Anyone who knows me even passingly will know that I dislike pulling gender into a discussion at the first available opportunity. I don’t “do” gender-related panels, and I don’t favour pushing women’s work for the sake that it’s done by women. We have a number of really awesome female science fiction writers. My most favourite-ever writer, C.J. Cherryh, is a woman, and so is Lois McMaster Bujold, another one of my favourites. Kim Stanley Robinson, another one of my favourite writers, is a man, and so is Stephen Baxter. I like their subject matter and that’s why I like those writers. This is how I tick.
I also get weary of people blaming their lack of success too easily on external factors. Having success is a matter of luck and talent–but mostly luck, and persistence–before being a function of anything else. I believe that quietly chipping away and engaging with the community is more valuable than agitating out loud, because I don’t believe there is anything to be gained by being accusatory to people you should try to engage in discussion instead.
In short, I really dislike playing the gender card, but when someone chucks a whole packet of cards in my face, it becomes harder to ignore.
OK, something happened and I’ll be really brief about it. The discussion went like this:
Me: I heard you are interested in hard SF
Publisher: yeah, we are, but… *looks uneasy*
Me: … if it’s written by a woman?
Publisher: yeah, I hate to say that, but yeah, that is a problem
This is paraphrased to the best of my memory.
I’ve thought for a few days what I want to do with this. As is common with me and things like this, anger tends to be slow to build, but after a few days I’m still angry and I’m getting more angry. I mean-what fucking rot. Where is the data to back this up? OK, maybe the publisher had some bad runs with women SF writers, but if a male SF writer has a bad run, it’s tough luck, and if a woman does the same, it’s because she’s a woman?
Understand that I didn’t send anything to this publisher, so there was no particular manuscript involved. I was fishing for potential places to send some work, notably Shifting Reality which is hard SF with character. The publisher stated a work must not be self-published, and I’m fine with that. I’m working on a next book anyway. We weren’t talking about any book in detail and I had not even mentioned any potential projects other than that they were hard SF.
This is what infuriated me. Even before I get to talking about the story and the concept, I’m dismissed out of hand because I’m a woman. Can someone tell me how many sales to Analog a woman needs to be considered “good enough” for writing hard SF? I have two. Do I qualify? Bullshit.
Of course, it was a daft thing for him to say. He should have said something like “Sure, submit it, and we’ll take it from there” or “hard SF is a tough sell now, but send it anyway”, that is, if he was truly interested in hard SF.
As I said above, I’m of the “quietly doing”, and not “yelling” type, so let’s see what constructive thoughts we can take away from this.
First of all, I’m not going to say who it was, because I think it’s counterproductive. There have been some calls for names, so that people can boycott this publisher. Please, don’t. There is no point. If you *really* want to know, it’s an ill-kept secret, and a bit of reading of recent posts and some google-fu will no doubt give you a good idea. It’s not about who, because this attitude is endemic in publishers.
Ironically, I’ve found that although it’s much-mocked by people, Analog is extremely accepting of all writers. The Analog people (writers, editors and readers) are very supportive of each other. I believe that what gets published in Analog is a fairly close reflection of percentages men vs women they see in the slush. Analog’s brand of hard SF will appeal to more men than women. I’m fine with that.
It is a reality of the market that hard SF as currently marketed is geared towards men. That said, I know a number of women, including myself, who are much more interested in a book with a dark-blue-hued cover with a planet on it than a pink-hued cover and a long-haired girl and some guy. Elizabeth Moon writes books with dark blue covers with space ships on them. Women as well as men read this stuff.
Why would any publisher automatically dismiss the women readers and market only at men? Apparently, men don’t read female authors. I’m a bit doubtful about this statement, especially in the population from my age down, who are quickly overtaking the market. In my experience, men don’t read much full stop, or at least on average not as much as women. Apparently 75% of readers are women, and let’s say for the sake of the argument that out of the 25% of male readers half don’t read women. Are these people justifying discrimination based on 12.5% of readers? Really? Of course hard SF appeals disproportionately to men, but still, let’s deconstruct this a bit further, because how does hard SF get marketed?
