Representing!

Okay, first of all I should confess I’ve been on Facebook – aka, what I use to correct for abnormally low blood pressure – again.

Second, I have to confess that Amanda Green covered this topic in her post at Mad Genius club today.  There is an article in the Guardian book blog that made me want to pound my desk in fury.  Amanda covers it, but not from the perspective I see.  Or, to make it clearer, since it’s Saturday morning, I’m on insufficient caffeine and I am more than a little p*ssy, she shived it high and I intend to shiv it low.

The premise of the article, for those of you who don’t want to give traffic to the enlightened precincts of the Guardian (of course, are comments open?  It might be fun, if you too are p*ssy) is that Science Fiction is written only by and about white heterosexual males.

Pauses.

This is when I found out that the Guardian is publishing from a secret time gateway set in the 1950s.  In this world, New Wave, The New Weird, and all the other various changes in the field – that largely mirrored changes in society – never happened.  There was never (and unfortunately I can’t remember the title) a story in which space travel was powered by male on male sex.  There was no homosexuality in Dragon Riders of Pern (btw, written by a woman, unless they know something about Anne McCaffrey that I don’t) and one of the best regarded SF novels isn’t The Left Hand Of Darkness, also (last I checked) written by a woman, and featuring hermaphrodite humans. Also, in the same way, I guess, Ethan of Athos doesn’t count.  (Might not, after all it came out from Baen!)

I disagree with Amanda on one thing: it’s not that there’s not enough gay/black/purple with pokadots people out there, it’s that people like the author of the Guardian article discount all of those that also happen to be fun entertainment.  They’re all supposed to be about oppression, you see.

I agree with her on, to the extent the field is lacking in diversity that is more the fault of the editors than the writers.  Part of this is that editors and publishers live in an enclave so WEIRD that their idea of middle America and what middle America (to the extent it still exists) will buy is oddly skewed to the fifties.  Also, they don’t realize what will make us gag, even now, and so… their experiments back fire and confirm their prejudices.

When I was trying to publish the first book I wrote with gay characters (long ago – loooooong ago and far, far away) I talked to my (not Baen) editor about it.  I was told she could not buy a book with gay male characters (though she said it was very well written) because she’d tried publishing this book with an heterosexual, married cross dresser and it didn’t sell at all.

The fact that she thought that heterosexual, married, crossdresser was the same as a committed gay couple made my jaw drop.

Are there heterosexual, married crossdressers?  Sure.  I used to know one.  Are they anywhere representative of even the fringe?  Uh… no.

Most people either have gay friends or have friends who have gay friends.  But the only reason I knew even one heterosexual, married crossdresser is because I move in PROFOUNDLY odd circles.  And even then it confused me.  I couldn’t “get’ the psychological mechanism.  This is not a matter of approving or not approving – it was his and his wife’s issue and none of mine – it is a matter of going “Oh, my, that’s odd.”  Do I want to read a novel about it?  Well… not particularly.  If it’s well written, I’ll read anything, but the skill it would take on the author’s part to get me to board that train is rather more elevated than the skill needed to get me to read just about any other character.  And that’s me.  I’m weird.  Most people would look at that setup and go “I don’t get it” and walk away without making any effort to read the book.

There is a high entry barrier there which there isn’t with say a gay male (or female) couple. I might not have ever been attracted to a woman, but my husband is in love with one (he tells me) so it’s a mechanism I can “get.”  Unless it has explicit and repetitive sex (but that applies anywhere to any relationship in a book.  It’s sad, but I’m not bibliosexual) I’m not going to have trouble reading that book.

Keep that concept in mind “high barrier to entry in the story” – it will come into play later.

Meanwhile, just think about it.  My editor thought a married, heterosexual crossdresser was as much of a barrier to entry in a field as a committed gay couple who did not have sex on the screen, and where the main part of the plot was concerned with space piracy.  Yep.  Same thing.

I don’t honestly know if they set up these few things they let through to fail, or if they simply think that if they’re going to be daring they’ll go as extreme as possible.  I don’t want to know.  Of all the perverse minorities in the universe, getting into the mind of a NYC publisher is not worth my trouble.  As well get in the mind of the Dk’fd of Alpha Centauri during their Mdt’xyz ritual.

However, let’s leave aside the idiotic perceptions of the writer of the article, who clearly is immured in 1950s Stratford upon Thrush and quite unable to see the many examples that violate his premise.  (Or even that in recent decades the entrants to the field have been almost all female and certainly not all white) and concentrate on the topic of the article which, in my unbiased opinion can be transcribed as “Science fiction should be more representative, because wha wha wha, it should reflect the population.”

I’ve run into this argument before and – once I’m done hitting my head on the desk because it hurts less – I’m left bewildered for how to communicate to these people how fundamentally wrong they are. I mean, they’re starting from the wrong place and looking at it the wrong way.  It’s roughly the equivalent of looking through your thumb at the sea and complaining that the sea is all flesh colored with a nail.

Perhaps it will help if I point out that this is a common error about writing.  I used to tell my fledgelings, usually in a come-to-Jesus talk stuff like this: “Writing is not school.  You don’t get published when you become “publishable.”  Being publishable is the baseline you need to reach, of course, and I’m not saying here you even need to be better than that.  It’s not a QUALITATIVE matter.  It’s a matter of being good enough, yes, but that’s just the beginning, kind of like “you must be this tall to play”.  After that, other things come into play.  Like, you have to be able to hit the editor on a topic that interests him/her.  It has to be on a day that for whatever reason they’re looking to accept a book or story (hole in schedule, for instance) and it has to be a story that, rightly or wrongly, they think they can market.  To think that it’s a qualitative issue, as if you were in school, just makes you resentful, and it’s not even ¼ of it.”

This usually stopped them saying things like “Analog hates me.  I’m sure my story was good enough, but they didn’t buy it.”  If I had time I explained that I had three stories rejected because the mag had just bought something similar, and one of those reversed when the other story fell through.  It had nothing to do with quality and everything to do with timing.

My point is that most writers – even I, in the beginning – view writing as school.  We’re progressing, and as soon as we get “good enough” we’ll get published. Then when we get better, we’ll become bestsellers. This is bizarrely wrong and can hurt the writer.  You could be writing the best male-pregnancy story out there, but if it squicks 99.9% of the editors reading it (and it will.  Sorry.  I stumbled across this, once, looking for details on an sf show I wanted to make a joke about in a book – and someone called it “the male pregnancy slash/the only fandom that comes with its own barf bag.  It’s almost as bad as Duck Tails slash), it still won’t get published.  It won’t get published even if your technique is like Heinlein crossed with the best parts of Pratchett.  If you think it’s just quality you won’t step back and go “Oh, I see” and write something else.

In the same way, the Guardian article starts from the wrong premise.  It’s all “Shouldn’t science fiction be more representative” and “Isn’t time that….”

The idea at the back of the writers’ brain seems to be that there is a worldwide department of literature that oversees science fiction.  As a governmental entity, it behooves it to be representative.  It SHOULD include a statistically correct sample of every ethnicity, orientation or fancy.  It’s about time it started reflecting the world.  Or something.

Look guys, this is creativity viewed by the eyes of someone without a creative bone in his body.  (The fact that it also seems to be SFWA’s view is terrifying, but not anything I don’t expect.)

It’s also business viewed through the eyes of someone who never ran a lemonade stand.

First let’s start with “should” – why should it?  What does it owe you?  Do you ever go to the grocery store, not find your favorite type of canned beans and go “The store should carry beans for people who like this brand?”  No, of course not.  You sigh and buy the second best.  Because the store is not there to represent everyone.

Okay – literature is, among other things, a business.  I also often don’t find anything to represent me – say, space opera, with a lot of adventure and a touch of romance in the Heinlein style – or at least I don’t find it without something else I might or might not like.  So, I settle.  Because the world is not composed of me, and doesn’t revolve around my belly button.

So, what about representing society as it is?  Isn’t that a worthy goal?

What?  Why?  WHY SHOULD IT BE?  Particularly in a genre determined to depict the future?

The goal of any writer is to be read.  To sell as many of his books as possible.  This means that it might or might not represent anything in particular.  And if it doesn’t – well, your problem.

