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Monday News: SFF old guard

brace-yourselves-lady-writers-are-coming

Apparently last week, the Science Fiction and Fantasy authors awoke to a disturbing news that women are writing Science Fiction Fantasy books and what is worse, there may be a huge influx of Science Fiction Romance.  This  agony over women writers in the SFF space likely arises over a sense of fear of marginalization. Women readers buy more than male readers and therefore, if there are more female writers writing stuff for female readers, then the male writers and male oriented books will be pushed aside on the shelf.

Stuart Sharp writes on the topic of Sci Fi romance that many of the existing romance writers don’t get things right and they sacrifice the “getting it right” for the sake of the romance.  Stuart, I can tell you that romance readers like authors who get things right too and that it isn’t just romance writers who are trampling over the “most beloved elements of the genre.  C.E. Kilgore tells Sharp to unwind a bit because we romance readers have our own shelves called “Romance” and we aren’t looking to invade the SFF shelves.  The problem may be that online writers get to “shelve” their books willy nilly and if you go to Nook Books – > SFF, you’ll see a lot of the girl-y SFR instead of the hardcore space aliens wanting to sleep with other space aliens ala Captain Kirk of Star Trek who was the intergalactic slut of the century.

Heather Massey responds as well:

So here’s my thought: Mr. Sharp’s post is a marvelous thing because it means change is happening! Those who fear hybrid genres–especially ones that mix SF and Romance–are aware of them like never before. They recognize SFR is a force to be reckoned with.

Heather has been advocating for more SFR for years so I hope Sharp’s fears are coming true and the women writers are coming out in full force with SFR books.

But there must be something in the SFF water because the official bulletin of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association for the last three months has kind of been an embarrassment to SFWA, at least to those of us looking from the outside in.  You see, old timers like Mike Resnick (Laura Resnick’s husband father!!) and Barry Malzberg spent a whole issue discussing women writers and their attractiveness – like were they “beauty pageant beautiful” or a “knock outs”.  (Source: E. Catherine Tobler)  Ouch.

The issue that followed had an article by another man that exhorted women to be Barbie like and “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.” (Source: E. Catherine Tobler)  Again, ouch.

The most recent issue had Resnick and Malzberg crying that they were being censored. I can already see Robin’s eyebrows raising into her hairline.  I think we’re going to have to do a little post on censorship and free speech.

The real strange thing is that these bulletins have been published under the watch of John Scalzi, current SFWA president.  He accepts responsibility for this but has been on tour for three weeks and hasn’t really explained how these bulletins were published under his watch.  I.e., were they put together without his knowledge by the staff and not reviewed by him?  I was a president of an association with a monthly newsletter and I had an opportunity to review the newsletter before it was published but it was put together by an entirely different committee.  Scalzi has set up a task force to look into this matter.

My five cents?  Male authors are feeling increasingly marginalized in publishing by female authors and this is the result.

 

The recorded music deal calls for Apple to pay a per-stream rate of around 0.16 cents, similar to the rate Universal Music Group received. Like Universal, Warner also gets a percentage of ad revenue that would be generated by the Apple service, but payments would only begin after the service exceeds a certain audience threshold. For the publishing deal, Warner/Chappell also negotiated an additional percentage of ad revenue that is more than twice the 4 percent rate paid by Pandora.”

As more music is available for streaming, books will need to follow in response to customer demand. It would behoove people to start thinking about the best way to monetize that before Amazon sets the price. Right? Like, if I was Random House + Penguin, I’d be thinking about my own streaming library access model right now.

Speaking of Apple, the lawsuit over Agency Pricing begins today!

One other publisher has accepted these new terms, but it did not identify the publisher as a Big 6 or one with more negotiating power.  This is not unlike when Amazon pulled the buy buttons from Macmillan.  This fight has been going on since last September but it wasn’t until 2013 that Barnes & Noble started putting pressure on S&S through decreasing print orders and reduced in store publicity. Simon & Schuster made two big print only deals with Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover.  If they intend to do more of that, S&S will  have to have B&N on its side.

