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Why It Matters

The November/December 2014 issue of F&SF contains fiction by men and men alone. I brought this up on Twitter.

According to Tangent Online: The issue reacts to Internet intolerance of difference by gathering what the editor describes as “stories that deal with touchy themes or go beyond the bounds of Political Correctness.” In other words, the issue contains stories selected for their potential to offend. The issue reflects an editorial decision to present thought provoking subjects and perspectives in the full knowledge some of the stories have the potential to elicit negative responses.

The issue was also tackled by my writing group. One person therein asked: “Why does it matter what proportion of women a single market publishes?”

The question bothered me all day.  Each time I turned to the work I needed to be doing, I heard that question in my head.

Why does it matter?

The implication being that surely a single market couldn’t have such an impact, when there are loads of other publications, publishing women left and right, and let us not forget the hugeness of Women Destroying SF / Fantasy / Horror?

For me, F&SF was a cornerstone of my genre education. It was one of the big three, along with Asimov’s and Analog. Before there was online publishing, these three were largely what I read; these were the magazines that helped pre-writer me learn what the genre was all about. F&SF was THE magazine where I wanted to be published. A foundation for all that would come.

What has F&SF has contributed to the genre over the past year of publication? Maybe this issue is a outlier.

  • November/December 2014: 0 women, 9 men
  • September/October 2014: 2 women, 10 men
  • July/ August 2014: 7 women, 6 men (guest edited by C. C. Finlay)
  • May/June 2014: 3 women, 6 men
  • March/April 2014: 1 woman, 12 men
  • January/February 2014: 1 woman, 10 men
  • November/December 2013: 1 woman, 6 men

Over the past year, F&SF has published 15 stories by women, and 53 stories by men. Almost half of those stories by women came in one guest-edited issue. (Looking beyond a year, 1 to 3 stories by women per issue seems about standard.)

What does it imply about the genre? About this publication? If other magazines are publishing so many women, why is F&SF failing to? Maybe F&SF is no longer as relevant as it used to be? But F&SF remains front and center on many newsstands, Barnes & Noble to name but one.

As a woman and a writer, the numbers make me less inclined to send F&SF work to consider, seeing exactly how slim a margin there is to include work by women. (But that only feeds into the problem! you cry. Exactly and indeed.)

As a woman and an editor, this is dismaying, because we want a varied genre, don’t we? We want to welcome all voices and perspectives. We want to see ourselves in the world at large; as writers, we want to contribute and be heard. Don’t we?

I hope the answer remains that we do.

That’s why it matters.

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A Map to the Fairy Lands

300)Watermark-Cover.jpegWhen preparing to embark upon a journey through fairy woods and lakes, it’s important to remember who you are and where you are going.

One little distraction can lead you astray, and what then?

What should you do when you encounter the fairy hordes? (Running and screaming might effective, but then again they may just join you.)

What should you do when they offer you enchanted cake? (That cake isn’t enchanted, go on and eat it, everything’s gonna be all right.)

As you go deeper into the woods, you may well encounter the Mushroom Queen. If you feed her bits of bread, she may conduct you safely over to the fairy lands, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe.

As you wander the fairy lands, you’ll no doubt encounter the Kissing Queen, who may want more than bread. She may want your very breath with which to sew her new autumn gown.

Where the path forks, you have more than two decisions — every step is a decision, this way or that way; going deeper or running away. Should your path cross that of the Story Queen, be calm, and spin your own story so that she might be calmed in return.

You will grow hungry on your journey, so approach the Catering Queen with care. She will lay before you a table you’ve never quite imagined — every food is sweeter than cake, isn’t it? It is the feast of your childhood, everything you thought you lost, but which remains within you still.

Follow the fairy tracks “safely” to the other side, through all the fairy places, until you find a place that’s entirely your own, where seemingly none have stepped before. But what’s that still lake in the distance? Is it a gentle nose of a fish that breaks the surface, or something else entirely…

(Before you leave the woods, be sure to stop here and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a free book! And if you would like to review the book (oh, authors dream of such things), please feel free to email me via my contact form!)

gorgeous

ArcheAge

ArcheAge is my first MMO, which strikes me as very strange, but it’s true! A friend talked it up enough that I was eager to check it out, and the early verdict is “I’m addicted, but!”

We’re not going to debate paying players versus F2P (I’m F2P right now, fyi); we’re not going to debate dwindling land resources; we’re not going to talk about the extremely long entry queues. We’re going to talk about how women are represented, because everything was pretty great, and then, well, Wednesday’s session happened.

Leaning about snowlions
Learning about snowlions

I’m playing a Firran, which is yes, a cat. Meow. She’s fantastic and growing fierce. (I also dabbled with an elf for a bit, but didn’t run her as far along as I’ve run this one.)

You begin with very basic weapons and armor; the introductory outfit was surprisingly not hideous, but did place the character in leather shorts, which seems slightly impractical in a universe where you are battling monsters. But, given this is your start point, I was okay with it, eager to see what the quests would make of her.

Long pants!
Long pants at last!

As I quested on, however, I grew very eager to cover her legs up. She needed protection. She was getting cut down left and right — leather shorts don’t have a super high armor class, as you might imagine. So when I finally acquired long pants, it was something of a relief! She also gained a more protective top, and I felt more at ease taking her into bigger battles, even joining parties because I knew she would be able to help, and wouldn’t just lie there like a dead thing. Did the leather shorts actually cause me to hold back, knowing she’d just be cut down? I don’t know, but that’s fascinating if so!

The idea that I could improve my armor without having to shell out money was great; I began to pay better attention to how armor works — naturally, if you have a complete set, you get benefits from wearing all of it. So when I acquired a set of plate… That was exciting.

Plate!
Plate!

Her heart isn’t remotely protected, you’ll note, but the rest of it is bang on, and it was so great to run around feeling like I could actually take some hits and survive.

It only gets better from here, I thought.

Then I went on Wednesday’s mission. I dispatched some ghosts and came back to the person who sent me out. I eagerly collected my case of new armor and opened it up. Better plate! I compared the stats to the stats of what I was wearing and it was loads better.  I put it on and —

...what?
This gesture is called “blushing.”

Are those —

That’s —

Thigh-highs and a thong?

How fantastically humiliating! This actually makes me want to put the lower armor class leather pants back on, because I don’t want to run around in armored thigh-highs. I’m going to guess that male armor doesn’t turn into thigh-highs at this level, but I cannot confirm. I haven’t seen men fighters running around in armored thigh-highs, however.

Unfortunately, this ties into another aspect of the game, the quests you’re sent on, and sadly, this didn’t entirely register with me at first.

You get quests from men and women both, and at first they were balanced, but then a woman asked me to retrieve the laundry which had blown off her line. So. I ran across rooftops, collecting her blouses and her underwear.

Then, I was asked to find a kidnapped girl. I was asked to find a girl who was dead. I was asked to find another girl who was dead. Then I was asked to impersonate a barmaid (in a quest called “Serving Duty.”). Then I was told acting like such suited me.

...a barmaid?
…a barmaid?

I can’t quite imagine male characters are being told to act like a barmaid in their quests.

At one point, I was asked to collect a man’s favorite book, and this is the text it gave me when I read the book:

favoritebookOh.

There is so much awesome about this game, and there is so much headdesking. I get to ride around a beautifully constructed world on the back of a snowlion.

I’m addicted. But.

queenstower