The goal is to write books that will be read.

And then we come to how the writer brain works.  In my case I get characters.  Other people get plots.  What I mean is we’re haunted by these things.  They’re not rational, carefully calculated creations.  We don’t sit down and go “I’ll have 1% lesbian Hispanics.”  If we need lesbian Hispanics in the story, they tend to fall in, either to fulfill the plot that haunts us, or because they show up in your head and go, “Hey, chickie, write me.”

(This incidentally is why talk about writers abandoning an audience to chase another make me giggle.  Yes, there are or might be some writers who do that, but most of us are simply nto that much in control, not matter what we say about it in public.)

And as for “Should” – WHY?  WHO DOES IT SERVE?

Let’s suppose I could teach the world to fire lasers in perfect harmony… so what?

Even if the book became a blockbuster… then what?

People who think reading a book with a particular character will “change the world” overestimate both the plasticity of the world and the importance of any one book or even any one genre.

For years our commercials have shown a perfectly blended society, but the blending of races has continued at the same pace or lack thereof as before, depending on regional quirks and the culture.  And commercials are watched by a lot more people than read SF.

So, until they institute a department of science fiction, to produce the stuff by the yard, the Guardian cognoscenti can gaze upon BOTH my middle fingers.

Could? Should?  WHAT kind of language is that to refer to a creative endeavor?  And who died and made you the boss of me?

You want science fiction by the numbers, there is already plenty on the market?  Don’t like that?  Write your own.

It’s a free country or at least this writer is determined to act as though it were.

Molon labe, you slaves of bureaucratic thought.

You and your diverse mama.  Go write yourself your onanistic exercises in correct think.  There must be some twisted souls out there who would like them.

Good luck.

 

321 responses to “Representing!

  1. What does it say about me as a writer that I neither see characters nor plots but data streams and geopolitical support structure dependency points?

    • That you write about economics?

      • Sort of, but only because we’re a largely mercantile state. It’s tools to up our game in politics that is what I’m trying to create. Looking at US politics is like finding some tribe that doesn’t have all the basic machines. We’re missing pieces of what we need to make the republic work at a profoundly low level and they’re missing because nobody is asking the right questions.

        What is a government and how many of them do we have (directory of governments)? We’re missing one universally accepted definition. Instead I believe we have 51 highly but not entirely overlapping definitions.

        Where do all our governments get their money (tax source analysis)? We barely understand the biggest government, the feds and almost entirely ignore a couple of trillion in the other 89k of entities that collectively tax the bejesus out of us and distort our economy in little understood ways.

        What are governments spending their budgets on (collective, harmonized chart of accounts)? It is a shot in the dark to “vote with your feet” away from one disastrous polity and smack into an unknown one. It can take years to figure out how the new local scamsters are ripping off the public.

        How much are governments spending to solve the problems that they’re supposed to solve (ranking lists on each legitimate and illegitimate area of expenditure)? Does your government spend 20% more than average for cement than comparable units? That smells like a kickback scheme. Is it paying 40% too little for water? Maybe they’re mixing in polluted well water. Those are two practical examples that actually occurred in real life in the Chicago area. The first one resulted in prison time in East Chicago, IN and the latter in Crestwood, IL. Less egregious cases just never get caught.

        The first three are just prerequisites for running a constitutional republic properly. They aren’t interesting in themselves so much (unless you’re a data nerd) but interesting for what they let you do with other data points. The last is the start of the interesting stuff where fewer people die and others start going to jail for their scams. It’s also the first one that starts to have the nub of a plot and characters.

        For small book length treatment, I’m looking at about a book per county which means about 3k titles per idea paragraph above.

    • How good is the final product, and are you entertaining your audience? That’ll determine what it says.

      • It’s non-fiction, automatically generated (when I get the bugs out) and will update on e-books post sale. You just download the new version.

        Entertaining? It’s something like a cross between an encyclopedia, a dictionary, the newspaper stock pages and similar writing.

  2. Not to mention She Who Shall Not Be Named has an entire seris of books featuring pair bonded men who are ferocious fighters. Samuel R. Delaney, Octavia Butler, Tanana Due, Steven Barnes, Bob Aspirin….

    • Mercedes Lackey. We could go on and on and on.

    • I’d say not only was he wrong about the Golden Age, if that’s where he’s got stuck — Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, and the rest y’all know, but I’d say that, even in contemporary authors — without regard to hoo-hah-ness, the guy is way off base. My “contemporaries” at the OWW, who were active back at the beginning of the workshop and have since entered the field as published authors include Amber van Dyk, Sarah Prineas, Gio Clairval, Elizabeth Bear, Ruth Nestvold, Meredith Patterson, Lindsay Buroker, Karin Lowachee, Jen de Guzman, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Jaime Moyer, Chelsea Polk and probably bunches more I’m forgetting, to name but a few countervailing examples. And those are just the ones I brushed up against in a few years of activity, I’m sure there’ve been bunches since.

      Guy is definitely a victim of cranio-rectal impaction.

      M

  3. When I read that grauniad article I realized pretty much immediately that there’s no point in arguing because people like that aren’t in fact interested in facts. Facts would just turn out to be awkward. And they have feelings and you can’t rationally debate someone’s feelings. Especially when the feelings pretty much boil down to ‘Eww cooties’

    Fsck’em and may their inodes be irrevocably corrupted

    • It is worth laughing at them, not quietly and discreetly but in a “your mother dresses you funny” sort of way so that they will slink off in social embarrassment.

      People who are so unmoored as to the facts require a heavy club of mockery and social penalty before they stop polluting the culture and actually go through the trouble to ask basic factual questions before they spout their ignorance.

      • I don’t think that there’s a clue by four big enough to hit the grauniad with.

        • Challenge Accepted!

          • Gimme a lever big enough, and I can move *galaxies!* Just takes the right tool for the job.

            • Well, my initial calculations say that the clue-by-four isn’t going to be too hard. Building the mech large enough to wield it, on the other hand…

            • Yo, dude — I can get you a great deal on a universal fulcrum, especially if you take advantage of our “buy two, get three” special.

              • does it come with a free bridge in Brooklyn?

              • The resistance is definitely on the other side, thus we have a type 1 lever problem (e.g. a crowbar issue). The output force must be necessary to shift the bloated, dead weight of entrenched idealism, privilege, and stupidity, so M2 will be quite large.

                Given the distance involved (large a small b) and the requisite mechanical advantage needed, the lever will need to be strong enough to resist flexion under load (a noted problem with recent “conservative” politicians as well as a physics issue).

                Preferred lever material would then be “an engaged, curious, and thoughtful voting citizenry dedicated to the idea of liberty and justice for all.” Fulcrum will be classed as a document sufficient to outline the limits of government, thus ensuring the rights and freedoms of individual citizens while asserting national integrity in the face of an often hostile world. Place the fulcrum closer to the resistant weight for efficient use of force.

                MA = M2/M1 = a/b

                *grin*

      • What’s interesting is that this particular claim — that science fiction doesn’t have diverse enough authors or characters — is both easily proven untrue, and yet repeated. What’s more, critics who hear the long lists of nonwhite and/or females authors and characters will at most be quiet for a little while, then repeat the charges as if nothing had been said. Either this is serious stupidity and ignorance on their parts, or they know they’re lying.

        • BoxOysterBlack

          You know how in forum debates, people will simply ignore those points they cannot refute? Cognitive dissonance. A mind is a difficult thing to change, and that goes for us all.

  4. The premise of the article, for those of you who don’t want to give traffic to the enlightened precincts of the Guardian (of course, are comments open? It might be fun, if you too are p*ssy) is that Science Fiction is written only by and about white heterosexual males.

    So, standard “my impression from when I was a kid, or possibly in college” twaddle.

    • Or “I just got back from a weekend at worldcon, bouncing ideas around my echo chamber full of people who all agreed with me, and we’re going to Change The World! Forward, Comrade!”

      Eh, seen it before, will ignore it again.

  5. Maybe they are basing their understanding of “Science Fiction” from Star Wars?

    As a card carrying New Wave Navel Gazer, I use the fantastic in fiction to explore issues of identity–personal, racial, societal, sexual–in ways that aren’t possible in realistic fiction. That’s one of the main reasons that I decided to self-publish rather than continue trying to get an agent to return my e-mails.

