Anthologies: Some Data

On Saturday I mentioned that I had been sent some data about gender splits in anthologies. I have since been taking a close look at it and want to present some of the data. I am doing this:

  1. Because I think it is better to be talking about lots of data than about individual books;
  2. Because I’m a bit tired of being told there’s no evidence for gender bias; and
  3. Because I think talking about this might help UK publishers sell more books.

Before we start I’d like to get a few things very clear.

Firstly, this discussion is, and from my point of view always has been, about gender stereotyping: SF for boys; fantasy for girls (unless it involves a lot of hacking and slaying). The data we have is therefore solely for science fiction anthologies. Anyone who comes back with something like, “well you are ignoring all these paranormal romance anthologies”, or even brings up books like Dark Spires which are mixed-genre, is just trolling, nothing more.

Second, there are all sorts of possibilities for data error. What I think we have here is data on all pure-SF anthologies published in the UK and USA from 2006 to 2010 inclusive. But there may be some books missing. And I haven’t had a chance to check the numbers. And there are all sorts of potential disputes about what “science fiction” actually means. There may be some gender confusion if lesser-known writers have ambiguous names. Nationality confusion is also possible. I have caught and corrected a few such mistakes myself, but there could be more. I’d assume a healthy amount of error on these numbers.

Finally I am not publishing the raw data. There are two main reasons for this:

  • I don’t want people using it as an excuse for yet more witch hunting, so no names; and
  • I don’t want discussion to get bogged down in endless nit-pickery about whether a specific book is “science fiction” or not.

Having said that, if someone out there has the time and ability to check the data and gather more, I’d be delighted to hand this over.

The starting point is that we have 56 books in total, 17 of which were published in the UK and the other 39 in the USA. All of the UK books are from smaller presses, because the big, multi-national London publishers don’t do anthologies here, but a substantial proportion of the US ones are from DAW, and other New York imprints feature as well.

The most obvious breakdown is by the gender of the editor. Here are the numbers:

Gender of Editor % of Stories by Women
Male 23%
Female 44%
Mixed 37%

This should perhaps not surprise us. Our basic thesis is that men are socially conditioned to prefer fiction by men, while women are more balanced in their tastes. But also women editors are more likely to have friends who are women writers, and that may play a part.

What we don’t know, of course, is how well these books sold. If there is any real justification for male-dominated books it should be that they sell better. I have no proof of that one way or another (and if someone does have data, please come forward). But at least we can see that some publishers are prepared to let women do science fiction. Ten of the books were female-edited, and a further three are by a mixed-gender team.

Now, referring back to earlier discussions, is the situation worse in the UK than in the US? Here are the numbers.

Country of Publication % of Stories by Women
USA 30%
UK 23%

An important thing to note here is that only one of the UK-published books is female-edited. One is mixed; the others are all edited by men. As a result, we should expect a worse performance than the US.

So, question to UK publishers: would you be willing to publish more science fiction anthologies edited by women? Because I think that would help.

The final split that we can do is by nationality of the editor. Here “other” means either that the editor was neither British nor American, or that there was an editorial team of mixed nationality.

Nationality of Editor % of Stories by Women
US 33%
UK 16%
Other 27%

Oh dear. That’s starting to look like a significant difference. That’s because the figures for UK publishers were buoyed up by above average numbers from non-British and female editors, while the one British editor working for a US publisher has below average numbers.

I did promise not to focus on personalities here, but I do want to interject with one significant piece of data. Anthologies edited by Ian Whates have above average numbers for a British editor. I think that demonstrates the dangers of looking at individual books, and bears out the supportive comments made about Whates by women writers.

So, what does all this mean? Before everyone goes rushing off yelling about how British men are all disgusting, chauvinist pigs, let’s consider why the UK might have got into this situation.

