Saturday, July 05, 2014

Diversity in spec lit. Sci-fi and PoC. Calls for diversity submissions.

Lots of opportunities, to hear what People of Color are saying about the need for diversity in speculative lit, and place to submit your spec stories. From editors looking for diversity in different forms. Gente, read on.

Alternate Visions: Musings on Diversity in SF

Vandana Singh
Vandana Singh, born in New Delhi, India (now living near Boston), writes:
"The best speculative fiction, like travel, does that to you – it takes you to strange places, from which vantage point you can no longer take your home for granted. It renders the familiar strange, and the strange becomes, for the duration of the story, the norm. The reversal of the gaze, the journey in the shoes of the Other, is one of the great promises of speculative fiction.

"This is only one reason why we need diversity in speculative fiction. And by diversity I don’t just mean white writers including other places and races in their fiction – that has its importance, but I don’t consider it here. What I am really interested in is the fiction of authors from different countries, cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, physical abilities and experiences. The former is – emphatically — not a substitute for the latter.
Thoughts as to why some of us might write SF, and why diversity in SF is absolutely necessary: such as for writers from post-colonial nations to imagine their own futures, their own alternatives, is a deeply revolutionary, freeing act. We need new paradigms, new ways of relating to the non-human universe, if we are to survive the climate crisis. The postcolonial, so called ‘third world’ nations, and indigenous communities within the ‘first world’ are being/will be most deeply affected by climate change, despite having done the least to cause the problem.

"Let’s keep calling out instances of narrow bigotry, of suppression of marginalized voices. Let’s keep talking, being honest, owning what we write, owning up when we mess up. Let’s keep using words from our mother tongues, our other tongues, so that those unused to it can get at least a glimpse of the world from our various perspectives."

Read her entire article Alternate Visions: Some Musings on Diversity in SF.

Diverse writers on reviewing the Other

Another worthwhile read is Inclusive Reviewing: A Discussion by Samuel R. Delany, et al. Strange Horizons, a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction, published the transcript of a round-table discussion of issues raised by Nisi Shawl in her essay, Reviewing the Other.

Excerpt: "Speaking as the Other myself, I marvel at the possibilities created by the linguistic gap. Say you are a Mexican, a Venezuelan, or a Brazilian; which reviewer, trying to write in English, will write the truest, honest-to-God English text? There is no right, accurate answer to this (it would be an unspoken expectation), but maybe the Mexican would have more knowledge of English due to geographical proximity to the US, while the Venezuelan and the Brazilian wouldn't have this advantage. But the Mexican and Venezuelan are Spanish speakers, while the Brazilian is a member of the only people in Latin America who doesn't speak Spanish, only Portuguese. For all three of them the conundrum is the same: every time they start writing in English, they will almost necessarily—at least in the first draft—add totally different cultural baggage. This might seem obvious but nobody seems to think that might generate an entirely different review and that's where the Other really enters the stage."

Junot Díaz in L.A.

Via Facebook, Junot Díaz sent this:
"Junot Díaz reads from This Is How You Lose Her. Finally, a Los Angeles appearance! I'll be doing an event Friday, Sept. 19 - Skylight Books @ 7:30pm, 1818 North Vermont Ave., L.A. Voy a Los Angeles el 19 de Septiembre! Libreria Skylight. Nos vemos ahí, sí?"

My advice is that you go hear and talk with Junot--he's an experience. Erudite, smooth, some say cute. And gente may think he thinks much of himself, but then, there is much to his work and his dynamic presentations. Muy recomendado.

Jim C. Hines edits E-book on sci-fi diversity

"13 essays on the importance of representation in science fiction and fantasy, with an introduction by author Alex Dally MacFarlane. Proceeds from the sale of this collection go to the Carl Brandon Society to support Con or Bust.

Description from Hines: These essays do a marvelous job of answering the question, Why does representation [diversity] matter? and of looking at different types of representation in spec genres. I’m a big believer in the importance and power of story. The contributors to Invisible showed me new aspects of that power, things I hadn’t necessarily considered before. [Includes bonus material from Gabriel Cuellar and Ithiliana.' On sale for $2.99.           

