A Good Cause, Women in SF, the Nobel Prize for Literature and Lost Doctor Who Found

I’m a bit tired today, because a quick excursion to pick up a WiFi repeater and some other stuff turned into an extended odyssey thanks to a traffic jam on the highway that forced me into the East Bremen area I call Hemelingen, though it is made up of several smallish neighbourhoods, where I promptly got lost, only to find myself faced with a massive remodelling project under way at the shopping mall where I was headed. On the plus side, I found a decent Indian restaurant during my meanderings through Hemelingen. Not quite UK standard, but pretty good considering how difficult Indian food is to come by in Germany.

Here are some links:

First of all, I’ve got a plug to make. DriveThruFiction is currently offering the Read and Feed America 2013 charity bundle, which collects more than thirty e-books from various, including my own Countdown to Death. You get e-books with a total retail price of 175.80 USD for a donation of 20 USD and all the proceeds go to Feeding America. It’s a great deal and it’s only available until October 20, so donate now and get plenty of good books to read.

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to Canadian writer Alice Munro. IMO it’s a good and largely uncontroversial decision, even though German writer Martin Walser allegedly does not know who Alice Munro is. But then I suspect Alice Munro has no idea who Martin Walser is either. Meanwhile, here is an appreciation of Alice Munro and her work by fellow Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. Finally, awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Alice Munro also strikes a blow for an underappreciated literary form, the short story. As a short fiction writer, I can’t but applaud.

Cheryl Morgan explains the vicious circle of why SFF novels by female writers are presumed not to sell, so fewer SFF novels by female writers are bought, so fewer of them sell, hence SFF by women does not sell. Sigh. Regarding Waterstones, I’ve noticed myself repeatedly that their SFF shelves are heavily biassed in favour of male authors to the point of separating women authors on a separate shelf labeled “Dark Fantasy” or “Paranormal Romance” or some such thing (whereas Jim Butcher gets to remain in just plain fantasy) and that they don’t have SFF books on the shelf, even if those books have just won a major award or are highly anticipated. For example, I couldn’t find Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City at Waterstones, even though she had won the Clarke award mere days before. I couldn’t find Jo Walton’s Among Others at Waterstones, even though she had already won the Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy awards. And most of the authors affected by the phenomenon of “Award winning or highly anticipated book not to be found at Waterstones” are women, though some men are hit by it, too. For example, Simon R. Green’s books are surprisingly difficult to find in the UK, even though he is British.

On a related note, here is a post by John Dodds at Adventures of SciFi Publishing discussing how to save science fiction. Among other things, he also praises the excellent SF selection at an unspecified Waterstones store in Scotland. Well, excellent unless you are looking for books by female authors (or Simon Green), that is. And for the record, the Waterstones whose shelving practices made me so angry that I actually asked a staff member whether they were deliberate hiding the books by women where no one could find them (because their “dark fantasy/paranormal romance/urban fantasy” shelf wasn’t even near the SFF section), also happened to be in Scotland.

Nine previously missing Doctor Who episodes have been recovered in Nigeria. The episodes in question are all five missing parts of the Second Doctor story The Enemy of the World and four of five parts of the Second Doctor story The Web of Fear, which contains the first appearance of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. iO9 also has a trailer for the Web of Fear. Looks like the BBC got really lucky and recovered two great stories there.

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4 Responses to A Good Cause, Women in SF, the Nobel Prize for Literature and Lost Doctor Who Found

  1. Tim Ward says:

    Thanks for the link back, Cora. The Barnes and Noble I went to the other day had Lauren’s books on the main display shelf of New SF and Fantasy. What did Waterstones’ staff say?

    As for women SF writers, I’m enjoying ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie (Orbit) and am looking forward to K. Ceres Wright’s COG (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and Rachel Bach’s FORTUNE’S PAWN (Orbit)–to name a few on my immediate horizon.

    In relation to our blog post about how to save SF, what do you think? What can we do as readers to help SF authors increase their readership, including women SF authors?

