As we are approaching our first anniversary as contributors to Kirkus’ Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog, we’ve decided to celebrate by reflecting on this huge achievement. To us, this milestone is a huge achievement because this is Kirkus—one of the oldest, most prestigious review publications in the publishing world. It is a huge achievement because the Kirkus editors invited us to become regular contributors to this blog based on the content we produce on a daily basis—and have produced over the past five years—at The Book Smugglers.
And, as we cross the one-year threshold, we are thrilled to continue our weekly column here on the SF&F blog because we are dedicated to these genres and, above all, we are proud to be columnists for Kirkus as female fan writers of SFF.
Basically: We are women, hear us roar.
That said, we are NOT in any way the exception, because there are so many other wonderful and impassioned female fan writers of SFF out there today. This needs to be said, repeated, reinforced and celebrated.
Speculative Fiction is a field populated with a multitude of great female authors, fans and fan writers. And yet, this is a genre in which women continue to struggle for visibility every single day.
Men are constantly more celebrated in Best of Lists and Awards than women (in fact, just yesterday the UK’s most prestigious prize for Science Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke award, announced its all-male shortlist). Readers still decry a perceived (perceived being the key word here) lack of female writers, or claim they are gender blind and read only what is “good.” Of course, this strategy inevitably continues the vicious cycle of almost exclusively male authors comprising the lists of “good” books or prestigious award nomination shortlists. Lady Business recently posted the results to their (now annual) study called Coverage of Women on SF/F Blogs, measuring the visibility of women in SFF reviews and whether the gender of the reviewer impacts that visibility (spoiler alert: apparently it does). The reactions to the study are sadly predictable. But, they serve as evidence of what we are talking about here: the false notions that “men write more Science Fiction”; that publishing is not female-friendly; or that men will just read books that appeal to them and we can’t expect men to read “girly” books.
These arguments are flawed. There are plenty of women writing SFF, which includes categories like YA and middle grade too (it often makes us wonder why these two categories—both rife with female writers—are routinely discounted when talking about the SFF genre). Furthermore, stories are genderless so the idea that there are “books for men” versus “books for women” makes us impatient because it falls under the category of gender stereotyping.
That said, our aim here is not to point fingers or police anyone’s reading. We also do not want to imply that there isn’t a publishing problem (for example, the numbers of female SF writers with current contracts in the UK seems to be pretty dire, as evidenced by the discussions around the Clarke Award) because unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be case. Our point is this: There are an increasingly large number of existing, published female writers who are not receiving a proportional amount of coverage in SFF awards, reviews or media—which leads to the same, repeated, flawed arguments that we’ve stated above.
So, with all this in mind, we choose to celebrate our first anniversary as Kirkus columnists by talking about ongoing female contributions to SFF, and want to bring to your attention two events that are taking place this month:
Author and blogger Harry Markov is dedicating this month to female genre creators in an event called “Women In Genre”—a personal endeavor to shed light on 30 women in genre who have made a difference his life (and as an author). Beyond the personal scope of the project, Markov invites readers to participate, share their favorites and to take it to Twitter using the hashtag #WomenInGenre.
Similarly, Fantasy Cafe is back with its brilliant “Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Month”—a month long celebration, “highlighting women’s contributions to science fiction and fantasy, both as writers producing work in the genre of speculative fiction and bloggers sharing their love for the SFF books they read.”
As like last year, you can expect a range of guest posts during the event, including thought-provoking essays and lists of recommended reading. The inaugural post for 2013 (by Renay from Lady Business), talks about gatekeeping and about discovering the amazing writers in the genre. This post opens the floor to everybody by asking for us all to list our favorite female writers. The aim is to create a huge recommendation list. To contribute, simply fill out this form. At the beginning of May, Fantasy Cafe will release the final list, curated and organized, as a resource for everyone.
The one thing we want fellow genre fans and readers to take away is simple: Right now, women ARE writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: Let’s talk about them.