Learning to write about "us," the Other

Last week, K. T. Bradford posted: "I had the honor to teach at a week-long Writing the Other workshop and retreat. Writing about people and places outside of the cultural 'norm' or one's direct understanding is hard to do. It's called Writing the Other, and it's a skill that must be learned and often worked at diligently by people who want to be great writers." The workshop and writing retreat was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and included authors Mary Robinette Kowal, Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward and David Anthony Durham.

"They challenged 26 students to dive into dialect and dialogue, gender and sexuality, disability, writing the Other in history, and world-building. The workshop/retreat was an opportunity to hang out with the teachers, opportunities for one-on-one critiques -- plus the freedom and safety to ask questions and make mistakes. The leading question was: Why not just avoid writing characters who are a different race or gender or class or religion from you?"

Also check her listing of articles called Writingtheother's Public Library.

Even famous Anglo authors' works get whitewashed

white guy from the film

Ursula K. Le Guin, American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, wrote about her Earthsea series in her article, How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books. Here's some excerpts:

"The Sci Fi Channel aired its final installment of Legend of Earthsea, the miniseries based—loosely, as it turns out—on my Earthsea books. The books, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don't know what the film is about. It's full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he's a petulant white kid. Readers wondering why I 'let them change the story' may find some answers here.

"Most of the characters in my fantasy and far-future science fiction books are not white. They're mixed; they're rainbow. In my first big science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the only person from Earth is a black man, and everybody else in the book is Inuit (or Tibetan) brown. In the two fantasy novels the miniseries is 'based on,' everybody is brown or copper-red or black, except the Kargish people in the East and their descendants in the Archipelago, who are white, with fair or dark hair. The central character Tenar, a Karg, is a white brunette. Ged, an Archipelagan, is red-brown. His friend, Vetch, is black. In the miniseries, Tenar is played by Smallville's Kristin Kreuk, the only person in the miniseries who looks at all Asian. Ged and Vetch are white."

Le Guin is an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt anthology of "non-Western writers"

Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Can People of Color who live in the U.S. be considered "non-Western?" Editor Schmidt will be dealing with that problem in his next anthology:

"People who are living or have lived in non-Western cultures, especially the ones they write about, will absolutely have a leg up, as authenticity is really important to me. I hope to publish more stories by non-Western writers than Western."

DESCRIPTION: "An anthology of the culture clash between aliens and people of Earth’s various cultures as they encounter each other on Earth or in the universe. Stories should not all be Western earthlings. I’d love to have as many stories, authors and cultures represented as possible. Of course I will take the best stories. People need to learn about cultures and perspectives and that has educational value. I want them to see the nuances and differences of peoples, worldviews and cultures but not necessarily in a threatening or overly controversial way.

"Seeking authenticity, I want a good balance in the cultures, stories, and locations recommended. Research any culture you choose. Do not write what you think they are. Do not write stereotypes. I am inviting a few Western writers whom I know have traveled and have strong cultural knowledge, sensitivity and passion for places they visited. I really do want something authentic. Not every Mexican is the same, for example, but please have it so your Mexicans are real enough my actual Mexican friends would tell me you got it right. (I do have friends around the world who will read for cultural authenticity before I make final selections, so I want authentic.) What are the odd little cultural quirks people exhibit which would strike outsiders as odd but insiders, as perfectly normal?"

Submissions Open: July 1, 2014 through September 15, 2014
Word Counts: 3000-7000 words; pay rate: $.06/word ("I would accept a really good story longer than 7k, but contact me, and it will be under much more scrutiny. 3-5k is my sweet spot, honestly. 5-7 is okay.")
Publication, Late Summer/Fall of 2015 (TBD)
Submit to: WorldEncounterssubs AT
Submissions outside these dates and parameters may be rejected and possibly cannot be resubmitted. I reserve the right to close submissions at any time if the slush pile is too big and I have what I need. No money is promised or contracts offered until the Kickstarter funds. No simultaneous submissions.

[It's very advisable to read his entire submission guidelines.]

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is author/editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His short stories appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day, and Shattered Shields for Baen Books. His YA anthology Choices will be out from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2015.

Editor looking for diverse protagonists

C.C. Finlay will edit two more issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2015. Finlay has published half a dozen books and dozens of stories, been translated into sixteen languages, and nominated for some awards.

