Why do lady SF writers suck?

Before you seek to lynch me, let me clarify the title slightly. Not all female SF writers are bad and I work with a number of very talented ones. What I am wondering is, why do places like Escape Pod and others think they are so dreadful?

Jon Del Arroz has been doing some interesting investigative journalism and has discovered that the long running Science Fiction podcast Escape Pod has a policy of giving preference to female writers over male ones. There is also the phenomena of regular anthologies and magazine issues that are women authors only (or some other “minority”).

The question I have about all this is, Why? Are female writers of science fiction really so terribly unreadable that they can’t actually get published without needing to rely on someone taking pity on them? The long history of science fiction publishing would suggest otherwise with many female authors writing under male pseudonyms and have successful careers, not to mention the large number of female authors who do just fine without needing one. I’ve bought stories as editor of Sci Phi Journal and as editor of Astounding Frontiers. The last thing I care about when purchasing stories is the sex of the writer, all that matters is that the story is good.

Usually when I say things like this someone will articulate concepts like “structural oppression”, “unconscious misogyny” or some other political buzz phrase to excuse why they need to make excuses for bad female writing but I find this unconvincing. The reality that a woman can submit under an obviously male pseudonym means that the barrier doesn’t really exist, they can always bypass the gate keeper (if he exists) in such a fashion. Is there any research today that shows a large number of stories submitted to different magazines using different names of both sexes, that get accepted at different rates based on the sex of the author? I realise such research would be difficult to conduct because you can’t just submit the same story to the same editor with different pseudonyms and expect a useful result, but the same author (or group of authors) could easily submit under many different names, a large number of different stories, and then get some statistically useful results. At least then there would be evidence of this bias should it exist.

My guess is that they would discover that female writers get bought more often than male authors in certain markets and in other markets there would be no meaningful difference. They did a similar experiment in Australia where they degendered resumes and used voice disguising technology to conduct candidate interviews. In such environments the men did better than the women, and in a sexed environment they actually did worse. They ended up needing to discontinue the practice because it got the “wrong” answer.

So what is the answer? Should places like Escape Pod be giving women a helping hand when buying stories? Such a patronising practice is not going to do the women authors any real favours. A publishing credit with Escape Pod for a woman will now unavoidably seen as some sort of participation prize for a crappy author. Who can have any idea how good an female author is, if when she is published in Escape Pod the bar has been artificially lowered? Maybe she is a good writer but there is no way to tell because it isn’t a level playing field.

At Superversive Press, we have published the wonderful Dystopian story, The Product by Marina Fontaine. Why did we publish it? Because it is a great story of the struggle for freedom in a nightmare future. Read it today and see what a good lady SF writer looks like. Marina has no need of an artificial helping hand because she is talented and I would never want to suggest she was a lesser writer that needed such a leg up.

The real solution to the “problem” of “under representation” is not to lower the bar for crappy author but to encourage them to become better writers and to encourage them to persevere in the face of setbacks. Ladies if you want to succeed, then suck less and persevere more. It really is that simple.

First Day at Dragon Con!

So after the long flight from Sydney I can report that the first day at Dragon Con was a blast and I got to meet many of the people i’ve only ever chatted to via email. It was great to L. Jagi Lamplighter, April Freeman, Peirce Okuna, Declan Finn, Dawn Witzke, Ben Zwycky, Marina Fontain and J. Alfred Goodwin in the flesh.

We kicked off the day seeing Marina Fontaine do her first panel appearance on Dystopias and she put on a great show with her co-panelists despite my best efforts to make her nervous beforehand.

After that we wandered around, I got to see Bill, Frank and Trace of Mystery Science Theatere 3000 fame do a panel. I didn’t make it to any other panels that day although I did play Alien Frontiers (This is one of my favourite games, although we call it Space Yahtzee).

I also got to meet Larry Correia which was great when he was doing a book signing. I thought we were going to have to sedate April. After that we went on to dinner and finished at the night with an space improve with Larry Correia, Chuck Gannon and others and it was a blast.

There is also a plan to do a post Dragon Award live stream to discuss the results, more details to follow when we have an exact time sorted out.

Here are some pictures I took today, I promise to take many more tomorrow. Some fun cosplayers, me and Larry and Ben, The Wright Boys and myself playing Astounding Frontiers.

Astounding Frontiers Issue #2 is out now!

Astounding Frontiers is a new pulp magazine from the minds at Superversive Press that will transport you to far off worlds of adventure! In our second issue we have stories and continuing serials from Dragon Award winners and nominees and many other great authors. We have stories from Dragon Award Nominee Brian Niemeier, Scot Washam, Karl Gallagher, and Russel May. We continue on with Serial from John C. Wright, Ben Wheeler and Nick Cole, and we have a new serial starting by Corey McCleery called Daughter of Sol. . Please join us in travelling to Astounding Frontiers!

Amazon, Kindle and Print Kobo Barnes & Noble Inktera Scibd

Superversive SF Roundtable on Pulp stories and the launch of Astounding Frontiers

We will be chatting with some of the Pulp Revolution guys and celebrating the launch of Superversive Presses new magainze Astounding Frontiers 1: Give us 10 minutes and we will give you a world

You can get Astounding frontiers from new magazine Amazon and other good book retailers

An unintentional anthem for the modern Right?

We don’t normally do too much about politics over here, but I thought this was interesting. The punk band Anti-Flag, a collection of lefty anarchist types, penned a song called Turncoat back in 2012 (or there about). It could easily act as an anthem for conservatives, libertarians and the rest of the right today without any difficulty at all. Not sure what Anti Flag would make of that.

TURNCOAT! KILLER! LIAR! THIEF!
Criminal with protection of the law!

Go!

