The Choice of Outrage is Illuminating

I have been pointed to a Facebook post by Michael A Rothman [ <- let me know if that works as I don’t Bookface]. For those saying ‘who?’ you may remember Mr Rothman from Brad Torgersen’s post 2015 Hugo Debarkle reactions, where Brad chastised everybody who voted against Brad’s wishes because it made Mr Rothman’s kids sad [No seriously: ]

Anyway, the trauma of that night in Spokane lingers on and Michael Rothman has a post up about the Hugo Awards. It’s one of the few ex-Sad Puppy reactions to the 2019 Hugo Awards but in the comments there’s old favourites like Dave Freer and Brad himself.

So a couple of thing. First Michael is upset that Jeannette Ng called John Campbell a fascist. He doesn’t get into why he thinks Campbell wasn’t a fascist but apparently it is a terrible thing to say about him.

The other thing that’s upsetting Michael is the gender disparity in this year’s Hugo awards:

Since there are many ways to slice this whole diversity thing up, I decided to do it in the least controversial and most unbiased way possible. Limit the analysis to Male/Female – that one’s easy.
Global demographics stipulate that the Male/Female ratios should be roughly 50-50.
In summary, there were 8 professional writing categories
Of the Winners: Males won: 0/8, Females won: 8/8
Gender diversity is 0%
But don’t be shocked. This is the THIRD year in a row.”

Powerful stuff! Of course, over the whole history of the Hugo Awards the disparity still leans the other way but I guess it’s recent history that worries Michael.

Any way, Michael is also a big fan of the Dragon Awards. Well, here’s a thought… of the 41 people who have won a Dragon Award for the last three (16,17 & 18 as 19 hasn’t finished yet) which coincidentally is the whole life of the award, what is the gender split (assuming a binary division for counting purposes):

Of the winners: Men won 35/41, Women won: 6/41
That’s an 85%-15% split.
But don’t be shocked. That’s the whole life of the award so far.

To be fair, the gender split in the nominees is better this year but isn’t it just fascinating WHICH gender disparity worries Mr Rothman and which one doesn’t?

132 thoughts on “The Choice of Outrage is Illuminating

  1. “Global demographics”? For frak’s sake. That has nothing to do with how well individual people can write. For my money, these past few years the best, most exciting stuff has been written by women (and non-binary people). It’s that simple.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yesterday, Alan Dean Foster opined over on Max Florschutz’s blog that the Hugo should now be called the Hugoette.


      1. Yes — here we go:

        “How does it feel to be an Astronette?” That voice belonged to a round, balding man with his tie pulled loose. “An astronette? That sounds as if I should be doing kicks in a chorus line.”

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I winced when Ng mistakenly put Campbell at Amazing instead of Astounding, but apart from that her speech was completely factual. Also, by giving only that intro and leaving out the rest of what she said about the history of SF — not to mention her request for support for the demonstrators in Hong Kong, which wouldn’t fit his narrative — he completely distorted it.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Yeah I wonder how that supposed 50/50 split plays out in the Science Fiction Literature Track at Dragon Con this year. If you want to look at the panels and the panelists, you can download the app. The schedule is now out.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. One of the dumber comments:
    “Also, I can smell cats just looking at those pictures. Lot of cats.”
    Cos Women authors = CATS, obviously
    … Maybe you should sic Timothy on him?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There was indeed a panel about pets and how they affected the writing process. It ended up with the authors mostly showing pictures and telling cute stories. In the end it had little to do with speculative fiction. Indeed it was three women and one men. Everybody attending enjoyed the hell out out of it.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. God, these people are insufferable and will never be satisfied. The question I would ask these people is what percentage of the books they read each year are by each gender (or well, men vs not-men, to account for NBs and others) – I bet you they’re not reading a 50/50 split that they claim they should see in their award spreads! And they’ll have no explanation of why.

    I’ve read 26 books my men in the genre and 94 by women/others, not counting one book that’s co-written by both. And it’s incredible how I don’t feel I’m missing award quality work…..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I read some of the replies to Rothman. Unfortunately common was something along the lines of “These women are horrible-looking. [Huh?] I’ve never read anything by any of them and never plan to.”

      Others just seemed defensive about Campbellian SF. I love that stuff too! But it’s possible to love something while at the same time recognizing serious issues with it. Or, As The Kids Say, “All your faves are problematic.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Meh. I still really don’t get why people are so grumpy about awards. There are plenty of non-award winners who are awesome. I understand this is Mary Robinette Kowal’s first Hugo right? But its definitely not the first year she was one of the most successful, respected and popular speculative fiction authors. Also, not winning an award next year wouldn’t change that.

    So yeah, female authors did great at Hugo’s in 2019. The blokes who didn’t come first but wrote great stories which plenty of people enjoyed reading in 2019 did great too.

    Plenty of people around kowe who don’t have Hugo’s that are artistically significant and having nice careers. Giants in the field really.

    Spaceships or on Mantelpieces are nice I guess, not worth raising your blood pressure about though.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Global demographics show that hardly anybody publishes books. Will Rothman cease producing his so as not to violate the worldwide average?

    Liked by 7 people

  8. I clicked on the comments link with the express purpose of saying, “If it’s global demographics he’s going by, why isn’t he upset at the disproportionate representation of white people, particularly Americans among Hugo winners?” But of course someone else thought of that. 🙂

    And I shouldn’t be surprised by Foster’s comment… but I am disappointed.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m disappointed, too. I read a lot of Foster and ranked him as one of my favorite authors back in the day.


  9. I am still furious and will always be furious about Michael Z. Williamson’s “Wisdom from My Internet” losing in 201, obviously due to anti-white, anti-male, anti-racistunclehumor bias. He should’ve won easily. I will never forget that travesty. I am shocked and dismayed that our weeping puppers didn’t feel fit to bring that up. Shame on them, I say!


  10. To be fair about Campbell, he probably would have been enormously upset if he’d been called a fascist in, say, 1943…. I think Jeannette Ng is using the word in its looser, more modern, sense, there. Which is OK by me: if Ng does not want to draw fine technical distinctions between different kinds of racist authoritarians, I’m certainly not going to make her.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Ah, typical Stage 2 hierarchy bigotry: “You don’t deserve to be here.” Demean, trivialize and invalidate and declare them an undeserving, conniving threat. And then for Ng, who talked about stuff about Campbell and the history of SFF that everyone is perfectly well aware about, even during Campbell’s lifetime, we get some Stage 3 hierarchy bigotry: “You’re ruining here.” Where you’re considered a bad apple and a threat because you bring up all the discrimination that has blocked and limited people in the past and present and celebrate some of it changing.

    Anyway, it was an interesting year. It’s been nice to see someone like Wells, for instance, who’s been dealing with this crap since the 1990’s, have such a burst of attention for her Murderbot stories, juicing up cyberpunk, and a healthy mix of established and new people on the ballots.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. It’s an odd essay. He’s espousing a non-hereditarian hereditarian position; that nature trumps nurture, but that the genic interactions are so chaotic that the traits essentially don’t run in families (or populations) – and part way through slips into assuming that a nurturist position (assigning cultures to the citizen or barbarian classes, and saying that cultures can move from one class to the other). From my jaundiced view of American pseudolibertarians – the bandit wannabee wing of the libertarian movement – he seems to be calling them barbarians.

        I suppose that the subtext is that you can’t cure riots by removing the circumstances that cause them, so all you can do is suppress them, which ends up as a de facto call for racial oppression.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. In Scalzi’s thread on Jeanette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance speech James Nicoll links to his review of a collection of Campbell editorials. Some of them are just crackpottery of various forms, but some are worse than that one from Baen.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I started reading that. First essay out the gate was basically: “Stupid girl doctor, using her “feminine intuition” to block thalidomide from being sold in the US! She didn’t know about the baby deformities then, and if she had, what’s a few dead/malformed babies for Science!” …the next three didn’t get any better. That’s as far as I’ve read so far.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. More global demographics: Where are all the under-30 Hugo winners? The median age of the world population is about 31. If the Hugos reflected that, half the award-winners should be age 30 or younger.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. I don’t do Faceplant, either, otherwise I’d be glad to hold a discussion with Mr. Rothman.

    If I did, I’d say: Mr. Rothman, obviously I speak only for myself, but I vote my own sometimes idiosyncratic view about the merits of works (and other finalists), and am astonished at your assumption that only ‘identity politics’ could have produced the 2019 Hugo results. I’m even more astonished at the whiff of conspiratorial thinking in your conclusions. Have you ever actually met Worldcon attendees? There’s no shared ideology. There just isn’t.

    And, Mr. Rothman, as to your ‘females won 8 professional writing categories’ thing, setting aside the quibbles that almost all of those awards (except the Campbell) are granted to works rather than persons, and that Charlie Vess the Best Art Book’s illustrator is male, that’s true, but, speaking for myself, I put five of those eight winners as my #1 choice for the category because I thought them the best in an excellent field. (I had different #1 choices for short story, series, and Lodestar.) But, anyway, the 2019 outcome for those eight is wrongful why exactly? Because of some demented quota? Really? I rather think not, sir.

    Explain, please, Mr. Rothman, why Kowal’s novel, Wells’s novella, Cho’s novellette, Harrow’s short story, Le Guin’s art book, Adeyemi’s YA book, and Chambers’s series aren’t among the best the year offered, and stunningly good picks by the composite Hugo voter. Explain why Ng isn’t among the year’s best new talents. I’ll be waiting, but not holding my breath.

    And no, Ng wasn’t yelling. And if you don’t enjoy her using her 90 seconds the way that suits her best, better luck next time convincing people to vote for someone else. Trying to suggest a quota for males probably isn’t going to be a winning argument, though.

    Turning now to the Brad Torgersen five-hanky post-Sasquan blog post, wow, I just can’t even. I’d frankly forgotten that pretty much this entire lot just was never even able to get their minds around the concept of ranked-choice voting, and the several time-honoured and very legitimate use-cases for ranking No Award above some finalists.

    For example, and I discussed this at the time on Eric Flint’s blog, I consider the Best Editor Long Form award so deeply problematic that, after 2015, I’ve put No Award as #1 and nothing else for that category, to indicate my view that it’s a broken award and needs to be done away with. Here are my notes from my 2015 ballot, on that category:

    1. Sheila Gilbert
    2. No Award
    Quoting Kevin Standlee: Editor-Long is effectively a proxy for Best Publisher, although it’s trickier here because the same publisher can have multiple editors.

    In the wake of Sasquan, I realised that, even though I’d tried very hard to come up with a rational way of smoking out who’s the year’s best book editor, that’s really possible only for probably around a dozen publishing insiders, and the rest of us are in the dark. Ergo: broken award, needs to go away.


    1. Rick Moen: In the wake of Sasquan, I realised that, even though I’d tried very hard to come up with a rational way of smoking out who’s the year’s best book editor, that’s really possible only for probably around a dozen publishing insiders, and the rest of us are in the dark. Ergo: broken award, needs to go away.

      Dude, I worked SO hard last year at making nominating for this category easier.


