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The fictional year in review

In early October I started a Goodreads account. I’d had good intentions of keeping a list of things I’d read, but had not been particularly successful at doing it. I’m notoriously bad at remembering authors and titles, and I wanted something to help me keep track. Most of my fiction comes from the public library, so I don’t have the physical items to refer to. Goodreads has been just the thing – it’s quick and easy enough that I actually do keep track. The list includes everything I could remember reading in September.

Charlie Stross reminded everyone on his blog On my list (Sept-Dec 2009) there are nine books
published in 2009, eight of which are novels, and all of which are
SFF. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that of those nine, six are by
white males, three are by women, and one of the latter is by a person
of color. The male:female ratio quite different if all books I read in
the last third of 2009 (when I started the list) are included: 23 out
of 37 were by women, and 5 of those were actually multi-novel omnibus
editions. Overall diversity is still pretty low: only 2 of the 37,
both female, are known to me to be by non-white authors. (The caveat
is because it’s easier to guess gender than ethnicity from first
names.) The gender balance is fairly normal for me, a female reader of
SFF, but even that low ethnic diversity was due to an effort to find
new authors. Even with seeking out a diversity of fiction, I ended up with those low numbers.

I’m reading one Hugo-eligible novel right now, and have three more sitting on my stack, books I’d purchased earlier this year, all by women. One is by a non-straight author, the only example of GLBT diversity that I know exists in my recent reading. (Again, I do not know the personal histories of all the authors I’ve read this year.)

Anyone who follows online SFF discussion knows that the past year has been packed full of acrimonious debate on the role of racial, sexual, gender minorities in SFF authorship and fandom. I try to be diverse in my tastes, but even with explicit attempts to read a wider diversity of speculative fiction, my tally is still heavily skewed. It seems to be mostly availability rather than intent – the majority of what I read either catches my eye on the new book shelf in the library or gets good buzz from people whose recommendations I usually enjoy. Many of the books I read feature something other than straight white western European male protagonists (even if on another planet or fantasy millieu), but those are probably not in the majority.

No brilliant solutions, just another datapoint.

One Comment

  1. Jess says:

    I’m ashamed to say I’m not sure I can even name any GLBT SFF authors. The GLBT writers who get the most attention (at least in my woefully limited reading experience) seem to write literary fiction more than anything else: Jeanette Winterson and Randall Kenan off the top of my head, f’rinstance. Though Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry, which I absolutely love, wanders into stranger and more fantastical narrative territory.