Wed
Aug 5 2009 4:22pm

Oh No, The Mammoth Books of X, No

When I was a college student and a very casual reader, at best, of fantasy, one of my favorite chunky anthologies were The Mammoth Book of X series. Such as: The Mammoth Book of Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories, The Mammoth Book of King Arthur, The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy, etc. Even The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, back when I thought SF was “fantasy, but in the future.”

So when I heard about the upcoming The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction (Running Press) I was filled with a mix of nostalgia and anticipation, because now I know more about SF (although a lot of times I still class it as “fantasy, but in the future, and sometimes with science that my college physics professor would probably shoot the author in the head over”).

And then the table of contents for TMBOMSF were made available at SFSignal.

Summary: not a woman or a person of color to be found in the entire book.

Now. Okay. I’m Asian. Not obvious from the name. Also, I’m female, probably obvious from the name. Just to clear things up, in case someone minds.

But that table of contents is stupid and made of FAIL. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to advertise yourself as The Mammoth Book of Anything these days, people might expect you to, um, actually be representative of the field. You know. With all the women and PoC that populate it, with skill and style in equal power to the traditional white male representatives.

I mean, hell, if you’re going to advertise yourself as The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction and not include, i.e., Samuel R. Delany, who is the definition of mindblowing science fiction, there is something wrong with you.

In this day and age, there is no excuse. There actually wasn’t much of an excuse a few decades ago either, but times change. And so does the composition of the field. And so should the Mammoth Books.

Angry Black Woman has a wonderful blog post out about this fiasco’s current state of affairs, taking apart one of the anthology defenders’1 convoluted arguments with surgical and humorous precision (along with one of the best uses of WP-Footnotes I have seen in a long time). You should read it.

While she gets legitimately angry, I, on the other hand, get depressed2. It’s hard for me to see something I love go down in flames in this way. It’s hard to see something I love say, “Your gender is not worthy to be included in this survey of the field. Your race is not worthy, either, just to twist the knife.”

Why can’t they do what people like John Joseph Adams do? I reviewed Federations (Prime Books) earlier on Tor.com with much praise, and have caught up on Adams’ other anthologies as well, which are also excellent. Obviously a wonderful anthology including women and PoC can be done. Which is, duh, Captain Obvious territory, but sometimes these incidents make me question my general worth so much that I need to pull out concrete examples.

Unfortunately, my experience with SF/F multiple-author anthologies can currently be thought of as Mammoth Books and John Joseph Adams’ books.

So help a sad SF/F newbie out, Tor.com readers. Give me recommendations for anthologies that are not as full of fail as this recent Mammoth Books one. Surely there must be more than JJA, as excellent as he is. Surely in this day and age.

Argh.

1 I'd mention the name, but I'm upset enough right now that I don’t want to. I used to like his stuff a bit, and this is just making me sad.
2 Depressed Asian Woman doesn’t have the same ring to it.


Arachne Jericho writes about science fiction, fantasy and other topics determined by 1d20, at Spontaneous ∂erivation. She also thinks waaay too much about Sherlock Holmes. She reviews at Tor.com on a semi-biweekly basis, and needs a frakking drink.

68 comments
Christopher Key
1. Artanian
Wow. Just...Wow. I suppose I'm not supposed to comment on this because I'm a white guy, but when I went over to the ABW post you linked to I saw reasonable commentary and explanations, responded to with ad-hominems and non-sequitors.

Maybe I'm unique here, but when I buy an anthology, I'm looking for a set of stories that are enjoyable. I don't care about the gender, race, nationality of the authors, what I care about is whether or not I like the stories. It's interesting that you mention Delaney - I've read and enjoyed several of this works, and tried to read Dhalgren a time or three, and until maybe last year I would have had no idea he was, as you put it, a POC. And why the heck should it matter? It doesn't. I don't fail to finish Dhalgren because it's author isn't white, I fail to finish it because, for me, the book runs out of steam about 40% of the way through.

Just as a thought experiment, what if the results had been exactly opposite? If, purely by chance, it had ended up with no white guys? Would you reflexively feel that this was a problem that needed to be fixed?
GoblinRevolution
2. GoblinRevolution
Well, here goes. I know, just know what I am about to post is going to be flamed mercilessly, but I am going to anyway.

I'm with Artanian. Who cares? Quite frankly, I don't. Unless I happen to have a picture of an author right in front of me, I don't assign race or gender to their writing (or sexual orientation for that matter) and, also as frankly, I don't care to. Yes women, PoC, and just about every other demographic you care to name can write outstanding S/F, Fantasy, Mainstream, insert-genre-here. I have a tendency to read the story first and if I like it, then I go looking for that author and I don't do that on the basis of their demographic membership, only on the strength of their work.

One of the wonderful things about literature is that barring gender obvious names, there is no true way of knowing if an author is white, black, asian, male, female, insert-demographic-here, based on their written work.

Is there a bias towards white males in S/F? Probably, but there has been a historical bias towards white males so this isn't surprising. Is the editor guilty of bias? Who knows. I would love to hear his side of the story though.

I would also love to hear a reasoned answer to Artanian's question as well. If no white males were included in the anthology would anyone be as upset? Could white males then justifiably cry foul?
Irene Gallo
3. Irene
Gibbon:

Anyone can easily enjoy work presented to them without knowing its origin but the problem is not having the benefit of exposure to a greater range of view points to begin with.

"I would also love to hear a reasoned answer to Artanian's question as well. If no white males were included in the anthology would anyone be as upset? Could white males then justifiably cry foul?"

