Realms of Fantasy’s All-Women Issue
Realms of Fantasy is doing a “Women in Fantasy” issue. For this issue, they’ll only be accepting stories by female authors.
I’ve got a number of opinions on this, but for once I’m going to keep those to myself, at least to start with.
A deliberate women-only issue of Realms. What do you think?
PS, That’s right, I can write short blog posts!
PPS, Do read the Realms post for further details from Douglas Cohen.
ETA: PPPS, Per an e-mail from Douglas, they have no intention of rejecting good stories just because they’re written by men. “If I like it (and more importantly, if Shawna likes it), there’s no reason we can’t use it for a different issue.”
January 5, 2010 @ 1:46 pm
“Well, that takes care of that pesky problem.” trip stumble fall.
I think it’s a good gesture, but saying they need all that time to line up the feminine artists and get it all together kind of points out the problem, doesn’t it (of course, IIRC, they’ve also been oversold for some time now and that’s probably how soon they would have worked through the stories already accepted anyway).
January 5, 2010 @ 1:48 pm
I should say I’ve read Douglas Cohen’s explanation of how it came to be, and I accept his version of the story. It’s just I’m not sure it’s the right course, or all that should be done. But then, I’m not responsible for editing, publishing, or selling Realms. He is.
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2010 @ 1:57 pm
I’m not sure either. I give them props for listening, and for trying to do something. There are aspects that feel problematic to me, but I’m still thinking about it.
January 5, 2010 @ 2:09 pm
I’ve long been a fan of the free market. That being said, I find that when we attempt to “equalize” markets by doing things like that, what we really end up doing is finding that there’s a reason for the inequality in the first place.
What good is it to have a “women of fantasy” issue if the selection pool is so limited that they end up printing some sub-par stories just because they were penned by a woman? Wouldn’t that result in people thinking that women aren’t capable of writing stories on the same level as the men of the genre?
Jim C. Hines
January 5, 2010 @ 2:35 pm
Your implication seems to be that the inequality exists because women write sub-par stories. (As opposed to being because editors are quicker to reject female authors, for instance.) I can’t say that I agree with the logic here.
January 5, 2010 @ 2:51 pm
Not because women write sub-par stories. The pool of female fantasy writers is smaller, so if you need to have 10 stories, you have a smaller pool to select from. Because the pool is smaller, you might be forced (as an editor) to select a few stories that are sub-par for lack of anything better. Because of that, it is theoretically possible that people would assume that women are inferior fantasy authors.
As an example, let’s assume that we accept submissions for a “male only” edition and a “female only” edition. Because of the larger number of male fantasy authors, we receive 1,000 submissions for the “male only” edition. For the “female only” edition, we receive only 500 submissions. That’s assuming that there are 2 male authors to every female author. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would guess that those numbers are generous to the females. Now, let’s assume that, on average, only 10% of the submissions are in the top 25% in quality. So, for the “male only” edition, we receive 100 submissions that are 25% tier stories. For the “female only” edition, we receive only 50 submissions that are 25% tier stories. But, let us now assume that are are looking for stories that are in the top 10% tier. And, let us also assume that only 2% of submissions are in that tier. Now, we have only 20 stories and 10 stories, respectively. If we are selecting 10 stories for each edition, we have 20 to pick from for the men, but must publish all of the ones for the women.
What if we only get 300 submissions for the women? We are then forced to publish fewer stories (if we strictly stick to the 10% tier rule) or we publish some that are in the next tier and, as a result, lesser quality than what we would normally publish. If we reduce the men’s submissions equally, we still get enough to publish 10 that are in the 10% tier. In this case, the men’s edition could be said to be superior, not because men write better, but because the pool was significantly larger that we had more top tier (statistically) to select from.
That’s way more explanation than I intended to write, and it may still be as clear as mud.
Just for the record, I don’t think that women are any more or less talented at fantasy writing. I just think that their numbers are fewer in genre fiction (such as sci/fi and fantasy) as opposed to literary fiction.
January 5, 2010 @ 3:37 pm
I’m going to call on this, and this is because I have access to the gender stats to FANTASY MAGAZINE. Early on the proportions were low, but increased, and are still increasing. It’s currently hovering around 40%, which is a big improvement when we first relaunched online. This suggests that the pool, while a little inequal, isn’t so unequal that you would notice a difference. Your explanation doesn’t hold water.
January 5, 2010 @ 4:59 pm
Fair enough. I have no access to those stats, so all that I have to go on is theory and heresay. Depending on the scale, however, it could still be significant. But, I’m guessing that they receive more than enough submissions to eliminate the scenario that I described. At least at a 40% ratio vs. a 33% ratio.
January 5, 2010 @ 5:46 pm
Here’s my two cents. They have a magazine. They wanted to do a fun theme issue. The gender thing’s come up lately. Why not? It generates buzz, gets some great stories from the ladies. I’m all for it. Why do we have to make it a statement? Are we so worried that reality will or will not back up our worldview?
