ccfinlay

Wow!

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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!

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Comments {74}

Erzebet YellowBoy

(no subject)

from: erzebet
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
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I'm in, assuming I can get something written. By the way, I subbed there once, got a rejection. Can't hurt to try again. I think the idea sounds like fun.


Besides. There'll be a Wiscon panel about it in 2009.


You crack me up. :)

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Nick Mamatas

(no subject)

from: nihilistic_kid
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
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But F&SF can only buy fiction that's been submitted to it.

Where on Earth did you get this absurd idea? F&SF, like any other magazine, can make specific solicitations. GVG tends not to do that, as he has said that he doesn't feel that he's very good at that sort of thing, but no, there are no actual obstacles to F&SF or any other magazine being assertive in developing content for its pages. F&SF apparently does just wait around hoping that the slush will bring good stories, but that's not the same as the magazine being limited to such a practice.

As far as 33% readers (based on an incomplete poll) and 25% submitters (based on the imperfect method of guessing gender from names -- where would "Bev Vincent" go on that list, for example?), given +/- 3% margins of error (about typical), the gap isn't all that huge.

That's just about what one expects for a magazine that caters to male audiences. When you say things like "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" you're positing the existence of a population so highly educated that they can divine the contents of a magazine without actually reading it, and without actually taking into account the positioning, cover art, price, and type of magazine it is. That latter group of attributes all point to a male audience.

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Liz

(no subject)

from: ammitnox
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC)
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I'm not a marketer, so I don't see how the price of F&SF points to a male audience. Can you elaborate?

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Meghan

(no subject)

from: megmccarron
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
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Hey, i'm obviously in. It'll be a good party.

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M.K. Hobson

(no subject)

from: mkhobson
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the mention. I have just un-Flocked my little rant, because it *is* rather silly to beat my chest and rattle my shield and yell "Rwor! Go be tough! Stab forks in people's eyes!" whilst hiding in green room. ;-)

M

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Sherwood Smith

(no subject)

from: sartorias
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
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Good. That was a good rant.

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Tansy Rayner Roberts

(no subject)

from: cassiphone
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
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Only 43? Add me to the list.

Tansy RR

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(no subject)

from: iagor
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Go, Charlie! Make more controversy! (some of us have things coming out, need the exposure) Wooo!

PS. The the angry and concerned: Good God. Don't take this so seriously. It's an excuse to band together and do something fun.

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mallory_blog

(no subject)

from: mallory_blog
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)
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Let's all trivialize together - it makes women brave, don't you know?

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Jenn Reese

(no subject)

from: jennreese
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
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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!

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C. C. Finlay

(no subject)

from: ccfinlay
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
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Jenn, I really like this. I quoted it up in the main block of my blog, with credit. Hope that's okay.

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Sherwood Smith

(no subject)

from: sartorias
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what it will prove, but why not set it as a goal? my own piece, a very quiet but very sfnal twist on one of Jane Austen's works, couldn't have more girl cooties if i printed it on Rainbow Brite paper in purple and I addressed it with a glitter pen, but hey, why not?

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pjthompson

(no subject)

from: pjthompson
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:40 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm thinking of subbing one that, among other things, contains Men-Stru-A-Tion. Not a chance in hell. :-)

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REudaly

(no subject)

from: reudaly
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to do MY part, besides, I've been challenged to come up with a good post-apocalypitic humor story (besides my inclusion in the YardDog Press Bubbas of the Apocalypse story)...

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pjthompson

(no subject)

from: pjthompson
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:36 pm (UTC)
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Count me in, Charlie.

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Kathryn

(no subject)

from: dancingwriter
date: Jun. 14th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
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I'm in--assuming I can get an old story revised or a new one written in time. I'm definitely making it a goal!

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Ben Peek

(no subject)

from: benpeek
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC)
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btw, i've got a post on the whole position of power thing here. you know, men organising women. might be of interest. first post on the blog, currently.

