Tag Archives: Elizabeth Bear

Writing: Is It Just About the White Guys?

 SF Signal (www.sfsignal.com a good site for SF news) has seen an explosion of comments over the posting of one new book coming out, The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley. MammothDebate It seems this collection of mindblowing stories, “the 21 finest stories of awesome SF” has not one woman in it or author of color and this has caused quite a hullabaloo.

 There are still more writers in SF who are male than female but that gap has closed a great deal from the early days of SF. There are even fewer authors of color. So it could be that in a sampling of stories that came in that the best were from the white males. However there are several factors that work against this supposition for editor Ashley (who I believe made an oversight more than an intentional choice to exclude female authors).

The Mammoth series of anthologies can be on anything; road trips, horses, brides, vampires, SF. The scope of the series is large and many of them originate in the UK. The Mammoth books also usually tend to have many stories in them (part of the whole mammoth imagery). This book failed in that department by only having 21 stories. Anthologies in general sell less than any novel so an editor and publisher must look at what will sell the book. In that case you will always want a few recognizable names that most readers will know. This alone will narrow the scope of an anthology And of course the books do have themes. Other anthologies might be for a region or a country and there can even be anthologies on the best new SF by women or gay men or whatever.

There are many restrictions on an anthology that will limit whose work is published. The payment for a story may be too little for some authors to submit. Other anthologies are invitational. If you’re not asked, you can’t write for it. Some are partly invitational, and some editors might post their guidelines in exclusive areas (such as members of SFWA may submit, but only members). But going through slush piles of hundreds or thousands of submissions can take a very long time and editors often have a timeframe to work within. Therefore, when an anthology that is not open to any writer makes the claim as having the best, the most awesome or mindblowing pieces, it can be challenged as being exclusionist or elitist. When that claim is made and there are no women either, it ruffles quite a few feathers.

When I edit I look first for the best story or poem. I don’t look at the author’s name or credits, nor what their gender or color is. But when you have invited several people to send in stories and have reprints from others (some for the name) then there is still a possibility to include both genders. It could be that the editor only received stories from males but it is still so narrow a focus that questions arise as to the intent.

On top of this Mammoth book not living up to the usual range of many stories and including SF from women, it also has cover art derivative of the 60s and 70s. But I also don’t know what the editor said in his introduction. Maybe these were mindblowing stories for him when he was a teenager, or smoking pot, or in a geographic area. Maybe he really liked these stories and ignored even past works of authors such as: Le Guin, Tiptree, Tepper, Cadigan, Cherryh, (Mary Shelley if we want to go to the advent of SF & women writers), Norton, McCaffrey, Bear, Henderson, Butler, Scyoc, Hambly, etc. I haven’t read the stories so they could all truly be awesome SF, but I just think some women could be in there too.

Because there has been a history in writing to exclude females in the past it is still a touchy subject. Doing my degree at UBC I saw this attitude, especially in some parts (instructors) of the English department. The only good writer is a dead white male, followed by a live white male. This attitude is changing but it means that editors do have to be aware of the stories they’re receiving and if they want their anthology to be indicative of the overall demographic of writers. Not to mention that there are many many women readers and many of them read SF and fantasy.

I have a feeling that editor Mike Ashley is shaking his head, realizing belatedly that he inadvertently created a hornet’s nest. One writer at SF Signal said that she had been asked to submit, so women were included in the submission process. I could just as easily pout that Canadians had been excluded, but I don’t know the nationality of all the writers, and even if there are only US and UK writers, well, that happens a lot, depending on where the guidelines were listed and whether it was invitational. And at only 21 stories, Ashley probably only asked a select few and chose some reprints on his own. I’m also sure his next anthology will have many more women in it.

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Writing: Shirley Jackson Lottery

Shirley Jackson once wrote a story that gained all sorts of fame, “The Lottery” as well as The Haunting of Hill House and other books.  Well, now there is an actual lottery related to this author and for raising money for the awards, given to stories with a horror, psychological suspense or dark fantasy aspect.  http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/  There is about one more week to buy tickets for this.  I’ve bought some, hoping to get a manuscript critique. We always need outside feedback. Details are below.