Firstly, of course, the fact that all but one of the British editors are men doesn’t do the UK’s chances much good. The American numbers would not look so good if they didn’t have a lot of women involved. If more women did anthologies over here we’d probably see a significant improvement, though of course someone has to be willing to publish them.

In addition, as we’ve noted before, the big London publishers are rather reluctant to publish science fiction novels by women. Given that is the case, it may well be that the percentage of women in the UK writing science fiction is a lot lower than it is in the USA. After all, who makes a living out of short fiction?

Ah, but why don’t the UK editors get stories from foreign women, then? Therein, I think, lies the problem. One of the bits of data that we can’t capture here is whether the anthologies were created through open submission, or through invitation. You might think that an open submission anthology would have more men, as the editor would be deluged with stories from pushy males, whereas invitation allows you to pick your gender balance. But it all depends on who you know. If you don’t have a relationship with a writer, it will be harder to get a story out of them.

Some editors are prepared to go to open submission. My friend Colin Harvey is doing that for his latest project. But I suspect that many of the books we are looking at here, particularly the UK ones, are invitation only. In an interview from last year, Carmelo Rafala, an American of Sicilian extraction publishing in the UK, said:

As a small press we simply don’t have time to read through mountains of submissions or deal with someone who decides to hurl abuse at us because we just can’t understand his genius.

I feel his pain.

Now, suppose you live in the UK, where women SF novelists are few and far between. If you don’t travel abroad to conventions, if most of the writers you know are middle-aged British men, guess what the majority of contributors to your anthologies are likely to be?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. I know we don’t have sales figures, but given the fact that many publishers seem willing to publish anthologies with women editors, and significant numbers (sometimes more than 50%) of women contributors, it seems likely that girl cooties are not an immediate cause of financial disaster.

Furthermore, with the advent of e-books, international trade in books has become much easier. There is no reason why an independent British publisher can’t get access to the huge American market. Indeed, some of the companies involved in this study already have their paper books distributed in the USA. But if you do that with a book that looks like boys own club material then those shouty feminists across the pond are going to be on your back double quick and your prospects of big sales will be damaged.

I absolutely understand the issue with personal contacts. If you can’t afford to travel it makes things hard. But contacts can be made. I know loads of great women writers outside of the UK. So does Farah. British authors who travel a lot to the US may also be able to help. Reach out. Try to find new sources of stories.

The results may surprise you.

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63 Responses to Anthologies: Some Data

  1. James Davis Nicoll says:

    May I post a link to this?

    • Cheryl says:

      I’m sure other people will do so without asking, so you might as well do so. But I’d be grateful if you could encourage people to stay on topic rather than trying to stir up witch hunts or coming out with the usual derailing nonsense.

  2. James Davis Nicoll says:

    How about if I just add to the link this quotation from your comment above: “But I’d be grateful if you could encourage people to stay on topic rather than trying to stir up witch hunts or coming out with the usual derailing nonsense.”

  3. Linnéa Anglemark says:

    A couple of data points that I think might be relevant, off the top of my head: How many stories are there, in total, in the 56 books, and how many of the total stories were written by women? It would also be interesting to see how many of the anthologies have more than, say, 25% stories by female authors.

    • Cheryl says:

      In the 56 books there were 883 stories, of which 254.5 were by women (the 0.5 being co-authored with a man).

      26 books have over 25% women, 16 over 33%, 8 over 50%. Of those over 50%, three were edited by (non-British) men.

  4. Madame Hardy says:

    Well played. Thank you for bringing the data.

  5. Steven H Silver says:

    I’m wondering about “pure-SF anthologies.” Does your definition include Steampunk? Alternate history? I ask because I can see both categories being included or not included and am wondering.

    Also, I assume that you were looking at original anthologies rather than reprints.

    • Cheryl says:

      Steampunk and Alt History are both included, partly because they have always been included in SF, and partly because it would have necessitated reading many of the stories to know if they counted.

