writing rengeek magpie mind

September 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

I think a mentor program to encourage young writers OF ANY COLOR is a wonderful idea.

There are already wonderful programs and online avenues to assist and mentor would-be writers of any color, age, or culture.

As soon as you start to separate the "would-be writers of color" from the "would-be writers", you open up a Pandora's Box.

As a person of color, I sure as hell don't want someone to offer to mentor me just because I'm a would-be SFF writer of color.
If I understand the idea as suggested, it was not so much intended as an assistance program, as a way of letting minority writers know that they would be a valued addition to the field, and that the door stood open to them.
It would be a fantastic idea to see a "rainbow" of people in the SFF genre. I'd love to see people working behind and in front of the editorial desk, but again, I think the idea that "we" need to start offering some kind of "assistance" to those of color doesn't necessarily work.
Let's see, Green people are from Venus, Blue from Jupiter and Red from Mars...

I think a good part of f&sf is that you can write characeters that are not only not of any race or color, but might not even be very human. Perhaps that's an older sf idea..

Or you could Jonathan Swift the whole mess and skin everybody and turn them inside out.

Or satire the issue, and write Farnham's Freehold.

I see other art forms appropriated by other ethnic groups, as a matter of desire or economics. Re; Asians in orchestras, or white kids playing blues.

I happen to know a litle about the latter, and there is now a group of African Americans "reclaiming their heritage" by playing Country blues in the style of their grandfathers, even though the intervening generation was almost all pale as snow. Go figure.

What is the reading preference of an "average" African American Teenager? Harry Potter? Alice Walker? "Blade" Comic books? I dont even want to guess. But i bet that Alice Walker makes a lot more money writing what she writes than if she did high fantasy, no matter the color of her protagonist.

And, the Litr'y arbiter of America is Oprah, and if she ever had an SF book in her Book Club, i must have missed it.

Peoples is too complicated for even the best of intentions to change. And you can't write stuff that you dont read, so the first step, if you wanted to invite diversity into SFF, is to bomb minority schools with SFF books.

But then on the other hand, having said that, it is a fact that SFF is the default genre for movies, and so everybody is exposed to that.. And Hogwarts and Xavier School are both pretty well integrated.

So, are fantasy gamers pure white? I hear that Korea is the land of role playing games, so what does that mean, diversity wise.
I'm not talking about the content of fiction, of what a writer might choose to use in the work.

I'm talking about doing anything in the genre just based on skin color (or last name or whatever an editor uses to identify the faceless writer when receiving a manuscript, because we all know manuscripts don't come with photographs. At least none of the ms. I ever looked at had photos).

I am talking about pulling out of the submission pile a manuscript with a name like "Kwan Se Yoo" or "Indra Patel" and then being disappointed because the story isn't one filled with cultural relevance. To me, it's the same as any writer shoehorning in a multi-cultural list of characters just to politically correct.

Whether or not the perception is that the genre door is closed to SFF would-be non-white writers doesn't really have anything to do with the writers themselves. Like the perception that GvG doesn't like women writers, the perception that SFF is only an "old white boys club" isn't necessarily true. I mean, how many "old white boys" are acquiring short and long fiction these days? Some, but Bantam, Warner, Eos, Ace, DAW, Del Rey, and Roc are all run by women. Tor and Baen have men and women on staff.

So, is it the fault of the publishers that more non-white writers aren't published? I can't say, but as an acquiring editor, I can only say that 1) very few hard SF manuscripts submitted were written by women, which is why editors always say they're looking for female hard sf writers, 2) it's pretty darn hard to tell a person's skin color based solely on their name. As an acquiring editor, I was looking at content and saleability, those two things not being mutually exclusive.

And you can't necessarily correlate Korean gamers and American book/story reading audience as part of the same. There is some overlap, but there's a small overlap for gamers-->readers in general. Not every fantasy novel published and distro'd in North America reaches a non-NA audience; and Korean SFF writers may not be translated into English for the American/Canadian audience. Heck, even Canadian writers' books might not easily available to the American audience and we're all on the same continent. So, to me, it's not the same.