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Liz Williams gives a very good explanation (no, it is not a defence) here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/apr/04/feminist-all-male-clarke-prize-shortlist

I just wanted to add: about eighteen months ago I asked on LJ which women had UK contracts for science fiction. The result was dismal. Where women did have contracts they were likely to be in YA, a genre I read but which often has aspects to it that weaken its sf (and I'm not talking about romance, but consequence: see The Inter-Galactic Playground for the argument if you care). A bunch of us realised that we were rapidly heading for a year in which there would be very few women eligible for the BSFA or Clarke awards.

i) we were right
ii) there are rather more books by women coming out next year in the major presses.

The more I've dug, the more I've come to think the issue is with the buyers. Go look at your local book shop and library. See if you can find any science fiction by a woman other than LeGuin. If you can't, ask them why not. Shops can claim market but a library is *obliged* to cater for you as a constituent.

--
I have no comment on the short list itself; I've read one, am mildly surprised about the absence of M John Harrison, and I've ordered the rest. Comments on the actual list later.

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