Update to yesterday’s post on the representation of women in sci-fi and fantasy:
The leaflet found in Waterstones in 2012 was made in 2007. But still. As it was still going round in 2012, and the promo tables still show this gender imbalance…that’s a strike against Waterstones in my book.
Beware: Scary Stats about Gender Representation in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Below
"Do Bookshops have an SFF Gender Prejudice Problem?"
Naaaaw, don’t be silly. This is the 21st century after all, isn’t it?
Earlier this week, Fantasy Faction (@FantasyFaction) tweeted the above question with a link to an article about the underrepresentation of women sci-fi/fantasy writers. I’ve been griping about this for a while (usually with kobyzoshi) but - in an oddly sporting spirit - I figured I would dredge up some evidence before all-out bashing the SFF publishing industry.
So, where to start digging? I went back to the article: it featured Emma Newman (Angry Robot author of the Split World series), who pointed out that Waterstones recommended only 9 female for every 113 male SFF authors.
Yup, you read that right folks: 113 to 9!! For those of us who think better with percentages, that’s 7.9%.
Horrified, I scurried to my local Waterstones, valiantly hope-bending all the while. Perhaps the article was outdated: Newman’s original post is dated 20 February 2014, but the numbers are from a 2012 leaflet. A lot can change in two years, I told myself. A lot can change…
Here’s what I found at Waterstones Oxford on 1 March 2014:
- The buy-one-get-one-half-off SFF table:
36 books by men + 10 books by women = 46 books total. Only 27% of the promoted books are by female authors.
- The fantasy table:
36 books by men + 9 books by women = 45 books total. Only 25% of the promoted books are by female authors.
- The ‘Waterstones recommends’ tags on the SFF bookshelves:
24 books by men + 5 books by women = 29 books total. Only 20% of the recommended titles are by female authors.
- The sci-fi table:
39 books by men + 6 books by women = 45 books total. A GRAND TOTAL OF 15% of the promoted books are by female authors.
Clearly this 21.75% average is a huge improvement on 7.9%. Nevertheless: it’s the 21st century, right?? An era of personal liberty and equal representation??
Or so we’re told.
Women SFF writers and publishers: We’ve put up with this shit for far too long. It has to stop. The question is: how do we stop it?
A very brief history of publishing, from Gutenberg to Google
The gatekeepers of culture and commerce are whoever controls communications technology, determining who gets to speak, to whom, and how. As a communications industry, publishing is dependent on communications technology, but historically has also been in control of it. For example, fifteenth-century printer-publishers like Anton Koberger were the ultimate gatekeepers; the printed book was the primary communication technology of the day, so the publisher’s control of the printing press translated into the ultimate cultural clout.
But in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, power shifted. New communications technology emerged from outside the printing-publishing arena – the telegraph, radio, and camera birthed the ‘New Media’ industries. An uneasy truce developed between the old gatekeepers and the new, with power moving away from book publishers and toward the mass communicators.
Today, power has again shifted. There is a ‘new’ New Media - the Internet – and with it, new gatekeepers. The Internet has caused what Michael Bhaskar calls ‘centralisation’: web developers (read: Google, Apple, and Facebook) control today’s ubiquitous communications media, becoming the de facto gatekeepers of culture and commerce. Suddenly publishers, radio stations, and film studios alike must cobble together the metadata needed to make their content discoverable on Google’s search engine or Apple’s app store. Suddenly publishers watch with horror as authors upload their books to Amazon for readers to download for pennies, and television studios recoil as amateur filmmakers upload short videos to YouTube for anyone to watch for free.
Suddenly, we’re all in the same boat—or rather, the same network. Welcome to the age of media convergence.
As you can probably tell, the people working on StoryForge are passionate about their craft and excited to help you actualize your dreams. And yes, I am in this video. I haven’t done much filming before, so it’s always an interesting experience. And fun, because the StoryForge peoples are always fun.