In college I did some acting. There were roles that people got because they were right for the part. Other actors that got beat may have been more skilled, but they needed a guy with a big adam’s apple or a girl with a unibrow. Whatever. I think story selection can be a lot like that. Spotting quality is only part of an Editor’s job. And dare I say (I’ve not tried it) that the more satisfying part of putting something together as an editor may be in working out your editorial vision for the mag or antho? That finding the talented stuff is just the work before taking what’s left and matching it to your creative vision.
So before anyone goes whining about how a man’s piece that’s just as good shouldn’t get passed up for a political issue. Just take a deep breath and say, it’s okay that my piece is great (if it truly is) and didn’t get picked, it just wasn’t right for this issue. Add an Adam’s apple and submit it somewhere else.
January 6, 2010 @ 1:03 am
Great women writers since Fantasy has been around.
Thank goodness they no longer have to use pseudonyms for SF or Fantasy!
All the same I am sick of all-women this & that.
Here in Ontario Canada, the Boy Scouts was disbanded & is now Scouts Canada for both boys & girls.
What irks me is Girl Guides still exists for girls only.
A men-only gym is anathema. I still want to join the women-only gym Curves just to drive home the point.
I think it is time to stop the women-only.
I hope some male writer submits a story with a female pseudonym.
January 6, 2010 @ 1:44 pm
First time I’ve posted in the comments (yay me!) Just wanted to say that I get that it can be frustrating for men to see things that are women only and think ‘that’s so unfair!’ just like white people (I’m white fyi) can sometimes think things like BET or affirmative action are unfair. I don’t know the motivation of the magazine or the gym or the scouts but I know that for pretty much every time period before this century or even the past few decades women haven’t been able to do all the same things men could. A lot of people think things are all better now and everyone is already equal so women only (or black only or lgbt only) is exclusive. But the truth is that things are getting better but aren’t there yet. So one magazine decides to do one issue that’s all women. Maybe they read Jim’s post on the book of the year fiasco 😉 …anyway love the books Jim and just thought I’d put in my two cents
Christian A. Young’s Dimlight Archive |
January 7, 2010 @ 12:44 am
[…] few people I read (including Jim C. Hines and Catherynne M. Valente) pointed out that Realms of Fantasy has announced that they’re […]
Jim C. Hines
January 7, 2010 @ 7:33 am
Have you read this article?
January 7, 2010 @ 4:12 pm
This seems to me that it has to be related to the issue cover flap regarding Realms of Fantasy’s new look. I don’t mean that in a bad way; just that I think the editor decided after all the discussion over it that it was important to the magazine to show that it does support female writers and artists and it wasn’t the worst idea for a theme for an issue. I don’t think it is a hideous idea to do an all women issue, or all non-US writers, or all gay issue. We have anthologies doing that, so it seems a bit restrictive to say that a magazine can’t do it. And given that there have been some real concerns that women aren’t submitting short fiction to the magazines, it’s not the worst way to encourage them to start doing more of it.
I would say that it is less important now to do that sort of thing in the field, except that we’ve had a rash of very nasty commentary towards women lately, that women are feminizing SF and making it wimpy and um, less hard, and that women doing urban fantasy are only writing romance (completely inaccurate,) and thus destroying fantasy too. There seems to be a next generation or a previous generation anger toward how women have moved into the SFF field in great numbers and that this must be held as a bad thing. It seems a bit connected to the general men should be players cultural movement, so maybe it’s just a ripple effect, or it could be a good sign that women really are making great leaps forward, which always causes grumbling in certain areas. But having an all female issue of a main magazine isn’t a bad way of reminding SFF readers that female writers aren’t going anywhere, and that reading fiction written by women about women does not necessarily involve romances, will not give you cooties, and can be, you know, good. The more of those reminders we have, the more people tend to get sensible about the subject. The most important thing with any kind of fiction is getting it in front of people’s noses so that they’ll try it, and this might accomplish that.
So tokenism and such issues aside, I’m for giving them a pass and letting them experiment.
Jim C. Hines
January 8, 2010 @ 8:39 am
Well, Obama is president, so we’ve obviously fixed racism. And Hillary Clinton ran for president, so sexism is dead too, right?
I think so often we’re blind to the artificial advantages we already have. I never consciously thought about all of the advantages I get for being white and male and straight and so on. It doesn’t mean things are easy for me, but it does mean there’s a built-in societal “affirmative action” giving me a boost in so many areas of my life. But if you don’t see that, then the only thing you notice is that those other groups are getting an unfair advantage … never realizing the (usually much greater) unfair advantage you already had to begin with.
Sorry — starting to ramble there. That probably needs to be a whole blog post all by itself in order to do it justice.
Jim C. Hines
January 8, 2010 @ 8:41 am
Doug Cohen has said this arose in part as a response to the cover issue. Check his comment in the original announcement, here: http://www.rofmag.com/2010/01/04/announcing-august-2011-women-of-fantasy-themed-issue/#comment-83
I don’t think it’s a bad idea, necessarily. But I think it needed to be handled and announced better.
All that aside, I’m definitely curious to see how the issue turns out, once all of the dust has settled.