A strong segment of hard SF is still stuck in the Golden Age sentiments. As far as I’ve been able to wade through the sexist and racist attitudes of “Golden Age” science fiction, a lot of it is hard SF as much as Star Wars is hard SF (in other words: it’s not hard SF). This kind of fiction appeals to an ever-diminishing audience, yet the industry clings to it.
The vast majority of younger readers, male and female, does not accept the sexist attitudes anymore, whether in the editorial team or in the book. Hard SF is much more than space-based SF, but I cannot see the need for even space-based SF to be marketed in such a retro way. There are many younger readers out there who do not want their SF with sauce of sexist golden age nostalgia.
There is no need to *call* a book hard SF, even if it is. Most books can fit into multiple subgenres. Hard SF and space opera bleed into each other anyway. Books are about people and the perception that hard SF is only about tech and not about character is rubbish.
A book that doesn’t sell fails to reach the right audience, never mind the gender. How about we stop trying to push books to the same old, same old group who supposedly don’t read women, and try to engage a general audience? In other words, pull the space ship that is hard SF into the garage and give it an overhaul. Get rid of the retro shit. There is certainly none in any of my books.
I strongly believe that if you want to sell a broader range of hard SF you need to step outside the current narrow audience with the narrow marketing messages.
These are things I would like:
– If you have any hard sales data on hard SF by men vs women, I’m all ears. I’m not talking about anecdotal stuff, but hard sales.
– Hard SF is not “boys playing with space ships” and need not be marketed that way
– I am open to discussion by anyone
– I had never thought that this was a good reason for me to feel good about having self-published. Hey, the book is making ME money
Instead of pointing fingers and crying, “sexist”, I want to write damn good fiction and prove people like the above publisher wrong. Meanwhile, if you read hard SF, I love you. None of all the people I know fall into that will-read-men-only category, so I have no idea where these people are. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go and re-read book 14 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh. Yes, a woman.
Patty writes hard Science Fiction, space opera and fantasy. Her latest book is Trader’s Honour, in the space opera series The Return of the Aghyrians. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with new releases, remember to sign up for Patty’s new release newsletter.
You’re welcome 😉
I’ve been following your initial outburst on Twitter with disappointment and interest.
Full disclosure: I work on a speculative fiction e-zine and as an novel editor for the same small publisher.
At the e-zine we probably get around a 70% men to 30% women split. Personally, if a story interests me, that’s what it comes down to. My publishing company has published decent books, regardless of author gender.
But we aren’t one of the big over-arching publishing houses. And from the articles I am reading, this is an industry-wide problem.
I disagree with you that the gender card shouldn’t be played. My thoughts on this are that you didn’t start with it so why should you just cop it on the chin? Naming and shaming allows change to happen. We didn’t stop sexual harassment in workplaces (from both genders) by letting it pass by unnoticed and unpunished. We should all be judged by our merits, and weeding out this discrimination is the way to help rejuvenate the industry.
We’ve just done an edition on women speculative fiction writers, not because they are different to their male counterparts, but because we can see the imbalance and have wanted to do something to rectify it.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. But as a woman involved in writing and publishing, I would like to see this narrow thinking change.
Having worked in male-dominated workplaces where I was the only female scientist out of 200, I feel strongly that I don’t want to play the gender card, because it achieves nothing. If you shift into blaming-mode, the only people who will hear it are the ones who already agree with it and for whom it’s at the risk of becoming tiresome. The others just roll their eyes and put it down to women’s issues.
Women are to blame just as much as men.by having narrow interests that are away from the sciences and technology. All too often, I hear women say “but that’s all for the men”, while going on to talk about girlie things. It is not a one-way street, and women are not solely victims.
I guess your disappointment stems from me not naming the publisher. I decided not to name him, because the world of SFF publishing is a very small community. There is no need to name him, because everyone involved already knows. I wanted to make this post about the general sentiment and why it might happen. I also want this to be a non-accusatory and non-blaming discussion that is open for publishers to comment on, including this publisher.
I don’t need an apology. I’d like some discussion and I like to offer people in publishing who think like this a challenge.
My disappointment is that this is still even an issue, not your choice not to name. As I said, your choice. I am disappointed in the industry. I just want open criticism and exposure of this issue, so that there is an equal playing field for all writers.