Of course they would, as they should. Assuming it claimed to be representative of the field, which this book does.
GoblinRevolution
4. firkin
@1 and 2: did you guys read the comments at SFsignal? apparently a lot of people DO care, including white men. there are a number of points involved, all of which are explicated in that thread* better than i can make them, but at bottom the issue is that a field of 100% white men is not representative of who is writing "mindblowing" SF today, and that curating a collection by essentially relying on an old boy's network (see comment by Di Filippo@8/4 12:36pm) is unacceptable in 2009.

and to this: If no white males were included in the anthology would anyone be as upset? Could white males then justifiably cry foul? : if the collection was meant to showcase the "best" writing across the genre, then yes, most probably, because white men are still a big proportion of those writing SF now, and an anthology that managed to not include any was either collated in a different universe, or it's not being honest about criteria. (this goes only for collections not otherwise specified; certainly nobody should object if it's an on-purpose collection of SF written by women or people of color.) people might very well be LESS upset, however, than they are here, because in fact white men have in general been more highly visible and have had better access to publishing outlets in the history of english-language SF, so there are no other shortage of collections in which to find their writing. the same has not been true for writers representing other demographics.

arachnejericho: thanks for this post. i don't know a lot about anthologies myself, but if you want an opposite-day style corrective, try Dark Matter and So Long Been Dreaming.

*i appreciate the ABW post but one needs to note that she is writing there for a specific audience, and is not in particular trying to convince the reluctant reader. it's not called angry black woman for nothing. i recommend the SFSignal thread for more patient explanations.
GoblinRevolution
5. cheem
Speaking for myself, I wouldn't care about the diversity of the authors if the title of the anthology didn't imply that it was a representative sampling of the set of stories comprising "Mindblowing SF". But it does and, when you make an anthology that claims to be representative of the field, and all the stories are written by white males, doesn't that imply that you feel that all worthy works in that field are written by white males? Well, maybe it doesn't to you, but in my (Asian) eyes, it sure as heck does.
GoblinRevolution
6. jere7my
One of the more reasonable comments I saw was from someone who pointed out that this may be a problem with the marketing and the title, not the ToC. S/he says that the stories appear to be mega-engineering stories, with no aims to represent SF as a whole, and a better title would have been "The Boys Favourite Book Of Huge Interstellar Structures". That's a subgenre, as far as I know, heavily dominated by white males.

I don't know most of the stories, so I can't say for sure whether this is true — for me, "mind-blowing" implies New Wave, or New Weird, or Things Of That Ilk, in which case I can, off the top of my head, come up with several female authors and black authors it would be unthinkable to exclude. But if the editor intends "mind-blowing" to mean "hard SF stories about really really huge engineering structures that are so huge they'll blow your mind", I have a harder time coming up with appropriate stories by women and PoC. (There may be a bunch out there, but none leap to mind immediately; it's not a subgenre I read much of.)

If you're looking for a great anthology that's also jam-packed full of diversity, the Vandermeers' first Best American Fantasy was the most mind-blowing (heh) SF anthology I've read in a long time.
Jason Henninger
7. jasonhenninger
@1 (and 2)

You wrote "If, purely by chance, it had ended up with no white guys? Would you reflexively feel that this was a problem that needed to be fixed?"

Yes. As I see it, that would be a problem, too. An anthology claiming to be "21 finest stories of awesome science fiction" without any white male writers would be absurd. Just as it is absurd to make one with nothing but white male writers.

The phrase "purely by chance" I don't know about, though. Was it, in this case, purely by chance? Perhaps Mike Ashley will discuss this at some point. As #2 said, I would like to hear his side of it.

I have nothing negative to say about the authors included in the anthology, nor would I ever claim that race or gender alone are grounds for inclusion in something like this. But it baffles me to think that anyone can seriously say they've got the "finest stories of awesome science fiction" and just happen not to have any women at all, or any writers of non-European ancestry.

Seriously, how is that possible?
GoblinRevolution
8. paulo gog
because in fact white men have in general been more highly visible and have had better access to publishing outlets in the history of english-language SF
So, would you say the majority of the SF out there that people know about is written by white men? It may well be that a bunch of white guys is a very good statistical representation of current published SF authors. It may not be representative of the "field", as you put it, but it is representative of what is out there, published. It makes sense for the publishers to print known authors, not cherry pick anybody for reasons other than how well known they are. They want to sell books, not advance some social goal.
p l
9. p-l
If I were Mike Ashley, I wouldn't dare comment on this. Anything he could say would only expose him to more criticism and humiliation. It could be argued that he deserves it, but he would be stupid to seek them out by making a statement.

Beyond that, the real issue here is not just fairness as an abstract concept. These anthologies carry real weight with new readers of SF. Just by being included in one, a writer's name is more likely to be remembered, his/her books are more likely to be bought, and his/her career is likely to advance - possibly at the expense of those not included. In short, there is money and fame at stake, both of which been historically been denied to female/PoC authors. So they're right to be hopping mad at being denied once again.
GoblinRevolution
10. thedidey
"If, purely by chance, it had ended up with no white guys? Would you reflexively feel that this was a problem that needed to be fixed?"

If the selection had made purely by chance then this wouldn't be a problem, but, as has been pointed out, the selection was intended to representative...so representative as to be called Mammoth.

Secondly....yes you shouldn't be commenting as a white guy because as a similarly white guy I'm aware that I can't comprehend what it would be like be left out of something because of my race/gender/etc. And, to be honest I'm am so sick of the "well if situations were reversed argument". They're NOT. The question you should be asking is what if there were thousands of events over hundreds of years that didn't include white males. THEN you could complain.
p l
11. p-l
I am a white male who has been excluded from many things because of my race. It happened when I lived in the middle east. Believe me, then, when I say that it totally sucks.

Honestly, I don't think anyone would complain if the anthology had no white guys in it - unless they had a bone to pick with the PoC/feminist bloggers. Maybe Harlan Ellison would complain, but that's about it.

Here in North America, we white males are so unused to being the targets of racism (incidental or malicious), that we probably would not even notice. And anyway, we could accurately assure ourselves that the same thing would not happen next time. PoC lack that security, and I think that contributes to the anger at this anthology.
Sumana Harihareswara
12. brainwane
Arachne, I thank you again for your ebook versions of the anthology I edited, Thoughtcrime Experiments. TE features 9 authors, at least 2 of whom are PoC and 4 of whom are women.

I'd love a review, if you've had a chance to read it.
[da ve]
13. slickhop
I would argue that you have a responsibility, as a white guy who doesn't suck, to speak up. It sure helps when the folks with the privilege do their bit to undermine the power structure.