Who wins? B&N likely because they are the only major retail game and S&S needs B&N more than the retailer needs the publisher.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

46 Comments

  1. Nikki
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 04:51:26

    I feel on some level, this S&S vs B&N battle will have negative outcomes in the end for both sides. It seems that even though B&N might be the only major brick and mortar store it does not mean they will get that much out of the relationship. Considering the fact that I walked into a bookstore for the first time in 5 months last Friday and walked out without finding the book I wanted even though I have spent well over $200 in the last 3 weeks on ebooks. I also wondering how much of a weakness is being exposed that B&N needs to have lower prices.

    On the thing that really got me going that I am taking time to write this before I hit the airport. What is with the idiocy of these writers. Beyond the misogyny, I think people keep forgetting that women do buy and read books. And a lot of them read across genres. I know that an author that I love who wrote pure fantasy for a long time was extremely shocked when she agreed to write for Luna that she was selling far more in the romance field than her pure fantasy and the comparative print runs were huge. She then noted that her other series got a bump because she had come to the attention of a different group of readers.

    While I agree there are plenty of writers who get the science fiction wrong in a book, they are not always female. I know there have been plenty of discussions here about poor world building and inconsistent character behavior. Instead of feeding this defensive frenzy, I would argue that they needed to look around and see how there have already been women writing in SF for years. But a more critical question to ask oneself is how I can I write better? I don’t need a romance in all my stories but make sure that you write something I want to read. I am not going to buy your books just because of gender divisions. Just write a better book.

  2. Angie
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 04:57:40

    Mike Resnick (Laura Resnick’s husband!!)

    Umm, that’s Laura Resnick’s father. Different generation. Which might or might not be terribly relevant, but if you’re going to bring up the family tree, the branches should be untangled.

    Angie

  3. Ros
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 05:59:21

    @Angie: Can’t help wondering how he’d feel about people commenting on his own daughter as a ‘lady writer’ and wondering how she’d look in a bikini.

  4. Estara
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:38:04

    Thanks for the background on the Bulletin situation, I hadn’t seen that before. Scalzi has now released a full statement of his own on his site with regards to this (although still not explaining what the problem was, if you hadn’t read the linked article by Tobler) http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/02/presidential-statement-on-the-sfwa-bulletin-june-2-2013/
    The women writers in sff debate is really strong all this year. The Fantasy Book Cafè’s Women in Fantasy Month brought some brilliant but also controversial posts from writers and bloggers both. Cora Buhlert is a great aggregator for those discussion waves – she also has great (occasionally snarky ^^) commentary.

  5. Isabel C.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 07:12:04

    As someone who did/does read a fair amount of SF–though I’m more of a fantasy girl–I have to laugh at the Sharp article. OH NOES SFR writers will conveniently have their aliens be attractive and speak English…as opposed to half the “straight” SF novels that got published over the years, and let’s not even get into other forms of media. Or comics. OH NOES SFR writers might not get your geeky-hipster in-jokes and be appropriately impressed by the size of your knowledge cock. OH NOES SFR writers might not spend three hours on forums debating the actual physics of the Enterprise or whether wormholes are a betrayal of yadda yadda yadda, because OH THE HORROR some of us got laid before we got our first novel published.

    Like, guys? This, right here? This is where all the SNL-style stereotypes come from. So thanks for that.

  6. Jane
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 07:15:12

    @Isabel C.: “Knowledge Cock”? Seriously I cannot wait to use this again. LOL!

  7. Jane
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:27:17

    @Angie – thanks for the clarification.

  8. azteclady
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:35:09

    Foz Meadows has a great–and quite profane–rant on the SFWA bulletin issue here.

  9. Isabel C.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:50:40

    @Jane: Hee! Thanks–and perhaps appropriately enough, given the subject matter, that one originated with a D&D game and some geeky-guy rules arguments. (“Oh my GOD put the stat cocks AWAY” or similar.) It’s now become my go-to phrase for people who clearly have, er, Something To Prove.

  10. Liz H.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:00:18

    Certain male authors may be feeling marginalized, but in order for the response to go in this direction, there is an underlying, inexcusable, misogyny that can’t be downplayed if it is ever to be eliminated.

    I thought E. Catherine Tobler’s response was fantastic.

    Scalzi very clearly took responsibility for the situation, but also very clearly did not want to offend Resnick, Malzberg, and supporters.
    “We could spend a long time here discussing whether the offense was intentional or accidental, or whether it is due to a generational, ideological or perceptual schism. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, too many of our members have felt their contributions and their place in the industry and within the organization belittled…”
    Stating that members “felt” or “believed” that they were belittled plays right into the “overreacting” and “hysterical” sterotypes, and fails to clearly say that these things were wrong and shouldn’t have occured.