I’m not remotely surprised to hear this. I write stuff which I’d categorise as science fiction fantasy – there’s a reason I write as M T rather than Mary. The biggest market for my books seems to be teenaged boys.
I will not hide behind a gender-neutral name. That’s not me.
I’ve never really thought of it as hiding, I just reckoned it gave my work more chance of getting read and me more chance to prove the bigots wrong. I like the idea of these prannys reading my book, enjoying it and then looking a bit stupid when they find out I’m a girl. But that’s just me…
It only really cropped up because Mary McGuire sounds too like a folk heroine or a romance author. Meanwhile my my maiden name is the same as a famous murderer and it’s illegal to mention her in the press here in the UK, I thought that might make things complicated, even though I’m not her, obviously.
Unfortunately, men not reading books by women does happen. A while back, Tess Geritsen reported on her blog (a couple years ago now) she was in a bookstore and saw a guy cruising the thriller aisle. She tried to steer him to her new release, which she had written to draw in more of the men readers. The guy told her didn’t read books by women. I’ve had the personal experience of telling a guy I was a writer (I write thriller and fantasy), and he sneered at me — absolute disgust — and said, “Oh, you write romance.”
Yes, it does happen, but male readers are in the minority full stop, and many of those will read female authors, especially if they read SFF.
I have worked off an on as a librarian the last two years, its not only men who express a distaste for women writers in traditionally male dominated fields ie I have a crime/thriller reader in one of my book clubs who turns up their nose at female writers. To be fair though she is in her late 50’s so maybe its a generational thing.
I suspect that probably plays a role, too, but there is a new generation who don’t care half as much, and I’m not sure if all sections of publishing have caught up with that yet.
Well, I don’t read ANY male thriller writers, and I’m a female, and over 60. So maybe women turning up noses at women crime/thiller writers IS s just a ’50s thing, yeah. (Irony flags.)
Thank you for talking about this here. As someone who has read SF since I was small, but come to writing in mid-life, I find it disappointing that gender bias is an issue. I had thought that since writing is about words and story, with an invisible author, that it would not be the issue that it seems to be.
In the male-dominated fields I have worked in, gender bias existed, but over the years it grew less. It has not disappeared, but I think it is consciously perpetuated by a minority. However, they will always be there, so I believe it is important to keep discussion happening. History shows that respect for women is a fragile thing.
I respect your decision not to play the gender card. It is difficult to change stereotypes if the true gender of an author is unknown. At the same time, I am glad that many women authors have published under initials or androgynous pseudonyms to get their work out there, so that we have many examples of successful women authors to show the bias is unfounded.
I think there is great hope for the future, since the many male writers who offer to critique my stories in workshops have never shown me any gender bias, and are nothing but supportive. Likewise, I know many male readers who are enthusiastic about story above all. Perhaps the main change needs to take place in the marketing departments of publishing companies.
The problem with not naming them is that you throw up a cloud of suspicion over every editor and publisher there. Given their background and objectives it’s fair to guess to wouldn’t have been Twelth Planet Press that made the comments, but any other publisher there – TiCon, as only one example (not that I think for one second that Russ would say that either) – or any one of the other commissioning editors, agents etc, could just as easily fall foul of speculation they are responsible.
People who saw the earlier comments on twitter may be able to guess, or people at the con – but twitter is a fleeting thing, and this post has a broader audience than conflux attendees.
I understand why you don’t want to name the person involved – but I also think by not doing so you also unfairly risk the reputations of others who have done nothing wrong.
I don’t really know what to do about this save to say that those involved know who it was and who it wasn’t. I have given out the name to people who have asked privately. It’s a very poorly-kept secret. I don’t want to turn this into one of those boycott-calling things, because 1. it would make a lot–and I mean A LOT–of my local and OS friends uneasy, and 2. I don’t think anything is to be achieved by that. Also, I would be delighted if the publisher in question would give some hard figures and better argumentation. I do not want to go into antagonistic dialogue, but record that this is what happened and get those involved to pull their socks up.
People can ask me privately. This post is not about pointing at one particular publisher.
