April 24, 2017, 09:55:28 PM

Author Topic: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)  (Read 13367 times)

Offline Overlord

For those who haven't come across it yet, the 'Women In Fantasy' database is an ongoing project that already documents over 300 women fantasy writers. Far more than just a list of names, each entry has a section for notes/opinions and various ways of categorising the type of fantasy the author is writing (e.g. a check column for whether it is suitable for YA readers and whether the author is on Reddit's lists of all-time greats).

When I heard of this project, a bid by Sonika Balyan to show the world that ‘yes, women write fantasy and always have done’, I really wanted to help draw attention to it. I got in touch with Sonika who was happy for me to share the project with Fantasy-Faction's readers and provide us with some words about why she felt the need to create such a database:

Quote
I’ve heard from lot of people that women don’t read or write fantasy. It’s interesting to speculate why that is, but what’s more interesting is that it’s not even true. I’m not arguing that there are enough women (yours truly included) reading fantasy. If you doubt that just walk into any bookstore and watch the queue of buyers for an hour. Or go to your nearest book club.

I like to believe that gender has no role in the way we buy books. Of course there are readers who go out of their way to avoid fantasy written by women. But mostly readers are impartial on gender. So we should definitely be seeing more women on the recommended lists. But we don’t. Why? Why is it that we think women don’t write fantasy? Why aren’t more women featuring in our conversation about fantasy?

It might be a bias in publishing industry, it might be a bias of reviewers, it might be a bias of bookshop owners who control display windows. I don’t know the answer. I have my hypotheses, but they are just hypotheses. What I can definitely answer is that women do write fantasy. Really good fantasy.

So I sat down and compiled this list. I do hope this list helps others discover some new authors. I know, I already have.

PS: It’s still a work in progress. I would be happy to receive feedback and recommendations.

Check it out here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1A7YX3bmjdKoiwLnXuqxO8NNZwIKUjqzg2GH9AdZ__xU/
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Offline Roxxsmom

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2014, 04:29:21 AM »
Thanks for posting this! A very worthy project and long overdue. I remember reading somewhere recently that nearly half of the fantasy that's being written in recent years is by women (and there have been a lot of female fantasy authors since the 80s, at least), and that a high percentage of fantasy readers are women, than women win a respectable percentage of Hugo and Nebula awards. But they seem to get left off a lot of the "all time best of" lists, and they're often overlooked in forums (even here on FF) when people recommend favorite authors to one another.

Is there a way to contact the author of this list re names that should be included but aren't? I was wondering about the criteria for "strong female character" and "romance present" as well, since some authors who write books with one or both of these elements are missing the requisite "Y." Maria V. Snyder is an example of one such. Blank all the way across in spite of having a strong romantic arc in many of her books (they're published by an imprint of Harlequin) and having all female protagonists so far.


Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2014, 08:22:29 AM »
I noticed you put this thread as a sticky - but the majority of posts are actually as replies in the main site.
I'd love to reply to some of them here, but I wonder, even if you copy them here, if the people aren't normally in the forum, they won't see and reply back...
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2014, 08:55:42 PM »
*waves* Hey dudes, this is also Cecily.

Scarlet, sorry that that escalated on the main article comments section.

I sometimes go into auto-defense mode on this subject just due to pure emotional exhaustion. Talking about sexism in SF/F, which I do a lot, leads to a lot of... well, crap flung at my door, from the minor (being downvoted and having my personal reading taste critiqued) to the more serious (harassment, people following the trail to my blog and leaving hostile notes, etc.). Even though at least initially I tend to use a really polite and non-accusatory tone and talk about systemic problems rather than individuals. And I have a low profile but some women who don't and also talk about this have received much more serious harassment. See, for example, Sady Doyle's piece on the reactions she got for her feminist critique of ASOIAF, in which she points out that one of her bloggers got messages telling her to "get raped by Drogo": http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/29/chronicles-of-mansplaining-professor-feminism-and-the-deleted-comments-of-doom/

All that leads to a certain amount of knee-jerkery.

Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss the content of the article, I'm down. It's a good article. I possess Many Opinions about it.
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Offline The Lily of Loch Lorinne

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2014, 09:33:13 PM »
Hmmm...the database is missing Caitlin Brennan nor does it list CB as under Judith as a writing alias. I suspect many of the Luna imprints are not listed.

