The SFF feminists and the PC police have often accused this blog and other speculative fiction online book-reviewing venues of sexism. Apparently, there is some sort of widespread conspiracy against female science fiction and fantasy authors, and I have been found guilty as charged of being part of it. I've never lost any sleep over this in the past. As I've said before, three of my favorite SFF writers of all time are women: C. S. Friedman, Katherine Kurtz, and Robin Hobb. Still, the low percentage of works written by female authors that I review each year essentially is damning evidence that I'm a sexist bigot who refuses to give these women a shot.
Having said that, my numbers, and probably those of many of my male book-blogging peers, tend to paint a not-so-nice picture in that regard. Overall, it's not so bad. Between January 2005 and December 2015, 89 reviews out of 477 were for books written or co-written by (or anthologies containing works by) female SFF authors. Which puts my numbers at about 19%. So one novel out of five or thereabout, which isn't that bad. However, certain years saw that average go down below 10%. . . So yes, seen in that light, it could be construed as a bias against female SFF writers.
As you are well aware, many of my peers perceive everything I say and do in the worst possible light and interpret it accordingly. That's the way love goes, so I don't sweat it. . .
I recently corresponded with someone who accused me of sexism and that person wanted to know how I selected novels that I would then read and review. If there was a thought process behind my decision. The long and the short of it is that, even though I've been doing this for more than a decade, the process has always remained the same. Like most speculative fiction book reviewers, I receive hundreds of novels every year. It's a good thing I don't consider self-published material, otherwise that number would grow exponentially. So every week I end up driving to the post office to get all those packages that didn't fit in my mailbox. When I get back home, I open them one at a time and I check the cover art and read the blurbs. At that moment, there are three options. Either that novel ends up in my "Books to read" pile. If I'm not sure but nevertheless intrigued by the premise, it will end up in my "Maybe" pile. If it fails to pique my curiosity, it goes directly into one of the cases of books I donate every couple of weeks to local libraries.
Every two or three months, I go through the "Maybe" pile again because this one keeps growing every time I receive new packages. At that time, I have no choice but to weed out those novels that fail to intrigue me and those works end up with the others waiting to be donated.
So why are there so few books written by women in the first two piles? I had never considered the question before, but last summer I gave it some thought and came up with the answer. Not surprisingly, female speculative fiction authors often write in subgenres that don't appeal to me. Between July and December 2015, over 80% of the works by female authors I received were either paranormal romance novels (which I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole), steampunk novels (which I don't really care for), YA novels (you know my policy, even if you hate me for it), or urban fantasy novels (which, for the most part, fail to catch my fancy). This means that all of those books immediately end up in those cases of books awaiting to be donated.
Perusing the forthcoming books' list on locusmag.com, it seemed evident that 2016 wouldn't be a banner year for me as far as female SFF authors were concerned. Of my favorites, only Hobb will release a book, the eagerly anticipated Assassin's Fate, and I'm also looking forward to Naomi Novik's conclusion to the Temeraire series, League of Dragons. Other than that, only time would tell whether or not more speculative fiction works by women would ultimately pique my curiosity. Which, to be honest, what with only two sure things on my list, wouldn't be enough. For me AND the feminists and the PC police.
In the end, I've decided to do something about it. Not because I have a responsibility to do so, but because I want to. If there's one thing that reading the first two Kushiel installments by Jacqueline Carey has taught me, it's that I have awesome works of fantasy and science fiction awaiting my attention on my shelves. I have hundreds of novels that I haven't read and that number keeps growing every year. Interestingly enough, many of these were written by women. My objective is to hopefully read ten such books. As my annual average for reviewed novels usually turn around forty, that would put my numbers at 25% for 2016. With both the Hobb and the Novik locked in, it means that I need to read and review eight more works.
Since I own about ten books written or co-written by Kate Elliott, originally I wanted to read an older title from this author. But her Black Wolves has been garnering a lot of positive reviews, so this will be the first one to appear. Though I struggled mightily with the first half (and would have given up if not for my objective), the going is now easier in the second portion of the book.
You can expect a review of Carey's Kushiel's Avatar in the not-so-distant future, as people maintain that it's even better than its predecessors. Depending on how she closes the show, I may read and review Kushiel's Scion, the first volume of the second trilogy, later this year. Now that Melanie Rawn is working on the third installment, and since I've been waiting for the series to be close to complete before starting to read it, I will review The Runes of Ambrai. Since I knew from the beginning that Janny Wurts was writing a huge series, I always told myself that I'd wait till she was done (or close to it) before reading The Wars of Light and Shadow. I bought Curse of the Mistwraith in 1994 and now, finally, I will sit down and give it a go! I also want to read Get in Trouble, the latest collection of short fiction by Kelly Link. I'm late to this party (again), but I also plan to read at least one of Kameron Hurley Worldbreaker books.
Hence, I'm now up to eight works by female SFF authors scheduled to be read in 2016. Add to that at least one installment from Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series, as well as possible additional volumes by Rawn, Wurts, and/or Carey, and hopefully a few 2016 titles that will pique my curiosity, and I should reach my objective. Maybe even surpass it!
Understandably, this has more to do with my getting up-to-date with several female writers' series and will do little to help promote newly released material. But I do what I can. . .
As a matter of course, I can't promise glowing reviews for all of these books. But I can only hope that they will all benefit from the exposure a review from the Hotlist can bring. =)