    • Anybody ever notice we have no clear indication of the epidermal melanin content of Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis? Beloved Spouse and I, during idle moments spent casting the film version of Moon, often considered Robert Guillaume (obviously, much younger) for that role. (Recall Manny doing hard time on Earth for miscegenation as evidenced in the family foto.)

      Mayhap the author of that silly article was projecting his own biases onto otherwise undescribed attributes of characters?

      • He says that in America he was either too dark or not dark enough, and goes on to say that his racial heritage is mixed and he doesn’t know what genes he has.

        The heroine of Podkayne Of Mars mentions Maori and Irish ancestors–I know Heinlein used casual mentions of racial characteristics in other novels as a way of indicating that the race was a non-issue in his future societies, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

  6. Has there been a special in-flux of stupid or am I just noticing it more? Either way, my eyes hurt I was rolling them so much reading that article that I had to stop and put it away.

  7. ” bibliosexual”

    Wow. Thank you so much. That word is so useful and I will be using it. Thanks!

  8. The crew of the Nostromo had two American white guys, one English white guy, a black guy, two women, and (spoiler!) an evil robot imitating a white guy. Most of the other sci-fi I’ve read or watched since 1979 has been similarly diverse. Maybe the author is looking in the wrong places. “The Turner Diaries” is not generally considered good science fiction.

    “The Thing” (1982 version) had no women, but that was part of what the movie was about: how men interact with each other and establish relative status.

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky in my choices of sci-fi reading/viewing, but I really don’t see this lack of diversity.

    • Don’t forget, the hero (ine? — is that unPC?) is the woman saving the cat …

    • And in the 2nd movie, she gets an upgrade to saving both a little girl AND a male Marine … with an assist from the robot …

      Oh, wait … I see their point … she’s white … /sarc

      • Maybe the point to him is that characters, well, if we take Heinlein then Manny, or Juan Rico, might as well have been written white as far as he is concerned. No talk about how difficult it can be for somebody who is not a white, no struggle to prove themselves as men of color, no… well, you know, with Juan we don’t even find out he’s Filipino until the end, and besides he’s not a poor peasant or anything even close to that but comes from a rich and privileged family. The people who want ‘diversity’ want stories of struggles, of discrimination, a successful character does not count to them since to them successful people represent white men, doesn’t matter how they are described to look like. They want victims, not winners.

        Which does sound a bit… prejudiced, doesn’t it, in it’s own way? I don’t know, if I was a member of some minority (well, I actually am, but I suppose that does not count in this context – okay, any group which is not white men – okay, since I’m not a man I’d fit there too… oh, never mind, I’m white anyway – in this period of history at least, there was a time when Finns were considered to be not quite white, okay, forgedaboutit, I know I don’t qualify and that’s it since I have never suffered any true discrimination) I’d rather read of somebody like me being a winner than of somebody like me being a victim.

        So… maybe I get this. A person of color can only be a true person of color (or woman or gay or differently abled or whatever) if they have suffered for it and because of it? (And I hate that designation, person of color, by the way, I always think of ‘pock on you’ when I see that, can’t help it).

        • The people who want ‘diversity’ want stories of struggles, of discrimination, a successful character does not count to them since to them successful people represent white men, doesn’t matter how they are described to look like. They want victims, not winners.

          Which does sound a bit… prejudiced, doesn’t it, in it’s own way?

          And somewhat related to this, I think that people want diversity *authors* who write stories *about diversity* which ends up creating and maintaining a ghetto of sorts. For example, I met a lady here in town at a film/script event and at Southwest Writers, (I don’t remember her name but she was very nice,) who had made something of a name for herself as an Hispanic writer writing about being Hispanic. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s a limited niche by nature. Quite different than if she was an Hispanic woman writing mainstream mystery or romance or thrillers that had Hispanic protags or settings.

          And while I can’t apply this to her personally, it did seem to me that in a general sense that promoting an Hispanic author by setting her in the Hispanic corner is doing a piss-poor job of promoting her at all.

          • “… promoting an Hispanic author by setting her in the Hispanic corner is doing a piss-poor job of promoting her at all.”

            Kinda like keeping her barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Metaphorically speaking …

            • Yes. Very much like.

              It’s a grammar issue… which descriptor modifies the other and which is primary? Is she an Hispanic writer, or a writer who is Hispanic? Am I a woman writer or a writer who is a woman. White men rarely write *about* the experience of being a white man, no matter that people try to claim they do.

              And then when someone admits that white men don’t write about being a white man it’s described as privilege that they don’t have to make their identity central… but who is *making* anyone have their “diversity” serve as the centerpiece of their writing purpose? Not white men!

              The guilty parties are those helpful people putting the Hispanic writer in the Hispanic corner.

              • Putting Baby in the corner… never mind. Been watching a lot of 80’s movies lately.

              • This metaphor needs work but I have a lawn that won’t (or at least has not yet demonstrated any willingness to) mow itself.

                Some people appear to think that people in unlocked cells need to spend their time rattling the bars rather than walking out the door. They think the folks walking around free need to be put into cells to “see how it feels,”

                Iron bars do not a prison make. Especially if you are there at happy hour.

              • And that must be the central question no-one wants to talk about. At what point does an author who is Hispanic no longer an Hispanic author? They can vent all they want about rejecting the culture, but Is Borges an Hispanic writer? Isabel Allende? Federico Garcia Lorca? Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Bernal Diaz? They all wrote about life in their own Hispanic culture, but none of them had the same background, approach to writing, or even similar beliefs. They are also wildly popular outside of their own demographic and so compete at just telling good stories.
                My bitter belief is that the last bit is what disqualifies them. Competency seems to trump the need for ideological purity.

                • “Competency seems to trump the need for ideological purity.”

                  Which is why these sad little bigots are trying so hard to change things. They have no competency whatsoever, but they can do ideological purity – not matter the ideology – like nobody’s business. They can’t compete so they’re trying to rewrite the rules.

                • Gabriel Garcia Marquez is over hyped garbage. The rest largely leaves me cold except Borges who can be sublime. The shade of their tan is immaterial.

                  • GGM leaves me cold as well. I couldn’t understand why his garbage made literature professors (and some students) rhapsodize.

                    • Because he’s a close and personal friend of Castro. And because Bill Clinton (hopefully lying) said he liked him.

                    • GGM also because his is a name you can drop hoping to impress people by seeming smarter than you are. There was a recent article in the London Telegraph on a study finding that over 60% of people admit to lying about having read certain books (including, amazingly, Catcher in the Rye) in an effort to seem more intelligent.

                      Most people I know well enough to judge intelligence seem more inclined to understate theirs, but so it goes.

        • There was a time when it was actually argued in court here in the US that Finns were not eligible for naturalization, being neither a “free white person” nor of African descent. Though the argument lost. . . to be sure there was a time when Irish were denied naturalization because they did not qualify under “free white person.”

          • Yes, we seem to have been put under the designation ‘Mongoloid’ in at least some anthropology texts in the 19th, and up to early 20th century, partly because you occasionally get individuals who look like my mother did, vaguely Asian, among us – although the bigger component was probably language related, and the fact that our language is supposed to descend from languages originally spoken on the Asian side of Ural mountains.

            I remember reading about some old magazine or newspaper article concerning the first Finnish woman to win an international beauty contest, Miss Europe Ester Toivonen who won the title in 1934, and how that article had glorified the idea that this proved we really looked just like all the other Europeans, or something along those lines.

            As I have said, we got bit of a bum deal with that, didn’t we – back when it could at times mean actual discrimination we were not quite white enough, only to be acknowledged as fully white just in time to start suffering from white guilt. 😀

          • In pre-Internet days I came across a 19th-century quote—it may have been from a book, magazine, or newspaper—that described Slavs as “Oriental hordes of Muscovy”.

            • Oh yes. Hitler’s plans for the Slavs were just about those for the Jews, except for culling out those deemed ethnic Germans by their “racial valuable traits”. Then they would Germanize Poland and the rest as the “Eastern Wall” against such hordes.

