Tag Archives: diversity

Difficulty of Diversity: LGBT+

17 Nov

Today Editor Ed finishes his series on diversity in genre fiction to address LGBT+ authors. Ed is a small press publisher, editor, and author for many years.

I mentioned in a previous post that when organizing my first anthology, I idealistically aimed to select a diverse range of authors that represented a variety of gender, race, and sexual orientation—and promptly ran head-first into a brick wall.  For female and minority authors, the problem was a depressingly low number of submissions from those groups.  But there was a different problem with LGBT+ authors, one I hadn’t anticipated …

How do you know if an author is LGBT+?

Unlike race and gender, which an editor can usually determine from an author’s name and photograph on social media, the editor generally can’t determine someone’s sexual orientation just by looking at them.  They have to tell you.  And, for the most part, they don’t.

You see, an author’s sexual orientation isn’t generally the type of information they usually include with their submission cover letter.  They’re typically more concerned with genre, word count, and plot summaries.  Perhaps they understandably fear discrimination if they disclose an LGBT+ orientation.  Or maybe they just don’t think it matters, or shouldn’t matter—and they’re right, it shouldn’t.

In my last submission call, only one author identified their sexual orientation (bi) in their cover letter.  I was able to determine another author’s orientation (also bi) by searching Facebook profiles.  And that’s it.  Two.  Worse, one of them had their story automatically disqualified for some uncomfortably racist subtext.

And all the other authors?  I had absolutely no idea.  For all I know, maybe I did publish a LGBT+ author in that anthology, but just didn’t realize it.

And here’s the thing: it would be horribly inappropriate (and quite possibly illegal) to ask.  I mean, can you image that?   “Excuse me author, I know this is a very personal question about a very private part of your life that’s really none of my business, but what type of people do you like to have sex with?”  I can imagine the lawsuits already!  Besides, I imagine I’d get a lot of answers along the lines of “Why does that matter?” or “What does that have to do with my story?”  And the honest answer is “Nothing.”

I haven’t yet found a solution for this dilemma: How can an editor ensure LGBT+ diversity among an anthology’s authors when the editor doesn’t know their orientations, and can’t ask?

If you readers have any advice or suggestions, please let me know by leaving a comment.  Have you heard of other publishers who have found a way to solve this problem?

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.

Difficulty of Diversity: Race

15 Nov

Today’s post is brought to you by repeated guest, Editor Ed, who has worked as a small press publisher, editor, and author for many years.

When I set out to organize my first anthology, I was aware that genre fiction has been criticized for decades for being dominated by straight white male authors.  Wanting to be a Good Guy™ and help remedy that pattern of poor representation, I added to my submission guidelines “We’re particularly interested in submissions from writers traditionally underrepresented in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fiction, including racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, women, LGBT+ individuals, and people living with disabilities.”  In my mind I was saying, “Behold, ye underrepresented huddled masses!  I, your straight white male savior, have thrown open the gates of my anthology!  Give me your fiction, your stories, your rejected manuscripts yearning to see publication, the hidden treasures of your overflowing hard drive!”  And then I sat back and waited for the flood of submissions from women and minorities.

In retrospect, I was unbelievably naive.

After submissions closed and the demographics of the submitting authors were analyzed, these were the disheartening statistics: Only around 20% of all submission came from women, and less than 5% were from racial/religious minorities.  I didn’t receive a single submission from African-Americans.  And LGBT+?  I have no idea (more about that later).  In the end, my first anthology included stories from one woman, two racial and one religious minority (all men)… and 23 white men (no idea if they were straight).  I’d published exactly the kind of anthology I’d set out NOT to publish.

What happened?

Conventional wisdom has a ready answer to that question: editors and publishers are racist sexist homophobic bigots who discriminate against women and minorities.  Before I did my own anthology, I believed that simplistic explanation—I had to reason not to.  Now, I’m not so sure… at the very least, the situation is a clearly a lot more complicated than I thought.

I’ve been pondering this question for years, and I have a few guess as to why submissions were so low from these author groups.  Just to make things even more complicated, I suspect there might be different explanations depending on if we’re discussing authors of color, female authors, or LGBT+ authors.  In follow-up posts, I’ll share these theories with you, and invite you to share any theories of your own.

For now, what is clear is that simply saying “I welcome submission from women/minorities/LGBT+” is obviously not enough for an editor to assemble an anthology with a diverse selection of authors.  As far as I can tell, indie editors need to actually go out and find women and minorities, and actively encourage them to submit stories to the editor’s anthology.

But how, exactly, does one do that?  Good question.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments.  If you have any other theories as to why submissions from racial/ethnic/religious minorities are so puzzlingly low (or how to fix it), leave those in the comments too, I’d love to hear them.

And the next time you notice an anthology is full of white male authors, please don’t automatically assume the editor is a racist sexist homophobic bigot.  It could simply be that they didn’t have a very diverse pool of story submissions to draw from!

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