The Reality of Proportion or If You Can't Sleep, Read This: Statistics, Statistics, Statistics...

Sunday, 16 October 2005 14:44 Dave Truesdale
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In our continuing efforts to move material from our old site to the current one, we present an editorial first published online in 1999. It seems some of the issues addressed in the piece are continually cropping up, and we hope this will be a resource for both older and newer readers.

While reviewing both the Gardner Dozois and David G. Hartwell 1998 Best Of collections in this issue, Richard Horton wonders if there are "any patterns to be derived from the contents of the two collections" and notices, at least for this year, "a rather low percentage of stories by women." 

David Hartwell's Year's Best SF 3 includes 22 stories from 1997. 19 by male writers and 3 from females. This breaks down to 86.4% by males and 13.6% by females. A 6.35 to 1 ratio.

Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction, Fifteenth Annual Collection includes 28 stories from 1997. Due to a collaboration by a male and female there were 24.5 stories reprinted from males and 3.5 by females. This breaks down to 87.5% by males and 12.5% by females. A 7 to 1 ratio.

Is this a consistent pattern or a statistical fluke? Let's take a look. A bit of research results in the following statistics:

Concerning the ratio of male to female writers chosen for both of this year's Best Of collections, I offer the following study. It was the closing section of an editorial I penned for Tangent #15 (Summer 1996):

"From July of 1993 (when Tangent published its first issue) up to and including the December 1995 issues of Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF, there were a total of 759 new stories published. 211 in Analog, 297 in Asimov's, and 251 in F&SF. (Note that at this time Analog and Asimov's published two double issues and a 13th issue per year, while F&SF published only a double Oct./Nov. single issue.)
"Asimov's published 204 stories by male writers (68.7%) and 93 by female writers (31.3%). Analog published 181 stories by male writers (86%) and 30 by female writers (14%), and F&SF (under the editorship of Kristine Kathryn Rusch) published 163 stories by male writers (64.9%) and 88 by female writers (35.1%). No novel serializations or poetry were included in these figures, just original short fiction.

"Taken together, out of the 759 total stories published by the above magazines in the above 18 month time frame, 73.13% were by male writers, and 26.87% were by female writers. Eliminate Analog from the mix and we have 66.8% written by males and 33.2% written by females."

This is either a 3 to 1, or 2 to 1 ratio in favor of males, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of Analog.
Both the 1998 Hartwell and Dozois Best Of collections included stories from 1997 obviously. Though selecting from sources besides Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF, here is the breakdown of male/female stories published in these three magazines for 1997 (novel serializations and poetry not included, "mixed" collaborations receiving one-half point each):
Analog-- 66 stories, 55 male, 10 female, 1 unknown (s.c. virtes). Males 83.3%. Females 15.2%. Unknown 1.5%.
Asimov's-- 77 stories, 52.5 male, 24.5 female (there was one "mixed" collaboration). Males 68.2%. Females 31.8%.
F&SF-- 87 stories, 54.5 male, 30.5 female (there were three "mixed" collaborations), 2 unknown (Robin Aurelian, 2 stories). Males 62.6%. Females 35.1%. Unknown 2.3%.

Combined statistics from all three magazines from 1997 show a total of 230 stories. Males with 162 and females with 65, and 3 unknown. Males 70.4%, females 28.3%, and unkown 1.3%. Just shy of a 2.5 to 1 ratio.

Here are the stats for 1996:
Analog-- 68 stories, 60 male, 8 female. Males 88.2%. Females 11.8%.
Asimov's-- 68 stories, 50 male, 18 female. Males 73.5%. Females 26.5%.
F&SF-- 79 stories, 55 male, 24 female. Males 69.6%. Females 30.4%.

Here are the stats for 1998:
Analog-- 66 stories, 59 male, 7 female. Males 89.4%. Females 10.6%.
Asimov's-- 73 stories, 55 male, 18 female. Males 75.3%. Females 24.7%.
F&SF-- 76 stories, 48.5 male, 26.5 female (one "mixed" collaboration), and 1 unkown (Robin Aurelian). Males 63.8%. Females 34.9%. Unknown 1.3%.

