With the upcoming fourth season of A Game of Thrones about to hit TV screens, you will soon see ‘If you like reading GRR Martin, why not try these authors?’ displays going up in bookshops. I will give a book of mine, of their choice, to the first person who can send me a photo of such a display that isn’t entirely composed of male authors. Because I’ve yet to see one. I have challenged staff in bookshops about this, to be told ‘women don’t write epic fantasy’ Ahem, with 15 novels published, I beg to differ. And we read it too.
But that’s not what the onlooker sees in the media, in reviews, in the supposedly book-trade-professional articles in The Guardian which repeatedly discuss epic fantasy without ever once mentioning a female author. That onlooker who’s working in a bookshop and making key decisions about what’s for sale, sees a male readership for grimdark books about blokes in cloaks written by authors like Macho McHackenslay. So that’s what goes in display, often at discount, at the front of the store. So that’s what people see first and so that’s what sells most copies.
Juliet E. McKenna being brilliant (so what else is new) on the SFWA shoutback, public perceptions of the field, and equal access to offensiveness, sexism and idiocy. (via dduane)
In March 2012, while browsing in my then-local Waterstones in St Andrews, Scotland, I encountered a laminated booklet in the SFF section - produced entirely by Waterstones - that listed various recommended authors. I was so appalled by the almost total lack of women and POC that I photographed it as evidence. Behold:
So, to be clear: of the one hundred and thirteen authors listed in the genre-specific sections, there are a grand total of nine women and, as far as I can tell, zero POC. In the final two pages - the “If you like this, you’ll love-” section, things are little better: of the ten authors with suggestions after their names, two are women; but of the 101 authors recommended as comparisons, only twelve are women - and, tellingly, of those twelve, a whopping eight are listed as being similar to another female author. As far as this list is concerned, women have essentially become a speciality category, almost exclusively recommended because their work resembles that of another female author, and not because of their contributions to various other genres. As for POC authors, as far I can tell, there’s not a single one on any of the lists.
And, of course, as Juliet McKenna predicted, the authors recommended for fans of George R. R. Martin? All men.
When I saw the booklet, I suggested to a staff member that perhaps they might like to reconsider the contents, given how unrepresentative they were, and how many fabulous authors were missing from them. The sales person, a young man, looked vaguely sheepish, but said the matter was out of his hands. I don’t know if this same booklet is still in use by any other Waterstones stores, but if it is, it badly needs upgrading and replacing - because if I were a new genre reader looking for advice and guidance, literally the only conclusion I could draw from its contents is that SFF is a white man’s game.
Just got my first manuscript review invitation and I’m assigned reviewer #3. :)
Going on hiatus
Along with my food blog, my tumblr is on hiatus for an unknown period of time.