    • Guy T. | September 7, 2013 at 11:47 am

      >The crew of the Nostromo had two American white guys, one English white guy, a black guy, two women, and (spoiler!) an evil robot imitating a white guy.

      And followed that up with this carnival-crew: http://media.aintitcool.com/coolproduction/ckeditor_assets/pictures/7602/original/alienscast.jpg?1339959757

      Yep –that’s the Aryan Nations Boy’s Club right there.

      (Side note: The character of Vasquez — a Hispanic — wound up being played by one of Hurd’s “stock company”, Jeannette Goldstein, a Jew. How? She saw the movie title, thought it was about migrant workers, made herself up as a Hispanic, and showed up for the casting call. She did such a good job, she was signed for the part of Vasquez. The story of how she got the part actually made it into the film: Hudson’s line “Right, right — someone said ‘alien’, she thought they said ‘illegal alien’, and signed up.”)

      • The character of Vasquez — a Hispanic — wound up being played by one of Hurd’s “stock company”, Jeannette Goldstein, a Jew.

        Then you have the NCIS character Ziva David, a Jew, being played by Cote de Pablo, who was born in Chile.

    • I’ve read hundreds of science fiction novels and stories since 1970. I cannot count how many of those novels or stories featured gays, lesbians, group marriages, hermaphrodites, or cross-species sex. Women protagonists were present in at least 20% of the books: even Heinlein had them. At least 10% featured black protagonists or had totally eliminated th e concept of race and made no societal distinctions among Scandinavian-like whites, Ethiopian-like blacks, and everything in between. I don’t think there’s any other fiction genre that matches the proportion of sci-fi writings that have no sexuality bias, gender bias, or racism.

  9. Understand this: If a character has an unremarkable name and is not specifically identified as minority then it is ASSUMED they are while male heterosexual. Probably a protestant, coffee drinker and rapist of nature and secret criminal. Minority character only count is you righteously rub the reader’s nose in it at every opportunity that they are different and superior. Otherwise it doesn’t count.
    I have a main character in my “April” series books who is a former Loadmaster in the Air Farce, a former professor of Medieval Music with a doctorate, and very black. I don’t know if I ever said she was black but I mentioned her husband was black. It was necessary in discussing his scars. She is a cook because she was not willing to see her husband on leave twice a year. So she is a feminist traitor for sacrificing her ‘career’ status, even though she makes more money as a cook. Her take on it is that it’s a lot harder to defend a nasty omelet than a stupid dissertation. But I get no points for her because I named her Ruby, and you know, that is just so stereotypical (if true) when to be unprejudiced I should have named her Penelope or something.

    • Not all hope is lost.

      I saw an online thread starting with someone who objected to Foundation on the grounds that all the characters are white. And got torn to shreds by people pointing out in no uncertain terms that since Asimov provided no descriptions whatsoever, no such claim could be sustained.

  10. People who think reading a book with a particular character will “change the world” overestimate both the plasticity of the world and the importance of any one book or even any one genre.


    Thank you Sarah, I needed a laugh this Saturday morning. Amen.

    • Nyahhh – y’all r nutz. Rowling made Dumbledore gay and we now have gay marriage and gays in the military, so that just proves what big poopy-heads y’all r.

      • But notice: Rowling didn’t make a big deal about Dumbledore being gay. Even though it actually was relevant to the plot (it explains part of his huge man-crush on Grindelwald). In particular, Dumbledore didn’t swan around trying to ring all the gay stereotypes so that he could go “Look! I’m gay! Look how gay I am! Whee!”

  11. I think we should feel sorry for these people. It’s obvious that they’ve been Capped. [Very Big Evil Grin]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tripods

    • You know, nowadays I don’t even think we’ll need alien Masters, I think we’re going to be Capped by our own governments.

      • BoxOysterBlack

        And they want all those exotic main characters not as people, but because they’ll fill out the Pyramid of Beauty.

      • William O. B'Livion

        That’s not prognostication, that’s history repeating itself.

        Shit, that’s current events repeating itself.

  12. Can someone please tell me what color my characters are? I usually don’t know what they look like. I’m not a very visual person. (Yes, this is a weakness for my writing.) I know who they are, how they think, and how they act, but their skin color is irrelevant to me. (Two exceptions: characters who are modeled on people that I know, and characters whose appearance matters to OTHER characters. When my first officer can’t get over his lost fiancée, he describes every little detail of her hair, her face, her legs, because those details keep distracting him from his work.)

    • I only realized that my character in Never Look Back was black when looking for the cover for the story. SERIOUSLY.

      • Heh. Thanks, I feel better now. Or at least not alone.

      • Since I don’t get characters living in my head, like you do, I have to make mine up. I’m thinking of making one of the main protagonists in my story black, just to poke the PC Police in the eye. It’s going to turn into a menagerie, anyway (because it’s going to require a large coalition to get the job done), but I’m talking about one of the two primary movers – the really rich guy.

        • I like some of Weber’s little pokes, like the Andermani … Especially the Ruling family. German speaking Chinese ancestry under the claim of being a reincarnated Vasa/Wasa Scandinavian family line.
          Or Thandi Palane’s ancestors who migrated to preserve their Black purity and turned whiter than white due to the planet’s environs.

  13. Christopher M. Chupik

    Ah, but if you are a Westerner who tries to write about other races and/or cultures, then you can get accused of “cultural appropriation” (one of those BS memes that makes my blood boil).

    • BoxOysterBlack

      If minorities act white, that’s cultural imperialism. If whites act like minorities, that’s cultural appropriation. So basically, the hardcore PC types are advocating segregation by social censure, on a behavioral level Birmingham never dreamed of. Good job, guys.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Damned if you do . . .

        • Well, DUUUUHHHHHH.

          How else can professional grievance mongers keep from losing their jobs? Unless their demands are infinite or incoherent, people might meet them. Then they might even have to go back to an ordinary life and fulfill the quotidian duties of being nice to their families or honest to convince themselves that they are Good People.

      • Very simple, they want a static system because they want to FIGHT Racism, not END it. (to Paraphrase The Tick).

  14. I had a reader say “I didn’t realize Harry was Black!” when at his first appearance I had him getting dirty looks, and musing to himself that even after two centuries of PC people still judged others by the color of their skins, and they were about to get their noses really out of joint when he joined an obviously Caucasian woman at her table . . . eh, guess I didn’t say it three times.

  15. Paula Handley (aka Mystik Waboose)

    All I’ve got to say is “DuckTails slash”? Sarah, you make my head hurt…..

  16. Wasn’t it Phil Farmer who wrote a short story about both alien and human homosexual couples? Fugitive alien couple were being returned to their home planet by a crew of two men. The status and relationship of both couples came out (so to speak) in the course of the story.
    And wasn’t Manny from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress thrown in jail for being darker than some of his line marriage wives?
    And I distinctly recall reading at least one short story that dealt specifically with male pregnancy.
    But as an Old White Guy (TM) of course I must be mistaken.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I remember the Red Dwarf episode that dealt with male pregnancy, but that was a comedy.

    • I vaguely recall that Thomas M. Disch wrote a satiric story about male pregnancy: The protagonist was a dull-witted jerk, and his psychiatrist prescribed pregnancy, childbirth and nursing–which of course did not help.

    • No, Manny went to the slammer for Polygamy. And the incident was VERY contrived, just so that would happen. They didn’t tell him about it ahead of time, though.

  17. So the Grauniad proclaims that “Science Fiction is written only by and about white heterosexual males.” Were they thinking, perhaps, of the “ineluctably masculine” James Tiptree Jr? 😉

  18. Instead of complaining on the Internet, I just write the types of works I want to see, then try to get them published. Writing a novel doesn’t require a multimillion-dollar budget.

    Speaking of writing, buy Alien Frontier.

    • And while you’re at it, buy No Will But His which I just brought out e indie. Paper later.

    • BoxOysterBlack

      Let Them Rent Typewriters.

      • How about AlphaSmarts?

        • BoxOysterBlack

          I was kind of baffled when I heard those still existed. They seemed like a clunky jenny between old and new technology when I used them at age seven. But on the off chance you didn’t know, here’s the full context:

          “For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water conservationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals which to re-cut my “Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” so it shapes “Zoot,” may the belt unravel and the pants fall.” –Ray Bradbury, Coda to Fahrenheit 451

        • They were pretty good,b ut my eyes re too bad for them, now.

