You’re Excluding Stories By Straight, White, Cis Men? J’accuse! J’accuse!

You're Excluding Stories By Straight, White, Cis Men? J'accuse! J'accuse!

A year or so ago some dude (whose name I’ve forgotten) who writes reviews of SF/F books noticed that in the year or two (or longer) previous he had not read or reviewed any books by women. This caused him to pause and go: “Huh….” and noodle on in some surface way about how he really should make an effort to read more women.

I suggested that, since he was now aware of the issue, he should do something more “radical” and spend an entire year reading books by nothing but women.

“But I can’t do that!” book review dude exclaimed. “That would be tipping the scale too far. That would be BIAS. That would be excluding men for arbitrary reasons! That would be wrong![1]

I knew, of course, when I made the suggestion he wouldn’t accept it. Because it’s just too much of a hardship to read only women. He even said some shit about how he’d miss out on too many good books by limiting himself that way. There was not enough side-eye in the universe for that conversation.

If you’ve spent most of your adult life reading mostly men without consciously thinking about the fact that you mostly choose books written by men or mostly have books written by men recommended to you or shoved at you as Good, then a year of reading only women is not even enough to balance the scales.

Reading only women for a year takes some thought and effort. And if you do that, people hardly ever assume that it happened Just Because or On Accident or because you were Just Reading The Best Books Regardless Of The Identity Of The Author.

Unlike if you just happen to read only men for 10 years at a stretch.

Funny that.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

The first comment on my latest io9 post pointed out that all the stories I featured are by women, and asked if that was a coincidence. I’ve been running this column regularly since July 2014. It took until February 2015 for someone to notice that. Or, I should probably say, it took until now for someone to ask me about it.

A few hours later another dude came by to confront me about this in more detail. His comment is still “pending,” so it’s not initially visible when you look at the page.

In all seriousness, not trying to be a dick here, but you do seem to be purposefully excluding white men from these roundups, correct? I mean you post almost entirely women writers, and the small handful of male authors you do include are either AOC or queer authors. If you have a criteria other than quality to select or filter authors, then shouldn’t you state so somewhere in these posts? I mean at least be straight up about it. At this point there seem to be far more opportunities, in the short fiction marketplace at least, for authors of color/LGBT authors, since there are magazines who won’t accept submissions from white men altogether. And then you have magazines like Lightspeed who were recently only accepting submissions from LGBT authors for the “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” anthology. I guess I’m seeing a lot of editors/magazines making an effort to increase their magazine’s diversity, when it actually seems like there isn’t a bias against minority authors at all? If I’m wrong then please tell me how so. But if only certain types of people are eligible for these “Best Stories” posts, and if many magazines are refusing submissions from white or straight or male authors, while many others explicitly state they’re looking for diverse voices (Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Lightspeed, et al), then where exactly is the bias? Is it possible this preoccupation with identity politics has gone too far? I guess I’m just saying, if these “Best Stories” posts really mean “Best Stories By Women, LGBT, or AOC” then shouldn’t you say so?

I am certain that this person is not such a regular reader of my column that they know off the top of their heads the makeup of the authors featured. This person went back through all my posts and tallied this info up before coming back with his observations. And in the process assumed not that I just happen to like stories by women, people of color, and LGBT folks better than that of straight, white, cis men, but that I am actively excluding that last category and should be up front about it.

Funny that.

Sunil Patel, who reviews books for Lightspeed, recently tweeted:

Promoting diversity is about boosting underrepresented voices. It is about leveling the playing field. It is no coincidence that my book review column features no white male authors. They can have EVERYWHERE ELSE. Do I feel like I’m discriminating against white male authors? I kind of do. But I also know that women and POC are reviewed less. Those with privilege are getting by just fine on their own. We need to use what privilege we have to boost marginalized voices.

