Monday, January 31, 2011

Women and writing

In a discussion this morning on a message board I frequent, posters are speculating on why fewer women than men win Writers of the Future. (In the upcoming anthology, only one woman is featured.) One poster, a writer whom I happen to admire and has previously been well-spoken online, suggested the lack of female writers in the anthologies stems from their tendency to write paranormal romance, which is a category the primary judge frowns on.

For the record, I am a woman. I enjoy reading the occasional paranormal romance but I don't write it. Ever. I'll go a step farther and point out that in two-plus years of critiquing WotF entries from both men and women, I have yet to see even one paranormal romance story in the pile from either sex. The female writers I know write an eclectic mix of science fiction (hard and soft) and fantasy (of all kinds).

This is an edited version of a post from earlier today. That earlier post was angry and ranting. I decided later that wasn't the tone I wanted to take. My main beef with making a sexist remark like "most female writers write paranormal romance" is that it's an assumption. Any assumption a person can make is most likely wrong. A saying I learned awhile back: "assume" makes an "ass" out of you and me.

All that said, I have no clue why fewer female writers win Writers of the Future. The judging is blind. So either we're simply not writing the stories that the judges deem are the best, or there are proportionally fewer of us entering the contest. In any case, I intend to become one of the women who breaks the trend.


Jordan Lapp said...

Hi Jennifer,

There was one year (vol 24, I think) where the women outnumbered the men something like 9 to 3.

Honestly, I think you're over thinking it. Fewer women write sci-fi than men. Occasionally, you'll get a statistical anomaly like this year and vol 24, but usually the numbers will be about right.

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks said...

Hi Jordan,

If I'm overthinking it, so were a lot of people at the WotF forum. This post was more my thoughts on one particular comment in that discussion -- i.e. because I'm a woman I must be writing paranormal romance -- that got me riled up.

P.S. I read your WotF story. "After the Sunset, Again," right? It's one of my favorites.

Oso said...

Hi Jennifer,
This post caught my eye on IceRocket. My first instinct was to say pretty much the same stuff that Jordan did.

The poster in question has his/her (I'll make no assumptions) reasoning backward. Assuming that a paranormal romance story discovered in the slush has a better chance of having been written by a woman than by a man, we can conclude that a story written by a man is unlikely to be paranormal romance. We cannot make any conclusions about what a woman might be writing. It would be like assuming that all poodles are dogs could lead to the assumption that all dogs are poodles. Bad logic. Someone should have paid more attention in geometry class.

Anyway, I think there's still a strong female presence in the WotF community and the spec fic community at large. Last year's Gold Award was won by a female.

Good luck with the contest!

Jordan said...

Thanks for the compliment on my WotF story, Jennifer!

I'd say, sure, women are more likely to write paranormal romance in the same way that men are more likely to write military sci-fi. Much as we like to turn a blind eye to them, our culture does have its cultural biases. I agree with Scott though ("Oso" is actually Scott Baker, one of last year's winners) that that doesn't mean that women ONLY write paranormal romance. In any case, so what? paranormal romance has as much chance of winning as any other genre.

Not only was last year's gold award winner won by a woman, the anthology is edited by one. I'd say that as more women start writing genre, and it IS happening, you'll start to see the sexes of the winners evening out.

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks said...

Thank you, guys. Overreacting is something I'm good at. It's nice to hear responses from some level-headed people. Scott, your reasoning is perfect.

I own three of the anthologies, and in those the breakdown of the sexes is: 10-to-3, 8-to-4, and 10-to-2. At least, I think so. With some names, it's hard to tell. In other years, the ratios might be the other way around.

Also: Scott, "Poison Inside the Walls" is excellent science fiction.