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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2014, 10:21:31 AM »
Ok, I'll jump.

I think I'm a feminist, in the sense that every person should be one: I want equality between the sexes because I don't believe they are different in core. Same pay, same opportunities, no limits for either.

And because of this, I never pay attention to whether a person is a man or a woman, in all situations in which that doesn't matter - and that is in everything but looking around for a person to love (since I'm not bi hehe)
And because of this, I don't really care if the books I read are written by men or women, they just have to be good enough for me to like them.

So maybe because of this, maybe because I have lived my whole life assuming the above is true for everyone, and all the people I've interacted with think the same (at least they never gave me any indication otherwise), I don't really like these discussions of "You're a bad person because you read more from male authors", "women authors are always victims", etc. The exact same way you can't group all male authors in one group (there are some I love, others I can't stand), you can't group all female authors together: again, there are some great ones and others who can't write as well. I want to read good books, and I don't care who writes them.

Of course, logic would say that the good ones get published and the bad ones don't, but that doesn't happen in real life ('50 shades' anyone?), and my point is that this also happens with male authors. There are a huge number of great male writers who can't get a deal, the same way that there are a huge number of great female writers who can't get a deal. Waterstones also includes really bad male writers in their promotion tables, together with great male ones, great female ones, and bad female ones.

So yes, I get annoyed when people bring in sex/genre as a reason for something that's not directly linked.


And then again, maybe I'm just a very lucky naive person....

« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 10:23:48 AM by ScarletBea »
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Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2014, 11:53:23 AM »
Way back when this list was a twitter conversation under the hashtag #womeninfantasy I wrote a blog about these issues:

http://sennydreadful.co.uk/women-in-fantasy-thoughts-on-disrupting-the-circle/

The thing is, yeah it's cool that you don't think about gender when you're selecting books to read - however, the problem is that you're not selecting from an equal deck. The deck is stacked against women writers, as it were. There are more male writers represented on display tables in bookshops, and in promotional emails (Juliet E. McKenna has done a lot of work on this) so when you're thinking of books to read, well, more books by male writers will tend to pop into your head. Ask for recommendations on a forum like this and people will say: Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss*, Mark Lawrence, Brandon Sanderson... you often have to ask directly for books by women to get any.

As I said in the blog, do I think this is because everyone is sexist? No, but we're picking from a stacked deck, because male writers get more coverage/attention.

I don't like being told what to read either. But I'm also sure that there are a lot of great books by women that are just passing us by because they never get that space on the table/that review/that mention on a Most Recommended list.

It can only do good to disrupt the circle - it won't take sales away from excellent male authors that we love, but it will give you a broader choice on that display table. And that's why lists like this are groovy and important.


* Last night I dreamt that I went to a restaurant where Pat Rothfuss was cooking jerk chicken for everyone. It was really good.

Offline JamesLatimer

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2014, 03:14:02 PM »
Then there are other ways the deck is stacked, like the different style covers they tend to give women and men*. I'm a sucker for a good cover, and I know my eye gets drawn to ones that remind me of other books I've read and enjoyed (but also completely unique ones, so there's that, too). If books by men get the same sort of cover, I will continuously get drawn back to other books by men.  And I'm sure there's similar bias in the marketing and the blurbs.

I also think I've been socialised to prefer "manly" looking or sounding books, whatever that is--not saying everyone has, but I know I've been fairly consciously sexist in the past when choosing books.  I think we've seen by the particular comment on the article that not everyone is gender-blind, and I've certainly shunned a good many 'girly' books in the past. I reject a lot of books for a lot of reasons, mind, but I have probably been quicker to dismiss a woman author due to these biases, even when they are probably more to my particular tastes.  I'd love to blame society, but... :-\

I'm trying to change that, and in doing so I've notice all the things that we're talking about here--the tables with 5 women authors out of 21, the recommendation lists full of guys, the all-male author panels.  I know there are great women authors of SFF out there, but it does seem you have to actively look to find them.  My TBR list is still largely male because it's hard to fight the weight of hype in their favour.

*can't decide if it's better or worse in the US, where quite a lot of fantasy books get terrible, romance-novel covers

EDIT: just looked down this forum, and it's Abercrombie, Martin, de Castell, Anthony Ryan, Michael Moorcock, Tad Williams, the all-male Grim Gathering, and Robin Hobb.  So there's a good example!  r/fantasy is largely the same.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 03:20:56 PM by JamesLatimer »

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2014, 07:55:14 PM »
^^ Yeah, this.

