February 26, 2020, 03:33:33 PM

Author Topic: The best female science fiction and fantasy writers you should read now  (Read 22686 times)

Offline Rostum

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The first one being this:

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Until female writers reject magical thinking and start writing science-based science fiction, they are just a bunch of would-be princesses to me.

That right there is your reason. I am in awe of the fact this one quote totally dismisses both the women who DO write science based SF (he hasn't heard of any, so there must be none and/or he's not picked up a book with a woman's name on the cover in the erroneous belief they don't write science based SF*) and those who don't (because we should all write what he, personally, likes to read and if we don't we're just the would-be princesses)

It's actually a pretty spectacular example of what we're up against

*Including at least one of the authors in the article!

I am curious, the comment was presumably made by a man, but could have come from a friend of mine who is a total SF head, possibly the most obsessive Iain Banks nerd and she's scientist to boot, but let's assume it is from a man for all it matters.

It is a comment to a news article, possibly heartfelt, possibly trolling. Either way you are unlikely to sell the commenter a book. This is not indicative of how every male views female authored fantasy fiction. It is one comment left by one individual. If you feel this comment is a spectacular example of what you are up against. I feel you're reading too much into the comment. The coment doesn't read to me as though the commenter would read male authored fantasy either.

Most of us I suspect (male or female) have a limited finances and are picky in what we read due to cost and time restraints. As a result we buy what catches our interest. In times of no money I read slower and re-read stuff I have previously enjoyed.

The fact that there is an article about female authored fantasy is more of a worry. Why on earth should that be necessary? This is not a sporting event, authors should be on a level playing field regardless of gender. I am pretty sure the independent would not publish an article titled 'The best male science fiction and fantasy writers you should read now'. So why is there the need for this segregation and does it in any way help?

I am also puzzled about the Waterstones best SFF table. Book shops aim to make money, this they do by selling books. Perhaps the choice of what goes on a table is decided by the store more likely by regional/head office and in all likelihood by a computer listing of what they are selling by category week on week. The tables are of course set up by the stores almost entirely female staff. I don't believe there is any gender bias by bookshops. It cannot be in their financial interest.

Personally I have do not know of anyone who determines what they read by the gender of the author. That would be silly. Whether the blurb catches my interest or it has cool cover art or a recommendation is far more likely to sway me than the name on the spine. I believe that I will continue to read what interests me in any category regardless or the authors gender. I do not feel the need to define my reading time or the amount I spend on books by the sex of the author as to do anything else would also be silly.





Offline Francis Knight

It is not indicative of how all males view female authored fiction

But I've seen it enough to know it's a thing. And not a rare thing either. And I don't feel I'm reading into it all. I am reading what is there, and it chimes with what people have said to my face.

Mark Lawrence did a poll on his blog and iirc 25 % of responders admitted they would be less likely to pick up his book if the name on the cover was Mary, not Mark. And that is people making a concious choice (many of our choices are for unconscious reasons, so some might say they'd pick it up, but likely wouldn't irl)
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The fact that there is an article about female authored fantasy is more of a worry. Why on earth should that be necessary? This is not a sporting event, authors should be on a level playing field regardless of gender. I am pretty sure the independent would not publish an article titled 'The best male science fiction and fantasy writers you should read now'. So why is there the need for this segregation and does it in any way help?

Why is it a worry to point out fab authors you might never have heard of?

And it should be a level playing field. You'd think it was. But it isn't. More men get reviewed than women (this is changing, but it was once overwhelmingly so). Men get promoted more at the bookstore end, get more buzz (possibly because there are, as noted above, an not insignificant minority who will not read books by women.) Why does it worry you that someone wants to redress the balance? Especially if at the same time they are touting great books? In other genres, women sell better than men,or they are equal, so there must be something about this genre that is skewing things -- I think the same is true of historical fiction afaia, and also some areas of historical non fic

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I am also puzzled about the Waterstones best SFF table. Book shops aim to make money, this they do by selling books. Perhaps the choice of what goes on a table is decided by the store more likely by regional/head office and in all likelihood by a computer listing of what they are selling by category week on week. The tables are of course set up by the stores almost entirely female staff. I don't believe there is any gender bias by bookshops. It cannot be in their financial interest.

