Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Re: The Strange Horizons 2012 SF Count

io9 has a post about the number of male vs female SF authors who were reviewed last year by a variety of venues in response to this post by Strange Horizons.  As usual, books by women were greatly underrepresented.

But what surprises me are the comments by people asking where these books by women are and what they should read if they want to read a science fiction book by a woman.

Seriously?  You're writing a comment on a website on this amazing thing called the internet, and you can't figure out how to find books by women?  Try doing a google search.

Here are two websites with lots of suggestions that came up immediately under the search "science fiction books by women": Goodreads' Science Fiction Books by Female Authors and The New York Review of Science Fiction's 200 Significant Science Fiction Books by Women, 1984–2001, by David G. Hartwell.  Wow, that was easy.  There's also a list of female SF authors I put together some time ago with a lot of suggestions.  

It's really not hard to find female authors in any genre.  I can't walk two steps at the bookstore where I work without stumbling over several books by women in any genre (though you don't find many books by men in the romance section).  I'll admit, I'm spoiled in that my store's unusual in its size and the variety of books we carry.  I forget sometimes that all the backlist titles we carry in full aren't available in other stores.  And online bookstores leave a lot to be desired when it comes to discovering books.  If you don't know what you're looking for, good luck finding it.

Which is where the Strange Horizons' findings become a problem.  More than ever book review magazines and blogs are how readers discover books, and if women's books aren't reviewed, how are readers supposed to find them?  And how many more readers will wonder in the future, where the books by women are?

* Edited to add

I just read this great article by Radish Reviews responding to the Strange Horizons info, questioning why Romantic Times Magazine, which reviews a good number of SF/F isn't included in their survey.  I've made a habit over the past few years of reading their reviews every month.  Ok, I read the SF/F, urban fantasy, graphic novel and teen reviews but they do so much more (general fiction, all branches of romance, and mysteries).  They review a mix of titles by men and women, including a few ebook originals.  While I don't always agree with their ratings, they've got some great reviews.  The reviews are also a good way of seeing what's coming.  The magazine itself often has information about the state of the publishing industry.  So don't let the "Romantic" label fool you, this is a good source for book reviews.


Paul Weimer said...

Its amazing how people can be blind, and the information on the Internet can lead to "source paralysis"--where do I start looking for ideas? Whom do I trust?

Jessica Strider said...

Yeah, that's true. It's also nice to get suggestions from people who know your own interests and can steer you to books you'll like rather than ploughing through a bunch of general suggesions which might reaffirm your idea that you don't like whatever it is. If you like hard SF and I recommend space opera, I'm not doing you any favours.

On a slightly different note it bugs me when people ask for SF suggestions and get fantasy recommendations instead. While we may think of them together, they are different genres, and someone who likes one won't necessarily like the other. Similarly someone who likes one aspect of the genre won't necessarily like others (like urban fantasy vs sword and sorcery or alternate history vs post-apocalyptic).

Paul Weimer said...

Oh, quite. People who want more like Greg Egan are looking for Hammered, not Range of Ghosts. :)