…how’s that for a clickbait title?
So there was a community post on Buzzfeed today–although as far as I’m concerned that makes no difference whatsoever–that listed 39 SF/F/H books coming out this month. Oh yay, I thought, as I went to see what was on the list. And then I noticed it. Noticed that there were a lot of male names and that the preponderance of the titles were of a–how do I say this?–of a more apparently literary bent than specifically genre in terms of their covers and blurbs. Did some counting. Ranted on Twitter. Did a bit of very shallow searching on Amazon (seriously, their advanced search is pretty good for casting a wide net with a few specific criteria) and came up with a lot of speculative fiction written by women. 57 titles, in fact.
Got home from work and did some more tabulating.
Of the 39 titles listed in the Buzzfeed post, there were 45 unique author names (one name appears twice).
Seven of these titles were anthologies. Two were edited solely by women, three by a mixed-gender editorial team, and two solely by men. Okay, that’s not completely terrible except: on two of the mixed-gender editorial teams, the female name appears last. Which can give the appearance that they were not the primary anthologist working on the book.
So of the 32 remaining books. Three were non-fiction, including–inexplicably–a biography of Tennessee Williams. One of the novels is an reprint omnibus and another is a graphic adaptation. All the YA titles are by men. Of the 29 novels/single-author collections, twelve are by women.
I know, by now you’re all saying, “Natalie, aren’t you making a really big deal out of a Buzzfeed listicle?” Sure. And the reason for that is pretty simple, actually. Buzzfeed drives a massive amount of traffic–their stuff is eminently shareable and the fact that so few women are included–and so few writers of color, too–shapes the conversation. These sorts of easily shareable meme-units contribute to women and other marginalized people’s invisibility within the genre(s). A list that a casual SF reader posts to their Facebook page, that might be the only list of SF/F/H titles that some people may see that week or month.
This list can send a few messages–it draws lines around who is and is not included in the genre. What kinds of stories–and readers–are acceptable. Notably absent are urban fantasy and paranormal romance titles. I wonder why?
The compiler of the list, Andrew Liptak, is himself an anthologist and editor. And he’s writing a history of science fiction so one would think he’d be more aware of this issue and the ongoing discussion around it. I am really saddened that this list is so heavily weighted towards male writers. A quick look at Liptak’s bibliography shows that he’s extremely well-read in a few specific subgenres of SF/F/H and this may be a contributing factor to the books he’s selected for this listicle. However, he’s not writing just for readers of his preferred subgenres, but for all of Buzzfeed’s audience. Which I think we can safely assume is quite diverse.
So, back to my experiment with the advanced search tool on Amazon to see how many SF/F/H books written by women I was able to find that were being released in September. I’m including a handful of reissues and some short story collections and one non-fiction title. These are in no particular order and I’m sure some of them aren’t very good. I also excluded self-pub titles on the grounds that I don’t know very much about that segment of the market to be confident that the titles aren’t 20 pages of story for $2.99. But there are certainly more than 14 SF/F/H books solely authored or edited by women coming out this month.
You’ll note that a lot of these titles are urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Interesting, no?
- Son of No One, Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson, Patricia Briggs
- The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire
- Dark Blood, by Christine Feehan
- Night’s Honor, Thea Harrison
- Black Water: A Jane Yellowrock Collection, Faith Hunter
- The Witch with No Name, Kim Harrison
- Night Unbound, Dianne Duvall
- Wood Sprites, Wen Spencer
- Ghost Layer, Robin D. Owens
- Forged by Desire, Bec McMaster
- Dragon Age: Last Flight, Liane Merciel
- Love Bites, Angela Knight
- House Immortal, Devon Monk
- Dangerous, Jacquelyn Frank
- Wickedly Dangerous, Deborah Blake
- Beauty’s Beast, Amanda Ashley
- Doctor Who: The Official Quiz Book, Jacqueline Rayner
- Hunter’s Trail, Melissa F. Olson
- Fortunes of the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye
- Rogue’s Paradise, Jeffe Kennedy
- Chained by Night, Larissa Ione
- Priestess Dreaming, Yasmine Galenorn
- Battle for the Blood, Lucienne Diver
- Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress
- Stories of the Raksura: Volume One: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud, Martha Wells
- The Clockwork Dagger: A Novel, Beth Cato
- Species Imperative, Julie E. Czerneda
- The City, Stella Gemmell
- Generation 18, Keri Arthur
- The Gifted Dead, Jenna Black
- The Seventh Sigil, Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
- Summer Moon, Jan DeLima
- Watermark, E. Catherine Tobler
- Heir of Fire, Sarah J. Maas
- Trial by Fire, Josephine Angelini
- Shattered, Mari Mancusi
- The Jewel, Amy Ewing
- The Caller, Juliet Marillier
- Illusions of Fate, Kiersten White
- Mary: The Summoning, Hillary Monahan
- Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer
- The Vault of Dreamers, Caragh M. O’Brien
- Winterkill, Kate A. Boorman
- Of Monsters and Madness, Jessica Verday
- The Perilous Sea, Sherry Thomas
- Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan
- The Winter People, Rebekah L. Purdy
- Winterspell, Claire Legrand
- Tabula Rasa, Kristen Lippert-Martin
- Firebug, Lish McBride
- Falls the Shadow, Stefanie Gaither
- Silvern, Christina Farley
- Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, Christine Heppermann
- Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson
- Lark Rising, Sandra Waugh
- Color Song, Victoria Strauss
This list–a very fast, cursorily compiled list–makes me think of Joanna Russ and How to Suppress Women’s Writing:
The Double Standard of Content is perhaps the fundamental weapon in the armory and in a sense the most innocent, for men and women, whites and people of color do have very different experiences of life and one would expect such differences to be reflected in their art. I wish to emphasize here that I am not talking (vis-à-vis sex) about the relatively small area of biology–about this kind of difference in experience, men are often curious and genuinely interested–but about socially-enforced differences. The trick in the double standard of content is to label one set of experiences as more valuable and important than the other. This we have added to She didn’t write it and She did, but she shouldn’t have, a third piece of denigration: She did, but look what she wrote about. (40)