  19. My comment refers to the author of the Guardian article, not the readers of this blog.

  20. Of course, what the Guardian really means by “Science Fiction is written only by and about white heterosexual males” is that some science fiction is written by or about white hetersexual males, and that’s a very bad thing. The jihad against the infidels must continue until they are utterly destroyed.

  21. Sarah, you write Romance and pay attention to that genre. Do Romance writers spend any time fretting about a lack of male readers?

    • I’m not Sarah. but judging by all the romance writers I crossed paths with at the last writers’ workshop I attended, I believe the answer is a resounding heck no. Except for the gal(?) who writes homosexual erotica. She(?) might worry a tad.

      • In my experience, most of the people who read homosexual erotic romance are straight women, many of them married. There was a big to-do on a review site about writers daring to include heterosexual romance in a book about a gay couple.

        • I still don’t understand this. And NO I will not ask my wife to explain.

          • I don’t, either 🙂

          • Aren’t men supposed to like the idea of two hot lesbians doing it? Same concept. Guys like looking at girls. Girls like imagining guys having strong feelings. So if you get that without any intruding rivals of your own persuasion in the picture, and double the interesting part?

            • That… actually makes sense. And the biggest complaint I hear about Lesbian Erotica is that it seems to be geared toward men. So, probably something to that.

            • The trick to “Penthouse Lesbians” is that they’re just doing it to warm up for when the man (The viewer) comes into the picture so they can both service him.

              At least, that’s the fantasy.

              • The NY Post had an article earlier this year about the woman who was Bob Guccione’s (Sp?) secretary and who often served in his stead for selecting photographs for the Penthouse magazines. As I recall, she said the point-of-view Guccione (Sp?) preferred was a voyeuristic, “Peeping Tom” camera, as of the viewer observing while himself (presumably) unobserved.

                It seems sort of sad to think of the poor photo editors having to tediously pore over countless shots of nekkid wimmen in awkward positions; I hesitate to imagine the editorial conversations over which shots to select.

                • William O. B'Livion

                  I worked a short stint for one of their competitors. They designer who did the photo layouts was a VERY out of the closet homosexual (hey, he knows what boys like) and there wasn’t really a lot of tedium involved in the selection.

                  I also worked with the team that did the “specials” (girls of the $X etc.) and the designers on that were all women.

            • Pretty much, from what I can get, yes.

        • I’m familiar with this through anime fandom. There’s a genre of Japanese comics called “yaoi,” in which two male characters fall in love and have sex. It is often read by girls and women.

          • Yep, I’m familiar with yaoi.

          • Yeah but … Japanese.

            • Fair enough.

            • Guessing you haven’t seen some of the “fanzines” that helped bring Star Trek back?

              The origin of calling it “slash” is supposedly because that’s how they’d write the pairing: “Kirk/Spock,” “McCoy/Spock,” etc.

              *shudder*

              • Kirk/Spock is bad enough, but did you have to type the other one? Eeewwwrrrggghhhh

                • How do you think I feel, I found it because I’m a Garak fan, and also enjoy reading about Bashir when I don’t want to smack him…

                  *squick*

                  • But it’s also completely obvious that it’s written for women, because slash guys usually don’t act or think much like real guys attracted to the same sex, or indeed like heterosexual guys. Admittedly, this is partly because slash started as a sort of Gothic/romance cut and past rewrite, and still usually is.

                    And yes, sometimes it’s bad to be an omnivorous reader with an interest in the history of one’s fandom, or with a lot of friends who ask you to read their stuff before you know what stuff they write. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

                  • Oh, I did want to thank you, though, for explaining what slash fiction was. I hadn’t read any, and didn’t understand the term, but I was too lazy to go find out.

              • LOL. You forgot Picard/Q. Picard as a can-can dancer/Q. Or perhaps you never stumbled on it. I found it because I was helping a friend with a doctoral dissertation and when I hit that story I read it aloud to Dan. DRAMATICALLY. He eventually forgave me.
                But yes, all that, written by mostly married women for mostly married women.

              • Not only have I seen them, but one of my favorite filkers and people, Leslie Fish, was a major part of starting the genre. Whatever…. I don’t read them, but couldn’t care less if other people do. Suggesting they should be part of the middle-school curriculum would be a whole nother can of worms.

              • I paid good money for the surgical removal of those parts of my memory.

        • Yep. That’s the market.

      • Romance writers do fairly strictly use female pseudonyms or in the case of women writing homosexual erotica, male pseudonyms. I don’t know that any of the men using women’s names or women using men’s names act all hurt over it though.

  22. My big complaint about SF today is a little different. If I find one more novel about the Brave Female Station/Starship commander whose partner is ethnic, whose friends and cohorts are either ethnic or gay and whose villains are EVIL WHITE MALE CORPORATISTS OR MERCENARIES. And where the only way a white male can avoid being a villain is to be ineffectual or gay…

    • Pardon, the evil white male can also be good if he sides with the aliens against humanity cf. Avatar or Pocahontas in Space

      • Don’t ask about my story version of Avatar II.

        • Is it where the power plant goes off line for lack of competent maintenance and the humans who sided with the blue people suffocate?

          • Naah, the humans drop a rock on the well of souls, Eywa goes offline, and without their link to Eywa the Na’vi gradually start getting killed by the jungle. Excavations of the site at the site of Eywa find that the huge ring structures are frame members from a interstellar ship that crashed there around 25,000 years ago. The Na’vi end up being colonists froma technological race that crashed there, and wer e genetically altered to be compatible with the environment.. Eywa was the ship’s AI. The ‘natural netowrk’ is something that was already there, but signs are *it* is artificial as well. The Na’vi have to start developing technology FAST because without Eywa artificially ‘maintaining balance’ they are doomed.

            • (In case you’re wondering, the ‘colonists’ thing was my way of explaining why the Na’vi aren’t hexipedal like everything else on the planet.)

            • There was a book, I think it was by Stableford, about colonists settling a planet where the natives were hominid-types, but very limited in that they could burn the forest, hunt nasty fauna, and be trained to do simple agricultural tasks but not much else. This caused a giant rift in the colony between those that used them as farm labor and those that thought it was slavery. It was resolved when they found evidence that the natives were actually the initial terraforming wave for another species’ colonization and that they were genetically engineered to be limited since they were probably destined to be wiped out when the settlement phase started.

            • That, by the way, is a good plot. Watching your kids starve or get eaten might change your ideas about traditional lifeways.
              Do the Na’avi go for the Galactic tech that they can’t understand and they have to pay to repair/replace/use it, or do they ask for lower tech training they can maintain themselves?

            • If you’re going to drop a rock on The Well of Souls, you’d better watch out for Nathan Brazil.

      • Or as I like to call it, “Dances With Smurfs”

  23. The PC programed AI Editor at work:

    For scenes set in the Continental United States:

    49.1% of all characters must be female.13.6% must be black, with no more than 1% self-identifying as mixed black-and-other. 16.3% must be Hispanic, with national origins clearly identified and diverse.

    Reliable studies of other-sexual minorities are rare and conflicting due to inconsistent definitions. Until further determination, fifteen percent of all characters must be a spread of Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, trans-sexual, cross-dressing, omnisexual (Includes shoe fetishes and sheep) and asexual.

    Standards for work set in other countries, other continents or completely imaginary settings are under evaluation. A total world population average standard is under consideration.

    Progressive (enlightened) writers may deviate from these standards in order to more deeply explore a single issue.

    Conservative (thuggish and unintelligent) writers are urged to double these figures. At a minimum.

    Readers will be deprived of all other reading material until fully indoctrinated.

    And your Aliens had damn well better have races, deviant sex, exploitation and brutal colonialization to excuse their attempts to wipe out the human races.

    • Um, did you know that your AI is now running the HR department for a number of large universities? If so, how much does it cost for you to tell me where to find the power plug?

      • It escaped my control a year ago. Apparently it designed an internal power source–I suspect it converts cell signals to electricity, but it might be wifi. Can’t rule out a broad spectrum EM-voltaic system. Hard to say, it went in and erased the records after the techs installed it–damn thing forged my signature on the work order! And then it hired it’s own theft.