  11. Liz H.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:05:07

    @Jane- Any ideas about how a streaming/subscription access model would or could work? Think it will only be via individual publishers? Or also via sellers, such as an expansion of Amazon Prime, as it seems to be happening more with music?
    I’ve been dreaming of something like this forever. But, for the publishers it makes business sense to start figuring it out now and get ahead of Amazon. That pretty much guarantees they won’t do it.

  12. Natalie L.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:13:10

    Anyone interested in reading the SFWA Bulletin column which broke the camel’s back can do so at my site–I have scans up here: http://radishreviews.com/2013/05/31/linkspam-53113-edition/ (scroll down to the bottom; I had no idea it was going to blow up so big, if I had I would have made a separate post)

    Small factual correction: The SFWA Bulletin is a quarterly–so they’ve had many months to address this.

  13. pamelia
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:42:26

    Well, maybe male SF writers should be nervous. I for one tend to read mainly female writers (with the exception of GRR Martin and Jim Butcher) and not just because I read mostly romance. For Sci-fi I gravitate towards women authors too, because I like to read about WOMEN DOING THINGS and THINKING STUFF and not being there to hold up a small costume with their perky breasts or being a calm port in the storm. I can enjoy books with male protags. I can enjoy books with no female characters whatsoever, but I really prefer a romantic element to my fiction (no matter how subtle) and in my experience I’ve found that female authors just do that better.
    If anyone has any recs of male authors who thread in a good love story amidst the tech-speak and explosions, I’d love to hear them.
    Is this stereotyping and male-bashing on my part?

  14. hapax
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:09:15

    Male authors are feeling increasingly marginalized in publishing by female authors and this is the result.

    Umm. “Slight erosion of overwhelming dominance in reviews, awards, and bestseller lists” does NOT equal “marginalization.”

    This reminds me of the whines I constantly hear about “reverse racism!” or “the gay agenda!” or “special treatment!” Nothing reveals over-inflated privilege as much as a little prick.

    (Choose your own interpretation of that last sentence. I meant every one of them.)

  15. cleo
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:11:48

    @pamelia: Charles deLint writes UF and writes great women char and romantic sub plots, imo. Can’t think of any male sf writers to rec, but like you I tend to read women authors. Except for Aleks Voinov’s Incursion (mm space opera novella).

  16. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:21:06

    Hi Pamelia,

    I’d recommend Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson has a female heroine in his Mistborn trilogy that you may like. The scifi and fantasy elements outweigh the love story, but there is one throughout all three books with the same characters.

    Weeks has his Night Angel trilogy (with childhood friends who become man and wife) and its action packed with lots of scifi. His newest books The Black Prism (Lightbringer) and The Blinding Knife (Lighbringer) may be of interest to you also.

    I would have liked to recommend Peter Brett, but after he has his main female character get raped by a couple of guys and then a day later she decides its so very necessary to have sex with the hero, there went the end to a promising series (The Warded Man) for me. Oh, and the female had the potions and power to fight off the men, only killing was against her moral code. All this occurred after she’d fought most of the book to preserve her virginity.

  17. Estara
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:51:24

    @Natalie L.: Thanks for that, Natalie! I always prefer reading the source in the original.

  18. Lucy Woodhull
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:22:10

    Mr. Sharp posted my book cover in his original “Waiter, there’s a girl in my alien urine” article, and I have to say I had no idea I was contributing to the ruination of an entire genre when I penned “Ragnar and Juliet.” It’s also a romantic comedy, so I’m destroying two things that boys love, as we all know that woman aren’t funny. What shall I obliterate with my (Philip K.) lady Dick today? It shoots pink glitter!

    Bottom line — I don’t give a crap if anyone thinks I’m within the bounds of any genre. I just want to tell a good story and for readers to feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth. I kinda thought that was the point.

  19. AmyW
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:23:31

    Out of curiosity — I’ve read E. Catherine Tobler’s blog post and other responses to the Resnick and Malzberg article plus their rebuttal, but haven’t seen the original piece. Can someone tell me what the goal of the original article was? What were they trying to talk about when they got into the “lady writer/lady editor” BS?

