A Frustrating Find

In the introduction to More Women of Wonder, published in 1976, Pamela Sargent writes:

Several questions come to mind in the assembling of collections such as this one and its predecessor, Women of Wonder. The most obvious are: Why does such a collection exist at all? Should it not be evident to almost anyone that women can and have written fine science fiction?

It is clear to anyone who has read extensively in the genre. But it may be less obvious to someone who is not as familiar with sf, or to someone who may have stopped reading it years ago. If one takes the trouble to look through issues of old magazines or anthologies reprinting many of the best stories [KKR: emphasis mine], or a shelf of science fiction novels, one is struck immediately by the overwhelming preponderance of male authors. —”Introduction,” Pamela Sargent, More Women of Wonder, Vintage Books, 1976, p. xivii.

Boy, oh, boy is that frustrating to read. Because I wrote something similar in the proposal I submitted to Baen for Tough Mothers. A few things have changed in 39 years: modern magazines publish a large number of stories by women. Also, women dominate the non-literary part of the sf genre—not the part hailed by center-of-the-field critics, but the part read by readers. Yay! Women win or are nominated for a lot of the awards in the field.

But that line that I emphasized—women being underrepresented in year’s best anthologies—that still happens. In reprint collections that claim to explore the history of the field, women seem to have a lesser role, one that isn’t the same as their role in the novel field or even in the award recognition they receive.

As I mentioned in the first post I put on this site, classic award-winning stories by women are often out of print while classics by men remain in print. Dunno why.

But it sure was frustrating tonight to read an essay that, except for some explicitly 1970s language, could have been written in 2015. Sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh.

1 comment for “A Frustrating Find

  1. Gnondpom
    June 1, 2015 at 3:14 am

    I does sound very frustrating!

    But I’m afraid it is probably wider than just the SF field. I sometimes feel that feminism in general has not advanced that much, and it has even regressed in some areas, like the perception of the need for a fight. Many young women take it for granted that women are supposed to be treated equally, since some issues have been addressed, mainly some of the most blatant injustices. But the problem is that they don’t realise that a lot of inequalities remain, especially the subtle ones, the difficult-to-prove ones.

    Your example is spot-on: women DO get awards, but strangely enough their stories get out of print quicker than men’s. But the correlation with their gender is hard to prove, it *could* just be bad luck.

    Thanks for your thoughts anyway!

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