In my earlier post, I remarked on how the Fireside report on the underrepresentation of black authors in published SFF short fiction generated an unusual degree of agreement among four major Sad/Rab Puppy protagonists, Larry, Brad, John C Wright and The Dumpster Fire who Walks Like a Man*.
In this post, I want to talk more about the Fireside report, its methodology and flaws and then look at Larry Correia’s “fisk”. I’ll focus on Larry because Brad Torgersen’s blog post is mainly rambling around the issues, while John C Wright and Vox are more open about the source of the animus.
First to the Fireside report. As they say right off:
The methodology is flawed, as it’s based in self-reported data whenever possible, but such data was not always findable or clear.
They also point out:
…we don’t have access to submission-rate data concerning race and ethnicity either overall or by individual magazine…
Other issues/objections that could be raised is national variation. For example, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is one of the ‘zines included. It is an Australian magazine with (I think) mainly Australian contributors. Different country, different dynamics of race, ethnicity and self-identification, and different population proportions. [Note: that isn’t meant as a justification for the ‘zine having zero in the study, it is purely an observation of the difficulties Fireside faced in collecting this data].
Additionally, caution needs to be applied at a ‘zine level. For a ‘zine with fewer stories in a year, a single story by one black author would make the difference between zero representation and a reasonable proportion (assuming a 13% black population).
What is notable, is the report is up-front about the issues in their approach and they don’t attempt to hide that there is a substantial degree of uncertainty around the findings. They aren’t claiming some indisputable proof but they are pointing out an obvious red-flag that people should pay attention to.
Having said all of that: zoiks! The resulting number of stories published by black authors across this broad spread of magazines is very low. For interest I tagged ‘zines in the Fireside data that were in the Semiprozine directory (n=20). The proportion of stories by black authors works out much the same as for the total – about 1.9%.
Now maybe getting better data of author self-identification might result in a different picture and the study can’t tell us any specific “why’ of the under representation. Yet we can speculate. A good study (and I think this one is good) is not neccesarily a flawless one but rather one that helps us generate new hypothesis which allows us to find better data. For example we can now ask about some of the “why” behind the results:
- Is it stories not being accepted? If so, why?
- Is it stories not being submitted? If so, why aren’t they?
- Is it the study looking in the wrong places? if so where should it have looked?
- Is it all the various methodological errors all creating a misleading bias in the data? If so, how come? And does that really seem likely?
- Is it just that there are lots of black authors being published but the author’s ethnicity isn’t particularly visible?
We also have my favourite Franciscan monk to help us out: William of Okham. He gently reminds us not to over complicate our hypothesis. We have, as a given, a know institutionalised bias against black people in Western societies that has existed for a very long time and which exists both as overt racism and as more subtle forms of discrimination. Finding a group which has been historically under-representated is currently under-representated does not require elaborate explanations. That doesn’t mean we all declare the case closed and never look for better data, it just means that we already have a highly plausible explanation that fits very well with known facts.
And a study is not just about discovering facts and forming hypotheses. What this should inform is what action we should take. When considering that it is worth considering what the downsides of an action will be. Let’s have a look at what ‘zine editors can do in response:
- Actively try and publish more stories by black authors.
And the down side of that response is:
- Some extra effort expended but otherwise no obvious down side.
Now what I can’t help noticing is that of the various questions we could ask of the data to get better data, none of them really impact much on that basic response. Looking beyond that response, for example into how the SFF community can help foster talent in diverse communities would be helped with better data but again, we don’t ACTUALLY need better data to make a better start. So I’ll add a more strategic response to this report:
- Actively try and foster SFF talent and writing in diverse communities.
And the down side of that is:
The upside EVEN IF THE WHOLE FIRESIDE REPORT WAS WRONG would be:
- More good SFF writing and more SFF fans.
PS. I was going to get into Larry’s fisk in this post but time has moved on, so I’ll save that for a part 3.
*[Copyright: Philip Sandifer]
Here are all the semiprozines I looked at minus the stuff that I left out (mainly podcasts) and stuff that changed eligibility etc. I’ve updated were needed (I hope).
A big thanks to the Clarke’s World Semiprozine Directory http://semiprozine.org/semiprozine-directory/
Lots of good stuff to look at and I don’t think there is any one of them that didn’t have something that was worth reading. The amount I’ve written on each isn’t an indication of quality but rather time, effort and how I was feeling on the day 🙂
I remain deeply impressed by the effort and commitment of semiprozine editors/staff. It is their efforts that keeps the genre alive and exciting.
[Updated to remove Apex which is now pro]
Come on people, seriously – yes I know X and Z are low frequency initial letters in English but this is SF people! Nobody has a semiprozine starting with Z? Z the most science fictional letter of the alphabet?
Last round up! And with nary a day to spare before February arrives in all its cruelty.
Tähtivaeltaja tahtivaeltaja.com no, no those aren’t pretentious fantasy or heavy-metal umlauts but genuine Finish ones. My Soumi linguistic skills are non-existent but if you browse their site (which include online editions of the zine as well as a blog) and use Google Chrome, you can get an OK English translation e.g. Chrome served up this article on Nnedi Okorafor with only a few translation quirks:
For many, Africa represents an acacia tree, standing alone in the middle of the savanna sunset. View adorns tens or even hundreds of book covers. It seeks to stir up dormant potential reader to race in memory images of the black continent. Which is of course nonsense, since it is a mere brainwashing illusion created by the cynical market mechanism. One picture can not possibly speak of an entire continent at the mouth.
