Women in SF: Chicken or Egg?

The UK has an excellent resource for women writers called Mslexia. It is always full of interesting advice for writers. Up until recently it is has been pretty crap as far as SF&F is concerned, but even that has changed. I saw my friend Juliet McKenna in there a while back, and they have Rhian Bowley blogging for them on SF&F issues now.

Why do I mention this now? Well last year the featured topic for their writing competition was “In the year 2212”. I sent something off to make sure that they got a decent level of response. I had no expectations of getting it published — you all know how crap my fiction is — but I figured that it was important that they knew people were interested.

Well, the rejection letter arrived today, and right up front it says, “We were disappointed that our postbag was so lean for this topic…”


What can you do? Mslexia has concluded, “it seems women are less interested in this subject matter then in other themes.” Maybe they are right. Maybe women writers in the UK know how little chance they have of getting published writing SF so they don’t bother, even in women-only spaces. Either way, the end result will be that Mslexia will be discouraged about doing SF-related features in future, and the lack of them will discourage their readers from being interested in SF. It’s a feedback system, locked into a downward spiral. I wish I knew how to break out of it.

6 thoughts on “Women in SF: Chicken or Egg?

  1. Ann VanderMeer actually judged that contest and wrote a piece about that subject for the magazine. I would add that she received what the mag editors deemed the top 20 or 30 entries and Ann received them without names on the submissions.

    1. Yes, they mentioned that Ann judged it in the letter. I don’t recall that being announced in advance, and I suspect that if it had been they might have got more submissions.

  2. Ann says the editors had similar results for horror and fantasy contests. I think next time they do one a massive signal boost is in order. Having read the mag–really great–it did seem more analogous to the very mainstream Poets & Writers (based on one issue) which might affect the level of entries from genre writers too?

    1. They certainly emphasize good writing, but they are not averse to talking seriously about romance and crime. My concern is that by not talking about SF/F/H much, and by sometimes being very poorly informed when they do, they are actively discouraging young women from writing in those genres.

  3. Yep–if they don’t devote space to it, and don’t get the word out to the right places, then they’re most definitely making low contest turn-out more probable. If they do do these things and there’s *still* low turn-out, then there’s definite evidence of other factors coming into play, having ruled out what might be terms emphasis and admin.

    A SF/F blogger certainly helps, I suppose.

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