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Realms of Fantasy’s All-Women Issue

Damsels Causing Distress

Realms of Fantasy is doing a “Women in Fantasy” issue.  For this issue, they’ll only be accepting stories by female authors.

I’ve got a number of opinions on this, but for once I’m going to keep those to myself, at least to start with.

A deliberate women-only issue of Realms.  What do you think?

PS, That’s right, I can write short blog posts!
PPS, Do read the Realms post for further details from Douglas Cohen.
ETA: PPPS, Per an e-mail from Douglas, they have no intention of rejecting good stories just because they’re written by men.  “If I like it (and more importantly, if Shawna likes it), there’s no reason we can’t use it for a different issue.”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

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lee_martindale
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
What I think is that I'll pass on submitting anything for this issue. I don't care for discrimination on the basis of sex.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
Do you think it's discriminatory to have a showcase issue? For example, if they decided to do an issue showcasing non-US writers, would that also be discriminatory?
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nick_kaufmann
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
A good idea? Sure, why not? I don't see it as discrimination so much as a theme issue.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
Can't wait to see what they come up with for the cover...
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greenmtnboy18
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
I have two reactions...

1) I appreciate the effort, and think highlighting the contributions of traditionally ignored/under-appreciated/discriminated-against "groups" is a positive thing in a "let's draw attention to the fact that there are people who are traditionally ignored/under-appreciated/devalued and talk about that fact."

2) It's not the point... the point is not a "one time special issue". The point is ongoing, fair, appreciative treatment.

I'm sort of reminded of our current situation with gay bars/clubs in Vermont. Of which there are none. (Used to be... they closed. Variety of reasons. That's another story.) Some other "straight" establishments would then have a "gay night". Usually on a Thursday.

Which had the result of people saying "cool, we have a night where we KNOW the other patrons are gay, and it's our community" AND also had the result of people saying "gee thanks... gay people are welcome in your bar one night a month/week, on a Thursday? Does this mean we're NOT welcome the other 6 days a week/29 days a month?"

It's complicated.

Overall, I think it's great to highlight women sf/f authors, particularly if the effort is to draw attention to the conversation that there HAS been a disparity of treatment/recognition, and to set a precedent for going forward. But the precedent has to be followed up on for me to be truly excited/encouraged.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
"It's complicated."

That sums up my own reaction pretty nicely :-)

I definitely agree with you that it's nice to see them taking the step. Whether or not this is the best choice is harder to say, but I prefer it to the "Oh, there's no sexism in SF/F" brush-off you see in other places.
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sixteenbynine
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
What would be best, I guess, is if there was some discussion within the mag -- a letter from the editor, for instance -- to the effect that "We're doing this so that in the future we don't *have* do to this," as per greenmtnboy18's post. There ought to be some larger and more constructive context.

I know that on my own, I don't care who writes the stories I read or even what country or language they were originally published in. I care that they're good, that they're interesting and that they give me something that opens my eyes. Some people are not like that, and so the effort is to get them to read something they might not normally seek out. The problem is whether or not more of these types of things lead to more of them seeking out on their own.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing there will probably be something like that. I obviously don't know, but I'd be surprised if a deliberate theme issue didn't have some sort of introduction or essay to start things off.
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will_couvillier
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Don't have that much opinion on the subject one way or another, particularily since I'm male without any ready fantasy to sub, anyway. And while there's plenty time to write up a story for it, again -- I'm male.

Not a big deal, not a concern. Themed issues are themed issues, no matter how you look at it.
cathshaffer
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I think it's a nice, positive, non-defensive response to the criticism they've been getting lately. I think they've been pretty inclusive historically, and I've not personally been offended by their art work, but it's a great chance to showcase some new ideas and new talent. Good on them.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
It's definitely nice to see them hearing and responding to the discussion. Regardless of the rest, I give them props for that.
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nathreee
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think female authors are underrepresented when it comes to fantasy, most of the fantasy I like is from female authors.

I would be fine with theme issues about the story or the characters; theme issues about strong female protagonists or stuff like that. But I don't see the point of female authors only.
stormsdotter
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
I second this. I've noticed that female authors write about men more often then men write about women.