I don’t have much to add in response, except to say that I’ve received a couple of emails from people who knew I was at conflux, asking if I knew who you were talking about and speculating on who it might be.
I don’t know and said as much, and I also don’t know if they know you well enough to ask privately – but if I’m getting asked I’d suggest there’s plenty of speculation out there.
Feel free to email at email@example.com and I’ll tell you, so you can tell them, and you can all see why I’m uneasy with publicly naming the person for the sake of many of my writing friends.
Let me also say here that Australian small press is awesome, and bth I would kinda shrug this off if it was small press
Among the many “WTF?!” things about that whole attitude is that there are PLENTY of women who write SF and sell. Bujold is still winning Hugo after Hugo. Mira Grant was, like, MOST of the Hugos last year. Elizabeth Bear writes both fantasy and science fiction and wins awards for both, and I have trouble thinking of any SF in recent years harder than SCARDOWN. Moon and Huff write MilSF and it sells.
I might believe that women-written fantasy is selling better than women-written SF right now, but that’d be because I think fantasy appears to be selling better than SF right now.
I agree that Fantasy outsells SF, but that doesn’t mean SF doesn’t sell, because it clearly does. Frankly, the attitude is outdated and baffles me.
Reblogged this on WIP Update and commented:
This is an absolutely spot-on commentary. I am so sick of gender bias in anything. My wife is a scientist, I collaborate with women colleagues all the time, and some of my favorite authors are women. While it exists, I simply do, not, understand, gender bias. I hope Patty’s observation that younger generations don’t care either will eventually lead to the all-out disintegration of bias towards women SF writers. I, for one, plan to purchase her books (now that I know she’s out there! thanks again to twitter!). See ya, folks. WIPper-T, out.
Thank you for your support. I worked as a scientist, too, and while there was some gender bias (or more correctly, gawking and bafflement) going on, all the men I worked with were unfailingly polite, professional and accepting.
That does make me glad to hear. Sometimes it’s a toss up in the workplace for women scientists (my wife’s in the Assoc. for Women in Sci). Such ridiculousness about the book tho.
I’m guessing that’s meant to be “NOT if it’s written by a woman?” (Here via James Nicoll’s livejournal post, and I was expecting a totally different sort of complaint from a male author. Sadly not surprised by the reality.)
Stunned and appalled; happen to think you should out them, but it’s not MY call to make; wish the morons who claim we live in a post-feminist society would get a better set of glasses (or a brain, or a clue).
Reblogged this on Lesbian Writers and commented:
Interesting blog on the continuing bias against women in hard SF publishing; despite the brilliant she-devil authoresses rocking the genre. (Hard science fiction is sci-fi rooted in speculative science facts, rather than fantasy/space opera.)
Awesome. Thank you.
You’re very welcome. Keep up the good work.
“Apparently, men don’t read female authors.” We do, as you suspected, but apparently some publishers haven’t caught up with this 21st century reality yet.
I totally agree, this is why I put it in inverted commas.
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I salute your perfect and measured response to a stupid policy. By the way, I not only love girl cooties, but C.J. Cherryh is one of my favorite writers as well.
She is my absolute favourite. The Foreigner books are the only books I buy in hardcover on the day they come out. Fortunately, I’ve got so many cookies at the various book sites that at least some site reminds me that a new book is out on that day.
I also love Lois McMaster Bujold. Not exactly hard SF, but the later Miles volumes much more so. There are a few writers I intend to read soon.
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I disagree with your decision not to play the gender card. I think that most of the progress (good and meaningful progress) that has been made over just the last few years is because a lot of women (and other minority groups) stopped remaining quiet and accepting and called the situation for what it was – gender (or other) bias.
But I wouldn’t call what you aren’t doing “playing the gender card”; I’d call it “speaking truth to authority”.
Of course it is entirely up to you how you handle your reactions. All I’m really saying is that words are powerful tools and the naming of things often influences how we treat them. I’d be screaming to high heaven.
On an entirely different only somewhat related topic: I think it interesting that your fave – CJ – made her name during a time when SF was marketed as ‘SF’ – not as hard sf or sf romance or space opera or whatever. I think that nichification has done great harm to an author’s reach, market and acceptance.
