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.