States lies dressed up as evening news
We’re tired of lies we want the truth
Brodcast by corpses courting you
We’re tired of lies we want the truth
Most people they will never know
We’re tired of lies we want the truth
With your or against you?
Then I am against you because you’re a…

TURNCOAT! KILLER! LIAR! THIEF!
Criminal with protection of the law

TURNCOAT! KILLER! LIAR! THIEF!
Criminal with protection of the law

In your corner
Makes me wanna
Douse myself in gasoline!
Civil servants fall in line for you
Too brainwashed to see the truth
You use anyone you can!

TURNCOAT! KILLER! LIAR! THIEF!
Criminal with protection of the law

TURNCOAT! KILLER! LIAR! THIEF!
Criminal with protection of the

KILLER!

LIAR!

A TURNCOAT! and a THIEF!

Criminal with protection of the law! The law!
Criminal with protection of the law!

Lies told about small presses

There is an article up on A Writer’s Path by Steven Capps called Lies told by small presses and as a person running a small press I’d like to offer some thoughts about the authors diatribe.
Here at Superversive Press we endeavour to provide value to our writers and we take a percentage of that to cover our cost and time. There seems to be this strange idea that there is such a thing as a free lunch. I assume the author doesn’t write or read Science Fiction or else I assume he would be familiar with the acronym TANSTAAFL.
Onto the so called “lies” that small presses tell authors. The first seems the most egregious and brimming with weird misinformation.

Lie #1 New authors don’t get advances

Here at Superversive Press we don’t pay advances to our authors. It would be nice but we are a small decentralized operation and we don’t have the funds upfront to pay a large advance to an authors. I make no secret of this. The bit I don’t understand though is, who the hell is paying a new author an advance? An advance is money I pay you upfront for work not yet written for you to live on against future earnings. If you are a new author trying to get a first book published are you submitting half finished manuscripts to presses expecting them to pay you to finish it? Maybe that goes on, I’ve never encountered that. If the work is finished why am I paying you an advance when all the work left to do is on my end?
I suppose I could pay you an initial payment upfront to secure your work but if you are a new author who hasn’t sold any books before with no data on how well your book would sell, why would you expect me to take that sort of a risk on you? That is a serious question.
Additionally it fails to appreciate something important about publishing. If Superversive Press takes on your book and agrees to publish it, then goes on to provide editing services, cover art services, promotional help etc, then we are giving you an advance by bearing that cost ourselves. Go and try and self publish a book, editing and covers aren’t free. The press is essentially giving you an entirely unsecured loan of that money to get your book published and charging you 0% interest on that money. Go to a bank and see if they are willing to float you a few thousand dollars to get your book published with an unsecured loan. You can expect an interest rate in the 15% – 20% range on a loan like that. If your book sells 4 copies the press will have to eat that loss, none of the contracts I have ever seen offer a provision for the press to recoup that investment if the book does terribly.
If you self publish you bear all that cost and risk yourself and you get to reap all the reward, if you go with a small press then you get to reap less of the reward because the press will take a percentage too to repay them for the risk and faith they showed in you. Superversive Press contracts normally pay the authors a good chunk of the money earned, certainly an order of magnitude more than the 6% the Big 5 typically pay authors.
You can decide to self publish yourself if you want but you bear all the risk and costs yourself as well. There are no right or wrong answers to the question just different trade offs made for different approaches.

Lie #2: Publishers don’t help with marketing

This is sort of a half truth. He is right, a small press will not have the muscle with book retailers that one of the Big 5 does. Which lunatic thinks they do? Will you get books prominently displayed in book stores if you go with any small press? Probably not, they lack the resources and the clout to get that. That being said, self publishing will never get you that, and publishing with a Big 5 publisher wont either unless you are bringing them in a lot of money.
If you are a superstar author then I’m sure you can get superstar author treatment by people with deep pockets. But new authors aren’t superstars yet and expecting to be treated like one is madness.
The author also seems to forget that the big publishers who give you all this promotion and have all this clout also take a really enormous share of your earnings. 94% remember! I don’t know the authors background but I have played in bands and worked in the tech industry for start ups. People with money who come along and fund your band/invention/book want a return on their investment and the more they do for you upfront the bigger slice of the pie they will want to do it.
As with all things in life, everything is a trade off and their ain’t no free lunches.

Lie #3: Authors need to pay for editing

This is one of those sections that has some half truths in it. I agree if the press said “You pay for the editing yourself we don’t do that” then that would be a red flag. That being said, if an author wanted a particular editor and turned around and demanded we pay for that editor then I would probably pass on the book. Whoever pays for the editor gets control over who does the editing.
That being said, the author always ends up paying for the editor. The author pays for everything involved in one way or another by either paying for it themselves or giving over a percentage of the work to the publisher to have them do that job instead. The author is still ultimately paying one way or the other, either covering a cost up front and reaping a greater return or deferring an upfront cost in exchange for smaller future earnings. There are no free lunches no matter how much people seems to want there to be a free lunch.

Final Thoughts

In the final thoughts section it is claimed that without an advance an author is always better off self publishing. If by “no advance” it means an author bears all the costs for themselves upfront and handles all of the distribution and money themselves, then yeah, it makes perfect sense to self publish instead. Heck, that is self publishing. You take on all the costs you get all the rewards. If you go with a publisher or any size, they take on some of the risk and get some of the reward as well.
If you want to self publish it basically means becoming a small publisher yourself with all the paperwork and hassle that goes along with that. A publisher takes some or all of that burden away an leaves you free to write. I’d encourage all authors to make whatever trade off works best for them. There are no wrong choices here just different ones.
If you are interested in publishing with Superversive Press then drop us a line, [email protected]
If you would like to support some small press authors check out these books from Superversive Press