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June 21, 2006

Comments

Ingrid (I.J.Parker)

This sort of thing always sounds a bit like sour grapes. Granted, the fact that not a single female is included looks odd. I checked the list of submitters but haven't read their current books. Neither Paretsky nor George strike me as thriller writers. Val McDermid is and has written at least one superb thriller. But not all her thrillers are as good as that one was. It is at least conceivable that the nominees (no idea who they are), though all male, actually were better or more qualified.

Andi

I always have had problems with juried awards; I know that the Edgar is supposed to be "prestigious" while the Anthony" is always referred to - and I never know why - as a "popularity contest" but three or four people agreeing on what is a good book? I don't understand why that's a useful standard - even if, or in fact, especially if, the jury is all writers. NOT that writers lack taste or judgment, but so many of them lack the time to read in the field because they're too busy writing, drafting, promoting, copy-editing. Definitions are another morass - by ITW standards thrillers can be mysteries, msyteries can be thrillers and we'll resolve that one the day we resolve "what is art?" But this helps confirm my feeling that I prefer voted-on by group awards over chosen by jury awards.

Kathy

Just saw Andi's post on the Lipstick Chronicles and stopped in to check things out. Interesting blog - another good place to look for books.

Mary R

I get their emailed newsletter, and was intrigued that they were trying to stretch the definition of "thriller" beyond the Tom Clancyesque techno-macho-spy ghetto. Women writers are featured heavily in their publicity. So they may be making a huge error by not nominating books by women in ANY of the categories. It makes the inclusiveness of the newsletter, website, etc. feel like pandering, rather than an acknowledgement that thrillers are not a gender specific genre (for readers or writers).

Jon Jordan

This kind of argument is never ending. Has it occured to anyone that maybe the judges which included women)just thought that the books they nominated were the best regardless of gender?

Maybe it's just based on what the judges enjoyed most?

Andi

Jon - it has occurred, i would bet to all of us. Has it occured to you that there are things about the situation that are still upsetting?

Stacey Cochran

How many of the thriller nominees were black, hispanic, or latino? Were there any Asian nominees?

Can we just quit griping long enough to appreciate the fact that for the first time there's actually an award to recognize a literary genre that has previously been neglected?

How about thanking the members of ITW for their hard work in getting the organization off the ground this past year?

Stacey

Jon Jordan

Why is it no one freaked out when no men were nominated for an Agatha in best novel or short story or best first novel? That's no more or no less upsetting.

I don't see it as a situation. It's weird, but it's hardly a calculated move to belittle women writers.

Would you rather people nominated books they didn't like as well just so it seems fair to everyone? Do we need affirmative action in awards?

Andi

I've said over on my blog that I think the jurors are fairminded, have no agendas and I know some of them and would not accuse them of and DO not accuse them of anything. I don't see why I should thank folks, yes it IS hard work and if thriller writers felt they needed an organization which I wholeheartedly welcome, great but thanking them? Um why? It's for their benefit, isn't it? What am I thanking them for? I think it's great they got ITW going. And?
I guess about the Agathas there's been little discussion of how men are not involved enough in writing cozies, whereas Gayle and David make clear that they ARE working on gender parity issues with ITW. If in fact men who write cozies are being ignored in the Agatha process, that should be addressed, absolutely. ARE THEY WRITING THEM and getting left out? Beats me - I don't read them but I'm not aware of a long list of men who write at that end of the genre spectrum. So no,I don't think it IS as "upsetting". If any men who write cozies ever raised the issue and brought it to our attention, I'd say "let's look at this, let's discuss it." Could you supply a list of men who have been ignored in this area?
Pointing out that women were left out of the process is not saying "let's ignore other issues". It IS AN ISSUE to be looked at. If there are lots of minority authors writing thrillers who were left out, that needs to be dealt with too. But saying "Were there any Asian nominees?" does not change that there were NO female nominees. And can you please provide a list of Asian thriller writers? I'd like to know about them. I did see a list of women writers who submitted books for the ITW stuff. whether they write "thrillers" is up to the judges, but I understand many of them do (I'm still incapable of getting what is a thriller, what is a mystery, and YES some of the women who might have been nominated are on the board,so ineligible. But I saw what, 16 names?)
As I do support affirmative action, and do think it's still needed, I don't know that we need it in awards.I believe what happened this year is not deliberate. i DO believe it needs to be dealt with.