Here are the totals from July 1993 through December 1998:
Analog
July 93-Dec. 95: Males 86%. Females 14%.
1996: Males 88.2%. Females 11.8%.
1997: Males 88.3%. Females 15.2%. Unknown 1.5%.
1998: Males 89.4%. Females 10.6%.
4.5 year average: Males 88%. Females 12.9%. Unknown .38%. (Totals slightly larger than 100% due to rounding.) A 6.8 to 1 ratio.

Asimov's
July 93-Dec. 95: Males 68.7%. Females 31.3%.
1996: Males 73.5%. Females 26.5%.
1997: Males 68.2%. Females 31.8%.
1998: Males 75.3%. Females 24.7%.
4.5 year average: Males 71.4%. Females 28.6%. A 2.5 to 1 ratio.

F&SF
July 93-Dec. 95: Males 64.9%. Females 35.1%.
1996: Males 69.6%. Females 30.4%.
1997: Males 62.6%. Females 35.1%. Unknown 2.3%.
1998: Males 63.8%. Females 34.9%. Unknown 1.3%.
4.5 year average: Males 65.2%. Females 33.9%. Unknown .9%. (Totals slightly larger than 100% due to rounding.) A 1.9 to 1 ratio.

4.5 year average for all three magazines--
Analog: Males 88%. Females 12.9%.
Asimov's: Males 71.4%. Females 28.6%.
F&SF: Males 65.2%. Females 33.9%.
Overall 4.5 year combined average: Males 74.87%. Females 25.13%. A 2.98 to 1 ratio.

Eliminate Analog and the figures are: Males 68.3%. Females 31.3%. (totals slightly lower than 100% due to the exclusion of the Unknowns.) A ratio of 2.18 to 1.

My initial study, from July 1993 to December 1995, showed Males at 73.13% and Females at 26.87%. Eliminating Analog showed Males at 66.8% and Females at 33.2%.

Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, July 93-Dec. 95: Males 73.13%. Females 26.87%.
Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, July 93-Dec. 98: Males 74.87%. Females 25.13%.

The latter percentages are approximately a 3 to 1 (2.98 to 1) ratio in favor of males.

Eliminating Analog shows:
Asimov's, F&SF, July 93-Dec. 95: Males 66.8%. Females 33.2%.
Asimov's, F&SF, July 93-Dec. 98: Males 68.3%. Females 31.3%.

The latter percentages are approximately a 2 to 1 (2.18 to 1) ratio in favor of males.

One is given to wonder if this 2 (or 3) to 1 ratio in the "Big Three" U.S. magazines is the norm for other publications as well. A quick look at a few other magazines is in order.

