Gender Distributions in SF & F

Wed Jan 29 10:34:45 PST 2003

Quoting Andrew Lias <anrwlias at hotmail.com>:

> The recent discussions about gender biases in the science has led me to 
> wonder about a similar question regarding the readership of science
> fiction and fantasy.
> From what surveys I've read, the readership of science fiction is 
> overwhelmingly male, whereas fantasy works have a much larger female 
> following.  So the question is, why.


> So... why?  Why do women, especially young women, tend to avoid science 
> fiction while embracing fantasy?

I've never seen hard numbers on this, but it seems to me that there are just
as many female sci-fi fans as there are male fantasy fans. 

I was first introduced to sci-fi by my mom, who would record reruns of Star
Trek for me. Later, whenever we visited my grandparents, Mom would take me
up to the attic, which was literally full of nothing but wall to wall sci-fi
and fantasy books; shelf after shelf of pretty much everything in the genres
published in the 20th century. This is how I was introduced to Robert
Heinlein, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Roger
Zelazny, James Blish, Alan Dean Foster, and more.

When I got older, I naturally gravitated towards friends with the same
interests (read: geeks). It didn't seem strange to me at the time, but now I
realize that I had just as many female friends -- who were every bit as
fanatical about both sci-fi and fantasy as I was -- as I had male friends. I
still do.

That said, I think young girls tend to be more taken by the romantic,
flourishy fantasies of Marion Zimmer Bradley, et. al., whereas young guys
are more likely to start by reading the more juvenile, almost soft-pornish
fantasies of Piers Anthony. But I can't seem to make this distinction
regarding sci-fi...I've never noticed an overwhelming tendency for female
sci-fi fans to like a different kind of sci-fi than male fans.

And then there are those of us who like the "assassins, rapiers, sorcery and
badassery" fantasy stylings of Steven Brust. We're the smartest ones, if you
ask me.

Ryan Grove
ryan at wonko.com