Sexism and the Slush Pile
I just read this piece by a Tor editor called “Sexism in Genre Publishing” where she basically says it’s female writers who are at fault for not being more plentiful in the slush pile when it comes to the categories of horror or science fiction. Of course, this ignores several factors, but I’ll discuss one: women are often placed in the YA or urban fantasy/paranormal romance pile by default. Call it marketing reasons or whatever. It happens.
It has happened to me, just today.
I was invited to speak at The Vancouver International Writers Fest. Yay! I’m happy about it. I get paid for the appearance and it’s a big festival. However, today I got my schedule and discovered I’m slotted with a YA author, speaking to Grades 9-12.
True story: I have not published YA.
I am working on a YA novel, but it’s not done (or released). My first collection (which is what landed me at VIWF) is set almost entirely in Mexico and is speculative fiction with horror, science fiction and etcetera. It’s published by a Canadian literary press. It could be considered literary, speculative, Canadian literature or even Latin American writing.
Instead, it seems to have earned me the title of YA author because speculative equals YA. I don’t know. I haven’t even asked the programming person why this is the case, although I’m going to send my publisher a note asking for clarification.
Hey, I’m happy being on ANY panel and if I must speak about YA, I’m sure I can come up with some compelling stuff. This doesn’t mean that we are not shifted and bounced into categories sometimes by default of our skin (Latin American = magic realist) or sex, or any combination of these. And this, in turn, might explain why the categories look the way they do.
Is this a problem? It can benefit authors. One reason WHY writers would want to be classified as YA is that the category is pretty malleable. But it also shows sometimes things may not be as they first appear. And it can also backfire, like when people say there are no female horror writers or women are not interested in this sub-genre.