Edward LearStill in ignore-Vox-Day mode, how does a writer decide whether a SF story is worth writing? The first part of this blog is applicable to everybody, but then I’ll get down to what women might think.

First, life is short. Second, everybody wants to maximize the chances they’ll get their story published. Assume I’m a reasonably competent SF writer and I’ve got an idea for a SF story. Should I devote the chunk of my life that this will require? In order to make this decision, I’ll take a look at the available markets.

First, let’s check out Asimov’s. This is popular market, with slightly in excess of 10K submissions a year. The response time runs about 6 months, so I can make two submissions a year. This suggests that I have about a .02% chance that someone would randomly pull my manuscript out of the pile for publication, nevermind that it’s actually more complicated that than. Asimov’s reserves a lot of room for longer fiction, which cuts down the space they have for short stories. It looks like they published just over 60 SF works of all lengths in 2013. They also have a particular style that they try to maintain to suit their readership. Plus, they’re angling for awards. This means that a story has to be both outstanding and suited for their readership in order to attract their attention. Who are their readers? Hm.

Next, let’s look at Daily SF. This publication posts stories online, but also works on an e-mail format, where the publishers send out a story a day. This means they’re interested in VERY short works and lean to vignettes rather than fully developed stories. Again, they have a very high number of submissions every year, but they advertise a response time of one month. This means I could whip up and submit twelve 500-word pieces each year instead of the two labor-intensive, fully developed stories that I might submit to Asimov’s. Daily SF might also be interested in awards, but the format makes this unlikely. They published about 160 SF stories in 2013.

Given that I’m looking to maximize my chance of publication, which format is the better use of my time? Vignette or fully developed?

Now assume I’m a gal who wants to write SF. I can go to the websites and glance down through the list of who’s been published recently. Asimov’s isn’t the worst, but it looks like only 30% of the authors published in 2013 were women. Daily SF was about 50%. Which is the friendlier market for me?

Of course, there are other considerations, but this is the basic economic analysis. It also answers Connolly’s question in a way. Women are making economic decisions about the best use of their writing time. Regardless that more women (or non-binaries) are writing SF, there are still expectations and complexities that make fully developed SF stories a poor use of writing time.

I like Asimov’s BTW. I always give them a try.

Illustration by Edward Lear.