      1. That was sterling work but even with all that helpful stuff I still don’t know how to vote in that category, as in how to think about it. I can’t make it work at an analytical level or at an emotional level. 😦


      2. See, now I feel legitimately guilty about at least the semblance of ingratitude, and sorry about having even come within a country mile of suggesting I didn’t appreciate your admirable efforts. I very much did.

        However, that being said, I still cannot come up with a rational and honest way to rank the Best Editor Long Form nominees: Through 2015, I assumed it was my fault, my just being too half-assical in getting the necessary reading and pondering done in time. During 2015, I finally did an all-out effort to finally do a good job, and was astonished to have the small epiphany that the necessary data are just not present, and almost certainly never would be.

        And that’s on the Business Meeting regulars, not you specifically. WSFS screwed the pooch, IMO.


  14. In a different thread, some months ago, Camestros couldn’t quite remember what work SP3 and RP-recommended author Rajnar Vajra wrote. It was a novelette, ‘The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale’, published in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of Analog. (As mentioned, I’ve unearthed my 2015 ballot and notes.)

    Personally, I just didn’t think it was good enough to be a Hugo finalist, though it was otherwise OK, so I ranked it along with the other four finalist novelettes below No Award, on my ballot. As the canids refuse to understand, that doesn’t necessarily mean I hated it, but rather that it was, in the voter’s opinion, among the very many works published in 2014 that are either OK or actively good but not the best the field has to offer. My notes about the category were: ‘My rankings under the Heuvelt are somewhat arbitrary because I haven’t read enough of them, but the general thrust is that even the [Thomas Olde] Huvelt [author of The Day The World Turned Upside Down] shouldn’t win because it wasn’t up against quite worthy enough competition.’ (I ranked Huvelt’s novellette as #2, below No Award.)

    Of course, if the canids choose to believe that I didn’t vote my considered view, I offer for their delectation an alternate hypothesis: Tor’s orbital mind-control lasers made me vote that way.


  15. What you have in a lot of bigotry is the idea that if people from long-time marginalized groups get a better, more equal shot at the table, they should not be allowed to do very well over the dominant groups who have been limiting and locking them out of the opportunities before. They don’t object to the existence of the marginalized per se, (hey, Leigh Brackett was a nominee way back when!) What they object to is the cultural myth of the dominant group’s innate superiority going bye-bye when they no longer have the rigged advantage and cultural biases as much to reinforce that myth.

    When they dominate something, it’s status to them. So if they aren’t dominating as much, whatever it is has less value and status. They’re just whining that they’re losing status to those they’ve been taught to view as mouthy inferiors and so the awards are ruined, etc. There’s going to be a lot of whining in the next decade hopefully as there are surges of awareness and interest in creative voices that were previously limited and overlooked.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I notice that the key bit of rhetoric in Michael A Rothman’s 2015 post about Sasquan’s Hugo Ceremony (quoted by Torgersen) was pretty phony, really. I was rather busy at the time (being the staffer running Sasquan’s mailing lists), and didn’t register any of this until now. (Views expressed here are explicitly mine alone.)

    As I briefly explained, the audience was cheering because of that decision and the MC made a point of saying that cheering was appropriate and boos were not. My kids were shocked. Shocked not by not winning but by having an entire category’s rug being pulled out from under it and then having all the adults (many of which were old enough to be their grandparents) cheering for something my kids looked at as an unfair tragedy.

    This is a bit of a distortion: When some small number of audience members suddenly booed a Puppy nominee, Gerrold immediately cut them off by saying ‘applause is okay, booing is not’. He shortly afterwards elaborated, that audience members should also please hold applause until all finalists in a category have been announce, which was (obviously) an empathetic and kind request on his part so that annoyed fans would not humiliate individual finalists.

    The other bit of hokum resides in Rothman’s term ‘the audience’, as if said audience were monolithic. Sorry, no, the audience as a whole was not cheering. i was there, and the fact is that some audience members applauded as the five No Award results emerged. My impression is that most did not. Certainly, neither I nor my wife did. We sort-of ‘got’ why some people were trying to indicate approval of the brigading having not worked, but we (my wife and I, and many others) refrained because it struck us as unseemly to celebrate, especially since a number of sympathetic finalists such as talented new author Kary English (author of the Puppy-nominated short story ‘Totaled’) were getting implicitly slapped down in the process.

    When we attended, we had good seats and they were excited to see if some of their choices would make it. […] [Rothman’s boys] blame the ones who made them feel “like the rug was pulled out from under me.”

    Wow, entitlement issues much?

    Also, I’m just not buying this narrative. If his boys indeed cast Hugo ballots in 2015, they would have seen, right at each of the finalists for them to rank, that ‘No Award’ is one of the choices that can be included anywhere in the preference rankings. This notion of it being somehow astonishing that the composite Hugo voter can ranked No Award high enough to prevail in the IRV rounds strains credulity. It’s right there on their ballots. So, wow, the ‘rug was pulled out’ by a bunch of other voters happening to downvote works the boys are claimed to have liked, and the kids thus ‘blame’ them? Is Rothman absolutely certain he isn’t speaking of ‘only children’ rather than siblings? Otherwise, the implied extreme self-centredness seems difficult to picture, not to mention the father (allegedly) endorsing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rick Moen: I’m just not buying this narrative.

      I never bought this narrative, either. What kind of shitty parent would get their kids heavily emotionally-invested in voting for some awards, and take them to the ceremony, knowing that it was entirely likely that there was going to be a huge repudiation of the slating tactics — without warning the kids what might happen, and why? Who would do such an incredibly cruel thing to their children?

      Rothman’s narrative echoes that of the rest of the Puppies: that they were entitled to demand that the ballot reflect all their choices and to demand that trophies be given to the works they preferred. In a good year, I only agree with about 1/3 of the finalists on the ballot. I No-Awarded a non-trivial number of works this year. That’s fine. That’s how the system is designed to work, in order to reflect a convergence of opinion of the voters. But I don’t have the right to demand that my choices win Hugos — or even make the ballot — and neither did Rothman or his children.

      I will not go into detail about my thoughts on the sort of parent who would exploit their own childrens’ feelings in order to partake in a political grudge match, but I will say that it is despicable.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. If you believe that awards should be based on the content of the stories rather than the identity of the authors, then it’s reasonable to be concerned if the identity of the reward recipients looks non-random. If you thought it was bad when almost all the awards went to men, then it’s hypocritical not to be concerned when you see almost all of them going to women.

    We are way, way past the limits of statistical significance. We’re past significance at the one-in-one-million level. Something is wrong, and we ought to care about it. I don’t have any really good ideas for what that might be, but it’s certainly not for lack of outstanding stories by male authors.

    That said, there are a lot of very strong female authors at the moment, but that can’t explain the extreme split we’re seeing.


    1. No? I’d say that if you believe that awards should be based on content, then you should be concerned if instead the identity of the recipients turned out to be totally random.

      You’d expect there to be more women winners because women as a whole both write more books, read more books and practice their writing more in fan communities.

      You’d expect that more Hugo’s would go to writing that felt fresh and new and for now I tend to think that women writers dominate there, which might not be true in ten years.

      You’d expect that if nominees are dominated by women, then winners will be too. You’d expect that if women were more active in nominating, then there might also be more women nominees.

      And so on.

      A totally random distribution on age, education and gender is not something I would deem likely and thus I would not find it reasonable to expect it.

      What we can discuss is if such a *large* gap is reasonable without at least some people in some way caring about identity of creators. And we can discuss factors. And *then* we can decide if we think there is something wrong with some of these factors.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Some time ago, I started to notice how much more books I read by women authors. That was because I had started to read more Fantasy books. And when I started in on Urban Fantasy, almost *all* the books I read were written by women.

        What I also noted at that time was that the books with women main characters often felt more interesting. As if there was a larger scope for human interaction and personality. Male main characters often fell into well-known tropes. They were limited in what type of behaviour that were acceptable. Couldn’t be seen as too weak, too passive, too much of a follower, too afraid, too nervous.

        Of lately, I have noticed how my comics also have moved away from Marvel/DC, how I read more comics with women authors, more with women main characters. Because they are usually less rigid, less derivative, less inclined to follow the old patterns of the heroes character arch that I grew up with.

        When thinking of who we nominate and vote for, these factors must also be taken in consideration. Actual differences in what people write and how fresh it feels for now. And if there are gender differences in who writes what.

        And it might be that this will not feel as fresh later on. As an example, when I grew tired of Urban Fantasy, women authors stopped being as dominant in my reading as they had been. Perhaps this will happen in 5-10 years among the Hugo voters too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes but I don’t think Greg is wrong to see that the disparity suggests something is ‘wrong’. There is an underlying problem there…but it isn’t with women or women winning awards even though women winning awards is symptomatic of it.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. “Something is wrong”

      I wouldn’t use the word “wrong”. I’d say something more like “there’s a reason for this disparity”.

      And I think the most likely reason for the disparity is something that a poster either here or on 770 already said (sorry, I forget who!): specifically, that non-white-male authors are currently doing the best job of writing what the sff awards voters want to read.

      Remember, these books are selling very well. Despite constant claims to the contrary by puppy types, these are NOT dusty tomes only being purchased by some sort of awards-intelligentsia activists. These are **popular books**.

      Obviously we don’t have good sales numbers for shorter works, but I don’t see any reason to assume otherwise for them than for the novels.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. The content of stories isn’t wholly independent of the character and experiences of the people writing those stories, so an assumption that story content will be randomly distributed is unlikely to hold.

      An example I’ve used before is the number of ethnically Jewish people who have won Nobel Prizes. The obvious social factor in play is anti-Semitism but how a prejudice AGAINST a group leads to a group receiving more of a given accolade than you’d expect based on demographics is a complex one but not wholly unexpected.

      “Women are winning a lot literary awards *because* of sexism against women in wider society” is a hard proposition to establish but given we have a very well documented mechanism that leads to and explains gender disparity everywhere else, its the most obvious hypothesis.

      How could it possibly be the case? The shifting social status of writers & authors is a relevant factor I suspect. Tow things are in play 1. society is more willing to reward women high accolades 2. the social status of authors and the feasibility of ‘author’ as an occupation has declined.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Anothe factor is what’s been called the Bookternet. Sites and platforms like Goodreads and Book Riot have communities that might be wielding more influence in who receives awards.
        Hampus said above:
        “You’d expect there to be more women winners because women as a whole both write more books, read more books and practice their writing more in fan communities.”
        I would add that more women participate in social media fan communities than men as well. They may not be visible in a traditional fandom sense, but they are out there.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. The issue isn’t that the distribution isn’t random. it’s that the distribution is so lopsided that one gender is virtually excluded, year after year. Regardless of the cause, it makes the awards look bad. Just as the same sort of bias in the opposite direction makes the Dragon Awards look bad.


        1. “Regardless of the cause, it makes the awards look bad.”

          I don’t think we should be worrying about instituting some sort of quota, or leaning on voters to vote by gender, just because a preponderance of women might make the awards “look bad”. I say, let the chips fall where they may.