Jon Jordan

"Pointing out that women were left out of the process is not saying "let's ignore other issues". It IS AN ISSUE to be looked at."

Women were not left out of the process. They just didn't get nominated this year.

Andi

Hmmmm - not sure that's the same thing or not, Jon. But you've made a legit point and I'll think about it. From what Gayle says, they were - and this is NOTHING to do with judging - apparently not well represented when it came to book submission which is a wholly different problem and as i say, nothing to do with voting or judging. But I still do think there's something iffy when of that many books, this happened.

Rob Gregory Browne

I don't think there's anything iffy about it at all, and I think it's silly to turn this into some kind of political debate.

If it happens several years in a row, you might have a reason to complain, but it seems dangerous to want to turn book nominations into some kind of politically correct process.

The judges chose the books they chose. End of story.

But we all love a great controversy, don't we? We're all certainly blogging about it. Including me.

Gender doesn't matter. Only what's on the page. I'm guessing the judges chose the books they did based on what they read, not on who wrote the words.

Ali

I AM SORRY BUT I CAN NOT REMAIN SILENT ANY LONGER - I HAVE REALLY TRIED, TRUST ME, BUT NOW MY PATIENCE IS EXHAUSTED

I have kept my comments out of the public domain UNTIL NOW, due to being one of the ITW Judges who has been publicly accused with my colleagues at ITW of sexism and bigotry by a stranger.

But I wish to say something in my defense and that of my colleagues at ITW who work with integrity and passion.

If this stranger had wished to have done a little checking of facts before making accusations, perhaps they would have discovered the following details [which are all in the public domain and very easy to find] and I quote -

"Ali is an associate member of the International Thriller Writers Association and an associate member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) of Great Britain as well as a [male] member of the UK ‘Mystery Women’ group who promote the work of female crime / mystery / thriller writers."

Full Bio is available :-

http://www.thrillerwriters.org/judgesbios.html

I would like to add that as I come from an ethnic minority [non-white / Asian], and very proud to be British [IMHO - The home of the golden age thriller] - I have fought prejudice and bigotry [in all its ugly forms] throughout my life, and will continue to do so with my last breath. That is why these allegations are particularly hurtful to me.

I was honoured to be asked to be one of the judges for the inaugural ITW awards, [and being a non-American and a non-white judge, surely this should indicate ITW’s International and un-prejudiced ethos]. Despite the hard work involved in the judging process, I firmly believe in the ITW and its goals to help thriller writers internationally.

So how has this public humiliation by a stranger affected me as literary judge because you all know I feel privileged to work with you and your team at DP on the Barry Awards, as well as The CWA on the Daggers?

My response to the stranger who accused me and my colleagues at ITW of Sexism and Bigotry?

If the ITW want me to sit again?

I say 'Bring It On!' - I refuse to be intimidated by anyone – I hate bullying and bigots, and will fight them with my dying breath.

I love Thriller Novels and enthusing people to read them, and I am a person of integrity.

I am looking forward to attending Thrillerfest and let's allow this unpleasantness to pass with our dignity in place.

Ali Karim

Also my Editor Mike Stotter at www.shotsmag.co.uk will be issuing a formal statement on my behalf tonight together with Gayle Lynds’ letter at our website, which you will see is heavily populated by Female writers in interviews, reviews and articles.

This is a photograph [link] with me and Lizzie Hayes of The Mystery Women Group who I work with.

http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/photoshoots_2006/e_leonard/Ali%20and%20Lizzie%20Hayes.jpg

If you want to get involved and support women mystery writers details are at :-

http://www.mysterywomen.co.uk
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Andi

Gender DOES matter. There we will always disagree.