  20. Estara
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:29:19

    @AmyW: Amy, if you click on Natalie’s link here in the comments, she has actual scans of the pages, and they’re really as bad as everyone is saying – to my mind.

  21. Liz H.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:31:52

    I’m conflicted, but think I would correct my previous post to say sexism rather than misogyny.

    @hapax: Yes!

    How about some suggestions of good FEMALE SF/F writers? I love StarDoc by S. Viehl, but haven’t gone much beyond that.

  22. Shiloh Walker
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:42:00

    Bring on the lady writers, I say. For the most part, the SF that I’ve loved the most has been by the lady writers… SL Viehl & Ann Aguirre.

    And serious SFR where the SF is just as solid and developed as the R? Oh. Swoon. I’d eat my my hat for that.

  23. Cara
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:47:44

    Maybe I’m just a cynical old bitch, but somehow I doubt the majority of this is as well thought-out or self-aware as “fear of marginalization”. Let’s call it what it is – scared, insecure little boys who don’t want girl cooties in their wading pool, so they utilize what they’ve been raised to use as bullying and belittling techniques to both scare the ladies off and make them feel more manly.

  24. Carrie G
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:51:42

    @Cara: Well said.

  25. Heather Massey
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:28:41

    @pamelia:

    Anything by Nico Rosso.

    Robert Appleton has a few romantic SF/SFR stories out there.

    There’s the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller–Liaden Universe series.

    I have a list of authors who mix SF and romance on my blog, which includes male authors writing on the SF side who included some romance in some of their books. The list tracks authors as far back as the 30s. Of course, YMMV regarding appeal of said books, but I mention it for what it’s worth.

  26. Heather Massey
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:38:04

    Thanks for shedding more light on these issues, Jane. Much appreciated. I’ve been heartened by the incredible number of responses online to both situations. Seems to me there’s an opportunity here to influence some real change in fandom and the industry.

    Stuart Sharp has since left comments on my blog and others to clarify his position. I appreciate that he’s willing to engage us in a discussion about the issue of hybrid SF-Romance stories in a more constructive manner. I invited him to consider writing a follow up post. We’ll see what happens.

  27. FD
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:42:19

    @Liz H.: Lois Bujold and Catherine Asaro are brilliant. Sharon Shinn is pretty popular. Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge’s Exordium series deserves to be more widely read. Tanya Huff and Elizabeth Moon, strong female character military sf. Diane Duane has written some good sf books. These are all sf reps but the authors all also have straight fantasy series, equally good or even better.

  28. mssarahb
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:58:38

    A few years ago, I saw an author interview (it may have been Jayne Anne Krantz or Laurie R. King ??) talking about the hysteria (word used advisedly) amongst male mystery writers when women started entering the genre and becoming successful. There had always been a Christie or a Sayer, but something like 90% of mysteries were written by men. And then came the ravening hordes of lady writers. Screed, rants and fear and trembling for the fate of the novel were let loose my the obviously more skilled and reasonable male authors. Long story short, women kept writing. Readers bought their books and now there is parity (or more) in the genre.
    For some reason, these male authors are particularly gender identified when it comes to their little corner of the (written) world. But they are doomed. There’s no way that you can keep women out, and the ones who try will go down hoisted on his own petard. So keep on truckin’ lady writers. History and readers are on your side.

  29. Tressa
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:59:58

    I want to add a caveat regarding Brent Weeks’ The Night Angel trilogy. While the books are good, there are quite a few disturbing elements in them. I admit I was horrified by what happened to several characters. I do think Brent Weeks writes very well so I hope I’m not putting you off his work.

  30. Diane Dooley
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 13:06:46

    “…we romance readers have our own shelves called “Romance” and we aren’t looking to invade the SFF shelves.”

    I am. I want my girl cooties all up in them shelves.

    I’d love for SF readers, like Stuart Sharp, to actually read the books they’re so very dismissive of. Read them and say “not my cup of tea?” That’s fine. But to dismiss all SFRs out of hand? That’s just ignorance.