          I rarely pay attention to the genders of the authors when I’m reading books or short stories. I rarely even pay attention to their names, much less their gender or race or nationality or orientation. What I care about is what I’m reading, whether I enjoy it, and whether it says something interesting and perhaps even important to me. If it turns out that non-white-male authors are the ones doing that, then by golly I’m going to vote for the non-white-male authors. Maybe the white-male authors should pay more attention to what the market appears to want right now.

          And no, this can’t really be compared to ye olden days of male domination, because in those days non-white-male authors were systematically barred or discouraged or otherwise unable to participate on an equal footing with the white males. Those days have changed. Now that the playing field is leveled, may the “best” writer win, according to current awards-voter tastes — of whatever persuasion or skin color or whatever.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. I think you’ll get some stick for the “Something is wrong, and we ought to care about it. ” line but if we are talking about deep causes then yes, I agree. The disparity is symptomatic of something (see my other reply) but its not a problem with women or women winning awards.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think I ever said there was a problem with women winning awards. I think I was pretty clear that the old situation, when women were locked out, was a bad thing.


  18. @Greg Hullender:

    We are way, way past the limits of statistical significance. We’re past significance at the one-in-one-million level. Something is wrong, and we ought to care about it.

    I cared about it enough to devote about five minutes of thought to a couple of possibilities:

    Possibility 1: The Hugo Administrators put their thumbs on the scales. Answer: Nope. Not only do I know the volunteers in question and have total faith in their integrity, but I also know that the system is designed with competent cross-checking in case of a rogue official.

    Possibility 2: There happens to be an otherwise statistically unlikely rise in prominence of talented women authors. Answer: Highly plausible, actually. As anyone who’s read Lois McMaster Bujold’s fan writings knows, it was Star Trek fandom that opened the floodgates to women making their way up from fan clubs to journeyman writers and assistant editors to top writers and top editors.

    And, frankly, their work speaks for itself, IMO. As mentioned, five of my own 2019 picks for those eight Rothman-cited categories matched the winners. Of the other three, one was a male writer’s work (The Laundry Files for Best Series, which I know will seem an eccentric choice, but I’m teetering on the edge of considering Best Series a failed experiment, FWIW), and the other two were the works of women authors. If I’d developed a gynocentric bigotry, I think I’d have noticed. Unless Tor’s orbital mind-control lasers are fooling me, I really did think seven of the eight categories’ awards deserved to go to women’s writings.

    And, honestly, of all the Hugo voters you know, can you truly picture any significant number of them thinking ‘I’m going to upvote this work because it’s from a gal?’ Seriously? The voter loves, lives, and breathes SF, and is going to slant his/her secret ballot on the basis of the sexes of authors he/she typically hasn’t even met?

    That doesn’t sound like any Hugo voters I know.

    Nor do I think the awards were brigaded by a flying squadron of gynocentric invaders buying supporting memberships to achieve total female domination in an itty-bitty cultural space, or at least that would need a heaping pile of evidence.

    So, my working hypothesis is that we’re enjoying a golden age of great female SF authors (and 2019’s finalists were a matter of being spoiled for riches, so the men have nothing to be ashamed of), and should give thanks for it.

    I’ll agree that it certainly isn’t a random distribution. I just don’t buy the explanation being voter bias (or administrator chicanery).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would make sense if we were talking about a 70/30 split, but we’re not. There are indeed quite a few very strong female writers at the moment. I can see that just by looking at the short-fiction stats. But that’s nowhere near enough to account for what we’re seeing in the Hugo nominations.


      1. If you toss a coin times and get heads each time, that doesn’t prove the coin is weighted. We’ve had three years with mostly women winning (I we can’t count the years 2015 or 2016 because we know there were thumbs on the scales)-2014, 2013, and earlier had at least half the fiction categories won by men, so we only have a trend of three years.

        That’s just not enough to say definitively that something is wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. @Hampus:

    What I also noted at that time was that the books with women main characters often felt more interesting. As if there was a larger scope for human interaction and personality. Male main characters often fell into well-known tropes.

    You know, to at least a limited degree, I second this. Case in point: Cordelia Naismith/Vorkosigan. And also great male characters writen by great female authors. Case in point: Miles Vorkosigan. ;->

    A possibly related point that I’ve discussed at some length with JJ while getting slightly drunk at a Worldcon bid party, some years ago (probably Kansas City): In retrospect, it really bothers me that my generation (at least in the USA) grew up with boys almost never identifying with female fictional characters. It was almost holy writ in both written fiction and television/films that the protagonist needed to be male because Teh Boyz wouldn’t identify with female protags, while girls would. See, for example, Paramount requiring Roddenberry to lose Number One from the Enterprise bridge: It was so bad that Roddenberry wasn’t even allowed to have a female second-banana.

    Exceptions were sadly rare and refreshing, e.g., several great characters by James Schmitz (e.g., Nile Etland in The Demon Breed). And what bothered me was the likelihood of most of entire generation of men having stunted empathy.

    Maybe — so to speak, inshallah — we’re merely getting finally past that. Combined with the flowering of great talent.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I agree that there’s no way the Hugo Admins are doing this.

    Possibility 2: There happens to be an otherwise statistically unlikely rise in prominence of talented women authors.

    Just speaking about the short-fiction categories, I’m quite confident that story quality cannot account for the numbers we’re seeing, although it might account for a 60/40 split. (There are a lot of very strong women writers at the moment.) The results we’re seeing, though, are just too skewed for that to explain it.

    The best explanation I can think of is that a few years back there was a strong campaign by some people urging folks to only read stories by women authors. If enough people actually did that even for just a couple of years, then they’d likely end up with a very female-heavy set of favorite writers. That might be enough to produce the results we’re seeing, but I’m skeptical that this effect could be strong enough to produce the result we’re seeing. I wonder, though, what a poll asking “do you predominantly read stories by men/women?” would show.

    Another explanation would be that there was a balancing set of fans who never nominated stories by female authors, but they all left with the Puppies. I don’t like that one because it presupposes a big set of people who use gender as a litmus test.

    Maybe, maybe all three of these factors together are enough to produce what we’re seeing. Regardless, it certainly makes the awards look bad for them to be so lopsided year after year. Just as it make the Dragon Awards look bad for them to be biased the other way.


      1. Writing here to express a brief bit of appreciation for Greg having posted a truly meaty bit of thoughtful writing, with his couple of candidate explanations. (And he of course raised an utterly fair question. I’d have to surrender my math degree, if I denied that.)

        In my time zone, it’s ridiculously late, I’m dog-tired, and I need to be functional for a shindig tomorrow, so it may take me a while to circle back to this, but I’d feel derelict if I didn’t say ‘thank you’.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Greg Hullender: Another explanation would be that there was a balancing set of fans who never nominated stories by female authors, but they all left with the Puppies. I don’t like that one because it presupposes a big set of people who use gender as a litmus test.

      We already know that there is a big set of people who use gender as a litmus test. These are the men who say, “I never consider the gender of the author when I choose books to read, I just read what looks good” — and yet, 100% of their reading list is male or names which might be male. That their litmus test may in many cases be subconscious does not change the fact that it exists.

      How many of these stopped participating in the Hugo Awards when the Puppy slating got repudiated, it’s hard to say. But we know that at least some of the Puppies had previously participated, even if the vast amount of them were griefers who hadn’t. There may well also have been Puppy-adjacents who didn’t participate in the slating, but stopped participating in the Hugos when the Puppies were voted down.

      My personal observation from comments I’ve seen on File 770 and elsewhere is that there were a non-trivial number of well-known older male authors and fans (and a few who were female, too) who did not publicly announce themselves as Puppies, but who were very clearly Puppy sympathizers. There’s no way to know whether the ones who are still buying Worldcon memberships are also still participating in the Hugo Awards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t really pay attention to the gender/ethnicity of the author when buying books – only whether the book interests me. In the last six months (about as far back as I can remember without sitting down to do an actual tally) about 85 – 90% of the fiction I’ve read has been by women/POC. That’s of the books I’ve purchased, and doesn’t include magazine SF (Asimov’s, F&SF, Interzone) where of course the decision is out of my hands (aside from the stories I skip or nope out of).


        1. I’m sure this varies a lot from person to person, but the last time I did an inventory of my Kindle library, it was something like 51% one gender and 49% the other. And that’s without me making any effort to balance it.

          This is pretty much a function of me buying novels from authors I already like but also from me finding new authors via all the short fiction I read.


          1. Let’s see… my author-gender-ratio, in sff only, since the end of March 2018, counting novels and novellas only, is… 73 women, 49 men, with a few that I’m probably missing here or there. So roughly a 1.5:1 ratio.


      2. I did a quick check on my new kindle SFF books and had 20 books by women, 11 by men and some I do not know.


        1. My current stats for 2019 Novels only (TBR includes 1 novel w/male and female authors, counted in both)

          By Men:
          4 read (1 great, 1 good, 1 okay, 1 crap) + 13 I want to read

          By Women or Nonbinary:
          8 read (4 great, 3 okay, 1 crap) + 20 I want to read


    2. Between 1953 and 1968, we’ve had 15 years in a row of only men winning Hugo Awards in the fiction categories, even though there were women finalists. And we’ve had several streaks of only male winners since. Three years of only women winning is a small blip compared to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Cora Buhlert:

        Three years of only women winning is a small blip compared to that.

        You are Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and I claim my five pfennig. ;->

        (Sorry, silly joke. I’m just delighted and amused. And in agreement.)

        Liked by 1 person

    3. I absolutely believe that there are people who use gender as a litmus test. Or more. As an example, while I love rpg-like computer games, I tend to never buy games where the only option is to play a male brown haired hero. Because those characteristics tends to be chosen for as many people as possible from a believed core group to identify themselves with. And when the heroes characteristics are based on that, I tend to assume that the rest of the plot, NPC:s and scenes will be based on the same mainstream appeal. Which makes them more predictable.

      Predictable I like in comfort reading. But not in what I vote for awards. So I see at least part of the explanation being new perspectives and storylines when womens work become more visible. If so, the dominance should lessen with time.

      So right now I’m mostly finding the numbers interesting to speculate about. However, if we should see this unbalance continue without diminishing for 5-10 years, then I’d agree we have some real issue to discuss.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. @Greg Hullender wrote:

      Just speaking about the short-fiction categories, I’m quite confident that story quality cannot account for the numbers we’re seeing, although it might account for a 60/40 split.

      You know, Greg, I’m determined to be civil about this, and will admit that it’d be partly irrational to take offence, as this (like almost everything else in life) isn’t about me but rather the composite Hugo voter, but my knee is jerking a bit because… I read them. So, I feel qualified to politely but emphatically disagree with your confident view. Story quality would be exactly what I would credit. So my own ‘best explanation’ remains the null hypothesis on everything but story quality, and accepting the null hypothesis is exactly what we do in science, absent compelling evidence for an alternative hypothesis. (I obviously am just a data point, but a data point I’ve grown attached to, over the decades.)

      The best explanation I can think of is that a few years back there was a strong campaign by some people urging folks to only read stories by women authors.

