LA Times: Diversity in Science Fiction

Check out this great piece on diversity in science fiction by Mindy Farabee at Los Angeles Times‘ “Hero Complex.” Kudos for the shout-outs to the 1905 feminist Indian Muslim work “Sultana’s Dream” and Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, although G. Willow Wilson’s incredible novel Alif the Unseen is surprisingly absent. Farabee also mentions plenty of wonderful African American writers, from WEB Dubois and his powerful short story “The Comet” (one of my all-time favorite classics) to Octavia Butler. Waiting for Junot Díaz to take up the reigns for Dominican SF writers, hopefully with his upcoming apocalyptic monster novel, Monstro.

"Throne of the Crescent Moon (Book I of "The Crescent Moon Kingdoms"). (DAW Books) "
“Throne of the Crescent Moon (Book I of “The Crescent Moon Kingdoms”). (DAW Books) “

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Beyond “Game of Thrones”: Exploring diversity in speculative fiction

June 9, 2013 — Mindy Farabee

Of course, there is nothing new or even relatively new about such writers operating within the genre, even if their numbers were small. In 1857, Martin Delany serialized “Blake, or the Huts of America,” an “alternative history” centered on a successful slave revolt. A 1920 short story by W.E.B. Dubois shows up in the influential “Dark Matter” anthologies edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, and Indian writer Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s 1905 story “Sultana’s Dream” made an early contribution to the world of feminist utopias.

American writers Samuel R. Delany (no relation, according to Martin) and Octavia Butler, who emerged in the ’60s and ’70s, have become firmly established in the canon.

The last 15 years or so, however, have seen the growing prominence of strong SFF writers of color—so many you could almost start throwing out names at random: Nnedi Okorafor, Samit Basu, Hiromi Goto, Nisi Shawl, Vandana Singh, Karen Lord or the particularly beloved Nalo Hopkinson, who has become a popular speaker at science-fiction conventions and helped found the Carl Brandon Society, an organization devoted to exploring race and ethnicity in speculative fiction.

Also amid those ranks are the numerous authors featured in last year’s well-received anthology of indigenous SFF, “Walking the Clouds.”

“You don’t have to be Eurocentric to make it to the future,” said Andrea Hairston, a professor of theater and Afro-American studies at Smith College in Massachusetts, whose side gig happens to be writing award-winning science fiction. “We have to figure out how to be different together. [And t]hat is what storytelling is all about, particularly the mythological storytelling that we do.”

Hairston and Bradford put smaller presses like Aqueduct, Small Beer and Angry Robot, on the vanguard here, but imprints within the main houses “are doing some interesting things,” Bradford noted, citing Tor and Orbit as two that recently have fostered more diverse catalogs.

In fact, authors say they’re receiving increasingly welcoming treatment throughout the industry — not only in terms of getting published, but also in receiving serious review attention and the kind of marketing that respects their work.

Such was the case for Saladin Ahmed, whose debut, “Throne of the Crescent Moon,” was released last year.

“My editor and another editor who made an offer on the book explicitly committed to not whitewashing the cover,” said Ahmed of the industry’s practice of slapping white people on the cover of books that don’t feature white protagonists. “That to me is a clear example that the protest on the Internet got through to at least a certain level of editors.”

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