Online “Lottery” to Benefit the Shirley Jackson Awards Takes place from February 9 through February 23, 2009“Lottery” tickets are $1 each and can be purchased from: http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/store/

Partial List of Donations to be Awarded

• From Ash-Tree Press: Collections of Sheridan Le Fanu: Mr. Justice Harbottle; The Haunted Baronet; Schalkin the Painter.
• From Laird Barron: A signed/personalized copy of his award winning short story collection, The Imago Sequence (Nightshade), plus an original piece of short fiction, in a separate, unbound manuscript.
• From Elizabeth Bear: Personally inscribed copy of The Chains That You Refuse, an out of print collection of short stories
• From James Blaylock: Signed copy (by James Blaylock and Tim Powers) of The Devils in the Details (Subterranean Press)
• From Douglas Clegg: Signed copy of the Vampyricon trilogy
• From Jeffrey Ford: Keyboard used to write several novels & collections, signed by Jeffrey Ford, to the winner.
• From Neil Gaiman: Keyboard, signed by Neil Gaiman, to the winner.
• From Brian Keene: Signed galley for Scratch, his forthcoming novel
• From Nightshade Books: Limited edition of Tim Lebbon’s Light and other tales of Ruin
• From Stewart O’Nan: Signed copy of unproduced screenplay, POE
• From Paul Riddell: Carnivorous plant terrarium
• From Peter Straub: A reading copy of The Skylark, Part 1, read at ICFA in Orlando 3/2008.
• Tuckerizations by Ekaterina Sedia, Laura Anne Gilman, Nick Mamatas
• Manuscript/Proposal critiques from John Douglas, Alice Turner, Beth Flesicher, Helen Atsma, and Stephen Barbara

“Lottery” Rules

Tickets will be on sale from February 9th through February 23rd, midnight, Eastern Daylight Time. The lottery will be held on February 23rd at midnight. Items will be raffled off individually. Persons may purchase as many tickets per item as desired. For example, a person may purchase ten tickets for the “ITEM” and fifty tickets for “ITEM 2.” Each ticket purchase increases your chances of winning. For example, if you purchase five tickets of the “ITEM 3” and a total of ten tickets for that item have been sold, your odds of winning are 5 out of 10.

For each item, one winner will be chosen using a computerized random number generator. The winning names and prizes will be announced on the Shirley Jackson Awards website. The donating party will mail or deliver the prize to the lucky winner.

All proceeds from the lottery go to support the Shirley Jackson Awards.

Boston, MA (February 2009) – The Shirley Jackson Awards will hold a “lottery” to raise funds for the award. This on-line event takes place from February 9, 2009 through February 23, 2009. Persons buy as many “lottery tickets” as they want in hopes of being selected the winner for any of an array of donated prizes from well-known authors, editors, artists, and agents.

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Writing: Campbell and Sturgeon Awards

Friday night was the presentation of the Campbell Award for best new novel and the Sturgeon Award for best new short fiction of the year. They were presented in Lawrence, Kansas as part of the Campbell Conference and the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) conference. David Moles won the Sturgeon Award for his story “Finisterra,” as well as Elizabeth Bear for her story “Tidelines”

The Campbell Award gave third place to Ken MacLeod for his book, The Execution Channel. Second place went to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Ball, and the winner was Kathleen Ann Goonan for her novel, In War Times.

Saturday continued the conference with a SF book sale at the KU library, and readings and signings at the Oread bookstore. Readers included David Moles, Kij Johnson, Frederik Pohl, Robin Wayne Bailey, Karen Joy Fowler, James Van Pelt and Kathleen Ann Goonan. Fred Pohl, the last of the Futurists (which included Kornbluth, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and others) claims that he will no longer write a collaboration with another author because they end up dying. He finished a book with Arthur C. Clarke but Clarke died before the last fifty pages. The book, The Last Theorem, will be released within the next few months. Pohl is quite a funny guy and it was a delight to hear him read, as well as the other authors.

The conference ended the novel writing workshop. Saturday night, we had a party as our last goodbye to each other. it was a good workshop and some really great people. I’m excited to start working, really working on my novel and restructuring it. Maybe I can get it done this year.

James Van Pelt said some interesting things about writing regularly. He once kept trying for 1000 words a day but couldn’t always manage it so then he’d fall behind and not write for days on end. Stephen King and other writers might do 1000 words a day or more but they don’t always have other jobs. Pelt realized that the 1000 words was the barrier and sat down with what he’d be happy writing in a year and then divided it by the number of days. He realized that he only needed 200 words a day. That breaks down to less than a page and even if tired or too busy, a very doable number. It increased his output and he’s never missed writing a day since.

I think I’ll be trying that and tonight I sat down to look at a story I wrote recently. Using some of the new depths to writing I learned these past two weeks, I rewrote it and added a thousand words. I’ll try writing at least 200 words on fiction every day.

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