      Seems to me, there are a myriad of other complicating factors. Just off the top of my head, the Clarion workshop started in ’68 and was under full steam in the ’70s, and ever since then has been a huge source of SFWA-eligible talent (including, not to put too fine a point on it, my wife Deirdre). And, if you’ll indulge a stereotype I think both benign and pretty well founded in fact, women tend to be better at ‘networking’ than men are, on average. And at that same time, a massive pool of potential talent entered SF readership and fandom, women who are avid readers and writers. They’ve been building to spectacular achievement for all that time.

      Are there mysteries that might be researched about how this happened? Probably. I’d be interested to know more, of course. But saying the result makes the awards ‘look bad’ seems perverse. I mean, if the Best Novella winner had been ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ by Thomasina Kratman[1], you might have had a credible point about ‘looking bad’, but we know the winners were superb because they were superb. It’d really be nice if you’d credit that as at least a credible hypothesis.

      [1] Brain bleach hereby offered to those needing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Story quality would be exactly what I would credit. ”

        I think it’s more complicated than some vague concept of “story quality” — mostly because there are so many different ideas about what constitutes quality.

        Personally, I think the nearly equally vague concept of current taste has a lot to do with it. And when I say “taste” I mean things like certain types of subject people are currently interested in, and certain types of style people are currently interested in, and certain kinds of characters people are currently interested in.

        For instance, there may be a truly wonderful story out there about a tall, handsome white manly man space colonel taking his big steel rocketship out to Alpha Centauri and blasting away at evil communist aliens, but that simply isn’t what voters **right now** are especially interested in reading. If it doesn’t get nominated by voters, it isn’t getting rejected because it probably has a male author — it’s getting rejected because that simply isn’t what voters want to read.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. @Greg Hullender:

    That would make sense if we were talking about a 70/30 split, but we’re not.

    To repeat, speaking for myself, and using Rothman’s eight categories as a metric, I made a considered choice to rank as my #1 choice six works by female authors, one female author for the Campbell, and one series by a chap (Stross’s Laundry Files). I’d defend every one of my choices as rational, except semi-ironically I feel just a bit defensive about my possibly exaggerated liking for Charlie Stross’s series. (It has enormous technogeek appeal, is all I can say.)

    In fact, here, for reference, these were my #1 picks for those categories:

    Best Novel: The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
    Best Novella: Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells
    Best Novelette: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho
    Best Short Story: “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (did not win)
    Best Series: The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (did not win)
    Best Art Book: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin
    John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng
    Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (did not win)

    I’m not bigoted against my own sex. (If I were, I think I’d have noticed.) And I’m not under some bizarre compulsion to vote distaff. But mine was an 87/13 gal/guy split using Rothman’s metric, which could easily have been a 100/0 split if I were less amused by The Laundry Files.

    If it’s true that there’s something wrong with the 2019 composite Hugo voter’s leanings, and those leanings make the awards look bad, then apparently that same thing’s wrong with me, but, to quote the line from Zelazny’s Lord of Light, ‘On me it looks good.’ ;->

    I’m nonetheless willing to entertain the hypothesis that both I and the composite Hugo voter are broken in some strange way. Could be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a mistake to assume decision need to be motivated by an animus against a group for it to have a bias against a group and also the nominations and final votes are just parts of much wider structures that have their own biases – again not neccesarily conscious ones.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Certainly.

        However, acquaintance with a cross-section of Hugo voters (and not just fallible self-awareness) leaves me, at least absent fairly strong evidence to the contrary, not able to take very seriously a hypothesis of widespread bias against male SF authors.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. It’s not a problem and it’s not an issue that women have been doing well the last few years — it’s part of the process of equality. Women writers have first off been suppressed and discriminated against — women being told that military SF and hard SF from women don’t sell so go away, or highly military fantasy, etc., which is still going on. Men reserve things for themselves as high status and declare women not as good at them, women not the audience, men won’t read women, and other fantasies. So men “naturally” dominate, which includes then awards. But it’s not a natural domination — it’s rigged by fake myths that booksellers and publishers adhere to and push on each other and on to readers with the media buying right in. Consequently, women are less seen in fewer areas and fewer readers are aware that they and their works exist.

    Second, when women do get published in SFFH, they are not considered as saleable as the men authors because of again the false, sexist belief that men won’t read them and the false belief that women are either not a sizable part of the audience or just not important enough to be sufficient and status-building. So not only are women not considered as widely saleable, but even if they do turn out to be such, they’re still considered inferior writers to men, writing about topics not as interesting, political, valuable and insightful as men, not as good at writing war stuff as men, etc. Consequently, because publishers, booksellers, media and many readers (including sadly some women readers,) view women as inferior and performing in inferior ways in the market, publishers and booksellers will on average not give women authors as much promotional support, even though their sell-through rate on print (low returns,) is overall better then the men. The media doesn’t cover women authors as much as men authors, gives women’s works fewer reviews and dismisses women’s works as mostly unexciting. Consequently, women authors’ works are less seen and fewer readers are aware that they exist to check out.

    When a small cluster of women get published in an area and become bestsellers in it, that means publishers will be more willing to take on women authors in that area. So women authors flood in with works in that area. That’s what happened with contemporary (urban) fantasy in the early 2000’s. There were tons of men doing contemporary fantasy including bestsellers, but the men are EXPECTED to do that. The women are not, so when they did, it then was presented as a “boom” of women authors. But publishers and booksellers held the false sexist belief that the majority of the women’s audience, unlike the men, were women, (because why would men read inferior women with inferior women protagonists.) So they marketed them in the sexist way they thought would appeal to women — as erotic romance instead of what they were, noir thrillers. Paranormal romance was also doing well at that time, so all the women got sexed up covers like paranormal romance, (the men did not,) and the women authors were dismissed as doing hokey romance and relationships instead of good, gritty, violent men suspense stuff — they were declared inferior. Same thing with YA, where men writers are celebrated as important and successful and women authors are seen as writing drippy romances for those inferior teenage girls. Even with something like The Hunger Games, you had that happening.

    So on every level — getting published, getting promotional support and media coverage, opening the way for other women authors, being successful in an area of SFFH, women are presented as inferior, ignored, discounted, dismissed and deliberately given less attention. Which means fewer readers are aware that their works exist. But all that “feminist” yelling about read women authors, talk about women authors, get boys and men to read women authors, tell women it’s okay to be open SFFH fans, give women authors more promotion, treat women authors as professional instead of sneering at them and harassing them, etc. – it has an effect, it breaks down the discrimination. And when some women do well, it gets more attention and brings readers in (which helps men even though some men don’t get that.) So J.K. Rowling has to pretend to be a boy so as not to be inferior writing a boy, but then becomes the biggest phenom author to all gender kids, smashing sexist myths and bringing more attention to women writers. And people read and spread word about women authors more and media covers them more, fans talk about them more. And Hugo voters/con attendees are more aware of these writers with each year and read them.

    You don’t have a field artificially and deliberately dominated by one gender for decades with discrimination and then suddenly just switch to equal rep. Instead, the women are catching up – a surge of interest, a surge of excitement and attention, and not just for one or two women who make it through obstacles to become well known – an increasing range of them that it is now common culture to talk about rather than to dismiss and ignore – just like the men. They’re not voting for the women in the Hugos because they’re women. They’re voting for them because they found that the women’s works exist and everybody is talking about what they’re doing. The men aren’t being ignored – they’re just not the main, dominant focus anymore. For the next several years, women authors will do very well in these things because they are finally getting wider attention and less discrimination – and an equally loud voice in the field. And because that brings more women into the field believing that they can actually be published and do well despite being women and those new women do interesting things. It’s not going to damage the men because it’s symbiotic – the field is growing in readers and attention which benefits all authors and equality will deepen over time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly. Also…

      When I started edging out of the closet in the late 80s, I started avoiding fannish spaces that turned a blind eye to homophobia. Various social forces being what they were, I found myself spending a lot more time hanging out with women in fandom. And as I did so, I started hearing about writers that I hadn’t known of before, and a lot of them were women.

      And as I was able to read more professionally-published sf/f that didn’t use certain longstanding tropes, the less tolerant I, as a reader, became of those tropes. It has snowballed in the years since. Looking at the pile of books that I read last year, women authors outnumber men significantly, and it’s probably been true for a while, because they are less likely to employ those tropes and assumptions I just don’t care for any more.

      So, yeah, my nominations the last couple of years were dominated by women writers. But it isn’t because I have a bias against men, but rather I have a bias against certain cliches/shortcuts/tired old chestnuts of writing. And sadly, men are more likely to fall back on those. It’s not that no male writers avoid those traits, but (I suspect) that they can get away with employing these more conventional ideas and still get published.

      And I think a larger percentage of the Hugo voters share my feelings than did just five or six years ago. And none of these are bad things. And none of these make the awards look bad. And none of these are things that will not even out as fewer men rely on those tropes/cliches…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. fontfolly:

      I’ve read plenty by women that falls into old stereotypes, but there is a wide spectrum of content approaches of authors of all genders (though we haven’t gotten enough from non-binary authors yet because again discrimination.) But women do often explore wider themes. But most of it is simply that women again were seen as inferior on many fronts and so with a few exceptions (those women who gradually became best known like LeGuin, Hobbs, etc.) many SFF readers would mostly avoid them or not even know they were around. Even if they knew of them, they certainly considered them due to cultural sexist bias to be inferior and not as important as the men writers. Most women authors were seen as writing only for women — even when they had a man protagonist — like Mercedes Lackey or Julie Czernada, and so men would avoid them even though they were popular (or worse, complain that they were taking over the field with their girl cooties.)

      But not all men did this and especially in kids/YA, despite the fact that boys and teenage boys were regularly pressured by adults to avoid books by women and/or with a girl protagonist. (And still are today — ask women kid and YA writers about dealing with doing library readings in which they are only allowed to have an audience of girls.) And the cultural hammering away at discriminatory sexist biases, (the ones the Puppies cling to,) in society has led to newer generations not having that mind-set as much. Especially after Rowling blew up YA into a massive expansion of readers, titles and sales. Remember, her publisher made her go by her initials in the 1990’s because they believed the false myth that a woman writing about a boy would not sell as well to boys, that she had to pretend to be a man. But the kids who fell in love with Harry Potter — millions of kids, teens and then adults — didn’t give a crap she was a woman. And they happily chatted to her online. The same went for Diane Duane and Jane Yolen long before her. But it was much harder to keep up the sexist myth after Rowling became the phenom of all phenoms.

      And so, very naturally but also with tons of people pointing out and talking about women authors doing fun stuff, women authors get more attention and are more valued because they are less discriminated against by readers and by the industry. Not fully equal yet, but pushing ahead (at least for white women, POC have further still to go, sigh.) And they started getting more nominations and they started winning more awards. Because more people are discovering them, and more people are valuing what they write. It’s a process that always happens when discrimination lessens and certainly in a symbiotic field like written fiction with word of mouth.

