The summer edition of Mslexia crashed through my door this morning and I’ve been reading it over lunch. There are several things worth noting.
First up there’s an excellent article on horror fiction by Sarah Pinborough. It includes a very positive review of Feed (and therefore a mention of the Hugos).
Also Bidisha interviews Sarah Hall, whose The Carhullan Army won a Tiptree. Bidisha is careful to use the term “speculative fiction” and to compare Hall only to respectable writers such as Margaret Atwood and PD James, rather than, say, Ursula Le Guin or Joanna Russ. Hall, however, is having none of this. She says, “I was really embraced by the science fiction community and invited to loads of conventions. It was great.” Thank you, Sarah!
Finally there is a long feature article by Suzi Feay about the lack of new lesbian writers in the UK. Feay is judge for the Polari Prize, which is a debut writer award for LGBT-themed work. She says that they are having trouble finding any lesbians (or at least anyone who will admit to being a lesbian) whose works they can judge. In comparison there’s no shortage of books by and about gay men. Even trans writers are more common than lesbians (though of course some of those may be lesbians).
There’s a short version of Feay’s article on the Guardian website. The longer version in Mslexia has interviews and goes into more detail about possible structural issues in UK publishing that may make it difficult for lesbians to get published. It was all very reminiscent of recent discussions about how hard it is for women SF writers to get published in the UK. It is starting to sound like if there is any way in which women writers deviate from gender expectations then the UK publishing industry won’t take a risk on them. There are, of course, good reasons for that, and for why there are no small presses taking up the slack, but I won’t bore you with economics right now.
What I will do is make a quick survey of the SF&F community. Writing in the US we have Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Nicola Griffith, Kelley Eskridge, Caitlín Kiernan and Ellen Klages, to name but a few. There are plenty of gay male writers in the field too. In the UK we have Geoff Ryman, Patrick Ness and Hal Duncan. I’m struggling to think of a lesbian SF&F writer. (And my apologies if I have forgotten someone obvious).
Of course this year we’ll see a debut novel from Roz Kaveney, Rhapsody of Blood. I suspect that Polari will class her as a trans writer rather than a lesbian, though of course she is both. I’ve read some of the book and it is awesome. If all goes well I’ll get an ARC tomorrow. Here’s hoping that both the Polari and Green Carnation prizes take notice.