Revisiting the Locus Recommended Reading List

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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March 15, 2017

Introduction

In the year since I published my analysis of five years of data from the Locus Recommended Reading List, there has been additional work done by other organizations on the race component of this subject: the Fireside Fiction Company report on systemic anti-blackness in short fiction markets and the Fiyah Black SFF Writer Survey Report, published just earlier this week.

So this post is intended as an update to my post of last year–has there been any material change to the composition of the Locus Recommended Reading List this year when compared to the previous five years of data? Obviously, if there is a change, there is no way of knowing if it is sustainable change until there are several more years of data to compare with the original dataset.

Methodology

My methodology did not change and I want to reiterate that identity categories are quite difficult to quantify. I included binary trans people in the categories for male and female and I continued to default to U.S. definitions of race, which means that while many Jewish people do not identify as white, for the purposes of this analysis they are (and in the current political climate, I do not think it is appropriate to subdivide people on the basis of religion or ethnicity).

If you’d like to know how I quantified your identity or if you would like to make sure that I identified you correctly, please let me know via my contact form. I’m happy to let you know and make any necessary changes to the dataset.

The Data

In 2016 there were a total of 305 works on the list, up from 269 in 2015.  The total number of works in the dataset is 1,707–fiction, non-fiction, art books, collections and anthologies.  On multi-authored/edited works, all authors/editors were included, so there are some multi-gender categories.

Locus Recommended Reading List, 2011-2015

Locus Recommended Reading List, 2011-2016

Here’s the same data, this time broken out by category and year. Novel-Horror is a new category for 2016. The only thing that really sticks out is that there were more short stories included in 2016. All other categories appear to be about the same, but it does appear that with the addition of the Novel-Horror category that the total number of novels included did increase.

Locus Recommended Reading List, Overall Data by Year and Category

Locus Recommended Reading List, Overall Data by Year and Category

Gender

Locus Recommended Reading List, Gender Breakout by Year

Locus Recommended Reading List, Gender Breakout by Year

As you can see, women and non-binary people have a larger proportion in 2016 than they have had in previous years.

Locus Recommended Reading List 2011-2016, Gender Breakout by Year, Percentages

Locus Recommended Reading List 2011-2016, Gender Breakout by Year, Percentages

The percentage of works written or edited solely by men has dropped to below 50%, women have increased by 4 percentage points and enbies–alone or in collaboration with a cis person–account for just over 2% of the total. It’s not a lot of progress, but it is progress.

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Gender, and Year – Fiction

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Gender, and Year – Fiction

As in previous years, men dominate most of the novel categories, including the new Horror category. Women and non-binary people have much more representation in the shorter lengths of fiction. There is more non-binary representation across all categories this year, including one novel.

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Gender, and Year – Anthology, Art Books, and Non-Fiction

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Gender, and Year – Anthology, Art Books, and Non-Fiction

The anthology, art, and non-fiction sections are essentially unchanged. A few more original anthologies edited by women, but I wouldn’t call it significant.

Race

Locus Recommended Reading List, Race Breakout by Year

Locus Recommended Reading List, Race Breakout by Year

There are definitely more POC represented in the 2016 list than there ever has been before. However:

Locus Recommended Reading List 2011-2016, Race Breakout by Year, Percentages

Locus Recommended Reading List 2011-2016, Race Breakout by Year, Percentages

Nearly three quarters of the works are still by white people. Representation of POC has jumped by over 10% and that is a really good thing, but I believe there is still room for improvement.

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Race, and Year – Fiction

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Race, and Year – Fiction

And I believe that there’s still room for improvement because you can see in this table that the improvement is in a handful of categories: First Novel and Short Stories. All the other fiction categories are dominated by white people.

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Race, and Year – Anthology, Art Books, and Non-Fiction

Locus Recommended Reading List by Category, Race, and Year – Anthology, Art Books, and Non-Fiction

As you can see, anthologies, art books, and non-fiction are still primarily edited, curated, and written by white people.

Repeat Appearances

Repeat appearances are essentially the same story as last year: there are a tremendous number of writers whose work appears over several years or whose work appears in multiple categories in a single year.

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works

Less than half the authors in the dataset are responsible for two thirds of the total works.

This trend holds true through gender and race as well.

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Female

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Female

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Non-Binary

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Non-Binary

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Male

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – Male

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – POC

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – POC

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – White

Locus Recommended Reading List, Repeated Appearance vs Total Works – White

And at the intersection of gender and race:

Locus Recommended Reading List, One Appearance – Race and Gender

Locus Recommended Reading List, One Appearance – Race and Gender

 

Locus Recommended Reading List, Multiple Appearances – Race and Gender

Locus Recommended Reading List, Multiple Appearances – Race and Gender

Conclusion

My conclusion this year is much the same as last: the list is predominantly white and male and the same handful of women and POC writers tend to appear year over year. The good news is that the list is more diverse than it has been in prior years, but–as in all things–there is still work to be done.

There is systemic bias against black writers, as demonstrated by the Fireside Fiction Company report on short fiction that came out last year and the Black SFF Writer Survey from Fiyah Magazine that came out earlier this week. To my knowledge, no one has done a similar analysis which covers longer works of fiction and/or bias against other groups of people. I expect, though, that the results would be similar.

If you would like to do your own analysis, the dataset is available for download.

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2 Comments

  1. Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    Hi, I noticed a mistake in your data: under horror, Stephen Graham Jones is a POC author. I know because we are in the same category. 😉

    • Natalie Luhrs

      I’ll update the dataset momentarily! Thanks for letting me know. ?

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