Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Disappearing Female Science Fiction Writer (Calling Fandom's Historians!)

Okay, now I kind of get it.

Yesterday I reblogged/reposted Tempest's challenge on Facebook with a little comment by me, which was basically a condensed version of my blog here. My point being: is this hard? This shouldn't be hard.

I'm not sure I've ever gotten so much traffic on a FB feed in my life.

With the exception of one person who was a bit trollish (they used the dog whistle acronym SJW, for Social Justice Warrior, to describe Tempest in what was a clearly derogative way hoping, I suspect, to trigger a fight), it was a decent enough conversation. In fact, a dear friend of mine chimed in quite sincerely to beg for recommendations because he'd been under the impression that women wrote fantasy and men wrote hard science fiction. I happily flooded him with names of women who write SF and I linked to any of them who are my Facebook friends. This prompted Kristine Katherine Rusch (who writes, among many other things, the amazing Retrieval Artist series, of which I've read several of and ADORE) to hop on and discuss the other issue that's been floating around right now, which is the disappearance of women's history in science fiction. I'd noticed when I went searching for a comprehensive list of women writing hard SF for Richard, that the Wikipedia pages were pretty sparse. She said that's a problem she's noticed, too, that if you go searching even a semi-trusted (but certainly usually starting point) like Wikipedia doesn't even have a decent list of past and active SF writing women.

That, my friends, is an actual WTF.

I was able to find a fairly comprehensive list in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, under the entry: Women SF Writers.

But, that someone hasn't gone to the trouble to add our names to Wikipedia is... downright weird. Kristine Katherine Rusch would like fandom's help. If anyone has the time and know how, this is really an excellent project to consider undertaking. I mean, we can keep publishing anthologies where women and queers destroy science fiction, but, in some ways, that only perpetuates this idea that we don't have a history of women writing SF AND that our writing it is somehow a shocking and brand-new thing.

We've always known we had a PR problem. This is why a bunch of us got together at WisCON in 2000 and formed BroadUniverse. But it's kind of amazing to think that we failed so profoundly at getting the word out that no one has heard of some of us... like we've been disappeared by some secret government agents and erased from the history books.


The only time I lost it in the FB discussion was, in fact, today. Some person came on with a very breezy, almost snotty, "Look, I read a lot. I'm not going to limit myself. Just give me a top 5."

And it was like they had unleashed the Kraken.

Seriously, I couldn't help but go all-caps, because, really? You read a LOT? How is it that you've never read a book by a woman?? I pointed out that if this person seriously could not think of a science fiction book written by a woman maybe they should consider starting with the woman who INVENTED science fiction: Mary Shelley. There's this book she wrote called FRANKENSTEIN? You've maybe heard of it? No?

I mean, I suspect what this person really wanted was a sense of who are the top 5 women writing today and I honestly couldn't tell you who they are because I'm simply not well-read enough. There are so many choices. As I keep pointing out, of the six books up for the Philip K. Dick, 4 of them are by women. You could honestly start there. How hard is that? The list is pre-made for you and you'd get 2/3rd more women writers than apparently (somehow?) you've ever had before...


I was just talking about this to a friend and I think the other thing that's frustrating is that sometimes when people get wound up about this stuff they use such inflammatory language that they make a person feel guilty about enjoying the things they do enjoy. As if somehow, because you DO LOVE a whole bunch of straight white male writers, their work is suddenly diminished and not wonderful and awesome and life-changing. That so not true. Not only, as I said yesterday, are there a ton of men who are allies, but, even if they never write about a single social justice issue or whatever, it doesn't mean we can't enjoy stories for what they are. I'm never going to stop being a Bleach fan, and I can honestly say that some of Kubo-sensei's stuff is problematic to trans* folks. His story still rocks my world. I will keep supporting him and other male writers, while reading women and GLBT and non-binary and trans* and PoC writers. I think we can HAVE BOTH.

This is not either or. I say, let's demand: ALL.

Because otherwise we end up divided and with NOTHING.


Hugh B. Long said...

I agree that the landscape of women authors is sparser than it should be. I've recently begun reading a lot of women authors: Elizabeth Moon, Catherine Asaro, Rachel Bach, Anne Leckie, Dr. Karen Lord. I really like the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences. I want more Yang....too much Yin makes Jack a dull boy! If you ladies write it, I will read it. And recommend it to all of my demographic :)

tate hallaway said...


But I don't actually think there are fewer of us writing now than before (I should say, in case you don't know, I've written science fiction under my real name, Lyda Morehouse). When I broke into SF in 1999, you couldn't swing a bat without hitting a dozen or more women writing SF. My editor at Roc was none other than Laura Anne Gilman and she was publishing women like Syne Mitchell and.. (of course my mind blanks, but dozens of others.) In fact, I reblogged Tempest's call out because I thought, NO WAY IS THIS DIFFICULT IN THE LEAST.

And your reply makes me feel like it's true. Some how our history disappeared. Wikipedia will give you nearly a THOUSAND women who have written and are writing SF/F: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Women_science_fiction_and_fantasy_writers

How is it that we've remained invisible?

D. Moonfire said...

I didn't know the origin of BroadUniverse, that's cool.

I personally met (and are friends to) more female sci-fi/fantasy authors than males. A large hunk of my library is from female writers, though depressingly few are from LGBT and PoC. I can attribute much of that to my mother, who helped me gain the love for fantasy and sci-fi.

I've been working on expanding it but my book budget went *way* down with the second kid. WisCon has been fantastic for that, but I have the mentality of buy something from every author who has a table at conventions. And I only go to WisCon and ICON.

tate hallaway said...

One of the things I've been talking about elsewhere is that it is sometimes difficult to identify writers who are GLBT or non-binary or trans* unless they self-identify (or you happen to be friends with them and they've told you so, or have come out at a convention, etc.)

Identifying PoC isn't as easy as you might imagine, either, which is why it's nice that this exists: http://www.carlbrandon.org.

And, yes, WisCON has been tremendous for getting the word out (as has BroadUniverse, which I just re-joined after a long time away.)