Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I'm a Girl. I write SF and SFR. And I'm not going away...

*taps phone* That date is right, yes? 2013? This *is* the 21st century?

Because this last week, I've begun to doubt it. We're supposed to be a civilized and evolved society, at least as far as the West is concerned. We're supposed to be intelligent, logical and reasonable human beings? With laws about equality and human rights and rules against hate speech and the like. Right?

So a couple of guys published a column about 'lady writers' and 'lady editors' and how they'd look in a swimsuit, in an edition of the SFWA Bulletin that unfortunately featured a woman in a chainmail bikini. Silly boys! They're weren't serious, surely? And even if they are, they're the minority and they'll get laughed at and told to take their misogynist, out-dated views elsewhere. Won't they?

Except they didn't. Not loudly enough or quickly enough. But the protests they got were quickly decried as censorship. What, us 'lady writers' saying we found it offensive is bullying YOU? Huh?

And so it rolled on. President John Scalzi offered an apology. They promised a review. Promised this wasn't the view of the majority (and I really hope it isn't). But it didn't end there. A guy proffered the view that writers of SFR and female writers of SF are somehow destroying the genre. Polluting its purity. Writing 'bad' scifi. What. The. Hell?

On one hand he condemns us for breaking the 'rules' of SF, yet also for bringing new dimensions to it. Um, contradictory much? Which is it?

I always thought writing SF was about diversity. Breaking the mold and the 'rules'. Exploring boundaries and pushing past them. I thought that applied to the mentality of the authors too. Open. Diverse. Enlightened. And yet by doing that, we're wrong because we aren't conforming to 'true' SF, but somehow at the same time we aren't doing anything innovative? Man, you've invalidated your own argument right there. Sorry dude.

So you don't like female authored SF and you hate SFR? There's a very simple and obvious solution. DON'T READ IT! Damn it, did that really need saying?! We have readers, and fortunately it's not within your power to tell them what they can and can't read. Even if the entire publishing industry rejected us (and hey, that's not happening so I guess a lot of the powers-that-be in the publishing industry are a helluva sight more open minded and progressive) there's still self publishing. We have an audience. People LIKE our stuff. And guess what? We're going to keep on writing it.

One person suggested that maybe they feel threatened by SFR. Maybe they're worried about their sales. But it's their attitude that will damage their sales, not us. Think about it. I don't know any women who read hard scifi aside from my fellow female SF/SFR authors - the ones getting slammed here. So the guys making these statements are alienating a part of their readership - the authors they denigrate, and those who generally dislike such Neanderthal attitudes. Maybe only a small section, but in these precarious economic times, is that wise? Also, the number of readers I've had who say 'I don't normally read scifi, but after reading yours I may try it...' Dudes, we are bringing a new audience to the genre! But your comments will surely drive them away. Or at least drive them away from YOUR work.

The advent of eBooks has increased the number of book sales in general, so it's not a case of leaving one genre to read another. ALL genres are selling more, so it's not really a competition. Before digital I'd buy maybe a book or two, and no more until I'd read them (or could afford it). Now I have 80 titles on my Kindle waiting to be read. I'm buying way more books overall, and I'm not the only one. I'm still buying the hard scifi coming from my fave authors, but I'm also buying new SFR titles. And fantasy. And YA. Book buying is on the increase, which is good for ALL of us.

So is the issue that, as the Huffington post puts it, the guys don't want to share their sandbox? Tough. Most us as have been here just as long as the boys. They just didn't notice, or chose to ignore us. Until now.

But I think the worse thing is the comments and hate mail some authors are getting over this. Check out Ann Aguirre's post to see what they have to deal with. Obscene! Bad enough the instructions to stop whining. No, it get far worse. Suggestions that a good <word so offensive I can't even type it> would fix her. Oh, of course! Having sex with a woman (and the inference is it wouldn't be consensual sex on her part either) will fix it. That'll shut her up. Rape fixes everything.That's all any woman who dares to write SF and dares to defend her right to do so really needs to keep her quiet!

Colour me horrified. Is this really 21st century enlightenment?! That's your reasoned argument to a woman protesting her right to be a science fiction author?! Is that the only response you have?

