Thursday, September 24, 2015

Diversity pops up its head - again

I've just finished reading yet another article about diversity in fantasy and science fiction. Why we need to build more diverse worlds in fiction. A lot of what this article has to say seems to be about 'people of colour'. Let me quote.

'Fictional worlds that prioritize the representation and reflection of the lives of people of color is vital; for just like anyone else, says sci-fi/fantasy author Kirk Johnson, people of color “hunger to see [themselves] as heroic figures, desperate parents, star-crossed lovers, or battle-weary outcasts.”'

Yes. True. Here at Spacefreighters we've talked about diversity many times, including how difficult it is for authors who are people of colour to gain recognition. I don't dispute that, not for a moment. But just right now, I want to concentrate on ME. Because I learned that lesson long ago.

My Morgan Selwood stories are NOT about white, anglo-saxon communities. The Manesai - the 'aliens' Morgan encounters - are not Caucasian. Not one of them. Every single one is dark skinned. Their society is based on the Indian caste system. The overall concept is "a place for everyone, and everyone in their place". That, of course, is idealistic in the extreme, and every caste is itself layer upon layer of privilege. Modern day India is full of examples of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and also instances where people have overcome the restrictions of that society. But one of those restrictions is not skin colour.

Morgan herself isn't dark skinned. But she sure as hell isn't white. I've mentioned before that I think "white" people will become increasingly rare unless they are isolated from those with darker skins, and we'll all end up looking like Brazilians. When we head for the stars, the same sorts of things will happen. In a mixed society you might end up with a rainbow of skin colours. But if a colony is created using one particular sub-type, you'll end up with something like my Manesai. They might all be the same colour, but that doesn't mean they don't find other ways to break themselves up into tribes.

So if you're looking for a strong, Alpha hero with dark skin and a battle cruiser, don't go past Admiral Ashkar Ravindra, the son of an admiral, grandson of an admiral and (no doubt) father of an admiral. If you'd like a short introduction you might like Ink. It's a tale of Ravindra just before he joins the Fleet Academy. Ravindra has a tattoo, you see. But admirals don't have tattoos. That's the cover at top left. And here's the blurb.

INK

Life's good for 18-year-old Ashkar Ravindra. School's over, and he's been accepted into the Fleet Academy. There's time for one last trip up into the mountains in the brand new flitter his father gave him as a graduation present, before his real life, the one he's been groomed for from the day he was born, begins in earnest.

Up in the mountains not everyone is pleased to see the privileged admiral's son. Jealousy and ulterior motives turn the pleasant hunting trip into an ordeal. Lives are a stake. If Ashkar makes the wrong decision, he will be the first to die.

-------------------------

Ravindra grows up to earn his admiral's insignia. You'll find out all about him as the man in charge in Morgan's Choice. This link will take you to the series information.

But I'm not the only one who has written racially diverse SFR stories. Science fiction is such a wonderful genre for "diverse" stories. I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Moon's books Rules of Engagement and Once a Hero, from the Serrano series. She paints a picture of worlds colonised by splinter groups. In our SFR niche, SJ Pajonas  writes SFR with a decidedly Japanese flavour. PJ Dean writes racially diverse books. Please feel free to suggest others in the comments. I know SFR is much more diverse than it is given credit for.

8 comments:

  1. Currently reading: Diane Burton's THE PROTECTOR, which has a heroine with brown skin (think: Asian)

    One of my favorite reads this year is Lise MacTague's DEPTHS OF BLUE, which features lesbian heroines.

    K.S. Augustin's SFR books *routinely* feature diverse characters.

    Misa Buckley's TIN CAT, which features a heroine wheelchair user, is on my TBR list!

    I've been blogging about diversity in SFR for the past 7 years! The books definitely exist – it's just a matter of knowing where to find them. Here are some TGE posts folks can explore to find diverse SFR titles:

    We Need Diverse Books in Science Fiction Romance
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2014/05/we-need-diverse-books-in-science.html

    Revisiting People of Color in Sci-Fi Romance
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2013/11/revisiting-people-of-color-in-sci-fi.html

    On the White Default in Sci-Fi Romance
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2015/02/on-white-default-in-sci-fi-romance.html

    Sci-Fi Romance and the White Default, Take Two
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2015/06/sci-fi-romance-white-default-take-two.html

    What Can SFR Offer To Readers With Disabilities?
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2014/06/what-can-sfr-offer-to-readers-with.html

    A Place To Start: Casual Diversity
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2015/04/a-place-to-start-casual-diversity.html

    Sci-Fi Romances With People of Color?
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2011/11/sci-fi-romances-with-people-of-color.html

    In Search of…Handicapped Heroines
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2010/01/in-search-ofhandicapped-heroines.html

    I've also covered a variety of individual SFR books in various posts, so feel free to contact me for recs: sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com

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    1. Thanks for the list. See? There's lots out there.

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  2. One more thought: It's also *extremely* important to help promote diverse authors who have already been writing the diverse books we want (but who don't usually get enough marketing support). Diversity doesn't just equal white, able-bodied authors writing more diverse characters. I know you're not implying that, Greta. I just think it's an important point to raise in these types of discussions!

    I also wanted to share a link to a Spring 2015 TGE event I did called SFR Shindig. The event features posts by authors who write diverse books so it's another resource for titles: http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2015/04/youre-invited-to-sfr-shindig.html

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    1. I know you've been a very vocal advocate for POC writers - and I commend you for that. I guess I'm making the point that you don't have to have dark skin to write about people with dark skin, especially if you're writing science fiction. The future isn't going to be Caucasian - although there might be a few blue eyes around. Also, diversity isn't just about skin colour. People CREATE divisions in society. If skin colour is out of the equation, well, let's use religion, or your job, or where you live, or what you eat, or how you talk. It all comes back down to "different". That's not going to change.

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    2. >especially if you're writing science fiction

      Excellent point. Diverse characters not only makes for better science fiction, it's just plain necessary realism!

      When I go from seeing my local neighborhood full of diverse groups to an all-white SFR ensemble cast, I'm like, uh-oh--someone made a conscious choice to erase people of color (and I'm guilty of this in three of my stories). It's not the kind of disconnect I expect or want from my favorite genre on a routine basis. So yes, I agree we can do better, both in the writing and in adjusting our expectations as readers.

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  3. Some books I enjoyed this year:
    A.E. Ash's Luminous, featuring a black heroine, and a hero of...uh...it's complicated.
    Carol van Natta's Minder Rising, which has a black heroine, her half-Filipino son, and a Chinese hero
    Lyn Brittan's Lana's Comet, which has a dark-skinned heroine, a hero from a disadvantaged race, and the heroine's Japanese roommate
    Laurie A. Green does an original take on physical disability in Inherit the Stars

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    1. Thanks, Eileen. All added to the list. SFR is pretty diverse.

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