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bear by san

February 2017



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bear by san

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.


I expect I haven't read enough SF/F to really comment well on this, but what precisely do people mean by writers or characters "of color"? In the States it often seems to be more related to culture than to skin color-- "acting white," for instance. In fiction, LeGuin's Ged, to name the most-cited example in the discussions I've read, is dark-skinned, but does not particularly seem like a member of any of Earth's dark-skinned races. He's not particularly tribal. He's well-educated, powerful, ambitious (at first) and individualistic, all of which characteristics he shares with Madison Avenue executives. (Others, of course, he doesn't.)

Point being, what is the real significance to being dark-skinned? If most prejudice is actually cultural in nature, is there much value in revolting against prejudice based solely on skin color? Missing the target, as it were.
Go read the Pam Noles essay linked above, and get back to me.
Couldn't find it in the comments, so I googled it.

She goes on and on at quite some length. I think her point was, we have to institute some sort of writerly affirmative action so as to accomodate the deep importance of race to minorities and get them to read SF/F. This kind of writing is like the number of original Star Trek episodes (and one movie) in which the mission, ridiculously, narcissistically, somehow had to do with the U.S. in the 1960s or 1970s. If we're going to encourage fiction which is explicitly set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to conform to the state of race relations in this country, it might as well have moral instruction as its purpose, because entertainment will suffer as much either way.

On a broader scale, this seems to be part and parcel of a general movement to allow, or even to ensure everyone allows, race to matter to minorities, in whom such awareness is deemed "positive." And when race matters to white people, to stamp it out.

This kind of double standard is unmaintainable. I believe in King's dream of people being judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. That has to be true even when-- given human nature, especially when-- the color of one's skin would convey a benefit, because that's when the temptation to bend your beliefs is greatest.

Encouraging race to be important anywhere allows race to be important everywhere, with the ultimate result a wash in terms of accomplishment.
Boy, the sky is a different color in your world.
When it's not cloudy, it's blue. And blood is red, regardless of skin color.
And when race matters to white people, to stamp it out.

I am confused. matociquala's own post was about race, which matters to her, a white person. Who is trying to stamp that out? People like Pam Noles? I don't see it.

Encouraging race to be important anywhere

I'm not sure I understand the equation you're making between acknowledging in fiction that non-white people exist and "encouraging race to be important".
And when race matters to white people, to stamp it out.

That particular sentence was vague, I admit. What I meant was that people are trying to stamp out skin-color-as-identity in white people (the Klan being a far extreme of this) but encourage it in black people.

I'm not sure I understand the equation you're making between acknowledging in fiction that non-white people exist and "encouraging race to be important"

What I'm saying, I guess, is that having a double standard, even if there are good reasons for it, causes more problems in the long run than it solves. I'm happy to see non-white people in SF/F; being drawn out of myself is why I read fiction. But I reject Noles's reading of ordinary, racially unspecified characters as "generic white" because they're not specified as being otherwise. If she can't imagine them with dark skins, that's her problem, not the writer's.