Reading more female SFF authors


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. =)

53 commentaires:

Booknutt said...

Charlie Jane Ander's All the Birds in the Sky is very much worth reading.

Patrick said...

I received it a little while ago, but it doesn't speak to me. Something about it made me put it in the "Maybe" pile, but I'm not sure it can make the cut. . .

Seitherin said...

How about C. J. Cherryh? She's been a favorite of mine for 30+ years.

Shane said...

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga?

Patrick said...

I've got quite a few Cherryh books in storage somewhere. But like that first Jacqueline Carey series, I have no idea where. =( I think my agent represents her, or at least he used to. So maybe I could get my hands on some of her books. . .

Lois McMaster Bujold burned me with her fantasy novels. Never giving her another shot. Sorry. . . :/

Anonymous said...

I'm curious...Did you know Robin Hobb and CS Friedman were women before you read their books?

Anonymous said...

Women authors you might like from a thread on Reddit:

Janny Wurts
Ursula LeGuin
Kate Elliot
Tanya Huff
NK Jemisin
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Elspeth Cooper
Sara Douglass
Sarah J. Maas
Michele West
Sherwood Smith
Tanith Lee
Stina Leicht
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Catherynne M. Valente

Shane said...

I have not read her fantasy series. So I won't speak to those. I do think people are assigning too much malicious intent to this topic though. I don't pick what books I am going to read based on the gender or race of the author. I pick them based on if the plot of the book interests me or not. I've never passed on a book based on the gender or race of the author. As someone mentioned above, sometimes with initials or gender neautral names, I have even been mistaken about the gender of the author. But people do seem to go out of their way to get offended by what you say or do for some reason. Even if it is something as minor as you liking or not liking a book they had a different opinion about.

Alan said...

Kameron Hurley blows away everything I've read in fantasy for quite awhile. But that said: Your post is pissy and disingenuous, presenting your preference for male authors as something that only whiners would carp about. But then, because you're smart and decent, you also examine the math and the real-world genre/marketing concerns behind that preference. And then you even vow to do something about it -- just not because your critics have a point, of course! You're a better writer/thinker then you demonstrate here. It's beneath you to posit that the movement toward more diverse fantasy publishing is an inconvenience to you, the critic. The critic's job is to keep up to date, and I'm glad you're going to attempt to do so, because the Hotlist becomes less useful to its readers when you don't survey the field. My question, then: Why complain about it, and pretend you're being bullied into something, and act like you're not doing exactly what you are -- making a good faith effort to expand your reading as fantasy itself expands?

Patrick said...

No one knew that Robin Hobb was a woman at first. Like everyone else, I found out around the time ASSASSIN'S QUEST was published (if I remember correctly). Though I heard they were using C. S. instead of Celia to hide the fact that she was a woman, by the time I got into her (when CROWN OF SHADOWS was first published) everyone knew about it.

Anonymous2: I've read quite a few books by LeGuin, Elliott, Huff, Douglas, and Lee. But that was before the creation of the Hotlist. I have over 20 books by Wurts, Elliott, and West awaiting my attention. Couldn't finish anything I started by Valente. Always wanted to give Nemisin a shot, but I never received any review copies of her books. Haven't tried any of the others. . .

Shane: As I said, that's the way love goes. . .

Patrick said...

Alan:

"You're a better writer/thinker then you demonstrate here."

Not sure I am. . .

You say I'm making a good faith effort to expand my reading as fantasy itself expands. Not sure it is expanding. I mean, I'm going back to read and review a lot of stuff from the 90s. Oddly enough, it appears that female authors such as LeGuin, Kurtz, Moon, Bishop, Rawn, Friedman, Cherryh, West, Weis, Norton, Butler, Bradley, L'Engle, Marillier, McKinley, Kerr, Gentle, Czerneda, Lackey, Roberson, Lee, and many more, enjoyed more respect and exposure back then than they do nowadays.

Looks as though the fantasy genre is contracting, not expanding. . .

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, lots of people chiming in on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/44tet1/do_male_book_reviewers_have_a_responsibility_to/

David Wagner said...

My current TBR list at Goodreads is 23 female authors out of 118 books. Meh. Like you, the cover and blurb have a lot to do with my choice - but I also will read sample chapters. Honestly, I try a lot more female authors than I finish. I bail on a lot of books if they don't really grab me by about a quarter of the way through. I mean, why read a book if it's a slog, right? I suppose I could go through my digital collection and list all of the books I started and bailed on, and see the gender ratio there, but what point would that serve? Who has time for mediocre writing, regardless of gender?

