Tag Archives: Discrimination

Making lists, checking them twice.

27 Aug

This post has existed in draft form for…well, yikes, almost two full years. Something came to light yesterday, that made me come back to it. And you, lucky readers, get to read my thoughts.

As I’ve mentioned before here and elsewhere, I do have a list of authors who, in my opinion, behave badly.¹  And, since my time, emotional labor, energy, and money, are limited, I quite simply refuse to even try their work. It’s still, at least in this small area, a free country.

By the same token, I have a much, much, much longer list of incredible people who are authors who will always get my support.

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Traditional publishing, and the risks thereof

26 May

Originally posted to the Literature forum at MyMedia.

I’ve written here, more than once, about genre romance being the single most successful genre in publishing. Not too long ago, genre romance accounted for about 40% of income for traditional publishers.¹

Since the late 70s/early 80s, romance sales have floated other fiction at pretty much all the big houses. To this day, many of the big advance names in so-called literary fiction never earned those advances back–while romance writers of the same caliber routinely do.

Those literary books may earn all the important prizes, and get lots of review space in the big papers, while romance is generally dismissed as pabulum and ‘mommy porn.’

But everyone in publishing knows that the money comes from genre fiction, and that genre romance brings in the lion’s share of the revenue.

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A dangerous brand of patriotism.

19 Oct

(The title of the post was inspired by this article on cnn.com;
it is well worth reading in its entirety.)

“What is our excuse today for not voting?

Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.”¹

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Let’s stop normalizing abuse towards women

13 Oct

Here’s the thing…

Just as electing the first Black President in the history of this country has not only NOT eliminated racism, but often brought bigotry out into the open in sometimes unexpected ways, and places, electing Hillary Clinton would not mean that we live in a world where sexism, discrimination and misogyny are the exception rather than the rule.

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More on race, reading, writing, and publishing.

22 Aug

Originally posted to the Literature section of MyMedia,
as part of the race in literature thread

Justine Labarlestier, a YA author, has a wonderful essay on Reading While White, about her own evolution, as a white author, on the matter of race. I do hope you follow the link and read the whole thing, but here are a couple of short-ish quotes, to give you an idea:

For years the response to my books—glowing reviews, award nominations, fan letters from People of Colour—supported my belief that I was doing good.

I had read critiques of the white saviour complex but was sure they didn’t apply to me. But one day in early 2009 a black woman blogger wrote a critique of my novel Liar.

Liar has a black teen protagonist. The blogger wrote that the book hurt her, that it was full of painful tropes, and that she would not read anything else I wrote unless it was not about People of Colour because I could not be trusted with the stories of anyone who isn’t white. Further, that she wasn’t going to read any more books with PoC protags by white people because we always get it wrong.

I felt like I’d been punched.

It was the most painful criticism any of my books had ever received and I’ve had reviews call for my books to be burnt and me to be slapped.

I sent the critique to several friends so they could reassure me she was wrong.

Yes, in the face of someone literally stating she had been hurt by the racist tropes in my book, all I wanted was reassurance. I thought my hurt feelings were more important than her actual pain.

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Hey, hey! I got whitemansplained!

10 Aug

(Part of this post originally appeared in the Literature section at MyMedia,
as part of the race in literature thread.
I’ve added further commentary below the cut)

An excellent, if long, follow up, to the Fireside report on SSF and black authors, with some pointed answers to oft asked questions, written by a Black, published author of SSF short stories:

Hi. I’m a small time SFF writer. I’m black. I also submit short stories to paying SFF markets. Most times I’m not successful in selling my stories. A few wonderful times, I am. Do I see lots of stories published in top SFF markets with faces like mine? No. And believe me, I search for them. It’s not the most scientific process: Are the characters black? Do I detect an inference to anything black-ish? Hmm… that author’s name sounds black, lemee google em up right quick. Again, not exactly a science. But it’s what I got. Are the gatekeepers at these SFF markets black? Rarely. At least rare enough that when one or two are, they show up in black SFF spaces to announce with hopeful desperation: “I’m working at so-and-so. Please, please, please submit your stories because the slush is whiter than a Gods of Egypt, Noah, Exodus triple-feature!”