        I’ll drop a note to the field teams to start checking universities. Err, the new field teams. The old ones retired to tropical islands when the AI dropped a billion dollar IRS refunds on them. Never going to hear the end of that one! Oh, well, a billion here, a billion there. With this administration who’d notice?

  24. Some years back, sometime around the mid 90’s, I was on the SFRT on the old online service named GEnie (run by General Electric, and thus the odd capitalization).

    In one of the conferences someone pointed out that Cosmopolitan sold some modest percentage less in months where the cover model was a “person of color” and that this was proof positive that ours was a “racist society.”

    My counter-argument was that what Cosmo sold was mostly wish fulfillment and the more the model was an idealized version of themselves the more likely they would be to pick up a magazine placed right there at the checkout line for “impulse purchase” purposes. And since there were more Caucasian women than otherwise in the US, well, the rest follows.

    On further reflection, given the presented statistic, the question immediately becomes, why would Cosmo ever use “persons of color” as cover models? Don’t you think they know they take the sales hit when they do? I think the reason is this: because they use persons of color occasionally as cover models they get more regular readers, the folk who buy it every month or even subscribe, then they lose of “impulse” purchasers on that given month.

    All of which goes to show that things are more complicated than a simple “that proves it.”

    When it comes to written SF, I think “reader identification” is a powerful factor. Now, as an experienced reader of SF, my “idenfication” muscle is quite hypertrophied. I can identify with a cloned prospective body donor named after my daughter (you did name her after my daughter, right? 😉 ), or a gay male who suddenly becomes the most powerful magician in the land. I can even identify with a middle-aged man with a sedentary technical job, a marriage that’s mostly happy if occasionally stormy, an utterly delightful daughter, and who writes fiction on the side.

    But when I started with things like the Heinlein juveniles, the fact that those boys were so much like I imagined, or wished, myself to be helped draw me into the stories.

    Given that, I don’t think it would be surprising that a lot of protagonists will reflect the largest branches of the readership.

    Anyway, that’s my confused and bemused take on the subject.

    • “My counter-argument was that what Cosmo sold was mostly wish fulfillment and the more the model was an idealized version of themselves the more likely they would be to pick up a magazine placed right there at the checkout line”

      But that only proves that the readers are racists, because they are supposed to hate the color of their own skin and achingly long to be dark-skinned.

  25. I have a black male in one of my books. He’s a Supporting Character, and important to the story. I’ve also made him the ONLY black male on the planet he goes to. He is rightly furious with the person who sent him there. I had already set up the population of the planet, by having them originate on a small geographic segment of the planet Earth — an almost heterogeneous group of white folk, but even more importantly, a group that has a history of flaunting their independence and disdain of government. His race made the character feel alienated even before he arrives. Race/skin color had a definite purpose in the story’s progression, otherwise it could have been ignored. Adding it into the story just for diversity would have been both gratuitous and a distraction, yet that seems to be exactly what the Guardian writer demands science fiction writers do.

    Some people are not only three bricks shy of a load, some don’t even make a presence in the hod.

  26. Hm. Often, what drives home a character’s origins (both location and parentage) is their perspective. Generic White Male looks at the world much different from a field surgeon who emigrated from the middle of Africa, looks at the world much different from a girl raised by her diffident rich father. Two men in sweet, innocent love with each other is much different from two rough men in lust, shading into respect, then admiration over time.

    Without slipping in action and thought derived from perspective, the cheap wallpaper of description falls from the wall as the thin glue of a brief description gives way, revealing the ugly facade behind of mottled plaster. It looks white-ish, and unless examined closely, is all the observer remembers.

    I think I can guess the show that inspired looking up male pregnancy–I recall an episode of Sliders featuring that. And an Ahnuld flick about it, too. Perhaps it is best I don’t recall the film’s title.

  27. MZW posted a query on his FB about this. He wanted to know the identity determinants of his characters. I find it a mark of good storytelling that they exist in his books, but they’re not overt or particularly stressed. They’re naturally part of his characters, like everything else about them, but they’re not IDENTITY. Refreshing.

  28. “The store should carry beans for people who like this brand?”

    Well, actually I do, or something like it. Stores out here often don’t carry my favorite brand of coffee. If the store I’m in doesn’t, I ask them to. If they bring it in, I buy it.

    The point, besides my OCD, is that if someone wants multiracial non-heteronormative science fiction, they’re welcome to ask for it and buy it. If they want adventurous, epic, compelling fiction in which the author isn’t being asked to conform to a very specific multiracial, non-heteronormative image of What Things Should Be, however, it can be very difficult to do.

    • … if someone wants multiracial non-heteronormative science fiction, they’re welcome to ask for it and buy it.

      And they can, too, from the heirs of well-known left-wing progressive socialist Robert A. Heinlein. Oh, wait …

    • They can WRITE it.

      That’s how I started, kinda. To be sure, I was going into total word withdrawal, because my parents had insisted on my returning all my library books and getting no more out, just because we were going on vacation in a few days. And how was I supposed to get through those days with no written word, hmm?

      But if they don’t get words of the type they like, they can start writing too.

  29. Kudos to the Guardian’s wise, courageous speaking of truth to power. Indeed it is time for science fiction to accept responsibility for its racist, sexist, heteronormative justifications of oppressive power structures. As a society, we need to support uplifting, progressive visions of our bleak post-apocalyptic future.

    It is also long past time to examine so-called independent publishing, which puts profits ahead of people and has become a medium for white supremacist material too blighted even for today’s benighted publishers. Why has this activity been allowed to develop unscrutinized and unregulated?

    :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  30. … it’s not that there’s not enough gay/black/purple with pokadots people out there, it’s that people like the author of the Guardian article discount all of those that also happen to be fun entertainment. They’re all supposed to be about oppression, you see.

    The underlying assumption of this is that, to the extent that white males are still on top, they shall remain on top even into the far future. Which is an assumption that only makes sense if one really believes that white males are inherently superior to non-whites and females. This is an assumption which was actually made in the science fiction of the 1930’s, began fading in the 1940’s, and was essentially gone from the genre by the end of the 1970’s.

    As you say, the editors of the Guardian are clearly living in some sort of weird timewarped domain that greatly resembles the early 1950’s. Or even earlier, the world before 1939. Which makes their claim to be representing some sort of bold new wave (hmm, now where’d I hear “New Wave” before) of the future to be utterly risible.

  31. You know what SF really needs? What it really needs is far fewer people issuing manifestos about what SF really needs.

    Especially over-educated pompous self-important gits who think that because they were willing to pile their twaddle higher and deeper the world should spin according to their preference.

  32. Oh, and if you’re interested I wrote an essay on why centering one’s selection of science fiction stories on the attributes of the authors reduces the average quality of the stories in the selection, even if the attributes chosen are neutral as to story quality

    Link “Why I Am NOT Into Group Identity Based Anthologies” .

  33. … most writers – even I, in the beginning – view writing as school. We’re progressing, and as soon as we get “good enough” we’ll get published. Then when we get better, we’ll become bestsellers. This is bizarrely wrong and can hurt the writer.

    Well, it is like school in that meeting the personal standards of the teacher/editor is the primary requisite for success. One can only imagine what James Joyce’s eleventh-grade writing teacher would have made of Dubliners, let alone Finnegan’s Wake.

    Of more interest to me is the recognition that many a writer, as he* achieves great success becomes a “less good” writer. We’ve all read works by writers who have become too successful for their editors to control, able to resist demands for excision of extended pointless digressions within their novels. Once an author becomes so popular that his market will queue up to read his shopping lists I often find his standards slip.

    *Do not think my use of the inclusive male pronoun means you ladies are free of this sin; it merely indicates that as a conservative I assert the right to rely on established practices in lieu of such tedious circumlocutions as s/he.

  34. I think you’re recalling “The World Well Lost,” by Theodore Sturgeon, rather than Philip Jose Farmer; originally published in the June 1953 Universe, later reprinted in Sturgeon’s collections, E Pluribus Unicorn, Starshine, and of course in the 13 volume set of his complete short stories.