What I do in my column isn’t precisely reviewing. It’s more signal-boosting of the fiction I read that I liked or loved. That’s why it’s called “The Best Stories from…” and not “Stories out this week” or whatever. When I did this on my own I called it Favorite Fiction. It’s a link, an excerpt, and a short paragraph, maybe two, about what struck me about the story, why I liked or loved it, what elements I appreciated. I rarely do anything that looks like a full-on critical analysis–that’s not what the column is for. I also don’t include stories I don’t like in order to explain why I don’t like them.

Still though, I am very aware that my signal-boosting carries meaning. I’m also aware of which kinds of authors often get more boosts in what venues. That kind of thing matters to me.

I will say this plainly: If I read a story and I like it a lot, I would never not include it in my column based on the identity and background of the writer. Because the whole basis of this is what I read and liked.

I’ll also say this plainly: A reviewer who makes the choice to focus exclusively on marginalized voices is making a good choice. There are plenty of places for the privileged to get and gain attention. Making a space for everyone else is not bias, it’s a step towards balance.


  1. I am paraphrasing.[]

Short Stories: We Need More Venues For Discovery, Recs, and Discussion

John Chu Hugo Speech

John Chu accepting his Hugo Award, courtesy Scott Edelman on Instagram.

If you’re interested in the Hugo awards or just SFF awards in general, Justin Landon does an excellent job of breaking down the Hugo votes over at his blog. It’s fascinating to see how the instant run-off ballot affects who wins and provides insight into what voters are thinking (a little). It’s a long read but well worth it.

In the section discussing the short story ballot, this caught my attention:

Given the number of short fiction venues today, the Short Story category is becoming increasingly scattered, making it harder and harder to have a digestible slate of stories to choose from. Hopefully, the Hugo Awards can get a handle on this challenge and ensure a full nomination ballot in future years.

I’m not convinced that this is something that the Hugos or Hugo voters as a group can really change. There will continue to be a ton of great markets and plenty for people to read. There’s about to be an all-new magazine (Uncanny) that could, down the road, complicate the matter further.

What’s needed are more short story reviews and recommendations.

Locus reviews short fiction, of course. But Locus is for people involved in the business of writing and publishing and not so much for the average SFF reader and fan. Tangent still exists but I have no idea how relevant it is. The Fix is long gone. And I just plain don’t hear about most other short fiction review outlets, and I can’t be the only one.

This is one of the reasons why I started my favorite fiction posts. I read a lot of great fiction over the course of a year but might not be able to recall all my favorites once it came time to nominate. And I wanted a way to share stories I thought deserved attention and award consideration in a compact yet concrete way.

I’m really glad I have a high profile venue for those posts now in the form of io9[1]. This is the easily digestible list of recommendations Landon is looking for, I think. I would love for there to be more of them.

I wish that it was possible to have a Goodreads for short fiction so that people could rate, discover, and recommend with the same energy as novels get. I know there are some shorts with their own entries on Goodreads, but the last time I poked around it didn’t seem like the platform wanted that and there’s not a big community push behind it. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Is Goodreads itself the best place for this kind of thing? It’s a site and community that already exists, and I’m sure plenty of people who love novels are also down with shorts. Since I don’t spend much time on the site I honestly don’t know if it would work.

Is there a place to create such a community easily? As in not having to build something from scratch (who has time for that–no one)?

The short story/novelette categories in all our major awards could benefit from more discussion and engagement, I agree[2]. I just wouldn’t leave it up to the Hugos to figure that out.


  1. Don’t forget to head over today and look for the new post![]
  2. Don’t get me wrong: I love the story that won and agree that it deserves the honor.[]

Selfies With Books and other things I do for my job

In addition to my weekly short fiction recs over at io9 I have some summer reading recs over at xoJane, too. There I did novels and short story collections/anthologies so everyone is covered. And I took selfies with a lot of books. This is becoming a theme in my life: selfies with products.

