Wherein Questions Are Asked Regarding Women Editing Science Fiction, and a Brief Note is Provided About the Absenting of the Editors to Foreign Climes

The matter of gender equity in science fiction is neither new, nor is it likely to be resolved by any simple act, gesture or decision. Rather it will require years of considered discussion and dedicated action to achieve a situation where it can truly be said that the gender of a writer, editor or publisher has no effect on whether a work is published, an editor employed or indeed a publisher supported.

The editorial in Issue 12 of this magazine expressed the concerns of my fellow editor Jeremy Byrne regarding gender equity and how it applied to the Eidolon experience. Since that time we have received several letters and telephone calls regarding women in science fiction, women in Eidolon and Eidolon itself. For those of you who have only recently begun reading this magazine, Eidolon is edited by men. For a period, between Issues 1 and 4, Keira Mackenzie worked on the magazine in the dual capacity of co-editor and art co-coordinator. From Issue 5 onwards, however, all decisions regarding the magazine have been made by the current Editorial Committee. And, we are told, Eidolon bears the scars of that experience - it is a masculine magazine.

It is obviously difficult for us to assess whether this is the case or not. As editors, we publish what we consider to be the best of what we receive. When we assess fiction or non-fiction, consider reviewing a book or publishing an article, gender is not a consideration; rather, we base our assessment on what we consider to be good and what we consider to be interesting. And perhaps that is where gender bias may come into the equation. If so, then so be it. We can only be aware of that, and try to be even-handed.

None of which addresses the question I have regarding this whole issue. What can, and should, be done to ensure gender equity in science fiction, and what does gender equity in terms of Australian science fiction mean? Consider: women comprise 51% of our population and 49% of our workforce. Yet, according to the only surveys I can locate, women comprise about 30% of the science fiction readership. That figure has risen steadily over the past decade, but it clearly shows that women are disproportionately disinterested in science fiction. So, what proportion of science fiction should involve women? Fifty percent? Thirty percent?

Such reasoning is largely fruitless, in my opinion. It should not be a matter of percentage points, but rather of ensuring that opportunity and encouragement exist equally for women to be involved, should they wish to be. It is difficult to know how to encourage women to write science fiction. The existence of prominent female writers and of magazines willing to publish them is surely a step in the right direction. But ultimately, deciding to write and then deciding what to write seems a very personal decision. Science fiction as a genre should attempt to provide material which is of interest to women, and is relevant to women's experience, if it wants women to be involved.

When it comes to editing or publishing the case is somewhat different. Large publishers can, and regularly do, employ women to work on editing and publishing science fiction. In the United States and Britain many senior editors for magazines and book publishers are women. The senior editors of Omni, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Playboy, Ballantine Books, Daw Books, Orbit and Millennium are all women. It is disturbing, therefore, to realise that there are almost no women editing science fiction in Australia today. The senior editors of Aurealis and Eidolon are male - although Aurealis are to be commended for engaging women as assistant editors - the senior editors in the Australian publishing houses which deal with science fiction are overwhelmingly male and the majority of fanzine editors are male.

Why? Who knows. It may have to do with the size and stage of development of the genre in Australia at this time. It may reflect Australian culture. Whatever the reason, women should be encouraged to become involved in editing science fiction in this country. When Eidolon was first started we received encouragement and assistance from those already working in the field, as well as the ongoing assistance of our contributors. It is to be hoped, and I would honestly be surprised if it were otherwise, that women would receive similar assistance and encouragement. Certainly I think that the time is ripe for an Australian science fiction magazine edited by women - a magazine which would encourage women to read and write science fiction by publishing material which is of interest to them and, hopefully, to all readers. It would certainly be fascinating to this male editor to see what a female colleague would do differently.

Elsewhere, the editors of this magazine are going elsewhere. By the time you read this the plans will be made, the bags will be packed and a glorious three month holiday will be stretching before us. We, the editors of Eidolon are off! Hawaii, San Francisco and the Worldcon, Canada, the Rocky Mountains, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Washington, London, Ireland, Paris, Tokyo - the lot. Around the world in eighty-plus days, and we shan't return until December.

And that means that Eidolon will be temporarily closed. We have arranged for a skeleton staff (Hi, Keira!) to ensure that packages will be safely received and stories stored, but there will be no issue of Eidolon in October 1993, and no editorial feedback till December. But be assured, we will return. Plans are already well-advanced for the January 1994 issue of Eidolon, with stories by well-known writers, reviews of 1993 Australian science fiction, film comment, and possibly some material gathered on our journeys. So, we ask for the patience and understanding of you, our readers. This will be our first break in over three years, and the magazine will be better for it.

We are also hoping for the forbearance of our contributors. The writers and artists who contribute their work are our life's blood, and without them there would be no Eidolon. We are asking them to keep sending their work in as if nothing had happened. Our skeleton staff will be busy, but she should still be able to make sure that you receive confirmation of receipt of your story, and all stories will be brought to our attention immediately upon our return. If your contribution was received on or before 1 June 1993 you will receive a response before our departure, and we will be endeavouring to respond to as many other submissions as possible.

Finally, congratulations to Western Australian writer Stephen Dedman for placing not one but two stories with major American magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Stephen's stories in the July and August 1993 issues of F&SF clearly show the ncreasing skill and maturity that he is bringing to his writing, and his successes are richly deserved.

Jonathan Strahan

Originally appeared pp. 4-5, Eidolon 13, July 1993.
Copyright © 1993 Eidolon Publications.