Monthly Archives: July 2013
It’s sad that women have to make this sort of music video. But well done, ladies, well done!
A song I like from singer Tori Kelly, called “Fill a Heart.” Kelly has opened for Jewel, etc. and is a young lady with a lovely voice who is working on a new album.
There has been some sad news recently, but it is still being digested, so instead, here are some other things:
1) J.K. Rowling has been outed as the author of the successful mystery novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Galbraith was supposed to be an ex-military cop writing about the improbably named ex-military detective, Cormoran Strike. The debut book came out in April to buzz and praise. A newspaper investigation, though, caught Rowling out very quickly. (No longer are we in an age when someone like Stephen King could masquerade as Richard Bachman for several years.)
My reaction to this is giggles. I can just imagine the compliments about the military manly manness of Strike and Galbraith in many reviews. Even better, the book was much praised for its writing. It also now makes a great birthday present for the hubbie, who loves Rowling. It’s rather funny this came out now as I just saw a university Quidditch team practicing this afternoon, my first time seeing people play it live.
2) I hate Chuck Wendig because he is annoyingly good at writing. Not only did he write the fantasy novel Blackbirds, and a number of other things I need to get to, (and design games, etc.) but he’s infernally good at writing pieces on his blog that you don’t want to read while drinking liquids near the keyboard. I had to put his blog on my blogroll, since I cannot possibly be putting up a link saying go read what Chuck wrote every other day.
But now I really hate him. I had on occasion taken some of the weirdest, most poetic content from spam marketing comments that I got on this blog and put them up as Spam Poetry with sometimes snarky commentary. So clever of me. But you know what Chuck has been doing for quite awhile apparently? Taken the weirdest search terms that people have supposedly used to find his blog and dissects them. He calls it Search Term Bingo. I can’t play this game because I mostly get search terms like “boy lost at comic convention” because I put up the photo of the boy who was lost at a comic convention talking to Wonder Woman and the Flash. I could make some up. I suspect that Chuck has made some of them up. But I don’t care because it’s funny and in that one column, he made about four different memes. So anyway, read that one and look up some of the others, and come to hate the brilliant Wendig as much as I do. Also, read Blackbirds.
3) Lionsgate, facing a vocal backlash at the launching of a film version of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, is trying to disassociate itself from Card, whose virulent views of gay people and fierce activism against their rights has come under fire, and hold a LGTB benefit in premiering the movie. This desperate move came after Card hamfistedly demanded to the media that no one protest boycott the movie or say mean things about his views anymore because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Prop 8, despite all the efforts of NOM, of which Card is a director. Lionsgate is being equally disingenuous, claiming that they didn’t know Card’s views before getting into the film. Given that he’s been doing his activism for twenty years or more, this seems unlikely.
People are either going to come to the movie or not. I won’t be, but have nothing against people who do go. Ender’s Game and sequel Speaker for the Dead are two very SF interesting novels (and libraries often have them if you want to check them out, which helps libraries.) Unfortunately the man who wrote them is not a very interesting person.
4) And a last bit of social consciousness for the day, which also just happens to be amazing spoken poetry, is a video by young British poet Hollie McNish called Embarrassed about breastfeeding, society and her own personal journey. Having been through what she’s gone through, all I can say is, well done, madame, well done:
A few days ago apparently, Julie Crisp, Editorial Director at Tor UK, put up a Tor blog post about how Tor UK is totally open to submissions from female authors, including of course hard SF, but they just aren’t getting as many submissions from women authors as from men. She even offers a handy chart of submission statistics to show this. She just wants to assure women authors that their submissions are welcome at Tor UK.
Which is great, and she seems very sharp and Tor is a highly effective publisher on both sides of the big ocean. But Crisp is nonetheless going ye old route of blaming the women for the systemic obstacles placed in front of them and for the choices of publishers like Tor UK. If the women would just step up, goes the argument, problem solved.
Except women authors trying to break in, who would mostly love to be published by Tor or Tor UK, know it’s not that simple. They have eyes. And what they see is SFFH publishers not publishing as many women, not promoting them as much as male authors, giving them feminized book covers or scantily clad ladies in leather, describing and marketing urban mysteries as paranormal romance, and so forth. In fact, Crisp couldn’t even manage to separate urban fantasy from paranormal romance on her submissions chart. And other editors in the field, as some explained to Crisp and Patty Jansen explained in her blog, are telling women quite clearly that they can’t sell and don’t want hard SF and other types of spec fiction from female authors.
Here, for example, is Tor UK’s book cover for female writer Leigh Evans’ contemporary fantasy The Trouble with Fate:
It’s given a delicate treatment of lacy trees and wolf silhouette with lovely colors of purple and cornflower blue against white, a partial of a woman’s face and the elegant cursive script. All of which says women’s novel or romance. You will never, ever see the cover of a contemporary fantasy novel by a man get a cover like this. And a large portion of the male fantasy audience (and some of the female audience,) won’t buy a book that looks like this, will assume it’s full of romance and of no interest to them (because men like to pretend they aren’t interested in romance while writing up a storm of it.) In contrast, here’s what Ms. Crisp gave her male author Mark Charon Newton’s book The Broken Isles:
Notice the difference? It’s not that either cover is bad (and both authors are excellent.) It’s that female authors tend to more often be given covers like Evans did, or the twisty, half-naked women, no matter what sort of story they are writing. They are marketed as women authors first, fantasy or science fiction or sometimes horror authors second, and their books are so frequently marketed as for women only. And that means that their ability to reach the widest possible audience is curtailed.
