The Black SFF Writer Survey Report

This is an interesting read from FIYAH Literary Magazine. I’ll let the report speak for itself and I’m still digesting it but I’d like to pick up a point they make in the introduction:

“A final note: We know that some usual suspects will attempt to invalidate what we’ve captured by claiming that our analysis lacks rigor, or our methodology was faulty. This is a smokescreen that these individuals use to hide the fact that they are against making the speculative fiction publishing space inclusive and respectful to black writers–all writers, really–and their work. Using assumed (and faulty) scientific expertise to attack the experiences of marginalized people is not a new tactic, and one that is frequently used by these groups in an attempt to maintain the oppressive systems that they believe should solely benefit them. They will never admit that fact so we are making it plain here.”

Strongly worded but a reasonable response given some of the muddleheaded reactions we saw to the Fireside report.

This is not to say that the report is somehow methodologically perfect or has flawless data or answers all question. Rather, the point is that gathering a complete data picture of an area of study takes time, multiple studies and necessarily is an iterative process of collecting incomplete data which then inform new surveys and new studies. There is a bootstrap element to all statistical study e.g. how do you know whether your sample is representative without first having statistical data about the population you are sampling, which you can’t get without doing a representative sample of the population your want to sample? The answer is that *perfection* is unobtainable but *good-enough* is both obtainable and part of an iterative process of gaining knowledge.

So does the report have limitations? Yes, obviously – the writers aren’t omniscient.  The question is does it improve our understanding?

4 thoughts on “The Black SFF Writer Survey Report

  1. I’ve done some analysis on it, focusing just on the eleven publications I regularly read and review (since I think they’re the most important ones). Within that subset, using 95%-confidence intervals, this report does not show that black writers have any problem getting stories submitted. This is largely because you really need a lot of data to demonstrate a problem when the event your looking for (acceptance of a manuscript) is so rare even in the base case.

    More formally, this data fails to exclude the null hypothesis (that there is no discrimination) at the 95% confidence level for any specific magazine (of the 11) and overall (for all 11 combined). This is true even if you exclude Lightspeed, which had a special POC issue.

    From the other direction, assuming these magazines accept about 2% of all submissions, the bottom of the confidence interval overall is 5%, which rules out discrimination at the 95%-confidence level. Four magazines, Apex, F&SF, Interzone, and Lightspeed have lower bounds above 2%, which would seem to exonerate them from the accusation of discrimination.

    It’s possible I made a mistake here, or that I’ve read the report wrong. Please have a look yourself and see if you get the same result.


    1. arrgh. Missed off the quote
      “When you’re saying that there is an under-representation, understand that it comes from both ends. It’s coming from people who are fed up with and don’t expect to see themselves in traditional publishing, which is an issue. That is definitely an issue, because the under-representation has led to a thriving parallel market among other things. Just understand that there are some folks who aren’t trying.”


  2. Across the whole sample of data, 10% of stories were accepted. That’s astonishingly good. I think that’s because their self-selected sample contained lots of already-published writers.

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