It does seem like forcing yourself to be more "balanced" is kind of sad... you should be able to read whatever the *&#$ you want to, and review whatever you wish... it's your blog! Do whatever you want! Fart on people like Alan.... "The critic's job is to keep up to date..." Really? Alan, the expert on Critics, hath spoken...

I say, do what you enjoy, Pat, and hang the rest. Otherwise this will become a drudgery for you. If people don't like it, there are other blogs people can spin their wheels fruitlessly at....

Jacki Knight said...

Can't believe you're dismissing the Votkosigan saga because you didn't like her Sharing Knife series. That's like refusing to eat a steak because you don't like marshmallows.

Anonymous said...

This is my problem about Mary Robinette Kowal's airport bookshelves posts on Twitter/Instagram. I asked her about it once, and she played coy, taking the "I'm just presenting facts, you interpret them how you want" angle. Which I find disingenuous. So I asked why she thought there were so few female authors on those shelves -- is it a problem of publishers, of booksellers, of book readers? -- and whether or not there were similar trends in other genres. She responded, but declined to give her opinion. The implication I received from the exchange was that it's not OK to talk about in detail, or to point specific blame, or to compare with other fields; we should simply accept that there is a problem and, implicitly, that we -- whoever "we" are -- are to blame and should do something about it.

It's the same problem I have with K. Tempest Bradford's call to read no books by straight, white, men for a full year. The implication is that I should not read what most piques my interest (I looked, and my Goodreads list is 35% female, 55% non-SFF), but rather what most fits in with social justice. I have no problem with social justice, which is part of why I read as widely as I do. But I can't stand the insinuations that my reading habits make me a bad person, or that I'm the problem with genre. I read more female authors today than 20 years ago, but as Pat notes above, there are fewer established, respected female authors in SFF. The quality of SFF I read these days is much better than it was 20 years ago, and I love to see more diversity in the field. But i'm not going to read books for which I have zero interest just to make other people feel better, and I don't think Pat should have to, either.

Jon R. said...

I come to this blog because I generally like the same kinds of books as Pat. I used to check blogs like Justin's and Aidan's, which have a big emphasis on gender equality, some thought provoking stuff, some of it really good, helpful stuff, but they quit. So in the end I'm glad to still have the blog that keeps story ahead of politics.

RobB said...

It seems you read *only* the books sent to you for review? If so, you could either (1) ask for different books or (2) *gasp* buy books. Sometimes expanding our horizons (in this case reading books by women) we need to be more active and less reactive.

Nick T said...

I agree with Rob. There are so many great female authors out there that I have very often purchased my own copies to read and review. Especially when it comes to the older series where you aren't going to be able to necessarily obtain review copies. Right now on my Kindle I have a bunch of female authors queued up to go for reading in 2016: Melanie Rawn, Katharine Kerr, Elizabeth Haydon, Susan Cooper, Martha Wells, and Elizabeth Moon just to name a few. I would put all of these female authors right among the best writers in the genre based on what I have already read by them so far.

Damien Sullivan said...

"I open them one at a time and I check the cover art and read the blurbs."

As a commenter elsewhere says, there's a lot of room for bias in that, starting with covers and blurbs being publisher marketing. I suggest an experiment of reading the first few pages if not first chapter of the books, or a random sample of the books. Maybe you'll find yourself grabbed by things you didn't expect, or maybe you'll confirm that judging books by their covers works.

If paranormal romance really sells these days, publishers might think it's in their interest to make books look like PR even if they aren't. Plus there's been a trend to increasingly gendered marketing in other fields; that might apply here too.

BlueRose said...

If you only read books sent to you to review then this will be a bit of a challenge but there are tons of great women writers out there writing in other genres

Elizabeth Bear - Scardown Hammered and World Wired
Kristine Smith - The Jani Kilian series

Both of these feature an ex military hard core marine who was gravely injured and fitted with mechanical parts to replace injured body parts and it doesnt go that well and they have issues dealing with it. In both instances the past refuses to let them go and comes back to haunt them. Both are gritty hardcore military themed drama/mystery and both are excellent series.

Tanya Huff does great military SF series and wonderful smart funny witty urban SF which has the barest smidgeon of romance - her Keepers series is hilarious and the Enchantment Emporium series is fabulous. The Silvered was more classic fantasy but very surprising and a great read.

I hated the Kushiel series with a passion, so you might like Celia Dart-Thornton and Sarah Monette. I felt their styles were similar.

