Author Topic: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective  (Read 11254 times)

Offline Rolnikov

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In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« on: September 21, 2009, 09:40:09 am »
Guy Adams, chair of the British Fantasy Society and editor of our special publications, is currently on his way back to Spain, but he has issued an apology with regard to the absence of female writers (as first noted here, then picked up for example here, here and here) from In Conversation, Vol. 1, which was launched at FantasyCon this past weekend:

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Our new book, In Conversation: A Writer's Perspective, Volume 1: Horror, edited by James Cooper, has come under justifiable flak for its all-male line up of interviewees. When James brought the manuscript to me with a view to our publishing it I know he intended no sexism in his selection of the authors but I feel deeply sorry that I didn't flag the omission at the time. It is disgustingly simple for a man not to notice these things, a blindness to the importance of correct gender representation that I feel embarrassed to have fallen into. The next two volumes in the series are considerably more balanced in their table of contents but that doesn't change the fact that I dropped the ball on this initial volume. I can only apologize and hope that the discussion has made other editors and publishers realize that this kind of lazy sexism is unacceptable and to watch their own lists in future!

ChrisT

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2009, 04:12:52 pm »
Personally, if I were James I'd be pretty pissed off for being called a "sexist pig" in all but name. What next? A quota system... sorry, cannot accept your submission: we've got too many hetrosexual male writers - but we are very low on one-legged pregnant haemphrodites. ::)

I can remember seeing this book mentioned on James' site a few years ago - an obvious pet-project which he has been sitting on for sometime. I can only guess at this, but maybe just maybe the writers James chose were those who he considers has personal favourites. Maybe, just maybe, he has read a story by Lisa Tuttle or Caitlin Kiernan and neither resonated with him to warrant an inclusion... also, both Sarah's Pinborough and Langan - though well-deserving of their accrued praise and accolades - were relatively unknown up until a couple of years ago.

This sort of feminist claptrap smells of positive discrimination: when I edited Nasty Snips and Tourniquet Heart not once did the sex of the writer enter my mind... but the quality of the fiction. Both anthologies may not have a 50/50 split between male and female writers, but they do have a large amount of oestrogen coursing through their pages.

Offline Jen

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2009, 07:12:16 pm »
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also, both Sarah's Pinborough and Langan - though well-deserving of their accrued praise and accolades - were relatively unknown up until a couple of years ago.

Um, the same could probably be said about Gary Fry and Gary McMahon and they're in it... (no offense, lads!)

Did he approach female writers and they didn't respond?  Or did he not think to approach them in the first place?  I think the main concerns in people making a point about the all male list is similar to the concerns that arose when Mike Ashley's Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF got a bollocking for being absent of female SF writers.
See here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2009/08/toc-the-mammoth-book-of-mindblowing-sf-edited-by-mike-ashley/
and here  http://theangryblackwoman.com/2009/08/05/this-is-why-science-fiction-cant-have-nice-things/
just for starters...

It's not that we want female writers to get special treatment to get into any anthology or other project, it's that there are loads of great male *and* female horror writers, and we want to hear from all of them, but the chaps, for whatever reasons, tend to get talked about more so it would be really nice to get the women some decent exposure.  (um, that didn't quite come out right, did it...)

Would it really have killed him to include a couple of women authors in the line up?  Would they have had a different perspective on the genre that people would have liked to read?  Would their inclusion expand the possible sales base for the book?
« Last Edit: September 21, 2009, 07:14:11 pm by Jen »

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2009, 08:30:38 pm »
(This is me talking as me, here, rather than officially for Guy or the committee.)

I agree that putting a book together is more than a box ticking exercise, and if James had published this book himself as Sixteen Chats with Writers I Like, that would have been okay. But context makes a big difference. This has been published by the British Fantasy Society as the first in a three volume set covering horror, fantasy and science fiction, an overview of the practitioners of fantastic literature active today, and it gives the impression that the Society does not consider female writers to be a significant part of that picture.

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But maybe just maybe the writers James chose were those who he considers has personal favourites. Maybe, just maybe, he has read a story by Lisa Tuttle or Caitlin Kiernan and neither resonated with him to warrant an inclusion.

Maybe, maybe. But those are only issues that regard James and the manuscript he created - they aren't at all relevant to the decision of the British Fantasy Society to publish it. Guy hasn't apologised for James, he's apologised for not noticing the problem himself. Authors always make mistakes; it's up to editors and publishers to provide a safety net.

In particular, the introduction doesn't say, here are chats with some authors I happen to like, it says that these "sixteen writers ... have been selected for interview simply because they're the most accomplished horror writers around". The statement being made is that the British Fantasy Society believes that the top sixteen horror writers active today are all male.

If you want to argue that that is in fact the case, fine, but you shouldn't be reaching for the one-legged pregnant hermaphrodites at the very suggestion that at least one woman should have made the list. I don't think that's feminist claptrap at all, it's a very reasonable question to ask - and it's been asked very politely.

The fact that the manuscript has been looking for a publisher for a few years isn't relevant - it wasn't published three years ago, it was accepted for publication during the last year, and could have been updated to be more representative.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2009, 09:52:27 am by Stephen Theaker »

jscooper32

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2009, 11:56:54 am »
Hi,

Please note that this will be the only occasion I formally address the confusion surrounding ‘In Conversation’.

First off, let me point out how mortified I am that such an obvious misrepresentation has occurred. I’d like to stress that it was by no means intended, though I appreciate that this is perhaps the weakest kind of excuse one could offer.

