Review Copies: Random Gender Distribution or Directed Traffic?

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Recently I’ve been having a discussion on my podcast and elswhere on the Internet about the problem of gender balance in fiction, particularly the anthology that sparked a bit of a controversy a couple of weeks ago. One thing that has come to my attention due to that discussion and due to the list I posted the other day is that my own reading has been heavily skewed towards the male end of the spectrum. Why? It’s not a conscious or subconscious choice. Most of my reading is for school, so by default much of what I read are “classics” or subjects that are, unfortunately, heavily male. The other side of this, however, is something I want to talk about here: review copies.

Looking back at all the books I have received for review, I can honestly say that only a dozen of those titles have been by women (not a terrible number, but also not ideal). On the one hand, I am very grateful to publishers who have been gracious enough to send me books for review, firstly because I have been exposed to a number new and amazing writers, male and female, and secondly because I like free books. On the other hand, however, I find it very curious that so many of the books I have received have been by male authors. Strangely enough, most of what I receive for review are fantasy novels, which is rather female heavy–at least, when you compare it to science fiction.

This has raised a few questions:
–Does my gender have something to do with what publishers decide to send me? Tor, for example, publishes a lot of books every year, and obviously can’t send them all to me, knowing that I can’t possibly read them all. So, they have to decide which books to send to me, and which books not to. Does my gender play into that?

–Are certain publishers more male heavy than others? I know that men publish more SF than women (and I imagine that’s true of fantasy as well), but is it possible that certain publishers are more male heavy than others, and push male authors over female ones? I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but it’s a question I asked myself anyway.

–Who are the new SF/F female writers in the field right now? Not folks who have been at it for a decade, but folks who have only begun publishing novels in the last year. Who are they and do they matter to the genre? If not, why not or why should they? I’m asking this not because I think women don’t matter to the genre, but because I’m curious if they have an impact on genre right now or if they are sort of hidden in the shadows.

Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on this, or am I just talking to myself in the corner?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

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