As mentioned Lois McMaster Bujolds stuff is fabulous, and I agree, I didnt like the Sharing Knife series much at all but the Vorkosigan saga is epic and her Chalion fantasy stuff is very rich dense and enjoyable - it was the third time I read the first book before I really felt like I got all of it.

Wurts - I loved her Wars of Light and Shadow series but bounced off the last book because all my favourite characters were gone. If you want a one off to try her style I suggest To Ride Hells Chasm - she wrote that in the middle of the big series so its more polished and adult than her earlier stuff which is a bit YA.

Sherwood Smith's Inda series is epic fantasy and has similarities in style to Wurts.

Carol Bergs Valen duology was excellent.

Going way back, Storm Constantine's Wraethu trilogy changed my life when I read it 20 odd years ago and there is nothing like it out there

Good news on the last Ambrai book, yay!

Patrick said...

Gotta make it quick because I just got home from work and I don't want to miss the hockey game. . .

Regarding Bujold, I read and reviewed the first two Chalion books and didn't like them. Didn't finish the third one, so I gave up on the author. These titles were nominated and won awards, but they left me completely indifferent. Which is why I never gave the Vorkosigan novels a shot. . .

Rob: I do buy lots of books. Whatever money I make through the Amazon links I mostly spend on reading material. Non-fiction and non-genre titles for the most part. As far as SFF books are concerned, if publishers want the exposure that a review on the Hotlist can bring, then they have to send me an ARC or a review copy. I occasionally buy genre titles, but it's usually older titles that I can't get otherwise. I shouldn't have to fork out my own dough to "expand my horizons" if authors, editors, and publishers want a review out of the bargain.

Nick: There are loads of talented female authors, no question. I've been reading fantasy and science fiction books for the last 29 years. I've read plenty of titles by Rawn, Moon, Furey, Kerr, Haydon, Elliott, West, Lackey, Bradley, Norton, yada yada yada, but that was before the creation of the Hotlist in 2005. I mean, I had a couple of shelves full of Daw Books' SFF novels written by women. It felt as though Daw was publishing the majority of them during the 80s and the 90s. And with hundreds of unread books awaiting my attention, I can't possibly reread those novels again. Which is why I elected to go with a number of those female authors' "older" works I have yet to read.

Problem is, at least if what people tell me the shit flung my way on Twitter is true, it appears that the feminists are pissed with my selections. The amount of books written by female SFF authors I want to read this year is too low, of course. But whatever number I chose to read would never satisfy them. I already knew that they aren't fond of Jacqueline Carey and Carrie Vaughn, so that's no surprise. But bitching about Kate Elliott, Melanie Rawn, and Janny Wurts, that's a bit surprising. Yes, they write quality epic fantasy series. But it seems that they don't satisfy the "diversity" requirement. So it's not even about reading female SFF authors anymore. You need to read and review (favorably, please) a certain type of novels. I knew that this post was a lose-lose situation for me. But I didn't expect people to piss on those writers and their works as if they were crap unfit to be read for failing to meet whatever the "diversity" requirement represents.

Damien: I discovered talented authors like Abercrombie, Lynch, Ruckley, Novik, Duncan, and many more this way. Reading a chapter or two of every single book I receive every week would be way too time-consuming. And I simply don't have time for this shit. My reading time is rather limited, about 6 to 8 hours per week. Given that I receive about 300 books a year, that makes about 6 books a week. If I spent 20 minutes giving each of them a shot, I'm wasting 2 hours out of those 6-8 hours of reading time I've got. Not worth it. . .

BlueRose: Never could get into Bear. Don't know why. . .

Read Huff and Constantine in the past, though nothing in the last decade or so. Haven't tried the other authors you mentioned, so I'll keep an eye out for them.

Okay, gotta go! Please don't spell-check this comment! ;-)

Foxessa said...

Your attempt to massage your numbers are pathetic. An anthology with a story in the toc by a female writer is not the same as a novel by a female writer, or even an anthology of female writers.

Anonymous said...