Also, I will be amused if the cover features a scantily-clad gentleman.
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stillnotbored
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
I think--still and always--that I want a level playing field all the time, for everyone, not just when some editor/publisher decides to "highlight" women or some other group.

All the time, not when they think they made a hash of things and need to mend fences. This reeks of CYA. Not that I'm cynical or anything...

I don't want special treatment as a woman writer or concessions, or any kind of preferential treatment. I only want an equal chance to sell a story to an editor. I want that equal chance to be given based on the merit of the story and writing, not on my gender.

I won't sub to this issue. If I did sell them a story I'd always wonder if it really did equal the best of the best, or if I got slipped in because I was female. That would suck.

Still working on those typing skills........

Edited at 2010-01-05 04:41 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that a level playing field is best. Do you think this is a reasonable step in trying to get there? I.e., it's obviously not level for this particular issue, but does it help in the long term, either by making a public effort to welcome women writers or by balancing out a preexisting bias toward men?
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bondo_ba
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
I guess it comes as no surprise that I prefer publications to choose the best stories they find that fit their guidelines / themes.

A top market like ROF receives huge numbers of high quality subs. Eliminating half of them in a month for any arbitrary reason (there are, after all, a limited amount of story slots in a given year)will affect the quality of that month's issue. It's a given that at least some of the stories inclued would have been rejected if the slush pile had held its usual numbr of high-quality submissions from authors of both sexes.

Now, I understand the statement which is being made, but I truly don't think that compromising quality is the best way to help female authors become more widely read. Perhaps highlighting a great story by a female author each month would be better.

Having said that, it doesn't really bother me all that much either. If the stories don't fall into rampant, boring and above all humorless PC flag-waving, they'll probably still be better than what gets published by most other markets.
akiko
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
1. Why do you assume the quality will be inferior simply because they choose all stories by female authors? Yes, I see you comment about 'being rejected from the slush-pile' otherwise. It's possible that the story would have been *accepted* had the slush-picker not chosen a story of equal quality by a male author.

Link-drop: Ceci n'est pas une excuse.

2. Why do you assume female authors are more likely to write "boring ... humorless PC flag-waving" stories?
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catherineldf
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
Well, considering that F&SF regularly does all-male issues or issues that include only one token woman author (and generally only after she's won a Nebula) and the vast majority of SF fans and writers appear to have few problems with that, I think it's an interesting notion. I might also point out that there are numerous problems with the Hugos and who gets picked for those. Will RoF do it right? That remains to be seen but I'm glad they're considering the possibility and paying attention to some of the recent discussion about the covers and content.
cathschaffstump
Jan. 5th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Here, here.

Catherine
socchan
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
...Everything I can think of to respond to this is coming out as a rant about quotas.
lotuseyes
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
It's certainly a way to get conversations started for free hype huh?

I don't necessarily have an issue with it, I honestly don't feel its any different then if they decided 'Hey let's make April an All Dragon stories month!' or whatever, but have they had issues marked 'This is All Male Contributors'? I don't read it on a consistent basis (I buy enough asian manga-zines I don't have enough money for english publications ::sigh::) so I wouldn't know.

And I don't think it will nix out quality stories from males either, if they like a story I don't see why they would be like 'huh toss this rubbish out for being male' instead of holding it over for the next month's publication.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
"It's certainly a way to get conversations started for free hype huh?"

Yep :-)

And I agree that the magazine model allows them to hold good "male" stories for another issue, instead of tossing them out the way they would if it were a one-shot anthology deal, for example.

I don't believe Realms has ever done a deliberate All Male issue.
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mtlawson
Jan. 5th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
Instead of a Women's Only issue, what I think would be better would be a New Writers' Only issue. I can honestly say that I don't know how aggressive the magazine editors are in choosing works from new writers, but I doubt that they'd lack for quality submissions.