There are thousands of women authors trying to break into SFFH magazines and books, and when they see a real opportunity to do so, they pile in. But when publishers and booksellers show that the opportunity is not really there, then they are likely to go searching elsewhere. In suspense, back in the 1980’s, for instance, women writing thrillers were not getting the support or attention most of the time of their male counterparts. They had better luck in “cozy” amateur mysteries, which were considered lesser and got less attention and promotion. The rule was girls will read boy books, but boys won’t read girl books and so boy books were always better and got more money and muscle behind them. When a woman did well in harder suspense, it was often considered a fluke and a one-off, even in Britain.
Then Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton built success writing hard boiled thrillers, followed by some others. Women authors started pouring into suspense like the sea and publishers finally decided that they wanted them. (Whereupon some male authors and fans started grumbling that women were getting all the slots — which wasn’t true — and destroying the integrity of the field with their girl cooties and women characters lusting over men instead of the far more proper men lusting after women.)
The same thing happened in fantasy in the early oughts. Women in the 1980’s and 1990’s were in the minority when it came to contemporary fantasy. They instead pushed most of their efforts into secondary world epic fantasy. Charlaine Harris was rejected by both suspense and fantasy when she brought them a Southern small town mystery novel with vampires because they didn’t think they could sell it. When she did get it sold, it was published with a romance chick-lit style cover and first sold outside of SFF in general fiction. But the series did well and so did several other women in contemporary fantasy like Kelly Armstrong and Kim Harrison. Publishers decided they wanted the women authors and women authors rushed in because they knew they had a shot, whereas in secondary world epic fantasy, they were getting more and more shut out in favor of male authors.
At the same time, romance publishers were expanding paranormal romance lists. A lot of women went to romance so that they could write fantasy and get it published. The same with YA in the wake of Harry Potter. Women authors were long welcomed in children’s by teachers and school libraries, and so women came to YA in great numbers. So it’s not really a surprise that women make up the larger number of submissions that Tor UK gets for YA and urban fantasy and paranormal romance. That’s where they think they can get in because they see the publishers actually buying female authors and supporting them in those sectors. (And consequently, many males in the field or as fans have complained that female authors are taking all the slots — which isn’t true — and disrupting the integrity of the field with their girl cooties.)
So it’s not enough to simply say that women are welcome. You have to show it’s actually true out in the market. If Crisp seriously wants more women, she’s going to have to go get them, because far from having a welcome sign, the field in general has a “we will barely tolerate you” sign out. If the number of women submitting is smaller, that doesn’t mean that the number of acquisitions from those submissions has to go down. If publishers like Tor UK take more chances on women authors from the submissions they do get, they will extend their market and show women authors it’s worth it to submit because Tor might actually buy more than once in a blue moon.
And if the number of submissions from woman is too low, particularly in fields like hard SF, then publishers should be actively looking for women and soliciting them for submissions. Women do manage to publish short stories with magazines like Analog — go after them. This is what publishers used to do and I’m sure that Tor UK still does, but we also know publishers have less time to do that sort of searching these days. But if publishers really do want to improve the stats with women authors (and minority authors, etc.), aggressive searching is going to be necessary. The magazines have gone through this battle too, and the first response of a lot of editors was just like Ms. Crisp’s — that the problem was that women didn’t submit enough; that it was their fault and their misunderstanding. But Black Gate editor John O’Neill realized the fallacies of that approach after his initial defensiveness, as he talks about in his post “Solaris is Rising, Women Falling.” There are some good tips there if Ms. Crisp is serious about having her staff seek more female authors and putting behind them the same resources and marketing as the male authors.
This is a process. And how fast the process goes depends not on the authors but on the institutions — the publishers and the booksellers — to create the opportunities and to seek to expand their market. Otherwise only a very few women will attempt to beat their heads against what appears to be a pretty solid brick wall. So kudos to Ms. Crisp for taking the first steps to knock a brick out of the wall for her house.
But it’s not enough to simply say that women are welcome. You have to prove it. Prove it better. As the movie saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.”
Okay, so I was going to actually do a book post (yeah, I know, it’s remarkable,) but the day kind of got away from me, so here instead is a charming pfiffle, as our British friends might say. Apparently, loyal fans of the defunct but much loved SF show Firefly from Poland weren’t able to talk to the cast including Nathan Fillion at the San Diego ComicCon. So they sent him and the show a love letter from Poland, “A Signal From Poland: We’re Still Flying”:
Fillion liked the video and expressed a wish to visit Poland at some point. The Browncoats there jumped on this and did a totally awesome fan video, inviting him to come see them, entitled “We’re Waiting, Captain!”:
So enjoy, and SFF fans are going to have to work harder now to impress us.