March/April 2015 issue of F&SF - Reading period: Aug. 1-15, 2014  
Sept./Oct. 2015 issue of F&SF - Reading period: Jan. 1-15, 2015
Stories can be submitted online at this link.

I E-mailed Finlay to ask if he'd considered tabulating PoC stats, like how many stories he received with non-Anglo protagonists or from authors who are black, latino, etc. He responded that he'd love to see that kind of data, but didn't know a way to estimate about authors without asking them to provide identifying information, which some might be reluctant to do.
La Bloga question:  If Finlay is open to the possibility, what about other editors of magazines and anthologies? Why shouldn't latinos and other PoC request (demand?) this from those who decide which stories are getting published? How could PoC collectively launch such an initiative?
Finlay did respond that he would again be looking for diverse protagonists in stories and, depending on submissions and time, might try to keep track of that. He thanked me for the suggestion. You can go to his Nectar for Rejectomancers post for a breakdown of past submissions he received for the July/August issue he edited. Something it would be good for writers to see from all editors and publishers.

For latinos with a spec "Punk" story

From Susan MacGregor, an On Spec magazine editor, comes this first Call for Submissions for On Spec's new Punk Theme issue, on all things 'punk'.

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, and many other types of ‘punk’ derivatives have become popular sub-genres of speculative fiction. What classifies them as ‘punk’ are a number of literary devices that include:
1). Setting: specific technologies associated with particular ‘ages’, ‘societies’ and/or time frames (both the past or future), e,g., the Victorian Age often defines Steampunk (but not always). Nanotech experiments of the future may define Biopunk, (but not always).
2). Tone: a sense of novelty, or being on the cutting edge of that particular technology, within its time frame.
3). Style: language and/or a narrative style specific to that particular technology, reflective of the time, and/or writers of that time.
4). Characterization: wide open. Characters can reflect their time and the concerns of their place in that time, or be transplants from another time and/or genre. 

Sub-genres include, but are not limited to: Atompunk, Biopunk, Clockpunk, Cyberpunk, Decopunk, Dieselpunk, Dreampunk, Mythpunk, Nanopunk, Stonepunk, and others. For further definitions, this Wikipedia link on Cyberpunk Derivatives may prove helpful.

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 15th, 2014, we will seek the best of each "punk" sub-genre, top stories that represent their particular punk sub-genre. We are looking not only for the best, but what is new, what hasn’t been ‘punked’ before. Originality is the name of the game. If you have a piece that explores the themes and technology of a new era and/or society, we want to see it. We’rll consider everything 'punk', from the serious to the ridiculous. Surprise, delight, and amaze us!

Word maximum: 6,000 words. Accompany your submission with ‘PUNK THEME ISSUE’ in the subject line. Estimated publishing/issue date: Spring, 2015. We will post about this on On Spec’s new and updated website shortly; check it for full submission guidelines. Hold off on sending manuscripts until the submission window; anything before Sept. 1 will be deleted. Read all the guidelines.

A mother answers why latinos should write latino spec lit

In Antariksh Yatra's article, above, she said, "I came across an essay by Norman Spinrad in Asimov’s magazine, in which he discoursed knowingly about why there was no third world science fiction. Because, he said, third world cultures have no conception of the future. One could write a thesis on all the things wrong with this."

Partially in answer to Norm, La Bloga received this comment to Ernesto Hogan's post, Chicanonautica: Who’s Afraid of Diversity?:

"My son is 12; he loves sci-fi, but I have noticed it does pander to specific demographics. Thanks to all of you for bravely going where your sci-fi spirits take you. I will definitely be inspired to have my son read your works. Gracias por inspirar a una nueva generación de aficionados del sci-fi latino! :) LaSirena

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, aka Chicano spec lit author Rudy Ch. Garcia

1 comment:


"Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be scifiistas . . ." What is this? The Summer of Diversity? I may start avoiding the d-word. Nice to see all the markets -- and that they pay, only wish there weren't so many rules. We need to break rules rather than follow them. Guess I gotta keep up with my expeditions into terra incognita, and come back with more weird shit to scare the genrty with. For me, weird shit is the best thing about diversity.