Realms of Fantasy Magazine recently announced that in August of 2011 they will be releasing a special themed issue of the magazine called “Women in Fantasy.” The idea is that every department will be dedicated to that theme in some way, and only women can submit.
I have mixed feelings about this:
- Are they going to do a “Men in Fantasy” issue? If not, why? While I understand the impetus behind creating the issue, it also has the potential to do more harm than good if the RoF folks aren’t careful. Yes, there should be more women writers in SF/F, but this is going one step farther by intentionally discriminating based on sex, without considering fairness; it could be seen as playing the payback game rather than doing anything for the community as a whole. This, to me, could be as divisive as all the other discussions begun and ended over the last year.
- I don’t think this is nearly as “revolutionary” as the title and the explanation seems to indicate. While there are not enough recognizable female figures in the speculative genres, this is far less true of fantasy than science fiction. Most of the problems with under-representation seem focused more on SF than F. If Analog or Asimov’s were doing a similar thing, then not only would there be more of an uproar (for various reasons, many of them wrong), but such as issue would have a greater impact on the genre. Right now? I don’t see this as being all that revolutionary when you consider that their primary genre (fantasy) is much more friendly to women than other genres (and no, I am not saying that F is perfect at all).
- I agree with one of the commentators that the “Women in Fantasy” idea comes off very much like a stunt. I don’t mind stunts, generally speaking, but when dealing with a clearly sensitive issue, this is problematic.
- I fail to understand why this issue of RoF is “women only” when the theme is “Women in Fantasy.” Is there an assumption that men can’t properly address the topic? Are men assumed to be less adequate at writing female characters or talking about women figures in fantasy? I don’t know. Maybe that’s not what they are thinking, but these are things that pop into my head.
- Generally speaking, I like the idea behind it. I think an issue dedicated to the discussion of women in fantasy (including fiction about women in fantasy worlds) is a fantastic idea. It could turn into something stunning, if done right.
Having said all of this, I’m both curious and put-off by RoF’s “Women in Fantasy” issue. I hope it turns out well, but I think the potential for it to be regarded as something astonishing may be hampered by a failure to address the underlying problems of a gender-specific issue. We’ll see how it turns out.
(Mike Brotherton offers his opinion here.)