The August Short Fiction Column

Aug 1, 21:49 by IROSF
Let's talk about short fiction!

Bluejack's reviews are here.
Aug 2, 00:43 by Jed Hartman
Re author gender: I, too, would like to see someone update the stats from Sue Linville's article SF & Fantasy in the New Millennium: Women Publishing Short Fiction.

In the meantime, I have two bits of data, for whatever they're worth:

1. For some time now, roughly 30%-40% of submissions to Strange Horizons have been by women, and roughly 60%-70% have been by men. (The ranges are because anywhere from 6% to 11% of a given year's submissions are by authors whose genders we don't know.) The percentage of the stories we publish that are by women has varied over the years from about 40% to about 60%. We don't consider author gender in making our decisions any more than any other prozine editor does, but somehow the percentage of stories by women that we publish ends up a lot higher than in most other prozines. (That "somehow" isn't meant to be sarcastic or snide or to have an agenda; I honestly don't know what the reasons are.)

2. Sci Fiction: Interestingly, Ellen published about 80% stories by men in 2001 and 2002, about 65% stories by men in 2003 and 2004, and so far has published exactly 50% stories by men in the first half of 2005. I draw no conclusions from this, but I do find it interesting.
Aug 2, 00:57 by Bluejack
Thanks for the data, and the link to Sue Linville's original study. I'll also be interested to see what the numbers look like at Asimov's, although defining when Gardner's inventory is fully out of the system might be tricky.
Aug 2, 09:16 by Cheryl Morgan
I haven't counted, but I'm pretty sure I review more books by men than by women. Part of that, of course, is a reflection of the type of books I tend to review. I could easily up the female quotient by reviewing more high fantasy books, but then I'd be rude about most of them.
Aug 2, 10:03 by Bluejack
Mind you, the interesting stat isn't just "more men than women," but "proportionally more men than women than are provided" -- for an editor, this has to be matrixed against the slush pile; for a reviewer, this would be tallied against what is published. Or, in your case Cheryl, what is published in your area of interest.

I'm going to try to work out the tallies for myself so far in 2005.
Aug 2, 10:30 by twosheds
I don't see the hand-wringing over our human imperfections. The reader knows a review (or decision to publish) is a matter of personal taste and opinion. Assuming a person could counter-balance their gender preferences (real or statistically enhanced) how many other preferences and biases do we still carry? We can't eliminate them all nor should we want to or deny what it is to be human. The same issue occurs in criminal justice (my expertise). Once the idea was proposed to eliminate racial bias in sentence by having computers do the sentencing. Just plug in the factors of the case. But people didn't like putting their fate into the hands of a machine.

Reviews are much more a matter of opinion than criminal sentencing. But if we could program a computer to give us reviews or decide which stories to buy (with the guarantee of bias-free decisions) would that be preferable?

So be a man, and stop worrying.
Aug 2, 10:33 by Bluejack

I'm not worried two sheds. I'm interested.
Aug 2, 10:40 by Bluejack
And for those who really like numbers, here's a study Dave Truesdale did back in the mid-nineties. Apparently the Linville essay built on this study.

Now, almost ten years later, it would be interesting to undertake an update of Dave's thorough analysis... although the critical component is invisible to us: the gender ratio in the slush pile.

And just to add a bit more to twosheds point: I am not saying that there needs to be a direct or exact correlation between the slush and the published product, or between what is published and what is reviewed. Naturally, an editor is under a heavy mandate to publish what he or she believes will be most appreciated by the readers. And, for the large part I think editors do that.

But it can be informative to actually look at the numbers now and then. Sometimes they reveal interesting patterns.

Plus, I like the stats. It's probably why I like baseball so much.
Aug 2, 13:22 by Ellen Datlow
There really IS no conclusion. It's the luck of the draw in any given year. I've found more stories I've liked by women the past couple of years. I would say this is a change, after more than 20 year's editing short fiction magazines.

>>>2. Sci Fiction: Interestingly, Ellen published about 80% stories by men in 2001 and 2002, about 65% stories by men in 2003 and 2004, and so far has published exactly 50% stories by men in the first half of 2005. I draw no conclusions from this, but I do find it interesting.
Aug 2, 18:05 by twosheds
Not a lot moved me in F&SF this issue. The "Quantum Bit.." stories were too preachy-reminded me of a philosophy class I took in college one semester. I did like "Age of Miracles." Not enough of a sense of danger, but I loved the alt. history approach. Gave up on "Magic for Beginner" on the 5th page. Maybe too high-brow for me. I grew bored and cramped my hand correcting POV errors. (Ok, ok…when you’re a great writer you can mess with POV). The Carter Scholz time travel story was interesting. I assume the lack of quotation marks was intentional (like improvised jazz music not adhering to convention). Sorry to sound like such a downer. I kind of liked “Housewarming”. Again, POV problems and clichéd dialogue. I was also uncomfortable with the author's racial references. Why was it necessary to describe a police office who is purely incidental and unimportant to a scene as a “big, black detective.” ?

What I really liked was Realms of Fantasy. "Broken Tickers" by Joe Murphy was great! I vividly remember his earlier story based on this setting. Very original combined with smooth prose. His hook is the folk science. Vaguely like steam punk in which steam technology evolves forward hundreds of years. In this case, rural craftsmanship evolves to the point of the ability to create self-aware robots (Amish punk?).
Aug 2, 21:27 by Bluejack
Amish Punk! Love it!
Aug 3, 07:51 by Carrie Vaughn
You've always been very kind to my stories, bluejack, in case you were worried. :)
Aug 3, 13:03 by Douglas Hoffman
Re: The Vegetable Lamb

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one befuddled by that one. I think you made better progress on it than me, though.

Thanks for checking out my review, too.
Aug 4, 16:53 by Bluejack
Hey, I haven't seen anything from you in a while, Carrie... can we expect to see some stories anywhere sometime soon?
Aug 9, 11:29 by Carrie Vaughn
Ooh, a bit late checking the forum...

The answer is...yes. I have stories coming up in Talebones 31, the December Paradox, an upcoming Weird Tales...and my novel's out in November.

*does a happy dance*
*has a nervous breakdown from waiting*
Aug 9, 12:56 by Bluejack
A novel, eh? What's it called, what kind of story is it?
Aug 10, 13:25 by Carrie Vaughn
"Kitty and the Midnight Hour," about a werewolf named Kitty who starts a call-in radio talk show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. Let's see if I can do a hyperlink...
Aug 11, 12:43 by Bluejack
Cool cover, Carrie. I'll look for it when it's out.
Aug 18, 10:13 by twosheds
As much as I liked Realms of Fantasy this issue, I noticed that there were three stories that used a rather standard device: if someone knows your "real" name, they have some sort of power over you. All the stories were good, but three in one issue? And I think the device is a bit overdone in general (in fantasy genre). Just me.

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