Author Topic: Artemis Rising Discussion  (Read 17501 times)

Lionman

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Artemis Rising Discussion
« on: February 17, 2016, 05:21:05 PM »
This story poked an ample number of buttons for me, and I've been procrastinating putting up my comments here, so I'm slightly disheartened to see that there aren't more comments.  But, be that as it may, I'll push onward.

First, a little warning.  I might sound slightly ranty, and I don't completely mean to be, just ..slightly.  Second, let me say that I worry about how my comments will come off, and that's another reason that I've been so hesitant to post.  I've sat in front of my email program more than once with a letter began to both feedback and the editor, both of which I eventually tossed into the trash instead of even letting the draft linger.  At any rate, onto my actual comments...

This was a really well put together story that touched on a lot of things that had meaning to me.  I feel like it's something that perhaps applies to us today.  Following, finding our purpose, even if it's what might be an unworthy or unhealthy purpose, and figuring out that sometimes there's hope even when we don't know where or how things or going to come together.  I felt like there were good messages in this, and at least for me, it connected with my experiences.

What bothers me about this story, is that it's in the Artemis Rising series.  Yes, it actually bothers me that we even have to HAVE the Artemis Rising series.  And all of these feelings, really have nothing to do with this story, or the works we hear in general.  It's my belief that this story was great!  It stands on its own merits!  It doesn't NEED to have a special opportunity in Artemis Rising.  And perhaps I'm in the minority, but a good story is a good story, regardless of the gender or gender identity of the writer. Period.  (This is the ranty party I warned you about.)  The whole purpose of reading or listening to a story is for the sake of the story, not the gender or gender identity of the writer.  A good writer just writes.  A good story is still a good story, written by a man, a woman, a Caucasian, an Indian, an Italian, an Englishman (or woman), or something else.  Gender Identity may help form the experiences of the writer, and thereby what they write, but it doesn't make a bad story good, or a good story bad, those are unlinked qualities.

The idea of Artemis Rising aggravates the tar out of me.  It implies that women and non-binary writers might not have good quality writing all the time, and therefore we should pay extra special attention.  I disagree completely.  As a listener of Escape Pod (and Pod Castle), I expect editors to bring us good stories.  Sometimes I think they're great, sometimes they're meh.  That's my problem.  But, I do expect editors to bring forward good stories, regardless of the source!

My apologies for sounding ranty.  The idea that we need a special showcase like Artemis Rising rubs my fur the wrong way.  I just want good writing, and if it's from a woman, great.  If it's from non-binary, great. If it's from a man, that's just fine too.  Please, just on with the good stories!
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 06:31:53 PM by Ocicat »
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Thunderscreech

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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2016, 05:33:33 PM »
Quote
The idea of Artemis Rising aggravates the tar out of me.  It implies that women and non-binary writers might not have good quality writing all the time, and therefore we should pay extra special attention.
That may be what you got from it, but it sure isn't what I did.  There's a quote: "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."  I don't know who created it, but it resonates with me every time I see people flipping their lids in various forums and Facebook posts about anything that doesn't tacitly primarily benefit the white-male friendly status quo.  The science fiction market has been stacked in favor of male writers for decades and it's hopelessly naive to believe otherwise.  Artemis Rising is a cool opportunity, not an attack or implied slight. 

If it really still aggravates you for some reason, consider treating it like a 'theme'.  That's not really 100% accurate, but maybe the outrage centers of the brain will be soothed by the idea that it's just a transient period and everything will go back to comfortable privilege shortly.

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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2016, 05:42:50 PM »
Perhaps the sub-rant (and my reply here) about Artemis Rising should be a separate thread?  This is the kind of topic that can quickly blow up with replies and, if you really like this story as you say, you are doing the author no favors by ranting in this specific thread because it is likely that the thread may be dominated by rants from people with a variety of opinions, and there will be a lot of things said.  Of those things said, there will certainly be things interesting and otherwise, valuable and otherwise, lots of opinions from all kinds of stances.  BUT none of those rants about Artemis Rising will be a discussion of this story, which is what this thread is for.

I agree that stories should be selected based on the stories themselves, BUT historically that has decidedly not been the case.  Straight white dudes dominated the field to a huge degree, not because other people were incapable of writing well, but because there was pressure both subtle and unsubtle against anyone else.  This is much less true today than it used to be, but it's still true to some degree, evidenced by gender imbalances in quite a few publications (Clarkesworld did a series about this with hard numbers, it was not just a vague impression).  This can certainly arise when the slush pile itself is unbalanced but that too does not happen in a vacuum--why is the slush pile unbalanced?  

