This year has seen a particularly bitter feud in the world of SFF, as one group of authors (and readers) conducted a huge turf war over inclusivity in fiction. I’ve avoided discussion of it for the most part, as I have never been to a Worldcon nor voted in the Hugo Awards (the chosen battleground), so I didn’t feel it was my place. All I can say is that I disagree that something is colour blind or equal opportunities if it’s dominated by white blokes. This has nothing to do with whether I or they think the individuals involved are attached to some -ism or other, and everything to do with representation.
A common argument against diversification is that ‘market rules’ – i.e. if it was any good / if there was any appetite, it would already be out there – rather than acknowledging that cultural bias makes it more difficult for such books to end up in shops in the first place. So by reading and talking about books that are not mainstream, we open the market. I’m not saying stop reading work by straight, white people. I’m not saying read more books by Asian or African women (actually do, they’re great). I’m certainly not saying show bias in awards. I’m just saying consciously make a bit of space on your reading list for something a bit different.
Diversiverse is the annual reading challenge hosted by Aarti Chapati over at Booklust. This year it’s October 4-17th: the challenge is merely to read (and ideally review) one or more books (fiction, non-fiction, whatever) written by a person of colour. As Aarti says – this doesn’t have to change what you enjoy reading in terms of genre or quality – but it may change how you find something to read, as it really can be a bit trickier. Looking harder has introduced me to 2 of my now-favourite authors (Zen Cho and Aliette de Bodard) and I look forward to what else I will find on my reading journeys.
I shall be reading Zen Cho’s new novel Sorcerer to the Crown (alt history Regency mayhem with wizards! Think Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell with a sense of humour) and Nomad (the second part of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s autobiography exploring the challenges of diversity and multiculturalism – she and I don’t agree on everything, but she’s one of the most impressive women in the world and has already fundamentally changed my perspective on many things with Infidel). My LibraryThing charts my other options.