I went into Foyles in Bristol here in the UK yesterday to pick a science fiction book I had ordered – Network Effect by Martha Wells. The shop assistant remarked that I was unusual in buying a science fiction novel. How so? Well it was unusual for any woman to buy a science fiction book.
Of course I was shocked. But here he was in a bookstore giving the benefit of his experience. What he was saying had to be true.
At this point my impishness came out to play and I informed him I wrote science fiction. We ended up having a good laugh about it.
As it turned out the shop assistant was on loan from another Bristol bookstore to help out with staff holidays. So not only was I getting the experience he had in Foyles, but also that of another major chain of bookstores.
But the lack of women buying and reading science fiction bothers me for all sorts of reasons. Think of the various biases that could be and are set up in the genre as a consequence. These biases are self-perpetuating – after all publishers want to publish what they believe will sell and they only have historical track records to go by. So unless a publisher is willing to go on a limb to publish unusual, then we will get more of the same. It will stifle the variety we could see in the genre. Need I say more?