  31. Melisse Aires
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 14:37:19

    I wanted to add a link to Ann Aguirre’s powerful blog post on this subject. http://www.annaguirre.com/archives/2013/06/02/this-week-in-sf/

  32. Heather Massey
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 15:33:56

    Stuart Sharp posted a follow up article at The Story Hub:

    http://www.thestoryhub.ca/in-reply/

  33. hapax
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 15:47:51

    @Heather Massey:

    Here we go again: “Jeez, wimmen, can’t a guy make a joke? Why you get so angry? I dig girly stuff, honest!”

    Admittedly, not as bad as Russell Davis: “Hey, ladies, people [note: "people" = "men"] are just hard-wired to be sexist pigs. Deal with it.”

  34. Lucy Woodhull
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 16:30:55

    @Melisse Aires:

    Thanks for posting that link, Melisse. Great post.

  35. Anne V
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 19:09:56

    @pamelia:

    Charles Stross. Both the Merchant Princes series and The Laundry Files.

    Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant/Rivers of London.

  36. Susan
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 19:52:25

    Check out Jim Hines’s post on this. Great, as usual. (Sorry–if someone else already mentioned him, I missed it.)

  37. AmyW
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 20:36:33

    @Estara: I think the scans are Resnick and Malzberg’s “rebuttal”, or am I mistaken?

  38. baronesz1
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 21:43:09

    Whenever the old male SF/F guard likes to pretend that science fiction is a male dominated and male created genre, I like to point out that Mary Shelley (and to a lesser extent, Margaret Cavendish) basically helped create the modern science fiction genre as we know it today. A teenage girl (she was 18 when she started writing)! Whose book Frankenstein has been an enormous influence on the genre that some men have pretended that they alone can write.

    I actually think it’s pretty interesting that the 2 first major, recognized works of science fiction were written by ladies. Which is why I don’t understand the current mindset of male authors being afraid of lady authors. Why? You’re writing in a genre whose first acknowledged writers were women. And somehow everything turned out fine, even with their lady cooties all over everything.

  39. B. Sullivan
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 02:29:54

    I’m still amazed at how many comparisons I keep finding from this book, but here’s a quote that’ll show how this seems like history repeating:

    In the 1800s male authors and critics bemoaned that women novelists were invading and taking over: “…it is important to remember that “female dominance” was always in the eye of the male beholder. The Victorian illusion of enormous numbers [of female writers] came from overreaction of male competitors, the exaggerated visibility of the woman writer, the overwhelming success of a few novels in the 1840s, the conjunction of feminist themes in fiction with with feminist activism in England, and the availability of biographical information about the novelists, which made them living heroines, rather than sets of cold and inky initials.” (p. 40)

    From A literature of their own: British women novelists from Brontë to Lessing, by Elaine Showalter.

    You’d really think the lady cooties issue would be less of a matter to men in this era, but apparently there are some that are perhaps time travelers from the 1800s?

  40. Keishon
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 02:33:54

    @pamelia: Have you read Catherine Asaro yet? I love her books and some of them have strong romantic subplots in them too, like Primary Inversion and its direct sequel: The Radiant Seas. The Quantum Rose deals with alcoholism with the hero among other things. She also wrote a cyborg romance in The Phoenix Code. I think she is a pretty good writer. No men writers that I can think of and I’m not much of a SF/F fan. I also love Ann Aguirre and for dark fantasy stuff, Sarah Monette is awesome.

  41. Estara
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 07:38:14

    @AmyW: Ah, you’re right. I misunderstood you to mean you wanted to read their own words – but the scans are from the rebuttal bulletin two editions later, not the 200 issue.

  42. MrsJoseph
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 10:16:44

    @wikkidsexycool:

    Wow! You hit my major issue with Peter Brett’s series right on the head! I HATED the gang rape and subsequent relationship with the hero. What made it worse *for me* was the comment Brett made at GR that “rape was realistic” and that was why it was there.

  43. Michelle
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 17:23:05

  44. pamelia
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 17:37:58

    Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I have bookmarked this page and will be referring back frequently!

  45. Heather Massey
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 23:52:15

    I just learned that Foz Meadows wrote about the Stuart Sharp piece at the Huffington Post:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/foz-meadows/romance-cooties-women-sf_b_3375184.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

  46. Genre Wars – Why is SFR the outcast? | Tracing the Stars
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:33:38

    […] holy-moo, it keeps growing! On June 3rd, the conversation was picked up by the much respected Dear Author blog, with commentary on both the Sharp post, the rebuttals by Heather at The Galaxy Express and myself […]

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