British science fiction book awards lurch towards gender parity

The past few years, there's been a running dialogue in the U.K. over the fact that major awards, like the BSFA Awards and the Clarke Awards, tend to feature way more male authors on their shortlists. This year, both awards are trying to address that in different ways.

Top image: God's War by Kameron Hurley, UK Cover

First, the Clarke Awards is putting out two separate longlists: one featuring 33 books by women, and one featuring books by men. These are all of the books under consideration for the award, and there's no guarantee that any of these books will make it onto the shortlist. But the fact that 33 out of 82 books on the total longlist are by women means the odds are at least better, right?

Last year, the Clarke Awards ran into criticism for having an all -male shortlist, and this new list of books by women is intended to respond to that. The Guardian quotes director Tom Hunter as saying he hopes releasing gender-segregated longlists will "be a positive contribution towards further raising the profile of women writers of science fiction in the UK and beyond." (As opposed to ghettoizing the female authors, which is also a possible outcome.)

Meanwhile, the BSFA Awards, which also had an all-male shortlist last year, put out this year's shortlist, containing two women: Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie. (Plus Paul McAuley, Gareth L. Powell and Christopher Priest.) Lauren Beukes and Ruth Ozeki fell just short of making it onto the shortlist, awards chief Donna Scott told the Guardian. Hurley is quoted as saying, "Let's be real. We're two out of five on the best novel shortlist, which isn't even parity... So I'm not going to hop up and down like 'rah-rah no more sexism!' But it's better than we've seen in a while."

In any case, neither of these moves seems likely to end the debate over gender parity in SF awards — in the U.K. or elsewhere. That won't happen until we all get used to seeing lineups of winners and nominees that reflect the actual diversity of the best writers of SF today.