      It is hard to be entirely original because many anthologies contain one or two reprints from famous names to help sell them, but there are no Year’s Bests or similar.

  6. David Moles says:

    It doesn’t take that long to read through a mountain of submissions, in my experience. Two or three readers can get through two or three hundred submissions a day, and I’d be surprised if many small-press anthologies were to get more than that.

    On the other hand, my (limited) open-slushpile editing experience has been that the gender ratio of the final TOC isn’t any better than the ratio of the slush pile, and I suspect there are various factors (cultural expectations re: rejection, etc.) that, ceteris paribus, lead to men outnumbering women in the slush pile. So if I were to do it again, I’d make an effort to over-advertise the opening of submissions in women-heavy (and for that matter POC-heavy) venues.

    • Sean Wallace says:

      As an aside I think at one point I processed over three hundred submissions in two days, over a weekend, which made me a bit sick, but, yeah, with a team of slush-readers you can crush a mountain of submissions in no time flat, definitely.

      As pointed out elsewhere by Neil Clarke and Nick Mamatas, and noticed elsewhere, men do tend to submit a lot more than women do, but most of it tends to be really bad. It’s perhaps a generalization but the quality of the submissions from women tends to be way better, and therefore if the proportions are more in line with what’s going on your lineup should be more balanced. The big question is what proportion is that? At FM/LS we’ve been getting about 30%-40%, and for all I know that may be the best anyone can get. But out of that it hasn’t been difficult to get balances, and if the slush proportion was off, it wasn’t hard to do outreach to female-and -poc friendly venues to help bring in more diversity into the system. Everyone benefits.

      • Farah says:

        Someone last year looked at slushpiles and discovered significant differences between submission spread to different magazines. The UK’s best known magazine reported a few years ago that only one in ten of the submissions it received were from women, I don’t know if this has changed.

        • Cheryl says:

          I suspect a feedback loop. If a venue publishes very few women, it is likely that women will look at it and think they have a better chance submitting elsewhere, hence perpetuating the problem.

        • Nick Mamatas says:

          That simply means that editors should solicit AND read unsolicited submissions.

          It’s not that difficult. It really, really isn’t. (Dare I point to HAUNTED LEGENDS as a successful example of this dual method?)

        • sniffy says:

          I think that this is the great ignored question in the ongoing gender-in-SF debate. The almost always unspoken assumption is that the gender split *should* tend towards 50-50. But, for starters, are women writing and submitting as many stories as men?

          And a (difficult to answer) politically incorrect followup: is there a systematic bias toward *quality* of writing between genders? Among female submitters, are a disproportionate number semi-literate bored housewives pulling material from their high school journals? Contrariwise, are most male submissions unreadable dreck fished from adolescent power fantasies? Any neutral editors care to opine?

          It’s not fashionable to ask after such things, but as a social science researcher I know better than to assume that there *aren’t* demographic differences where there possibly can be. And there *are* gender differences, overall, in style and tone and subject matter choices. Among the established SF readership, female-penned stories are not necessarily fungible with male-penned tales.

          As such, the goal should be expansion of SF in general, not equivalence within each publication. Some will tend more heavily male and others more heavily female. Some will split relatively evenly.

          Though I’m happy to see Cheryl’s quantitative approach, I think we actually need to look at individual publications, and at trending. Those publications with 25% (or 50%) women authors–are they new(er)? Are they growing? Even though the overall numbers are still bleak, are female-heavy venues expanding more rapidly than the mean? (And if not, why not? Does the market not support those editorial choices?)

          • Farah says:

            Ah, the old myth of male and female styles.

            Read any James Tiptree Jr have you?

          • Cheryl says:

            I didn’t look at individual companies, or editors, or trends a) because that would only start another flame war, and b) because I don’t think there is enough data to justify such analysis.

            Remember Cheryl’s Second Law of Fandom:

            “One data point indicates a dangerous trend that must be resisted; two data points indicate a sacred and holy tradition that must be preserved.”