    • Cora says:

      Thaks for the comment, Tim.

      I’m not that familiar with B&N’s shelving practices, since it’s been several years since I last was inside a B&N (I think. It might also have been Borders). The last time I was in the UK, I found The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes front and centre on a “3-for-2” bestseller table at W.H. Smith, which surprised the hell out of me, considering how difficult it had been to find Zoo City at Waterstones (at W.H. Smith is usually more commercially oriented). A closer examination revealed a “A Richard and Judy’s Book Club pick” sticker. And considering that Richard and Judy’s Book Club is a hugely popular TV literature show in the UK, similar to Oprah in the US, Lauren must be shooting up the bestseller lists right now, while people discover her books who would never have discovered her otherwise. Which is one strategy to save SF, come to think of it. Get popular reviewers/critics to discuss SF books and expose new readers to SF. Of course, most critics are neither genre friendly nor genre savvy, though we had a critic interviewing George R.R. Martin and plugging James Tiptree Jr. in a literature program on German TV.

      As I said to John above, the Waterstones in question was in Aberdeen. The staff member I talked to, a woman BTW, said that they were not trying to hide the books by female authors, that they simply shelved Dark Fantasy separately. She had no answer why the Dark Fantasy was hidden away in a corner behind crime fiction and not next to the SF and fantasy where people would look for it. When I asked her why Jim Butcher gets shelved in fantasy, while Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn or Lilith Saintcrow are Dark Fantasy (They even shelved Lilith Saintcrow’s Steampunk series in “Dark Fantasy”), she said that Jim Butcher was always shelved in fantasy, because fantasy readers buy his books. She also seemed unaware that it was only women who were shelved in Dark Fantasy.

      I’m looking forward to Ancillary Justice and Fortune’s Pawn. Cog wasn’t on my horizon so far, but it looks interesting.

  2. John Dodds says:

    Thanks for the link to my post, Cora. As to which Waterstones, I was referring to the large branch on Princes Street in Edinburgh. I’ve heard criticisms of Waterstone’s elsewhere, certainly. My point was a general one on the fullness of the SF shelves. It’s been years since I was there, so I can’t comment on the quantity of women writers. I would like to add, though, that my first three book reviews for AISFP are all books by women, as have been some reviews on my own blog (http://bonemachines.wordpress.com). It would be interesting to know if anyone had statistics about women SF writers actually on bookshop shelves, as against electronic stores. Or indeed the relative visibility in places like Amazon. For comparison, too, I wonder if Locus or one of the large mags has any insights into numbers of women in SF, what their public profile is like, income stats, and so on.

    • Cora says:

      I know which Waterstones you mean and I have been there, though that was several years ago. As far as I recall, it was a pretty good one. Though in general, they are hit and miss. The Waterstones, which segregated books by women on a separate “Dark Fantasy/paranormal romance” shelf away from the main SFF section (but not Jim Butcher, though he wrote urban fantasy last I checked), was in Aberdeen. I also remember a Waterstones in Liverpool which stuffed all urban fantasy books, including those by male writers, into Erotica, which will have caused some disappointment, considering some of the books wrongly shelved there did not have a single sex scene.

      In general, I always preferred Books etc/Borders and Dillon’s to Waterstones, but both are gone now. As for shelving practices, the German cain Thalia can be pretty bad in that regard as well, particularly for foreign language (i.e. English) books. I’ve found adult paranormal romances with pretty explicit content in the YA section, fantasy shelved under crime fiction, To Kill a Mocking Bird shelved under mystery (well, I guess you could make a case for it) and – most personal favourite – Marisa Peschl’s literary novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics shelved under SF. And of course Thalia was also the chain that put the long awaited last book of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series (the books True Blood is based on) onto the shelves two weeks early, which led to people spoiling the ending online.

      Regarding women writers in SF, Niall Harrison of Strange Horizons has compiled percentages of books by women published and reviewed in various genre publications at least two years in a row now.

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