The privilege in this case, let's keep it basic, is being represented in this Mammoth Book. Because it sucks to read books with 21 authors in them claiming to span the breadth of the genre and not be represented.

And I love the internet for putting folks together to the point where they can be like, "No, its not just me who wants this."
GoblinRevolution
14. firkin
paulo gog@8 : you missed the part about how a majority != 100%.

i have no idea of the actual numbers but yeah, i bet a majority of published SF (especially speaking cumulatively) is by white men. sure. so what? i get that anthologists mostly want to sell books, but a) it's not like there aren't well-known female and of color SF authors out there (i may think you're a lazy anthologist for going to le guin, tiptree, and delany again, as good as they are, but that's at least pretending to look like you care), and b) what's wrong with including great stories by a couple of lesser known authors, especially when you've already got some big names?
p l
15. p-l
@13: If someone sends me five grand, I'll happily edit an anthology with a diverse table of contents.
GoblinRevolution
16. Shweta-forgot-her-login
Del Rey Book of SF&F? Anything, IMO, that Datlow, Windling, or Link edit is worth looking at (and anything Firebird for YA), but that one is both general and excellent (and controversial *g*)
GoblinRevolution
17. Shadowgoob
Keep in mind that the authors who ultimately ended up in the volume might not be the only authors invited. Many authors turn down the opportunity because of deadlines, contract obligations, etc.
p l
18. p-l
If you want an anthology that's purely science fiction, diversity gets a lot harder to find, alas. As far as F & SF go, Strahan's latest Best of the Year collection seems to have a good mix. (The titles suggest that most of the female-authored stories are fantasy, though.)
Arachne Jericho
19. arachnejericho
To everyone in general,

Thanks for the recommendations and the discussion. Keep it up!

firkin,

Good point in #4 about the ABW link. The explanations and discussion going on at SFSignal are, indeed, more patient.

jere7my,

Hah, that is indeed a marketing fail. The title definitely does not communicate "huge engineering structures" at all to me.

I'm thinking about what my college self would have thought about SF had she picked up that book believing it to be "generic" SF (I mean, SF is always supposed to be mind-blowing, isn't it? I knew that even when I thought that it was all called Sci-Fi).

Probably she would have thought, "Huh, so the best SF is all about engineering in space. Just what I expected. Not for me. Thank goodness this Mammoth Book helped me understand SF better before I really got involved."

... which leads to another weirdness apart from the women/PoC angle. I mean, there's a lot of different types of SF out there; I know that now. Definitely didn't know it then.

p-l,

In #9 the point about getting names into anthologies is a very important one.

The audience for the Mammoth Books is huge and casual. Getting names out is one of the most important things these books can do; when you pick up a Mammoth Book, you're supposed to get a good tasting at the smorgasboard of whatever the title is about.

And those names get remembered when someone decides they want some more of that.

The popularity/success of the Mammoth Books in general is probably best shown in the long, long listing at Fantastic Fiction.

These are the books that show up in the general reading clubs, which is how I found The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy (and life was never really the same afterwards).

thedidey,

As slickhop points out, even if you're white you can and very arguably should speak up.

And by the way, thank you for stating very clearly the problem with the "if situations were reversed" hypothetical. :) What I think of those sorts of hypotheticals is really, really... impolite.

brainwane,

Gah, I shouldn't have forgotten Thoughtcrime Experiments.

So far I don't review anything I've made ebooks of, since it would involve reviewing my own involvement in the formatting process in the Kindle Bit. Which is a shame, because I don't go through that much trouble unless I really like a work. And I did like your anthology.

Maybe I should overturn that rule. (And review-smacking myself for mistakes I made during formatting would be comedy.)

Shadowgoob,

Maybe all the women and PoC writers invited did turn down the invitations. To a massive selling platform with serious outreach. That is supposed to be a representative volume.

I think this is a highly unlikely scenario, unless people think Ashley is the Kiss of Death, which is also not likely.

The "SF = space engineering" angle seems more likely.
Soon Lee
20. SoonLee
Mike Ashley responded at silk_noir's blog:

That probably has something to do with my concept of "mind-blowing". Women are every bit as capable of writing mindblowing sf as men are, but with women the stories concentrate far more on people, life, society and not the hard-scientific concepts I was looking for.


What I posted there:
"That's a very narrow view of "mind-blowing", which is after all, what the title promises. I've really enjoyed Mike Ashley's "The History of the Science Fiction Magazine" series, but in this case I think he's exhibiting tunnel-vision."
Kimberly Woods
21. Calli
SoonLee @20:

*jawdrop*

Someone needs to remind Mr. Ashley what one should do when in a hole, before he goes and rents a steam shovel.

And yet, considering that the Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy (which I am very, very glad I picked up used now as opposed to at retail) was about half science fiction tales, I wonder if I should be surprised at any of this.

I don't know how other people view this anthology series, but in my eyes its credibility has been shot.
GoblinRevolution
22. Brit Mandelo
I'm stuck on this, here. On one hand, this book is, as one commenter said, about huge megalithic scifi structures. This does tend to be a boy's club sort of subgenre; female and PoC authors are often dealing with social issues more than big buildings. I'm sure that's not always true, but I can't think of a single example otherwise.

Other "Mammoth" books have decent spreads of authors, in my opinion. One book in a series, which already is leaning toward a white male submission base, hardly reflects on the rest of a series. Each of which is generally edited by somebody different.(@Calli) For example, I believe Stephen Jones does the horror anthos.

I always have trouble sussing out in odd situatiosn like these where there's actually racism/sexism in effect, or if it's just reading too far into a coincidence. It worries me that it may be intentional, but on the other hand I don't think a submission that isn't as good as the other subs should get published because of the gender/race of the author, and I'm a woman. I don't want to be prized over a male author just because I have two X chromosomes. I want it to be my work that matters.
Sumana Harihareswara
23. brainwane
arachnejericho@19, if you don't want to review your *own* ebook conversion, you can choose the pedant ePUB by another reader, Marshall T. Vandergrift.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the anthology! I hope you hear about lots of enjoyable sf/f anthologies that feature balanced tables of contents, and share the lists with us.
GoblinRevolution
24. bloggeratf
@20-21 and some others who fit the bill.