The book itself has been a pet project of mine for the last couple of years, and was originally planned as a small press venture that would seek to interview 10-12 writers of horror fiction. The template for the book was Stanley Wiater’s 1990 offering entitled ‘Dark Dreamers’, a book of interviews of 24 key writers in the field. It was widely regarded as a definitive volume of its type. Rather interestingly, I now note, of the 24 writers interviewed (including Stepehen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, etc.), only one of the contributors was a woman (Anne Rice).

Still, the remit of ‘In Conversation’ was to provide a general overview of life in the horror genre in the first decade of the new millennium. Even more importantly, the writers I initially selected, rather naively, perhaps, but without any predetermined agenda, were entirely subjective. The criteria for inclusion was simple: I wanted writers who I admired and who had influenced me in some way in the last 20-25 years. I also wanted to focus on the value and significance of the small press, which has been essentially carrying the torch for horror fiction for the last twenty years, as major publishing houses have lost interest in the field. This meant I was particularly interested in writers who had a special relationship with various small press imprints, or were uniquely involved in the day-today operation of an independent press.

When it came to finding a suitable publisher, I discussed the project with Guy Adams, who suggested that it was exactly the kind of book the BFS might be interested in. His plan right from the outset was to publish a series of books, interviewing critical writers from the various fields of fantasy. It sounded like a great idea, and my humble book of interviews with horror writers seemed to complement his vision. Only problem, of course, is that neither one of us flagged up the lack of female representation. Certainly from my point of view, I was too busy focusing on the writers I’d managed to recruit to notice the writers I’d inadvertently omitted. A female perspective, of course, would have offered a keen contrast to that presented by many of the male writers.

Guy assures me that subsequent volumes in the series will provide much greater balance, and I’m sure that the books themselves will be all the better for it. I’d like to finish by adding that I am well aware of most of the female writers working in the field of horror fiction and intended no slight to any of them, though I can easily see how my negligence could be misconstrued.

I hope this helps clarify my position and goes some way towards acknowledging my own liability in the matter.

James Cooper

Offline allybird

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2009, 03:20:06 pm »
'I wanted writers who I admired and who had influenced me in some way in the last 20-25 years.'

No female horror writer, in that time reference, has managed to do that?

DFL

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2009, 03:40:38 pm »
I had over a thousand stories in the Small Press in the Nineties and now publish Nemonymous.
Can I be in the next one?
des

AdrianF

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2009, 04:42:48 pm »
No female horror writer, in that time reference, has managed to do that?

I think the failing here, isn't necessarily one of personal prejudice (we like what we like after all, and it isn't always as sinister as some suggest) but a case that any piece of journalism / non-fiction should strive to be as balanced as possible.  That means sometimes stretching outside one's own personal preferences and considering the audience at large.  I don't think that has happened here.

The important thing is that out of this, female horror writers ARE very much being discussed today and this should long term give them greater visibility.

Gary Fry

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2009, 05:05:06 pm »
Just as an observation: the BFS Yearbook 09 contains five short stories by women and an introduction by a woman. Guy Adams commissioned that collection.





Offline Jen

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 05:18:15 pm »
Just as an observation: the BFS Yearbook 09 contains five short stories by women and an introduction by a woman. Guy Adams commissioned that collection.

With the other 16 stories by men... (whistles innocently)   ;) :-*

Offline bleugh!

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2009, 06:51:48 pm »
How many stories in the BFS Yearbook were by orcs - male or female? :)

DFL

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2009, 08:19:22 am »
Many people during this debate elsewhere have spoken of 'leading horror writers' vis a vis the gender issue. However James Cooper in his statement says (regarding the last 20 - 25 years):

This meant I was particularly interested in writers who had a special relationship with various small press imprints, or were uniquely involved in the day-today operation of an independent press.

There are men missed out from that book on that basis as well as women.

On the gender issue, many of my favourite writers have always been women: Elizabeth Bowen, A.S. Byatt etc. And it is the British Fantasy Society, not just Horror. I imagine the Cooper book of interviews is a good personal book in itself but should not have been published by the BFS as a Convention showcase of the BFS .... in hindsight.
How do I get a copy as a BFS member who didn't attend the Convention?

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2009, 10:45:51 am »
Des, this was announced in Prism as a book that would be on general sale, but available to BFS members at a 30% discount. At the AGM some members expressed some unhappiness with that approach, so I think Guy's currently considering the best way to move forward.

Martin Roberts

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2009, 02:06:29 pm »
I think its worth pointing out that each year the Special Publications account only gets 10% of all membership fees.

And 'I' got the impression that the problem lies with charging members more, in this case £10.00 (RRP £15.00) for a second book on top of the current fees, which just about covers Yearbook, 4 Prisms, 2 Dark Horizons, & 2 New Horizons, not forgetting the postage.

Yearbook is also available to all new members until the end of WHC10.

And we have Slights (Kaaron Warren) from The Angry Robot team, which retails at £7.99, which all new members receive until stocks run out.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2009, 03:19:51 pm by Martin Roberts »

Offline Jen

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Re: In Conversation, A Writer's Perspective
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2009, 03:08:25 pm »
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I think its worth pointing out that each year the Special Publications account only gets 10% of all membership fees.

And that's only been for the last couple of years as Spec Pubs couldn't afford to keep covering the transaction costs the store charges for the online memberships.