(I admit that limited demographic slush windows don't feel like an ideal solution to something that IS a real problem, but I applaud their purpose and I think they can have some positive effect)

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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2016, 06:07:51 PM »
Perhaps the sub-rant (and my reply here) about Artemis Rising should be a separate thread?  

I agree about the sub thread and withhold my comments until that happens.

Okay, now we have a sub thread.

I agree with the sentiment Lionman.  Two of my favorite stories this year were Brain Worms and White Whales (for its pure entertainment value) and Where Monsters Dance.  Both stories would have qualified for Artemis Rising, but were published outside of it.  I had the same feelings about the need for Artemis Rising as you up until I read some of the stuff on blogs posted by sad/rabid puppies people. I was astounded.   

Go an read some blogs... There is a need to point out that all people can write great genre fiction pertaining to all different themes and topics. 
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 06:52:29 PM by Not-a-Robot »

Lionman

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Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2016, 07:28:06 PM »
The purpose of Artemis Rising isn't to provide a different category of story.  You certainly ought to like or dislike the story on its own merits! 

I generally have a problem with Artemis Rising as a whole.  It seems to focus on something, that to me, has little bearing on if the story is good or not.  It doesn't matter to me, hopefully to many, with the Gender Identity of the author is.  Good writing is good writing, it stands on its own merits.  Perhaps I don't understand the purpose of Artemis Rising.  From my point of view, it might as well be Native Son Rising.  We accept the author however and wherever they are, when the story is good, it's simply a good story.
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matweller

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2016, 07:37:27 PM »
What bothers me about this story, is that it's in the Artemis Rising series.  Yes, it actually bothers me that we even have to HAVE the Artemis Rising series.  And all of these feelings, really have nothing to do with this story, or the works we hear in general.  It's my belief that this story was great!  It stands on its own merits!  It doesn't NEED to have a special opportunity in Artemis Rising.  And perhaps I'm in the minority, but a good story is a good story, regardless of the gender or gender identity of the writer. Period.  (This is the ranty party I warned you about.)  The whole purpose of reading or listening to a story is for the sake of the story, not the gender or gender identity of the writer.  A good writer just writes.  A good story is still a good story, written by a man, a woman, a Caucasian, an Indian, an Italian, an Englishman (or woman), or something else.  Gender Identity may help form the experiences of the writer, and thereby what they write, but it doesn't make a bad story good, or a good story bad, those are unlinked qualities.

The idea of Artemis Rising aggravates the tar out of me.  It implies that women and non-binary writers might not have good quality writing all the time, and therefore we should pay extra special attention.  I disagree completely.  As a listener of Escape Pod (and Pod Castle), I expect editors to bring us good stories.  Sometimes I think they're great, sometimes they're meh.  That's my problem.  But, I do expect editors to bring forward good stories, regardless of the source!
It's good that it bothers you. It should. We abhor it too, that's why Artemis Rising exists. You know the best way to make it stop? Encourage all of the other shows in the world to make an effort to find more diverse stories from more diverse authors. I can guarantee that we'll be happy to stop as soon as it's not an issue. And it's really not as much of an issue for EP as it is most places. Look at 2015's list, it was about 60/40 male authors to female authors and if you include the male authored stories with female protagonists, that number comes much closer to parity. But we're the exception. And some of that can be attributed to the market, but mostly it's just lazy effort on behalf of other editors.

In the meantime, let's also remember what rednecky Christians struggle with so much: raising up one person or group to equality does not force down everybody else. Having gay marriage does not detract from hetero marriage in any way. Letting black or Democrat Presidents appoint SCOTUS judges, as is their job, does not hurt white Republicans' ability to do it later. Letting Latinos become citizens and pay taxes does not make white folks' taxes less important. And highlighting female and non-binary authors four times will not shrink anybody's penis. I promise.

Lionman

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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2016, 07:38:08 PM »
I agree with the sentiment Lionman.  Two of my favorite stories this year were Brain Worms and White Whales (for its pure entertainment value) and Where Monsters Dance.  Both stories would have qualified for Artemis Rising, but were published outside of it.  I had the same feelings about the need for Artemis Rising as you up until I read some of the stuff on blogs posted by sad/rabid puppies people. I was astounded. 

I think the idea, particularly in science fiction and fantasy, that we're still biased by the privileged white male, is a horrid one.  Not to say that it might not be true.  But many of us are getting older, we're white, we're males, (does that make us privileged by default), and we're here to move the tides of the idea that we might need something like Artemis Rising at all.  Look at sports.  A good football or baseball player is still a good player, regardless of the color of their skin.  Maybe we have a long road to travel still.  But, are we helping or harming ourselves in traveling that road by saying we need to have special attention given to this?  And if we do need special attention, why don't we have a Native Son Rising event?  This is a sub-class of people who have had, and still have, a great deal of oppression.

