Is the Future Still Orange?

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Is the Future Still Orange?

I know this might be like kicking a wasps' nest but I have a genuine question. When I look at many of the best-sellers lists, at least half and often more than half, are by female authors. Not only that, but when I browse along the shelves in Waterstones I am led to conclude that female authors are doing pretty damned well...which I can only say is a good thing. 

So why do we still need the Orange Prize? I thought positive discrimination was about redressing an imbalance. But surely, if the imbalance is not there, it is no longer positive discrimination but just plain discrimination in its most basic form.

To put this in context, I haven't carried out an empirical study to support what I've just said. I could never claim it to be fact. I'm simply going off what I can see. I do appreciate that there will be some people who have 'strong' views on the subject. My wish is not to wind anyone up. I simply think it's a discussion worth having.


Hmmm. 64 views and no response. That’ll be a silent agreement then.

I don't kmow the answer. Generally, I feel we do need more positive discremination. My bugbear is how working class writers are discenfranchised. I guess that's because I regard myself as in that group. 


Working class writers are a tricky one. On the one hand it could be argued that there just isn't the market. On the other hand if I went into a publishers and said 'Hey, I'm going to write a novel', they'd probably show me the way out. But if Jeffery Archer went into the same publishers and said 'Hey, my pet rabbit is going to write a novel', the rabbit would get a non-refundable five figure advance payment. It's true too, many writers of what many believe to be the working class genre are nothing of the sort. See the Rovers Return and the Queen Vic ... pubs don't exist like that and haven't for decades. Both establishments would have been bulldozed by Mme Thatcher's blitzkrieg on the working man or become the headquarters for a drugs gang. The mines have gone, the docks have gone, the steel industry is just about annihilated, Premier League football clubs have barely any connection to their true supporters, and the days when everybody in the street knew each other belong to another era. As for the manual jobs like lathe operator and welder, they've been replaced by none value roles with made up names like sales engineer, and proposals adminstrator. 

Positive discrimination is never going to be enough. It's a long road to equality and fairness and we have to start by voting out the Tories and keeping them out.

To be fair, I blame the Tories for just about everything. Maybe we should start by knocking down Eton and Harrow and moving Westminster into the middle of a Sheffield housing estate.

aye, we had the chance, but blew it. One thing that can be done is to take away instituitions such as Eton's charity status. They are a business. Let them pay tax. But we went in the opposite direction. Giving shysters money to build schools, providing the funds to keep them going, giving them profit and more profit and say it promotes diversity. ahem. That's not even charity. That's public theft.  


it's not really an answer, but a quick jotting down of how I feel.


From the title of your post I thought it was going to be about Donald Trump.

Personally, I have never paid any attention to literary prizes (or music/film/art prizes) apart from perhaps the Nobel Prize for Literature, the rest all seem to be about money.

All I'd want as a writer anyway is for lots of people to read and like my writing, I'd be happy with that, never mind prizes or money.

Interesting point, Scorpio.  I think, when it was first established, the Orange Prize (now just The Women's Prize for Fiction) wasn't so much about redressing an imbalance in the number of women writers or their sales, but about the under representation of women among the winners, or even the short or long lists, for the major literary prizes.  There is evidence that publishers were more reluctant to submit books by women, because women's narratives, or women's perspectives, weren't taken as seriously as men's.

I do think that was, and probably still is, the case, not only in writing, but in any forum where women put forward a narrative that is different from the traditional, male centred one.  I also think it's a lot to do with the intellectual snobbery that differentiates between 'literary'  and genre fiction.  'Literary' matters, genre traditionally hasn't, although that perception has changed a lot over the last few years.  So historically it was OK for women to win prizes for crime fiction for example, because that was just a bit of fun.  So called genre fiction has been traditionally been just as pig headed, though, as any female SF writer from forty or fifty years ago could tell you.  And the litterati completely lost their tail feathers when Doris Lessing started writing science fiction.  

AS Byatt has an interesting take on it.  She has said that women who write intellectual books are still perceived as odd, and she feels that a women only prize reinforces the idea that they need special consideration.  She won't let her work be put forward for it.  But then AS Byatt has won just about everything going and is probably the personnification of 'literary' fiction.  Surely it's all literature though, just good or bad or somewhere in between.  

I'm honestly not sure if I think this particular prize represents empowerment or ghettoisation.  I do think that it's still not just about numbers of writers or sales (although me, I'd be happy with sales!) but about whether women's narratives are regarded as having the same weight as men's, and that's something that reaches beyond literary prizes.  On the whole I think I'd keep it, but I feel sad that we still have to make a point about women's voices being heard.

Great forum topic!  

ghettoisation. that about sums it up. And tokenism. We've gave them a prize. Sorted.