behind the prose.

*There's a group interview of China Mieville over at Long Sunday. Good stuff -- a mix of both erudition and goofiness. And it's only Part 1. (By the way, you do know that China has a short story collection coming out at the end of August, don't you? It includes some new stories, some popular stories ["The Tain", etc.], and even a graphic story with illustrations by Liam Sharp.)

*Wage Earners and Work: Pulp Science Fiction as Vernacular Theory

*Alan DeNiro has been writing some marvelous posts at his Goblin Mercantile Exchange, with at least one that is required reading for all science fiction fans. And everybody else.

*Frank J. Oteri asks, "How can you possibly have your mind open to a brand new piece of music if the only music you'll allow into your life is music that you already like?"

*At TEV, Daniel Olivas has a guest review of The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia, a book I happened to look at at a bookstore today, and which I nearly bought, except I am currently trying to force myself not to buy any books other than required texts for grad school (yes, this post is me procrastinating doing reading for classes tomorrow. Not that I have anything against articles about working class popular culture in 19th century London.)

*John Crowley's new book, Lord Byron's Novel : The Evening Land, is the best novel of the year so far, even though it's [link removed: LiveJournal entry has been locked]. Thus, it's a a worthy read that will will leave your mind buzzing, which is astounding and miraculous for a book about Byron that is not Byronic.

10 comments:

  1. Hi, Matt
    When you say "a lot of small press 'zines have plenty of fiction by women in them" what does that really mean? I'd love a definition of plenty, because I bet mileage varies quite a bit.

    If you don't think Gordon at F&SF has an agenda, then maybe you should try thinking through the reasons he assembled all-male issues. There are assuredly legitimate reasons that don't really warrant this slow news day type of journalism.

    You seem to have this small press= Good, Big Three Mags=Bad schtick going and it (for me)obfuscates the much more important issue: that not enough women are getting published. A few months ago the Big mags weren't publishing Alan Deniro, T. Goss, Jeff V., etc. Once again, F&SF was the "for example."
    Unless you really believe this a conspiracy, or have some constructive solution, this sort of fingerpointing strikes me as a tad inflammatory and more than a little unfair.

    Sincerely,

    Laird

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  2. Thanks, Laird -- I can see where some of that might seem unfair. If it is, it's a case of F&SF being a magazine I have high expectations for, and so the disappointment at times is strong. It's probably the prozine I discuss most frequently, both good and bad, because it seems to me to be the one that best moves through the worlds of the traditional and new, the worlds of the popular and literary, etc. (to indulge in a bunch of false dichotomies). I'm not blind to the pressures editors face (read any message board), which is one of the reasons I keep raising my hand to say, "Hey, remember the few of us out here who actually like this kind of thing!" The alternative is giving up and accepting the status quo, but that would be depressing. We can do better.

    I don't think anybody at F&SF has an agenda to publish male-heavy issues, and the article I linked to provides evidence saying exactly that: that the problem is the magazine gets a much smaller amount of submissions from women than from men. And it's a longstanding problem.

    But it is a problem. There have got to be reasons F&SF is getting far more submissions from men, and far more publishable stories submitted by men, than from women. It's a self-perpetuating problem, too. The solution is either for the editors to solicit more stories from women or for people to talk about it together.

    Or to declare it's not a problem. Plenty of people are happy with that route, too. I'm not, because I don't like the kind of world that gets created when a culture (whether large or whether just the culture of a magazine) is dominated by one gender.

    Certainly, there's a danger to people like me yelling for more balance, because then if more women are published they might be slighted as tokens filling a quota, and any mediocre story by a woman would be given as evidence that the editors will take anything so long as it's by a woman and not a man, and various folks will pine for the days when women knew their place in the world. (Strange Horizons has gotten some of this with regard to a variety of different types of writers, but they weather it well.) There's also a difference between me getting onto this virtual soapbox here and calling for it and Gordon van Gelder calling for it -- I'm in a much safer position. (He's got the power to choose what goes into the magazine, so any statement he made would have far more weight and be probably disastrous no matter what he said.)

    As for the 'zines -- I certainly don't think they're perfect, and have expressed disappointment with some, but come on: they haven't been around for more than fifty years, they aren't major markets for short fiction, their audience is tiny ... and yet they manage to publish some good and occasionally great fiction and a lot of it by women. Maybe the discrepancy is a fluke, maybe I'm too strongly biased, maybe it's an entirely inappropriate comparison, but I think it's at least worth discussing.

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  3. I just quickly counted up the number of original stories by women on SCIFICTION this year so far and how many by men and guess what? There is one more male than female name on the list (and that's because of the Malzberg/Dann collaboration a couple of weeks ago). So what does this mean? Absolutely nothing.

    In 2004 it was 28- 14 (one was a three way male collaboration). What does this mean? Nothing.

    I'm gender-blind in my reading and frankly, I feel it's the luck of the draw. I just happen to love enough submissions coming in by women in 2005 so that the gender balance has evened out.

    Why has this happened? I have no idea. It's not anything I'm doing differently. Many of the female writers who have written stories for me in the past couple of years are people who had never sent me stories before or who weren't writing short fiction (as far as I knew). Or at least, they were not writers whose work I was aware of at all.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the response. You clarified your position and presented potential solutions.It's much better than simply yelling, "Hey, GVG doesn't like girls! But he has his reasons."

    I'd also like some quantitative analysis on gender bias in the 'zines v. the Big Three/Four/whatever. And which quality 'zines are we talking about for this comparison?

    Yeah, I agree that the discussion is important. I just think we need to define our terms before it's truly useful.

    Sincerely,

    Laird

    Laird

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think it can be a problem. For the Leviathan series, we regularly got far fewer submissions from women than from men. So for Leviathan 3, we actively solicited more work from women. It wasn't that we thought there should be a quota, but that I do believe there is a difference between a male and a female view of the world at times, and that for the sake of diversity in the fiction itself, it would be good to try to get more Leviathan-type fiction from women.

    With a monthly digest, though, I think you'd probably have to sample a couple year's worth to reach any conclusions? I dunno.

    JeffV

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  6. Your essay on collecting was great, and brought back a lot of memories for me as well. I've blogged about it at my own journal (http://www.livejournal.com/users/jlundberg/96682.html).

    As for gender balance, I was very lucky in editing Scattered, Covered, Smothered to receive many submissions from women, and our final tally revealed an even split, 15 men and 15 women, completely a surprise to me. I didn't plan it, but I was very happy it worked out this way. Whether this was because of the subject matter, food and cooking, I couldn't say, but that would seem like a cop out.

    As for the big print mags, I'm not big on them right now, because they're not publishing the kind of fiction that I like. (The exception being The Third Alternative.) I go to the small press for that, or to the online mags like Strange Horizons and SciFiction. I'm not sure what this means, if anything, except that the more risky fiction seems to be found in these places, and that's what I enjoy.

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  7. It was pointed out to me, in the fifth issue of Electric Velocipede, that I had 22 contributors and 2 of them were female. The point was made in jest, but I took it seriously. I've actively solicited work from female authors since then, and sometimes it works: issue #8 was 6 to 4 in favor of the women. But it doesn't always work. I simply get more submission by volume from women than I get from men.

    John Klima

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  8. John: Don't you mean you get more submissions form men than women? Or am I misunderstanding you?

    Matthew: So glad you enjoyed my book.

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  9. matthew, you must get "the people of paper"...or else you will die. well, not exactly. but since you read my review of this remarkable novel on tev, aren't you the least bit tempted to go buy it right now? who cares about school? hell, when i was in law school, i did everything i could to spend some time with short stories and novels. anyway, thanks for noticing my little review.

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