it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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hal-an-tow, jolly rumbelow, we were up long before the day-oh.

...posting the chat transcript (with permission) so that I don't have to rewrite the entire thing in my own words. Be aware, that we are a snarky sardonic group of people who know each other very well, having this conversation. If you suspect a comment is meant ironically? It probably is. If it seems like a whole bunch of stuff regarding social mechanisms of discrimination were elided, it's because it's already been read into the record. Please insert your own as-you-know-Bob on cultural appropriation, various other potential reasons for a deficit of authors of color in genre, the history of magic realism, and so forth.

[23:52] stillsostrange: real books don't have plots
[23:52] stillsostrange: only genre trash relies on plot
[23:52] matociquala: In which sometimes unexpected things happen
[23:52] matociquala: Toni Morrison books have plots.
[23:55] leahbobet: They must be genre trash then.
[23:55] leahbobet: Clearly she only gets shelved in lit because she spells her name with an i instead of a y.
[23:55] stillnotbored: I hear they have ghosts in some of them
[23:55] matociquala: it's because she's a black woman
[23:55] matociquala: you can be literary then.
[23:55] matociquala: it has nothing to do, of course, with her happening to be fucking brilliant.
[23:55] stillnotbored: there is that
[23:56] matociquala: /sarcasm
[23:56] stillnotbored: she kinda wins
[23:56] matociquala: Yeah. *g*
[23:59] leahbobet: There's kind of an ugly colonialism in that, y'know.
[00:00] matociquala: The attitude that some people have that black or queer or female writers are automatically hipper and more relevant?
[00:00] matociquala: There is.
[00:00] leahbobet: That and the writing something with...I guess the same content of otherworldliness is treated totally differently depending on who you are.
[00:01] stillsostrange: they might be cuter, though
[00:01] leahbobet: Because if you're from a minority culture it's expressing some kind of non-rational mystique thing.
[00:01] leahbobet: I can't even put this into words right.
[00:01] matociquala: You get to be a real life magical negro
[00:02] matociquala: and that's fucked up.
[00:02] leahbobet: yeah, like that.
[00:02] matociquala: There's a blog post for tomorrow, I guess.
[00:02] leahbobet: White people have no primitive wisdom (tm), so it's fantasy.
[00:02] matociquala: Yes
[00:02] leahbobet: yeah, tomorrow is right. Nobody'd read it now.
[00:02] leahbobet: And I am currently busy ogling musicians on Youtube.
[00:02] matociquala: lol
[00:03] stillnotbored: *g*
[00:03] leahbobet: (really, meth habit or not, if Mark Lanegan showed up at my door and complimented my boots and inquired about a fuck, I'd be like "hold my calls")
[00:04] stillsostrange: heh
[00:04] matociquala: I mean, it may be that black and/or queer and/or female (Asian, intersex, First peoples, poly) writers ARE automatically hipper and more relevant.
[00:04] matociquala: We are certainly more alienated.
[00:04] leahbobet: It may also be tourism.
[00:05] leahbobet: I mean, like going to India to gawk at the poor people and feel liberal and good.
[00:05] matociquala: (working class, handicapped, Jewish)
[00:05] matociquala: Yep.
[00:05] matociquala: It might just be.
[00:05] matociquala: Is anything the white straight protestant male author writes automatically suspect?
[00:05] leahbobet: I mean, I keep wondering if the lack of black/queer/Asian/etc. writers in genre we keep running into is partially because the people writing that material are siphoning into lit?
[00:06] matociquala: I dunno.
[00:06] matociquala: I know so many queer/trans/non-white writers....
[00:06] matociquala: it's hard for me to tell. :-P
[00:07] leahbobet: Heh, I suppose I do too.
[00:07] leahbobet: Although I guess the hipper thing does sorta work?
[00:08] leahbobet: Because the white straight protestant male author isn't...suspect, per se, but I'm tired of talking to him.
[00:09] matociquala: Well, he might have some interesting things to say, though. Assuming he's over his privilege.
[00:09] matociquala: On the other hand...everybody knows what his world looks like
[00:10] leahbobet: *nod*
[00:10] matociquala: it's on the six o'clock news
[00:10] matociquala: we don't need it revealed to us.
[00:10] leahbobet: (all the boys in the genre tremble, million voices screaming abruptly silenced, etc.)
[00:10] matociquala: LOL
[00:11] matociquala: It's the WisCon crowd vs. the WorldCon crowd.
[00:11] matociquala: over the top rope rumble.
[00:11] leahbobet: Eh, we'll win.
[00:11] leahbobet: We have tiaras.
[00:11] leahbobet: And Barzak.
[00:12] stillsostrange: and better shoes
[00:12] matociquala: and we're generally younger and spend more time at the gym.
[00:12] leahbobet: And baaaaacon.
[00:12] matociquala: mmm baaacon.

...I've heard complaints from more than one author-of-color-other-than-beige-or-pink, actually, that they have a hard time convincing editors to print their work when they write characters who are outside of their own demographic.

Dude. WTF? Over.

It reminds me creepily of the queer-writers-can't-write-straight-characters thing (either you're not being the right sort of dancing monkey/poster child, I guess, or you're selling out the sisterhood community) and the women-can't-write-male-protagonists thing. And I mean, it's such a freaking delicately balanced issue. Because yes, absolutely, utterly we want strong realistic female protagonists, and it hurts to think that there are women out there who have been so fucked over with the weapon of their own sex that they don't want to write about women at all--but on the other hand, who are you* to dictate to me who I must write?**

Anyway. It's interesting, in that I've just discovered, in the course of this conversation, a bias in myself: I am much more likely to pick up a book by an author who I suspect will illuminate a minority experience that I do not share (which might enlighten me), or a minority experience that I do share (which I can identify with), rather than one that I suspect will reflect a majority experience that I have heard a thousand times before.

And of course, as we all know, it's easier to write up the social scale convincingly than down it. If I am of higher percieved status than you, it if your job to adapt to my norms, not the other way around. So why is it that white men writing black female characters is seen as something of a noble effort, but black women writing white male characters might be seen as a betrayal or an overstepping--or just as sabotaging their core demographic? I mean, isn't this honestly a way of keeping people "in their place?"

Am I missing something here?

Is it strictly a commercial bias? Because somebody in marketing assumes that black women will read white male writers if that's all that's going? Or because white men are presumed not to read Toni Morrison unless they are making an effort to be sensitive ponytail guys?

Why is it that I can write a heterosexual female Native American character and nobody blinks an eye, but when I am writing a gay male African character, I'm suddenly presumed to be writing to a particular demographic or out of a particular kink? (If I had a nickel for every review that called Carnival slash or yaoi, I'd have... enough money for a cup of coffee. Not at Starbucks, though.) (Although I pretty much learned not to take anything a reviewer says as indicative of anything beyong his own prejudices and the filters he is reading through after the first person who called Matthew a "sensitive ponytail guy" in a review of Blood & Iron. Uh, yeah.)

There are days when I am really sadly convinced that we are never going to fix these power imbalances. And that makes me cranky.


*That would not be you, you know. But a hypothetical you who is policing my politics.

**I hear rumors from the world of mainstream, actually, that the reading demographic is so heavily female these days that you can barely sell a thriller with a male protagonist anymore. I do not know if this is true in the slightest, or if it's that minority-poisoning thing, where the cognitive interrupt kicks in when a group hits 33% percent women (people of color, queers, whatever) and the majority demographic starts creaming about how the skirts are taking over.
Tags: chatroom transcripts, politics, the writer at work

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