Thursday, April 25, 2013

reality check

Is this article on "Why Aren't There More Woman Sci-Fi Writers?" as condescending as it looks from here? (The author is male, of course.) (And besides that it should be "SF", not "sci-fi", shouldn't it be "women", or better yet "female", rather than "woman"?)

First it tries to excuse poorer review coverage of SF books by women by saying they write fewer of them, but since women write more of the fantasy than they do of the SF proper, the article fails by not matching that up to the coverage of the review surveys. If women only write 1/4 of SF proper, then it makes sense that the SF proper coverage of a review magazine would be only 1/4 women. But is the survey talking just about SF or about SF/F? The article doesn't say.

Then it tries to explain the sex-ratio differential between SF and F by attempting to say that women are less geeky than men. First, it means less nerdy, not less geeky. Second, it fudges the distinction between less nerdy and fewer nerds. Third, it disappears the prominent female nerds. Fourth, by acknowledging that epic Martinesque fantasy can be just as labyrinthine as hard sf (it actually uses the words "hard sci-fi", a combination I don't think I've heard before), it implies that women shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about scientific details. And last, it seems actually to say outright that women are "casual fans", not "hardcore". Which is ridiculous, if you've been to any hardcore fandoms in the last, oh, thirty years or more.

Then, despite trying to acknowledge that not all SF is like this, it paints a picture of hard SF as if it were all still being written by Hugo Gernsback. Oh, please. And even if you want to toss out people like Le Guin and Connie Willis as too "soft" (or "humanist" in genre terminology), can you write about women and hard sf - the real kind, with spaceships and battles and at least a veneer of scientific literacy (not that Le Guin isn't fabulously literate in the sciences she uses) - without mentioning, at the very least, Lois Bujold?

Then he writes, "The most popular and respected authors also tend to be male, as China MiĆ©ville, Neil Gaiman, and Brandon Sanderson can attest." (Sanderson, really? Has he risen that far, that fast? I found his first novel nonsensical and never tried any more.) It doesn't mention that they're all, with MiĆ©ville as an only partial exception, far more fantasy writers than SF. But later on he writes, "The three most successful fantasy authors of the past decade—J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Stephenie Meyer—are women." How exactly does successful not equal popular, and are you trying to say these women's work is not respected? Because, well, by some it isn't. And is that supposed to be because they're women?

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