So I’m writing this book, A Parliament Of Queens, and it’s edging up toward 20,000 words, and I’m deeply deeply in love with this story and the characters. There’s magic and technology both in this world, alchemy is science, and I get to make up so much cool shit. My characters like each other. And in their darkest hours when all seems lost, someone who loves them is there.
Still writing the world I want to see. Any resemblance to reality is a happy accident.
I’ve written books in the past that were always “on”, meaning that anytime I sat down to write, the story was pulling on the reins, ready to run and go on. This book requires quiet, stillness, and thought. Odd how writing anything requires thinking, but this book requires more thought than others.
As I scramble for every quiet minute I can steal to write, telling this story feels a bit like an act of rebellion. It’s another book full of women characters. They do things. They have opinions and feelings. And, stars help me, there are children involved.
Writing this at the end of one year and the start of another, aka Award/Best Of List Season, is eyeopening in a whole new way. I knew I was one of the Invisible Women, as most women writers are invisible, but the extent that some quarters will go to in order to keep women in their place is boggling.
And if I wasn’t the most stubborn, determined person on the planet, I’d wonder what the point is. There are plenty of people around that are willing to tell me, often to my face, that I’m wasting my time.
This is the trauma of being a woman SFF author in 2014/2015, watching almost every woman writer I know, including myself, scramble for any scrap of attention we can get, and fight to sell every single copy. I’ve seen women openly discussing doing a slow fade off the internet and coming back under a male pseudonym. Others who haven’t been published yet plan on having their books come out with a man’s name on the cover.
Watching that over and over this last year was not my idea of a good time. I totally understand why they feel this way. These are excellent writers, some of whom have had books out for years, but they’re women writers. The simple fact of publicly identifying as a woman–and using women’s names–means that in today’s world their books don’t sell as well as a book written under a male name.
Quality of the writing or the story has nothing to do with it. Nothing.
The universe sends women writers, especially SFF writers, lots of messages. At times those messages are delivered in person; the majority of the time the deafening silence surrounding you and your work is the message.
Men get talked about, get reviewed, make award lists and best of the year lists, and are featured at huge comic cons. Women writers, with rare exceptions, don’t.
Don’t even get me started on the most anticipated books of 2015, or the people declaring in January that they’ve already read the best book of the year.
Award lists that are all male, the lack of reviews for women writers, the dismissal of what you’ve written as not being worth noticing–I can tell you that the messages are overwhelming at times. Depressing. The majority of those things conspire to make you feel about as worthy as pond scum to call yourself an SFF writer.
I have a message of my own for the women making their debut in 2015, and for the discouraged women who’ve been around for a while.
Don’t listen to the voices who say your words aren’t equal or important, or that you don’t belong. Don’t believe any of them. They’re dead wrong and it’s utter bullshit.
Women’s voices and women’s stories are important. The world would be a poorer, bleaker place without them.
What can you and I, or any other woman writer do to overcome the silence?
Support one another, spread the word about women writers and their work, keep one another strong. If you have trouble with shameless self-promotion when it comes to your own writing, promote another woman.
Probably most important of all: Make noise. It’s harder to ignore someone who refuses to shut up.
Visuals coupled with a few words have the power to convey strong, often lasting messages. A Tumblr post I saw a while back has stuck with me. Overlaid on the images of women being strong, battling for what they believe in and not giving up–surviving–were the words, “Woman? Is that meant to insult me?”
And at the very bottom is a quote: “Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.”
That might come across as corny, but it comes with a serious question.
Which will you be?
The fire will make you stronger, if you let it.