Selfies with books

The other day I stopped in a hipster electronics store to take a selfie with some headphones since the pair I owned were stolen from me a while back. The poor guy working in the store was really confused because I walked in, asked after some headphones onthe wall, took a bunch of pictures of myself wearing them, then left. As I was going out the door he was all “Uh, can I help you…?”

“Nope!” I said cheerfully as I sailed away. I’m sure he thought I was loopy. But whatever, this is New York City. He should be used to much stranger stuff than this.

Other than headphones and books, what other products should I give the selfie treatment? I don’t look good in hats. Despite the overwhelming number of beads in my house I don’t wear jewelry much. Any suggestions?

My Faves: Time Travel Fiction and Media

Fans of NPR’s Weekend Edition may have caught a familiar voice when listening to the segment on time travel fiction. I had a great time talking to Petra Mayer about time travel, a topic near and dear to my heart. Yes, I am still writing a novel with time traveling twins (same world as my story in Diverse Energies). Now that all of NPR knows about it I guess I should finally finish.

In the mean time you can enjoy my best-loved time travel books, stories, and other media!

“It’s All True” by John Kessel (contained in his collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories)

I mentioned this during the time travel panel at ReaderCon. In this story, a future society has invented time travel and they use it to go to parallel worlds, travel back in time, get famous people from the past, then bring them forward in time back to their own timeline. Thus avoiding changing their future. I swear this makes sense. The story centers around one guy’s attempt to convince Orson Wells to come to the future.

the freedom maze and kindred

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman and Kindred by Octavia Butler

I mention these two together because they share a basic premise (but are very different in sensibility as well as plot). In both, a person from modern times is thrown back into the era of American slavery, ends up with people who are her ancestors, and has to live as a slave for some portion of time. In Kindred the person is a grown woman who is pulled backward in time multiple times. In The Freedom Maze the person is a young girl who is actually white, but because she’s very tan is mistaken for a mulatto. She stays in the past for weeks and it’s unclear whether she’ll ever get back home. Both novels explore modern perspectives on the past in interesting ways.

Past Tense” and “Trials and Tribble-ationsStar Trek: Deep Space Nine

Some people will try to tell you that the best Star Trek episode about time travel is “The City on the Edge of Forever”. I don’t mind telling you that those people are wrong. As with so many things Star Trek, DS9 has the best episodes using this story vehicle. My ultimate favorite is, of course, the tribble one where the crew of DS9 travel back to the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” and have to blend in with the original Enterprise crew. It’s awesome on so many levels from how seamlessly the effects crew blended the footage from TOS with the new footage to moments like this:

However, “Past Tense” has stayed with me all these years for a different reason. DS9 was often very social justice oriented, and this episode was chock full of it. For once, when Star Trek people ended up in the past on Earth it was not in the 20th century. Instead, they land in 2024 (still in San Francisco, though) in a dystopian America that is sadly not that hard to imagine. People who are poor, sick, or just undesirable are cordoned off into ghettos. And not just ghettos in the urban sense, but actual ghettos with walls and fences and an inability to get out where people have to fight over food rations and only get a place to sleep if the local gangs think you’re okay. It’s terrifying and not that far off the mark. This episode aired about 20 years ago. 2024 is 10 years from now. Think Star Trek will prove prescient?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

This series didn’t get a chance to flourish fully and it ends on what could be a cliffhanger or what could seem like a satisfying end given that we sort of know what happens after. The second season dragged in the middle for sure, but overall this is one of the best entries in the Terminator franchise, right up there with T2 and way better than T3 or what weird one with Christian Bale.

The main characters in SCC don’t do much time traveling themselves. What I loved about the time travel elements is that the war between Skynet and the humans takes place not only in the future but across both the relative past, the future, and the present. Several people and Terminator models are sent back in time at different points for specific and long term missions. And each time a person or group of people are sent back, it changes the future. So that woman you knew in the resistance and see again on the street might not be the exact person you knew, but a version of them.

