Rainbows in Your SF
Well, I certainly agree that there's not enough diversity in the protagonists, or for that matter the villains of SF/F/Horror--not only racial but sexual diversity. But is mentoring necessary? I don't think so. Writing, to state the grotesquely obvious, is a feat of imagination, and beyond the "write what you know" is the more important "write what obsesses you" and "write to live another life." If I can write about seeing through the eyes of an alien, why can't I rise to the challenge of writing through the eyes of a character with a different skin color than my own(whatever my original skin color might be)? I should do my research, but I don't need an alien mentor to help me write a story with an alien protagonist (though it would be a thrilling experience).
On the issue of villains, I think many writers are afraid that if their antagonist is not white and straight, they will be labled a racist and a homophobe. Some notable recent exceptions to the big white ceiling are Orson Scott Card's "Magic Street," a wonderful, imaginative retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," set alternately between an upper-middle class black neighborhood and an impoverished one. Puck is a homeless Rastafari, Oberon, a preacher man, and Titania, a sexy bad ass that rides a mean motorcycle. (And surprisingly, Card's a white Mormon and Republican). There's Clive Barker's Galilee, a sprawling, gothic love note to his African-American husband. And of course, there's L.A. Banks and the brilliant, dearly departed Octavia Butler. Of course, your (Elizabeth Bear's) protagonists run the full spectrum of diversity!
I would love to see more African-American, Asian and Hispanic writers published in our genre, and characters that reflect their diversity. In hard SF, we're seeing more Asian characters, but how many SF/F/Horror writers of Asian or Hispanic descent can you name?
I'm putting my own SF/Horror manuscript, CRUCIFER, out there with a bisexual male prostitute as a central protagonist (he's Italian). The secondary protagonist and moral compass of the story is gay man of African-American/Korean descent. There's a white, homicidal, sexually ambiguous Priest for a villain, and machine human hybrids that are angels/saints depending on your perspective. Talk about a hard sell! I'm a quarter Japanese, and my mother was in an internment camp during World War II. I grew up in an elementary school where whites were the minority, and then experienced a reality shift when I went to a rural high school that literally struck me snowblind. "Gay" wasn't part of the students' vocabulary, though "faggot" certainly was. But that was many years ago, and the times, they are a changing. All said, I'm thankful for those formative experiences. They taught me how small and how wide the world can be.
Forgive me for rambling, and straying off and back again to topic.