1) There is a bias against female SFF writers
2) There are fewer new female SFF than male authors each year because of it
3) There is a bias amongst reviewers that indicates the same
4) Does it matter?
I wanted to add my own two cents here. I'm going to make a little list.
- If I am guilty of reviewer's bias, it is certainly not a conscious one. Unfortunately, that doesn't make it any less of a bias.
- I certainly am guilty of reader's bias.
- I like central male characters, a bias that has nothing to do with the sex of the author, but my own preconceptions about viewpoint have, in ignorance, played to that point.
- Publishers have to play to their audiences.
- Yes, it matters, and yes we should at least make the occasional effort to expand our horizons.
2. I had to think, in my history, what else have I read by female fantasists? Certainly almost the entirety of Margaret Weis's collection. Raistlin Majere is certainly one of my favorite fantasy characters of all time, and he was her creation. Recently, I read Robin Hobb's series, Assassin and Magic Ship, and Fool, or whatever the three series are called together. And, I just found out that C.S. Friedman was a female, and I loved her Coldfire Trilogy. All three of these women wrote incredibly strong, very detailed, and very interesting male central characters. Did I think them less genuine because of that? Not at all. I was impressed by Robin Hobb's epic, but I confess, it wasn't my cup of tea. I don't know if that had anything to do with the sex of the author. It was a problem, or question of the theme. I just left feeling somehow disastisfied. I also read some C.J. Cheryh back in the 90s. That's about it. As I confessed years ago, I typically pick out books by the covers. So if the publisher laid out for a good bookcover, and the book was at least four-hundred pages... there was a pretty good shot I'd try it.
3. Even though I quite like Jim Butcher's Furies series, I find the parts with Amara and her husband Bernard saccharine to the point of distaste. I am a man, and the story has to appeal, find common ground with me. I know a number of people who hated Rand al'Thor and the Ta'veren Trio, but his story always had a great deal of appeal to me. Particularly as the 'nice' boy began to fade, and rage began to consume him in the ladder half of the series. And I've spoken to some female fandom who find all three of them, Rand, Mat and Perrin inherently boring. Still given what I pointed out above at the capacity of female authors to write excellent male characters, I suppose this bias really must end.
4. I had this conversation with a female anthropology professor (not my wife) once, regarding the sexualization of female body parts in comic book characters. And she showed me this image:
HawkEye Initiative, check this out.
5. None of that matters. The critics are right. An effort must be made, it is simply the right thing to do. I have three library books in my possession right now, all male authors. But my next review, I promise will be by a female author.