Sorry about the rolling tumbleweed here the last week or so, but I've been working on this and that... and commenting on this, I have to say -- another iteration of the "genre" versus "literary" debate.
Got an interesting comment from a lurker, actually, who pointed out that the list of Big Names I rattled off (Aldiss, Ballard, Bester, Bradbury, and so on) as indication of SF's diversity was rather short on women (to the point of only having Tiptree). It's a fair point. I kinda shuffled feet in response, not really excusing the oversight but working through my thought process, which was basically looking for recognition-value first, age second and disparate style third -- which is to say, focusing on the High Profile Oldies. So you end up with the Great Old Ones like Verne and Wells (sorry, I think Shelley would be cheating here; she's Gothic), the Golden Age guys like Bradbury and Clarke, and writers of the New Wave like Delany and Moorcock. But it has to be said that when I was trying to think of an "R" I had to move up to the present, and it was Ryman I thought of rather than Russ. Also I picked Ballard and Lem off the top of their head rather than, say, Butler and Le Guin. I like to think I'm not deeply sexist (I hate all breeders equally, male and female; that heterosexuality thing -- it's just not natural), so whyfore the glaring oversight?
Thinking about it, I realise that these are the writers I read when first getting into SF, their names engrained in my teenage unconscious. Many of them I can remember picking out of the shelf at the local library, or coming across their stories in anthologies, or buying the novel in some "Classic" imprint. With the first of these I'm quite sure as a teenage boy I'd be less likely to gravitate to a female name (eeew, girl cooties). But I wonder how much of this unconscious focus is a product of the contents of those anthologies and those "Classic" imprints. Glancing at the Millenium / Gollancz Masterworks out just now, there's still only two Le Guins and a Tepper. Which is, to put it bluntly, piss poor, no?
So... hasn't enough time passed yet to get the right books canonised? Are we more likely (or not) to see female authors' profiles getting raised to classic status? Could a feedback loop get set up whereby a new generation of teenage boys (being completist geeks) might be as familiar with Octavia Butler as with J. G. Ballard? Where it would be second nature for my equivalent a few years down the line to rattle off a list that was utterly mixed in gender, rather than slapping themselves on the forehead afterwards at their own oversight?
And would that help change the mentality where over-grown teenage boys can grope a female author whose works might well be considered a candidate for that "Classic" status?
Or am I just being overly optimistic here?