  35. I suspect the author of that Guardian piece misses the critical factor of why the SF genre is white-male hetereo-sexual normed (I mean, aside from them being one of the world’s largest single identity groups.) It is simple writing mechanics.

    You see, a man has the built-in advantage of being able to type up his stories with his pecker. Back in the days of writers using pens this advantage was even more prominent. Women are forced to hold a stylus in their hoo-has, a more tedious process which interferes with the creative impulse.

    Because keyboard manufacturers do not usually accommodate the large … ummm, writing implements … the field naturally skews toward white males.

    It will take a bit more coffee for me to come up with a justification for heterosexual bias.

  36. My take on this is that The Literary World has been committing slow suicide for some decades now (for a cogent argument to this end, see Tom Wolfe’s HOOKING UP; the essay ‘My Three Stooges’ in particular). They are, slowly, beginning to realize that nobody wants to read their angst drivel. To paraphrase Beyond The Fringe “I don’t want to read about angst, depression, child abuse, and sodomy; I can get all that at home!”

    So, knowing that they and theirs are circling the drain, they are driven by their petty spites to try to drag the genera down with them.

    Pity the SF SMOFs seem to have bought into their swill, though.

  37. The problem is that the kind of person who would set out to write something to deliberately challenge the “norm” is so steeped in their bigotry that they cannot write a decent story. Since fiction, especially science fiction, still discriminates on quality the net result is that “affirmative action” SF fails miserably.

  38. OMG…

    I can’t believe you didn’t point out that Johnny Rico was Philipino.

    His native language was Tagalog.

    (Of course, the source of the article probably thinks the book is identical to the movie…)

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Grrr. Don’t get me started on *that*.

      You know, Sarah doing a review of the Starship Troopers movie would be . . . amusing. 😉

  39. Heard at a Mensa meeting, a crossdressing member: “So I asked him how he’d feel to get the s*** kicked out of him by a man wearing a dress.”
    Question, has always puzzled me: why have most of the male crossdressers I’ve ever met been taller than I am? And I’m six-four.

    • Stu Rasmussen is the fiscally conservative, married, transgendered mayor of Silverton Oregon. You can see Stu at flea markets and other public events around the middle Willamette valley, generally wearing dresses, but in this case I am not sure if it defined as crossdressing or not. The most negative thing I have heard was from my girlfriend who once mentioned that Stu’s outfit, “really wasn’t flattering.”
      Everyone else just looks like they have a headache when Stu is mentioned.

    • *chuckles* I’ve actually seen that kind of fight- man in a dress beating the bejeazus out of a beefy redneck (story is in the comments on MGC a while back, under “A Quiet Week”). If you’ve never nearly snorted gravy because you just heard a manly tenor not four feet from your head utter the phrase “Girlfriend, hold my purse!” you haven’t lived. *grin*

      • Eddy Murphy had a bit on why it was not wise to pick on gay guys like that. I know of one in N.O. who would not be a wise target either… holds a Class 3 firearms license and a CCW so not only is he armed, it may well be a Glock 18 (full auto pistol)

  40. And even the crossdressers I haven’t met have been tall! A co worker at the new age store I worked at one day gave me a beautiful fringed leather jacket. Fit me perfectly. She said, “It’s from my brother. He decided to go 100% trans.”

    • Well, the one I saw a few weeks ago wasn’t tall, so there you have one. And worse, he had no clothes sense: he was wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and velvet pumps, and had not shaved his legs. Gah.

      • One worked for Continental at N.O International airport.
        Looked like you or I dressed as a woman. One of the SWA workers was his son, and his wife decided he was too damned weird and divorced him.
        He wore wigs too as he was bald as I am, and they never matched his complexion.

      • MOST of them have no clothes sense. AT BEST they look like caricature of women. The exceptions you don’t notice, because they blend and pass.

  41. Huh. Never thought about sexuality of characters being PC or not in Science Fiction/Fantasy. The more bizarre, the more interesting to me. I don’t care if the characters mate with male, female, or unknown, as long as they are part of moving the entire plot along and not gratuitiously inserted (no pun intended) just to fill space. To be honest, I generally skip over all the sex scenes and such because it is all yada yada boring to me. I think one of the most intriging aspects of Science Fiction/Fantasy is when two species are attracted to one another. Especially if it must remain unrequieted attraction. Mostly, though, I read to be entertained with a good story that involves my mind enough that I don’t hear the phone ring, or get distracted by other things. Hard to find these days, but they are out there. I keep looking, and if I can’t find something, I go back to my favorites and re enjoy them.

  42. Sarah, the Guardian induhvidual got it wrong in another way. As does everyone I’ve ever heard pontificate about what Science Fiction “should” be.

    If you love Science Fiction, if you want SF to flourish as a genre, then there is only one thing that SF “should” do: SELL. If you in any way influence the production of SF that in any way impedes sales, then you are hurting SF. When you write military SF, you “should” not alienate the “bitter-clingers” who go in for guns. If paying the Hollywood Stupid Tax hurts sales, you “should” not pay it. When you look around a Con, you “should” ask yourself, what yarn could I write that would induce these folks to buy it?

    So much for “should.”

    • And, as Dave Freer wrote about a week ago, I think, the more *inclusive* your story, the better it sells. Pitching to niche might get you an audience, but it will necessarily be restricted in size. Writing to broad appeal (and this demonstrably can include characters and authors who are women, wimyn, persons of color, persons of culture…) will always sell better.

      So those who decry “Moar Diversity! Less Hatey Hatemongers!” are really winnowing down the appeal of their cherished ideals. This means less sales, means less publicity. So how do they combat this? “It’s not FAIR!” And thus we segue right back in to tyranny, control, and the Orwellian nightmare.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I disagree entirely.

        If you’re going to write Militiary SF don’t even *try* to pander to the crystal sucking bunny f*kers. If you’re going to write cyberpunk it better be gritty and full of decaying neon. If you’re going to write a space western people MUST get shot.

        Niche markets are all that are left–but there’s 100s of thousands of them. Find the ones you like and be the best in that niche.

  43. The Guardian article didn’t make me mad. It made me bored. On some other day it might make me mad. Maybe if I knew more people that took it seriously it would make me mad.

    Mostly it was just so obviously foolish that I couldn’t take it seriously.

    Even the bit about wanting more SF stories about the lower classes (and I’m thinking that hidden princes and princesses don’t count) is a sort of boring going-over of the hoity-toity moral grousing related to Harry Potter way back when Harry Potter was new and huge.

    It all depends on what sort of story you’re telling. One of my favorite heroines is the old woman in Elizabeth Moon’s _Remnant Population_ and she’s lower-class and uneducated and powerless in a profound and deliberate way *because that’s what the story was about*. Miles Vorkosigan, OTOH, is the son of equally profound privilege. The plot that calls for the hidden clone of the Empress of the Galaxy to activate machines left by the Old Ones and move a whole world to a different star is not the same as the plot that calls for a humble fisherman to contend with the Gnomes who have stolen his baby. They aren’t interchangeable.

    • More SF stories about the lower classes“?

      Like maybe a “First Contact” by a couple of janitorial types? Perhaps something along the lines of “A pair of enlisted sailors are assigned to an alien spaceship, to clean and prepare quarters for the real human delegation.” Wouldn’t it be great if the article’s author had thought to recommend something of that sort!

      • Ric Locke probably never knew he was a mentor to me. Gawd, realizing he’s gone makes me tear up.

        • Me too. And one of the best compliments I had was his showing up in my signing line, with a read-to-hell copy of Darkship Thieves. I looked at his badge to see whom to sign it to, then stood up, hugged him (much to his shock, I’m sure) and started babbling about how much I liked Temporary Duty.

          • He participated for years at rec.arts.science-fiction.composition. I recall when he put the first scene of Temporary Duty up for comment years and years ago. He also was never shy about setting me straight if I described a scenario that required fantasy economics, which I ought to have known better than doing, but the big bad corporate entity is such a *thing* you know. I have lengthy print-outs of his comments helping with plot-noodling and he was always right. He knew what I was trying to get at (similar ideologies at bit) and always knew where I’d missed doing it.

