Why I won’t be joining the British Fantasy Society (again)

Been laid low by a viral infection, am starting to get over the post-viral fatigue and initially put down two stories, concerning a film director and the British Fantasy Society, to feverish delusions, but, no, apparently they’re real.  One is easy to deal with: Roman Polanski is a highly respected film director, he’s had more than his fair share of tragedy, but he also raped a thirteen year old girl for which he avoided serving time.  He should not have done, neither should it reflect on his film making abilities.  I’ve no idea what “rape-rape” is, but, as a rose is a rose is a rose, so rape is rape is rape, and those who signed this petition should have reflected more first.

On and off over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of joining the British Fantasy Society.  But hesitated.  I don’t have a problem with the British Fantasy Society having a mostly male membership or that most of them proudly boast they don’t read poetry or even when occasionally one or two of them own up to reading my stories and admit “I really enjoyed this story, against all my initial expectations.”  Not a problem at all.  Despite recent fevers I’m not delusional enough to believe the British Fantasy Society cares whether I’m a member or not.  The only benefits I’d bring are one extra subscription, extra votes for the awards, oh, and a few short stories… 

But this really made me hesitate (again): at FantasyCon held towards the end of September, the British Fantasy Society launched a new book, “Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror.” 

This book is not an anthology of stories.  For that I would expect:-

  • A call for submissions from all British Fantasy Society Members,
  • An editor or editorial team to pick the best stories (preferably anonymously),
  • The best stories to be published in the anthology with author biographies,
  • No double checking that the requisite gender (or other equality criteria) balance had been achieved, just the best stories submitted,
  • And that’s it.

I would expect the best stories submitted to be published because this is a story anthology not an anthology about writers, therefore, who had written the stories isn’t as important as the stories themselves.  And such an anthology will feature fewer female writers simply because fewer women tend to send submissions to editors.  That’s not just true of genre fiction but also applies to non genre fiction and poetry.  Most women seem to prefer the anonymity and distance of submitting to a competition rather than a named editor or editorial team.  Why, I can’t answer as I’m always submitting work to editors.

However, “Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror” is not a story anthology.  It’s a series of the best bits of interviews with writers.  Therefore the focus is on the writers.  Therefore it matters who gets picked.  Because the selected writers are, by implication of the launch happening at FantasyCon, writers whom the British Fantasy Society holds in high regard otherwise they wouldn’t be publishing the book.

But all the writers are male.  Not one female writer is included in “Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror”.

To their credit the British Fantasy Society did apologise for the omission, tellingly mentioning that, “It is disgustingly simple for a man not to notice these things, a blindness to the importance of correct gender representation that I feel embarrassed to have fallen into.”

In his own apology, editor James Cooper says “The criteria for inclusion was simple: I wanted writers who I admired and who had influenced me in some way in the last 20 – 25 years.”  He goes on to say, “A female perspective, of course, would have offered a keen contrast to that presented by many of the male writers…I’d like to finish by adding that I am well aware of most of the female writers working in the field of horror fiction and intended no slight to any of them, though I can easily see how my negligence could be misconstrued.”

This female writer isn’t buying it.  In fact, I’m not joining the British Fantasy Society again.  Not that the British Fantasy Society should care: one lost subscription is nothing.

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3 Responses to “Why I won’t be joining the British Fantasy Society (again)”

  1. Sheenagh Pugh Says:

    It doesn’t add up, does it?

    1. he is “well aware” of the female writers in the field
    2. he chose writers he admired, ergo, he admires no female writers
    3. he intended no slight by effectively saying he admired no female writers…

  2. emmalee1 Says:

    Hi Sheenagh. No it doesn’t add up. It’s not negligence either: it’s a gross oversight and a huge insult to some of the best writers around.

  3. Missing: the Token Women « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] at the request of a woman and then tried to argue that women weren’t relevant to the debate, the British Fantasy Society published a book of interviews with writers but failed to include any women and Mslexia’s survey of reviews uncovered the fact the editor of Poetry Review (who happens to be […]


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