Readers read reviews to help us triage our reading. When reviewers don't bother reading from a wide variety of authors in the first place, and have unconscious biases (or conscious biases) in their initial book choices that they either refuse to admit or admit but get really defensive about . . . as a reader, what benefit is there to me in reading that person's reviews? If you think it makes sense to skew your reading so artificially heavily to male authors that only 19% female authors (or only 25% female authors!) somehow seems reasonable to you . . . in that context, when you say a book is wonderful, you're doing so in comparison to a very tiny and heavily artificially skewed portion of the books out there. And the value of your review, to me as a reader, is diminished accordingly. "I read a lot of books, by all kinds of people, and I thought Book X was wonderful" will be given more weight by me than "I read a lot of books but found myself prioritizing books by people who look like me in some way, and Book X was wonderful". Was Book X really that wonderful? Or did it only look wonderful in comparison to books whose authors look like the reviewer? If the reviewer had bothered to read from a wide set of authors, authors who didn't just look like the reviewer in some way, might Book X look worse in comparison, and might Book Y be getting championed instead?

This post came across like you feel you're doing female authors a favor by giving them some slightly increased vestige of a chance (while implicitly claiming you don't need to give them an equal chance. 25%!!!) You admitted that your reading is heavily skewed in favor of male authors, then snidely derided the "feminists" and the "PC police" for pointing out that you do the exact thing that you admit you do! Female authors are not some tiny minority of SFF. Female writers do not just write in paranormal romance or steampunk or urban fantasy or YA by any conceivable stretch of the imagination. If those are the only genres you're being sent, then perhaps ask why many publishers haven't been sending you female-authored books in genres that you enjoy? It's clearly not because they don't exist. If you barely review female authors, then is it possible that a number of the people sending out ARCs have picked up on that, and decided to send their limited # of ARCs elsewhere? I can't imagine your preferences are a secret. The makeup of the "SFF Authors" sidebar on your site is kind of hard to overlook, and not that hard to interpret.

Patrick said...

Foxessa: I've only reviewed 5 anthologies in the last decade, two of them comprised only of stories by female writers (A Fantasy Medley 1 and 2). So that makes only 3 consisting of both male and female authors. Yeah, a pathetic attempt to massage my numbers. . .

Anonymous: I disagree with you about reviewers. Personally, I only fully trust reviewers I've been following for years. That way, I know what they like and what they don't like. I know where our tastes in genres and books overlap, and when they don't. Although there are countless SFF book-reviewing bloggers out there, oddly enough I keep reading a very small number of them and give priority to their reviews above all the others. I figure that a vast number of readers who follow Pat's Fantasy Hotlist do so because I now have 483 reviews under my belt. They kind of know me and what I usually enjoy. They're probably still hanging around because they have learned to trust me, in all likelihood because our tastes overlap.

I never said that female SFF authors only write in paranormal romance or steampunk or urban fantasy or YA subgenres. I said they amount to about 80% of the books I received between July and December 2015. So yes, I do receive novels that fit the subgenres that normally appeal to me. But the majority of those don't make the cut in the end. Two 2015 titles which remained on the "Maybe" pile for quite some time were the new Zen Cho and Aliette de Bodard books. I received ARCs, but couldn't bring myself to read either until I read some reviews. And then, based on what people said about each book, I realized that both likely wouldn't work for me. So I didn't them.

And yes, though I have mentioned several times to publicists and editors that I don't want to receive anything in paranormal romance, steampunk, urban fantasy and YA subgenres, they still make up the bulk of material written by female SFF authors I receive every month. You would think they would know by now, but I guess not.

I also want to point out that most male SFF authors don't make the cut, either. Only about 10% of the books I receive end up on the "Books to read" or the "Maybe" piles. So it's not as if I give immediate priority to men, all to the detriment of women. The number of books written by male authors ending up in the donation box is much higher than that of women, for I receive more books written by men.

In any case, since I own so many "older" SFF titles written by women (that I've paid for, mind you), I've decided to give those a shot. Something I should have done a long time ago, as I mentioned in my reviews of the first two Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey. If these reviews help people discover and enjoy Janny Wurts, Kate Elliott, Melanie Rawn, etc, everyone's a winner. Especially since these authors have published a vast number of books.

Back to the game...

Jack said...

First thing we need is to figure out the pool of SFF authors out there. What percentages make up male and female? If it's 50/50 then yeah there's likely a bias here. But let's suppose it's 80/20 (being generous here based on my observation from perusing the SFF section in the bookstore). Then reviewing 1 female author out of 5 seems about right. Let's suppose then in a normal distribution of 100 authors where 20% are considered good, 60% mediocre, and 20% terrible, this would give us 16 good male authors, 4 good female authors, 48 mediocre male authors, 12 mediocre female authors, 16 terrible male authors, and 4 terrible female authors. If people want the reviews straight up 50/50 in the name of equality and social justice, then what ends up happening is this. When you can only review the top 20 authors (based on recommendations, hype and time) you'll end up reviewing 10 good male authors, 4 good female authors and 6 mediocre female authors. You'll end up concluding that women don't write as well as men and still be accused as sexist. Now you can also lie and pretend that you enjoyed these mediocre works but you may risk losing readers of this blog because you're giving them terrible recommendations. It is a lose lose scenario. Point is, people need to look at the composition of the talent pool first before jumping to conclusions that there are nefarious intentions at play. I may not have enjoyed works by female authors as much as male authors but I've also never considered any work by a female author as terrible as some of the male authors.

