writing rengeek magpie mind

December 2014

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writing rengeek magpie mind

One marvelously clever thing that was suggested at the "Why is SF so White?" panel, as a means of encouraging more non-white writers into the industry, was a mentoring program. (Liz Scheier, from the audience, also mentioned that she doesn't see nearly enough submissions with non-white protagonists or main characters, and would love to see more.)

The idea being that would-be writers of color could be paired with volunteer authors who would help mentor them.

I am not the person to administrate this. I know this about myself. But I thought it was a good enough idea to be worth sailing out into the zeitgeist.

Comments

Thinking about this a little more... I'm going to sound totally ungrateful here :D

Although in general I think it's a well-intentioned idea, and heavens knows I'm not one to shy away from opportunities, I'm also not entirely sure I would want to be helped because I'm a minority. It's sort of like getting hired on a job to fill a diversity quota.

My pride sort of feels like I'd rather be mentored because I'm a promising writer with skill and determination, not because I'm a promising writer who happens to also be Asian-American.

But, I may be a *cough* minority in that mindset or missing the point.
I think you're missing the point. A bunch of people who do not look like you standing around talking usually looks like an exclusionary clique you don't want to approach. If one of them comes over and says "Hey, come hang out with us," it opens a door.
Mm. Yes and no.

It might, yes, open a door. It might also feel like 'hey, there's a person who does not look like us, let's take pity on them and invite them in because we're being nice'.

You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Personally, I'd rather be damned for being a decent human being than for being a bigot.

See you in Hell.
Right.

Stepping out of the conversation, but yes, I fully intend to be buried in summer clothes.
All my friends will be there.
You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

Yeah. Pretty much :)

I definitely agree that change would be nic. I'm just not entirely sure how I feel about this particular proposal as one potentially on the receiving end.

I think you are being a decent human being :D
That makes sense. I don't think I've ever actually felt that way. I pretty much hung out with white geeks (eventually someone needs to smack me for using this terminology) my entire life and never felt like I wasn't welcome, even if I did stand out in the crowd :)
I grew up in an area that was racially and ethnically diverse. Socioeconomically, maybe not so much, but race and ethnicity? Yeah.

I graduated from a college where the majority of the student body was Protestant, caucasian, and heterosexual. Experiencing that social culture versus the one I grew up in was like a slap in the face. Everyone claimed tolerance and acceptance, but underneath? It wasn't there. Homophobia was rampant. (I'm sure several people know about UVA's fight song and the disgusting "tradition" to alter a lyric to "not gay.")

And the race issue? The newspapers liked to ask the question of "Why do all the minority kids hang out together? Why do the black kids hang out with the black kids? Why do the asian kids hang out with the asian kids? Why do none of them hang out with the white kids?" Note, though, that the onus here is on the minority kid to approach the white kids. Because based on my observations while a student there, I can count the number of times on one hand that I saw a white kid approach the black kids or the asian kids. And I'd have fingers to spare.

It can a daunting task for that minority kid to approach the white kids -- especially when none of them extended an invitation and in certain circumstances, made it very clear in every single way except for verbally, that You Are Not Welcome.
It can a daunting task for that minority kid to approach the white kids -- especially when none of them extended an invitation and in certain circumstances, made it very clear in every single way except for verbally, that You Are Not Welcome.

Works both ways. Living in one of the blackest cities in America-- Philadelphia-- one might think black people would be more comfortable approaching white people and extending an invitation. It's never happened, to me or to anyone I know here.

For whatever race, it's simply a lot less exhausting to be around people with whom you don't have that issue.

PS

This is not to say that SF/F publishing has that same unwelcoming attitude as the latter scenario, because I don't think it does.

But it's certainly a large table of kids to approach. ;)

Re: PS

Yeah, and some of us are assholes.

Sorry about that.

Re: PS

No, not every community is open, but I've found the SF/F community to be one of the most open communities I've encountered, which is part of why this "open the doors" thing confuses me. I never felt like it was closed to me :)

Re: PS

May I ask your age?

Re: PS

Late 20's.

Re: PS

Ah. I'm 36, and I suspect the difference between your experience and mine is in the 8-10 years separating us. I'm glad your experience is more positive than mine.
No, I had that reaction too.

Of course, two voices do not a majority make, but I sit in your corner.

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.

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

It's a good ramble. Thanks for the perspective.

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

In hard SF, we're seeing more Asian characters, but how many SF/F/Horror writers of Asian or Hispanic descent can you name?

S.P. Somtow and...er...

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

Geoff Ryman, Ted Chiang, Yoon Ha Lee, Ashok Banker....

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

Michelle West...

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

Michelle Sagara West, even. And I *know* I am completely blanking on at least a couple of names, because I don't have a convenient box in my head labeled "SFF Writers Other Than White" and am having to rummage.

Re: Rainbows in Your SF

Ooh, thanks for linking to that!