Saturday, June 21, 2014

Diversity and sci-fi movies

Latinos and other People of Color (PoC) are expanding their presence into more than the White House. The last frontier, what might prove to be the most resistant to our inclusion is speculative literature [fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, horror, fables and myth, and alternate histories]. Por qué?

author N.K. Jemisin
From the growing movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks, to a black female author not attending a conference because of physical and sexual threats, to black author N.K. Jemison's Guest of Honor speech at WisCon, to how POC are caricatured in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, People of Color are pushing an agenda of inclusion, but there's push-back from the White Male Dominated spec-lit hierarchy.          

Among others, two important, interplaying factors might explain the resistance to our inclusion.

Spec lit is BIG money for those within certain cliques

Sci-fi, fantasy and horror are all over the American screens of cable, network TV and movie houses. Good or bad, blockbusters or not, apocalypse or dystopia, a lot of stories are making chingos of dinero, and in certain cases, the road begins in spec-lit short stories or novels. For writers of those stories, the lucrative film-rights would have to be spread around, if POC enter this arena.

The young, including whites, are attracted to the cultures of POC

Forget about backwards caps and low-hanging baggies, reggae and reggaetón--if the spec stories of POC reach the screen, Anglo kids might find more to love than just wearing J-Lo T-shirts.

POC stories can include themes sympathetic towards immigrants, the Chicano Movement, monetary retribution to Native Americans and descendants of slaves, Puerto Rican independence, the Cuban Revolution, the disenfranchisement of mexicanos after Texas's secession and the Mexican American War, families' communal values (instead of Western-ethic individualism), pride in ancient indigenous cultures like the Aztec and Maya (Matt de la Peña's Maya character, Sera, not the savagery of Apocalypto). And that's not a complete list.

If such ideals and beliefs from the novels of POC reach the screen in the most popular genres of speculative fiction, imagine what rebellious, white (and other) teenagers might adopt as their own values. Like, Amy Tintera's Callum Reyes character--"the perfect solider who's done taking orders!" Or, to plug my work, what if teens identify with my fantasy novel's Chicano hero who won't accept "assimilation" and joins others to save and change their world? Nomás diciendo....

It's no longer fantasy to imagine a Latino in the White House (although it's harder to imagine he would be sympathetic toward immigrants, workers' rights and stopping military invasions.) A more frightening possibility to the white-male-dominated establishment is the horror of their children accepting and even advocating for POC in EVERYTHING!

To look at it from the perspective of the white male, spec-lit establishment, as hot as spec lit is now, the old writers feel like they are finally being recognized and rewarded, as never before. For POC to demand entry into this monetary wonderland at this point is just the WORST time!

Hollywood and its young audiences may not agree. Sci-fi, as well as other spec lit, needs new blood, themes and direction, which is what Project Hieroglyph is attempting. Change will come and Latino writers entering these genres can have a great effect on its direction. Vamos a ver.

This Friday, I'll be on NPR, expounding on Latino writers and Sci-Fi, courtesy of Producer Daisy Rosario, Latino USA. I'll let you know info as it comes in.

For that broadcast, here are cites I used:

Latino readers will become more of a significant book market. "Hispanics" make up nearly a quarter of public school students, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, and are the fastest-growing of the schools' population.

Only 1% of the more than 5,000 children's books published in U.S. are about Latino protagonists, and even fewer are written by Latinos. This pattern of discrimination has not changed in the last 20 yrs.

Hollywood directors, producers and film companies generally ignore a significant percentage of their audience-goers by not developing more Latino heroes on-screen. Latino movie-goers equal the total number of all other minorities.

Will there be Latino authors in Big Book of Sci-Fi?


Jeff and Ann VanderMeer will be editing The Big Book of Science Fiction for Vintage, an 800-page, time capsule of the last 100 years of sci-fi. They will have an open reading period for reprints when you can submit links or electronic manuscripts of your own work or recommendations of rare or often overlooked stories you think deserve their attention. 

Clearly, to cover a century, they can't just focus on the contemporary scene. They say, "As ever, we’re committed to including work from a diverse array of sources." It may be a few months before setting up the submission process, but they'll make sure it’s widely publicized. It will be up to Latino authors and fans to submit material so this doesn't become another Big White Book of Sci-Fi. Connect with Jeff to make your literary contribution, when it's time.

Es todo, hoy, (but wait to see what mañana brings)
Rudy G, aka author Rudy Ch. Garcia

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