There is a lot of discussion within the SF community about gender and women being underrepresented in publications. When I see these discussions, I typically read what can be read quickly, and nod to myself, realizing this is most definitely a problem but feeling like Jason and I do a pretty darn good job supporting the many, many wonderful women who write science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Then Apex Magazine Issue 83 was released and a tweet popped up accusing us of being one of those publications who only publish male sci-fi writers. I believe a “*yawn*” was even thrown in there to show just how boring they thought this was.

Frankly, my reaction was shock. Followed closely by a sputtering “What?”

Issue 83 features original fiction by Andrew Neil Gray and Brandon H. Bell, as well as a reprinted novelette by Catherynne M. Valente and a story from Geoffrey Girard’s collection first communions. The poetry, selected by our amazing poetry editor Bianca Spriggs, happens to all be by men in this issue. Taken as a snapshot, I can see how someone might make the assumption Apex is a magazine only for the male writers in the genre. The thing is, as managing editor, I’m never looking at Apex Magazine on a per issue basis. I’m promoting one issue, editing another one (or two), and reading slush to fill issues months down the road. Doing so gives me a melting pot view of Apex Magazine as a whole. A view that isn’t focused on one issue, but one that stretches months into both the past and the future at the same time.

When the shock of being accused of publishing too many male writers wore off (honestly, comments about how many women we publish are much more common, and can be downright crude, at times) we decided the issue warranted further investigation. If readers are concerned, we should look into it, because Apex strives to publish a wide variety of voices writing amazing stories that cover the entire spectrum of speculative fiction.

We crunched the numbers and happily found that my assumptions were correct: Apex Magazine tends to publish more women than men.

The numbers breakdown like this: (These numbers represent the short fiction – both original and reprints. They are not representative of Bianca’s poetry selections.)

In the past 12 months, we’ve published 26 stories by men, 37 stories by women, and 1 story by an author who does not identify with either gender. That works out to 57.8% of Apex Magazine’s stories being written by women. Because everyone likes pie (Twitter told me so), here’s a chart.

Screenshot 2016-04-14 13.09.08Comparing these numbers to numbers taken for the past 24 months and going all the way back to issue 20 (more than 5 years ago), the percentages show little deviation, with 65.7% of the writers from the past 24 months being women and 64.2% of the writers from the past 5.25 years.

Screenshot 2016-04-14 13.11.46As a woman and an editor, these numbers make me incredibly happy. With writers such as Ursula Vernon, Elizabeth Bear, Chikodili Emelumadu, Damien Angelica Walters, Sarah Pinsker, and so, so many more working in speculative fiction at the moment, not publishing women would be tragedy!

But, I can hear some of you cry, the percentage of stories written by women has dropped 7.9% in the last 12 months! Yes, the gap between the number of stories written by women and those by men has gotten somewhat smaller in the past year. Why? Is it because Jason Sizemore has stepped back into the role as editor-in-chief, and he’s a guy, whereas Apex Magazine’s three previous editor-in-chiefs were all women: Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne Thomas, and Sigrid Ellis? Honestly, the amount of data we have at this point is too small to say definitely whether or not this drop in percentage of stories written by women will be a new trend or if it will bounce back up into the 60% range it was in previously. I don’t believe Jason’s gender has anything to do with it. Despite this, I still think that it’s fair to say that Apex Magazine does not publish only men. Nor do we predominately publish men.

Starting with the slush pile all the way up to the stories accepted by Jason, the first thing we look for are great stories that have that certain something that screams Apex. It isn’t the author’s gender. The numbers presented in this post are the ones that we as a publication have gotten by choosing to publish the best of the best submitted to us. Over the course of 5.25 years, that has worked out to more than 60% of our stories being written by women. This is amazing and something that I am very proud of as an editor and woman.

Thank you to the person who tweeted us after issue 83 came out. It was a good reminder that while we as an editing team may not look at a single issue as representative of what Apex Magazine is doing as a whole, a single issue may define what we are in the mind of a reader. And it also was a good prod to take a hard look at gender among the writers in Apex Magazine. There are no agendas or quotas that we try to hit when accepting stories for publication, but it is important to remain mindful. Women can write amazing speculative fiction. Their work deserves to be published and read and praised just as much as the stories written by men.

Ladies, submit your stories! We want to read them!

Lesley Conner is a writer, social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications, and Managing Editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling slush, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account. Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. Her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, was recently published by Sinister Grin Press. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about submitting a story to your site for a long time.

    This convinced me. I’m going to do it!

  2. As I reviewed the pie chart, I realized that this entire analysis is missing the REAL issue: inadequate representation of your non-mammalian, exothermic, and pyrotechnic contributors. Yes, I am talking about the REAL bias in speculative fiction: insufficient works by, for, and from the authentic perspective of DRAGONS. While the “draconic-point-of-view” is common enough to be a literary trope, cultural misappropriation dominates this area to the exclusion of all else — plenty of inauthentic mammals write based on their (mis)perceptions of the draconic experience, but the result is little more than the repackaging of homeothermic privilege. Why doesn’t Apex publish more works by actual MEMBERS of the draconic community? Sincerely, — Smoldering

    • If only more dragons wrote. The world would be better off for it!

  3. Apparently, when Apex publishes more women than men it is okay. But when the opposite happens someone wakes up and decides to complain. It’s a pathetic world we live in.

  4. Good information. With nothing else to go on and through no specific intent, one would expect female editors to publish more females and males to publish more makes just based on the fundamental nature of internal biases. No guarantee, of course. But that _is_ why equal representation is so important.

    Emeka: I don’t see much to get upset about in those numbers…pure guess is that the 40-55 split is not statistically significant…and even if it is, it’s completely fine to cheer numbers that show the world is achieving proper parity in at least some places (everything else equal, I suppose the numbers should be 52/48 female based on population density.

    That said, the first questions I would have regarding the Apex case (or any publication with a voice, I suppose), is how much of any slant is based on purely the population of submissions received (if the publication receives more material from women, it would be expected that it would publish more … all other things being equal) and how much might be related to whether one or the other gender is more drawn to write in Apex’s voice. No idea how to assess that from outside, but I would think along those lines before putting my male tail between my legs and complaining about gender-bias reversal hypocrisy. (grinning)

    • Starting in January, we’ve been tracking gender and nationality data from writers who submit. I, too, am curious in regards to how many men vs. women send us stories. 🙂

    • I don’t really care about the numbers. But I care about good fiction, and that should be the focus here. I wouldn’t mind reading an Apex issue featuring only works from women so far as the issue is the best it can be. I don’t imagine this would ever happen, but if it did, it should be because male contributors failed to submit better stories and poems.

      A question. Should a magazine compromise its own quality simply for the sake of gender equality?

      • Nothing in these numbers suggests that Apex is compromising quality for the sake of gender equality. The Apex story tends to be of high quality (though the term quality when applied to any art form is always subjective, but the statement stands as far as I can make it stand).

        Regardless, I suggest the first four paragraphs of this article cover that concept with regard to the act of publishing numbers.

  5. … and lets not forget our non-binary/transgender authors (I figure that’s what “other” means(?))

    • Correct.

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