I arbitrarily assigned a half-vote where voters suggested that either of two were good, or picked “this one, but I liked that one as well.” That’s why the totals don’t equal out. (I included votes received on Twitter, and on a community blog of sorts that I frequent.) Here’s how I interpreted the results:
- Logline C is the clear winner.
- I was a little surprised that the men preferred C at least as much as the women. I thought it might be too romance-y for the guys.
- Blurb 1 is the one that +Angela Kulig rejected. The voting confirms her opinion, which I expected.
- Women liked Blurb 2 far better than the men.
- Voting on blurbs 2 and 3 was close enough that I’d be comfortable using either one (with modifications as described below).
What’s interesting is how this all ties into last week’s big ugly blowup at the SFWA, over unintentional(?) sexism in their quarterly bulletin. A woman in a chainmail bikini on the cover, along with authors Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg discussing the physical attributes of women editors, led to some protests. Resnick and Malzburg threw gasoline on the fire by claiming censorship, using language more appropriate for teabaggers than authors in a supposedly forward-looking genre.
Don’t take my word for it. E. Catherine Tobler’s public SFWA resignation did a fine job of covering the details, and described some of the blowback that she and others got. Lest you think this was just an isolated incident, Anna Guirre’s experience(s) suggest that sexism is endemic to not only the SFWA, but cons and especially the panels that claim to represent the genre and its writers. And she also received some nasty blowback.
The SFWA leadership was caught flat-footed, but (to their credit) got it together and acted. First off, outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi issued an apology, saying (in part), “when all is said and done, I personally am responsible for the Bulletin and what is published between its covers.” Shortly after, the SFWA formed a task force to see “how the publication needs to proceed… to be a valuable [member resource].” This is a good start. However, the task force is four men and three women, which doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. I don’t think it’s the intent—but given how women are marginalized at panels and the like, this could easily turn out to be a pinkwash.
And now… it’s rant time.
I find this head-desking incredible. I’m a middle-aged whitebread dude, and I have my issues, but I fracking try to do better. And yes, common tropes in Fantasy include putting a woman in a chainmail bikini. Or making her the damsel in need of rescue. Or part of an embarrassing sexual encounter with the hero. “Judas Priest, what the hell is this?!” as my Mom might say.
We know better, and should strive to do better. There have been examples of “better” since the 70s, now-classics by Anne McCaffrey, CJ Cherryh, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Yes, as writers, it can be work. When I first started writing, the characters were all guys all the time. I had to make a conscious effort to create female characters, then give them more than a few lines, then put them on an equal footing, then cast women as the main characters. But dammit, I did the work, because I knew it had to be done if I was going to be a decent writer. It wasn’t all that hard.
Fortunately, this is a problem that time is about to solve. Looking at my Writers list on Twitter, the vast majority of them are women. Bowker also tells us that women are 62% of the book buyers. As writers and authors, we have to appeal to women if we’re going to have any chance of success. That doesn’t mean everything has to be steamy romance—although erotica has (ahem) thrust its way to the top of the charts—but authors (especially new authors) have to understand what the market looks like these days. I’m not saying we should do nothing now, but in the long run, we’ll win. The old boys’ club is dying of old age.
I wanted to wrap this up with a survey of gender roles throughout Termag’s history, but this has run long enough. Maybe next week.