It tells me one thing for sure. No one - NOT ONE PERSON - can logically and reasonably and with good cause tell us why we can't and shouldn't write SF, and why we should be able to do so without being made to feel we are wrong or invalid or second class authors for doing so. Some of them cannot think of any way to silence us except with the most horrific and mindless threats. I can't and don't understand what goes on in their heads. Why they feel driven to behave like this. It's more alien to me than any of the worlds I create.

You don't like what we write? Don't read it. I don't expect everyone to love my books, but why go out of your way to read something you've already decided to hate? We have readers. And thanks to public hissy fits over the 'horror' of female SF/SFR authors, more potential readers are hearing about it and are learning about your attitude. Here's a comment on Ann's blog showing that not all men think girls shouldn't be writing scifi, and exactly what effect those naysayers are creating.

"I’m a straight white male lifelong SF reader. Grimspace sounded a bit interesting to me until I read the misogynist troll emails, then I decided that anything that’s so hated by spiteful idiots must be awesome, and immediately ordered a copy. Great marketing work, misogynist trolls!"

So. I'm a girl, and I write SF & SFR. And I'm not going away...

If you're still bewildered as to what the heck this is all about, check out the blog posts below. In particular read the hate mail and comments directed at Ann Aguirre simply because she refused to stay silent. In the meantime I'd like to echo co-blogger Sharon's post about gratitude toward the romance readers. You don't hear them crying foul at the various sub-genres of romance, or over male authors in the genre. Romance readers love a good, heartfelt story, and I am incredibly grateful to all of those who gave my work a chance. Thank you.

Pippa's Journal 

Mission Success
On Monday my second novel released - Gethyon, a YA scifi novel WRITTEN BY A GIRL! *coughs* Yay me! Gethyon had already hit number one on the Omnilit bestsellers list while still on pre-order - I won't know any sales figures until September when my first royalties come in. Ugh! But it means I actually have a backlist! Well, okay, not a very big or old or long one, but FOUR TITLES to my name! Considering my first novel only came out a year ago (okay, I self published a short story about a year before THAT, but I don't officially count that one because it was an experiment more than anything) I feel that's good progress for a newbie. Of course, I'm hungry for more...but patience, my young apprentice...

Anyway, the virtual tour has already kicked off but you can find all the venues and giveaway details here

I really believed that this time around I would really have a handle on the whole book launch and promotion thing. And I *did* learn a huge amount from Keir's release. One major thing was having actual sales links to send out to my tour hosts, something I didn't do with Keir. I also planned a longer tour and aimed for more diverse hosts, perhaps opting for blogs that I might not have thought to guest on before, let alone ask. Gethyon has been more difficult in some respect because my first novel was a scifi romance, and this is a YA scifi with no romance at all. So, I've pushed myself well out of what has now become my comfort zone, making much of the experience a new thing all over again! But I've also been touched by the generosity and support of friends old and new for the launch, and also readers. One contacted me out of the blue and offered to spotlight Gethyon on her blog, even though it focuses mainly on romance, because she'd read and loved Keir. It's kind of weird to be popular! :D

And now we have less than three weeks until the SFR Brigade's 2nd Midsummer blog hop. Eeep! I can tell you there's going to be some awesome prizes (yes, plural!) thanks to the generosity of those who've donated so far - one person in particular. I'll be posting details on the main SFR Brigade blog later in the week. So if you haven't signed up yet, join us! It's going to be a fantastic event.

Ping Pong

@Laurie - great interview! And as an inhabitant of the British Isles I know the Inside Out program very well (my brother in law took part in an episode featuring the Roman history of my home town Colchester). They love to do unusual stories and often an odd mixture of topics. How cool to see someone I know starring in one!

@Sharon - hugest congrats, and I loved your thank you letter to the romance readers. Let's hope all this negativity gives a more positive outcome.

@Donna - great post on titles. They're so important to a piece of work - mine doesn't have a formal identity until it at least has a working title that I'm comfortable with. 


  1. All I can say is amen, sister. Your success, and that of so many others, is the proof in the pudding. Take that and stuff it in your jocks, fellas!

  2. Well there's very little to add to Pippa's eloquent take on a travesty except, "You can't take the sky from me."

    I think the response to the Bellowing Dinosaurs is going to be an increase in SFR and female authored SF novels on the market. Poetic justice, at it's finest.

