Ah, how the mighty have forgotten from whence they came.
It's been a week of talking about science fiction. Is there a glass ceiling? Some double standard? Clearly, given some of the posts this week, the answer is yes. (See James Tuck's post and the quote at the beginning of Allison Pang's post for proof.) This amuses me. You see, until the 1960s, science fiction was literature's Rodney Dangerfield. Couldn't get no respect. Didn't matter what you were. Male, female, white, black or pink with purple polka dots. So to read someone like Ben Bova telling women writers that they haven't raised the level of science fiction either as writers or as readers* is vastly ironic.
Any of us can and have rattled off scores of women writing science fiction. Some of us are writing science fiction romance. Some of us write straight, hard scifi. Some of us write psychological and sociological science fiction - which, for whatever twisted reason, is called soft scifi. Some of those women have won the highest awards the genre has to offer. More men than women have won them. So what? Is that a reflection on the quality of writing male versus female? Or a reflection of the numbers of men writing to women writing in the genre? Also, out of curiousity, how many of those men have won Pulitzers? None? Right. (Point of clarification - neither have the scifi women, though I had to look up Margaret Atwood before saying that.) So stow the ego. Clearly the level of science fiction still has a ways to go, eh, boys and girls?
So what's all this about? The idiotic, misogynistic quote, a publisher pretending it's 1950 and telling an author she can't let readers know she's female when she clearly wrote a strong hardcore scifi novel?
Fear. That's the only rational explanation for egregious behavior. I'll also point out that in my opinion, it's a relic. A few frightened old school writers feel the currents of massive change swirling around them and these writers feel unequal to the challenge. Fear and acting out is the result. Women writing scifi are selling and selling well. More men in the scifi are actively encouraging women in the genre. Sure, there's ego jostling and 'my opinion is more valid than your opinion' - but that's human nature and happens in any organization where there are two or more people gathered.
Look. We know that the male brain is wired a particular way - in gross generalization, the male mind isn't set up to carve out relationships and build bridges (unless they get to blow up a bunch of rocks first, then build an actual rather than metaphorical bridge). The female of the species is wired to seek connection and relationship. Is one better and the other worse? Would any of us be sitting here debating the issue without both sexes and both ways of thinking? Both thought processes are necessary for civilization and culture which engenders science and rational thought. That's all kinds of value add. For my part, I'd like to see more men in the romance field - for the same reason - there's a whole other way of looking at romance. And it's just as valid as anyone else's.
The most brilliant thing about the publishing landscape as it exists today is that glass ceilings in any genre no longer signify. They don't matter. Any of us can write our stories and then let the audience decide. I won't claim self-pubbing is a level playing field. It isn't entirely. But if you run into someone else's bias on the road to publication, self-publishing can be a very satisfying way to thumb your nose at the biased dinosaur and move on.
*Part of me wonders if the Ben Bova quote isn't taken out of context - and while it's horrifying standing on it's own, if it came with an exhortation to the assembled audience that women have so very much to offer the genre so get busy and give it our all - I'd be willing to cut Mr. Bova a little slack.