…helps gardens to grow.
One of the things I do, when I browse the SFF section in a bookshop, is count the number of female-identified names on the display tables, and figure a rough estimate of the F:M ratio.
Sometimes I tweet about it. I’ve tweeted about it at Hodges Figgis, which is my favourite Dublin bookshop, maybe three times in the last six weeks, as browsing pulled me in their doors.
Today the oddest of interesting things happened. I was in the middle of browsing display tables, looking for something new, when one of the staff stopped me. I won’t share their name, because they might not wish to be so publically identified, but the conversation opened something like this –
“Hi… Liz, right? I’m [Name]. You’ve been tweeting about our displays, right?”*
This isn’t an unhappy story, though. Because instead of starting to berate me for being an annoying feminist, they – and another staff member – asked for my opinion on what else they might include.
Put on the spot, sticky with afternoon humidity and my head still half in the library, I’m afraid I rather blanked. I got it together enough to mention Kameron Hurley and Jaine Fenn, V.E. Schwab, The Goblin Emperor and Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, and to garble something about how The Mirror Empire and Smiler’s Fair were books I was really looking forward to for August. And I think I mentioned that Angry Robot Books were one of the UK publishers that I’d noticed having an interestingly varied list with a lot of female names.
They made positive noises, and also invited me to leave – feedback’s not quite the word… recommendations? – with them in future. I feel greatly heartened by this, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing – hopefully! – slightly more varied displays in the future.
(For the interested parties, there were about eight-to-ten books on the display tables with socially-female names on the jackets, or names I recognise as belonging to female people. Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns, a book by J.R. Ward, Shannon’s The Bone Season, Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic, a couple I should’ve written down because they’re gone from my memory now, and two books I’ve never seen in Hodges Figgis before: one by Susan Ee, of whom I’ve never before heard, and Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling, out of Bantam UK, of which I’ve heard good things but which I can’t quite bring myself to pay adult hardcover prices for when my TBR pile is this high. ETA: Ann Leckie still has a small table to herself.)
*I have no idea how they recognised me. Presumably they’re one of those amazing sorts who are really good at putting names and faces together in different contexts – maybe they saw me at Octocon? Or remembered my name from the till? Or in some other context? This is amazing to me, because I cannot do that – and if they hadn’t been so patently nice, it might have been a little weird/creepy.