      Andrew: You’re welcome, though I’m simply stating known industry facts of public record. This is stuff that’s been talked about for four decades in the field and the industry. But people always like to think it’s a “new” situation of “radical” change. Witness the continual media claim that women are relative newcomers to conventions and fandom — something media also tried to claim in the 1990’s and the 1980’s. It’s never been true; women just had to be often careful about and were restricted in how they could participate because of discrimination, harassment and sexist myths. Their participation and leadership were usually erased and ignored to protect sexist narrative as well. (See Ross’ famous essay.) And now when those restrictions have been smooshed (despite attempts to bring them back such as “fake geek girls” and sexual harassment by top people in the field — here’s looking at you, John Ringo,) and women openly claim their roles, those who bought into the myth that women weren’t fans, didn’t participate, etc. are shocked, shocked to discover girls liking things when women were often running fandoms all along. The Puppies wanted to go back to the days in the field that never existed, as was frequently pointed out to them, (and made them have to keep going back further and further to what supposed era they wanted to justify their claims.) When you’re an older woman fan, it is so tiring.

      So women winning more as time goes on is a logical process of more equal participation and attention in the field developing, but because they were kept secondary for decades, it seems sudden, alarming, too tilted, etc. But it’s simply that more people now SEE women authors and their works than before and check them out, with less bias towards them as women authors. It doesn’t shut straight men out; it does mean that straight men are now competing when it comes to awards with a lot more other authors (women) they didn’t used to have to compete with much because of discrimination and discriminatory cultural biases of the past. They aren’t going to have high odds of winning just because they’re straight men (esp. straight white cis men.) But they will still regularly get nominations and of course they still dominate Hollywood, etc.

      Cora: “However, while those books may be great popcorn fun for those who like that sort of thing, Hugo voters are normally looking for something more than just plain entertainment.”

      Exactly and Hugo voters have ALWAYS done this. Even when they’ve nominated or awarded something that many might consider popcorny, (whatever the hey that’s supposed to be — it’s subjective; some think the entire field is popcorny as we know,) it has some interesting thematic, stylistic, use of science ideas and/or characterizations that Hugo voters find to be exceptional. Whether it is or not is a subjective debate for all works, which is part of the fun, but Hugo voters were never going to evaluate works the way the Puppies illogically demanded.

      Hampus: “Also, we see the same thing in action movies. Where those with a female main character outsells those with male characters.”

      Yes, it’s the same process. But it’s not because the films with women protagonists draw in the women viewers. That’s again the sexist myth, the cultural bias that women appeal mainly to women, not men, and the sexist myth that women don’t like action movies. (Women love action movies.) That is in fact what has kept studios from doing more action movies with women protagonists — the belief that it won’t get the men, that it will thus be “niche,” despite ample evidence to the contrary. (The women viewers view every sort of movie, plus take their kids to every kid’s movie and acceptable event movie, and are the stalwart core audience members and always have been. But again, they aren’t valued as viewers — only the men viewers are valued due to bias and cultural status.)

      In reality, the majority of men viewers are hunky dory with women protagonists and have been for eons. But women being the protagonists sets off a whole power thing in Hollywood that threatens men’s domination status of the industry. There’s enough money and activist work that’s been done that studios are reluctantly giving up the bias to get the cash. And so we’re getting more action movies starring women. This will be seen as a flood instead of a logical catching up process. Hand-wringing will continue that women are taking over and shutting the men out of the action movies, etc., no matter the fact that women have been starring in “B” action and horror movies and doing incredibly well again for decades and that the men are fine. It’s not radical, it’s not sudden — it’s a slow cultural shift towards equality.

      Greg: You’re trying to talk about organics as if the playing field is level, while ignoring the variables of discrimination and cultural shifts in the field, the age of the voters, the location of each WorldCon which affects the demographics and culture of the voters, etc. That’s not going to be scientifically accurate. The men aren’t shut out; they just lost more of their discriminatory advantage. If you prize straight (white) men as authors above all else, then the numbers may seem alarming, but if you don’t, they are simply transitional to a wider voting field than we had before.

      In particular, in short fiction, women were present but faced a lot of discrimination in the magazine field. A lot of magazines have been working to lessen that discrimination and seek out interesting stuff from women, which means also that women now submit more to magazines. Plus, anthologies that included and/or promoted women have brought those women to the attention of voters. So they’ve been making a lot of ground in the short fiction awards the last twenty years.

      It’s also a bizarre thing to me (but standard in the culture,) that people don’t understand that the Hugo best novel award inevitably has at least some if not all of the most talked about books buzzed in the field that year; it’s always stuffed with bestsellers; and that usually one of those most buzzed books wins. (The Puppies kept pretending this wasn’t true, no matter how many people pointed it out to them. As we remember, it got pretty ridiculous.) Anne Leckie’s book had the biggest buzz her year and it’s been optioned by Fox; Jemisin’s books in her trilogy had incredible buzz each one and it’s being turned into a t.v. series by TNT, Kowal’s The Calculating Stars had enormous buzz and adaptation interest going on. And people are then shocked that they won the Hugo and other awards, were most known to Hugo voters?

      If it happened to a man, nobody would blink an eye. But because it’s happening to women, cultural bias teaches us to view that as strange, new, sudden, a radical change — and thus a threat, something that could get out of control and harm the men (the rightfully dominate.) That women won heavily two years in a row should not be alarming, but it is because women aren’t supposed to perform that well and get lots of accolades because culturally they’re supposed to be inferior. The whole system for decades declared them inferior. If they do, it threatens men, it means they’re “dominate” instead of equally excellent in the field, and hey, that’s not right, the guys are superior — and so must have their opportunities protected.

      But why do men need to have their opportunities protected? Because we’re used to it, because we can’t imagine what life is like if men aren’t protected to always having opportunities over women, to always being at least an equal if not dominant presence in every room in every year. If they can’t have that, apparently they will be “shut out,” devastated, at the mercy of women who the Hugo voters (supposedly inexplicably) prefer. None of this is logical, but when you’re talking about status in the culture, freaking out that women did best for two years of Hugos is the usual reaction. If women do well, we’re a threat. If POC do well, they’re a threat. If a LGBTQ+ author does well/gets attention, they’re a…you get the idea. That’s how bigoted cultural hierarchies stay in place — treating ability by the marginalized as a lie and a threat to the dominate.

      If you want equality, then get used to women sometimes sweeping a set of awards two years in a row. Because the competition is now more honest and women’s work is now more visible and valued in it than before. Sorry for the word vomit, but you know me and I’m catching up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Kat Goodwin:

        But not all men did this and especially in kids/YA, despite the fact that boys and teenage boys were regularly pressured by adults to avoid books by women and/or with a girl protagonist.

        One data point that surprised me: After stumbling across Rosemary and Rue, years after having met Seanan McGuire and occasionally talking to her, I just ate it up and have been an avid fan of the October Daye novels and short stories ever since, but have several times heard Seanan say at convention panels that hardly any male SF readers even give that series a try, on account of girl cooties.

        I thought, really? It’s basically a noir detective, except in a noir-ish high-fantasy world. All you have to do is see the back-cover blurb. Apparently, the front cover is guy-repellant, e.g., vol. 1 shows broody young woman in dark coat in front of a police ‘Do not cross’ tape. Eventually you notice the pointy ears, and there’s a promo quotation from a female-seeming author (‘Kelley Armstrong, author of Living with the Dead’ — not known to me). Below that, ‘An October Daye Novel’, then the book’s title. And huh? A Hamlet (or Winter’s Tale, take your pick) reference in a novel’s title denotes chick-lit? Who knew? And haven’t most people learned by Book Two that covers lie, anyway? Bizarre.

        Seanan says, predictably, this is the reason the Newsflesh series needed a separate author name, so that Mira Grant’s fandom could live outside the Seanan McGuire genre bucket.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not at all surprised that many men refuse to give Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books a chance. Urban fantasy went through a huge boom a couple of years ago. There were lots of new authors debuting, lots of great books being written. And a lot of these books sold very, very well. Charlaine Harris sold at Game of Thrones/The Expanse level proportions and had seven or eight books on the NY Times bestseller list at the same time at one point.

        Yet the SFF community ignored them almost entirely, because those books were written by women and often had female protagonists. That was enough for many fans (mostly, but not exclusively male) to relegate those books to the “Eww, romance and girl cooties and probably vampire porn” corner, even if the books in question were not actually romance and definitely not porn and didn’t even have any vampires. Go back seven or ten years and you’ll find a lot of complaints about “all those bloody vampire books” taking over the SFF sections of bookstores and snarky blog posts about “Who reads all of those terrible cookie cutter urban fantasy books?”

        It’s very telling, Rick, that you don’t know who Kelley Armstrong is. She’s a Canadian writer of urban fantasy and suspense/thrillers, very popular, very successful and very good. She was also one of the pioneers of the 2000s urban fantasy boom. Bitten, the first in her Women of the Otherworld urban fantasy series, came out in 2001, at the very beginning of the boom. Yet you won’t find it on the 2002 Hugo best novel ballot nor longlist (to be fair, 2001 was a remarkably strong year during the draught period of the early 2000s) nor will you find Kelley Armstrong on the Campbell ballot or longlist.

        Furthermore, a lot of those highly popular urban fantasy books are/were series, i.e. the very books the best series Hugo seems to be designed for. Several series have already run their course, but quite a few are still running and yet the Hugo nominators and voters resoundingly ignore them. The hugely popular and very good Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, a husband and wife writing team, ended in 2018, yet it didn’t even make the longlist, while Charles Stross’ Laundry Files did.


  23. Also, the white dude power fantasies – manly space marine doing manly things in space, dorky boys becoming legendary swordsmen as gorgeous women fall over each other to have sex with them – are still there. They have moved into self-publishing and are cluttering up the Kindle store and finding their audience via Kindle Unlimited. However, while those books may be great popcorn fun for those who like that sort of thing, Hugo voters are normally looking for something more than just plain entertainment.

    And currently, the majority of books which offer new and fresh takes on tired SFF tropes are by women, writers of colour and/or LGBTQ writers. So those books get more awards attention, even if thousands of people read Exploding Spaceships in Space, Vol. 27 on Kindle Unlimited.

    Talking about myself, I read many more books by women than by men. And the men I do read are normally tried and true authors I’ve been reading for a long time now. And whenever I try a book by a new to me male author, usually a book that should be right up my alley, I’m disappointed 70 to 80 percent of the time, because something is missing.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Also, we see the same thing in action movies. Where those with a female main character outsells those with male characters.

    I think the factors are most likely the same:

    * Female audience flocking to movies where they are at last represented, bringing in their kids.
    * Higher mainstream appeal than traditional male power fantasies.
    * Changing male ideals that might not always fit to the traditional roles, instead seeing parts of them as toxic (solve problems with violence).
    * Less limitations on female roles (no problem with PTSD for Katniss in Hunger Games, but a male character showing feelings might still be seen as weak).

    I think the way female movie characters are allowed the full spectrum of human emotions might make it easier for us to identify with them. But this is not allowed in men in the same way, at least not in combination of them being seen as heroic.