I'd love to be able to make an insightful and educated comment, but my college education (econ, gov, social theory) consisted in reading the works of a bunch of dead (or well on their way) white guys for four years.

As I see it, regardless of who is right or wrong, these types of situations are always tricky. In this case, you are essentially asking a white man to admit that he is racist and sexist. Sure, the guy is biased, as are most white men, but when you paint him into a corner you leave him no option but to stick to an affirmative 'this is the way I see it' defense, because that is much easier than saying 'I am a bigot'. I sincerely doubt he deliberately set out to exclude women and minorities from the anthology, but if you feel passionately otherwise, I can think of a couple legal funds that will try and help you remedy the title, because making angry blog posts on a corporate website only serves to inflame the situation and polarize debate even further.

@arachne: "What I think of those sorts of hypotheticals is really, really... impolite." (I think you were referring to reserve discrimination?).

That situation parallels the Supreme Court's decision with respect to the New Haven firefighters, don't you think? You even propose that these anthologies are about author promotion.
GoblinRevolution
25. bloggeratf
@mylastpost

make that reverse and opposed to reserve...
Kimberly Woods
26. Calli
@22

The Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy is edited by Ashley as well. (Though I admit I didn't look before I made that first post. And should have. I should have let myself stop reeling before replying first.) Thanks for mentioning there are other editors, though. I was premature in writing off the entire series.

(And of the 33 entries in New Comic Fantasy, 5 are by women. It may mean nothing. It may not. It does make me curious about how the other anthologies he edited turned out, as well as others in the Mammoth series.)
Larry N.
27. Larry
Well, let's see...

There's the Latin American SF anthology, Cosmos Latinos, that's excellent and has a nice mixture of genders and ethnic groups.

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's New Weird anthology is another that comes to mind.

I believe anything edited by Ellen Datlow would be prime counterexamples, such as her recent The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Ekaterina Sedia edited Paper Cities, which is a World Fantasy Award finalist.

Lou Anders in his Fast Forward 2 anthology has a good gender mix.

Nalo Hopkinson's So Long Been Dreaming and Sheree Thomas's Dark Matter are two excellent anthologies of stories written by PoCs.

Best of all, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
JS Bangs
28. jaspax
Thanks to those who pointed out that the SFSignal comments are more reasonable, because my reaction to the ABW post was... irritable. But now that I've had a few hours to calm down and read the (largely intelligent) comments here, I feel better.

Regarding the antho itself, the most charitable explanation seems to be that the hard-SF genre it's trying to represent is one that really is dominated by white males. In which case the title might be poorly chosen, but there's no bias involved other than self-selection. And the worst I can say about that is that it's not an anthology I'm likely to read. Other, less positive spins also exist, but for the sake of my blood pressure I'm not going to think about those too much.
Arachne Jericho
29. arachnejericho
SoonLee and Calli at #20 and #21: my reaction summed up nicely.

Brit is right about the multiple editors in the Mammoth Books series. I think Asimov actually did one, way back when.

And Brit, I know how you feel re: "I don't want to be prized over a male author just because I have two X chromosomes." I work in a very competitive male-dominated field, and have never wanted to be hired for a developer team just because I'm a woman. My feelings on all that are complicated and have no neat summary or conclusion.

Larry,

Thank you for the many recommendations! :)


bloggeratf,

We all have biases in our heads. For instance, I have a long-standing self-hatred of my own race and gender, to the point where I don't think very much about the face I see in the mirror every day. A somewhat radical case, but biases can be weird like that.

These biases can be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Fact is, they exist in everybody's head, from white men to women to PoC.

I suggest this post at John Scalzi's Whatever, written by Mary Ann Mohanraj, where she gets people up to speed on the topic of racism, starting with "We’re all racist", and proceeding from there.

And as for the "angry blog posts on a corporate website" tsk-tsk... I'm going to have to let my bosses at Tor.com speak for me in this. Because (a) I don't get automatic carte blanche, (b) I asked for this post to get bumped up in the queue, because I felt it was important, and it was, and (c) I've been encouraged to write my thoughts when issues like this come up---in fact, way before this particular issue bubbled up out of the heap.

Trust me, I don't want to go around dipping my hand in battery acid, because posts like this rip me up inside every time. This is NOT cathartic in any way, and it always, always costs me a lot of self-hatred during and after.

But I felt it was important to say, even with all that in mind.

Also, re: reverse discrimination: no, I wasn't referring to that. I was referring to thedidey's precise description, and you should go re-read that, because thedidey does a better job than I of outlining exactly what is wrong with that kind of "hypothetical".

----

For people morbidly curious about the self-hatred thing, that's a post on my personal blog. Like I said: this was not a cathartic blog post. I have far less endurance or resistance than many people who talk about this kind of stuff on a regular basis.

And in fact, I'm probably going to wait until tomorrow to comment or even think about this again. I burn out really quickly on this kind of topic, and in more ways than one.

(That all, plus it's not been a nice week in many other respects for me.)
Soon Lee
30. SoonLee
Calli @26:

The Mammoth Book of Best New Science Fiction is actually YBSF edited by Gardner Dozois, but with different covers & numbering, e.g. Mammoth #11 is the same as YBSF#15.
GoblinRevolution
31. Mark van H86
It's a sad world when the colour and gender of a writer is more important than the content of the story.
GoblinRevolution
32. ponga
Thanks for the tip: that sounds like a fun anthology for us sufferers from X-chromosome deficiency. It's now officially on my shopping list.

Mind you, I fully acknowledge that there's a lot of idiotic gender discrimination going on, in both directions, if not of the same kind or magnitude. And there are plenty of authors of the female persuasion I like to read, inside and outside of the genre. However, if there are a lot of women SF writers who wallow in Big Dumb Objects, mega-engineering and/or cosmic space/time extents, it seems I've missed them, by and large. Any tips are welcome!