            We are not good at statistics, so I try not to encourage the tendency to infer profound conclusions from minimal data.

          • Nick Mamatas says:

            In my experience at Clarkesworld, in which I read a few thousand stories over the course of two years, I did find a systematic bias toward quality in one gender over another—the bias was in favor of women. They were better writers.

            So why do women’s stories appear less often? My understanding, as a close reader of anthologies, is that most anthologists really aren’t very good and are unable to tell a good story from a bad one. Which is fine, one supposes, as most of them just get the gig because they will work for cheap, and thus put no more effort into their work than an afternoon’s worth of chatting with their mediocre buddies would involve.

            It is unfortunately not “politically correct” to say such things, but it’s so. The average anthologist is nine-tenths suck-up to midlisters believed to be famous, and one-tenth paper pusher.

      • Rose Fox says:

        Sean, same question: what are the woman-centric and POC-centric venues where you do that outreach?

        • Sean Wallace says:

          I know that Cat Rambo did a lot of outreach, when it came to FM, but off the top of my head there’s groups like Broad Universe or conventions like Wiscon or simply reaching out to authors. Maybe it’s a bit more effort, but well worth it.

          • Sean Wallace says:

            There’s also The Carl Brandon Society, which has helped me in trying out authors that I might not have come across before.

    • Jed says:

      Quick reply to David:

      The slushpile-ratio argument is the one that’s gotten the most credence in recent years; in most cases, it’s used dismissively, by editors who say “There isn’t a problem, because what we publish has about the same gender ratio as what we receive.” This is usually followed by comments that add up to “Really, the gender ratios in the field are the fault of female writers; if they submitted more, we would publish more. Not our problem, and nothing we can do about it.”

      So I’m glad to see your use of that idea to recognize that there are things editors can do to help with the slushpile-ratio problem as well. Thanks!

    • Rose Fox says:

      David, can you share some ideas for woman-centric and POC-centric places to advertise calls for submissions? I suggested wider advertising in my blog post the other day and a couple of people asked for specific venues where that advertising could happen.

  7. Ian Sales says:

    My anthology Rocket Science, which opens for submissions on 1 August, is entirely open, and I plan to record stats on all the submissions I receive – rejections and acceptances. Although it’s only one anthology, and a hard sf one at that, I hope it will present a useful and interesting picture.

    I should also note that I’ve been encouraging people to submit something, and that the anthology is open to both fiction and non-fiction.

  8. Jed says:

    Thanks for posting this!

    I only have time to comment on one specific thing right now: the split by editor gender does surprise me, because in the Sue Linville articles about magazines ((http://www.strangehorizons.com/2007/20070820/0women-publish-a.shtml) and (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2007/20070820/1women-update-a.shtml)), female editors were publishing roughly the same percentage of stories by women as male editors were (and sometimes lower).

    Whenever this topic comes up, people say “Well, obviously if there were more female editors then they’d publish more stories by women and there wouldn’t be a problem,” but as far as I can tell (both from Sue’s data and my own anecdotal experience) that has not historically been true in the publications I’ve looked at and heard about.

    But Sue’s data (and my anecdotal non-data) focuses on different kinds of publications than you’re looking at. Specifically, Sue looked at (a) American publications that are (b) magazines rather than anthologies, and that (c) mostly mix fantasy and science fiction. (Although a couple of them focus more heavily on science fiction than fantasy.)

    So now I’m really curious about the difference between what I’ve seen before and what you’re showing here. I wonder if, for example, British female editors are more likely to publish more stories by women than American female editors are. Or if female anthology editors are more likely to publish more stories by women than female magazine editors.

    Any thoughts?

    To be clear: I’m not denying or objecting to or criticizing your data, and I’m very pleased that you’re providing this data. I’m just surprised by the difference between this data and other data I’ve seen, and so I’m wondering about what’s causing that difference.