I am a very non-confrontational person, as you have to be when working in an all-male workplace. If you start making a fuss about gender, you’re very quickly on your own, because people feel like you’re accusing them directly, and feel alienated. I guess if you are the first of anything in a workplace, you have to dial your taking offense button right down and work through small steps if you want to keep your workplace a pleasant environment.
I’ve been part of mostly-male groups of hard SF writers and have never encountered such blatant sexism. Sure, you can see the stats, but mostly I roll my eyes when women talk about the lack of women in hard SF and in the same breath say “oh, but I don’t read that stuff”. You know the situation when you go in. Male nerds and a few female nerds all nerding together. It’s a liberating environment, because there is no person so happy as a scientist being asked about his or her special area of research.
Bookshops sell “Science Fiction and Fantasy” and don’t care about subgenres, so I can’t see the problem. Lois McMaster Bujold and C.J. Cherryh are not marketed as hard SF, but their science is a lot harder than some of the (male-authored) books I’ve read that do get marketed as hard SF. In the end–who cares? A publisher makes a marketing decision. Hard SF can be marketed as space opera or general SF. It goes on the same shelves in the bookshops.
This particular post has already netted me enough flak, because writers are soooooo scared of publishers, they’ll take astonishing amounts of rude and crappy behaviour just so that they might get published.
Let me say that Ticonderoga Publications, who will be publishing my novel Ambassador, are awesome and respectful, and if I’ll ever sign additional novel contracts, it will be with publishers who want my work because they like the work in question, and not because of my gender.
This is a topic that has been going around the circle of blogs I loosely belong to lately, so I read your post with great interest. Most of us come to the conclusion that we personally have no gender preferences when we read, but see that sexism is a problem in SF and want to do something about it, even if we can’t think of what that might be. I’m certainly sympathetic with your non-confrontational stance, as I am the same personality type.
Anyway, to sum up, this post makes me want to read your stories. Now my pile of must read stuff is even larger.
Thank you. I was also surprised when a while ago I tallied my own reading. I’m a great fan of hard SF and space opera, and when someone mentioned their male vs female reading I thought I’d come up very male-skewed because of my preferred genre. I was surprised that it was about even. That said, the books by women were mostly fantasy. As I said, I have no huge issue with hard SF being more of a male thing. Many women say they simply don’t like it. Who am I to dictate what they should read? I have an issue with active discrimination. A publisher can choose not to publish something for any reason they damn well like. It’s a business, not a charity. However, to say up-front women need not apply is not only against the law, it’s stupid. If a publisher gets a good book, all they need to do is put thought into the cover and sales blurb, and that alone can place a book in a number of different subgenres.
What you can do against sexism in SF? I think it largely exists in the minds of publishers and a small (older and white male) section of readers. I don’t think the majority of younger people cares about the gender of the author, and I think the best thing is to go on buying whatever books you like by all authors and tell your friends if you’ve found something you like. I, certainly would hate to be given any kind of special consideration–positive or negative–because of my gender.
A lot of people in this discussion seem to get hung up on the special treatment thing, as though women are demanding to have their books viewed favorably just because they’re women. I don’t think that’s ever the case, nor do I think that the community would attempt it or stand for it.
I do think though that being aware of these possible biases and going out of my way to try stuff I might not otherwise is a good policy. I dunno – tricky stuff.
I agree that this is where it gets tricky, which is also why I don’t actively engage in that discussion. My opinions are conflicting and don’t add up to a neat picture.
Rather than talking about women in SF, I’d rather be a woman who writes SF. Many of the protesters against skewed gender ratios don’t actually read hard SF. I think the woman who protests loudly at the lack of woman in SF and the one who writes SF are two aspects of the same movement. The world needs people who are good activists for this cause (and who don’t have much to lose if they speak out) and it needs people to chip away at the frontier on the ground. If I’m going to continue writing hard SF, I do not want to anger all my fellow subgenre writers and SF editors by implying that they are sexist if they don’t actively promote women in the genre. That probably sounds lame, but my kind of activism is to be a woman and publish SF. Head down, bum up, nose on the keyboard. Except when people tell me this kind of crap.
