The nominees for this year's Sidewise Award (for alternate-history fiction) have been announced.
I find it interesting that once again all nine of the nominated works are by male authors. Though the translator of one of the short stories is female.
I continue to wonder whether women just don't write much alternate history, or whether the judges (6 out of 8 of whom are male) tend to prefer alternate history by men, or what other factors might be involved.
(Obligatory disclaimer: as with the Linville article about possible gender bias in sf, I'm certainly not saying that good work is being disregarded simply because it's by women; I'm not saying "those horrible judges are prejudiced and they should be stopped" or "there ought to be a quota" or any of the things that someone unfamiliar with me might assume I'm saying here. If anyone is reading this and feeling defensive, and if you decide to respond to this entry, please be careful to respond to what I've written here, rather than to what someone else might have said in a similar vein. I'm not advocating any particular course of action; I'm just observing what seems to me to be a clear pattern, and honestly wondering about what the causes might be.)
During the nine years of this award's lifetime so far (counting this year), there've been six works by women nominated (three of which were published in 2000), and sixty-four by men, so 91% of the nominated works have been by men, and 87% of the winning works have been by men. Are those roughly representative proportions? That is, are roughly 1 in 10 published alternate-history works by women? I honestly don't know; that may well be true.
I'm a little dubious about the notion that alternate history as a subgenre is just more interesting to men than to women, but it could well be true. If I weren't feeling lazy, maybe I would set up a poll. Instead, feel free to post your nonscientific anecdotal data and personal opinions in my comments (but please remain civil; no attacks on the award administrators, no attacks on people who are bothered by the difference in percentages). I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you who are female: do you read alternate history? Do you like it? If you write, do you write alternate history? If not, why not? (No value judgment intended; it's fine to not like or not be interested in it. I'm just curious about what about alt-hist does and doesn't appeal to people.)
Tongue-in-cheek challenge: write an alternate-history story that postulates a historical Point Of Departure which results in more women writing alternate history stories. Bonus points for making such a story so good and so interesting that it wins next year's Sidewise Award.
Oh, and if you want to bring any works of alternate history published this year to the judges' attention, visit their 2004 reading list page and drop them a note with your suggestion.
Thanks to S. for bringing this up last year (wasn't sure if I should associate your full name with this discussion, S.) We were going to suggest something related to this question as a WisCon panel topic for this year, but I forgot; not sure whether S. suggested it to programming people or not. Maybe next year.