The Thrill of Sexism?

The International Thriller Writers has enjoyed nothing but success, praise and enthusiasm since it was co-founded by Gayle Lynds & David Morrell two years ago…until now. On the eve of ITW’s first convention in Phoenix, Author Elaine Viets has criticized the organization’s inaugural list of Thriller Award nominess:

It’s tough to define an award-winning thriller, but the new International Thriller Writers has succeeded:

It’s anything written by a man.

That’s not what it says on the ITW Website. That tells us,
"Thrillers provide a rich literary feast – the legal thriller, the spy
thriller, the action-adventure thriller, the medical thriller, the
police thriller, the romantic thriller, the historical thriller, the
political thriller, the religious thriller, the high-tech thriller, the
supernatural thriller. The list goes on and on, with new variations
being invented constantly. This openness to creation and expansion is
one of the field’s characteristics."

Unfortunately, the plums at this literary feast are served to men
only. For the first ITW Thriller Awards, every single novel nominee is
a man.

Best Novel – five men.

Best First Novel – five men.

Best Paperback Original – five men.

And the winners of these Thriller Awards?

No surprise there: They’re all going to be men.

So is the recipient of the first ITW Life-Time Achievement Award.

The judges were men and women. So was it sexism…or did men simply write the best work this year? You tell me. I didn’t check, but how many Jews were nominated? Jews write lots of crackling thrillers. Hmm.

UPDATE 6-23-06: Novelist Joe Konrath calls Elaine Viets "a troll" and ITW co-founder Gayle Lynds reponds to her charges. Gayle wrote, in part:

As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I
could complain that no women were nominated. At the same time, I could
also complain that no people of color were. I’m not sure whether any
Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but
I think they weren’t either. There also might be a preponderance of
nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as
a prejudice favoring that area.

As long as awards are given in
whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it
were otherwise. And because it isn’t, it’s prejudice."

The only
time there’s really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is
when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised.

Since this is ITW’s first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice.

9 thoughts on “The Thrill of Sexism?”

  1. Oh lord. I’m a member of ITW and I also write reviews for the ITW newsletter. (I noted with amusement that I’ve apparently gone from “contributor” to “senior editor,” thus verifying the old standby in journalism, if we can’t pay you more, we can at least give you a better title :)). Kathleen Sharp, the editor, clearly is attentive to trying to have women’s books reviewed and profiled, because she’s specifically mentioned it to me several times. Hey, my last interview for them was Gayle Lynds, definitely a woman from what I can see (and thank god for it).
    Hey, I’m the great evil apparently–white, middle class, male, straight, middle-aged–and I wasn’t nominated either. (Of course, I didn’t have a book out last year either–there should be a category: BEST NONEXISTENT BOOK BY A WHITE, MIDDLE CLASS, STRAIGHT MALE WRITER). Then I too can say:
    I’m winner!

  2. I don’t think my first comment took, so I’ll try this again.
    First of all, what’s to complain about? At least one of the authors wrote about a female protagonist.
    No problem, then.
    The subjective opinions of judges are sacrosanct, like the views of 9/11 widows. (Oh, wait. More sacrosanct, as it turns out.)
    I’m going to Thrillerfest. I expect to have a good time. I figure, this is a shakedown cruise, and it just could be that all those writers are, hands down, better than any female writer on the list, at least for this competition.
    I am, however, waiting to see if a pattern emerges. A few years down the line, will ITW look like a boy’s club? Since the majority of readers today are women, that might not be good for ITW in the long run.
    Time will tell.

  3. So the quality of the book is secondary to the sex of the writer? If the nominees were all women would this individual be making the same complaint? Considering that this is the very first run I think it is rather silly to be tossing around such comments.
    Then again, I’m a man, so that makes me an enemy of all that is good and pure in the world.

  4. At the risk of sounding lewd, I have to say that it really comes down to penetration. No, not that way, Market Penetration. There were substantially more thrillers written by men this year than by women, from a purely statistical POV it would be an annomally if there had been female writers in the categories. I come from a field that is male dominated so this is an issue that I had to come to terms with several years ago – when there are more men than women there is a greater likelihood that a man will get the promotion, get the prize etc. not because of sexism but because of sheer numbers.
    The real test will be in a few years, once there have been enough rounds of nominations for their to be a discernable pattern – if no women have been nominated by the end of the decade Viets’s question will have some merit.

  5. If I am not mistaken, weren’t some female writers of science fiction and fantasy saying something along the same lines about their genre and who gets their short fiction published in the specfic monthlies?

  6. The other issue here is that ALL of the submissions had to come from publishing companies … PUBLISHING companies are the ones who choose which books to be submitted … look for some blame there.
    ITW can only work with the books that publishers send.

  7. Thank you, Lew.
    If people had any idea how many hours were spent by Jim Rollins, myself and many other judges – contacting publishers, publicists and authors themselves – they’d be astounded.
    In fact, there may be some writers here who received emails from me urging them to contact their publisher-or at least – submit themselves.


Leave a Comment