I beseech you, however, in the bowels of Christ or elsewhere, consider whether gender bias sensitivity may on occasion be misplaced.
Pam K
33. PamK
@ people who seem to be surprised that comments on a blog called "Angry Black Woman" are angry: It's not like you aren't being warned up-front. By comparison, if this Mammoth Book of Mind-blowing SF was titled "The Mammoth Book of Space-Engineering Stories by White Guys, I don't think people would be complaining so much.


@ people who claim that the gender and race of an author is not important: Do you really think that a writer's background and life experiences have no bearing on their writing? Seriously, you live in a world where all fiction is produced by robots? Y'all need to branch out in your reading habits, and get your mind blown properly.


@ Arachne Jerico: I admire you for raising issues like this on a site where it's guaranteed that a good portion of your comments will be critical of you for daring to notice that sexism and racism exist.
Jesús Couto Fandiño
34. Breogan
Eh... this is getting to RaceFail territory very quickly.

I think the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Starting with the idea that the name of the antology has any other reason than marketing.

The TOC shows stories from famous but not controversial authors, and frankly most of those stories say nothing to me. It is, by no means, an attempt to make a good compilation of the historically very best science-fiction under any criteria I can fathom.

That said, I would not lose my time crying Racisms and Sexism at the issue - I would employ my time in making an Anthology, or two or three, that satisfy that kind of criteria. I'm for example itching to get my hands on "The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent" (next paycheck it will be mine) and would love to find more like this covering more places, or Best Female SF Authors or.

And on a tangent - Didnt Thomas M. Disch write a very critical essay about an anthology edited by Le Guin, complainging about exactly the opposite issue? Seems this riff-raff is going longer than I remember.
Torie Atkinson
35. Torie
@ 23 bloggeratf and AJ @ 29

The faces behind Tor.com, our many contributors, and our visitors are a part of the SF community. When cases like this crop up that demonstrate how pervasive this kind of (surely unintentional, but very real) sexism and racism is within that community, it is important to speak up and make the problem visible to raise awareness and hopefully avoid the same kind of thing in the future. I thank Arachne Jericho for her post--it's a very personal issue for many.

@ generally

When you see an anthology like this, it's not so much about this one incident as it is about the way these incidents add up, speaking to a culture of privilege that hurts the entire community. This is a prime example of the ways in which that culture affects the stories that get published, the authors that get cultivated and highlighted and remembered, and the individuals--fans, writers, and professionals--who feel welcome (or not) within our community. When SF anthologies predominately select the stories of older white men from English-speaking countries as examples of the "finest" SF has to offer, it creates a self-perpetuating system in which "the best" stories are those by white men, written for the audience and tastes of white men. By reducing SF to a monoculture I as a reader suffer, the community as a whole suffers, as people become less and less likely to see stories that don't fit those very narrow criteria for "the best." And if we do see them, we may be at that point trained to feel those stories are somehow "inferior" or "worse" than our previously determined benchmark for excellence.

All of the writers in this anthology are excellent writers. I don't doubt their talent or ability for a moment, and I'm sure they've all written mind-blowing stories. But how many of us can easily think of a woman or PoC of equal caliber? There are many reasons why they may not have been included in this anthology, and I won't speculate. But the reality is that the many fine women and PoCs out there writing mind-blowing stories seem invisible when these opportunities come around.
Samantha Brandt
36. Talia
Is the suggestion here that any anthology that gets put together, an effort should be made by the editor to ensure women and various ethnicities are represented, rather than focusing entirely on the theme and quality of the stories?

Since when did gender and race become more important than the stories themselves? This is not to say women /PoC don't write great SF, it just so happened that perhaps he had a greater quantity of material from white men to work with. I donno. I agree with the point that the anthology SEEMS to be meant to be inclusive, by which it should at MINIMUM have some female authors (I don't know about anyone else but I, for one, have no idea of the ethnicity of 99% of the authors I read. Its just not something I pay heed to). Mr. Ashley's posted response above suggests the anthology was meant to be a little more specifically themed than the cover implies, however.

Rather than an atrociously sexist/racist crime, call this a case of poor title choice, mayhap.
Jesús Couto Fandiño
37. Breogan
May I point out that I'm starting to feel fear every time "the community", "the genre", or things like that get mentioned?

Mainly cause even if I love SF and talk about it and bond with people of similar tastes, I dont think there is any supraorganism I owe fealty to or something. I deal with "the genre" on a story by story basis.

I can surely accept that for a lot of people this is not a compilation of the best in "mind-blowing" SF (I agree - no P. K Dick?) - I dont agree with the publisher or the editor having failed "the community", "the genre", or anything.
Samantha Brandt
38. Talia
I, for one, welcome our new community overlords.

;)
K Tempest Bradford
39. ktempest
Just a quick comment on those who were "irked" by the commentary at the angry black woman and find the conversation at SFSignal to be more soothing and "rational": check your privilege, please. Just because something is not said with the right "tone does not make the argument invalid. And though you may find it personally uncomfortable when people react in anger to racist or sexist speech, bear in mind that they are reacting to racist and sexist speech. If you're going to let the tone of someone's comments keep you from feeling that said person has the right of things, it's not the tone that's the problem.

Also note: the "tone" of my comments on the SFSignal thread before and then after Paul Di Filippo came along.
Pablo Defendini
40. pablodefendini
I’m not going to address the issues in the post directly right now—my own feelings on the matter as a white-skinned Puerto Rican who feels ‘other’ both in the States and back ‘home’ is an issue for another day (for a close approximation to my experiences, see Toby Buckell. We have very similar backgrounds). But as her boss, I’d like to add a bit to what Torie @ 35 said and address a couple of the commenters here directly:

Bloggeratf @24
making angry blog posts on a corporate website only serves to inflame the situation and polarize debate even further.


As the person who runs Tor.com, and the person on whose desk the buck stops, so to speak (in public, at least; I do have a boss, of course), I want to publicly declare my support for AJ. She’s right: we encourage these kinds of posts, we prioritized this one in particular, and we give them their due space, because these conversations are important, for better or for worse. The only way we’ll get to a place where we don’t have to have them anymore is if we continue to call out this type of behaviour wherever it pops its ugly head, regardless of whether it was an intentional thing or not. And you bet your ass it polarizes the debate, and inflames the situation: that's actually the idea. You bring these issues into the harsh light of day so that they are always in people's minds. That way the next time an editor sits down to prepare an anthology, he or she has to think about them before, say, putting together a list of authors for an anthology with nothing but white dudes in it.

