Difficulty of Diversity: Race & Gender

16 Nov

Today’s post is brought to you again by Editor Ed, continuing his exploration of diversity in anthologies. Ed is a long-time small press publisher, editor, and author.

In my previous post, I discussed how genre anthologies are frequently criticized for being dominated by straight white male authors, and how I wanted to have a more diverse collection of authors in my first anthology.  I also mentioned how my open submission call resulted in disappointingly few stories from women, even fewer from people of color, and a completely unknown amount from LGBT+ authors.  Finally, I said I had a few guesses about why that happened. Today I’ll offer my theories (and ask if you readers have any others).

For my first anthology, Corporate Cthulhu, fewer than 5% of the submissions I received were from racial minorities.  Worse, one of those stories (from a Latin American author) was automatically disqualified for some shockingly misogynistic content.  Worst of all, 0% were from African-Americans.

Why?

I’ve mulled this problem over for the last few years.  Perhaps the underrepresentation of racial minorities in genre fiction has less to do with discrimination and more to do with… well, numbers.  According to the 2010 US Census (a decade ago now, so take it with a grain of salt), 72% of the US population is white.  In retrospect, I guess it’s not really surprising that most of the story submissions I received came from authors representing this largest segment of the population.  In contrast, African-American are less than 13%, Asian-Americans are around 6%, and Native Americans are just under 1%.  Was it perhaps simply unrealistic of me to expect a large number of story submissions from such a small segment of the population?  Possibly.  But there’s still quite a gap between the US population being 28% minority, and the submissions I received from minorities being only 5%.  That suggests there are other factors at work besides simple numbers… I just don’t know what they are.

But what about women?  They form half the population.  So why were only a fifth of the stories I received submitted by women?  Could it possibly have been the genre?  After all, if I’d been organizing an anthology of romance stories, I suspect the majority of my submissions would have been from women.  Perhaps women just aren’t as interested in horror stories as men?

I dug around on the internet trying to find market research info, but wasn’t very successful.  The closest data I could find was an analysis of the horror movie audience—not the same as horror fiction writers, of course, but better than nothing.  That study found that horror movie fans are roughly 60% male and 40% female.  Still, given that only 20% of the submissions I received were from women, there’s still a sizable gap to be explained.

There’s one last underrepresented category of writers to consider: LGBT+ authors.  Fairly representing that group in an anthology, however, presented an entirely different set of challenges.  I’ll get to that in the next post.

Do you guys have any ideas about what other factors could be at play?  Things I missed, or just didn’t think of?  Are there any other editors in this blog’s audience who have experienced similar problem?  If so, how did you fix them?  Please leave any thoughts in the comments, I’ll be very interested to read them.

One Response to “Difficulty of Diversity: Race & Gender”

  1. Jordan Hoggard November 16, 2020 at 9:06 am #

    I appreciate you exploring this, and you have put together 2 solid pieces with these two articles. Have you explored Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks “Dignity Of Difference”? (3rd video down as he passed last week, and I had this top of mind on a recent post)

    https://jordanhoggard.com/2020/11/15/reverence-to-rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks-who-passed-last-week/

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