Besides, the best way to expand the genre is to get more new blood in. I recall your article about the lack of women in the Hugos, Jim, and this discussion feeds into that. Since the Hugos are voted on by the portion of the SFF community that attends Worldcon, the best way to improve upon that is to expand the community itself. A Women's Only issue might or might not do that, as the stories that might be selected may potentially come from established authors. Opening the doors wider to let more new people in seems the most sensible thing to do.
shanrina
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
From the post you linked to: "While being a woman submitting a fantasy piece to us is enough to get your manuscript considered for this issue, submissions dealing with gender, sexism, and other areas important to feminine speculative literature are particularly welcome."

So...they don't want them the rest of the time? And I don't like the implication that gender and sexism are more important to "feminine speculative literature." What the hell is that, anyway, and how is it different from regular (masculine?) speculative literature? Do I automatically write feminine speculative literature because I'm female?

I admit that I'm not a fan of the idea in general because I believe in level playing fields, but...wow. I'm really not happy with the way the post reads.
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
"So...they don't want them the rest of the time?"

I don't think that's what they're saying. (And having read the magazine, I'm certain that's not what they mean.)

"And I don't like the implication that gender and sexism are more important to 'feminine speculative literature.' What the hell is that, anyway, and how is it different from regular (masculine?) speculative literature? Do I automatically write feminine speculative literature because I'm female?"

I agree with you that it gets more problematic here. I particularly find myself wondering, since Doug is the slush reader, does that mean he's going to be doing the initial screening to determine what's appropriate "feminine" spec fic for this issue?
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acetachyon
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
I'm with will on this. No big deal to me. It's a themed issue.

And that mermaid cover didn't bother me. I thought it was quite nice and apt for such a magazine.

dulcinbradbury
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
I agree. It's a themed issue. Having read a number of editors who've done themed issues or issues with specific reading periods, often it's practically a coin-toss between this piece or that piece. I don't think it will hurt the quality of an issue. There are a lot of very talented women authors. I think they'll see a bump in submissions that will offset the "loss" of half of their usual pool.
filamena
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
So, if it were me, I would have put out for an issue that was FOR women, not necessarily by women. Stories that deal with women's issues and have good strong women protags. You know, then on the back end I'd try to do it at least 50/50, but I wouldn't make a big stink about it.

I always go back to my daughters with this stuff, but for them, I want stories that make them feel empowered, not so much biographies of women who got one more short story published.
phoenixfirewolf
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
I think it's cool... but if they're going to do an all women's issue, then should then do an all men's issue.
kylecassidy
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
I think that whenever a group becomes so insular it's feeding on itself the spotlighting of less frequently heard voices serves to break up a limited DNA and can spawn new growth. I'd like to see what springs from a generation of young women who grow up reading Cathrynne Valente the way I grew up reading Tolkien. And in doing a spotlight on women, I think RoF serves to say "hey, these people are here, if you like them, you can read them."

If it's a terrible thing filled with wretched stories nobody will buy it and they'll not try it again -- the market will bear out.

RoF has always been "good" at including women, perhaps because it's had a woman in an editorial position, and maybe this track record makes them the obvious place for this to come from. It's probably not hard to pull out back issues of other fantasy magazines and find ones that have no fiction not written by men -- they just don't get labeled "Men in Fantasy".
mt_yvr
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
If the book had a clear label of "These are damned fine authors, damned fine stories and did you notice, they're all women? No? Think about that then for a second."... I might be more inclined to be all "wooo!" about it.

As it is, a salve to earlier problems by doing this seems... a little patronizing. "There there, now you have your own book."

Um.

Or am I just that cynical?

I LIKE the idea of showcasing women to remind readers that they aren't invisible. That no, really "there are no women on the interwebs" is not a valid stance. But I have no idea how to do a showcase without it being discriminatory, as Lee says, right back.

I think it's a genuine response to that kind of situation. How DO you poke an industry to stop being so lopsided in its thinking without contributing to the situation?

I've no idea. Better people than I (lots and lots better than I) have talked this out for years. I couldn't begin to imagine how to handle it if they've not.
berry_k
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
When we were still doing HELIX we had an all-women issue, but the way it came about is that the editor chose an array of stories for the issue, and then we noticed, hey, they're all women! Cool! So we talked it up a bit without making a big deal out of it.

I think that's the way to do it.
leahbobet
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
I...hrm. I don't know. I am having a complicated reaction to that.