This is part of the vicious circle. Men get more reviews/buzz/have more people willing to at least pick up the book (again in this genre). So they sell better, so Waterstones promotes them even more. If you carry on down taht route, they'll only ever promote five authors and everyone else gets a crap shoot. They are a business. yes, and part of their business is, or should be, helping readers find new books and authors to love. The ladies who do the tables in my local Waterstones don't like putting out the same old books each time, but they do as they are told. And if men sell better then women, for all these reasons and more, the yes, it is in their financial interest to keep promoting them over women.

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Personally I have do not know of anyone who determines what they read by the gender of the author. That would be silly.

Not all biases are concious.

Consider covers. If it has a pink cover, and a stiletto heel and a champagne glass on it. I will probably not pick it up. Biased, don't even think about it.
At some publishing houses (and in some countries) women get different covers, even if their books are very similar to what a man is writing. (ETA example of what I am talking about -- an experiment sure. Based on your actual covers. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/coverflip-maureen-johnson_n_3231935.html )  I have been lucky -- Orbit is pretty good at not gendering covers while still trying to show what the books are about, the sort of book, and indicating whether the reader might enjoy it.

I know several authors who have not been so lucky. I know one who writes down and dark, grimdark even, stuff. And she gets Romance covers. Drives her potty.

It might seem a simple thing on the surface, but like a duck, there is furious movement if you look underneath.


« Last Edit: May 15, 2015, 07:44:36 PM by Francis Knight »
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Offline JMack

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The covers on the link are fascinating, especially for Georgette Martin.
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Offline Francis Knight

Aren't they?

This is one of those things -- unless you run up against it, you'll likely never think about it. No shame in that -- we tend to think about the things that affect us


It's like those cheap t shirts you think are a bargain. And then you find out they are made by people in sweatshops earning £1 a day, for 16 hours work. On our oblivious surface, no problem. Underneath....

I may be overthinking, tis true. But other people* may not be thinking at all.



*This is not aimed at anyone in this thread but the world in general


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Offline Rostum

Thanks for the forthright reply.
I was unaware of Marks survey and am surprised by the result. I like the Huff post link, The Game of thrones one is lovely, but the same arguement holds Publishers are looking to make money, crippling their product and your hard work with poor cover art makes no sense, do publishers target female authored books at female audiences?

I cannot comment on whether men get reviewed more than women as I really wouldn't have a clue. I am happy to assume that is the case for SFF although why that would be escapes me.

To my mind there are two types of people, those that read and those that don't. About half of readers will read widely and are less likely to stick to a genre and will read anything rather than nothing.
I really cannot comprehend the idea of discounting a book due to the sex of the author. I would have missed out on some utter gems if that was the case. I also have no issue with covers or the type of books I read as I have commented elsewhere I am reading through unicorn mountain by Micheal Bishop at present and read it on the train without noticing any strange looks.

Offline Lady Ty

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Aren't they?

This is one of those things -- unless you run up against it, you'll likely never think about it. No shame in that -- we tend to think about the things that affect us

I may be overthinking, tis true. But other people* may not be thinking at all.

*This is not aimed at anyone in this thread but the world in general



Those book covers were eye openers and have made me understand the problem better. I seldom choose books by their covers but through trusted recommendations or favourite author and gender of the author is not a consideration. If confronted by any of the "girly" covers on a recommended book I would have done a double take. Normally I would never even pick up a book looking like some of those.  As for Lord of the Flies - words fail me, but it drove the point home well.

