The Sci-Fi Publishing Elite’s Dirty Little Secret: Anti-Man Discrimination

This week saw me taking a lot of vitriolic hate again from several members of the in crowd in the science fiction publishing establishment. Here’s what happened. I noticed that a group that calls themselves the premier podcast in science fiction, a professional rate paying show called Escape Podcast, was running the fourth iteration of their “women only month” they call Artemis Rising.

Curious about this, I posed a simple question: when are you going to run a men-only issue?

The magazine itself from its professional account responded by mocking me, quoting me in a tweet and unleashing its echo chamber upon me. I was met with derision, mocking, hate, name calling, and I eventually got fed up and started blasting back. Most of those attacking me hard used this as an excuse to show how “evil” I am. A Tor author screen shotted my tweet without showing his first snipe at me from out of the blue and proceeded to rant hard against me on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Several joined in on the hate brigade.

Because I asked a question.

I don’t need a pity party. I know this kind of bigoted hatred is going to come at me every time I get into some serious journalism regarding corruption in the entertainment industry. There’s a simple reason for it: there’s power structures in play here. Most of the people attacking me worked for the podcast itself when I looked into them. A very clear message to any would-be journalist to steer clear of a sensitive topic.

With my journalistic mind however, that makes me more curious. Why is this such a painful question for them to inspire such hatred? They’re supposed to be a professional company that releases fiction at professional rates. The answer I found was staggering.

Much of my interaction came with someone who does work for the podcast. After the initial flurry of angry tweets from him and others calling me names, I hit this guy back like some of the others. But this guy was a bit different, he became open to dialogue and started to tell me the reasoning behind their repeated no-men-allowed months. The excuses wore thin eventually when I gave hard facts and data, which I will present here.

The industry is dominated by men. 

They talk about this fairly regularly and they’re very careful now to say “the genre” not the entire publishing industry now because they’re so used to this argument getting called out as false. As everyone knows, the publishing industry itself is so far dominated by women that even groups like Publisher’s Weekly have wondered if it’s been hurting the industry for years. It’s not even a little skewed, but very big, and it’s been that way for decades. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/44510-where-the-boys-are-not.html  is an interesting article on that topic.  The result of every other genre so far has been to drive male authors out of work and men out of reading entirely – as statistics will show has occurred over the last decades. The Publishing Industry has told men not to read by telling them they’re not welcome.

The focus on genre is disingenuous as the industry itself is fiction book sales. Based on unit sales, science fiction represents 2% of the industry. That means it’s such a small slice that it’s a very niche topic, and it was one where men actually liked to read in the past. But is there really such a discrepancy of men in the fiction field?

If you look at the top publishers, you have Tor who has one of their top editors, Irene Gallo, female. Baen’s EIC is Toni Weisskopf, female. The president of SFWA, the only major professional association of science fiction writers and editors, is female. In fact ,the co-editors of this magazine Escape Podcast are both female – and their associate editors have a staggering six women to two men ratio. Uncanny Magazine, another professional outfit known for their discriminatory issues, popular in the field, which has led to their Hugo award win, also has a female co-editor in chief, with their listed  staff skewing toward women. It appears that on the professional circuit, women are as much in charge of this field as they are the rest of publishing. Perhaps not to such extreme numbers yet, but it’s getting close.

Escape Podcast’s response was a snide and rude one, stating that I should go back 20 years and I’d find lots of men-only anthologies. Another disingenuous statement as there were no men-only solicited magazines and anthologies, even in this male-readership dominated genre, one of the only out there where men like to read. Even if the demographics of the field have changed drastically, how does that justify hard discrimination against men today?

They claimed they don’t discriminate, odd with a highly discriminating topic. And interestingly, the numbers seem to indicate a completely different picture.  We’ll have more on that tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “The Sci-Fi Publishing Elite’s Dirty Little Secret: Anti-Man Discrimination

    • Yes. I’m delving into stats of employees/writers but the main character element is a whole different deal. It would skew things even further.

  1. I think most of the editors in SciFi are female now. I know that DAW is and has been female run for decades now. I used to know who ran the other shops, but haven’t kept up with it. And yes, in the 80’s the word went out that women were ‘under-represented’ in Sci-Fi, (even thought they dominated everything else), so they started leaning heavily towards stories where the protagonist was female.

    If you compare the amount of stories by the big five from that point on, it’s fairly obvious. Look at how many male authors write female leads in their stories now. Look at how few write male leads. Same for women writers.

    It was this sudden surge in stories being aimed at women, and ignoring men (or devaluing men) that led to a lot of men ditching scifi and ditching reading, and moving onto video games. Where the product still appealed to and was aimed at men (Hence why we got gamergate when the folks who hate men tried to change that too). That has also led to the tremendous decrease in the SciFi business, because the overwhelming majority of women prefer to read other genres over SciFi, which had been mostly male readers (though not anymore).

    So the big 5, having successfully driven off a large percentage of their market are now going out of business, as indy authors like myself come along and try to appeal to those customers who were shown the door. Yes, it’s an uphill battle, a lot of men these days have never read a book for fun or recreation. So winning them back to reading is hard, and guess what? Women like reading stories with strong male leads as well!

    So when an indy like myself with a $20 a month advertising budget can out sell and out earn most of TOR’s stable, I think that makes it pretty clear that they’ve made some massive mistakes in their product line.

    • I personally prefer to read male protags doing male protag things, and it’s gotten to the point where, if I actually find one, I pounce on it like a duck on a june bug.

      I also tend to write male protags doing male protag things, and I have a sneaking suspicion that’s why I’m having a hard time breaking into pro-paying short-story markets. My action/pulp/werewolf stuff is apparently not what the editors want to read, and is probably not what their readership wants to read either.

        • Well, their readers. I think they’re catering to a demographic that does not share my taste in either reading or writing, and I wish there were more pro-paying (6c/word or more) venues out there that did.

          As a woman writing male-dominated urban fantasy, I’m doubly cursed. My sex gives me an automatic leg up until those editors read the actual story and go “Oh, hell no.” And my sex and my genre makes my target readership side-eye me because I’m just another woman writing werewolf fiction and so I must be just like Stephanie Meyer, right? So they won’t even give my action/adventure definitely-not-romance-unless-you-squint-super-hard stories a chance.

          Now, I’ve built up a small and ferociously loyal readerbase, but it remains … well. Small. Possibly vanishingly so. Like, sometimes I think I’m shouting into a void when I say HEY I HAVE A NEW THING OUT, YOU SHOULD GO BUY IT.

  2. I’ve worked in publishing in NYC, and I’ll tell you – that even 20 years ago (when I was starting out), the editorial staffs at most of the scifi publishing companies were women. I knew some male editors, but they were surrounded by, and supervised, by women. Also – women were publishing more spec fic even then! So this is not a new thing.

    I might add a logic problem for these ladies: that since gender is fluid anyway, who gives a crap who writes what anyway? Women no longer matter. Feminism no longer matters – because gender doesn’t matter.

    Oh wait, it does only when you say it does. I see.

    • I wholeheartedly endorse Astounding Frontiers. Right now they are not a pro market — royalties only, they need more subscribers to pick up the issues to get there. If you want to just make sci-fi fun again this is where to go.

  3. Pingback: Writing Journal Day 4 – Into the night.

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