    So we have new perspectives, a pent up demand, less restrictions and ideas how things-should-be-done. And most likely some people voting based on gender too, rooting for the perceived underdog.

    All organic, but many factors together…

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Just to quickly answer the question of statistical significance, I looked at the long list nominations for the Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story categories for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019. That’s a total of 189 nominations, of which 47 are straight men. If you assume that an organic process would result in a 50/50 split, then there is just one chance in a trillion of getting this few or fewer. You can play with the definition of “straight” and “men” to change this number, but you can’t change it very much.

    Turning this inside-out, we’d need to believe there’s a 60/40 split to even have one chance in one million that this was an organic result. 60/40 is right at the limit of what I’m willing to believe (there really are a lot of strong female authors right now, but they’re not that dominant), but one-in-a-million isn’t very encouraging. Something else is operating here.

    The most obvious question is whether someone did a secret counter-slate to fight the Puppies but then never quit running it. One way to test that is by comparing the stats for the top 5 vs. the next 10 (or 11 in some cases). For the top 5 across this data, there are 6 straight men out of 60 nominees. For the rest, that’s 41 out of 129. For the top 5, then, there’s just about 50 chances in a trillion of an organic result, but for the rest, there’s about 20 chances in a million that the underlying distribution really was 50/50.

    However, the EPH data gives us a way to test for disciplined slates, and I’m just not seeing it there. Perhaps the best explanation is that a number of influential people are making top-5 lists that simply exclude men–probably with the goal of promoting women and LGBT authors not intentionally locking men out. (I think some others have suggested things along these lines.) These lists overlap a lot, but they’re not really an organized slate. That defeats EPH. That would explain what the effect is so much stronger in the top 5 but still quite strong throughout the long list. Someone would need to do a broad survey of recommendation lists to really test that hypothesis. Or mount a campaign to discourage people from generating gender-biased recommendation lists and see if that made a difference.

    There might be a different explanation for it that’s consistent with the data, but I’m not really seeing it. To recap, the data are overwhelming that something is distorting the Hugo nominations against straight guys, but I don’t really think that’s the result of a deliberate effort to do that. However, essentially locking them out of the awards is a bad thing–just as it was a bad thing to lock women out of the awards back in the day. We should all care about this, not keep trying to sweep it under the rug.


    1. ” If you assume that an organic process would result in a 50/50 split”

      That’s a very bad assumption, for at least a coupla reasons.

      First, you don’t know if there’s a 50/50 split in current sff writers as a whole.
      Second, you don’t know if there’s a 50/50 split in current sff writers who **are writing what current sff-award voters want to read**.
      Third, you don’t know if there’s a 50/50 split in current sff writers who are writing GOOD sff that current sff-award voters want to read.

      One way to “prove” whether or not there is a conscious or unconscious pro-female-writer bias is to host a short story contest. We’ve discussed this idea either here or on 770 before, sometime in the not-too-distant past, probably around Hugo time last year. Buy a pile of short stories and deliver them to voters anonymously — no author ID. Then see what the gender breakdown is on the votes.

      Of course, that would be expensive and time-consuming. But it would give you very interesting info.


    2. But why should anyone assume that an organic process would result in a 50/50? That seems like very unlikely numbers to me. The only thing you can conclude from the numbers are that factors in the organic process quite obviously did not result in such numbers.

      Also, I do not believe in “a number of influential people with top 5 lists”. I believe in a lot of women who for years have talked excitedly about several women authors in different communities. What you also ignore is the possibility that some *subjects* might have excite people more and that those subjects might be more common from women.

      Random results are only expected if we also believe that subject, writing style, plots, story lines and individual taste are equally distributed over gender.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “What you also ignore is the possibility that some *subjects* might have excite people more and that those subjects might be more common from women.”

        Elaborating on this:
        If (hypothetically) women authors have recently (or have recently been noticed to be) writing about subjects not previously handled in SFF, then a disparity in awards would be expected, given a (plausible) bias towards novelty among a significant portion of Hufo voters.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Andrew, thank you for taking my weird sentences and writing what I meant to say. Writing while walking does not always give the most understandable results.


    3. Your analysis is flawed, in so many ways.

      First you make the flawed assumption that the demographics for Hugo nominees and finalists should map to global demographics. There is no reason to expect that this would be the case, and a lot of reasons — some of them already pointed out by others here — that it would not be the case.

      Then you fail to break out nominees who are not male — giving the impression that they are therefore all female.

      In addition, you insist on applying objective mathematics to an extremely subjective subject: the reading preferences of a very specific, self-selected subgroup of the population, which is extremely likely, as others have been pointed out, to prefer works other than the same-old, same-old which has dominated the genre for decades.

      I realize that there are no demographics for Hugo nominators and voters on which to base an analysis. The correct response is not to do the analysis anyway, and insist that its conclusions are valid. The correct response is to acknowledge that no meaningful analysis can be made.

      All you’re doing here is making yourself look like a sexist jerk who keeps shouting “But What About The Menz???”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @jjfile770 wrote:

        First you make the flawed assumption that the demographics for Hugo nominees and finalists should map to global demographics. There is no reason to expect that this would be the case, and a lot of reasons — some of them already pointed out by others here — that it would not be the case.

        I like the way you phrased this, because it brings clarity without lamentable snark. (Let me put it this way: I keep having to take obnoxious-asshat me outside to kill him, but he keeps springing back to life. It’s a process like reading Algis Budrys’s ‘Rogue Moon‘ backwards.)

        I keep wondering if we’re experiencing yet another rounds of I’m-a-Bayesian, you’re-a-frequentist disputation. (I’m no longer very competent at this, but back ages ago I was a mathematician with a liking for statistics. And I’m strongly a Bayesian.) Here’s a for-instance: All the way up to the 1950s, at the dawn of mass air-travel, the insurance industry was unable to rationally set an insurance price for airlines against the possibility of a midair crash, because it was an accepted truism that the only acceptable way to estimate probabilities is through frequentism, counting occurrences observed in the past and projecting that ratio forwards, which was deeply problematic for predicting the likelihood of midair passenger-plane crashes, because they simply hadn’t happened yet. The classical, holy-writ predicted likelihood, for the question posed, was thus zero (the frequentist answer), even though that was obviously absurd. But the alternative to frequentism, the Bayesian approach where you introduce ‘subjective prior probabilities’ into the estimate, was controversial.

        The CEO of then-major insurer the ‘Insurance Company of North America’ posed that very question to the firm’s chief actuary, L. H. Longley-Cook, at the 1954 Christmas party. Longley-Cook stalled, and answered the CEO only after a week of pondering, and sheepishly gave a Bayesian answer: ‘Anything from 0 to 4 air carrier-to-air carrier collisions over the next ten years’. This was just in time, as two midair crashes indeed followed over the next few years, having, y’know, non-zero probability after all.

        Thinking about probability is, actually, pretty tricky.

        Earlier this morning, I was daydreaming about having been pointed by mischievous friends at Boris Spassky, played a game of chess with him, having gotten mercillessly walloped, and thinking, ‘Wow, it’s just staggeringly unlikely that a person would ever be that good at chess. There must be something wrong.’ The point being that my choice of opponents wasn’t a stochastic event, and imaginary-me was being a bit clueless.

        The Hugo finalists weren’t a random sample of SF, either. Assuming, say, a Gaussian distribution must be expected or ‘something is wrong’ seems… unwary about just how non-random life can be without this even being necessarily particularly interesting. (And we know the finalists were very much not random because we read them, right? And, also, as JJ says, there’s no competent demographic data to work with)

        Liked by 1 person

  26. “Andrew, thank you for taking my weird sentences and writing what I meant to say. Writing while walking does not always give the most understandable results.”

    I’m delighted to help.


  27. I think most of yall above have said what I’d say to Greg, but just one thing to add: The Puppy invasion caused short term effects of massive slating messing with the nominations, but very likely did result in a longer-term, or at least medium-term change in the nomination and award-voting membership groups. Not to assume I am the average such person in this respect in any way, but I know I only became interested in the field itself, and then later in voting, after seeing about the puppy mess on GRRM’s blog back in the day. That led me to start reading again in the field and then, 3 years ago, and well, in response to the Puppy situations, to start to deliberately seek out works written by women and POC. And when I found such writers I liked, I followed their recommendations, and then their recommendations and so-on.

    The result is that for me, my list of books read over the past two years is indeed women dominated, and as such, so is my ballot: with me nominating 4 women and 1 man for Best Novel, 3 women, 1 man, and 1 NB for Best Novella, all women for the Lodestar and Campbell slots, etc. It’s not a deliberate anti-man stance, and certainly it has nothing to do with the puppies anymore, but my booklist can probably be thought of as the long-term after effects of what the Puppies did.

    So congrats, Puppies, you created the opposite of what you wanted, not through forcing opposing slates, but by causing people to search out the books you hated! But to be less sardonic, such an effect probably will die out over the next few years as newer entrants into the nominating and award-voting pool are those unaffected by the whole mess and follow the demographics a bit more closely.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, that’s another thing. If you enjoyed one novel by a woman and/or writer of colour and want to read more along those lines, you’ll likely end up with more books by women and/or writers of colour.

      It’s also notable that the white male Hugo finalists we’ve seen in recent years – John Scalzi, Charles Stross, Kim Stanley Robinson, Dale Bailey, Philip Pullman – have all been around for a while and so have existing fanbases to draw on. Peadar O’Guilin is the outlier here, but then his nomination was probably due to him being Irish. Meanwhile, the newer male authors on the Hugo ballot – P. Djèlí Clark, Yoon Ha Lee, Liu Cixin, Sam J. Miller – are usually not white and/or not straight. The only outlier is Andy Weir, who is very much a Campbellian throwback.

      Though the appeal of the established white male authors is no longer as big as it once was and someone like me who might have voted for e.g. Scalzi ten years ago, because his book was the most readable thing on a sorry ballot, suddenly has a much bigger range of finalists to choose from.

      I think what we’re seeing here is a demographic shift in Hugo voters. The Hugo electorate is getting younger and more diverse, as older fans either die off or cease to participate, because “I don’t know who these people even are”. And these newer Hugo voters value different stories and themes than the old guard. The puppies have speeded up this process, but it was already underway before they came along.

      Speaking for myself, I spent several years in the early 2000s increasingly frustrated that the Hugo finalists were so dull with Scalzi or China Mieville often the only decent thing on the ballot, even though I knew there were so many good books and authors out there. Eventually, I figured out that if you bought a WorldCon membership you could nominate and vote for the Hugos and started doing so. Now multiply this with dozens of fans who did the same thing, bought memberships and nominated and voted for their favourites, and change starts to happen. Plus, the various recommendation lists, wikis and spreadsheets also overwhelmingly come from this group of newer members.

      And indeed, if you look back at the years before the puppies, you can see change gradually creeping in, as new names – often not male, white or straight – show up on the shortlists, while longterm stalwarts like Mike Resnick gradually start to vanish. If you look at the Campbell and the longlists in general, it gets even more interesting, because that’s where a lot of today’s big names first pop up.

