Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Invisibility of SFR, Part II

This post is a continuation of my previous one in which I presented an example of the invisibility challenge facing science fiction romance.

Exhibit B: Authors of science fiction romance are often underrepresented or absent from "women of genre" lists

I saw a tweet regarding a post at Worlds Without End called 100 Women Authors Added for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. There have been several such "women of genre" lists circulating for the past couple of years, but I'm always glad to see another.

Lately I also peruse these lists to see if there are any authors of SFR present, in part to explore the possibility of cross-promotion purposes. Apart from the usual classic SF authors who have written romantic SF, I rarely see any names of the current batch of SFR authors in existence--especially digital-first ones.

This is another example of the invisibility challenge facing science fiction romance, namely, authors being overlooked and/or underrepresented in women-in-genre lists.

Now, I realize the curators of these lists can't include every last author. It's simply not practical. Yet the goal of the lists is to increase awareness of women genre authors, and a lengthy one is sure to make a significant impression.

I'm also guessing the curators are generally seeking non-romance SF authors (I'd sure love to be wrong). Perhaps they think that because a story combines SF and romance it belongs in the romance genre only. If that's the case, though, then what about all of the hybrid stories mixing SF and mystery? Not science fiction. SF and horror? Not science fiction. SF and fantasy/fantastical elements? Sorry, not science fiction. That kind of criteria would eliminate at least a third of such lists right there. 

Granted, there are SFRs with negligible science fictional elements. And a number of authors of SFR undoubtedly feel their books are more accurately categorized in the romance genre. All well and good.

But plenty of SFR titles straddle the genre fence in a significant way. Therefore, I believe SFR authors should be at least represented, and by more than just a handful of authors. These lists are supposed to be "women in genre," not "only women who write a narrowly defined type of science fiction/fantasy in the print medium." At least, that's my understanding of such lists.

In the Worlds Without End's list, I encountered a few familiar authors of SFR (familiar to me, at least): Ann Aguirre. Gini Koch. Sarah A. Hoyt. Wen Spencer. Sharon Shinn. Karen Lord. Sara Creasy. 

(The usual classic authors are present, i.e., Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey, Catherine Asaro, Kate Elliott, and C.J. Cherryh. But we all know they'll end up on these lists no matter what).

(If there are indeed newer authors on the list with published SFRs that I missed, feel free to let me know!)

But overall, SFR and especially digital-first authors are seriously underrepresented. Is it the romance bias rearing its ugly head again? Or is the sci-fi romance genre hidden so well these list curators have no choice?

We could also be encountering a digital-first bias. Dozens of authors release science fiction romances on a digital-first basis. Is it an unspoken rule that a pedigree--whether earned organically or paid for with marketing dollars--is required for "women in genre" lists?

At any rate, Worlds Without End put out another call for more authors. Their current goal is 175:

We’ve still got a long way to go in our quest for gender balance but this is nice milestone for everyone involved in the challenge.  Thank you all for your support of the WoGF!

So, what do you do when you reach a milestone?  You set out towards the next, of course!  I think we can reach 150 for sure so let’s move the marker out to 175 to make things interesting.  So many more authors, so little time.  Wish us luck!

Worlds Without End set up a forum for title suggestions (free registration required).

Relevant submission rules:

In anticipation of a few questions I'll just mention 2 things here to supplemnet the info on the WoGF page.

- Yes.  We will be adding more women authors all year.  If we get enough requests for a particular author we'll add them in.  No self published authors please.  (Unless they're established authors who are self publishing their work now.)  This is a quality control issue and a practical limit to the amount of time we have to make updates. [Emphasis mine]

According to a 10/1/13 forum posting, list compilation is delayed because of technical issues. Still, that doesn't mean we can't suggest authors or at least increase awareness at Worlds Without End that more SFR authors exist. Please consider nominating an author or three. Thanks for your support!
Joyfully yours,