What does that mean exactly? "Gender DOES matter." When? How? In what context? And what does this have to do with books and awards? That's a very abstract statement, and I'm having trouble understanding how it fits into the discussion.

If we can make this a little more concrete, I think the crucial question is:

Should the author's sex (gender is actually a linguistic concept) matter when it comes to evaluating the merits of a book?

I don't think so. A good book is not worse because it was written by a man, nor is a bad book better because it was written by a woman. Or vice versa.

They simply are what they are: good, bad or somewhere in-between.

I understand that it can be uncomfortable for some people to acknowledge that, in a given year, a certain group of people believed that, of a certain group of books, the best of them were written by men.

But isn't it possible that they were? Or, at the least, isn't it possible that that particular group of people (which included both men and women), reading that particular group of books (most of which were apparently written by men), reasonably believed that they were?

Before one goes around accusing a group of seemingly well-minded people of bigotry, I would think that a little more evidence would be required.

But, of course, that kind of rational, informed discussion would hardly draw people's attention to one's blog.

Andi

"But, of course, that kind of rational, informed discussion would hardly draw people's attention to one's blog."
I don't know why you assume this discussion, which is serious and imoprtant to lots of us is being done - from what I think you're saying, to "draw attention to one's blog". You're assuming - am I right? - that none of the discussion going is is "rational" or informed? or that it's all being done to get attention for various blogs? Fromwhat I have read on about 4 or 5 blogs, I don't see that.
I can't won't take up Sarah's blog to explain why yes I believe that gender always matters in just about every single context. We are not free of judgments based on gender any more than we are free of judgments based on race, no matter what we'd like to think.
Most of us posting on various blogs have stated - yes we have - that we do believe the judges did not deliberate with any kind of agenda in mind. But that we still feel that there is significance to the outcome and it needs to be discussed. Rationally. I don't know how else to respond, but I accused no one of nuttin. I believe this is something we need to understand. I do not believe that "shoulds" are useful here. "Should the author's sex matter?" I believe that it DOES matter, whether it SHOULD or not. That is precisely the issue that most of us are rationally trying to reach and discuss - that somehow it still does matter.
Do you believe saying "Gender doesn't matter" is not abstract? I was responding to that specific statement. I believe that gender affects just about every level of our lives on this planet. And I believe that gender also DOES affect what is on the page. That's not an abstract statement but a response to what RGB said above.

Elaine Flinn

If one were 'rationally' trying to understand a situation-then gender has no place in it - only logic and reality.

To place 'gender' as the root in every argument-is illogical, uninformed,emotional, and moves a step back for every step forward women have made - in the book biz - and every profession.

Statements such as -'Should the authors sex matter?'I believe it that it DOES matter whether it SHOULD or not'- doesn't make much sense to me. All I can say, is that it sounds like you're not concerned whether it's relevant-you just want to make it so.

A.S. Meredith

Perhaps it would be helpful to step back and remember that we're talking about perceptions, not absolute truths. "Good writing" is in the eye of the beholder. Unless the judges can tell us that there were given a grid to grade against, their choices were subjective.

So what colors one's perceptions? I'm not saying the judges were biased--until I meet them personally, I'd be predisposed to say they weren't. The authors of thrillers I've met so far have been generous and good-hearted.

But I think it would be unrealistic to dismiss that perception bias exists when it comes to readership. For instance, there was a study on gender bias that showed that an academic paper with a women's name as the author scored an average of 10 points lower than the exact same paper released under a gender neutral name.

Research--admittedly, soft subjective market research, as opposed to hard, empirical research--shows that female readers are more likely to read a book by either a man or a woman, but male readers are less likely to read a book written by a woman. I think I read somewhere that similar findings were drawn specifically for this genre.

And while it's speculative to draw conclusions based on such anecdotal information, you can't just toss out data because you just don't happen to like what it appears to be saying.

Hey, I don't make the "reality", I just have to deal with it.

sex stereotypes

Nice article, let me add that members of the working class or blue collars are stereotyped as being poorly educated or being neglectful of their education either out of laziness or because they perceive the more educated members of society as "naive" and lacking "street smarts".

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