It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.
So, I think we can all agree that it is incredibly frustrating to have the same conversation over and over. At some point your eyes glaze over and you sigh and say “Never mind, don’t worry about it.”
This is what is happening with regards to conversations surrounding diversity. The same three or four convos keep getting repeated over and over. So, as a timesaver, consider this your introductory course to the diversity discussion. I doubt this will be the last entry, but it’s a good first step.
The opposite of feeling instinctively “sorry” for a disabled person isn’t assuming they’re totally happy with their lot in life and the unique perspective it affords them, but is rather to treat them like a fucking person: that is, to not make judgements about how they might feel about themselves – or anything else, for that matter – on the basis of first appearances and their membership, visible or otherwise, of an enormously diverse group.
MORE FROM THE POCS DESTROY SFF KICKSTARTER
“Assimilation: The Borg Must Like It When You Don’t Fight Back” by S.L. Huang
The Asian-American community has a long tradition of trading our own creativity and culture for “success.” A devil’s bargain: all the success you could ask for, and all it costs is your soul.
This isn’t true for all Asian-Americans, of course. But to some degree, at least, it’s true for me.
I wonder if I don’t write more Chinese characters because my father achieved his goal too well. Despite all my best efforts to reclaim my heritage, maybe all I have is an empty space I’ll always be chasing, like a gerbil spinning on a wheel.
Or maybe, despite all my anger, I myself am subconsciously following the very same path I’ve criticized my father for laying down: ducking my head and not being too Asian, because I want to be seen as a Real American Writer.
So I wrote “The Paper Menagerie,” a magic realist tale that meditates upon our shifting attitudes toward our parents as we come of age; it also obliquely critiques the dominant mode of popular, assimilationist immigrant narratives. As a story that literalizes complicated metaphors, it can, and has been, read in multiple ways with various levels of textual support.
But the one reading it cannot support is autobiographical. The protagonist’s life bears almost no resemblance to my own. I am an immigrant; he is not. Both my parents are Chinese; his are not.
Yet, more than a few readers insisted on reading it as autobiography—and even as non-fiction. Many wrote to me to berate me for how I “treated my mother,” and others wrote to me to say they were moved by my “personal experiences.” Plenty of reviews speculated about my own childhood based on the story. When I gently explained that the story was pure fiction, at least one reader told me that he no longer found it moving as a result.
So, this is what happens to us. SF lovers visit the white-only SF section and pick out titles from their favorite white authors. Lovers of mainstream African fiction visit the African Fiction section, gloss over the SF books presented there, then move on because, “Weird is not really our thing.”
It wasn’t until I was on a campus in the middle of Pennsylvanian Amish country, surrounded by young white undergrad creative writing students in a workshop class taught by a white professor, that I realized I mostly wrote white protagonists. I’d never felt less white, which made the repeated pallor of my protagonists blaze like a thousand suns.
Mainstream science fiction also seemed to possess a set of very scientific rules regarding what happened when one encountered blacks:
There were never more than three black people in any respective galaxy, except for random planets somehow chock-full of blacks who were unable to progress their culture past iron spears and loincloths.
Blacks were not allowed to interact with each other. Instead they were required to float alone and lonely through their respective spaces like lumbering chocolatey gas giants.
If someone absolutely had to die in order to move the plot forward or gird the loins of the hero, it would be someone who looked like the black consumer, or the black consumer’s sister, or the black consumer’s best friend, or the black consumer’s black next-door neighbor
Still, there was something missing. I don’t think it was until my twenties that I realized I couldn’t remember seeing any Spanish names in the genre fiction aisle at my local bookstore. I could only recall a handful of Latino characters in any of the SF books I’d read or films I’d seen. I’d discovered a deep and diverse well of talent in the genre fiction community—so why couldn’t I find any other Latino writers?
It’s relevant because as much as people want to imagine that non-white fans are just showing up, we’ve been here all along. We watched the Blade films. We celebrated the Star Wars trilogies, both the original and the prequels. We wrote fanfiction, we cosplayed, we wrote our own works.
Let’s tell our own stories and insist we’ve got them right. Let’s keep on writing what needs to be written. Eventually it will be of no real consequence that there are people men don’t see. Our actions will speak for us. Our words will make our worlds known.