Gender in Publishing: AWW2012 challenge

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series AWW challenge

by Nalini Haynes

Originally published in Dark Matter issue 9

If you follow online discussions by authors, critics and publishers, you’ll be aware that there are concerns regarding how women’s writing is treated. Major media like newspapers of repute, are less likely to review women’s work or to take it seriously. If Jonathan Franzen writes a book about family it’s described as ‘a book about America’, whereas if a women writes a book about family, it’s discounted as ‘chic lit’.

Books that are deemed to be important are also more likely to be assigned to a man for review, resulting in critics raving about an implausible story where a woman uses her wiles to deflect a rape being touted as writing of significance. Disregarding the voice of women results in an unbalanced, incomplete discussion, leading to defective outcomes.

Here in Australia some dynamic activists set up the Australian Women Writers Challenge, where men and women are encouraged to read and review books by Australian women, and to share those reviews with the broader community.

In response to the Australian Women Writers Challenge and gender-parity concerns being addressed by similar campaigns in the UK and US, Dark Matter is running a series intended to open up discussion about the AWW challenge and issues of gender in genre.

While I have sought to engage science fiction and fantasy authors in this discussion, some participants are not necessarily published authors. People of note who are activists in some way or active within the community have been invited. It is my hope that readers will respond to issues raised in this discussion. For the next few issues at least, I plan to run letters in two sections: the traditional letters of comment will run as usual. However, letters that specifically address gender issues will be grouped in this section. I will publish controversial opinions and opinions with which I disagree, but I will not publish personal attacks or vitriol. Let’s keep it clean and intelligent, please folks!

To date the following people have agreed to respond to the AWW challenge (in alphabetical order):
This issue:

Alexandra Pierce:  Randomly Yours, Alex, Galactic Suburbia and her response to the AWW
Jennifer Mills: her website and her response to the AWW
Meg Mundell: her website and her response to the AWW
Michael Pryor: his website and his response to the AWW
Nicole Murphy: her website and her response to the AWW
Sean McMullen: his website and his response to the AWW which was written 20 years ago.  He’s ahead of his time.
Sean Williams: his website and his response to the AWW
Nalini Haynes: my response to efforts to rectify gender imbalance in the SFF community ‘On Gender Parity‘ 

Series NavigationAlexandra Pierce on the AWW challenge >>