      I expect that eventually the gender balance will even out as more male writers enter the genre who write the sort of stories the current Hugo electorate wants to read. The pendulum may even swing back completely in the other direction. See how the number of women nominated for and winning Hugos grew steadily throughout the 1970s and then the Cyberpunks came along and relegated the entire previous decade to the “dull, not worth reading” memory hole (and I’m still not convinced that this was an accidental side effect rather than a deliberate campaign against SFF by women).

      Of course, new male SFF writers may also stick to writing popcorn entertainment for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, which is their choice and loss.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, this comment was fun. I had never really thought of it before, but I did check out the Hugo nominees the years before Neuromancer (1985) and had to go back to 1978 to find something I really liked (Gateway), then from 1976 and back, there’s again almost always something I really remember liking (but I see some nominees that I missed and want to try). Yes, cyberpunk really did a change. But also, there were also lot of nominees that seem to have gotten in purely on name recognition around there. Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn or the depressingly bad Foundation’s Edge? Niven’s The Ringworld Engineer’s? Herbert’s Children of Dune? Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love? Is that really what folks thought were among the best SFF could give!? Of course, I bought them too because of the name recognition, but with increasing disappointment.

        On the other hand, I have totally different view than you regarding the beginning if the 2000s. A Deepness In The Sky, A Storm Of Swords, American Gods, The Curse of Chalion, The Algebraist were all stuff I loved. And I didn’t really enjoy the new Miéville in the same way that I had liked King Rat. Scalzi’s Old Mans War irritated me enough to never try him again.


  28. @Contrarius:

    I think it’s more complicated than some vague concept of “story quality” — mostly because there are so many different ideas about what constitutes quality. Personally, I think the nearly equally vague concept of current taste has a lot to do with it. And when I say “taste” I mean things like certain types of subject people are currently interested in, and certain types of style people are currently interested in, and certain kinds of characters people are currently interested in.

    At the risk of seeming insufferably agreeable, we might be able to meet in the middle and decree that the terms “story quality” and “taste” have all the metrical rigidity of a wet noodle.

    Which is to say, it’s entirely possible that Greg had in mind some Platonic (er, let’s not be snarky, make that ‘theoretical’) ideal of story quality, somewhat differing from the empirical sense I had in mind. In my usage, story quality just about tautologically explains the numbers we’re seeing, in the sense that the composite Hugo voter assessed the various finalists and said ‘Wow, this one’s of highest quality.’ I hadn’t heard that we’d all agreed on a single objective quality metric, and the Hugos are after all popular awards in contrast to the industry-juried ones (Nebula, possible others I’m not remembering), so I went with one that suited my own Humpty-Dumptyism, which implicitly revolves around certain types of subject people are currently interested in, and certain types of style people are currently interested in, and certain kinds of characters people are currently interested in, i.e., current taste. So sue me. ;->

    I haven’t yet gotten around to comparing this year’s winners with the Locus and Nebula ones. So, I’ll be frakklin’ lazy, and just ask: Anything interesting, in such comparisons?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Rick — Yes, basically what you said.

      I get very uneasy when people start saying things like “men write just as well as women, and therefore there should be a 50/50 split in awards”, because “writing well” and “story quality” is not what wins awards. Writing what the voters want to read is what wins them.

      As for the other awards — there is a lot of overlap between the awards, and it’s my **impression** — I have not researched it — that the overlap is growing in recent years. Of the big awards, Locus had the least overlap in nominees, but I think that’s mostly because they have *more* nominees than anyone except the Dragons.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, there is no such thing as objective story quality beyond the absolute basics such as correct grammar (and books with absolutely atrocious grammer and spelling mistakes still get good reviews on Amazon). And by the time you get to stories of potential Hugo calibre, those basics have been taken care of.

      But beyond the basics, story quality is largely subjective, because different readers value different things. There are some highly acclaimed and award winning authors whose work just doesn’t so anything for me, because I find it dull and sterile (and yes, usually the authors are white and male to paraphrase Jeanette Ng). Whenever one of those authors pops up on the Hugo ballot, I groan, “Not them again”, and briefly check out the finalist in question to see if they have learned to tell a decent story in the meantime. Most of the time, the answer is “No”, so I no award the finalist in question or leave them off the ballot altogether and ignore them until the next time they are nominated.

      The one exception BTW is Alastair Reynolds whose earlier work didn’t do anything for me. When “Slow Bullets” popped up on the Hugo ballot a few years ago, I groaned, but when I read it I was positively surprised and even went on to buy Revenger and Shadow Captain, which made my personal Hugo longlist.


  29. “Seanan say at convention panels that hardly any male SF readers even give that series a try, on account of girl cooties.”

    That’s a shame. I’m not a huge fan of Toby, but I love her Wayward Children series. I wonder if Carrie Vaughn has the same issue – I devoured all her Kitty Norville books (while led me to her other works which I also love). I can’t be the only guy in her fanbase, can i?


    1. McGuire has tons of men fans for October Daye, but has had to endure lots of men who are resentful that she’s prolific and successful and who whine at conventions at her or harass online, like most of the women authors, because yes, girl cooties is a thing when it comes to cultural myths and insecurities about status. McGuire benefited from having fewer sexism problems from her publisher in packaging and she didn’t really need to have a different pen name for her science fiction novels but it helps her to do that with booksellers, since having two author names lets her be more prolific without them complaining about it.

      Kelley Armstrong is a massive bestseller and also prolific, plus she’s co-edited anthologies. She writes a contemporary universe in which she uses multiple protagonists in sub-series and that has meant she has often had three titles on bestseller lists at once. She has lots of men fans and was initially considered “gritty” — until there was a cluster of bestsellers that media and various bigoted people tried to dismiss as erotic chick lit essentially.

      McGuire was actually in the second wave when the expansion in contemporary fantasy was well under way. The bestseller cluster in the early oughts was Kelley Armstrong, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison (who also writes under her real name Dawn Cook,) and then Carrie Vaughn, as well as the big anchor of Laurell K. Hamilton, who became big in the late 1990’s, and Neil Gaiman, big in the 1990’s fiction-wise, and Jim Butcher. They all have lots of men fans, but the ones who you’re most likely to have heard about, and not have it be dismissed as “romance” are Gaiman, because he’s a guy and a multi-media legend, and Butcher, because he’s a guy writing about a guy. It’s not that the women aren’t successful, but that doesn’t stop them from being erased when the whole field is discussed. As again Ross documented in her famous essay. The funniest thing about the Puppies is that in their rants about popularity, they completely ignored that the biggest selling SFF writers are mostly not men. If popularity is supposed to be the only deciding factor, then women would have been sweeping the awards way more.

      Cora: “and I’m still not convinced that this was an accidental side effect rather than a deliberate campaign against SFF by women”

      Women were heavily involved in cyberpunk writing, notably Pat Cadigan (who won the Clarke award twice and has been nominated for many Nebulas and Hugos,) Lisa Mason (a bit late in the field but won the Dick award,) Marge Piercy (who won the Clarke,) and Melissa Scott (who won the Campbell,) and a large part of the fanbase. In more modern times, Madeline Ashby, Nicola Griffith, Elizabeth Bear, Lauren Beukes, Justina Robson, etc. all been doing various forms of cyberpunk. And some of them win awards and many are talked about. But again, cyberpunk is about technology, which is valuable and supposed to be for men, and cyberpunk is gritty noir with violent action, which is valuable and supposed to be for men. So the women are often ignored in discussion and media to keep up appearances essentially, and sadly a lot of new women writers run into discrimination where they’re told by bigoted and clueless industry professionals to not write cyberpunk because they are less desirable as the authors than men. And when they do win, or when a cluster of women authors in a sub-area that’s supposedly men’s territory do well, it is thus regarded as suspicious, because hey, where did these women come from? How can they possibly be taking over and how can men ever recover from it? Magic powers of invisibility despite thousands of fans. That’s the kind of sexist propaganda that the “SJW’s” work against. And it is working, slowly.


      1. *holds up hand*

        A lot of us came into Urban Fantasy by way of contemporary horror as it was often called first. Tanya Huff, Nancy A Collins, Brian Lumley, Anne Rice and some more. Armstrong, Harrison, Hamilton and Harris were all based on Vampires, Werewolves and Witches as common horror tropes. Then there became more focus on fairies and the like and around then I left the genre.

        Gaiman, I first noticed as having a writing style often common to that of Clive Barker as in Weaveworld and Imajica. Another one was Miéville’s King Rat. I didn’t think of any of these as Fantasy, because they weren’t found in the Fantasy-section. They were found in Horror. Harris was the only one clearly marketed as romance, but even that one was found in horror.

        Those were all books that me and my male friends liked. But I’ve skipped out on the authors since they moved away from the horror tropes to more regular fantasy ones.


        1. //Gaiman, I first noticed as having a writing style often common to that of Clive Barker as in Weaveworld and Imajica//

          I hadn’t thought of that before but you are right


      2. The only Urban Fantasy author I read right now is Holly Black, because she manages to add a creepy horror feel to her books. While I don’t really read horror anymore, I do prefer having a touch of horror in my SFF. If someone has recommendations, I’d be happy to hear them. I absolutely loved The Library at Mount Char.


      3. “McGuire has tons of men fans for October Daye, but has had to endure lots of men who are resentful that she’s prolific and successful”

        Incidentally — There was a puppy-type just a couple of days ago, over on another blog, who was bloviating about how supposedly McGuire is only known for Spider-Gwen and how supposedly none of the old fuddy-duddies on mobility scooters who attend sff cons would ever have heard of her, so supposedly the only reason for her to appear at cons is somehow something about te evil SJWs trying to take over science fiction. Cracked me right up. 😉


      4. Hampus:

        Oh good golly, there are still tons of contemporary fantasy series and titles about weres, vamps and witches/sorcerers. I can make you a giant list and give you the full history of the last expansion of contemporary fantasy from 1995 to now. Also you can have genies, dragons, trolls, angels/demons, zombies, various deity systems, ghosts, pick a thing.

        Clive Barker wasn’t in Horror because there were no horror sections in book-selling except in SFFH specialty stores until the early oughts, again when horror had another expansion (helped by an expansion in film horror, as well as the concurrent book expansions in YA from Harry Potter, and contemporary fantasy and paranormal romance that was mainly contemporary. (Expansions tend to be cyclical and driven by popular works that bring in new readers who browse outward, making more hits in one genre and then more genres. This is why SF will never die, despite SF fans always thinking it’s about to die.) Clive Barker, like the other horror superstars of the 1980s and 1990s, was sold in general fiction with general fiction imprints and cross-marketed to the SFF category markets. So if you went into some bookstores, you’d possibly find Weaveworld sometimes also in the SFF section (which weren’t separated into Fantasy and SF sections back then.) But mostly you’d just find it on the bestseller displays front of store because Barker was a big Hollywood guy who brought tons of film fans in for his written works.