Because if black SFF writers are being underrepresented in short story markets, then SFF as a whole is going to be less representative. Think I’m exagerrating? Okay. Here’s a neat trick: name five black SFF writers off the top of your head that you’ve read or even heard about–whose last names aren’t Butler, Delany, Okorafor or Jemisin. If you struggling, best keep reading.

When black writers are excluded from these markets not only do we lose out on connections and networking, but simple cold hard cash. That’s money that might fund a trip to a con, or to attend a writer’s workshop, or a better laptop/software, or the space and time to write, or rent, or a basic incentive to publish–cuz altruism is noble, but it don’t pay none. Given the long history of wealth exclusion for black people in America, there’s a discomfiting knowledge that under representation in some of these paying SFF markets creates a type of financial inequity that is essentially shuttering black creativity.

(7) Maybe “race” isn’t the only reason your story is rejected. I actually saw someone write this. With words. Thanks for splainin’ how submitting and rejection works Sherlock. No one is saying that race is the sole reason black writers are not being published in mainstream SFF. This seems, in fact, to be a sly way of making the “quality” argument: the universal lament of concern trolls to just about every appeal for diversity, in everything. When I get rejected, and it happens lots, I understand all sorts of factors go into that. Maybe the story doesn’t fit their needs. Maybe it’s not that good. Maybe they’re pretty stocked up on steampunk pirate stories. Issues of race and diversity are just one added factor. I don’t just automatically say “Bet I was rejected because I’m black!” That’s just what you see in wack 1980s and 1990s sitcoms and movies. In real life, black folks go through entire mental quantum field models of self-doubt before even raising the “R” word–if only because we expect to be finger-wagged by a society that almost never ever believes us. When you hear a black person “cry” racism, trust that we done already quadruple-checked our math. But I also understand that “quality” is as arbitrary as anything else.

[b] The burden of change here is on SFF markets not on black writers. I repeat, the burden of change is on SFF markets not black writers. Don’t tell black people to open up their own SFF markets. Don’t say, “well you guys gotta submit more.” If SFF markets want diverse stories, they’re going to have to do more than simply state it and then wait patiently for it to happen. Words and intentions are nice. But without concerted action there’s not going to be much change. SFF markets are going to have to take part in engaged activism to bring in black writers, to increase the submissions of black writers and to publish more black writers. It ain’t gonna happen by osmosis.

Seriously, go read the whole thing–if I could, I would quote the entire thing here, because it addresses all the many explanations and justifications given to exclude Black authors, and pretty much all minorities, from mainstream genres across the board–the same argument can easily be made when talking about romance, mystery, historical fiction…You name it, think about it, and you’ll see just how true this holds for literature in a country that is not homogeneous in its makeup.
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Hey, guess what? (race in literature)

27 Jul

(Originally posted to the Literature section at MyMedia)

Yes, I know, why do I keep bringing up uncomfortable topics?

Because they are important.

A while back, on this thread, I talked about the white default in literature, I mentioned that the biggest hurdle to diverse literature is not that people from all backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities, religion, ability, etc., aren’t writing. It is that established publishers routinely reject their work.

In romance, to talk about a genre I am most familiar with, I have seen authors talking about rejections that literally read, “we already have our one black author.” Or, “well, that doesn’t sell, no one can identify with that.” Or, “there really isn’t much of a market for that. Or, “well, we can’t market that,” and so on and so forth.

Or, which is even worse for diverse authors of genre fiction, if and when their books get published, bookstores and libraries will corner them into a section restricted by the author’s ethnicity (or sexual orientation).

Which means, if you are looking for genre romance with black (or Latino, or Filipino, or Indian, etc) protagonists, you will search the romance section–and the books will be hiding in African American studies or some such.

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