As for being a corporate site, well, while technically we *are* corporate-owned, we are deciedly *not* Tor Books’ or Macmillan’s corporate sites. Those are us.macmillan.com and tor-forge.com, respectively. As such I have absolutely no responsibility to toe a party line in the way that you imply: by keeping the content on here innocuous and inoffensive. This is a group blog, among other things, and our bloggers are encouraged to share their opinions about the things that they are passionate about. You or I may not agree with every viewpoint put forth on the site (I know I don’t, although in this particular case I do), but that diversity of opinion is what makes this site worth coming to on a daily basis. Otherwise it would be a pretty boring place, and nothing more that the very thing I’ve worked very hard to prevent it from becoming: a marketing shill site for Macmillan and Tor Books.

Breogan @34
Eh... this is getting to RaceFail territory very quickly.


No, it’s not, not by a long shot. Invoking something like RaceFail is simply your way of diminishing or offhandedly disregarding this conversation, by placing it squarely in the context of another, similar but not identical conversation about the same issues, which went south in a big way. In other words, you’re ascribing the fail from RaceFail to this conversation not on its merits, but by association, and dismissing the current conversation in a rather underhanded attempt at rhetorical thread-hijacking. Let’s stay the hell away from doing that, okay? These are conversations that need to happen, and they need to happen in a calm environment where people feel comfortable talking about issues they feel very passionate about. If you don’t want to be a part of the conversation, there’s a great wide internet out there. Go to icanhazcheezburger.com or something, if it really bothers you that much, you don’t have to be on our site if you don’t want to be.
Madeline Ferwerda
41. MadelineF
And this is why I roll my eyes at giving the WSFS $50 for the priviledge of nominating for the Hugos. Go ahead, ask someone at Worldcon to do a survey of who walks by. I did last year. 97% white.

$50 I could pay, after $120-300 for just-published hardcovers, to try to get a couple voices that weren't white men noticed; but my natural allies, women and POCs, are also the people who are placed into poorer strata, so there aren't a lot there to support me.

And thus, it follows that the best sci-fi is written by white men!
Stephen W
42. Xelgaex
I would not lose my time crying Racisms and Sexism at the issue - I would employ my time in making an Anthology, or two or three, that satisfy that kind of criteria.


Of course, it would take an awful lot of crying racism and sexism to equal the amount of time and effort that putting together an anthology would take.

And since one takes vastly less resources than the other, they aren't exactly mutually exclusive. There are plenty of factors could keep an anthology from being produced, but the odd blog post on the part of the hypothetical editor is not one of them.
Kage Baker
43. kagebaker
On the other hand...

I've just come across a reference to Mike Ashley's "The Mammoth e-Book of Mind-Blowing Mars SF", which is mostly if not exclusively composed of stories by women.

On the other other hand, the novella version of my "Empress of Mars" is in there, and I don't recall being asked if it could be included.
GoblinRevolution
44. seth e.
To the people on this thread who are deploring "quotas," or saying things like "Since when did gender and race become more important than the stories themselves? As though the editor just happened to have better sf stories to work with from white guys: look at to the one commenter on the original thread who actually crunched a couple of numbers (Ian Osment at 3:06, August 4, there's no direct link). If x is the percentage of sf authors who are white guys, then the odds of a 21-story TOC having nobody else at all in it are x^21. As Osment points out, if SF is 97% white and male, the odds of an all-white-male TOC are 50/50. If SF is only 80% white and male--that is, twice the proportion of white males in the general American population--the likelihood of an all-white-male TOC goes down to 1%. That this just happened to occur naturally isn't really credible, especially since it's just happened to occur so often before. In general, "just happened" is always a suspicious phrase. Things like this are always historically conditioned, like everything else.

Other people, including white male authors! have commented on both threads on the specific important, influential female authors of mind-blowing fiction who seem weird by their collective absence in a collection of "the finest." My favorites are Ursula Le Guin, Nancy Kress, Judith Merrill, Octavia Butler. Of course they wouldn't all fit in there, but none of them?

In conclusion: Come on.
Jesús Couto Fandiño
45. Breogan
@pablodefendini

"This" was not the conversation in this site. Yet, and I hope never.

"This" was the issue of the anthology and what few lines I managed to read on SFSignal before walking away, which stared intelligent and polite enough and degenerated into calls of priviledge, racism, boicot, namecalling, "I'll never buy your books", etc.

Sorry for not being clear. And the fact that I'm trying to post here means that I have a interest in the issue - even if it is not the same reading of the issue as you, I hope it is clear I think is important to talk about this kind of issues

But now let me ask a general question - the idea is "airing" it, or just if one has the correct position to make, whoever determines that? Cause - as in the previous cases - what I'm fearing from this kind of "community outrage" is that for most of the involved and anybody looking at it trying to learn something about how to conduct your business/marketing/writing/etc on the internet, the lesson is clear - dont waste your time. The possibilities of getting labeled as an awful human being that should not recieve the attention of "the community" for what seems to be at the very worst sins of omission are too high.

This can only serve to alienate people away. Not to bring the "minority" (quotes here cause thats kind of US centric in some cases) writers the spotlight they deserve and the awareness they need - it just gets to the point that the best strategy you can follow is to get out and dont do anything related to the "community". Walk away, its not worth the aggravation.

BTW - I'm white but not American myself (Spanish via Venezuela here - not at home anywhere, too). I know many of this issues are incredibly polarizing in the States, which is still the "default scenario" for SF Fandom. Not that the issues dont exist anywhere else - mostly that SF is even more marginal. But again, my wish and recommendation is that anybody feeling that women/blacks/asians/whatever dont get the recognition in fandom that they deserve is to stop chasing what you percieve as failures in others, whoever right you are about it, and focus on creating and delivering the alternatives.