        Mieville’s first work was King Rat and it’s an urban fantasy set in the 1990’s when it was published. They wanted to capitalize for it on Neil Gaiman’s fanbase for Neverwhere and Sandman comics series, as Gaiman was getting a lot of attention then, and since Gaiman was a multi-media star and Sandman is considered horror (though it’s more dark fantasy,) they put out King Rat in general fiction, marketed it as horror-ish and cross-marketed it to SFF. That strategy did get Mieville a nom for the work with horror award the Stoker and it sold respectably well, started to get his name known. The next book was of course Perdido Street Station, a post-industrial secondary world dark fantasy with horror, Lovecraftian, cyberpunk and steampunk elements. Macmillan put the book out in general fiction in the U.K. but marketed it heavily to the SFF category market and in the U.S., Del Rey, a category market SFF publisher, put it out in the category SFF market and cross-marketed it to the general fiction market. Mieville also had a Ph.D. and is a white man, which gave him some credit with general fiction media, and he declared that with PSS, he was starting his own literary movement/genre called New Weird, based off of the literary movement Weird Fiction with a bit of New Wave SF movement ethos to it. New Weird actually did develop into a small lit movement but didn’t really coalesce the way Mieville wanted it to, but it was really good for promotion in both the category SFF market and the general fiction market. King Rat was retroactively added to the texts of New Weird and had another round of sales surge as Mieville’s backlist.

        Because of the expansion in contemporary fantasy and horror, the popularity of secondary world fantasy (epic,) and the start of expansion (due to browsing by new readers,) of historical/alt history fantasy that included very much steampunk in the early oughts, Perdido came out at an ideal time for it — and helped the expansion of steampunk by bringing in readers. Sometimes the New Crobuzon novels were put into the new Horror category market/set of shelves in the early oughts, and Mieville’s novels like City and the City are also marketed on the bestseller displays/general fiction, but overall his works have been sold in the Fantasy section, except for his YA novel, which is still in print in YA and also sometimes in the Fantasy section. But in terms of him being talked about, he’s publicized in lots of places.

        If Jeanette Ng had been publishing her novel Under the Pendulum Sun in the U.K. in the 1990’s, the likelihood is that she would have had to go with a non-category general fiction publisher and it would have been mainly marketed to the general fiction market with some cross-marketing to the category Fantasy market, most likely under a fairy tale-ish label. Because bigotry, but also because of some of the structures of the U.K. market. She might have managed to get a category publisher then, but it would have been harder. But now, she’s with Angry Robot, and firmly in the category market but also cross-marketed to the general fiction market and she’ll get more attention from media there as she goes on. She might have gotten more respect and media coverage if she’d published in general fiction first, but then she probably wouldn’t have gotten the Campbell, though it’s not a certainty. (Because people confuse book-selling categories/markets/packaging with a social class caste system that stems back to the last gasps of it in the 1960’s.) The novel also being dark fantasy, she could have also ended up shelved in Horror’s category shelves.


      5. Clive Barker was in the horror section of the bookstores in Sweden. Where he was placed in other countries, I can’t say. Also, I didn’t buy him in any speciality store, but in our largest swedish book chain. While we actually had a small speciality store, it was small and out of the way at the time of Imajica and Weaveworld. I only visted it a handful of times then.

        Swedish bookstores at that time had a special section for english books and there was no general section for bestsellers in english as far as I can remember.

        And yes, I do know there still are “tons of bools” out there with “weres and vamps”. I just do not know which of them that have cute versions of them or which try to be too cute in other ways. I.e I can’t anymore see which has at least a horror *feel* to them, regardless of tropes. And genies, dragons and trolls is more what I want to avoid.


        1. “I just do not know which of them that have cute versions of them or which try to be too cute in other ways. I.e I can’t anymore see which has at least a horror *feel* to them, regardless of tropes. And genies, dragons and trolls is more what I want to avoid.”

          If you haven’t tried Sandman Slim or Daniel Faust, give em a try. Neither one is horror, but neither one has sparkling vamps or rainbow unicorns either. Both include Hell and demons; Sandman Slim also has angels, but the angels are mostly assholes. 😉


      6. Hampus: Cute is a bit of a variable. A lot of the contemporary fantasy series bank off the idea that monsters are not necessarily monsters, subbing the monsters in for the criminal groups in non-fantasy suspense thrillers, which makes them more Al Capone than terror. If you stick to the horror-urban fantasy cross-marketers, though, you’ll probably find stuff that works for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeah, it is a bit hard to define where my line goes. There are border cases. As an example Kim Harrison had vampires that weren’t really monsters, more like love interests, but they and the demons were still genuinely scary (at least at the start of the series, then they went Al Capone as you said).

        I’ll have to do a bit more research I guess, just hoped someone had already done it for me. 😉

        Btw, just checked. Imajica and Weaveworld are still categorized as horror in our SFF book store. But I think it might be because they want all Barker’s books on the same shelf.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Yes, Barker is and has always been horror. But there’s a difference between the horror genre and a horror category market. Most of the time, horror has been sold as horror in the general fiction shelves of the bookstores. That’s because while horror is huge in terms of sales, it’s been hard to consistently get horror fans to buy lots of new horror authors they don’t know in enough regular numbers to have a whole adjunct section of the bookstores labelled just horror, unless it’s a SFFH specialty bookstore. And publishing houses and imprints dedicated to just horror have been few consequently. That they actively fought including more women in the genre in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s didn’t help.

        But in the early oughts, bookstores and chains did start doing horror sections and you had a launch of a distinct horror category market which was, like the other category markets, in addition to the horror still sold in general fiction. But now it seems like Barnes & Noble has been collapsing those horror sections, so horror is still going to be mostly split between general fiction and the science fiction and fantasy category market sections in the American market and probably elsewhere too.


  30. @Cora, I’m perfectly glad to admit ignorance of most of the urban fantasy boom, and further of semi-adjacent romance fiction being a stupendously huge market and mostly unknown to me. (Some of my other forays into urban fantasy have been via Emma Bull and friends, because I gave her debut novel War for the Oaks a chance and loved it so much I’ll read pretty much anything she’s involved with, but I’m keenly aware there are whole worlds I’ve missed, and wouldn’t dream of calling that a good thing, merely a fact.)

    My preferred attitude when I (or others) discover new things we’ve previously missed is to quote the Randall Munroe line: Congratulations, you’re part of today’s lucky 10,000.

    Learning what’s out there is a work in process. Ain’t it a blast?


    1. @Rick Moen
      I did not mean to criticise you for not having heard of Kelley Armstrong. I merely used your comment as an illustration for how there are a lot of extremely popular SFF writers who are largely ignored by the SFF community.


      1. @Cora, believe me, I didn’t take it as a criticism. I just wanted to forthrightly say ‘Yeah, I freely admit that huge blind spot, and I’m sure I have lots of them.’

        My own gateway into fantasy and SF were the very first two genre books I ever stumbled across, in 1968, a pair of books my parents picked up for me at Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong to help tide me over on our trans-Pacific move back to the San Francisco Bay Area. (Pan Am had once again transferred my dad, a commercial pilot.) The first was Andre Norton’s juvenile novel Catseye, which I’d call more SF than fantasy. I think it was an Ace paperback. The other was a fairly hard-SF anthology from the Soviet publisher Mir Books called The Molecular Cafe, with a very diverse collection of striking stories some of which haunted my imagination for years.

        Of course, today I’m well aware of the unconscious bias I picked up that SF/fantasy authors are normally male, as witness them having names like Andre.


        1. “Of course, today I’m well aware of the unconscious bias I picked up that SF/fantasy authors are normally male, as witness them having names like Andre.”


          I was very surprised when I found out not too long ago that Andre was her actual name, and not just a pen name.


      2. And, er, FWIW, I meant to say that 10-year-old me interpreted Andre’s Catseye as more fantasy than SF, on account of the writing style and the plot revolving around psionics.


  31. Btw, just some days before the Hugo ceremony, me Greg and Eric was talking about Cold Solutions. To fresh up my memory, I did re-read it in my hotel together with some essays about it. So when Ng talked about “Sterile. White. Men.”, my thoughts directly went to that story, heavily influenced by Campbell and for which I find “sterile” an extremely fitting word. As in free from any life, just about a man trusting fully in bureaucracy and regulations as a sound base for a logical society.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hampus:
    ” But also, there were also lot of nominees that seem to have gotten in purely on name recognition around there. Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn or the depressingly bad Foundation’s Edge? Niven’s The Ringworld Engineer’s? Herbert’s Children of Dune? Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love? Is that really what folks thought were among the best SFF could give!? ”

    To paraphrase something Jo Walton said in her History of the Hugo’s, fans reacted against the immorality of many of the New Wave books by nominating “Time Enough for Love” which is about (checks notes), marrying an adopted daughter and going back in time to seduce one’s mother.


  33. Someone, somewhere in this discussion, asked something about current UF recs. Sorry, I’ve lost the specific comment!

    Not that it’s relevant to the original topic of this blog entry, but — hey — books!

    Here’s a few series that I’ve personally enjoyed within the last year or so, in no particular order. I won’t go back to the “classics” like Dresden and The Hollows:

    Minimum Wage Magic (Detroit Free Zone) — Rachel Aaron (Rachel Bach). Sort of hard to explain the premise; post-magic-reawakening Detroit, the MC is a professional scavenger of abandoned properties who solves magical problems. Beginning of a new series; I highly recommend it. Lots of fun. It’s a spinoff of a previous UF series, Heartstrikers, which I did NOT like. Book 2 has recently come out, and I’ll be reading it soon. Good narration in audio.

    Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World) — Rebecca Roanhorse. Everyone knows about this one, and it’s more post-apocalyptic than folks may think of when they think “UF”, but the series has promise. Ehhh narration.

    Fated (Alex Verus) — Benedict Jacka. Not a new series, but I’m currently slowly getting caught up on it. Sort of in the Dresden wheelhouse, with lots of politics between groups of mages, but without fae and so on and without as much humor. Good narration.

    Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim) — Richard Kadrey. I have tons of fun with these. Over-the-top, violent, kill-em-all-and-worry-about-logic-later, yet with angst and snark. 😉 Stark (the eponymous Sandman Slim) has been a gladiator in Hell, and for a time takes on the job of being Lucifer, and when he gets back to Earth he’s mad as hell that he was sent there. That’ll give you the general flavor. **Excellent** narration.

    Rivers of London (Rivers of London/Peter Grant) — Ben Aaronovitch. Personally, I haven’t enjoyed the last couple of books nearly as much as the earlier books in the series, but the first few books are very good. All about a copper in London who is learning magic. Some of the best narration out there.

    The Long Way Down (Daniel Faust) — Craig Schaefer. A small-time conman/card sharp/magician works his way up the ladder of the Vegas magical underworld while saving the world. Darker than a lot of UF; his girlfriend is one of the chief enforcers in Hell, and she’s not apologetic about it. The MC does cool magic with playing cards. Okay narration, aside from a bad accent for the girlfriend. Do NOT bother with Schaefer’s other series, Harmony Black, which irritated the hell outta me.

    Anybody else got good current UF recs? I’m always looking for a new series to try!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Of possible stats interest to you, Camestros, on the Hugos and gender breakdown:


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