My stories are worth something — and not just because of my sex.
When I hear a magazine is putting out a special issue I expect the theme to be something along the lines of Wizards in Space, or AI stories. Something fun and unique. After all, special issues are sort of like mass writing prompts. A magazine puts out a call for submissions and writers immediately start thinking of creative interpretations of the theme and how they can write a fantastic story.
This is a beautiful process. If you’ve never been in a creative writing class or tackled the same prompt with a writing group then you can’t imagine the limitless possibilities people will think up based on shared, and typically mundane, source material. Fairy tale retellings are a great example.
However, lately the special issues I’ve seen haven’t been the kind that fuel creativity. They haven’t been theme issues at all. In fact there is nothing about the setting, characters, or content in general that tie these stories together. The only link is the writers.
The ones I’ve seen of late have been Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, Queers Destroy Science Fiction, People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction, and Women Destroy Science Fiction. There’s a clear theme here — too bad it has nothing to to with actually writing science fiction.
I believe everyone should be represented in fiction. EVERYONE.
But I don’t believe in segregating certain issues.
Writing knows no limitations — no race, no sex, no disability, no age, no religion, no medium, no technology, no platform— it even defies language! We have so many fantastic translators in the industry now. One of my favorite childhood books was originally written in German, a fact I didn’t discover until years later.
Why does this seemingly harmless trend push my buttons? Well, besides limiting fiction, stifling creativity, and celebrating the surface and accidental personal attributes of writers, it’s a total publicity stunt.
Issues like this have nothing to do with good writing and everything to do with good publicity.
I want to know that my story was published based on its quality and nothing else. I want to know that I was chosen for an issue because my story was the best choice and not because I’m just the flavor of the month.
Some of my favorite authors are men, but if I exclusively submit to female only issues then I will never be able to compare my skills to theirs and know that I’m just as good, or better. I’ll always wonder if I was second choice, or third or fourth, or fifth choice, because better stories were passed over in order to reach a quota.
These issues claim to be inclusive and progressive while all they really do is hurt the industry, making it another platform for political virtue signaling in an attempt to drive up clicks. Almost all the magazines that take part in these special issues have submission guidelines that make it clear they do not discriminate or accept fiction based on race, sex, age, etc. Yet this is exactly what they do with these issues, and it’s destroying science fiction—irony intended.