We don't really thrash against the idea that gender-bias makes no difference, when we choose to point it out with events like Artemis Rising.  (Reminder: Don't get me wrong, I like a good story, no matter who wrote it.)
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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2016, 08:21:57 PM »
But many of us are getting older, we're white, we're males, (does that make us privileged by default), and we're here to move the tides of the idea that we might need something like Artemis Rising at all. 

I am a white male that is getting older, and I don't really feel it's my place to decide when something like this isn't needed.

I see some poor treatment of women in some contexts but when I see it it's usually fairly subtle. But, not being a woman, I lack the evidence to say that women don't experience the kind of treatment this is aiming to push back against. 

I would rather listen to what women are saying, than to declare their concerns unnecessary.

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Re: EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2016, 08:33:19 PM »

I would rather listen to what women are saying, than to declare their concerns unnecessary.

I wish to register enthusiastic agreement and support for this.  Ideally, I'd do it in a way that extends the idea in the way dialogue does, but it's really perfect so all I can do here is highlight it with a quote and a couple sentences of padding. 

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Re: Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2016, 09:42:09 PM »
The purpose of Artemis Rising isn't to provide a different category of story.  You certainly ought to like or dislike the story on its own merits! 

I generally have a problem with Artemis Rising as a whole.  It seems to focus on something, that to me, has little bearing on if the story is good or not.  It doesn't matter to me, hopefully to many, with the Gender Identity of the author is.  Good writing is good writing, it stands on its own merits.  Perhaps I don't understand the purpose of Artemis Rising.  From my point of view, it might as well be Native Son Rising.  We accept the author however and wherever they are, when the story is good, it's simply a good story.
I share your sentiment on the topic, and your reservations. It's hard to take issue with this sort of topic, because it's so easy to get bashed on over it.

That said, I've settled myself on the series by the following: as a passive listener who is not engaged with trying to influence what is played, the onus of selecting stories, regardless of author status, is up to the Editors. If they ultimately feel like they need to run a special series, then that's their choice. I'm still free to listen to the stories on their own merits.

Maybe I'm optimistic here, but I think that selections should always be done on the merit/quality of the story alone.

Maybe they should try doing what orchestra's have been doing: blind audition.

Just a thought.

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Re: Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2016, 10:10:15 PM »
That said, I've settled myself on the series by the following: as a passive listener who is not engaged with trying to influence what is played, the onus of selecting stories, regardless of author status, is up to the Editors. If they ultimately feel like they need to run a special series, then that's their choice. I'm still free to listen to the stories on their own merits.

Maybe I'm optimistic here, but I think that selections should always be done on the merit/quality of the story alone.

Maybe they should try doing what orchestra's have been doing: blind audition.

Just a thought.

That's sort of missing the point, though. There are two factors you are missing:

1. Escape Pod runs 52 stories a year (in an ideal year, where no episodes are missed). There are more than 52 high quality stories submitted a year. Escape Pod (and its sister podcasts) aren't struggling to find stories to accept - it is in the position of being selective.

2. Blind submissions would be a good solution if EA was concerned about its own biases. And as an aside, that is a concern that EA takes seriously. But that's not what Artemis Rising is about.

Artemis Rising is an event where Escape Artists has decided to use its ability to select stories in a way that is meant to make a statement. And the
statement is that there is an overall disparity between how male authors and how female (and non-binary) authors are treated - by both publishers and audiences. It does so without sacrificing story quality, because there is no need to sacrifice story quality.

Lionman says he dislikes that Artemis Rising is necessary, and because of that he doesn't think EA should run it. That's like saying that you won't take your medication because you resent being ill. If you take Artemis Rising out of context, it is clearly biased - that doesn't need pointing out. You can't say "we'll only run stories by women and non-binary authors" without explicitly excluding men. But taking it out of context of what's happening in SF as a whole is missing the point entirely.

If there was a perceived quality drop with Artemis Rising, then that would be a valid complaint. But no one is saying that. Rather the complaint seems to be "Inequality is bad, but so are attempts to explicitly counter it". Because I can't resist an analogy, let me provide another one - imagine you were in a 4-person kayak race. You are supposed to go in a straight line. But because of a miscommunication, the team rowed too strongly to the right, and now the kayak is pointing the wrong way. Lionman's criticism is like saying is like saying "I don't like that you're facing the wrong way. But you can't correct it by rowing on the left side, because that is just as unequal as the rowing that got you in trouble in the first place. Rather, you must row straight". But if you're already pointing in the wrong direction, rowing straight isn't going to get you were you want.