There's something funny going on when the "most-recommended lists" are almost all male, and the Nebula Awards winners are almost all female. Or, for that matter, when the main popular vote award (Hugo) is decidedly stacked with male authors, and the main industry vote award (Nebula) is decidedly stacked with female authors.

Honestly, SF/F by women has to work harder and be better to get half the popular recognition. It is a gender issue.

And while obviously that particular comment on the article demonstrates that there is some sexist bias going on in some readers' minds, I don't think that's usually the case. The stacked deck -- with male-authored books being reviewed, discussed, displayed, etc. far disproportionately to female-authored books -- leads to male-authored books being discussed more. They are more likely to pop in people's minds because of the availability heuristic (a cognitive bias in which the brain reaches information it's heard more recently and frequently than others). Even for me; I read wayyy more female authors than male authors, and my brain is likely to default to 1) what I've read most recently and 2) the male authors I have read that have been talked about for as long as I can remember (Gaiman, Lewis, Pratchett, etc.).

As recently as 2011 (could be sooner but that's the latest I know of), female SF/F authors were *still* being urged to use their initials instead of their first names. I just don't understand the denial.

ETA: And for anyone looking to balance gender parity, industry award nominations lists are a good starting place. Nebulas, World Fantasy Award, Shirley Jackson, Mythopoeic Award, etc.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 07:59:58 PM by FeminineFantastique »
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Offline Jaedia

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2014, 11:16:50 PM »
Way back when this list was a twitter conversation under the hashtag #womeninfantasy I wrote a blog about these issues:

http://sennydreadful.co.uk/women-in-fantasy-thoughts-on-disrupting-the-circle/

The thing is, yeah it's cool that you don't think about gender when you're selecting books to read - however, the problem is that you're not selecting from an equal deck. The deck is stacked against women writers, as it were. There are more male writers represented on display tables in bookshops, and in promotional emails (Juliet E. McKenna has done a lot of work on this) so when you're thinking of books to read, well, more books by male writers will tend to pop into your head. Ask for recommendations on a forum like this and people will say: Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss*, Mark Lawrence, Brandon Sanderson... you often have to ask directly for books by women to get any.

As I said in the blog, do I think this is because everyone is sexist? No, but we're picking from a stacked deck, because male writers get more coverage/attention.

I don't like being told what to read either. But I'm also sure that there are a lot of great books by women that are just passing us by because they never get that space on the table/that review/that mention on a Most Recommended list.

It can only do good to disrupt the circle - it won't take sales away from excellent male authors that we love, but it will give you a broader choice on that display table. And that's why lists like this are groovy and important.


* Last night I dreamt that I went to a restaurant where Pat Rothfuss was cooking jerk chicken for everyone. It was really good.

This entire reply made me happy. Partly because of the random aside about the Pat Rothfuss dream which is funny and the kind of thing I'd post too.. but also because it's pretty much what I was thinking.

And as an fyi, I just bought 5 books. Four initially (2 female authors, 2 male authors), until I spied an H.G. Wells novel I'd never heard of and picked up also, but reading through this thread made me think.. I do not choose the books that I read based on gender and that is awesome. Sadly, my bookshelves are still dominated by the "most recommended" so there is an overshadowing there, but I'm getting more and more of my recommendations from the type of folk who frequent these forums.. thus, slowly, it's becoming more balanced. And when I picked up Half A King, Good Omens, The Copper Promise, and The Legend of Eli Monpress.. it was purely recommendation based, I didn't even think about gender in the slightest. Wouldn't it be nice if this was more commonplace? :)

Offline whitepawn

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 06:36:03 PM »
I find it interesting that on a quick scroll through there are very few books with strong female protag + romance factor.

Offline Roxxsmom

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2014, 12:08:34 AM »

The thing is, yeah it's cool that you don't think about gender when you're selecting books to read - however, the problem is that you're not selecting from an equal deck. The deck is stacked against women writers, as it were. There are more male writers represented on display tables in bookshops, and in promotional emails (Juliet E. McKenna has done a lot of work on this) so when you're thinking of books to read, well, more books by male writers will tend to pop into your head. Ask for recommendations on a forum like this and people will say: Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss*, Mark Lawrence, Brandon Sanderson... you often have to ask directly for books by women to get any.