A good book is a good book and a bad book is a bad book regardless of the gender. If readers use that as a factor in making their reading choices, then it's their own personal issue.

Anonymous said...

My two cents... I like the blog because we have similar tastes and it helps me narrow down what to look for. The blog is free, you should do as you please. If folks don't like it they can start their own blog.

Tinsmith said...

Oh. My. God. or some gender equivalent divine entity of note. Leave Pat alone. It's his fucking blog, he reviews what he likes and he has no reason to placate any hipster wieners. STFU.

Jay said...

Ah Pat, poor fool... I'm so glad I got out of this blogging shit years ago! These people don't give a fuck about you! They have their own agenda to push and fuck you for not reviewing the sort of novels they want to pander to the masses!

You could read only sff books written by women all year long and they would still hate you and mock you if you plan on reading authors like Carey, Wurts, Rawn, Elliott, Friedman, Novik, Hobb, and other people like them.

Fuck no, they want you to read, like, and review books with plenty of LGBT characters, minorities, with role reversals and shit like that. Weren't you the one they derided a couple of years ago, claiming that Hobb and Friedman didn't count because they write like men? With Elliott, Rawn, and Wurts writing epic fantasy, of course these pissant fuckers are mocking you. You could read every single novel these authors have ever published in 2016, something that would surely fill up almost every slot you have in your reading schedule, and these people would still bitch and moan. If it's not Valente or Robinette Kowal or something along those lines, these people won't ever be satisfied.

So raise your middle finger in the air, say "fuck this" and read whatever the hell you want to read. You've reviewed close to 500 sff books, right? People should know what to expect by now.

Didn't you use to be the good guy back in the day? ;) Now you're a fucking sexist and racist fuckwit! :p

It's a crazy world we live in!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading the Hotlist for 5+ years now, and I always pay attention to Pat's reviews. He's caused me to purchase more than a dozen titles, from which I've bought additional works by those authors.
I know by now what Pat likes and what he doesn't like. We don't have exactly the same tastes, and that's OK. When I'm interested in a new book I know he won't like, I go to another blog I trust to see their review. I certainly don't expect Pat to review that book regardless of his preferences. I shop around to become better informed.
I don't see why this is such a problem to so many people.

Patrick said...

Just got back home.

And since a lot of people seem to believe that the donation boxes are filled only with works from female authors, I decided to empty them to check things out. As things stand, they contain 29 books. And only 4 of them were written by women.

So I'm passing on a lot more stuff written by male authors. But it doesn't matter.

Yes, I still need to read more speculative fiction works written by women. And that's what I intend to do. Probably not what certain factions would like me to review, though...

To Jay and the others, thanks for the support. =) But I'm still in the gutter in the eyes of the PC police, whatever I end up doing. Just get used to it.

And Jay, not sure what happened. Political correctness got a hold of certain factions of the SFF Blogosphere and it's been like this for about 5 years or so. Makes you long for those awful pissing contests that made everyone look bad back in 2005 or 2006. People had thicker skins back then and it was all about spreading the word about good books. Nowadays, you have some people pandering a definite social and political agenda that they would like everyone to embrace. It's not just about books and stories anymore.

More's the pity... :/

Jay said...

Yes, the Scalzi/Robinette era. :(

Anyway, found this latest tempest in a tea cup via Twitter. Once or twice a year, you always manage to stir the pot and create what becomes a mini controversy and I'm like, "Damn, Pat is still around."

I'll come around again when you ruffle someone else's feathers. Probably in a couple of weeks/months! ;)

My advice to you: Just don't give a fuck...

The Amazing Buttcrack said...

Who is this KrisDBall who's pretty much everywhere on the Reddit thread? Is this the screen name of an established SFF writer?

Silent said...

Anonymous The Amazing Buttcrack said...
Who is this KrisDBall who's pretty much everywhere on the Reddit thread? Is this the screen name of an established SFF writer?


______________________________________________________________________>

Looks like she's a self-published author

http://kristadball.com/books/

Adam Whitehead said...

