Archive for diversity
I found myself in a number of conversations at WorldCon where persons were seeking my advice or thoughts on their writing, or seeking advice of a group in which I sat, and would say some variation on:
“People seem to have a problem with me calling it Warrior Wanda the Space Slut. But I mean slut in a positive or ironic way, because she is a powerful woman so she can have sex with whoever she likes.”
“I have a pretty graphic rape scene in my novel, but if I didn’t have it she wouldn’t have that motivation to get stronger from it and learn to fight that is so important in my story.”
These persons were clearly seeking someone to say, yes, that is okay.
And I engaged in these conversations in a calm, friendly, positive way.
Because I have the privilege to do so.
By this, I do not mean the honor, though really it is an honor to be asked my opinion on anything. Rather, I mean that had such questions been asked of someone who identifies as female, for example, such questions would have been understandably offensive and anger-inducing, and made the person feel unsafe, along with a host of other reactions.
I’m not saying I found the questions pleasant and encouraging, but I recognize that my con experience as a cis white male who presents as het is entirely different from that of anyone who is other than that.
So while I cringed internally, I did not walk away, or mock these persons then, or later with my friends. I gave them a clear but disgust-free expression of “Oooooo, I wouldn’t do that,” and proceeded to lay out in positive terms how they could improve their stories, and their chances of reaching a broader audience.
Here is an example of the types of thing I try to say in these cases, with the goal not being to score points or put him in his place, but to help guide the writer in the right direction where they will hopefully learn for themselves in time what cannot be forced into their understanding in a single argument (And to be clear, I am not in any way saying there are not other approaches, or that outright anger is in any way not a valid response for others to have):
I see two major conversation streams in my world converging here: Diversity in fiction, and our current political circus.
Diversity in fiction is about many things, but one of those is that it allows us to experience lives unlike our own, and through that experience gain a deeper understanding of people who are different from ourselves, and the ability to empathize with other experiences. This applies across all media.
Perhaps if we had more popular media that shared an honest view of the Mexican immigrant experience, for example, we might not have a demagogue winning votes by promising to build a giant wall and kick people out of the country, or playing on other racial and religious fears.
Not saying diversity in fiction is THE solution to any problem, but this is just one example of why I feel diversity in media is actually important not just for any specific group who see themselves continuously ignored or badly stereotyped in media, not just for those who are marginalized or persecuted in society, but for everyone. Because we are all in this together — at least until we find a way to teleport to our own planet where we can mess it up however we want without affecting others.
It’s that time again!
You want great fantasy and science fiction? Help support the development of future writers. Knock knock. Hello. My name is Randy Henderson. I’m asking for donations to Clarion West, a totally awesome intensive writing workshop for speculative fiction that has been called a “boot camp for writers.”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. For the first 10 people who register with the Carl Brandon Society (at http://carlbrandon.org/ as a paying member), announce it and let me know about it, I will donate $10 each to the Clarion West write-a-thon on your behalf. The Carl Brandon Society supports and increases the representation of diversity in our genre’s content, creators, and fans, and offers a scholarship every year to an attendee of Clarion West, so it is a great way to ensure your donation dollars produce the maximum benefit.
I haven’t weighed in on Tempest’s challenge because others said what I would have said quite well.
But this morning as I read yet another bit of concern over it, I realized that many people who are reacting to it are writers (and many who are reacting negatively are white male writers who fear this is an attack on their writing and/or livelihood), and for writers, there is an obvious solution: treat it as a writing critique.
If someone tells you that there’s something wrong with your story, you should not take it as a condemnation of who you are, it is a critique of the problems in the story.