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Jun. 14th, 2006 | 04:44 pm
I expected some response to my last post, but... wow.
At this point, it'd be impossible for me to do a whole round-up of the reactions, but I want to hit the major arguments against it. nihilistic_kid suggests that my idea for a submissions bomb is misguided because F&SF is a men's magazine. mallory_blog is worried because the whole thing just makes her feel hinky. borneman states that it's unnecessary because, statistically, there is no proof of bias. The whole idea makes lzernechel, and a lot of her readers, very, very angry and she'll have no part in it. And mkhobson wrote a brief and powerful essay about kicking down the fucking doors that never mentions gender at all. It's f-locked, so not everyone can read it. But you should. On the fact-gathering side, tanaise is taking a poll to see if there are differences between the ways that men and women writers submit.
So. F&SF still doesn't strike me as some exclusive bastion of masculinity. (I also think ideas of masculinity and feminity are very fluid in the educated population that makes up the readership of short spec fic, so much so that these kinds of claims feel meaningless to me. But that's another debate.) Yeah, sure, I could be wrong. But around 33% of F&SF's readers are women. That's one out of every three readers, people. Does Men's Health have that many women subscribers? I could be wrong about F&SF though.
Let's say that F&SF tends towards more masculine stories, whatever that means. Trends does not = exclusive. They've also published, during Gordon's rein, for a few examples out of many, "Magic for Beginners" by Kelly Link, a couple stories by Maureen McHugh, most of the ouevre of M. Rickert including "Journey into the Kingdom," and a whole issue devoted to the work of Kate Wilhelm. I would consider all of these as examples of what Amy Hanson calls the "calmer stories, more introspective stories" that she says women prefer. (And this again, is a whole 'nother debate. Do Yoon Ha Lee's stories or Pat Murphy's dragon story not count as stories by women because they have action in them?) In other words, even if F&SF publishes a fair number of hairy-chested boy's -- and girl's -- own adventures, it's hardly a one-note market.
But F&SF can only buy fiction that's been submitted to it. And in 2002, only 25% of submissions to F&SF were from women. So there's already a gap between women readers and submissions from women. And the anecdotal evidence here and elsewhere is that women writers who are selling elsewhere stop subbing to F&SF or never start in the first place because they perceive a bias, so that gap seems likely to grow.
Still, why do a submissions bomb? It can't really "prove" anything in a scientific sense.
Here's what it does do. One writer can simply fail to connect with one editor, no matter how much they submit. I know that Jim Van Pelt and Tobias Buckell have been subbing to F&SF for years without success. Maybe they'll step up here and give some hard numbers. So it's hard to learn much from a sample of one. But if you get a bunch of writers, representing a wide range of voices and styles, submitting all at once, you get a bigger sample. The more people in the sample who are publishing elsewhere, the more you control for publishability. My theory is, you give an editor enough good work and he has to say yes to some of it. A lot of feet together can kick down any door.
Maybe Gordon finds a story or two he loves that he would never have seen otherwise. Maybe some of you get sales you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Or finish stories you wouldn't have finished that you go on to sell someplace else. Maybe we find out there's gender bias. Let's see.
Thanks to the 43 of you who've already said you'll send in a story on August 18th. You. All. Rock. Anybody who wants to jump in, there's still two months to get a story ready. It should be fun, no matter what happens. And maybe the submissions bomb'll blow the gap closed.
Besides. There'll be a Wiscon panel about it in 2009. Don't miss it.
ETA: jennreese said this in the comments below, and I think it's worth quoting in full as a better perspective than the one I've been able to express so far:
I'm not convinced that a bunch of women submitting stories to F&SF all at once is the best way to get more of our stories bought, or to prove any sort of meaningful editorial bias or unbias... especially since there will likely only be a few slots for "newish" or "unknown" writers open at the time anyway.
I'm thinking of this submission day more as activism. It's a positive way to raise awareness of an issue that troubles many of us -- in terms of both what GVG is buying and why women aren't submitting their stories more often. It's not a protest, but a rally.
We need to write more, submit more, and aim higher. Go, team!