The DrunkenBoat Fiction Count for 2013

In DB 16, inspired by the VIDA count, I discussed the ratio of submissions and acceptances in terms of gender from October 2011 to October 2012. The numbers showed that while we accepted more females for publication, males submitted almost a third more often. As a result of those numbers, I put forth some questions I would be pondering in 2013. Those included, “Did more males submit before their work was ready, leading to a higher quantity but lower quality of submissions? Or does the Drunken Boat fiction staff ‘prefer’ stories written by women? Does the sizable minority of our submitters from outside the US affect the gender ratio of submitters one way or another?”

Now that this year’s Drunken Boat count is in (thanks to help from UTC students Emilee Cuthright and Kayla Kirkendall), like those who have done the VIDA count, we have found little has changed in submissions in relation to gender. From November 2012 to November 2013, we received 427 submissions by males, 256 from females, and 37 submissions from people we were unable to determine the gender from their names. This year we also looked at international submissions: 190 submissions were from people living outside the US, 530 were from those within North America. The breakdown for DB 16 through 19 is the following:

DB 16: 8 female, 7 male
DB 17: 5 female, 6 male
DB 18: 4 female, 3 male
DB 19: 3 female, 7 male

Total: 41 published, 18 female/23 male

As we work to publish DB more often, we made a conscious decision to reduce the number of fiction pieces published per issue. Also, the number of people submitting decreased, for reasons unclear. This year we have moved our submission system to Submittable, and because of the new three dollar submission fee, I expect to see overall submissions decrease again. That said, the overall quality of submissions is high, even though most are not a fit for DB.

Overall, we have published more males than females during this time period; however the breakdown for each issue except for this issue shows gender parity. Only for our most recent issue is the number of male contributors doubled, which then skews the total number of acceptances. DB 19, while under-representing women, does reflect our consideration for publishing stories that represent a diverse and varied landscape and includes stories that incorporate race, class, sexuality, and geography. For example, we continue our interest in the effects of the wars on our society, and two stories, Jon Chopin’s “Battle Buddy,” about a marine returning home from Iraq and Frances Badgert’s “Calculus,” about a husband whose pilot wife is home briefly before returning to war, reflect this interest. Two stories, Dennis Kennedy’s “Art Lesson” and “Flea Market” Eric Barnes, are narrated by broken, marginalized adults trying to understand their lives through images and reflections—as the permutations and possibilities of memories and selves.

Looking over the stories for this issue, I’m struck by how many are told from a child’s point of view: Mario Gonzales’ “Tia Mama,” Joseph Loves “Mule, “Authenticity” Megan Robert’s “Ugly Child,” A. Nicole Kelly’s “How to Hear Music,” and Michael Hodges’s “How to Build A Shelter.” As a reader and editor, I don’t often come across stories narrated by children that feel fresh in approach, narrative, or content, but these stories reflect a diversity and deepening of the experience of childhood. All of the stories in DB 19 not only entertain but they provoke, anger, and inspire. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

For the next issues of Drunken Boat, I’d like to see more females submitting. I’d like to see more stories that reflect the world outside North America. I’d like to see stories that work to “defamiliarize,” (as Viktor Shklovsky says) through variations with devices, structure, and content. The questions I asked a year ago still remain for me, and yet, it does seem quite clear that males submit more than females even though the overall quality of their stories is not as high. I am also consciously trying to maintain some kind of balance in our issues, and so to balance out DB19 I would like to publish more stories written by women and international writers in DB20, for which we are now reading. We have cultivated a diverse group of DB fiction readers and readership—I would love to see that diversity reflected more in our submissions. We are waiting for you to put yourself out there. We are waiting for you to submit.

Sybil Baker
Fiction Editor
August, 2014