I’ve been thinking about Eclipse Two in light of recent posts about the table of contents, and about why I edit anthologies. I edit them because I love science fiction and fantasy, I love short stories, I love being involved; I love that feeling you get when you read a great story for the first time or help make an almost great story great by some comment or suggestion. Being there at the birth of new short fiction is incredibly rewarding.
Given my respect for the field and for its readers and writers, I understand the disappointment with the gender balance of the contents for Eclipse Two. Over the past several days I’ve been reflecting on the work I did on the book, and on the process I used arriving at the final table of contents. I’ve done this for one simple reason: as happy as I am with each individual story, as proud as I am of the book in every other respect, I want to answer my own questions about gender balance in the book, both for myself and for readers and critics within the community.
The truth is that under the pressure of needing to deliver and of my other work, I overlooked gender balance as an issue in the closing couple months of preparing Eclipse Two for publication. There is no doubt in my mind that I should have paid more attention to this, and it is something I sincerely regret.
As important as identifying my blind spot at the end of the process is, I have to ask myself how I got to the end with such a great gender disparity. My publisher and I had agreed at the outset that the Eclipse series would be unthemed, but also that it would change in focus and balance from book to book. During the initial invitation period for the book, Night Shade asked me to make Eclipse Two ‘more SF’ – not new space opera, not hard or Military SF – just that it should focus more on the SF side of the SF/fantasy divide. It became, in effect, a different book. Because of this change in focus, several writers were added to the invite list — writers whose work I thought fell on the SF side of said divide.
These additions changed the gender balance of the invite list, and the change in focus ended up emphasizing these writers. Where I failed, though, was later in the process. Writers dropped out as always happens (and this is no reflection on them), and I wasn’t paying attention to gender balance. More women happened to drop out than men, and when I went to solicit stories close to the deadline I went to writers I felt I could impose on, that I had a relationship with, and they were all male. I should have been more aware, and made sure I maintained the kind of balance I’d started out with. I didn’t, and I regret that.
Why did I change the focus of the book? Night Shade is my publisher, and their suggestion seemed reasonable and didn’t overly change the concept of the book. As I say above, I stand behind each of the individual story selections and am very happy with them. I’ve had a good balance of women and men in my other anthologies, and am more determined than ever that this will continue in the future. In the meantime, I hope readers will judge Eclipse Two on the quality of its stories. I hope the contributors of the anthology will accept my apologies for packaging and presenting their work in a way that might impact their ability to reach their readers.
Know also that I genuinely understand why there has been anger and frustration about the TOC for E2. I wish had done a better job of maintaining gender neutrality in E2, and I will continue to try and do so, in this series, and in my other work going forward.