In June 2013, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association of America (SFWA) came under fire for a sexist column released in one of its magazines. The column sparked a great deal of controversy, ultimately resulting in the resignation of the bulletin’s editor, Jean Rabe.
Ever since, arguments among members and additional sexist comments have kept the organization in the spotlight, with key figures including Mary Robinette Kowal (Hugo-winning author and former Vice President of the SFWA) and Jim Hines (Hugo-winning author), taking a stand for positive change in terms of the representation of women writers in both science fiction and fantasy. Many others have also been involved in the ongoing uproar over sexism within the SFWA.
The subject was expanded on and brought to mainstream awareness by this article in the Guardian, discussing the prevalence of white male Science Fiction authors and genre discrimination. While the article was written in September of 2013, it is seeing a resurgence on the internet as more issues and discussions regarding discrimination in the SF/F genres come to light.
The Daily Dot also recently brought the subject back up (February 2014) for discussion, heralded by their slam against former SFWA editor Dave Truesdale (February 2014). The new article, which discusses accusations against Mary Robinette Kowal for hypocrisy due to her choice of attire, highlights one of the major problems impacting the science fiction and fantasy genre.
But perhaps the most interesting development in this ongoing feud between old school, male-dominated science fiction and fantasy and the rise of women writers in the genres, is the incursion between Kowal and Sean P. Fedora, the associate director of contracts for Macmillan. Unlike other discussions in the growing sexism tangle, this one ended with a heart-felt apology from Fedora to Kowal, and Kowal’s public acceptance of the apology.
Another interesting issue regarding sexism in literature is the number of women authors masquerading as men in order to protect their sales and find an audience. This isn’t limited to just science fiction and fantasy, although it’s very common. The most notable and well-known instance of this is Harry Potter’s author Joanne K Rowling writing as J.K. Rowling. Rowling went on to release a crime novel under the masculine name of Robert Galbraith.
A few other famous women who have written as men include the author of Jane Eyre, Charolette Brontë and her two sisters. The trio published poetry as Ellis, Acton, and Currer Bell in order to be taken seriously by the literature community.
The true number of women masquerading as men in order to have an equal chance at recognition for their skills may never be known. However, until the times change — and more readers accept women as authors of science fiction and fantasy — good novels may never see the light of day due to the unfortunate existence of sexism.
The Lady Scribe, a woman guilty of writing under a masculine name.