    • Cheryl says:

      Magazines get content largely from submissions, and generally only bother to chase content if they are short. The publications here are, I suspect, invitation-only anthologies, and even the submission-based ones allow the editor time to chase content if she’s not getting what she wants. Entirely speculation, of course.

    • Sean Wallace says:

      What British female editors?

    • Sean Wallace says:

      Personally I found Linville’s analysis to be rather limiting, actually, for a number of reasons: One, what were the gender rates for other magazines in the field? If they were higher, then that might suggest that authors were avoiding markets. Two, how often were men resubmitting at a higher rate than women, from the slush samples that were given to Susan? In other words how many of that was unique? We find at FM/LS that it can skew things dramatically, if one guy is hammering us with stories every seven days, whereas someone else can submit once. It will throw things off, a lot. Three, Linville did not take into account the industry-driven expectations of the market, whether you are a male or female editor, especially if you’re a product of that time period. So, this might be a bit of a hot potato, but within those constraints, female editors may not have as much freedom as you might think. As such I think Linville’s data is of interest, but without more context, I don’t feel at all comfortable with its conclusions.

  9. kev mcveigh says:

    Interesting and useful figures. I assume most of the samples are too small to note whether any individual publisher has a record of note in either direction?

    I like your last paragraph about contacts. If I want to approach X who I’ve barely met for a project, I could try an e-mail on spec, but maybe I know that you know her better, I could ask you to forward an approach. It doesn’t seem to me to be a major addition to the editor’s workload compared to the potentially increased response.

  10. Rose Fox says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    Your statement of “I had been sent some data” is a bit mysterious. If you can’t reveal who sent it to you, and you can’t reveal the titles of the books, can you at least confirm that you spot-checked the data (comparing the listed information to published TOCs, confirming that authors’ sexes are correctly listed, and so on)? If you’re going to put such an emphasis on numbers but not actually publish them, I think you at least need to stand behind them and say “I’ve verified these”. Otherwise there’s no guarantee that whomever sent them to you isn’t just making them up.

    • Cheryl says:

      Rose:

      I appreciate your desire for transparency, but this is a bit deraily.

      I refer you back to what I said above. I did find some errors in what I was sent, which implies I did check some of it. I don’t have the time or resources to do the entire job myself. Equally I said above that I’m sure there are still errors. This stuff is hard to get right, and even if you think you have done it right someone can still quibble with your definition of science fiction.

      What I am confident of is that any errors are not going to shift the averages more than a few percentage points, which means that the basic story will still be there. I am resisting making any further inferences from the data because I don’t think there is enough data for anything more fine-detailed to be robust.

      Also I’m keen to get away from this idea that if you can find the smallest error in a piece of research that immediately proves a) that the person who did the research “lied”, and b) that the conclusions of the research must be wholly false. Real life is fuzzy, and error prone, and we should get used to that.

      • Rose Fox says:

        It’s sort of the other way around: my desire to discuss the data, and the conclusions you’ve drawn from it, has been derailed by the unavailability of the data.

        As Jay Lake likes to say, reality has a liberal bias. Releasing the hard numbers should only bolster your case. I certainly can’t see how it would invite more criticism than this post already does. Anyone who wants to say “See, this proves women are biased toward women and shouldn’t be allowed to edit anthologies!” can do that with your statistics. Anyone who would say “The data is useless because these books aren’t SF” will instead say “The analysis is useless because we don’t know which books she’s talking about”. Anyone who would nitpick data can nitpick the lack of data.

        As for error-checking, why not crowdsource it? Release the data you have and ask people to email you with error reports and addenda, or put it up on a wiki someplace with a few people keeping an eye out for vandalism. This would be much faster and more efficient than any one person taking on the entire job.

        I very much share your goals, as I think you know. That’s why I want everything to be aboveboard. Keeping the data under wraps just makes it look like you’re hiding something, or protecting editors and publishers at the expense of educating readers (a choice I would disagree with).

