Matt Cheney has a list of some mindblowin’ SF, much of it by women.
I don’t know Mike Ashley, I don’t know his editorial methodology (assuming there is one, other than to gather a bunch of stories, stick a title on it, and send it out there), and I am not interested in sitting in judgment or being righteous, especially based on one book. It’s also unfortunate that’s there’s an implied guilt by association that sticks to the contributors to the anthology, who have absolutely nothing to do with the decision-making process.
That said, it is mindblowingly stupid in this day and age not to make more of an effort to find more diverse sources for fiction for your anthology.
That said, if I knew in advance that an anthology would only have white males in it, I would not be interested in having my work in said anthology.
Do I think this is a result of blatant prejudice or sexism? No. I think mostly it’s the result of carelessness, lack of thought, and lack of effort. Pure laziness, and editors who come across more as packagers.
But it’s also a result of lack of access, which does speak to marginalization. It also speaks to the Cult of the Personality, and the weird idea that experienced writers hit a home run every time out. Yes, I know this is a tangent to the main discussion going on out there in the blogosphere, but I have nothing original to add to that discussion. So, takes deep breath…
While there’s something to be said for new writers serving an apprenticeship, and slowly making their way up a food chain or hierarchy in terms of their access to anthologies and the like, I have never believed in the tyranny of writer brand when it comes to the quality of short fiction. (The effects of popularity, and the ways in which a writer’s popularity dictate market response–that’s another another topic.)
Which is to say, I do not know, in my experience, a single writer out there whose short fiction I find satisfying every time out. Not a single one. What I do find are interesting and satisfying stories by a variety of writers of varying overall reputations. Experience helps in terms of receiving a story that doesn’t have an extra tail and enunciates its words correctly, but it does not guarantee excellence.
This is why open reading periods–allowing access–is so important to not just diversity but quality in anthologies (and I mean true, lasting quality, not just hype), especially to a field that tends toward the insular like SF/Fantasy. Yes, we’re very welcoming to new writers at conventions and the like. We also have good support systems. But there’s definitely a lack of access for new writers in certain areas, and for writers who don’t appeal to what I’d call core genre, or don’t fit into certain categories.
Although Ann and I can’t have open reading periods for every anthology, given how quirky and specific some of them are, we do try to have reading periods whenever possible.
Case in point: Steampunk II, which will have an open reading period. An open reading period for a reprint anthology? you say, incredulous. Well, it’s not doing anything but standing on the shoulders of efforts such as John Joseph Adams with his reprint anthos, where he actively solicits suggestions. We’re just allowing writers to submit their reprinted stories directly.
When Leviathan 5 comes around, we will also have an open reading period. Why? Every single time we have an open reading period, we encounter great fiction we would never otherwise have encountered, and we are enriched by encountering a multiplicity of new voices.
Does this guarantee diversity? No. For one thing, you can never predict what quirks of luck and fate, even if you proactively make it clear you promote diversity, will lead to who submits to you, and what they submit.
For another thing, much of the time we have absolutely no idea of the ethnicity or the sexual orientation of the submitter. (Gender is more obvious, but not always a given.) And Ann, I can guarantee you, doesn’t even look at the name or bio details when doing first reading for Weird Tales. (If I had my druthers, someone would strip the name and other identification from each story before either of us read it for anthos, to ensure complete objectivity–within the context of our own predilections for certain types of stories, although our tastes are pretty broad.)
Nor, I must point out, is diversity in and of itself desirable–not if it means simply counting up the number of women and POC in the TOC. No, it also means not taking stories from anyone that reinforce cheap stereotypes and cliches about…well, anyone…
Why? Um, that’s bad writing. Period.
Still, this does still come closer to a system in which pure quality has a chance of rising to the top, and it keeps editors from becoming insular.
Meanwhile, I see nothing wrong with not supporting editorial projects that do not reflect diversity–this is the reader’s individual choice, and one way to express a strong opinion.
Nor, however, am I happy to see Paul Di Filippo pilloried during the discussions that have arisen from the announcement of the anthology’s contents. I don’t think his metaphors were well-chosen, but I’ve known Paul for a long time and he’s a sweet man who has been very kind to any number of writers, of all genders and ethnicities. Which is to say–we all need someone to cut each of us a break from time to time, unless we want to reduce our electronic world to a series of mini tribunals.