Nnedi Okoraforin (p. 1974), the production brings the African acacia tree closer to the reader. Or at least part of it, because it would be absurd to assume one writer about a compressive hundreds and thousands of tribes in one mold. Okoraforin the natural environment is in West Africa located in Nigeria, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the red maanteineen, sadekausineen and lively market.
Great cover art also.
Uncanny http://uncannymagazine.com/ Uncanny is the one I’ve been ending up at independently of this survey of semipros. Really good mix of stories and articles. I shant say more for fear of gushing.
Utah Geek http://utahgeekmagazine.com/about-ugeek/ A very location specific ‘zine – a place for geeks in Utah. Lots of movie reviews not actually all about geeks in Utah (although that sounds like a good premise for a TV series) but rather serving SF/F news to Utah fandom.
Unlikely Story http://www.unlikely-story.com/ weird fiction and fiction using the conventions of non-fiction, presented as pseudo-scholarship in a manner both fun and whimsical. Of all the semipros I have looked at, Unlikely Story has the most fun submission guidelines.
Unlikely Story publishes three themed issues a year: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography, and The Journal of Whatever Tickles Our Fancy This Year. We reserve the right to put out an indeterminate number of further sub-themed mini-issues on an irregular basis, or not, depending on how we feel. See below for specific details regarding each issue.
And that’s your lot.
Semiprozines, the hardworking gardeners of SF/F talent. We salute you all!
There is a clear gap in the market for a semiprozine starting with R. I’ve also noticed that I’ve not encountered much in the way of conservative leaning SF in my semipro journey, so maybe Rabid Rightwing Robot Tales is the sweet spot for a new semipro? Actually that deserves a visit to the Pulp-o-mizer. http://thrilling-tales.webomator.com/derange-o-lab/pulp-o-mizer/pulp-o-mizer.html
So only ‘S” titles in this penultimate survey, which thanks to an apparent delay in Hugo nomination website availability should be complete before nominations open!
- Plasma Frequency
- Quantum Muse
Perihelion http://www.perihelionsf.com/ They describe themselves thusly:
WE ARE LOOKING for well-written, original science fiction, that is, science fiction with a solid plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end (but not necessarily in that order). No fantasy. No horror. No fan fiction. No poetry. Alternate history, not entirely taboo, is a difficult sale. Stories do not necessarily have to restrict themselves to robots, rocket ships, and extraterrestrials. However, the science and/or technology must be integral to the story; if you remove the science, the story falls apart, or disappears altogether. If the plot can be easily reconstituted as a western, a swashbuckler, or a bodice-ripper, it is probably not for us, either. We aren’t fixated on political correctness. We don’t object to explicit language, violence, or sexual situations, as long as it is necessary to the plot. We like humor and satire. We really don’t care if you are a minority, transgendered, or purple; the story is the focus and not the author
Is thusly a word?
Plasma Frequency http://plasmafrequencymag.com/ stories and artwork e.g. I like this one http://plasmafrequencymag.com/Issue16/I16S10_Fullerton.html
Pornokitsch http://www.pornokitsch.com/fiction/ popular general review of popular culture site with original fiction as well.
I’ve gone through a view minor-emotional stages with this mini-project: firstly ‘that’s a neat idea’, secondly ‘this is nuts, I can barely get a handle on one never mind several’, thirdly ‘there are way to many’, fourthly ‘plow on regardless’. Currently I’m in a ‘this was worthwhile’. I’ve met some interesting short stories, one novella I’ll possibly nominate and (thanks to people who commented) identified some broken links and solved some eligibility questions. Also, where past the middle of the alphabet!
This issues semipro’s are:
- Nebula Rift* (formerly eSciFi)
- New Realm* (formerly eFantasy)
- New York Review of Science Fiction
- On Spec
Nebula Rift and New Realm are stable mates at ‘eFiction Publishing’ http://www.fictionmagazines.com/about/ a publisher that does genre specific online magazines. Nebula Rift is SF http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/nebula-issues/nebula-rift-vol-03-no-10/ and New Realm is Fantasy http://www.fictionmagazines.com/magazines/newrealm/ Only preview images of starts of stories are available.
Since writing this they have been confirmed as professional rather than semi-pro.
Neo-Opsis http://www.neo-opsis.ca/about.htm a Canadian SF magazine that aims to be about:
Entertainment – Let Neo-opsis magazine entertain you with fun and interesting stories, written from the perspective of science and fantasy.
Information – Read informative articles on science and nature. Check out the Science and Science Fiction news articles.
Interpretation – Enjoy book and movie reviews. Find out what others think, with Neo-opsis opinion columns and letters section.
I may be wrong but I think it is print only.
New York Review of Science Fiction http://www.nyrsf.com/editorial/ long running review magazine.
On Spec https://onspecmag.wordpress.com/ The link at the semiprozine directory is directed at an out-of-date page. On Spec is the ‘Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic’. An Aurora winning magazine with fiction about the fantastic plus reviews and stuff. No previews that I could find https://onspecmag.wordpress.com/current-issue/
So some addenda etc.
Fireside: the link at Semiprozine was out of date. Correct link (as confirmed with Fireside) is http://www.firesidefiction.com/issue29/
Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destoyer got a lot of love from Sad Puppies last cycle but was ineligible because it was dated 2015. You can read it here http://www.firesidefiction.com/issue19/chapter/tuesdays-with-molakesh-the-destroyer/ it is fun.
Lightspeed: I listed in the last round-up but the nice people at Semiprozine Directory (who I’m relying on for the list) say that it now counts as professional.
Going back even further to early November, Apex is now also listed as Professional.
The inadvertently Puppy nominated Australians know as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is still active but their website is currently having something done to it and isn’t available to February it seems.
So yeah, semiprozines – a moving target 🙂