Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive

Something to buy in a heartbeat, and something I’m not buying even for a minute

A couple of days ago a little bird mentioned that Apex Books has the upcoming Dark Faith anthology on pre-order for $20, and that the first 500 preorders get an additional chapbook to sweeten the deal.

I'm ridiculously excited about this book, not least because J.C. Hay (one of my dearest friends and one hell of a writer) is in it, as are Catherynne M. Valente, Brian Keene, Richard Dansky, Jennifer Pelland (whose Unwelcome Bodies anthology is also a must-own), Lucien Soulban, and a whole heap of amazing people. This is seriously the most diverse Table of Contents I've seen in a long while, and the idea behind it had my attention months ago.

So yes. Go. Order.

~ * ~

A few people I read (including Jim C. Hines and Catherynne M. Valente) pointed out that Realms of Fantasy has announced that they're doing a "women in fantasy" issue in August 2011. Specifically, their guidelines:

1. For this issue the sign on the proverbial door says “girl writers only.” Sorry gents.
2. 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 feminist speculative literature are particularly welcome.
3. If you’d like to have your story considered for this issue, stories should be postmarked no later than November 15th, 2010. This will provide enough time to find the right artists (ladies, of course) for the stories. I’ll provide periodic reminders about the submission deadline as we move along.

Oh, the mixed feelings.

There's a reason many female writers (J.K. Rowling being just one of many) mask their gender by using initials, or why James Chartrand's story isn't as unbelievable as it could be. It's because gender bias is alive and well in publishing. We saw it last year, we'll see it again this year, and we'll keep seeing it until editors start working proactively to offset assumptions (conscious and otherwise) that undermine equality in the industry. I'm supportive of well-considered, well-applied affirmative efforts to manage disparities until women writers are broadly assumed to be equal to their male counterparts. This is why organizations like Broad Universe are so necessary. There is still work to do. A lot of it.

Realms of Fantasy making a visible commitment to do the work, especially in light of their long-standing reputation for gender bias and consistently utilizing cover art targeted at the (heterosexual) male gaze, would be incredibly welcome.

A "girl writers only" issue isn't going to achieve that. It's particularly not going to achieve that when the call for submissions makes it sound like they're setting the bar low, is badly worded, and is full of diminutive language (ladies, girls). They want girls to show up and write about girl stuff. It's condescending, and considering how often RoF's Table of Contents trends male, I'm not surprised that some women writers have already said they feel like it's an empty gesture that they can point to later and say "but we did a girly issue!" when people complain.

It's galling, because the editors appear to have good intentions, but still aren't hearing the feedback they're being given. Until they do, though, RoF is going to keep running into this kind of thing. And that's a shame, because with the sort of circulation RoF does, they could be turning their audience on to some seriously brilliant writers without resorting to a ladies' night approach.

At the end of the day, I sincerely think RoF can be so much better than this. To do that, though, they need to make a real and constant commitment to improve their practices year-round, not just for one issue.