And even when they strike a blow against Skynet, be it by destroying tech that will lead to it or getting rid of a Terminator come to kill someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean Skynet won’t still rise, it’ll just rise at a different date. All these elements are key to the plot, and kudos to the show for making all of this relatively straightforward and understandable. It’s not just some jumbled timey-wimey mess.

I am always looking for more time travel fiction to add to my to-read pile. Rec me some in the comments, if you would!

Favorite Fiction (Feb & March 2013) plus new ways to find my faves

Favorite Fiction (Feb & March 2013) plus new ways to find my faves

Over at io9 my list of best short stories from February and March is now live. Those ten stories represent my very top picks, but there are several more I hearted over the past couple of months. I listed them below.

Before we get to that, a couple of things! First, I created a Flipboard magazine recently where I intend to collect all the stories I favorite each month. It’s the same list you’ll see here, so it’s basically another way to see the same info. With a Flipboard magazine you’ll get an update every time I add a new story and won’t have to wait for the end of the month. Plus, the stories will just show up in your regular Flipboard, no need to do anything extra. To subscribe, search for “ktempest” in Flipboard. The magazine is called Fantastic Flippin’ Fiction.

I mentioned in January’s post that I was looking for a venue where I could discuss short stories in depth. Not just the ones I like, but any one worth discussing, including stories I don’t like. To that end, I’m doing some experimenting. I created a Google+ community. I intend for it to be a participatory thing, not just me. Anyone can post links to stories, start a discussion, or make recommendations. If you have a Google account, you can join.

Now, onto the picks!

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

First favorite fiction post of 2013 and there is a lot to talk about besides the fic I liked! I’ll begin with business.

First, I am posting a short list of favorite fic every month over at io9 now. Click here to see January’s picks. Each month I’ll choose my top favorites, usually 5 or so, to list there. I’ll also do more with print/subscription/non-free fiction there and podcasts. That list won’t mean that these lists will go away, though. There are shorts listed here that aren’t listed there.

Second, I’m now part of the Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth crew, so I will contribute to the Twitter account and possibly the podcast (I’m not in Australia or anything, so I have no clue how that works). So if you want to keep up with the stories I like as I read them, follow that account. I’m not the only one who tweets, so you get bonus thoughts from other folks doing the same thing I am.

Last, ever since I started reading short fic regularly I’ve wanted to have a place where I could go to have discussions about the stories. Not just the stories I like, but the ones I don’t that I still find interesting enough to discuss. Last time I brought this up on Twitter many were interested, so I’m bringing it up again. The thing I’m unsure about is where to host this discussion. G+ communities are now live and could work. DreamWidth communities might be better since it can be a little bit (but not totally) private. I’m just worried about people who may want to join the discussion feeling like they can’t unless they join DreamWidth. Maybe that’s an unfounded concern. Anyway, I would love to hear suggestions on this.

Okay, all that taken care of, it’s now time for the favorites list!

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

The Best Short Fiction of 2012 (According To Me) + 2012 Fiction Stats

Now that I’ve finished reading short stories for 2012, it’s time for some lists and statistics! I know, I know, lists can be boring. But not this one. I put together a list of what I consider the best short fiction of 2012. This is culled from my Favorite fiction lists I’ve been doing all year. Keep in mind that this is pretty much limited to free fiction online, so it doesn’t include stories from print mags like F&SF, Asimov’s, and the like.

If you plan on nominating works for awards, I encourage you to consider these. All are eligible for the Hugo, and some are eligible for other awards (I marked the ones I could think of below).

I’ve listed them in chronological order from most recently published backwards.

Now as to stats.

There are 19 stories on my best of list, that’s out of 82 favorite stories for 2012. I don’t have an accurate count for how many stories I read in total, sadly, but I know I read a great deal. I can’t claim to have read every story published for free online. A lot of time I stuck to the magazines I know I like the most. But toward the middle of the year I did pick up some new reading and tried to dip into new-to-me markets more often.

