Giants and Superstars

Farah Mendelsohn linked to a post announcing a new book of important reprints in our field:

“Long before they were household names, all of the superstar science fiction and fantasy authors in this anthology were just fans with stories and dreams. Now, for the first time ever, fifteen of the genre’s most important authors have come together to show off their first published SF stories, many of them rare and never before collected… An invaluable look at the origins of speculative fiction’s greatest minds, and bursting with insightful advice for beginning writers, this book is a must for any science fiction or fantasy fan, aspiring author, or teacher.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But then take a look at oh hell yes here we are talking about tables of contents again and what do we find?

Fourteen men, one woman.

While Nicola Griffith is a very important writer in our field, it’s hard not to start pouring forth with all the obvious female names that are not included. And sure, there are many reasons why an author might not be included in a book like this, rights management being a big one, and sure, there are plenty of male authors who are not included, but…

One woman. Fourteen men.

This is a book that holds itself up as a document, as a teaching aid, as a resource to teach us something about the genre of science fiction. So far what it’s taught me is that women continue to be unvalued.

As Farah says, it’s shameful. It’s also disappointing. Is it really that hard to remember that if you are telling the story of science fiction, you are going to be held accountable for the story you choose to tell?

7 replies on “Giants and Superstars”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Tansy Rayner Roberts said: on women & sf history and that toc debate AGAIN […]

  2. James Sutter says:

    Hey Tansy! My name’s James Sutter, and I’m the editor of Before They Were Giants.

    Since it sounds like you’ve already read my comments over at Michael Swanwick’s blog, I won’t waste a bunch of space with justifications, save to say that a number of factors went into the author selection, including trying to avoid overlap with the earlier Martin Greenberg anthologies on the same theme (which snagged a lot of my obvious choices, both male and female) and the fact that I was interested primarily in anthologizing the authors whose writing I most enjoy, most of whom happen to be male. (I’m not saying that’s correct, just that it’s how the demographics broke down on my bookshelf. Presumably by next year I’ll have had a lot of recommendations for female authors I wasn’t already familiar with, and that balance will have changed.)

    At the time, it didn’t occur to me to try harder to get more women in the anthology when the folks who accepted turned out to be mostly male, any more than it occurred to me to make sure I had some non-white or LGBT authors. Naive, I admit, but the question of trying to get gender balance never crossed my mind… I simply went after the authors I wanted the most (and who were still alive, and hadn’t been in the Greenberg anthology, and whose first stories were fun, etc.) and when a bunch of rather famous folk took me up on the offer, I was delighted and called it a day.

    In the last 24 hours, it’s become extremely apparent that I made a major mistake, and I assure you that any future anthologies I do are going to have gender balance as a top priority. So please accept my apologies, and know that your message has been received!


  3. tansyrr says:

    Hi James

    Thanks so much for your gracious response, it takes guts to face your critics directly, even over the internet! I’m glad to see that you have heard how important this message is, and that you’re going to try to do better in the future. Gender balance is a really important thing for anthologists to consider, as anthologies contribute so powerfully to the construction of SF history. The time of history leaving women out or consigning them to specialist volumes only needs to be put well and truly behind us.

  4. […] and overly sensitive feminists, and you know, all the usual stuff. Why? Because they talked about yet another anthology with mainly men in I thought about it today when I listened to a whole other podcast that said some […]

  5. […] only one female author. One. Tansyrr disects it at Stitching words, one thread at a time in Giants and Superstars and Girlie Jones discusses how the tendency for issues of sexist bias to be ignored, in Why yes, we […]

  6. […] only one female author. One. Tansyrr disects it at Stitching words, one thread at a time in Giants and Superstars and Girlie Jones discusses how the tendency for issues of sexist bias to be ignored, in Why yes, we […]

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