  11. Brian Dolton says:

    Thank you enormously for bringing both a sense of balance and a serious analysis of a significant amount of data to this debate. It’s overdue, and much appreciated.

  12. Pingback: Editorial: Women in SF, and Diversity in Anthologies « The World SF Blog

  13. Debbie Moorhouse says:

    What’s a neutral editor? Eh. A lot of submissions by men are dreck, in my experience while I was reading slush at GUD, anyway. I started a policy of rejecting out of hand anything that used words like ‘whore’ ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ without what I felt was sufficient justification, in context. It made slushing much easier. But a lot of submissions by women were bad, too. Most of the submissions we got were bad bad bad. I think our acceptance percentage was so small it scared people. (Duotrope says we rejected 93.6%. I think it was higher, but I no longer have access to the Nifty Stats.)

    It’s my impression that we got more bad ones from men, but who knows? Maybe we just got more from men, fullstop. We never tracked submissions by gender. So many people had usernames that weren’t sex-specific that it would have been almost impossible without a ticky box that probably nobody would have ticked. So I have no idea how our final choices reflected the gender split. It would be useful to know.

  14. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Cheryl–Nice start!

    It’d be useful to see the breakdown by original anthology versus reprint anthology, and further what you might call general reprint anthologies versus what you’d call “historical” reprint anthologies. As Farah and I have discussed, some historical reprint anthos, depending on what they cover, may be selecting from a much smaller pool of women writers.

    Another useful breakdown, if the data exists, is which anthos had open reading periods and which don’t. If I missed something on that above, apologies.

    Also, our pirate anthology is not necessarily SF, but it did include SF stories, so there may be some murkiness in terms of what’s SF and what’s not when considering some anthologies.

    (Just FYI–When Ann and I edit together, it shouldn’t be assumed Ann likes more of the submissions we take from women than I do. This isn’t the case.)

    JeffV

    • Cheryl says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Jeff.

      As I have noted elsewhere, I have neither the time nor the resources to do this sort of data gathering myself. I’m just the useful idiot that everyone can hate because I published it.

      I do think, however, that with the small amount of data we have, any further subdivision is in danger of getting sample sizes to small to be meaningful.

      My sympathies to you and Ann. I am sure people make all sorts of assumptions. That’s one of the reasons I don’t want this associated with specific people.

      • Jeff VanderMeer says:

        Re assumptions…the most irritating and stressful for Ann is when people render her invisible on the projects we do together. I know I have a larger online presence, but that doesn’t seem to account for all of it. Our projects are joint projects, and sometimes when I’m busy writing a novel, it’s more like 60-40 work-wise.

        Ann finds it inexplicable that she’s not listed on the Wikipedia entry for SF/F editors while I am, and I find it inexplicable as well. And depressing.

        JeffV

  15. DMS says:

    “Having said that, if someone out there has the time and ability to check the data and gather more, I’d be delighted to hand this over.”

    Depending on how long you’re willing to wait, I can find enough time to do that.

  16. That’s fascinating: thank you. My feeling is still — as you suggest — that the problem lies at least in part in market perception, that here in the UK there is still a strong feeling that sf = boys’ stuff, and that boys will only read boys. Certainly, as a writer, I have tended to feel discouraged from submitting to particular magazines as they tend to publish more men (and the women they publish are most often already Names, not new writers).
    Now, that’s my issue: inhibited writer is inhibited. But there is also a social context saying ‘girls less welcome’, and that has been my experience in many writers’ workshops in my pre-professional day.
    Nearly 90 years ago Virginia Woolf wrote about how women are systematically and casually excluded from things by custom, practice and thoughtlessness. The nature of the latter has changed, but my sense it that’s it’s still there. Women have tried to address this — I’m thinking of the Women’s Press sf line, which did, I think, publish a few anthologies. But they lacked the necessary depth of financial backing to promote as hard and as long as it would have needed to make the change. And I think that’s still in operation, too: there is believed to be less money in publishing women’s sf, so it’s less likely to be published, so it makes less money, so it’s seen to sell less well, so less is published and so on and on.
    We still need that room of our own and that financial competence that lets us start from something even remotely like a level playing field.