Cause instead of having this kind of fight and anger and negativity tainting the "community", we could be having an enourmously more enjoyable conversation about a kickass anthology that reflects that kind of plurality the most vocal people argue for, and that I'm sure most of us not-so-vocal desire to see.
JS Bangs
46. jaspax
ktempest@39: I dunno. There's a place for ranting, yes, and everyone loves to indulge in some righteous indignation every now and then. The problem is that, even as someone who substantially agrees with the content of the argument, the tone was so caustic that my inclination was to disassociate myself from it and to maybe go hide under a rock somewhere. I think that, as arachne pointed out, this plays well to the main audience of that blog, but I'm not part of that audience.

I thought about this a lot yesterday. Basically, I came down to this: SFF is diverse and getting more so, and an anthology which claims to be representative but includes only a bunch of safe, old-school white guys writing about giant buildings in space is a piss-poor representation of the genre. So, like I said above, this is not an antho that I'm likely to read. Having said that, I don't think that every anthology builder has an imperative duty to ensure that they include women and POC in their contents. If the selection criteria aren't inherently biased ("pick hard SF stories from famous authors"), but they nonetheless result in a skewed sample, I don't think that we have the basis for so much outrage. The editor should think about implicit biases in his criteria, and people who care should vote with our dollars by buying something else, but I don't think that the anthology itself deserves to become the object of so much anger. Hopefully this makes sense.

Now where did I put my privilege? I know I left it around here somewhere...
Kage Baker
47. kagebaker
Update: I jumped the gun; "The Mammoth e-Book of Mindblowing Mars SF" is a hoax, put together by a blogger as commentary on the current flap.
Dave Thompson
48. DKT
AJ, you've definitely made me want to pick up the Federations anthology.
GoblinRevolution
49. aleistra
Just as a thought experiment, what if the results had been exactly opposite? If, purely by chance, it had ended up with no white guys? Would you reflexively feel that this was a problem that needed to be fixed?

How nice it must be to live in a world where you can legitimately consider those scenarios to be exactly parallel. One where there isn't any systematic racism and sexism, where an occasion of an all-male grouping is just pure chance, where there couldn't possibly be any reasons other than happenstance for women and PoC to be underrepresented in an anthology, or in science, or in the US Senate. One where each of a dozen incidents of anthologies with no women in the table of contents, or women in the table of contents but who don't get their names on the cover, can be considered in a vacuum as something that "just happened", because of course the editors aren't evil people who hate women and PoC, so there couldn't possibly be anything to talk about. I'd like to visit someday.
Samantha Brandt
50. Talia
#49: if you're assuming that the opposite of all those statements is true in this instance, that's a really rather depressing mindset to have. Not to mention wickedly unfair to ascribe such practices to Mr. Ashley.
GoblinRevolution
51. R. Emrys
I admit I read the first comment and thought, "Oh G-d, I just did this yesterday," so I haven't scanned between all the people who think this shouldn't be an issue to see who's mentioned which anthologies. Duplicates may be in store.

Upstairs, which is authors A-B, I find the following majority-female anthologies. I'm afraid I don't know the racial balance on them, and if I stop to look them up in full, my colleague with whom I have a grant deadline will be legitimately annoyed with me. Several of the names I recognize are definitely POC. Anyway:

Wizards, Inc., Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Loren L. Coleman. Haven't read the whole thing yet, but includes several authors I trust.
The entire Sword and Sorceress series, Edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Kind of a mixed bag--some very good stories, some eh. This series has recently started up again, I presume with similar levels of gender balance.
Women at War, Edited by Lois McMaster Bujold. Possibly my favorite anthology ever. Maybe one or two stories of the lot are less than perfect.

Finally, I just checked the TOC for the Vandermeer's Fast Ships, Black Sails, and while there are only 7/18 stories by women, they're all really good. Even if you don't normally like pirates. This is notable for not having a remotely gender-based theme--the editors obviously just wanted to get some of the best people working in the field--and is probably representative of what actually happens when you roll the contributor dice without bias.
GoblinRevolution
52. BooksonMars
kagebaker@#47: Although "The Mammoth e-Book of Mindblowing Mars SF" was inspired by and is a commentary on the current flap, it is not a hoax. It is a real anthology with 20 great works, all of which can be read for free online.
GoblinRevolution
53. firkin
talia@50: i can't comment on what aleistra was or wasn't assuming, but since i agreed substantially with the comment@49, i'll say this.

it doesn't sound to me like aleistra was "ascribing" any "practices" to anyone in particular, they are saying that in a society thoroughly saturated by racism and sexism, you don't get by chance or happenstance or accident, and you cannot consider them to be independent, unrelated incidents. they are related outcomes, because the odds are stacked.

re: depressing. are you familiar with the saying "if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention" ?
GoblinRevolution
54. stormy_winters
I'm a science fiction sexist. Maybe racist too.

Women don't write science fiction the way I like it. They generally focus on personalities and relationships - I prefer my science fiction hard.

When the author of a science fiction story is female, I skip it.

Science fiction is white guys. That's how it is.

Not to say there aren't exceptions, of course, but they're damn few and far between.
Torie Atkinson
55. Torie
@ 54 stormy_winter

You're so right! I've never seen a good hard SF story written by a woman. Especially those softies Elizabeth Moon, C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Joan Slonczewski, Leigh Brackett, James Tiptree, Jr., Sarah Zettel, Eleanor Arnason, Julie Czerneda, Catherine Asaro, Laura Mixon, Connie Willis...

And man, nothing ruins a great story like people and relationships. I can't believe we teach Shakespeare in school!

You might want to be sure to avoid stories with women in them, too. That's why I stick to Plato, Aristotle, some of the manlier Catullus repetoire.
Kage Baker
56. kagebaker
Hee hee... title shoulda been "The Mammoth Book of Space Erections".

In Mike's defense, he just invited me to contribute to one of his anthologies.
GoblinRevolution
57. stormy_winters
@ #55 Torie

Yes, exceptions exist. For example, I like Cherryh very much.

