continued from last week. . .
by Rudy Ch. Garcia
The last post in this series about latinos/sci-fi received some serious responses. I'm going to post one because it's from a publisher, and after all, that's what writers are always looking for. Discussion among writers is good, gets the brain synapsing, generates ideas, maybe disagreement, as well, but what good's a blog without meaningful input from the readers?
It's from Stacy Whitman, editorial director at Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low Books. She's got the latest word, at least about her company, and some of it will be news to those wondering about YA, at least, and sci-fi. There's some info on fantasy here, as well.
Before we get to that, in reference to my suggestion that there might be a niche in sci-fi for latino writers, here are numbers from Stacy's Grimoir website. She calls this her Multicultural SFF Booklist, in other words, sci-fi and fantasy aimed at kids that incorporate good elements of diversity. Guess what? There's only one latino--that I could identify--in the entire list. To me, the numbers indicate a probable latino niche for sci-fi. Here they are:
Middle Grade Fantasy - 21 books
Middle Grade Science Fiction - 2 books
Young Adult Fantasy - 39 Books [includes City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende]
Young Adult Science Fiction - 6 Books
Except for Allende, there are no identifiable latino authors in this multicultural list! And this is not only a list of her company's pubs; these are ALL the books by ANY publisher (in English) that she could identify at the time. Questions obviously arise: Did she miss any? (If so, send us the info.) Does the 21 to 2 and the 39 to 6 ratio of fantasy to sci-fi, mean that sci-fi sales are smaller? Obviously. Does it mean that there's not much call for sci-fi from publishers? Not necessarily. Below are Stacy's thoughts on that and related matters. I've bolded items very related to this discussion.
From Stacy Whitman:
I think the market is great for Latino YA and middle grade speculative fiction (both science fiction and fantasy), though fantasy still wins out over science fiction as far as number of books on the market. I think the balance will to be changing in the next few years, given the number of science fiction deals I've heard about recently. A great number of the YA deals are dystopian--which crosses over with SF when done well, but isn't always hard SF; many are either social science SF or not really SF at all. But I've also seen a number of solid SF deals announced--space, genetic engineering, post-apocalyptic, plague (medical SF), that sort of thing. Some have recently come out, including our own Galaxy Games: The Challengers, and Little, Brown's 172 Hours on the Moon.
I don't know that SF will ever become as huge as it once was in 50s and 60s--times have changed and we're kind of living in the future, and SF hasn't always adapted to that. We need more Westerfelds and Pearsons (including Latino/a authors), rather than more Heinleins, as innovative as his work was in the 50s and 60s.
Uncertainty Principle by K. Tempest Bradford ).
As for the speculative umbrella, also coming this fall, Pura Belpre Author Award winner Guadalupe Garcia McCall's next book, Summer of the Mariposas, is coming out from Tu Books, a Mexican American retelling of THE ODYSSEY from the point of view of the eldest of five sisters. It's a fantasy/magical realism tale, but of course falls under the speculative umbrella.
I think it's really important for publishers to be thinking about diversity, including Latinos, for our speculative fiction, particularly for kids. Kids of color (including all minorities) now comprise 50% of kids 0-18 in the U.S. It won't be much longer, then, when kids of color make up 50% of kids in schools. These kids are readers (or we're working on helping them become readers), and they need to see themselves reflected in the books they read, just as all kids need to see a window into worlds that differ from their own. And realism isn't the only important place where we need these mirrors and windows (and, as one author put it, sliding glass doors we can open and walk through).
Speculative fiction is where we imagine all sorts of possibilities. And as La Bloga noted in the last post, an interest in science fiction can help kids become interested in studying science. More importantly, kids who are good readers in their spare time are more likely to succeed in getting into and through college, no matter what they decide to study. Reading fiction for fun helps kids gain fluency in reading, which helps them do better in school. Reluctant readers, especially, often find that speculative fiction creates that love of reading in themselves. It's great for both the avid reader and the kid who hasn't discovered he or she is an avid reader yet.
Market-wise, more and more Latino kids (and their parents) are looking for books that reflect them, books that represent their experience with the world, books that draw upon their culture as they imagine a far-flung future or alternate worlds.
And more readers of all backgrounds are starting to wonder why their books aren't as diverse as the world around them, and have started to look for more diversity in their reading.
Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill. The author is not Latino, but the main character is--he's a mercenary on Mars. It's a good one, and I think it's done fairly well. The newest book in the series (a trilogy?) just came out.
More and more SF is coming out right now. I personally think the glut of fantasy in the market (compared to SF's relatively small presence in the last 10 years or so) is balancing out to at least a little more SF. Combine that with a greater emphasis on diversity and I think we'll see more diverse SF. I plan on publishing it!
Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director, Tu Books
I leave her post for readers to consider and respond to. Obviously, she's only one person from one publishing company--though I'd love to receive more from other editors to add to this discussion--and this is only her opinion. If anything, though, each of her points tell me there's something out there for Latino.
And consider this: the book Stacy points out as an SF novel with latino protagonist Durango was written (assumedly) by a non-Latino. He got it published with Harper Collins, one of big 8. Plus, they published another sci-fi novel with the same character called Invisible Sun. In no way to disparage his work, but, Latinos! Where's our sci-fi?
Es todo, hoy,
Rudy Ch. Garcia's magic realism story Mr. Sumac appeared this week in AQC Books' journal Kingdom Freaks and Other Divine Wonders, tho it's undetermined whether it was picked to be a freak or a wonder. Go here for a free preview and to order.