As I said in the blog, do I think this is because everyone is sexist? No, but we're picking from a stacked deck, because male writers get more coverage/attention.

I don't like being told what to read either. But I'm also sure that there are a lot of great books by women that are just passing us by because they never get that space on the table/that review/that mention on a Most Recommended list.


This, completely. If the playing field were level, then it wouldn't be an issue, but it's tragic (in my opinion) that there are great (even award-winning) writers who just don't get the attention they deserve. Writers miss out, because their careers may fizzle due to lack of sales. We as readers miss out, because we may never discover authors we would greatly enjoy, or if we do, we may be frustrated by the fact that said author only has a couple of books to her name.

And to be perfectly fair, I think this happens to male writers sometimes too--just getting lost in the flood of incredibly diverse offerings that are out there. If you're not writing what's currently considered to be in fashion, you may be overlooked, even though many readers bemoan the fact that it's hard to find the kind of (non trendy) stuff they like.

But I think it happens to women writers more often.

Offline El Pato Loco

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2014, 03:47:02 PM »
Hmmm... I ended up here after misreading the thread title and thinking this was a discussion about "Giant Women"... imagine my disappointment ;)

Actually I'm curious about the serious discussion matter here regarding the numbers of female authors and I'm going to go a little off piste here because I've been wondering about women who write (dare I say it in this forum? Maybe if I type really quietly...) 'science fiction', which seem to be fewer in number even than fantasy authors.

I do tend to agree with the earlier comment that the gender of a writer shouldn't make any difference and a work should stand or fall based entirely on whether it's good enough, having said that I do tend to find male and female writers generally have styles that attract a certain type of reader. Take David Gemmell for example. A series of best selling fantasy novels all with male leads and very strong supporting female characters, yet his two novels with a female lead are his two worst selling books and as far I'm aware are his only titles not to make it on to best seller lists (I will happily accept corrections if that is not the case) But why is that do you think?

I usually try and adhere to the generalisation that one should never generalise ;) but is there an argument that the majority of fantasy readers have a certain expectation of a fantasy novel and that for whatever reason, be it socio-economic, genetic, cultural or evolutionary, the majority of female writers just don't hit the buttons of the majority of fantasy readers and so they don't get the sales that will catapult them into the big time?

One also can't overlook the dominance the large publishing houses still have in the market... good ol' JKR of child wizard fame isn't the world richest writer because her books are any good... it's because someone in marketing picked one up and said "Hey, we could make a film out of this... think of all the merchandising" so in that respect getting 'picked up' is still very a much a lottery and a case of who you know in the industry rather than what you know as a writer.

NB: I do apologise profusely for sullying a fantasy forum with mention of SF however, if we're honest the only difference is the setting, you could have one story and simply by saying it takes place in the bronze age or 500 years from now seems to be the only criteria for determining whether it's classed as fantasy or SF ;)

 



Offline Roxxsmom

Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2014, 09:25:05 AM »
The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards this year was by a woman, and it's SF, not fantasy. A mind stretching read too, but very good.

It's hard to get statistics on the actual number of publications of SF and fantasy by gender. It's even harder to break it down into subgenres, because there is a certain amount of subjectivity and disagreement about these. But approximately 40% of the members of the SFWA are women. Of course, there are plenty professional SF and F writers of both gender who are not in this organization. No idea if the numbers are representative or not.

Since 1970, women have won nearly 40% of the Hugo awards for best novel, and 34% of the Nebulas. In the past twenty years, 40% of the Hugo winners and 50% of the nebula winners have been women.

I don't think women who write SF and F are that few and far between. Strange Horizons magazine participates in something called the count (an analysis of how literary coverage is affected by gender of the author), which suggests that SF and F novels written by women are less likely to be reviewed or discussed on book blogs.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2013/20130422/2sfcount-a.shtml

http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2012/05/women-in-sff-month-in-conclusion/


Offline Eclipse

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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database)
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2014, 01:05:47 PM »
Hi I was just looking to see if Alex Hughes is mentioned, she does the Mindspace Investigation series which I really enjoyed it's more Sci-fi then Fantasy through
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