Saturday, December 6, 2014

Links to sites about women that might be of use to writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy

 Since Ursula K LeGuin won both awards for The Left Hand of Darkness in 1970, women have won approximately 1/3 of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel (and have done even better in the past two decades). And even before the 1960s, there were a number of women who wrote SF and F, including Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Judith Merrill, Naomi Mitchison. And Frankenstein, sometimes referred to as the first true SF novel, was written by Mary Shelly.

Frustratingly, many people think that female writers of speculative fiction are almost as exceptional today as they were back in the early 20th century. In fact, women are writing close to half of all fantasy and SF (numbers are greater to parity in the US than in the UK for some reason), and in the time period between 2010-2014, there were 13 debut SFF authors published (according to publishers marketplace), six of whom were women. However, female authors tend to be reviewed less often than male authors.

There is also a widespread idea that women don't read SF and F nearly as much as men do. It's hard to get exact numbers. The SFWA had an article a while back on the gender break down of SF readers specifically, and stated that fifty seven percent of SF readers are male, but it didn't examine fantasy. Approximately forty percent of comics fans are women. Conventional wisdom has it that women are more likely to read fantasy than SF, and are more likely to read urban contemporary fantasy than epic or secondary world fantasy, but my Google fu has not been coming up with any statistics to back these assumptions up. If anyone can direct me to any resources that shed light on this, I'd be very grateful.

I've been collecting links and information about gender equality and gender representation in speculative fiction since the SFWA "kerfuffle" during the summer of 2013. Rather than spend a lot of time discussing each and every issue that's relevant, I thought I'd sort through these links by category (as best I could, as some really could fit into more than one) and list them here. I know that having sites that are relevant to these things (somewhat) organized and handy is helpful to me, and I hope it might be of use o some other SF and F writers and fans too. And if you know of any good articles or data I haven't linked, please let me know. I'd be especially interested in any that focus on issues relevant to women of color in speculative fiction.

Equality in SF&F and elsewhere: As mentioned above, people tend to underestimate the number of women who are writing SF and F, and fans of both genders tend to name fewer female authors when asked to list their favorites. There are also some links on the more general issue of that very delicate topic that is known as "privilege" in society, more from the perspective of trying to explain what the term means in this context. Some links related to the 2013 SFWA "kerfuffle" are also included.

The Strange Horizons Count for 2013 This shows the proportion of SFF books by women and PoC received by Locus compared to the percentage reviewed.

Fandom and Gender: I've had a heck of a time getting any hard data on the percentages of fantasy readers who are women. If anyone knows of any surveys or data on this, please let me know.

Female writers of SF and F: Names of female SF and F writers and some statistics about the gender breakdown of writers.

Gender identity and sexual orientation in writing SFF: Though the issues facing people who are LGBTQ are not the same as those facing women, both as writers and readers, there is some overlap. I included some sites that may be handy for writers who are interested in including more diversity in their work but are afraid of perpetuating stereotypes.

Queer 101: Rooster Tales Comics.

Reaching Into the Quiltbag: The Evolving World of Queer Speculative Fiction, by Julia Rios

History and sociology: Historical accuracy is often used as an excuse for excluding women from fantasy (more than SF) or from limiting women to supporting roles in stories. There are a huge numbers of misconceptions about the roles women have played in history. And of course, one of the largest is that fantasy is usually taking place in a real historic setting to begin with.

History of the cesarean section part 1 and part 2

Inspiration: Sites that might be a source of ideas for characters, cultures, or stories: Some women from history and legend. Truth really is is often stranger than fiction.

Science, Sociology and Gender Differences: Some links to make you rethink everything you always thought you knew about gender differences. No one is saying men and women don't differ, or experience many things differently, for both biological and sociological reasons. But the variation within one gender is generally greater than the average differences between the genders.

Stereotypes and Tired Female Tropes in Fiction: Some of these are amusing, some are eye rolling. It's not so much that stereotypes are always wrong, or that any one use of these tropes is a problem in of itself. It's the rarity of stories and characters that don't embrace them that is the problem.

Writing as a Woman: Some reflections on issues facing women writers at a more personal level.

Writing female characters: Some more resources to help writers of either gender who wish to include more women in their stories and to make them better-rounded characters.

Fun stuff Related to Gender in SF and F: Some things that are worth a chuckle, and also some thought.

Blogs by SFF Authors Who Often Write About Gender-Related Issues.