A Meme That Won’t Die

Mainstream literary critics are always wringing their hands about something, it seems, and one of their favorite topics is the death of short fiction as an art form. This quarter, Mslexia has a feature on the subject. They did a survey of readers to find out the true state of the market. I helpfully filled it in, pointing at the huge amount of short fiction published in SF&F, and the wealth of talent that we have: Kelly Link, Kij Johnson, Liz Hand, Karin Tidbeck, and so on. Did any of this get into the article? No, of course not. The focus was all about how it is impossible to sell short fiction these days. You’d think that a feminist magazine would understand a bit about invisibility.

Still, they do have articles on SF&F these days. They make a point of mentioning them prominently on the cover. And when you look inside the promised article is hidden away at the back. This month, clearly taking its cue from last year’s fuss about how hard it is for women to get published in SF&F, there’s an article explaining how the field is a boom industry for women. It does quote a number of people, including Jaine Fenn and Trudi Canavan, though I somehow doubt that they were told about the general thrust of the article (ladies?).

Apparently, dear reader, we are just coming out of the Bad Times. The 1970s, as we all know, was a golden age for feminist SF. Then came the 1980s, and all that changed. What happened? Well cyberpunk obviously. Neuromancer hit the field like a freight train and women (Pat Cadigan being an honorable exception) seem to have had trouble getting on board. Mslexia, however, knows better. Here’s how Danuta Kean characterizes the science fiction of the 1980s.

… a slew of poorly-written and horribly packaged books by men that alienated a female audience — think busty space maidens with weaponry.

Yeah, that sounds like Gibson and Sterling doesn’t it? It’s OK, you can laugh, I did.

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