"No one knew that Robin Hobb was a woman at first. Like everyone else, I found out around the time ASSASSIN'S QUEST was published (if I remember correctly)."

Maybe it was different in North America, but in Britain Robin Hobb was definitely marketed and identified as a woman from the off. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, published in early 1996 before even the second Farseer book came out, specifically identifies her as Megan Lindholm as well. There was certainly no serious, KJ Parker-esque plan to hide her identity.

"I shouldn't have to fork out my own dough to "expand my horizons" if authors, editors, and publishers want a review out of the bargain."

I hate to say it Pat, for my sake and Ken's and Larry's as well as yours, but it's not 2009 any more. Us bloggers are no longer as influential as we once were, even if our hits and profile haven't dipped that much. Nowadays it's all about social media and Goodreads and Reddit, or the self-published ebook scene on Amazon. It's definitely been interesting going from being able to email a publicist and get any book I wanted five years ago to having to put more legwork in, which of course does backfire as it means I tend to miss out on low-profile, under-marketed gems as they're not on my radar.

One thing I did do, and I'm not trying to score points here as anyone can do what they want of course, but I switched to alternating books (or series) by male and female authors back in 2012 and it's worked out really well. Found some great books that way. However, I note that one website which did a round-up of bloggers the preceding year and castigated me for gender imbalance quietly dropped me from their coverage the following year, no doubt as a high-profile blog switching to a balanced review output would have skewed their narrative.

acrisalves said...

I've read 27 books this year, until today. Only 2 are from female authors. I'm female, and i do have the same problem - the majority of books that i pick from reading the resume are from male authors. And recently i've just read a book from someone i thought was a female... ops - different language, different perception.

I don't pick a book because of the genre of the author - i read it because i like the resume or the reviews i read. But i read mostly sci-fi and female authors are a minority there.

RobB said...


"I shouldn't have to fork out my own dough to "expand my horizons" if authors, editors, and publishers want a review out of the bargain."

Not doing yourself any favors with statements like that, Pat. Out of context, and to a large degree in context, it makes you come across as very entitled.

Patrick said...

Adam: It was indeed different in North America and her identity was revealed around the time the third book came out. Or maybe the second. Can't remember exactly. As this was in the years before online communities, the sharing of information wasn't as quick and easy.

I disagree about the review thing. Regardless of how influential we are these days, anything reviewed by you, Larry, Ken, Rob, Mark, Justin, etc, will move copies. Publishers still make money out of that, even if there are more online reviewing venues out there. Hence, as long as they can make money out of my reviews, I expect them to supply the reading material. As I said, I still buy a whole lot of books every year. But I rarely review any of them, unless I feel that perhaps some SFF fans might get into them.

My friend is a movie critic and sometimes studios won't give him passes for media screenings to "punish" him for a negative review of one of their films. And he always maintained that if they make him pay for it, he'll never review it. So in the end, it's their loss. As a fan, he pays for movies every week. But anything the studios would like him to review must be through media screenings. So I kind of look at it the same way.

And make no mistake. Any speculative fiction author would like to have their works reviewed on the Hotlist, the Wertzone, or the blogs of the other reviewers you mentioned. Any time I have a problem getting a review copy from a publisher, once notified the writer immediately offers to send one of his author's copies. I would understand if we're talking about a small press or an older title. But publishers have marketing budgets for new releases, so it's all part of the equation to actually send out copies to reviewers. Unless, of course, we're talking about foreign publishers. Living in Canada, I understand that the folks at Gollancz prefer to send review copies to you and other British reviewers instead of me. Shipping rates are so high, it's understandable. But in this day and age, when you can effortessly forward a PDF file via email, I still don't understand why it should be such a pain in the ass to sometimes receive review copies.

"It's definitely been interesting going from being able to email a publicist and get any book I wanted five years ago to having to put more legwork in, which of course does backfire as it means I tend to miss out on low-profile, under-marketed gems as they're not on my radar."

Oh, I hear you. And it's those writers that are the biggest losers...

Patrick said...