On one hand, I can see why it would be helpful for people and encourage women writers; give people a showcase they might not have right now. These things do have a ripple effect in terms of getting people, especially newer writers, out and submitting their stuff and in putting general awareness out there. That's good.

On another hand, I've never particularly considered RoF to be a market women have trouble cracking. So in some ways, it's "this is different how?" Like some people said above, I'd be a little more intrigued if this was Analog.

On yet a third hand, since we are Kaliesque today, I will most likely not submit for that issue personally. Because, well, I can pin that sucker without having to handicap half the slushpile, thankyouverymuch. Which is not actually me gloating here. I find my particular brand of professional pride resents the very notion that I'd need to change the rules of the game to actually succeed at it, and that...I guess, is the issue with special showcases and the like. It implies a normal where the assumption is that my work can't hack it because I have girlparts, and it's almost as if participation in that showcase is me expressing tacit acceptance of that idea's validity.

(Caveat: Management accepts and understands that many to most writers do not have said particular touchy pride.)

So. Complicated reaction, I guess?
tithenai
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
Because, well, I can pin that sucker without having to handicap half the slushpile, thankyouverymuch.

I'm curious, though -- if you've already been published in RoF, surely your Touchy Pride (which I would like to see rendered on a t-shirt, just by the way) has been placated by Knowledge of Your Awesome, and you can just submit as you normally would? Which sadly I wonder if women who AREN'T previously published in RoF would do, opening themselves up to charges of "huh, well, THAT only got in because she's a woman, obviously."

Complicated reaction second and thirded.
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celestineangel
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
I don't understand the problem here. It's one issue. :/ If they began to do it on a regular basis, or decided to change the magazine to female only, then I could see the argument, but as it is... as someone else said, a "showcase issue" isn't discrimination. It's exactly that, a showcase. Later they could do a showcase issue by people of color, or GLBT writers, or gods forbid, even male writers. I honestly do not see what the big deal is about one issue of a magazine that's been around for 15 years.
jonathanmoeller
Jan. 5th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
"While being a woman submitting a fantasy piece to us is enough to get your manuscript considered for this issue, submissions dealing with gender, sexism, and other areas important to feminine speculative literature are particularly welcome."

Now, *that* sounds like a fun read! It could be the Academic Buzzword Bingo issue! An extra five points to any story that gets "Othered", "post-capitalist hegemony", "engendered constructs", and "the gaze" is a single sentence.

Perhaps "Realms of Fantasy" should change its name to "The Journal of Gendered Fantastical Studies: Examining The Feminine Fantastical In The Post-Captialist Phallocentric Hegemony".

Subscriptions, no doubt, will soar.

-JM
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for that thoughtful contribution to the discussion.
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catvalente
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
How about an all email subscription issue?

Honestly this feels like they got wind of Weird Tales' upcoming issue and wanted on board, and also got sick of criticism and this was their response instead of a sea change in the magazine itself. Yay segregation!
jimhines
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
"How about an all email subscription issue?"

Slow brain is slow, and not getting this.
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jongibbs
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
I say 'Why not?'

Especially after all the silliness last year :)
saraphina_marie
Jan. 5th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
But my stories don't really deal with gender and sexism, does this mean that I am not an important part of "feminine speculative literature"?

I have no problem with doing a "highlight" issue, I love those, in fact. Mostly because I get to have a very specific selection of authors and I think it's interesting to take a small group of artists that have one defining characteristic in common going into the process and see what wonderfully different visions they come out with.

But to have an all-women issue that (hardy-har-har) has to be about "women's issues" is just short-sighted and stupid. Why can't we have an all women's issue where everyone writes about airship pirates? or talking trees? or shapeshifting? WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO COME BACK TO WOMEN HAVING TO WRITE ABOUT GENDER AND SEXISM?
Like we have nothing better or more interesting to write about? Like we don't have other interests besides expounding upon our womanhood and our feminist experiences?
RIDICULOUS!
I was interested at first but after reading the caveat about the theme, I won't be submitting.
And what's more, I won't be buying.
tsubaki_ny
Jan. 5th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for articulating this. I couldn't figure out what it was that was bugging me so hard.
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