So, there’s this hashtag that’s been going around Twitter for a few days now, #DiversityInSFF. It’s great, a place where people are talking about the need for greater and greater levels of diversity (both of characters and of authors) in Science Fiction and Fantasy. There has also been a certain amount of plugging for the many great books, movies, games, projects, authors, etc that are already there in SF/F but which may not be as well known as other works. There’s also been discussion of how much more needs to be done in this arena, and why such work needs to be done. It’s really been pretty awesome, and I’ve already got at least one big list of authors to check out between now and…whenever.
You see, I’ve been actively trying to diversify my reading-material for a while now. I don’t just want to read about diverse characters though, I want to read stories by a range of different authors. I want all the different styles and viewpoints that come from authors with wide and varied cultural back-grounds. I want LGBT stories told by LGBT people. Not because I think straight/white/male authors can’t write convincing, authentic, sympathetic minority characters (they so clearly can since they’re doing it all the time now!). I want to widen the range of my listening to hear the voices it’s harder to hear sometimes. The marginalized and silenced voices. The voices of those whose stories have been stolen, co-opted and twisted by others. And I want to find those voices within the confines of the genres I love best, two of which are Fantasy and Sci-Fi.
I started reading SF/F as a child when my mother (a huge SF/F reader as well) first gave me her copies of The Chronicles of Narnia at about age 7. As I got older, I moved on to other authors, a huge list by now. But recently I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern in my reading, and one I’m not too happy about despite the unconsciousness of it. You see, almost all of the books I’ve read in SF/F have been written by white authors. Many are women, and a few are even queer women, but I’d be hard-put to think of a single book I had read by a POC, male or female, before I began searching them out. Even then, my list isn’t too long. I’ve set out to change that, but it’s been a bit of a challenge.
In fact, I feel like this has been far more challenging than it should be. I don’t feel that I should have to actively search to find diverse authors in the SF/F shelves of a bookstore or library because there are so few shelved there and not in “Special” sections. I shouldn’t need to carefully research authors to find out which ones are POC, or Queer, or whatever because in order sell books to a “mainstream” SF/F audience they’ve had to hide who they are from the casual glance. When I pick 5 new authors off of a shelf, I should have a reasonable chance that at least half of them are not S/W/M authors. I should be able to pick books based solely on the interest generated by the cover-blurb and be reasonably assured of having a diverse reading-list.
Of course, that’s NOT how the world currently is. Currently, I do need to do all those bits of careful research and specifically directing my book-searches. I find this extremely irritating (partially from laziness, but at least partially from outrage) and I do want to promote anything that changes this status-quo. Which brings us back to the discussion in the #DiversityInSFF hashtag. The Diversity under discussion there is about more than just race; it’s gender, sex, orientation, race, neurotypicality and disability and any other axis of diversity the participants could envision. I’m most interested in the race and orientation aspects, as I already read a fair variety of gender-diverse authors. But the more diversity, the better, I think.
I think I’ll leave this with two links: One is a new blog whose objective is to collect and curate information about Diversity in SF/F and the other is a blog post written by a Twitter-friend who made a list of 100 Diverse Speculative Fiction Authors.