Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sideshow Datapoints—Gender and My Slush Pile

I specify *my* slush pile because I don’t track the numbers for Eric, Chris, or Sarah’s slush. 

As an assistant editor, it is not my job to ensure gender, racial, or ideological parity in science fiction, fantasy, or horror.  This is a point on which I am unwilling to bend.  It is my job instead to find good stories to recommend to the editor.  As a slush reader I am not concerned with equality, per se; Quality alone is king.

However, I recognize that my own biases may operate to alter my perception of what is Quality.  So I try to recognize my biases and not let them come into contact with my judgment.  It’s pretty much all any of us can do to be impartial—studied self-examination.  Like I said to someone once, I find value in placing my unicorns on the altar of self-examination and cutting them open to make sure they aren’t zombie robots.

Here are my percentages by gender and genre.  The period from which the numbers were obtained runs from February 2010 to last month (May 2011).  The chart only takes into account submissions where gender could be determined by name, and where the submission was identified as Science Fiction, Fantasty, or Horror.

Genre

Gender

Total Received

Percentage of Total

Recommendation Rate (Percentage)

Fantasy

Female

65

38

23

Fantasy

Male

104

62

22

         

Horror

Female

1

33

0

Horror

Male

2

67

50

         

Science Fiction

Female

51

25

18

Science Fiction

Male

153

75

30

 

Hopefully, my math is sound.

Looking at the rate that I recommend science fiction written by authors I identified as female versus the authors I identified as male gives me pause; a 12% difference is not insignificant to me.  However, considering that male authors submitted 3 times as many science fiction pieces, I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s more to the story than the idea that I’m a raging chauvanist demon hellboar.

As Edmund said on Magical Words, I cannot control what comes into my slush pile.  In order to determine if the percentages we’re seeing at IGMS are abnormal, I invite slush readers at other mags to lay their unicorns on the table and let us compare anatomies.

That said, I think the numbers support the notion that genders receive fair treatment at Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show.  The thing that we’re looking for—you know, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that what every editor in the field is looking for—are good stories.   

Send some now.

--Scott M. Roberts

Asst. Editor, InterGalactic Medicine Show

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