  3. I actually posted about this subject on my blog on Monday... which was, consequently, the release day of my new book too! It's gotten a lot of hits and Mr. Sharp himself even commented on it. Needless to say, I was quite surprised.

    That this whole thing is now being discussed could be a boon to SFR writers. All the press may see more readers actively looking for these books as a result of the hubbub. I mean, it worked for FSoG, right? So long as people are reading, though, I'm happy about that, though if this is the catalyst for a huge genre surge, I'm not sure how to feel. Good, I guess? But it's kind of like doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, maybe. IDK. *sigh*

  4. Starla, thanks for your comment and your link (congrats on your release BTW(I also had my book release on Monday and this whole genre thing certainly made it a whole lot more nerve-racking) and love Douglas Adams, and ditto on the kids). And good grief, my post kind of ran parallel to yours. Spooky!
    It's ironic. A bunch of us have been discussing the problem of promotion and being noticed as authors in a niche genre. Hoping for it to be the next big thing. So this controversy could be the visibility boost we were hoping for. But oh that it had to be like this! I look at it as this isn't a great way to do it, but perhaps we need to focus on the positive - that female SF authors are being acknowledged and SFR seen as a genre without the sub prefix. Not the way we wanted to see it happen, but an explosive kickstart for sure!

  5. It seems like a really exciting time - people don't feel they have to keep quiet anymore. Maybe they were never keeping quiet, but at this point they can certainly be sure people are listening!

    I was late to hearing about all this. (This despite the fact I get the Bulletin in the mail. Though I do recall that cover and remember feeling embarrassed because the two SCHOOL LIBRARIANS who are my landlords often sort through the mail first.) Anyhow, when I was reading up on it I discovered the whole women in cosplay controversy as well. Sorry to use such a tired cliche, but is there something in the water?

    Anyway, I'm with Starla and the others who've said so - all this discussion is certainly yielding some terrific exposure for US. And it made me appreciate all the more what a wonderful, supportive bunch of authors and readers the romance community comprises.

  6. Here is a new post on this topic, from a past SFWA president.

  7. That blog post by the former president of SFWA made me think of a link I followed to gaslighting. The "now don't get upset" argument.

    I'm grateful for the men who do get what was wrong and have been supportive.

  8. Really, Pauline. The guy was just SO REASONABLE, wasn't he? And SO POLITE to all the crazy, angry, babbling, beautiful ladies who commented. Sexism is natural? Yes. So is the primal urge that makes me want to twist his head off his little pencil neck. But I can resist that urge because I have a BIG OLE BRAIN! Which I occasionally USE!!

  9. @ Donna - LOLOLOL! I know. Still shaking my head over it.

  10. K, sorry, just deleted and revised the following. Realized I didn't agree with part of what I said. All fixed now. :)

    * * *

    When I read that post (by the past SFWA prez), I tried to think about whether he had a point. I mean, on this very blog I once reviewed a fellow author -- Brian Cox, E=MC2 -- and referred to him as "the world's most adorable particle physicist," and also tagged the post with the label "big brains are sexy." Was I being sexist there? His adorableness and sexiness have nothing to do with his work.

    But when I thought about this more, there did seem to be a key difference. Cox is a celebrity, not a colleague. I've never met him, and most likely never will. THIS is something we all engage in. However, when I try to imagine talking about an actual colleague in the capacity of their work (as was the case in the Bulletin column), I cannot imagine saying such a thing. It would feel completely out of place.

    I tried to leave a comment about this on his post, but comments have been closed.

  11. Wow, that was a firestorm! It's strange how there are such cliques and prejudices in so many sections of the writing community. Another one is a number of MM writers who pour scorn on those who write MF as well. Room for everyone surely!
    Congrats on the release, Pippa. It's always nerve wracking when you write something different!!!

  12. @Sharon, you're so right. We can drool over Barbara's LUCY IN THE SKY cover or Hugh Jackman because the cover model is a fictional projection and Hugh is a celebrity, projecting a PERSONA. Most of us aren't crazy enough to take that to the stalker level and make our fantasies real. If we have those sorts of fantasies about our colleagues we're smart enough to keep them to ourselves.


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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.