So, what was the last writer of color you read?
Hint, the answer is “whatever writer you read last, since I’ve still to find a single transparent writer.” Which is good, since it would be disturbing. And I hope one of the last you read is this chick Sarah A. Hoyt and her novel Deep Pink(which is profoundly weird, yes, but come on you guys, if you didn’t like weird, you wouldn’t hang out around here, would you?)
Anyvay….. I swear there are people who never read a book trying to dictate not just what the rest of us MUST write, but also what the rest of us must read.
I thought the “challenge to read writers of color” was stupid enough when I first heard of it 10 years ago, but it’s only gotten stupider. Now entire writers’ organizations (puts hat to chest and holds a minute of silence for RWA. I’d do it for SFWA but RWA was once far more useful including teaching and mentoring stuff SFWA never had. Besides SFWA is long dead and rotting, so I’m going to edge away from the coffin.) are falling into this insanity. We’re hearing that BLIND-JUDGED-CONTESTS, where you can’t even guess at the name of the writer (and these days, honestly, it won’t help. I swear my kids, now mid to late twenties are the last properly spelled names in their generation.) are “racist.”
And we’re hearing that your novels must be “inclusive” and at the same time you can’t write anyone who isn’t exactly like you.
Seriously, how many cat-addicted Portuguese-born women can I write? (The person who just muttered he or she is waiting for me to write ONE can go to the corner without dinner AND without a book to read. I’m not saying I’ll never write someone with my background, but she won’t be ME. Mary Sues fail to interest me.)
They also think writers read only about characters just like them. And that if you aren’t actively seeking out writers “of color” (Well, you must tell me, chilluns, where you find transparent readers. Because I’m curious.) or giving awards to them, then you’re evil and racist.
This bullshit has gotten so bad that Stephen King himself has gotten out of his left-leaning tower that what matters, really, is the novel. Or the work of art. The actual writer is irrelevant.
He’s right you know? To this day it can’t be proven who Shakespeare was. Me, who studied the era, think that the Oxford theory is a bunch of elitist codswallop and that the Anne Hathaway/Queen Elizabeth theory is a bunch of feminist nonsense, for the Marlowe theory to work the man would have needed massive doses of thorazine which they didn’t have, and… But the truth is we don’t know. Was he actually gay and just married for show? We don’t know. Bisexual? Likely, but we don’t know. Did he identify as a winged dragon and an ornate building? We don’t know. Did he dress like a woman and hang out in bars? We don’t KNOW.
What we do know is that the characters and plots he created still speak to us across time and space and often in translation. The art lives, as the artist lies moldering in his grave. Or rather (as someone who as a kid played in some ancient stone mausoleums (what? you know you only didn’t do it because you didn’t have them. Amazing places for hide and seek with a side of making your cousin pee himself when you jump out.) probably mostly some musty-smelling dust.)
This is how people read. We don’t care what the writer looks like. Actors are a little different and we DO care because we have to look at their mugs. (And no, I’m not watching any historical dramas set in Europe with prominent people played by black actors. No, it’s not racist. It’s the fact I know history. You want an historical drama with black people? Set it in Africa. There weren’t many white people around.) But writers? People could be purple with pokadots. I don’t CARE.
Sure, if you’re writing about a village populated by Zulus, I care that you know what you’re talking about. That has zero to do with your skin color, and everything to do with research and sometimes (but not always) life experience.
I know I could have got a lot more publicity and push in my trad career if I’d written about Portugal. Double if I could write about victimhood.
The problem is writing about the REAL Portugal doesn’t translate well. When you think you’re being pretty sympathetic but realistic, people tell you that you’re a narrow minded pain in the ass (a rejection I once got for a story set in Portugal. And Larry and I still get bitching about the Portuguese scenes. Some of it from Portuguese. Don’t ask.) Because you don’t fit the American head-picture of Portugal.
I actually had to learn to write Americans, because of that. Okay, my contemporary Americans are odd, as in, see Dyce Dare, but then all my characters are odd.
Anyway, the point is the many people who read Dyce Dare, not a single one — not even on finding out who I really am — has given a good g*ddamn that I didn’t grow up in Colorado, with crazy parents who own a bookstore. (One out of three isn’t bad.)
People read novels for novels. If you read people’s skin, you …. are in a completely different sort of hobby.
I won’t claim that I write what sells. Me and salesmanship are rarely in the same zipcode at the same time. heck, my garage sales usually give stuff away because I don’t know how to sell.
Mostly I write because a character shows up in my head and says “Hey toots,” (My characters are very rude. Also the last one to say so was a cat. Yeah, yeah. Look for The Protectors Series later this year.) “write my story.” That’s it. And because I’m assured that if I let the books build up forever, they will drive me insane(r).
I write because I like telling stories. Which means… I don’t know. That I’m a traitor to my gender and skin color, not to mention genetic origin? Bah. I can’t betray things I have no allegiance for. Sure, all of them influenced who I am, and I’m assured my voice is unique (most used word in my reviews. It’s probably not a good thing.)
BUT most of all? I write because I must, and I hope people enjoy it.
I’m very proud of my award wins, mostly because neither award gives a flying flick about people’s skin color and orientation, age and nationality, or any of that.
For all of those clamoring that we must give awards “properly” by skin color and other characteristics that have bloody nothing to do with writing: I’m a first generation immigrant, a woman of (tan. The paintchip says spun gold) color, writing in my third language and from my own “unique” perspective.
What do I hear when people tell me one must read writers by color and other such characteristics, including but not limited to whom they sleep with? What do I hear when I’m told we must give awards to more people like that? Even though NO ONE can tell the color of a writer unless they employ extraordinary effort and search engines?
I hear “You poor little thing. We know you’re not as capable as male, white people, and those who speak English natively. And we want to give you an A for effort.”
My answer to such racist, sexist, demeaning bullsh*t is and will remain “Gaze upon my middle fingers. Behold! I have a matched set.”