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2016, 10:40:31 PM »
And it's really not as much of an issue for EP as it is most places. Look at 2015's list, it was about 60/40 male authors to female authors and if you include the male authored stories with female protagonists, that number comes much closer to parity.

Speaking from a scientific point of view, the problem isn't in the numbers that a magazine publishes, it's in the submissions.

If a magazine gets 80% male submissions and publishes 80% male authors, they show no bias in their story selection.  The question that needs to be asked is: why are there so many male submission?  An action like Artemis Rising may make more females want to submit to a magazine or start writing stories im general.  Furthermore, an event like Artemis Rising may increase the number of female submissions year round, because they show openess in thier story selection.  In that case, it would be good marketing to attact female authors.

We also have to remember that Hard Science fiction mostly contains sciences like physics, chemistry, computer sciences and math which are still male dominated sciences (biology is the exception).  Hard science fiction magazines may attract more males than females simply because of inequity in the science society.  This is, unfortunately, a vicious circle, because many physical scientists enter the field because of fiction they read as a child.  They, in turn, still read the fiction when they get older, forcing the hard science fiction market in the direction of males...

Events like Artemis Rising may break cycles like this, showing young females that they not only have a place in science fiction, but also in physical sciences.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 10:52:37 PM by Not-a-Robot »

matweller

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2016, 02:29:48 PM »
You're not wrong, but a couple caveats bear mention:
Speaking from a scientific point of view, the problem isn't in the numbers that a magazine publishes, it's in the submissions.

If a magazine gets 80% male submissions and publishes 80% male authors, they show no bias in their story selection.
CAVEAT: Generally speaking, as the number of submissions rises, the number of quality, usable submissions rises in a parabolically declining proportion.

We also have to remember that Hard Science fiction mostly contains sciences like physics, chemistry, computer sciences and math which are still male dominated sciences (biology is the exception).
CAVEAT: This would be more of a factor if we dealt in exclusively "hard sci-fi." Fortunately, the definition of "hard sci-fi" varies a lot, and in any event we don't deal in exclusively or even mostly hard sci-fi.

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Re: Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2016, 02:49:03 PM »
Maybe I'm optimistic here, but I think that selections should always be done on the merit/quality of the story alone.

Maybe they should try doing what orchestra's have been doing: blind audition.

Just a thought.

For what it's worth, I agree that blind submissions are a good idea to remove any unconscious bias from the process.  And, in fact, Escape Pod's guidelines (and Cast of Wonders's guidelines) now ask for manuscripts to be submitted without author name attached.

I think that's great.  I think that it's the best way to make it clear that story trumps all.  I think that, practically speaking, it has more of an effect on the bias of name-fame.  With names attached one might be inclined to accept a mediocre story from a big name over a great story from a lesser name--with names stripped off the stories have to be as good regardless of name.

My own slushpile, when I occasionally open for submissions, is blind for that same reason.  I don't have solid numbers about the demographics of the submitters, but of the stories accepted 14 of the 25 were written by women with the name of the author not being a factor in the actual choices.

But, like Not-a-Robot said, a skewed slushpile skews the result, and it's worth considering why a slushpile is skewed.   Often it is because women don't feel welcome at a publication.  Women are more likely to self-reject from what I understand--which I think is a result of constantly being told in so many aspects of their lives "you don't belong here" in ways both subtle and unsubtle, while men are used to being entitled .  if a publication publishes mostly men, then more women will choose not to submit, this will skew the slushpile toward men which means that even unbiased choices will skew the result toward men, which will skew the slushpile more toward men, and so on.  It can be a destructive cycle that, left uncorrected, causes an increasing skew toward men submitting and being published.  An anonymous slushpile can help some, I think.  Having guidelines that clearly state that the publication is interested in diverse submitters can help.  Actively soliciting stories from specific authors of different demographics can help.  And projects like Artemis Rising can help, as Not-a-Robot said, by explicitly welcoming women in during a short period of the year and hopefully women will feel more welcome during the rest of the year.  Their stories still have to be good, it's not a matter of quality.  

Regarding the destructive cycle of skewed slushpile causing skewed authors stats, the late issues of F&SF with Gordon Van Gelder as editor suffered from this.  I spoke to many women who stopped submitting the more the publication skewed to publishing men, and one of his last issues had zero women in the table of contents.  Charles Coleman Finlay has done a good job trying to correct this skew, I think, actively welcoming women to the publication and things have turned around quite a bit since then.  I'm not even saying that Van Gelder was actively choosing to not accept women's stories, but over many years the destructive cycle can really wreak havoc on what gets published in a magazine.