Just taking the 19 stories on my Best Of list, it’s clear that I dig Clarkesworld and Lightspeed Magazines the most, since there are 4 stories from each. Next is Strange Horizons, with two stories that made the list. (Also keep in mind that this only represents stories published in 2012 and not reprints from other years).

This pattern pretty much holds when you look at the breakdown of all magazines that made my favorites list this year.

Lightspeed is at the top (again, this is with originals) followed closely by Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. Apex also has a good showing. After that it drops pretty dramatically. For some magazines, this is because they publish far fewer stories in a year. Eclipse Online is new, so the percentage of stories I’ve liked from the magazine is high, relatively. However, it is telling that DailySF is only on my list once. If you include the reprints I liked (9 total) then Lightspeed gets 22 thumbs up from me for the year.

I would be interested to hear from the editors of these magazines on how many stories they published in 2012 so I can get an idea of what percentage of their offerings I liked.

Of my favorite stories, 60 were written by women and only 19 written by men. Two were written by persons of unknown (to me) gender. There are 18 authors of color on my favorites list. Most of the male authors I like are POC.

The SF/F split continues to be about even. 48 of the stories I liked are science fiction and 51 are fantasy. Only 4 horror stories and 3 I classed as Interstitial (with some overlap with SF/F).

Several authors show up in my favorites more than once: Aliette de Bodard, Rahul Kanakia, Ken Liu. This is partially a testament to how prolific they are, but also does represent my fondness for them. Liu in particular comes to mind whenever someone asks me about favorite authors or for suggestions on what to read. Should also mention here that I’m in Diverse Energies with both Liu and Kanakia — to be in this company makes me very happy. (I also really liked their stories.)

Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading all this short fiction in 2012. It’s definitely inspired me to write more. Plus, I like being able to see the growing expansion of the genre as I discover new gems. I will continue to read as much short fiction as possible in 2013. In fact, I’ll likely read way more.

The crew over at Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth asked me to join the blog, and I happily said yes. So more print mags are in my future. I also talked to AnnaLee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders about possibly doing a short fiction roundup for io9. Hopefully that will happen this month.

You can see all of the short stories I liked this year by surfing the tag on my blog or over on Delicious. On Delicious you’ll see some more numbers that may interest you.

My Favorite Fiction from November and December 2012

Welcome to 2013, everyone! Since I was so abominably late with my October favorites I decided to spend my vacation time reading and thus get you my final favorites for 2012 just as we rang in the new year. In a separate post I’ll also put up my top picks for the year. The stories that I would put in a year’s best collection were I in charge of one.

There’s a nice, long list of great stories here with some new names among them.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

My Favorite Fiction From October 2012

Yeah… so October. I realized today that the reason I’m behind on posting this list is that I just haven’t had the energy to write up a little review/summary of why I like these stories. And that continues and continues to be the case. Since we’re deep into December and I haven’t even posted November’s picks yet, I figured I would just toss the list up.

Here’s what I’ll say about them all: I liked each of these stories and loved others. If I had to pick out one that stood out, it’s Said The Princess. That one totally charmed and amused me. I think I was most surprised because Daily Science Fiction rarely publishes anything I like.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

My Favorite Fiction from September 2012

My Favorite Fiction from September 2012

This month, the list is rather long. This explains my lateness in putting up this post (sort of… I’m also lazy!). I discovered a cache of new magazines this month, thus adding greatly to the number of stories I read and liked.

Several weeks ago I lamented about the fact that there weren’t many markets for long stories such as novellas and novelettes. As a result, people kept suggesting markets to me. I was reminded that Electric Velocipede takes longer stuff, and introduced to GigaNotoSaurus and The Red Penny Papers, which both take novelettes. I’ll put up a post later this week with a longer list.

As always, I welcome any discussion of these stories in the comments. let me know if you liked them or not and why an feel free to tell me I’m wrong and have bad taste! Also, consider dropping a comment where the option is available on the original stories.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.