I blame John Scalzi for turning me onto this(even though he did try pretty hard not to even mention what he was responding so angrily to), although I’m surprised that I’ve never even thought about the larger issue before. The larger issue being racism and diversity within the world of SFF. Obviously, I’ve thought about racism in literature per se -being a post-colonial Indian I have no choice in the matter- but I rather thought SFF was largely immune to it. turns out, not, at least according to most of the participants in this very, very ugly discussion. I’m not weighing in myself-this is far too complicated a topic for me to draft a quick response to, and I’m content with not taking it on as a personal crusade- but I will link to a few posts, with commentary.
- The one that started it all- an open letter to Elizabeth Bear from Seeking Avalon. It essentially complains about the mistreatment(I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I do think Seeking Avalon will probably scream at me for the apparently trivial description whatever I put 🙂 ) of a black character in one of her books, and extends the trouble to various other characters and works. This post makes sense, although there are a whole bunch of oblique references, and if you go to any of her other posts, be warned that she can be a bit…well, I can’t really think of a better word than bitchy. Pissed?
- A much more sensible and relevant-to me, that is, because I’m an Indian and so is she- article by Deepa D. All of her points are absolutely spot on, which is disturbing-I never truly thought my identity was so…fragile before I read this. However, I would like to add that I disagree that it HAS to be. The vast, VAST majority of books I read are by non-Indian writers, but there’s certainly a plethora of Indian Writing in English, that is of objectively high quality, as determined by most people that care about rating books. A significant portion of the school curriculum in English as well as the university programs in English(right? I don’t actually know about this bit, but I know I have readers that can educate me, so I’ll let this stand for now) is INDIAN WRITING, about Indian people in Indian settings(although not necessarily all 3 at the same time). Cultural/racial confusion is likely, which is certainly a situation that must be corrected, but not inevitable. I think. 🙂
- A follow-up post by Deepa, addressed mostly to white people, but serving to meet some of the more common objections by anyone.
- A state-of-the-argument post by the editors of Vector Magazine, in the UK, and why it matters. Has a lot more links, for those who care.
- Possibly should have been first: the post by Elizabeth Bear that somehow started this whole thing. To be honest, I don’t actually see what was the problem with this. Especially because EB seems to be a really, really bad target for a “RACIST!” attack.
The problem, of course, is that there’s literally hundreds of other people who’ve been talking about this, and most of them aren’t very polite. I’m not sure what this post is really meant to accomplish, except introduce the whole thing to people who might not have heard about it and solicit ideas from those better informed on the literary criticism side of things I just thought I’d write about this since I’ve been reading random blogs for over an hour. Anyone sufficiently interested should find the links on this page a decent starting point…or of course, there’s always google.
PS: And of course, there’s all the vernacular language literature that we should be catching up on, but I’m hardly in any position to preach about that- I don’t think I’ve read a full Malayalam novel that I didn’t have to learn since, I don’t know, 8th standard, and I haven’t read anything at all beyond pamphlets or the occasional newspaper in my mother tongue since 10th. Which is shameful, I know, but…ah, actually, no buts, when I get back home, I’ll try and read at least ONE full length novel in Malayalam. Anyway, I believe THIS discussion is contentious enough as it is without worrying about that.
PPS: Is it a sign of how thoroughly confused/converted I am that I’m not getting the urge to scream “racist” at virtually any of the posts that the vast majority of people, even the relatively moderate ones, scream “racist” at? Or just how much the entire discussion sucks?