When I listen and comment on the stories, I also think it's important not to cut these stories any more slack than I would cut any other stories.  It's important to me that when I say "In Their Image" is a great story, I don't MEAN "it's a great story for fiction written by a woman."  I think it is a great story, period.  I have quite enjoyed the Artemis Rising stories both last year and this year.  "Boris's Bar" was one of my favorites of the year, bar none in 2015.  "In Their Image" likewise this year.  There are also other stories that I didn't care for, and I have said so... the same as I would for a story didn't like during any other month of the year.  

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2016, 03:14:54 PM »
Interesting point on the submission numbers

Quote
CAVEAT: This would be more of a factor if we dealt in exclusively "hard sci-fi." Fortunately, the definition of "hard sci-fi" varies a lot, and in any event we don't deal in exclusively or even mostly hard sci-fi.

I wasn't directing this comment toward EP  ;)  Besides, I'm not a big hard sci-fi fan.


Quote
I don't have solid numbers about the demographics of the submitters,

I submitted a story to recompse (Alliteration Ink) and they sent a survey (not linked to submission) asking for demographic information.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2016, 03:19:47 PM by Not-a-Robot »

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2016, 03:31:08 PM »
I submitted a story to recompse (Alliteration Ink) and they sent a survey (not linked to submission) asking for demographic information.

I have seen those before and I think they're a good idea.  I just haven't done the legwork for my own publication. :)

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2016, 03:34:23 PM »
I think that the fact that people can be annoyed by the existence of an event like Artemis Rising speaks volumes on the necessity of it.

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Re: Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2016, 03:46:57 PM »
When I listen and comment on the stories, I also think it's important not to cut these stories any more slack than I would cut any other stories.  It's important to me that when I say "In Their Image" is a great story, I don't MEAN "it's a great story for fiction written by a woman."  I think it is a great story, period.  I have quite enjoyed the Artemis Rising stories both last year and this year.  "Boris's Bar" was one of my favorites of the year, bar none in 2015.  "In Their Image" likewise this year.  There are also other stories that I didn't care for, and I have said so... the same as I would for a story didn't like during any other month of the year.  
Agreed. Honestly, I'm amazed it's an issue for anybody. I know I only speak from my own experience, but absolutely nothing about the author influences my choice to read anything, I only see the words on the page. There are times I'll come across something in a work and be like, "well, that was terribly sexist if the author is [gender] but tolerable if the author is [gender]" and then I'll check to see who wrote it, but otherwise I'm generally oblivious.

INTERESTING SIDE THOUGHT: It just occurred to me that it could lead to an interesting discussion if a biological male who identifies female said something severely degrading to women. I'm sure it has come up before. I'm sure it will come up a lot more in the future.

Back to the original thought... Don't get me wrong, though. I am 100% aware that there are biases from 20 different people that involved that piece getting into my hands in the first place. Which is why I'm (at the very least) not concerned about Artemis Rising having negative effects -- I know the reason for it has nothing to do with me, so I am free to just enjoy the story and not worry about any of the politics behind it. It's needed because so many other people are incompetent. I am not. </egotrip>

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2016, 06:02:40 PM »
I really like Artemis Rising for the reasons pointed out above. In fact, I already wanted to say that last year, there just wasn't a suitable thread for it  ;)

There's another reason I support Artemis Rising: I love "themed months" on Escape Artists' casts in general! I fondly remember a "horror in SF and Fantasy" one October, because of Halloween I guess, and the one with elves. I think there could be an "authors from non-Western cultures" month, or anything else, and I'd love it.

if it's relevant for the discussion: I am a white male and usually viewed as a member of the privileged group where I live, even though I am of mixed ethnicity etc. I support efforts to further underprivileged groups.

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Re: Artemis Rising Discussion
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2016, 09:27:28 PM »
You're not wrong, but a couple caveats bear mention:
Speaking from a scientific point of view, the problem isn't in the numbers that a magazine publishes, it's in the submissions.

If a magazine gets 80% male submissions and publishes 80% male authors, they show no bias in their story selection.
CAVEAT: Generally speaking, as the number of submissions rises, the number of quality, usable submissions rises in a parabolically declining proportion.


I'm not sure I'd agree with that. During 6 months of 2015 PseudoPod received double the submissions of what we received for all of 2014. We had to reject a lot of excellent stories that would have made great episodes. And we're still comfortably ahead on purchases for the calendar.
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