From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

In A Teapot: All the Important Awards

One of the recipients of the 2007 World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards was beloved writer Diana Wynne Jones. Her acceptance speech, read by Firebird editor Sharyn November, was moving and awesome and I immediately wanted to post it everywhere on the Internet. Lucky for those who could not attend, Ms. Jones published the speech on her website.

There was one part that particularly struck me:

I am really very grateful for this Award. […] When I first started getting work published, I used to have wistful thoughts at the way all important awards were given to men. Women, I used to think, could be as innovative, imaginative and productive as possible – and women were the ones mostly at work in the field of fantasy for children and young adults – but only let a man enter the field, and people instantly regarded what he had to say and what he did as more Important. He got respectful reviews as well as awards, even if what he was doing — which it often was — was imitating the women. But you have changed all that.

Thank you for being so enlightened.

Go read the whole thing.

This year’s World Fantasy Award judges were all male, but were aware of how problematic that was. In the end, they delivered an amazingly balanced ballot (amazing only when compared to, say, the Hugos.) Of the eleven awards, seven went to women. So this year, at least, some of the important awards went to women, too.

Not all, though. Compare the 2007 Hugo and Nebula ballots and winners. There were only six women nominated in the thirteen Hugo categories, and only two of those women were nominated for their writing. The rest were either editors or artists. Only one woman won — for non-fiction. (A woman won the not-a-Hugo Campbell award as well.) The Nebulas fared better, with fourteen nominations for women in six categories,including the Andre Norton Award for young adult fiction. Three of the eight winners were women.

Does the disparity of male vs. female writers on these ballots have anything to do with who is responsible for the nominations and picking the winners? For the Hugos, it’s the members of Worldcon, many of whom are fans. The Nebulas are nominated and voted on by SFWA members, the genre’s professionals. The World Fantasy Award ballot is a mixture of jury selection by professional writers and editors and WFC member nominations.

Given this data, and looking at other awards in the field, do people still feel that male writers are getting more attention and awards for doing what women writers have always done and (possibly) did better? Is this year’s Hugo ballot just an aberration and not the rule?

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