U.S. Magazines
SF Age for 1998 published 33 stories, 29 by Males and 4 by Females. This breaks down to 88% by Males and 12% by Females. A 7.3 to 1 ratio.
Realms of Fantasy for 1998 published 33 stories, 17 by Males and 16 by Females. This breaks down to 51.5% by Males and 48.5% by Females. For all intents and purposes this is a 1 to 1 (1.1 to 1) ratio.
Of the 3 of 4 issues of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine I have from 1998, there were 22 stories, 2 by Males and 20 by Females. This breaks down to 9% by Males and 91% by Females. A 10.1 to 1 ratio favoring Females.
Of the 2 issues of Weird Tales that I have from 1998 there were 17 stories, 12 by Males and 5 by Females. This breaks down to 71% by Males and 29% by Females. Just shy of a 2.5 to 1 ratio.
Aboriginal SF for 1998 published 13 stories, 12 by Males and 1 by a Female. This breaks down to 92% by Males and 8% by Females. An 11.5 to 1 ratio.
Absolute Magnitude published 9 original stories (one reprint from 1988) in 1998, 8 by Males and 1 by a Female. This breaks down to 89% by Males and 11% by Females. An 8 to 1 ratio.
Talebones printed 25 stories in 1998, 17 by Males and 8 by Females. This breaks down to 68% by Males and 32% by Females. A shade over a 2 to 1 (2.1 to 1) ratio.
Adventures of Sword & Sorcery, in its single issue this year, published 9 stories, 7 by Males and 2 by Females. This breaks down to 78% by Males and 22% by Females. A ratio of 3.5 to 1.
Space And Time (bi-annually), in issue #88 (Summer 98) published 8 stories, 4.5 by Males and 3.5 by Females (due to 1 "mixed" collaboration). This breaks down to 56% by Males and 44% by Females. A 1.3 to 1 ratio.
Crank! #8 returned after a hiatus with 2 stories in 1998 (and the conclusion of a serial, not counted here), 1 story by a Male and 1 story by a Female. This breaks down to 50% by Males and 50% by Females. A ratio of 1 to 1.
Amazing Stories relaunched with two issues this year, and printed 17 stories. 12 by Males and 5 by Females. This breaks down to 71% by Males and 29% by Females. Just shy of a 2.5 to 1 ratio.
Pulp Eternity began with 14 stories in its first issue (Sept.), 10 by Males and 4 by Females. This breaks down to 71% by Males and 29% by Females. Just shy of a 2.5 to 1 ratio.
Ellen Datlow's new e-zine Event Horizon shows that of its first 8 stories (since Aug. 14, 1998, and not counting the round-robin stories), 6 are by Males, and 2 by Females. This is a ratio of 75% Males to 25% Females. A 3 to 1 ratio.

UK, Canadian, and Australian Magazines
Interzone (UK, monthly) for 1998 published 72 stories, 51.5 by Males and 20.5 by Females (there was one "mixed" collaboration). This breaks down to 71.5% by Males and 28.5% by Females. A 2.5 to 1 ratio.
Odyssey (UK, bi-monthly) issues 2-6 for 1998 published 39 stories, 28 by Males and 11 by Females. This breaks down to 71.8% by Males and 28.2% by Females. A 2.5 to 1 ratio.
On Spec (Canadian, quarterly), No's. 32-34 printed 30 stories in 1998, 17 by Males and 13 by Females. This breaks down to 57% by Males and 43% by Females. A 1.3 to 1 ratio.
TransVersions 8/9 (Canadian, 3 times a year) printed 11 stories in 1998, 7.5 by Males and 3.5 by Females. This breaks down to 68% by Males and 32% by Females. A shade over a 2 to 1 (2.1 to 1) ratio.
Northern Fusion #1 (Canadian) printed 6 stories in its debut issue in 1998, 3 from Males and 3 from Females. This breaks down to 50% by Males and 50% by Females. A ratio of 1 to 1.
Aurealis (Australian, bi-annually) published 17 stories, 12 by Males and 5 by Females. This breaks down to 70% by Males and 30% by Females. A 2.4 to 1 ratio.
Altair (Australian, bi-annually) published 24 stories in issues #1 and #2 in 1998, 23 by Males and 1 by a Female. This breaks down to 95.8% by Males and 4.2% by Females. A ratio of 23 to 1.
Eidolon (Australian, listed as quarterly), in issues #25/26 and #27, published 17 stories, 12 by Males and 4 by Females, with 1 Unknown (L.J. Petersen). This breaks down (out of 16 known stories) to 75% by Males and 25% by Females. A 3 to 1 ratio.

For what it may be worth, the following ranked list shows the breakdown of ratios of male to female original stories published from 24 SF and Fantasy magazines around the English-speaking world. 16 from the U.S., and 8 from the UK, Canada, and Australia. A few sport figures from an almost 5-year run, while many are from 1998 only, and others are from their debut issue(s), from male and female editors alike. Some ratios are obviously more valid than others, especially when it concerns new magazines with only an issue or two under their belts, or from more established magazines who published only an issue or two in 1998. And remember Samuel Clemens' (paraphrased) observation that there are "statistics, statistics, and damn lies."