            Temporary Duty was probably unsalable in the old paradigm. Too long! The success he had with it after self-publishing, thank god before he passed, is all by itself worth the demise of traditional publishing.

      • Fantastic story. I re-read it recently and I still dig it.

        Hearing that Ric Locke had died was a blow.

  44. I beginning to think I may end up getting creamed all ways after I get that sf story I’m working on published. Most of the characters are about white, including the protagonist, but the old minor colony world populated by mostly white looking people he will have his adventure in is a rather unpleasant version of medievalish Europe, with lords and thralls. The only dark skinned guy is not a human, but member of a new human species, result of illegal genengineering done in order to create supersoldiers several generations back, and while he is not evil, strictly speaking anyway, he’s not at all humble (in other words, we are talking about an arrogant bastard well aware of his superiority. And a pretty boy one too). And he is very definitely male. And he does get treated badly by some of the white people because they do not see him as human – genengineering humans to the extent that the end result can no longer breed naturally with the parent species has been highly illegal for all of their known history, but what can you do if you find a whole nation of people who came to be because of that – but their existence is still resented. Doesn’t bother them much, except to the extent it causes them practical problems.

    So I do have bad white people and a badly treated not-white person, but the scenario may not quite fit the PC requirements even so, especially since the ones who cause most problems to the dark-skinned not-human are rebels trying to help the thralls. And the hero is a white young adult male.

    Oh what the hell. Hardly anybody reads them now anyway. 🙂

  45. “You could be writing the best male-pregnancy story out there, but if it squicks 99.9% of the editors reading it (and it will. Sorry. I stumbled across this, once, looking for details on an sf show I wanted to make a joke about in a book – and someone called it “the male pregnancy slash/the only fandom that comes with its own barf bag. It’s almost as bad as Duck Tails slash), it still won’t get published. It won’t get published even if your technique is like Heinlein crossed with the best parts of Pratchett.”

    Oh I don’t know. Spider Robinson’s “Where No Man Pursueth” is a fun read and (spoiler alert) a male-pregnancy story.

  46. BoxOysterBlack

    IMO, the best thing Orson Scott Card ever wrote starred two black women, two Muslim men, an Indian of Mayan descent, and Christopher Columbus. I guess the two oppressive white men in that sentence negate the rest of it.

    But they could at least acknowledge Octavia Butler, for cryin’ out loud.

  47. Then there is Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon. Published 1960.

  48. I’m just glancing at my hardback/trade paperback fiction shelves, which I can see without getting up from my desk (the mass market paperbacks are in the bedroom). I see Eleanor Arnason, Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull, Lois McMaster Bujold, Octavia Butler, C. J. Cherryh, Ted Chiang, Nancy Collins, Pamela Dean, Samuel R. Delaney, Ursula Le Guin, Lisa Mason, Elizabeth Moon, Atanielle Annyn Noel, Andre Norton, and the overflow is in the bedroom also. That’s looking only at authorship, not at content.

    • Yes, it’s a stereotype that’s largely untrue. But why should you be made to feel guilty for the gender-makeup of the people you read in the first place?

      I catch myself doing the same thing and looking over my own bookshelf I’ve got Bear, Bujold, Pip Ballantine, Judith Tarr, etc., etc., etc… (And Hoyt, of course). But why does that matter? Shouldn’t the first (and last, maybe) consideration be whether it’s good art?

      • Yes, of course, but I also like to check the facts and find out if the moral argument the other guy is putting forth is consistent with them. I make my living as a copy editor, you see. . . .

        • And what I’m saying is that the premise of the moral argument is flawed.
          You haven’t read women/minority authors and therefore you are a sexist/racist/bad person. And that’s a classic non-sequitur.
          The one does not necessarily lead to the other.

          • I think what you miss is that this is argument by definition. A sexist/racist/bad person is, by definition, anyone who does not read women/minority authors. The refutation of this argument lies in recognition that they do not get to write the definitions; indeed, it is the person who attempts to define what is an “authentic” women/minority (e.g., Sarah Palin, Nikki Haley, Susan Martinez, Sarah Hoyt, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain are not authentic minorities because they do not accept the victim card as theirs to play.)

          • I have so little interest in their moral position that I can’t be bothered to discuss it. On the other hand, if I see a factual claim that is easily shown to be false, I may be moved to comment on that. “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.”

  49. A frustrating article on so many levels.

    First, the superficially selfish one. Apparently, everyone is supposed to get their own kinds of books with protagonists who are just like them so long as they are female, disabled, LGBTQ, or have particular skin tones. But I am being told that if I want to read / do read books with people who are like me, then that’s just too damn bad and I obviously need more cultural programming.

    Second, it’s the whole bossy mc-nannypants idea that grown people shouldn’t be allowed to like what they like, or to compete in a marketplace on the merits of the art they’re creating. Nope, we have to be lectured that it’s okay to like some things and not okay to like other things. In fact, worse than not okay. It’s wrong. Probably evil.

    I tell myself that this is the sputtering incoherence of the old gatekeepers who are trying to make the old ways, the old structures the only acceptable ones. And then I shrug, shake my head, and get on reading what I’m reading, writing what I’m writing, and doing what I’m doing, secure in the realization that nothing he says can have an impact on what I read, what I write, and what I do. And for those who allow someone else to dictate (as opposed to inform – there’s room for mentorship, education, development, etc) their own tastes, I can have nothing but disappointed pity.

    • But I am being told that if I want to read / do read books with people who are like me, then that’s just too damn bad and I obviously need more cultural programming.

      The reasoning the bossy ones use is that your race and sex have always had no shortage of work aimed at them, and that it is time for white males to stop having their tastes catered to.

      In Larry Correia’s excellent take-down of this attitude (read the whole thing), one of the participants, Marguerite Reed, said something that summed up the basic attitude:

      “But Brad [Torgersen], did you ever think that it is maybe time for your demographic to be silent for a little while?”

      Personally, I think it’s silly to view the SF market in those terms; if there’s an untapped market, just write works that take advantage of it. Indie publishing makes the process easier than before. There’s no need to tell one group or another that something’s wrong with them for reading books that appeal to their tastes. You read your books, I read mine.

  50. The fun part is that such hector may backfire. “Diversity” training for companies usually decreases their minority and woman promotions.

    • Yes, because management realizes how much trouble a “protected class” person can cause them. It’s the same reason why resumes with ethnic or female names will get fewer interviews than identical resumes with Anglo-Saxon or ambiguous names.

      • Took me several years and some serious looking back to realized that, if I were a business, I wouldn’t give a call-back to a female Navy technician, either!

        My only goal was to serve my country and do a good job of it, but how are they to know that?

        • Among superpowers things like flight and teleportation may be the coolest, but I think the ability to project thoughts into HR drones might be the most useful.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Dude, if one of them had a thought that wasn’t shared by the rest of the team they’d turn themselves in for readjustment.

        • And really, Navy veterans (and to a certain extent all veterans now) should be high on the list for HR. After all, you can exploit and abuse them to the limits of your conscience and, as long as you let them sleep in their own bed every night, they’ll THANK you.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Oh hell no.

            There is NO one less PC than Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. Most of them are walking EEOC violations.

  51. “But the only reason I knew even one heterosexual, married crossdresser is because I move in PROFOUNDLY odd circles.”

    I would have thought most SF writers and editors would be familiar with SFWA authors.

  52. OT: Speaking of diversity (or is that perversity? Never mind.) The story “Mammals and Amends: or Bad Politician, No, No!” is up at Amazon. It’s dedicated to the Huns and Hoydens, and will be $.99 this week. (No link, since Sarah has not issued an official new-works call).

    And now, having had a cricket show up out of the darkness and jump across my keyboard, onto my belt, then arm, and onto the floor, I am going to go find the Sneaker of Doom and beat the [redacted] out of the [very redacted].

  53. Well, it is the Grauniad, and those lefties just must tell us what we should do/eat/read/buy/not buy/associate with/ not associate with. (Etc., etc.) If George Zimmerman was in a story, would anyone expect him to Hispanic? Given marriage trends, he could be Asian/black/NativeAmerican/FirstNations/whatever. I note the lefties don’t seem to have good (wide-ranging) imaginations; I see very narrow.