What do women authors and science-fiction writers have in common? A notable absence on Publishers Weekly's list of the ten best books of the year. PW apologized proactively for the omission, saying "We wanted the list to reflect what we thought were the top 10 books of the year with no other consideration....We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz....It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male. There was kicking and screaming for a science fiction title. A literary ghost story came so close, it squeaked."
Maybe PW didn't look hard enough, suggests About.Com's Linda Lowen. PW's list includes a John Cheever biography and some fairly doughty books of essay and non-fiction. But what about Cherie Priest's Boneshaker? "The fact that it's from Tor, an acclaimed science fiction/fantasy publisher with an award-winning author list, says something...as does PW's inclusion of it in their Top 100 Books of 2009," writes Lowen. Meanwhile, Lowen speculates that the literary ghost story in question was Sarah Waters' Booker Prize-shortlisted The Little Stranger — although there's also Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry.
Lowen's whole discussion of how the culture industry overlooks women writers, including links and quotes from other people's discussions, is well worth checking out. But it's also fascinating that, in a sense, women literary writers and science-fiction writers seem to get excluded from the mainstream "best of" lists for opposite reasons — the literary women's books are deemed too "small" and "unambitious," whereas science-fiction novels, one senses, are too huge and over-reaching, with their far-future settings or world-transforming technologies. [WomensIssues.About.Com]