Male to Female Published Story Ratios in SF and F Magazines
1. (U.S.) Crank! #8: 1:1
2. (Canadian) Northern Fusion #1: 1:1
3. (U.S.) Realms of Fantasy 1.1:1
4. (Canadian) On Spec 1.3:1
5. (U.S.) Space & Time 1.3:1
6. (U.S.) F&SF 1.9:1
7. (U.S.) Talebones 2.1:1
8. (Canadian) TransVersions 2.1:1
9. (Australian) Aurealis 2.4:1
10. (U.S.) Amazing 2.5:1
11. (U.S.) Asimov's 2.5:1
12. (UK) Interzone 2.5:1
13. (UK) Odyssey 2.5:1
14. (U.S.) Pulp Eternity 2.5:1
15. (U.S.) Weird Tales 2.5:1
16. (Australian) Eidolon 3:1
17. (U.S.) Event Horizon 3:1
18. (U.S.) Adventures of Sword & Sorcery 3.5:1
19. (U.S.) Analog 6.8:1
20. (U.S.) SF Age 7.3:1
21. (U.S.) Absolute Magnitude 8:1
22. (U.S.) MZB's Fantasy Magazine (Note: Female to Male ratio) 10.1:1
23. (U.S.) Aboriginal SF 11.5:1
24. (Australian) Altair 23:1

A cursory examination of the above gives three obvious groupings. First, however, the reverse ratio of MZB's must be set aside, with its singular 10.1:1 Female to Male stat. This leaves 23 magazines with a Male to Female, or the rare Equal, ratio.

On a rough bell curve, we now have 5 zines on the rising arc in the narrow 1:1 to 1.3:1 group. The second group encompasses 13 zines in the 1.9:1 to 3.5:1 ballooning of the curve, and on the downslope we have the final 5 zines ranging from the 6.8:1 to 23:1 range. A clear bell curve (numerically, anyway) of 5, 13, 5 (with MZB's set aside with its reverse female/male ratio).

Adding the 13 numbers in the middle group and then dividing by 13, we have an average ratio of 2.5:1. I'm no professional statistician and may be playing with the raw data wrongly (for which I apologize), but this figure (2.5:1) is close to that gleaned from Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF, from July 1993 through December 1998, which was 2.98:1. Given the nature and purposes of this informal survey, this is still more than "close enough." If we back out of the tangle of trees and look at the forest, we can see that the ratio of male to female writers -- for whatever reasons -- hovers in the area of 2.5:1.

To lend some perspective to these current figures, I give you (minus the year by year stats) the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction figures from 1960-1964. A 5-year run of stats beginning (almost) 40 years ago.

Male/Female Ratio Published in F&SF From 1960-1964
Total Stories, 1960-1964: 474
Stories by Males: 411.5
Stories by Females: 62.5
Male percentage: 87%
Female percentage: 13%

Ratio: 6.7:1

Comparing the old with the new we see a drastic change in the proportion of male to female writers during the early Sixties from that in the mid to late Nineties.

F&SF January 1960-December 1964 = 6.7:1 in favor of male writers.
F&SF July 1993-December 1998 = 1.9:1 in favor of male writers.

But enough of the statistics. The reality of the disparate proportions between men and women writers appearing in the magazines is, quite simply, what everyone has known, and has been saying, since the genre began: that there has always been a disproportionate number of male writers in the magazines, though as time has passed there has been an ever-increasing number of women reading, writing, and editing them. Every editor selects the best stories he or she can from what they receive, and to think otherwise is plain foolishness.

So while this year it happens to work out that there are slightly fewer stories by women to make it into both the Dozois and Hartwell Best Of collections, it is, as Rich Horton surmised, "a statistical freak."

I hope the holiday season has treated you well, and offer best wishes for the coming year.

Cheers,
Dave

Copyright © 1999 by David A. Truesdale