The 2011 SF Count

Posted by Niall Harrison

Introduction

It's back, by popular demand. Last year, following VIDA's analysis of the gender balance at mainstream book review venues, we put together a similar count for (some) sf venues. VIDA repeated their count last month, so here we are again. Thanks to Liz Batty, Liz Bourke, Martin Lewis, Juliet McKenna and Abigail Nussbaum for help preparing this year's analysis. The raw data can be found in this Google spreadsheet.

Notes on methodology: we counted the number of reviews of prose books (novels, short stories, and non-fiction) authored or edited by women and by men, with appropriate fractions in cases with multiple authors or editors, published in each venue in 2011. We also counted the number of men and women reviewing for each venue, that is, the number of people who had at least one review published in that venue in 2011. We included reviews of non-2011 books. We did not track numbers for individual reviewers across different venues. We did not track the specific genres or subgenres reviewed. We did not track coverage in non-review formats (e.g. essays, interviews). We've used bar charts rather than pie charts for ease of comparison. In all charts, women are in blue and men are in red.

Baseline demographics

As last year, we set out to provide some context for the count by making a count of Locus books received listings, which is the best proxy I'm aware of for what gets published in the sf field. We counted the US and UK listings for March, June and September 2011. Overall, 47% of titles listed were written or edited by women, 53% by men; that's closer to parity than last year. It also obscures a large difference between the US and the UK. In the US, last year, Locus received very nearly equal numbers of books written/edited by men and women. In contrast, only 1 in 3 books received from the UK was written or edited by a woman.

To repeat the caveats from last year's survey: Locus listings include all books received, not just 2011 titles (so, for instance, a reprint of Frankenstein or new editions of every volume of A Song of Ice and Fire would be included). Multiple books by the same author are counted separately, so this doesn't tell us what the overall proportions of men and women involved in the field are. Gender assignment is based on assumptions, and may not be accurate if people don't identify as men or women, or if there are many pseudonyms in use.

The SF Count 2011

Percentages, in alphabetical order by venue. Summaries at the bottom.

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

Asimov's continues to have a very small, all-male reviewing staff.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone

Unsurprisingly the highest representation of women on both counts. New entry not counted last year.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

A substantial increase in the coverage of women since last year.

Foundation

UK-based academic journal.

Interzone

Locus

The Cushman effect described last year remains in effect; that is, excluding Carolyn Cushman's column, which covers 8-10 books per issue in short (paragraph) reviews, Locus covers 35% works by women and 65% works by men.

The New York Review of Science Fiction

The SF Site

Science Fiction Studies

Academic journal based in the US. New entry not counted last year.

SFX

Glossy UK magazine.

Strange Horizons

Tor.com

New entry not counted last year.

Vector

Journal of the British Science Fiction Association.

Summaries

Summary for books reviewed

Summary for reviewers

Changes from 2010


           

Comments (8)


Did you intend to make women blue and men pink?


Thank you so much for adding Tor.com this year.


Fred: Yep, VIDA started with the colours that way around, and we're staying consistent with them.

Jo: No problem, it was an obvious omission last year.


Thanks for this, Niall. This is useful, valuable data.


Critical presence of women is pretty interesting. It'd be great if you could send the staffs of these venues a survey to tighten up the methodology--that might also allow you branch out into tracking ethnic diversity. But I realize that's a pipe dream at this point!


Thank you very much for doing this.


This is great but I wish it included Analog Clarkesworld and Lightspeed!


Sam: Or if not a survey, an interview of the reviews editors about their response to the numbers would be interesting. I'm not sure it's appropriate for SH to be the ones who initiate that, but I'd love to see it.

Pete: Well, Clarkesworld and Lightspeed don't run reviews, so until either they start doing so, or we expand the count to include other types of coverage (e.g. interviews) (which we might do at some point), they won't be appearing. Analog by rights should appear, and if someone with a subscription would like to volunteer to track their reviews coverage this year, I'd be very grateful.


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