    • Cheryl says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Kari. However, I’m getting a strong message from other people that anything that smacks of “women’s press” will automatically be labeled “feminist” and, as Gwyneth said on the BBC, being labeled “feminist” is career suicide if you want to write SF. It’s not just people in the UK telling me that.

      • I’ve heard that, too. It’s becoming a modern equivalent of the banning of women from the college or whatever. Labelling is one of the fastest ways to exclude while seeming to be inclusive.

    • sniffy says:

      How many adults really make the “[males] will only read [males]” argument? Personally I don’t even look at author names when I’m reading SF magazines or anthologies. I’ve made a loose commitment to read the title, and so I do.

      Now what’s interesting to me are the stories that I read which I consider great–the ones I would put in an anthology. I find that those stories tend to be weighted about 2-to-1 male/female.

      And though Farrah won’t believe it, you could hand me a new SF anthology or collection, remove the bylines, and I’d be able to identify which stories were written by men and which by women with about an 80% success rate–often within the first few paragraphs. I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s not a thing I consciously try to do; it happens much the way you unconsciously gender label a stranger’s voice over the phone. Sometimes you’re wrong–but not usually.

      Now what does this mean? I’m not really sure. If we assume that the stories I read are less than one-third female-penned, the (very rough) numbers imply that I actually prefer women authors to male. If what I read is more 50/50, it implies that I have a mild preference overall for male authors.

      Which is where my interest in trending and variance comes in to play. I agree with Cheryl that explicitly female labeling is not the path to success, but there is definitely room for individual venues to tilt one way or the other.

      What would be *really* interesting would be to look at whether or not women (who are unknown to editors) who use male pen names get different publication results than obviously female names. That would be the data to end much of this hypothesizing. Alas, even if all such data were perfectly available, there probably aren’t enough numbers there to make a strong statistical claim.

      • Cheryl says:

        So someone who doesn’t agree with your blinkered view of the world is not an “adult” eh?

        Look, if you want to sit there in a pit of denial, that’s fine by me, but the idea that men don’t buy books by women is pretty much a rule of thumb in the publishing business. See this post, for example. It contains an example of a different genre in which women writers have great difficultly getting published at all unless they agree to adopt at least a gender-neutral pen name. You telling me that I’m childish for believing this comes across as about as stupid as telling me I’m childish for believing that the earth orbits the sun.

        I’m perfectly prepared to accept that it might not be true for you, but arguing that something cannot be generally true because it is not true for you is not good logic.

        • sniffy says:

          Cheryl, I used the word “adult” to eliminate the ambiguity of Kari’s original phrasing of “boys”. I wasn’t sure if she was actually referring to minors or just using slang to refer to all males. I wanted to speak specifically about legal adults. I would have thought that my clearly indicated substitution of “males” for “boys” in the subsequent quote made that clear.

          I find it astounding how quickly nearly all parties in this debate are to assume the worst intentions of others (or should I say “the Other”? Would you have responded the same way to a woman making the statements I did?*). Rather than take my comment literally, at face value, you misread some sneering intent into it that frankly didn’t exist. So you spend 90% of your followup spewing invective at me (“blinkered”, “pit of denial”, “stupid”).

          Your final sentence is at least civil, but it doesn’t seem like a response to my comments. I’m willing to accept the gender bias claim, and am interested in using the numbers to help understand why and what to do about it. I agree with Rose Fox that the truth will set you free, and your reluctance to allow more detailed analysis of the numbers is curious. I really don’t have a dog in this hunt–I just want all the numbers so I can understand it better.

