Sunday, June 25, 2006

No True Bill

Wow, I leave town for a week and all hell breaks loose.

Over at The Lipstick Chronicles, Elaine Viets blisters the newly formed International Thriller Writers because none of the nominees for the first annual Thriller Awards to be given next week at Thrillerfest are written by women. (I'd point out that none of them were written by native Southerners, either, but that, so I've read, would "diminish the argument", which is apparently a bad thing.)

ITW co-founder and co-president Gayle Lynds, who to my untrained eye appears to be a woman her ownself) has issued a statement defending the nominating process. Needless to say, a lot of blogging and commentary has followed this issue, including a predictable amount of straw men, accusations of insensitivity, insults, and handwaving.

It seems to me that the accusation of bias on the part of ITW is founded on one point: no women were nominated this year. It also seems to me that all evidence contrary to the accusation is being unfairly dismissed out of hand. There were women on the nominating committee? They must have subconscious bias. This is too small a sample to indicate a pattern of bias? Doesn't matter, this is the first year, the "year people will be forming impressions."

Maybe it's my lawyer's mind working, but when you just blithely dismiss counter-evidence like this and construct your theory to fit the accusation rather than one to fit the evidence, you're on thin ice.

ITW's nominating process may be biased and it may not, but I'm not voting to indict on this evidence.

Assuming, however, that the lack of female nominees does indicate bias, what is the proposed remedy? Put more women on the nominating committee? The accusers have already dismissed the objectivity of the ones already on there. Mandate a quota of female authors? No one wants that. Sensitivity training for the nominating committee, maybe? Or is the whole point just to "raise awareness" of the issue while leaving the hard work of figuring what to do about the assumed problem to others?


Elizabeth said...

Yes, indeedy it's been a lively week. I'm not sure what made it more fun, reading the blogs or keeping up with the comments.

You bring up a boatload of great points leading to a single conclusion - the protesters have painted us all into a corner by assuring that no solution is good enough.

I've never judged a writing contest, but I've judged design contests and I can't imagine they are much different. In fact, I'll bet they are exactly alike in two ways: 1) the clear winners rise to the surface despite the inherent prejudices and biases of the judges; and 2) there's always an angry loser. Always.

I vote with the judges and suggest that we women stop behaving like girls and get back to our to churn out some kickass novels for 2007.

Linda Adams said...

I think some of the problem lies in the definition of what a thriller is. It's still a very fuzzy definition, and all of the ambguity lies around crime thrillers. People look at the crime books and wonder is it a mystery, a suspense, or a thriller? Guess what most of the women writers are writing. Crime thrillers.

Then look at the nomination list. Only two crime thrillers got nominated for best book. The rest are in the other subgenres.

The solution, I think, is that 1) ITW needs to come up with a better, less vague definition of thriller and 2) Women need to write other kinds of thrillers besides crime. I would love to read an action-adventure thriller by a woman, but I'm still waiting for someone to write it.