Are you telling me what kind of science fiction I should prefer?
Arachne Jericho
58. arachnejericho
I'm very tired and too run down to take full stock of the comments thus far, much less respond, but Kage Baker @ 56 for the WIN!
GoblinRevolution
59. huzzah
@ stormy_winters - It's not this particular anthology, necessarily, but the pattern of predominately (or 100%, in this case) all-male, all-white anthologies that seems to be telling me what kind of SF to prefer.

Not having the wherewithal to make my own anthology, I will support the ones I want to read with my wallet -- as, I'm sure, will you.
GoblinRevolution
60. BritMandelo
@commenter who spoke about every author writing from their life, so it's important to have women and PoC

Actually, it would be a damn boring field if we all wrote exactly from our life experiences without experimenting and making an attempt to explore other social issues and experiences. I write predominantly male characters. I'm a woman. This isn't me being sexist; but if you squinted, well, damn, I suppose I should just be writing about women because that's my life experience.

I've read a plethora of male authors who write female characters and female issues well. Ditto black authors who write from Asian perspectives, etc. Or even white people writing about PoC!

I think it's extremely important to consider the content of the story. If a PoC wrote a story about white guys in space, and a white guy wrote a story about PoC in space, which would be more important in representing PoC in SF literature? (Assuming they were both well handled, truthful, and respectful.)
Arachne Jericho
61. arachnejericho
Brit, said commenter did not claim that people can/should only write
from their experiences. We all have different experiences that shape our lives, and they affect or writing *beyond* simply writing "the other perspective."

It would be silly to posit that the point of view brought along by PoC and women and other minorities is simply interchangable.

I suppose this is to say: it probably doesn't occur to many writers to consider the Caribbeans as a legitimate player in the race for space. Unless you happen to be of Caribbean descent, the probability of such is much lower.

And this happens for quite a few options, which do not naturally occur to people who've not had the experience. For instance, the incongruities of growing up Chinese in America.

Or the road that leads you to hate your own race, the history that boiled up because of the American---excuse me, in the West it's called the Vietnam--the treatment of Vietnamese refugee parents in middle America?

What about an alternative history about the making of a Japanese American President from the viewpoint of a Japanese reporter? No one wanted to write that save for the writer of Eagle: The Making of a Japanese-American President. Japanese-American.

Being from a different culture or social strata or whatever is valuable and not as effectively replaced by "just about anybody."

The idea that these perspectives have nothing new to offer that can't be home-grown, as it were, in the dominant culture is naive. A view I once had, and have grown past as I read more fiction from both dominant culture and those outside of it.
Pam K
62. PamK
BritMandelo @60:

It's an awfully big jump from "Writers' life experiences influence their art" to "writers should *only* write about things which directly reflect their life experiences." For one thing, the former is descriptive, while the later is prescriptive. I don't believe anybody in this comment thread has seriously claimed the latter, and if they did, I would disagree strongly.

The point I was trying to make in my comment @33 is only that people who like to virtuously "an author's background is irrelevant to my understanding of a story" are not coming off as clever as they think they are, and they might want to try branching out in their reading material. It could--dare I say it--blow their minds.
Kelly McCullough
63. KellyMcCullough
It's seriously not cool for something calling itself "The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction" to have an entirely white male TOC. For the record, I'm saying this from the perspective of a white male f&sf author.
GoblinRevolution
64. Brickhaus
Does an anthology dedicated to mindblowing SF care if it is cool or not? Does it not care more about stretching ideas of the mind rather than the diversity of its authors?

Is this an example of actual racism / gender bias or merely apparent racism / sexism?
Mary O'Dea
65. thorn
The disturbing thing about this anthology of all-white-male writing, is this. Writing is not 'racial' or 'gendered'. That is, one really cannot discern an author's gender from reading a piece of writing. And: There is an entire world of *fantastic* authors of all stripes creating *absolutely mind-blowing stories*. Many many many non-white and/or non-male authors. In other words, if you swing a dead cat in a roomful of talented and imaginative writers, a significant percentage of those whom you'll hit with said cat (sorry, kitty..) will be non-white, and/or non-male.

This tells me that if the white, maleness of the authors in the anthology was not *intentional* (and to my nose it smells like it was), the editor -- as an individual who obviously consciously selects only white male author product to *read* -- was not qualified to edit an anthology.

Meaning. The effort was either engineered to deny opportunity to a huge segment of talented authors, or is the product of incompetence.

Needless to say, I'll be passing on this one.
GoblinRevolution
66. Athena Andreadis
The persistent automatic assumption that white Anglo-saxon men are normative is not unique to sf. It permeates other self-designated "progressive" movements:

Is It Something in the Water? Or, Me Tarzan, You Ape

Athena Andreadis
Starship Reckless
To Seek Out New Life
GoblinRevolution
67. Kaleberg
I haven't been reading a lot of SF lately, but I had imagined that this kind of thing had been sorted out ages ago. About 15 years ago the journal Science ran one of their survey articles on something or another biological, and an astute reader wrote in saying that it had been mistitled. It wasn't a survey of scientists, but of white male scientists, and should have been labeled as such. There was a fair bit of discussion, but I've noticed that ever since then Science has been very careful to survey all sorts of scientists, even those with feminine first names, oddly embedded apostrophes, high syllable counts and initial Xes. Anyone who picks up the journal and reads a more recent survey will realize implicitly that there are all sorts of biologists, astronomers, materials scientists, chemists, genomics database hackers and so on. Given the number of women I know who love sh-- kickin' space opera, it's high time that science fiction started showing us more kinds of science fiction writers.
GoblinRevolution
71. Hillbillyscientist
I don't want you to imagine this sounding bitchy. It's supposed to be encouraging.
If you find a lack of something, write it yourself! I believe there's an adage that goes 'write the book you'd like to read' or something like that. And hey, who better to successfully portray what it is like to be a dudette and/or asian person?
Nothing's stopping you from writing your heart out, after all.
And if you do that, you'll be doing something constructive instead of saying "I want you to write sci fi that caters to meeeee". Would you want to write sci fi about white dudes for white dudes? I imagine not.

Okay so I hope my point came across.
GLHF.

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