Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Diversity in our fiction should be a given, not something worthy of praise

If you've ever cared for a small child, you know this.

Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there. - Sloane Crosley

It's not long at all before simply pooping isn't enough to get attention. Then it's about controlling your poop. Pooping in the right place. Not making a mess of things.

For anyone old enough to read this, can you imagine the reaction of anyone in your life if you announced that you had successfully pooped in the lavatory. Would there be cards? Applause? Gifts?

And then imagine the other reaction if you announced that you had not pooped in the lavatory, but instead had pooped... well, pretty much anywhere else.


As we mature, the basic stuff is no longer praise worthy. As we master a task, it's only really notable when we completely screw it up.

I think we may have reached that point with diversity in speculative fiction.

I do not mean that everything is fine and dandy with diversity in speculative fiction. Not at all. I'm saying that diversity should be a given, just like properly using the restroom.

Unless a project explicitly is about diversity or a specific group1, then there's no need to call attention to the diversity of characters or authors in the project, just like there's no need to call attention to one's successful use of the lavatory. Publishers - like myself - should get no special kudos, cookies, or recognition for simply doing what is expected.

But if a publisher fails to be diverse... well, then they're covered in shit. 

(Long time readers will know this isn't a new analogy for me.  Apparently unlike me, who didn't realize it until I finished writing.  Sigh.)

1 The Apex Book of World SF, Women Destroy [a-zA-Z].*, and Steampunk World are examples where diversity is inherent to the project itself.



Steven Saus said...

This is a test comment - apparently the G+ comments were broken.

SirNolen said...

I can see where you're coming from and agree with the sentiment behind it, but not sure I agree with the conclusion. Personally, I find it really helpful when a certain book or author has a reputation for portraying an certain ethnic character extremely well (or gender, age, orientation, etc.), or even just a diverse ensemble cast that goes deeper than just multicultural names and skin tones.

I'd argue that fiction that does diversity well should be praised, so it can be pointed to by teachers, other writers, etc., as an example of an author/novel that "got it right." Other writers can then read it, analyze it, and learn from it.

Hopefully the day will come when SFF writers who do diversity well are so common that it's no longer noteworthy, but I don't think we're there yet.

Steven Saus said...

Fair enough; I'd modify somewhat to this:

We shouldn't praise ourselves.

If someone else wants to say that I've written a particular type of character well, or that as a publisher that I'm doing a good job, that's one thing.

But me saying it about myself? I'm not so sure about that.

SirNolen said...

Good point. I can definitely agree with that.