March 25   Phd Data Mining

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I officially finish maternity at the end of this month ie next Tuesday. Can you believe that’s been six months already? I can’t! Except, almost 5 month old baby tries to say differently :)

I’ve been trying to do a regular catch up day of study with Amanda and some weeks I’ve done better at that (either in the actually meeting up or in the getting significant work done) than others. I figured a really easy place to start researching – easy in terms of being able to pick up and put down bite size pieces – was with the data collection. I’ve done a reasonably thorough scramble around our house to find all the Aussie SF (short fiction) we have as a starting point. At the moment, my sample set is going to be Aussie SF because it seems more doable and I’m probably going to be able to better, and more completely, source all the texts. And my thinking was, just work through the piles of mags, collections and anthols that we’ve got in the house as a starting point.

The problem of course is, I’m not yet sure what and how I want to crunch data so I don’t quite know what and how to capture information. I don’t want to have to come back and get something else from all these titles later. And the way I collect all this data now is likely to affect what I can do with it later. It’s very circular. The other issue is, because I can only pick up and put down small bite size pieces, I never really get the chance to sit and think long and hard about it. Other than the thinking I did for the general objectives and broad methodology I outlined in my candidacy proposal. So this means that every time I do sit down to work, I get distracted by possible tangents to veer off on or rabbit holes to dive into. Though probably that would be the case even if I was sitting in an office on campus in silence for hours at a time too.

Yesterday I sat down and managed to work on some old ASIMs. I’m looking at the gender breakdown of publications in SF in Australia, basically. Originally I was just looking at the fiction. Though I had also planned to look at other methods of performance evaluation ie years best round ups (both the fiction chosen and the way the editors view the year in their editorial round ups) and then also the various awards. These two will likely be more general SF rather than Aus SF in isolation (again because the sample set seems more doable). But along the way I realised that I will also need to look at other features in magazines such as the interviews (who conducts them and who do they interview) and also the reviews (again, who reviews whom).

I’m interested in the way we rewrite and reframe the scene – women have always written SF and yet they mostly have also been written out of (or their roles downplayed in) the history. How does that happen? Looking at the books that get attention, the authors who are spoken about, held up as the finest or the core or the genre shapers of our field may give some hint to that. These are the authors we remember and these are the ones that become easy for everyone to then pull out if they suddenly need a list (try it in your head and then see how many women are on those lists). And I realised today, that along with looking at editorials for gender breakdown of who is most discussed or held in esteem, I also need to do the same within interviews and reviews, if necessary. It’s quite fascinating, and well, then quite angry making followed by downright depressing. But not anything we didn’t know or haven’t discussed before. All I’m doing is collecting the data to make the pretty pie charts later.

I like to play games with it like, will the one woman mentioned be Ursula le Guin? And now I’ve got a list of Australian male writers too. I don’t have a sample set big enough yet for that one but I might have some breakdown on who those authors are at some point. My guess is that the Aussie women will be Sussex, Love and Lanagan but we shall see.



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