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Sigh. Patty I followed this here from your facebook like request. I believe in seeing what I am going like, so I came and had a look. Look, your post starts from the equivalent premise of ‘the sun rotates around the earth’ and therefore the structure that is built on that is… quite at divergeance to reality.
As an author trying to break in you must have had many rejection slips (I had 74, before one acceptance). If you are a scientist and used to the tactless but honest rejection and criticism you get there, it does not take you very long to realise that a large part of an acquiring editor’s job is PR, and not just telling the author ‘this is crap’. They seem to believe we’re shrinking violets, and even editorial comment will be couched in that way. Editors will ALWAYS (mine, yours, and those that won’t have either of us) couch their rejections in the way that they believe 1)Will offend you least. 2)Will make you blame anyone on earth but them. 3)Because of the power they have always held and Stockholm syndrome prevalent among authors (See Judith Tarr’s brilliant 3 part dissection of this.) they are used to fact that writers will accept this. That’s pretty definative.
Now when you take these facts and what was said to you, you’ll probably be even more angry – but hopefully not with the scapegoats he assumed would be acceptable to you, and indeed, you kicked the hell out of – but that he assumed you were a third wave feminist who can’t write very well, but thinks a vagina entitles her to publication. That’s not actually a reader position except for a microscopic fragment, but he thought you’d rather hear that than the former.
As it happens on pro-list I belong to the question of male readers of female written hard sf came up. I don’t want to cite private posts, but I can in private e-mail point you at the site of one of the authors concerned who has posted about it. She’s one of your fellow Analog authors, and you may well know her – but the long and short of it is there is a fairly steady continuum from about 80% male to the opposite, the ‘softer’ the science gets. Here is the kicker – the numbers of men don’t seem to differ much. What is different is female participation. And no, it’s not marketing or covers, as the author with the highest male ratio is largely self-pubbed, and therefore its a woman choosing the covers, and doing her best to market. She’d love more women readers, but the same sort of ratios go for the more-PC-than-thou also deperately courting female readers male writer, in that type of sf. His audience are urban 30-45 year old cubicle geeks, and I’d give long odds hers are the much the same.
The question you should be asking is not ‘why are those nasty old white Golden Agers sabotaging me,’ because those are the people who bought Bujold and Cherryh (Jim Baen, old white male, Donald Wolheim old, white male – both shaped by the Golden age – and VERY different to most of the editors we have now, in that they would provably buy on story, not on fashion or running concurrent with their beliefs.) but ‘Why don’t more women read hard sf?’
A proper discussion of your post is too long for a comment box. Perhaps if you are interested I could do it on my writing comment blog.
A number of things here, Dave (I met you at the Barfly meetup at Worldcon in Melbourne, so it wasn’t a blind like request).
I agree on the female readership, up to a point. I read hard SF and so do a lot of my female friends. I’d be interested in more data. C.J. Cherryh and Lois McMaster Bujold are doing well, heck I’ll add to that Elizabeth Moon, so why do we seem to be sliding backwards, in terms of female participation in the subgenre?
I kept the post deliberately general, but things that *particularly* galled me about this case were:
1. The blunt-ness with which it was stated to my face by someone who should know the potential of stuff like this to blow up over the internet.
2. This *wasn’t* a golden-age editor, but someone who is way younger than me and is regarded as progressive.
I admit to a certain degree of conflictedness over this issue, which is why I tend to lurk at discussions around gender in SF. In short: I’d much rather be writing.
If you want to elaborate, my email address is somewhere in the comment thread of this post.
🙂 I still wanted see what you were writing. I won’t vote for something I don’t know much about, and likewise with endorsing it. I’m a bit over-honest. Golden age editors are long dead and sadly is most of their legacy in acquistions – I think you’re wildly off about what they were buying relative to their time. Bluntness? He was giving you a scapegoat. It wouldn’t occur to him that you might think _him_ a jerk. Why editors are demi-gods or aristocracy at least. The faults are never theirs. ‘Progessive’ these days tends to mean herd-following, not forward thinking. I have some fairly strong ideas on just which direction witers should follow to attract Golden Age scale readership – 50K print runs for a new author – which given that those had mostly male readership and literate, English speaking population has increased, should be (even allowing for more choices of author) at least the same, instead of down by an order of magnitude. Anyway, I’ve got to finish a piece of work, when I’ve done that, I’ll post and let you know.
