Friday, June 3, 2011

I Got Your Women SF Writers Right Here!

Recently, the Guardian UK posted an article about “The incredible shrinking presence of women SF writers” in which they attempted to address sexism in science fiction:

Earlier this month Damien G Walter asked users to suggest the best novels in the genre, following on from the Guardian's special SF-slanted edition of its Saturday Review supplement.

The results went online last week, and displayed a great love for science fiction: more than 500 books, classic and contemporary, were suggested for inclusion. However, according to Seattle-based author Nicola Griffith, who did a bit of number-crunching on the stats, there's an overwhelming bias towards male authors.

Then SF critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan weighed in.

Anyway, regardless of whether there’s an issue with the UK or not, the issues raised by Nicola’s blog post, and the complaints I saw about it on Twitter this morning, still need to be addressed. Of course this is yet another post about invisibility and exclusion. It therefore ties in to a long history of complaints about such problems involving award short lists, anthology ToCs, guest lists for conventions (yes, you, Kapow!) and more recently the number of women reviewers, and number of books by women accorded reviews (overview here).

In the comment section of Cheryl Morgan’s post, Nicola Giffith made the following proposal: “To that end, I’d like to encourage everyone to use their platform to discuss one book/story by a woman this month: a Classic or an Unknown or a Young Turk, doesn’t matter.”

Upon reading that comment, I realized that the contributions of the science fiction romance community has been immensely significant in this regard. How many women authors do we discuss in one week, let alone a month? Unfortunately, SFR’s niche status seems to have made it all but invisible. Either that, or the bias against romance is once again rearing its ugly head.

While undoubtedly not intended, I couldn’t help but feel that women authors of SFR were themselves somewhat marginalized in all of the above discussions. To be fair, perhaps we share a responsibility in that if we aren't as vocal about the subgenre as we could be. Yes, a number of the women SF authors listed here and here have written stories blending SF and romance (e.g., Lois McMaster Bujold, Catherine Asaro—way to represent!), but it still seemed as if a whole segment of authors were missing. For example, there was no mention of Linnea Sinclair, Sandra McDonald, Kristin Landon, Susan Grant, Ann Aguirre, Gini Koch, Marcella Burnard, Ann Somerville, KS Augustin, Nathalie Gray, Ella Drake, and many, many more. Even a cursory glance at my SFR author list reveals a plethora of women SF writers.

Not only that, but with the advent of ebooks, the number of women writing SFR is growing, not shrinking.

Yes, some of the books fall more on the romance side of the continuum (and undoubtedly some of the authors would identify themselves as romance writers vs. SF ones), but from what I’ve been reading, the fact that the stories are hybrids doesn’t disqualify them from the “women SF writer” umbrella.

It’s important to acknowledge all women SF writers, whether they are published in print, digital, graphic novels, videogames, or other mediums. Whether they write traditional SF or mix it up with elements like romance, horror, or mystery. Whether the heat level is sweet, erotic, or somewhere inbetween.

Sci-fi romance authors are writing entertaining stories that encompass a wide variety of characters, plots, and settings. They write a mix of SF and romance across stories that the target audience wants. Not everyone will like it, and no one’s asking everyone to like everything, but we don’t have to like something in order to simply validate its existence.

With so many women SF writers, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you enjoy. What’s not to love about more reading choices?

So, who are some of the women SF writers you've enjoyed, either in the past or currently?

Joyfully yours,