In The Guardian Again

In the wake of yesterday’s #DiversityInSFF campaign on Twitter, David Barnett rushed an article into The Guardian. He quoted from one of my recent blog posts about Worldcon.

The article didn’t go down that well. Mary Robinette Kowal was upset that David hadn’t talked to any women writers. This turned out to be a practical issue. David didn’t actually talk to anyone, he just quoted from what other people had said online. Sometimes you have to do that because the only way to get an article accepted is to deliver it in a tearing hurry while the issue is still hot. David has taken Mary’s complaint on the chin and promised to try to do better.

I spent most of the day doing stuff in Bristol and Bath, and haven’t had much of a chance to study the article until now. I’m pleased that David has managed to get the issue aired, but my impression is that the article was probably accepted because it appeared to paint the SF&F community in a bad light. As usual, there wasn’t nearly enough space to examine the nuances and subtleties of the issue.

Which reminds me of a point I’ll be making at the “bloggers have destroyed criticism” panel at WFC. One of the interesting things about the Internet is that there are no practical space restrictions. You can write very long and tightly argued posts. Some people do. It is the mainstream newspapers, and websites that emulate them, that hold to the “everything we publish online must be very short and simple because our readers have no attention span” philosophy.

8 thoughts on “In The Guardian Again

  1. Apparently nobody involved in WFC programming reads A Dribble of Ink or SFSignal’s more seriously academic content. I may disagree with Aidan Moher about the state of awards, but I will not deny he’s a fine critic.

    1. Someone on the WFC Board, whom you may remember from San Jose as he kicked up a huge stink there, thought it would be funny to put me on a panel, the basic premise of which is that people who write reviews online are morons. I doubt that he knows that SF Signal or Aidan’s blog exist.

  2. Good morning Cheryl,
    If you compare the women/men balance numbers cited by Kowal with the stats Julia Crisp cited for novel submissions received by Tor UK, the numbers don’t add up. Something is very wrong here, but I can’t put my finger on the exact reason why.

    1. Well, Mary did note that the UK had a worse track record than the US for publishing SF&F by women. Having lived in both countries, this does not surprise me.

      Also Tor UK is just one company, and may be an outlier. It is possible that there was a perception amongst women writers that they were less welcoming to submissions than other venues. If there was, I am sure that Julie and Bella are working hard to put that right.

  3. I would like to believe this is the case with Tor UK. Do you have any evidence for this?

    At the end of the day Tor UK received only 22% submissions for science fiction from women. This compares with with Kowal’s quote of 37% of novels being published by women from the Strange Horizon’s survey. A 15% difference is a heck of a lot to explain away by Tor UK being an outlier…

    1. No evidence at all. I’m just wary of looking at just one publisher.

      As to the difference between 22% and 37%, bear in mind that not that many books get published. That 15% difference may represent only 2 or 3 people.

      1. I totally agree that if the other publishing houses made their statistics available as Tor UK have, then we would be more certain about the ratio of women to men submissions. As it is I can only lay my hands on Tor UK’s for novels.

        It is still sad to think that effectively only two out of nine people submitting science fiction to Tor UK were women. This is as opposed to roughly a little over one on three science fiction books published in the UK being by women.

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