I checked the covers on my recent female FF authors and found Jen Williams, Claire North, Helene Wecker and Susanna Clarke and none of them had suffered.  I did wonder if nowadays some authors can exert, or are insisting on, more control over their covers in contracts?
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Offline Rostum

Just gone through my books (all genres) and the only one that could be considered as having a gender based cover is Marion Bradley's Web of Darkness from 1985. While the Huff post examples are overdone to make a point it may be a case that Europe has less of an issue with this than the States.

Searching on 'Fantasy Fiction by female authors' on Amazon Uk lists the following their wonderful algorithm picks up a fair amout of erotica and the odd male author but of the female written SFF I see no covers that are softened.

Edit link added: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_pg_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Afantasy+fiction+by+female+authors&keywords=fantasy+fiction+by+female+authors&ie=UTF8&qid=1431776500

Erotica should I choose to buy it is one genre where I would actively seek out female authors as they tend to write it better than men do. I suspect It may be the most likely genre where men write with female non de plumes.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2015, 12:44:17 PM by Rostum »

Offline Justan Henner

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I clicked through to the article to have a read. And then I looked at the two comments

The first one being this:

Quote
Until female writers reject magical thinking and start writing science-based science fiction, they are just a bunch of would-be princesses to me.

That right there is your reason. I am in awe of the fact this one quote totally dismisses both the women who DO write science based SF (he hasn't heard of any, so there must be none and/or he's not picked up a book with a woman's name on the cover in the erroneous belief they don't write science based SF*) and those who don't (because we should all write what he, personally, likes to read and if we don't we're just the would-be princesses)

It's actually a pretty spectacular example of what we're up against



*Including at least one of the authors in the article!
And that's why I never read internet comments.

That's why I can spend hours at a time reading internet comments...

Offline Ryan Mueller

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I've always wondered why so many female authors end up with covers that will limit their readership. This happens for me with a lot of urban fantasy. There are probably a lot of books I'd enjoy from female authors, but the covers turn me away.

Offline Francis Knight

Thanks for the forthright reply.

Thanks for the diplomatic reply. Forthright is a mild way to describe me.... :)

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Publishers are looking to make money, crippling their product and your hard work with poor cover art makes no sense, do publishers target female authored books at female audiences?


It makes little sense to me, and it depends very much on teh publisher (and I think, as noted upthread, that it's very much more a problem in the US)


If they do target women, well women read more books on average than men. But the downside is, books obviously aimed at women tend not to get picked up by men. It's swings and roundabouts. For instance, I have also written/published 6 romance books. Obviously these are targeted at women. I got quite lucky with 3 of the covers in that they didn't seem overly girly (to me -- my husband rolled his eyes). Thing is, I am a woman, I like romance in a book -- I can't stand most romance covers....

But the marketing department has to think, what section of the market is going to like this best? And then market to them, not to the individual

Gaie Seibold was telling me about a fantastic series of books (I forget the name of the author) who writes really dark, cynic, snarky books. And gets the old pink stiletto heel/champagne glass treatment -- they are trying to appeal to the section of the market that sees a cover like that and auto picks it up. She sells quite well, I think.

Marketing is something of a Dark Art I think. They are trying to sell to as many people as possible, but hey can't please everyone. And sometimes they get it wrong for us as individuals (Luckily failure in this Dark Art will not result in creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions).


The original wassname, women selling less etc -- I think it's a massively complicated issue. There's no one thing you can point at and say "Change this and all will be well" There are instead many interconnected things, and if you pull one thread the whole thing might come unravelled. I have no idea what the answer is.

Which is a bit of a bugger for those of us getting the crappy end of the stick, but there you are.

ETA Ofc this is one reason I went with a male pen name. I'm using my real name for the next series. I wonder what difference it will make?