Adam: As far as Only Requires That You Hate and her ilk, or Aidan, Justin, and their cliques are concerned, I could find cures for AIDS and cancer and they'd still hate me. As Jay pointed out, even if I only read books written by female authors this year, they would still be on my case because I wouldn't be reading the kind of works they are gunning for. Apart from the one I'm reading now, I own 9 other Kate Elliott books. I have 7 books set in the Kushiel universe by Jacqueline Carey awaiting my attention. The 2 Exiles installments by Melanie Rawn. I have the first 6 or 7 volumes of Janny Wurts' The Wars of Light and Shadow. I still have 4 or 5 volumes to go in Carrie Vaughn's series. Let's say I dig up those 4 or 5 Cherryh books I have somewhere in storage, as well as the two or three Michelle West series I also own. Let's say I read and review the novels Hobb wrote as Megan Lindholm. Let's say I review the Adept series by Katherine Kurtz, or reread older books I read before the creation of the Hotlist by female authors like Kerr, Norton, Bradley, Moon, Lackey, Butler, LeGuin, etc. It would make no difference. Because it wouldn't be something like THE GOBLIN EMPEROR.

As Jay pointed out, it's not really about gender imbalance anymore. Though many of them use that as a cover for their vitriol, for the most part they don't give a shit about Hobb, Friedman, Carey, Kurtz, Rawn, etc. They're pushing for their own brand of SFF and fuck you if you don't like it. So my switching to a more balanced review output wouldn't change anything, I fear.

But we'll have to wait and see. As I mentioned somewhere else, if I enjoy those series, I may end up reading more such books to find out what happens next. But I'd be willing to put money on it that even if my outpout goes up to 30% or 40% or even 50% in 2016, it will make no difference. C'est la vie! ;-)

Patrick said...

Rob: You posted your comment while I was answering Adam. See my explanation in that comment...

Damien Sullivan said...

I don't know if anyone knows overall SF demographics, or even has a list of all books published in a year, but in 2011 James Nicoll added up the output of some publishers for that year. Tor's authors were about 21% female, Baen's 28%. I think Tor is big, so yes, a perfectly unbiased sample of SF output has a decent chance of being under 30% female authorship.

Should a reviewer try to bias towards including more women, as personal affirmative action? I think it's a virtuous thing, at least, along with trying to be aware of personal biases that might be skewing things even more the other way. OTOH if one happens to like subgenres even more dominated by male authors than the field as a whole...

Regarding Bujold, a bunch of people have liked her Vorkosigan books but not her fantasies.

Morrigan said...

As a proud feminist who is often called an "SJW", I... really don't care what you choose to read and cover in your blog. I don't understand why anyone would care either. It's not like you choose authors in bad faith or don't make any effort to read books written by women or anything. It's cool of you to decide to pay more attention to this issue, but at the same time, it's really not a big deal. People can stop reading your blog and start their own if they are unhappy. Yours is a private blog, not a large media company/reviewing outlet with mainstream appeal. I'd understand the criticism if, say, a newspaper or magazine (online or not) with a larger staff had a male bias, but a private blog? A complete non-issue.

FWIW, however, please don't consider Requires Hate and her ilk as feminists or anyone that cares about social justice. They are just petty trolls, nothing more. If the accusations of sexism came from such people, then you don't even need to consider them, as they are meritless.

Anonymous said...

@RobB:

Why would it make Pat come across as very entitled? Beauty and fashion bloggers get all their cosmetics/beauty products for free. Movie reviewers see pretty much everything for free. Sports bloggers, at least the most popular ones, have press passes and can be on site for pro games for free. Foodies get free meals at restaurants. People who specialize in alcohol receive free sample for review purposes. Music bloggers get all the singles and albums for free and get free invites for live shows. ETC.

So why would someone who runs one of the most popular sff book blogs on the internet come across as very entitled if he expects publishers to send him the very material they hope he'll read and review? Just trying to understand where you're coming from with that statement. Admittedly, I know nothing of the publishing industry. But I fail to see why it would be any different.

Amy

Anonymous said...

What she said!

And I for one am happy that we'll get more reviews for fantasy and science fiction books written by women! :-)

Sarah

Shane said...

I counted up my own reading #s. The last several years I have read an average number of about 70 books. Two of the years around 25 of the titles I read were by female authors. Other years it was less. One year it was as low as 8. But I selected the books I read in all of these years based on the story I wanted to read next. The gender of the author never came into play in my decision making process. Maybe we should quit attributing malicious intent to Patrick where there is none. Would anyone who is complaining that he doesn't read enough female authors or the right female authors be any happier with him if he reads and reviews a book he knew he was predisposed to dislike in the first place?

I posted on my facebook page and asked if anyone took gender into account when selecting what books they read. Everyone who responded said no. In fact, the only time anyone has ever said to me that gender was a factor in which books the read, it was an ex girlfriend of mine who told me that she didn't like books if the author was female and that if she realized a book was written by a female author she was less inclined to or would not read it. For example, she would not have read Harry Potter if she had realied that JK Rowling was a woman when she first started it.

