I am one of the 944 writers who voluntarily participated in a survey Neil Clarke (editor of Clarkesworld) is in the process of taking. He won’t release the full information for another week or so (which I can’t wait to see), but a few days back he gave some demographic numbers.
These are spare bits, but interesting nonetheless.
Interesting because it’s answering questions like: How many people write SF/F? Like: what is their gender? And like: how old are these folks?
Here’s the simple raw data.
And here’s my overview …
First, the fact that the survey included 944 writers–a boggling number, perhaps. And that 81% of those 944 writers responded that they were traditionally published. That means there were something in the range of 750 writers in this pool who self-report having been published in a traditional market someplace. If we take this at face value, and also assume this 944 total writers is (1) not the complete set of SF/F writers, and (2) these 944 writers are a representative sample of the whole of SF/F writers … well … it seems like this is a very productive era as far as creating folks who write speculative kinds of stuff.
What gender are these folks?
Bottom line: 53.8% male, 43.5% female, and 2.6% who identify as other.
First things first, the question still remains about whether this is a representative sample. My raw guess is that given the total number of respondents, it probably is. But one never really knows–especially given my little perch on the world. But a few things strike me when I see these numbers.
(1) The gap has probably closed considerably since the day I started seriously writing. I would have purely guessed it was more like 60/40, but the purely biological break-down is more in the area of 55/45. If I’m right, this represents what I consider positive progress. (I would put the numbers 25 years back to be more like 70/30).
(2) In a homogeneous world, the biological numbers “should” be more like 48/52. But the world is not homogeneous. I’m wondering if the discrepancy in STEM fields is bleeding over into these numbers a bit, and if the factors that combine to create that imbalance are working to do the same thing here. If that is the case, then these numbers could well mean that the environment that the SF/F world is built around is actually doing even better than the numbers might show.
(3) If these numbers are truly representative of the actual population of writers out there, then the various Puppy slates that created a ballot with so few female writers has come about with some form of very clear intervention that makes the distribution non-random. This is a question I started thinking about because of a post I read on Jim Hines’ Facebook page.
(4) Clearly, there is more progress to make, regardless.
All, right, how old are these writers?
The answer (64% are 30-50 years old, with the majority over 40) is unsurprising to me, but could perhaps be a shock to outsiders who consider SF/F to be the free range of the ultra-young. I often run into “adults” who consider the genre to be for the immature. Sigh. Anyway, I find the tails to be interesting, too, since they swing to the elder side, with 23% being over 50, and only about half that number having lived less than 30 years.
My personal thoughts here are:
(1) Yes, my daughter Brigid (who sold stories at barely 25) is pretty far ahead of the curve.
(2) Yes, being now 54, I’m getting perilously close to the 85th percentile. Crap.
(3) I’m struck here how ageism is the more silent “ism” of them all. It was rarely discussed in the corporate world I was involved in, and it’s not heavily discussed in the circles I’ve been around as far as SF/F writers are concerned. This data curve, however, is very different from those I saw in the corporate world–which skewed quite a bit younger. I think I like that (though maybe it’s because I’m moving more and more rapidly each day along the axis [grin]).