(Note: Chad Hull added some interesting, useful and slightly disheartening information in a comment to the original post. Chad*, thanks! good stuff.)
I sent an e-mail to someone I know at Copperfield’s Books, talking about the Nebula nominees and how difficult it was to find them (any of them) at the brick-and-mortar stores. I was kinder than I was in my blog post. Vicki, my contact, who, among other things, plans the events for the chain (including the Neil Gaiman event last year,) replied in less than an hour.
She checked with the adult buyer and went through the list. While the Gaiman and the Wecker and Hild by Nicola Griffith are heavily stocked, they will probably order some more of Fowler’s book and the others. One, the self-published The Red; Station One is not available to them. That’s an interesting comment on the nature of self-publishing.
Vicki was delighted to see Helene Wecker’s debut novel on the list and said she might write something for the store’s website. I will have to check. Copperfield’s loves Wecker (and rightfully so), so I know they will do her justice.
In general, Vicki sees the problem of the books not being on the shelves as a symptom of the fact that every single genre can’t have an in-store champion. I agree with that assessment. SFF is a small genre compared to non-fiction, mystery or even romance/popular fiction. YA and children’s are hot markets and get a lot of attention. The issue of women’s SFF books being unavailable, then, is not one of misogyny directly; it’s about a distribution and sales system. This is exactly why it’s so hard to fight. If someone in Copperfield’s just thought that women had no business writing (no one who works at Copperfield’s thinks that, or ever thought it, I’m betting) then you could go talk to that person and show why that was wrong. You could persuade. You could march up and down outside the store. You could do something.
When it’s “the system,” it gets harder to address.
There is one thing some of us can do though. We can go into our local Copperfield’s and request books by the SFF writers we love. For many of us, many of those will be women writers. I don’t see this as an ideal solution because Copperfield’s has seven stores. When there were two in the county, if six people asked for a book, it got noticed. With seven, if two people each go into their local stores, it’s still so diluted that I wonder who notices. The book-buyer, maybe, eventually, if they are ordering six or seven (or ten) more of a particular book. Well, it can’t hurt to try. Perhaps social media, like Facebook or comments to Copperfield’s via their website, would boost the signal a little bit.
Just as a start, in case you haven’t read them all, here is the list of Nebula nominees for 2013:
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Fire with Fire by Charles Gannon
Hild, by Nicola Griffiths (probably still in new releases)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Red: Station One by Linda Nagata
A Stranger in Olandria by Sofia Samatar
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (newly available in paperback).
*And check out Chad’s blog, Fiction is so Over-rated, here.