2013 is not even three weeks old and we’re already having the first gender balance in speculative fiction debate of the year.
The debate was inadvertedly kicked off by Aidan Moher, when he posted about his reading goals for 2013 at A Dribble of Ink. Among other things, Aidan Moher also aims for a 50/50 author gender balance among the books that he reads.
Now you wouldn’t think that there was anything controversial about someone formulating a personal reading goal. After all, it isn’t as if Aidan Moher was trying to get anybody else to join him in his quest for gender balance. Still, things got quite heated in the comments, because some people who never look at the gender of an author and are instead only looking for “good books”, ninety percent of which happen to be written by men for some reason, vehemently disagreed.
John H. Stevens weighs in on his own blog and explains that he deliberately decided to broaden his reading horizons to include writers from more diverse backgrounds after sticking mainly to straight white men in his youth.
What always amuses me about these regular gender balance debates in the SFF community is that it is inevitably assumed that the imbalance will be in favour of male writers. Because that’s not at all given, particularly if you read outside the SFF genre, but also if you stick to certain subgenres within SFF.
A couple of years ago during one of those discussions, I shocked a whole bunch of commenters at the blog of a popular (male) writer by stating that I strove to make sure to read at least four books by male writers per year, including two new to me male writers, because otherwise I’d read almost exclusively women. The reaction I got was very much “Does not compute”, because the (male) commenters quite literally could not imagine reading more male than female writers and many probably couldn’t name more than five female writers at all.