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(no subject)

from: lzernechel
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
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I talked about this Great Gender Debate with some of my friends today, and I discribed it as thus (which I feel was very clever, so I'm sharing):
Charlie's idea is similar to a melon rally. Melons everywhere come together, in one place, at one time, and shout out "Hey, look at us, we melons exist too!"
The problem I have with this, is yes, it furthers a cause. But when you look at a picture of a rally, all you see is a bunch of melons stuck on stick figures. Sure some have brown-melon hair, and some have yellow-melon hair, but it's all one big blurry melon festival and it's really hard to see, to really make out, one beautiful kiwi inside all them watermelons and cantalopes, and other... melons.
Sure, after the melon rally is over, people will look back and say, "Wow. That was some group of melons." The cause takes a step forward for a few days. But did the streets of Speculative Ficville need to be covered in melon seeds to prove this? I don't think so. I know melons exist. You know melons exist. Maybe we all agree more melons in the world would be better, but I don't have to be part of a melon rally to show this.
Instead, I'll buy more melons. And I'll talk to my neighbor about melons. And my neighbor will talk to theirs. And soon we're all buying more melons. And we'll write to our grocery sellers out there and demand more melons. And since they listen to money, they'll put more melons out there. And when I have a beautiful kiwi to sell myself, those same grocers can look at my kiwi and be like, "hey, that's an interesting kiwi, can we have it?" And I'll say, "Sure. Have my melons. I can grow more."

And that is the difference.
One is a blurry melon-head rally.
The other is a beautiful exchange of kiwi.

I think that clears up pretty much everything.

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Holly Black

(no subject)

from: blackholly
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
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I'm a little unclear on why it has to be one or the other. You can have a melon rally AND talk about melons and buy more melons and devour more melons or whatever. Also, unless I am mistaken, a kiwi isn't a melon, which is really complicating the metaphor for me.

I guess I thought the point was merely to refute the notion of "not enough stories being submitted by women." And a couple of steps forward for a couple of days doesn't seem like such a bad thing when the alternative appears to be the status quo. Even in the parallel world of melons.

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Porphyria

(no subject)

from: porphyrin
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
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What the heck.

It'll at least get me (re) writing again...

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Kathryn  - Kat - Allen

(no subject)

from: katallen
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 04:31 am (UTC)
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Yay!

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James Stevens-Arce

(no subject)

from: jim0052
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)
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Re: I know that Jim Van Pelt and Tobias Buckell have been subbing to F&SF for years without success.

I know I've been subbing to F&SF for more than three decades without success. So either there's a bias there against Hispanic writers, or against Caribbean writers (Tobey and I both hailing from said region), or against writers named Jim (Van Pelt and I both sharing that cognomen), or all three.

Or I may be way off base.

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Leah Bobet

(no subject)

from: leahbobet
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
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So either there's a bias there against Hispanic writers, or against Caribbean writers (Tobey and I both hailing from said region), or against writers named Jim (Van Pelt and I both sharing that cognomen), or all three.

I feel I can only respond with an exhortation to Fight the Power.

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Swan Tower

(no subject)

from: swan_tower
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 05:36 am (UTC)
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I don't have the time I would need to read the slew of responses you've provoked, but here's my own personal contribution to the data: I am female, I submit to F&SF, I have submitted to F&SF since the second short story sub I ever made (I don't quite recall why I sent that initial story to Dragon first), and I've never had any sense that I shouldn't continue to do so. I must admit that I'm not sure a "hundred women writers" day is an effective response, but I sub to F&SF just as often as I have something to send them. (For whatever that's worth, given that they have yet to buy from me.)

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tim_pratt

(no subject)

from: tim_pratt
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC)
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I've been submitting to F&SF for at least eleven years without success.

I think the storybombing is a good idea.

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Never mind the bollocks...

from: anonymous
date: Jun. 15th, 2006 10:25 am (UTC)
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...the figure "25% who submit stories" is the real problem.

How do we get more women to write science fiction?

The easy answer is: Do nothing. The number will rise by itself, as a side-effect of technological progress in society.

The complicated answer... well.

I'd never suggest Gordon Van Gelder should start a new magazine aimed ENTIRELY AT WOMEN WHO READ SF -- what a strange beast that would be -- but it would stand to logic that if a fiction magazine becomes more popular with women, then more women will try writing stories and sending them to said magazine.

But: why? The readership of magazines about hunting, fishing and guns is mostly male -- is that a problem?

The readership of Harlequin Romance books is mostly female -- IS THAT A PROBLEM?

Don't get me wrong: SF should not deter women readers. I often write stories with women readers in mind. And male SF readers need to get their prejudices jolted once in a while -- especially in a genre that is supposed to indulge in intellectual speculation.

But: what do you expect, people? Revolution tomorrow? Ain't gonna happen. The situation will change, but not because we make it so. It will change as the social and economic environment starts producing more women with a heartfelt interest in intellectual speculation.

I'm glad the female readership is at least 33% now -- it was probably much lower in the past...

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com




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