Diversity and Divisiveness

The issue of diversity in speculative fiction has been a topic of discussion for quite a while now, but not one that I have explored. This past weekend, I decided to change that and attended my first panel on the subject at SFCOntario 4. It was a great panel and most certainly not (as some might have us believe) a lecture on the literary evils of the oppressive white adult male.

I went to the panel because I am always the whitest guy in any room and, while I am open-minded, my perspective is that of a white adult male. I know, however, that there are other perspectives and that, if I listen, I can find value in those voices.

That same weekend, Felicity Savage wrote an article in which she *explains* that diversity isn’t necessary in speculative fiction and that wanting to see diversity is an exercise in vanity. Even her editor makes an appearance to *explain* what Felicity is saying.  Such arrogant ignorance.

Others will undoubtedly do a better job refuting Ms. Savage’s article, but I do have a few thoughts.

… remove objectivity from the subject-artist loop of creation. Add in a professional photographer or portrait artist and beauty happens.

I am not sure if she is suggesting that, in order for there to be beauty, there must be objectivity on the part of the artist or that beauty is the purview of the professional or … I don’t fucking know what she is trying to say since she seems to want to base her arguments on a wildly inappropriate analogy. In any case, FUCK NO!

it makes you realize, really realize, that we’re all in this together. Black, white, yellow, brown, male, female … to the Big Bad lurking on the dark side of the moon, we all look like snacks.

I love that she included this line because this exact topic was discussed in the panel. This “we’re all in it together” theme that we see in fiction is … um … fiction. I can’t come up with a single example, in all of human history, that even suggests that humanity has any capacity for that kind of unity. In fact, everything I know seems to indicate that the exact opposite is true. So, where did this idea come from? White adult males writing speculative fiction.

Her editor chimes in with an explanation of what Felicity is saying:

many are “doing diversity” to conform to the trend and be able to tick off another box on the marketing list

You know, this sound reasonable, but it isn’t what she wrote: that diversity simply isn’t necessary.  Reasonable, but irrelevant.

It also isn’t what the people calling for diversity are asking for. Academically, I am a mathematician, and I make the transition from numbers to ideas fairly easily. Some people don’t know what to make of numbers. They get thrown off and believe that if you use numbers as evidence of a problem that you just want to fix the numbers. This leads to talking about the wrong things:

Black, or brown or yellow or red washing the covers isn’t.

Finally, if you make it, there is a single grain of truth that is about the only useful part of the whole mess:

That kind of perspective shift is what I read the genre for.

I get this part. She may be selfish and think that the genre belongs to her and should be what she wants, but I think she has never taken the time to listen. Perhaps she doesn’t understand that  perspective is not universal (although, um, dictionary!).

For the most part, the dialogue on the topic has been friendly. People have been talking politely enough, but has anybody been listening?

One comment

  1. […] round of reactions by Alix Heintzman at The Other Side of the Rain, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (twice), CheffoJeffo and N.K. […]

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