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Breaking the Glass Slipper: Podcast Celebrating Women in Genre

This month, I’d like to officially introduce Fantasy-Faction readers to Breaking the Glass Slipper. The brainchild of Megan Leigh over at Pop Verse, it’s a bi-monthly podcast focusing on women in genre. Charlotte Bond and I join Megan as co-hosts.

Breaking the Glass Slipper (logo)

Our aim is straightforward: we want to get people talking about women, be they authors, readers or characters. We want to look at gender narratives, the roles women adopt inside and outside genre fiction. We want to celebrate great writing and bring less-publicised authors to a wider readership. We invite everyone to listen, reflect and join the discussion. We’re about inclusivity, diversity, equality, and all those other words ending in ity that spur people towards the comments thread. We also like to have a few laughs and talk about those things we love most in the genre community.

While we want to keep the tone of our podcast positive, it’s underpinned by a serious concern. I asked Megan about her reasons for starting it:

There was a moment where I stepped back and looked at my writing dreams in a detached manner… What obstacles outside of my control (in other words, my skill as a writer and so on) would I face in achieving my goals?

That’s when I realised that my reading habits were horribly masculine – I read mostly books by men, with male protagonists. And I started to wonder why. It certainly wasn’t a conscious choice; I wasn’t avoiding books by women by any means. I attempted to rectify it, looking into female writers in SFF and found the conversation about them staggeringly lacking. Much of the impetus behind creating this podcast was to open up the discussion and shed light on the numerous wonderful female writers who are out there and struggling to be found, even by those who are actively looking.

Lack of discoverability, so often downplayed by those unaffected by it, is still an issue in the more traditional subgenres of the community. The problem is difficult to isolate. If publishers are commissioning an equal number of female-authored books, where is the bottleneck? Is it in the marketing? The overall ‘package’? Is it the retailers, whose prime spaces and deals are reserved for books which are already bestsellers? Could it be the bloggers, those who create bizarrely male ‘best of’ lists? Or is it the readers, some openly biased, others unconsciously so, who reach for the masculine name, the male protagonist through long conditioning?

Books by JakeWBullockIn our earliest discussions, we’ve concluded that it’s all of these things – which is why the problem is endemic. The most disturbing trend is the lack of discussion on forums or in online groups; a simple scroll through a couple of popular feeds nets very few mentions of female authors, unless they are long-established. Since such groups include just as many women as they do men, I find it strange that books by women aren’t discussed with equal frequency.

It seems to be a different story in the YA world, where women dominate. And it’s not a trend that bleeds over into general fiction. SFF is a genre perfectly placed to challenge the status quo, to generate new ideas, to push boundaries. So why is it that we can’t achieve the relatively simple goal of talking about women and their writing in as much detail – and with as much enthusiasm – as we do men?

Charlotte Bond is not only a writer of YA fiction, but also the editor for a romance imprint. I asked her about her experiences and what motivated her to become involved with Breaking the Glass Slipper:

I was thrilled to be asked by Megan to co-host this podcast, and my reasons for accepting were very much as stated in this article – to find out where the bottleneck is for women writers and try to redress the balance. Even though there are quite a few female writers in YA, the female characters that they come up with are often stereotypical and very fixated on their appearances or their love interests. Is that because that’s what the YA market genuinely wants? Or is it because that’s all they know? I hope this podcast will be an avenue through which these questions and the issues they raise can be discussed.

Book Werm by Kristin KestBreaking the Glass Slipper’s intention is to encourage reasoned debate and offer reflective interviews to counter-balance the reactionary comments and articles that hit newsfeeds every time female representation within genre makes the headlines. We’ll explore current trends and provide a platform for everyone from writers and readers to publishers and booksellers to take part in the discussion.

Listen to our latest episode (from 19th May) where we consider writing characters of the opposite gender. Episode 4, publishing on 2nd June, features an exclusive interview with Ben Peek, author of The Godless.

And if you missed our chat with Jen Williams, author of the epic Copper Cat Trilogy, (a Fantasy-Faction favourite), you can find it here.

Breaking the Glass Slipper publishes every other Thursday on iTunes, Soundcloud and many other podcasting platforms.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Jamie Rose says:

    Hmm… An article about the lack of discussion of women in SFF, and there’s no comments. Ironic, or just infuriating? Or maybe I’m finding conspiracies where they’re aren’t any.

    Either way, it’s good to hear about somthing trying to redress the balance, and I look forward to listening.

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