          Yet somehow I’m the one with bad logic.

          [*Which brings us full circle to the question of whether the gender of an author makes a difference after all, even when it “shouldn’t”. Awkward…]

          • Cheryl says:

            Oh please! You don’t get to start a comment with a sentence like that and not have people assume you meant exactly what the words say.

            After all, you wouldn’t have picked the pseudonym of “sniffy” if you hadn’t come here intending to sneer at people, would you?

            Still, coward hiding behind a pseudonym lecturing me on transparency… Yes, that works, doesn’t it?

          • I was using ‘boys’ in the slang sense.
            Sniffy, I’m glad to hear you don’t care about the gender of the writers you read. Sadly, however, this isn’t about individual perceptions — maybe it should be, but the economics of publishing don’t work that way. It’s a conservative numbers’ game: publishers want to make profits. Many of them are also part of very large, very financially driven organisations. The policies and buying decisions are very often set by the finance divisions, not the editors. And the finance divisions tend to go for safe options. This means that the people making the decisions may well know nothing about the genre itself. And they may not care: what they want is to make money. So they will tend to endorse safe options that play to their assumptions (and it *is* a common popular assumption that sf is for men — mainly, indeed, for young men) and reject things that look risky to them.

        • Farah says:

          I just went to Gender Genie and put in a sample of your writing and two samples of mine.
          You:
          Words: 91
          (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

          Female Score: 152
          Male Score: 166

          Me writing an emotional piece:

          Words: 108
          (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

          Female Score: 126
          Male Score: 94

          Me writing a piece about hard sf:
          Words: 269
          (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

          Female Score: 208
          Male Score: 457
          The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

          Note just *how* certain it becomes when I switch to a hard sf topic.

          You might have a long chat with Robert Silverberg about the wisdom of making assumptions about gender.

          I will also happily accept a bet from you about KJ Parker. I used “he” in my book at the request of Parker’s editor but the last two books have been published implying a female pronoun would be appropriate. This may be correct, or it may be an attempt to undermine rumours that Parker is Tom Holt, who knows?

          I am a teacher: I can spot plagiarism a mile away, but I can only spot gender on anonymous scripts if I recognise the writing style of a particular student.

          Also: you would be a lot more credible if you had noted how my name was spelled.

          (I only know you are male because you said so: if anything I’d say the claim that you can “intuit” gender relies quite strongly on a trait often understood as feminine.)

  17. A great article, leading to a fascinating discussion. It prompted me to do a quick rundown of submissions to our new anthology, Gods of Justice, published in the US and edited by a man and a woman (myself). This is a superhero anthology, which some might call marginal SF, but it’s certainly a genre that is considered overwhelmingly a boy’s club in its fandom, so it seems to fit in this discussion. (If I’m wrong about that, feel free to ignore the rest of my comment).

    Overall, our submissions ran about 55% male, 45% female (with about 25% of the total from overseas, though none from the UK), and the final anthology came pretty close to that gender balance as well. I don’t think this was necessarily achieved by having a balanced editorial team. Kevin and I certainly have quite different tastes in the kinds of stories we like, but when we each listed our picks for the book, our lists coincided very closely. So I think it was a matter of getting a good balance in our submissions, which included quality stories from both men and women to choose from.

  18. This is really useful.

    I will link — with thanks – and with that request to stay on topic in comments.

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  20. Neil in Chicago says:

    Thanks.
    The breakdowns by editor gender grabbed me the most. At a minimum, it suggests directions for further research.
    One of my immediate reactions to this sort of thing is that there are so many preceding filtering factors that it’s difficult to remove other influences from the data. (Going back to “science isn’t for girls” in grade school.) But the breakdown by editor gender doesn’t have this problem.
    I hope a future researcher interviews some of the more prominent anthologists to see what they have to say.

  21. Cheryl, thank you for this data. Very useful. And I totally agree with your 3 points at the top.

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