Will be looking forward to it.
Honesty is appreciated. I also suspect the publisher was being honest in what he thinks he can sell. I dispute that we (general we) should let this dictate what looks very much like sexist behaviour.
Obviously, women can do well in SF.
Re. Golden Age. Most of what I’ve read has always been tainted with a sexist/racist sickly sauce that hasn’t aged well. I’m sure there are Golden Age pieces that are different.
I have a feeling you may be conflating eras. CJ Cherryh has a very good list on her site of recommended Golden Age authors. That’s what shaped her work (and Bujold’s), and it didn’t come out too badly, did it? You may find you didn’t realise some of them were ‘golden age’. It’s rather like Agatha Christie or Georgette Heyer (both favourites of mine). There are some dated elements, but actually, they’re still good, and worth learning from.
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Sorry you had to deal with this. I know this particular subject is getting a lot of needed attention right now and we can only hope that by exposing it to the light that things will improve. I like SF in just about every form and the sex of the author has never been a factor. CJ Cherryh is one of my favorites as well, especially her Union/Alliance books. She actually helped me get started on my personal writing journey, and I’ll be forever grateful. I read as many female writers as male, but it is by chance, nothing I planned.
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I have been in engineering for most of my career. These days I’m glad to say that women are more readily accepted in this profession.
When I first started in engineering, some of my colleagues looked on me as someone to do the turn the handle stuff. Then one day I was told that it was accepted that something was impossible. However, the contract said we should look at it. So I asked for a couple of days to examine the issue just to comply with contract, and to be fair to my immediate boss, he readily agreed. On the morning of the third day in work I did a quick run of the computer model and guess what? It was not impossible.
My boss gulped at the result. Because of ‘the politics’ involved, he said we’d better say nothing about it, unless I could prove an even more impossible result. So I asked for a day to look at that. By the afternoon, he had the result on his desk. It was not impossible. To be fair to him, he immediately passed the word along that it could be done. It also curtailed the career of someone high up in the company, though I was unaware of this at the time.
[Subject matter is subject to intellectual property rights – hence not giving the details.]
After that I was treated like a fellow engineer so to speak across the board.
Like engineering, the only way I can see of breaking this ‘women being in the doldrums of hard SF publishing’, is to do something very similar i.e. show that a woman can be better than a lot of the men.
It’s only a matter of time before that hard SF woman writer comes along… in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to write good hard SF… now back to writing about that spaceship I’ve been designing, which is far more advanced and realistic than anything on Star Trek…
Thanks for replying.
I worked in agricultural research, which, as you can imagine, is also a very male-dominated world. I did not once get the “you’re a woman and therefore you can’t do this” rubbish from any of my colleagues or other people working at the workplace.
There was one incident, but it came from higher management in head office (1500km away).
To be honest, I’m a bit taken aback by the blatantness of some of the things I’ve heard in SF circles.
I totally buy the unconscious bias and all that, but to have it stated in your face? Is this 1850?
I didn’t know Kim Stanley Robinson was male; never gave it much thought. Now that I do know … it still doesn’t matter much.
However, as a male whose first published novel was a romantic comedy, I have an idea of what you’re talking about.
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I’m amused by the way people keep citing Lois Bujold as hard SF in this discussion. She writes hard SF, but she has been called out quite recently in a supposedly-reputable online SF zine as somebody who gets girly romance cooties all over SF, which should be free of such stuff. Other such horrid writers, of course, are Lee and Miller. “Hard SF” to some boys must not only involve weapons and militarism, but must eschew an excess of biology, and absolutely ignore sociology and linguistics and other fluffy sciences (except some regurgitated Spengler or Rand). And no girly romance or interpersonal interaction above the level of an eleven-year-old boy! And some of them prefer still theirs with racist/sexist sauce, or at least asshole pseudo-libertarianism of the kind that thinks “libtard” is the height of wit and Benghazi was much worse than the Holocaust.
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