« Last Edit: May 17, 2015, 10:00:59 AM by Francis Knight »
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Offline Rostum

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Thanks for the diplomatic reply. Forthright is a mild way to describe me.... :)

I have a firm belief that a forum is a meeting place for ideas and views and your post gave me pause for thought.
So I now understand more of your argument than I did before regardless of how much of it I agree with.
The reason I dislike the idea of a female authors list article is it implies the female authors should be treated differently from male authors either because they are not as good or because they deserve special treatment. I am not in favour of either positive or negative discrimination. Both cause long term issues that eventually have to be addressed.  I understand that the article being of benefit and there are authors I haven't heard in the list, but really don't like the idea of the gender segregation.
You are stating that women writers get reviewed less and are more likely to suffer from softer cover art which will dissuade men from picking up the book in the first place. I think we are both agreed this is a bigger issue in the US than UK. I also believe this is less of an issue than it was in the past in the UK.
I have just checked Marc's list of May releases on this site 13 by male authors 16 by female and one co authored. Maybe two covers are a bit soft but the wouldn't put me off. I seem to be a bad judge though of what I should and should not be picking up.
I have not the experience you have regarding reviews and publicity and will look out to see if there any noticeable disparity by sex in the UK of professional reviews. If nothing else this has to be improving year on year?

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Marketing is something of a Dark Art I think. They are trying to sell to as many people as possible, but hey can't please everyone. And sometimes they get it wrong for us as individuals (Luckily failure in this Dark Art will not result in creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions).

Marketing is largely the ability to destroy someone else’s hard work when done badly. I work in technology and can think of a couple of products that after years of development and millions invested have been destroyed by being pushed at the wrong customer by people with little understanding or apparent interest in making it a success. By the time this is rectified you have lost market share and life expectancy of products is shorter and shorter these days. So you certainly have my sympathies on that factor.

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The original wassname, women selling less etc -- I think it's a massively complicated issue. There's no one thing you can point at and say "Change this and all will be well" There are instead many interconnected things, and if you pull one thread the whole thing might come unravelled. I have no idea what the answer is.

Which is a bit of a bugger for those of us getting the crappy end of the stick, but there you are.

ETA Ofc this is one reason I went with a male pen name. I'm using my real name for the next series. I wonder what difference it will make?

All I can do is wish you well for existing and future sales. May I ask which names you have published under? Or will this shatter the mystery?

Offline SJBudd

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Offline Rostum

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Hopefully me one day  ;D one always lives in hope!  ;)

Don't hope make it happen.

Offline Roxxsmom


I cannot comment on whether men get reviewed more than women as I really wouldn't have a clue. I am happy to assume that is the case for SFF although why that would be escapes me.


It's true. Strange Horizons does a count each year, based on all the SFF titles submitted to Locus for review each year by gender and comparing the number by each gender that actually are reviewed by different publications.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150330/sfcount-a.shtml

A really common argument some people make when people bring up differential treatment of men and women in speculative fiction is that more men are published in SF and F than women. While this is true, and is considerably more pronounced in the UK than in the US (I honestly have no idea why), even when this difference is accounted for, proportionally fewer SF and F novels by women are reviewed. They also receive proportionally less buzz in blogs.

I don't know why this is true either. I think that there's some sort of cultural programming that makes people of both genders not see books with female names on them. Maybe it's cover design, or the subgenres that are more female heavy currently. Maybe it's related to the thing that makes us not notice that 70% of speaking roles in movies go to men,

https://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/


and even crowd scenes in movies are weighted heavily towards men. We've been trained to see a male majority as normal.

But I doubt most people are consciously thinking, "Oh, this book looks cool. I would have reviewed it if it were written by a man."

Sexism doesn't have to be conscious. It's actually the subconscious biases that are hardest to rout, because we don't want to believe we have them.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 06:49:25 AM by Roxxsmom »

Offline Nora

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i have had a look through the article and it shows how backward the publishing industry can be,  i have not seen Kameron Hurley's name appear anywhere here, The Mirror Empire was one the best books i read last year fantastic stuff.

Ahaha! Brilliant. Just popped on the thread and read your comment, while I've just started an excerpt of The Mirror Empire! I got to it after reading a short story from the same author on tor, check it out it's very good :

http://www.tor.com/2015/05/13/elephants-and-corpses-kameron-hurley/
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