Women in Science Fiction

Over at io9, Annalee Newitz has written a post about “What Chicks Don’t Like About Science Fiction.” If you’re a woman and you like your Science Fiction extra crispy, thank you very much, go chime in as a commenter. The discussion has turned to what kind of market share women have in the genre, which led me to the Broad Universe statistics page. Digging in to these numbers has highlighted a few trends I didn’t quite quantify before.

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In 2007, of the number of forthcoming books as reported by Locus almost 40% were written by female authors. That was up about 8% from 2000, and I feel comfortable saying that we could gain that much again in half the time if the trend continues. So, by 2012 half of Science Fiction writers could be female.

Of the various writing awards in the genre, the Philip K. Dick, Hugo and World Fantasy awards are still quite male dominated. From 1990-1999, 1 woman and 10 men were awarded the Philip K. Dick Award. In the same time frame, 13 women and 28 men won the Hugo. However, in that same time span, women closely edged out men in winning the Joseph Campbell award (6 women, 5 men) while 19 women and 21 men won the Nebula. There are two Campbell awards, so I’m unsure which one this statistic refers to, but if it’s the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, that award is a little unique in that winners are chosen by a jury — and in 2006 three of the eight jurists were female.

In 2001, the National Science Foundation reports that a nearly equal number of women and men read Science Fiction magazines and books: Out of 823 women and 751 men in the data set that 28% of women and 31% of men read Science Fiction. So, of the approximately 1,500 people in the data set, 230 women and 232 men read Science Fiction.

While researching the statistics in this post, I came across a transcript of a speech that Hugo and Nebula award winning author Nancy Kress gave in 1993 where she provides and excellent overview of how Science Fiction has changed as a genre and how female characters and writers have factored into the equation. One great quote:

If true equality presume that all, or most, readers will respond to a work of fiction solely on the basis of its quality, no matter what gender wrote it or what gender are the main characters, then no, we don’t have equality within science fiction. And we never will, because people don’t read only for literary quality. They read to see themselves in books, people they can identify with. And for that to happen, many people need to see someone of the same gender as they are in the central role in order for the identification to fully happen.