Maybe we should let Patrick and everyone else read the types of books they enjoy. If we don't enjoy the types of books they read or review, we don't have to read those same books and we can always find another book blog or reviewer to follow. I don't agree with all of Patrick's reviews. And I am shocked at the number of people who feel the need to personally attack him because he either liked/didn't like a book he had the opposite opinion about. But for every review of Patrick's that I disagree with, I have also discovered a new book or series that I have read and enjoyed or plan to read an enjoy. If I hated Patrick as much as some of the people who come out of the woodwork to comment here when there is a faux controversy, I don't believe I would waste my time reading his blog to be outraged by it. But if you do, that's your choice, just like it's Patrick's choice to read the books he thinks he will enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Aidan from A Dribble of ink reviewed what? 6 or 7 books a year. So even if there was gender balance as far as what he's reading is concerned, that only adds up to like 3 books a year. So even on his worse year Pat read more books by female authors than Aidan did. But Aidan remains one of Pat's most ardent detractors. WTF?

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the Reddit thread. Actually a lot of good things in there. The Tweets, not so much.:S

Foehammer said...

I would highly suggest you do things your own way and ignore the Thought Police, even when said Police wear skirts, or bras, or have burned either or both.

Fail Burton said...

No matter how you twist and turn you will never satisfy the irrational suspicions and paranoia built into this feminist cult. The best you can hope for is to become a noble ally and get a pat on the head and maybe a Passover mark so the Angel of Death doesn't see you when the revolution comes and the compulsory heterosexuality of the noxious gender binary is cured. There's a reason I refer to FemSoc as graceless sociopaths and that's because of their ceaseless attempts to convince me my name is "Cis White Dude Parade of Male Tears."

As for the person who dismissed Requires Hate as a petty troll, RH is in fact the beating heart encapsulating every argument from white privilege to rape culture which has wrecked our genre in the last five years. Trying to pie-chart fiction is in essence an affirmative action initiative which only further serves that wreckage. I trust my literary appreciation more than some daffy feminist who thinks she can detect my bias by reading my mind and declaring me wrong 100% of the time.

Anonymous said...

So we're still waiting for the explanation as to why Patrick should come across as very entitled.

Dave said...

Since no one else mentioned her, I would just toss Mickey Zucker Reichert as an author to check out. Haven't done a full re-read of it, but I loved her Renshai series and have enjoyed her two most recent novels that have returned to that world. The basic world-building starts with the premise: Norse mythology? Yeah, that's all real. She wrote some real fun characters along the way as well.

Rebecca said...

Well, first, let me say thank you for making a conscious choice to increase the percentage of work you review by women.

I think there are many reasons that women sci-fi authors could be passed over more then men, and one of those reasons is unconscious bias. While there are some that would just pass on a female author, I think some women authors end up getting passed on by cover art, or blurbs or categorizations by people who might actually like the author's work. Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series could be an example; the blurbs and cover art looks like average urban fantasy fair. But for whatever reason, you (Patrick), decided to read it and liked it, even though you don't like most urban fantasy.*

Many commentators here point out that they share Patrick's tastes, and try out books based on his reviews. The hopeful outcome of Patrick reading more things with keeping women authors in mind is not a change in taste for him, but to find books that he and his readers would like that they might not have picked up normally. I mean, I can't speak for every SJW or feminist, but that is what I hope will come out of that experiment.

That said, Patrick is playing it safe by reviewing authors he knows he likes, but still, these might be new to his reader base. I look forward to your next year of reviews.

*I think she's a talented author too and like her work.

Patrick said...

Hi Rebecca,

I'm not necessarily reviewing female authors I know I like. Just read Kate Elliott's BLACK WOLVES, which was my first Elliott title in almost 20 years. Never read Wurts yet. And with C. J. Cherryh being named SFWA Grand Master, I decided that I'll read DOWNBELOW STATION, which is supposed to be a classic.

Who knows? Maybe there will be more SFF books written by women that will pique my curiosity among the review material I am sent over the course of the year.

As you mentioned, my hope is to find plenty of things to like about each book, which in turn might entice my readers to give them a shot. And maybe other online reviewers will do the same.

Time will tell. . . =)

Pam said...

Would it be un pc to say that sifting through thinly disguised Romance to find good SFF has made even female readers wary of female authors? I recommend Jaq D. Hawkins or V.E Schwab for old style Fantasy.