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  1. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    Ooh, I hadn’t seen the link to the Periodic Table of Women in Science Fiction – I’m glad to say that I’ve read at least half of the writers on that list.

    For me, the struggle is always how to explain that the issue at hand is not a deliberate act of sexism, but that a subconscious, unmeaning, unthinking act can be just as harmful.

    This.

  2. Alisa Krasnostein
    Alisa Krasnostein at |

    Since writing this I was pointed to the origin of the Periodic Table – this Youtube clip is well worth checking out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYMvGUUwq7E&feature=player_embedded

  3. napalmnacey
    napalmnacey at |

    Fantastic post, Alisa. Very nicely done.

  4. fuckpoliteness
    fuckpoliteness at |

    In an article about Sydney Sci Fi convention Supanova, the organiser said:
    ‘It used to be more about the boys but these days there are just as many girls, particularly because they really love to get dressed up as their favourite characters.”

  5. Rebekka
    Rebekka at |

    Graaaagghhhhghh. It’s all about the clothes of course.

    Was glad to see many of my fave authors on that periodic table though.

  6. steve davidson
    steve davidson at |

    Your article prompted me to go back and take a look at a list that I compiled of the “top 150 classic sf writers” (http://www.rimworlds.com/thecrotchetyoldfan/2008/07/top-150-classic-sf-writers/)

    The cut off for “classic” was “published prior to 1983″; the measure of importance was a point system based on inclusion in anthologies, awards won, etc., etc. (detailed in the article). Sources used were the magazines of the era, anthologies of the era and award lists.

    17 women appear in the list (11.3%), most of whom seem to have “been forgotten”

    I also aggregated the two Mind Melds (http://www.rimworlds.com/thecrotchetyoldfan/2010/05/dont-ask-me-what-i-think-of-you/) and I think it brings a few interesting things to light: the individual number of female author names is small, but the prominence of those few is fairly large. Three of the most frequently mentioned novels are by women, three women are in the list of ‘most works by a single author’ and Le Guin is #4 in the “broadest representation” category. In fact, if you look at the extracts, you’ll see that the “top 4″ includes three males and one female (two different female writers in the top of the top lists).

    I don’t think those numbers are that far out of whack with reality; I strongly suspect that most of the contributors were thinking along the ‘must reads’ lines (like – if you haven’t read this, you just aren’t a fan and not worth talking to), and it is true that for whatever reason, the foundational works in SF were primarily written by males.

    I think that given our space in time right now, the take away is not ‘male to female ratio is out of kilter’ but rather ‘there are multiple female authors and works by them that ARE included in the “must read to be a fan” category.

    Where individuals take such a list when they go beyond it is what needs the influencing.

  7. Alisa Krasnostein
    Alisa Krasnostein at |

    Hi Steve – what I am arguing in this post is to question the kind of thinking that you mention here “I strongly suspect that most of the contributors were thinking along the ‘must reads’ lines (like – if you haven’t read this, you just aren’t a fan and not worth talking to), and it is true that for whatever reason, the foundational works in SF were primarily written by males.”

    I disagree with your assumption and I think what I have argued above is that men, and male critics, tend to think the foundation works in SF were primarily written by men. If you look at your own computations for top classic SF writers, your own criteria has biased the outcome – especially if you include awards as one component.

    I think that given our space in time right now, the take away is not ‘male to female ratio is out of kilter’ but rather ‘there are multiple female authors and works by them that ARE included in the “must read to be a fan” category.

    I think the Periodic Table of Women in SF disputes this too, that the male to female ratio IS out of kilter and that men should read more works by women in order to truly “be a fan” of SF.

  8. steve davidson
    steve davidson at |

    I didn’t mean ti imply that I didn’t think the ratio was out of kilter; what I was really trying to say is that where the effort in changing this ought to come about is not arguing over ratios from the past but in helping folks expand the list.

    Rather than concentrating on the negative (not enough female author representation), let’s concentrate on the positive (some women are considered to be at the absolute pinnacle of influence and importance).

    One set of arguments leads to endless and virtually pointless discussions of stats, while the other leads to “and there are other female authors just as important/good/influential as those that did make it onto the lists”.

    If you looked at the articles I linked to, you’d see that where I did make assumptions, they were based on the information at hand, (which were delineated) and not on preconceived notions. I went where the data seemed to indicate things were going.

    Bias because I included data from awards? Not my bias. Bias from including anthologies? Again, not my bias. I’d like to see someone construct a list of “influential SF authors” based on works that didn’t win anything, weren’t anthologized and weren’t mentioned on the covers of the eras magazines. Can’t be done because any effort along those lines HAS to be personally biased. All I can do is show folks where the information came from and what it was based on – but the results of that survey can’t be blamed on anything other than the potential bias of everyone who ever voted on a Hugo or Nebula award, the editors of the magazines and people like Groff Conklin or J. Francis McComas.

  9. Alisa Krasnostein
    Alisa Krasnostein at |

    I’ve been presenting this discussion for quite some time now and when I started out joining the voices of people saying that women were underrepresented and underappreciated, I was asked to substantiate this with statistics. It seems many people won’t believe there is a problem unless you can quantify it.

    My point about the bias is that if you aggregate information on an authors relative importance based on awards they have one, the outcome of that aggregation includes the bias that excluded women from winning those awards at that time. If we decide to not remember female authors because their influence was not acknowledged or ignored at the time, we perpetuate the process of exclusion – we need other ways to build our canon, in other words.

    I cite the periodic table at the end of this piece as it includes 117 important and influential women who are worthy of being read and of inclusion in “any fan’s library”.

  10. tama
    tama at |

    Octavia Butler is in there: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2010/05/mind-meld-what-science-fiction-books-should-be-in-every-fans-library-1/

    I don’t get Joanna Russ. I’ve read part of The Female Man, but I can’t get into it except for a few scenes, not because of the content, but because of the experimental structure. I might give ‘We Who Are About To’ a shot, although the plot has been spoiled for me, and it sounds very depressing.

  11. Lisa
    Lisa at |

    @Steve: “Bias because I included data from awards? Not my bias. Bias from including anthologies? Again, not my bias.”

    If you’re going to use a biased dataset, then you need to correct for that bias in order for any conclusions from it to be useful.

  12. Alisa Krasnostein
    Alisa Krasnostein at |

    Octavia Butler is in there, but she wasn’t recommended by one of the men asked.

  13. orlando
    orlando at |

    This seems to me to have much in common with the JJJ “Hottest 100″ discussions we had last year. Which is no surprise, really.

  14. Christi
    Christi at |

    Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffery, Andre’ Norton, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Elizabeth Moon, Diana Paxon, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Waters, Deborah Wheeler, Dorothy Heydt, Jennifer Roberson, Diann Partridge, Joanna Russ, well, MY list goes on and on.

    But I have to give credit to the mothers of us all, Andre’ Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffery, and my absolute favorite, Mercedes Lackey.

    Christi

  15. pg
    pg at |

    I hadn’t heard about the “Before They Were Giants” list before. LOL! Since when is Cory Doctorow a giant?

  16. Julia Rachel Barrett
    Julia Rachel Barrett at |

    I have been a huge science fiction/fantasy reader all my life. I am now writing science fiction/romance myself – featuring female leads. I may not be George R.R. Martin, but it’s a start!

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