Monday, May 18, 2009

Standing Up

For those of you unaware, there has been a veritable brouhaha in cyberspace for the past several weeks (bordering on months) that has been aptly named RaceFail09. From what I understand ~ because I don't hang out in forums or chat rooms to have witnessed it in real time ~ it started innocently enough when a discussion arose about white Sci Fi-Fantasy authors writing nonwhite characters. Could it be done? Should it be done? Must it be done? What was the author's responsibility to the POCs' communities to get it right? And then, as so often happens, instead of continued conversation and discussion about race, it devolved. This is the point, for the record, that I became aware of RaceFail09 and started following it myself.

The name calling started. The defensive moves came out of the playbook. The deflection began. Reasonable concerns and responses to the issue were shot down as overreaction, "simple" misunderstanding and (my favorite) ungratefulness. (is that a word? it is now.) I was amazed with the pain and anger that was totally disregarded by authors, that was considered acceptable collateral damage while defending their own right to write shallow, token characters.

Finally, there was the statement that POC hadn't been fans of speculative fiction prior to the internet and insinuation that (in one's best condescending tone) oh it's just so wonderful that they can even be a part of the debate. Which was followed closely by a not-terribly-veiled attempt to take credit for creating fen of color. Which is where Fen Of Color_United was born.

Today, POC who grew up fans of sci-fi, fantasy, speculative fiction, choose your descriptor, long before the internet made it available to them are standing up today to be counted. To say check your priviledge ~ I've been here as long as you have.

Now, before anybody goes and gets really stupid...I'm white. I know I'm white. You know I'm white. I'm also a sci fi reader from way back, raised by a sci fi reader who was raised by a sci fi reader. I once ended up with a boyfriend because I was able to recognize a completely out of context and very obscure sci fi quote. And I'm a writer who takes her craft seriously. Who understands that the whole world and my whole readership doesn't share my skin color or ethnicity. Who understands that I must research and understand POC characters and who gets that I will still sometimes get it wrong. When I do, it's not my place to be offended when my inaccuracies are pointed out to me but to learn and write a better character next time.

And I stand in support.

So here I am. FOC_U.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


CrackerLilo said...

I'm trying to write SF at the moment, but I'm *so* glad I am too much of a sponge to risk posting on these types of forums. The whole debate sounds absolutely disgusting. FFS, we have a half-black SF fan for a president; you'd think the world would have grown up a bit! (But how often has something similar been said in the past five months? Wish I had a nickel for every incidence.)

I'm glad the group was formed, though. And I'm glad you're standing up and helping to promote it. Also, as a surfer, NASCAR fan, and participant in neo-Pagan communities, I can tell anyone who's willing to listen that the RaceFail by no means begins or ends there.

They gotta be willing to listen first, though...

Dennis R. Upkins said...

I'm a man and as a man I don't cry. Ever. I'm too hard for that shit.

So those tears you think you're seeing are my sinuses acting up.

And I think someone is cutting onions in the kitchen.


Thank you.

BostonPobble said...

Cracker Lilo ~ It's the getting people to be able to listen first that's the killer, ain't it? And you wrote the unwritable ~ it happens within *our* community, too. But aren't Pagans perfect? *eye roll* Glad to hear you're writing again.

Dennis R. ~ I understand completely. You're welcome. ;)

appsRus said...

First I'd heard of this, so thanks. Been reading Analog (and predecessors)and a lot of various authors since long before you were born, and have read about a lot of characters as to whom their racial and other characteristics were left to the readers imagination (as good writers will do -- "You mean you don't KNOW!"). Apart from some cultural artifacts (see "Dune" et seq)how does a reader decide and get offended? Read some weird stuff, and haven't been offended yet...

BostonPobble said...

Appsrus ~ It's not when the character's traits are left vague or open to interpretation or when a reader has the chance to decide. It's when the character is defined as something specific ~ and then only developed to the level of stereotype or tokenism while other characters, in this case identified as white, were complex and deep and integral to the story.

kimber said...

See, this topic is close to my heart right now, because one of my main characters is a Chinese man living in the 1890s. I am neither Chinese, male, nor living in the Victorian era, but I've done my very best to research diligently and try to capture who he is and the hell he's had to endure.

I want to learn. I admit I don't know it all. And I know I've probably got stuff wrong. And I loooove this character, and have had readers say they love him, too. But I'm still scared poopless to write in his voice, because it is so very different from my own.

But I want to write in different voices, because that's what I love about writing. And I want to write characters who are more than two-dimensional stereotypes, even when they're wimpy white girls living in 2009 (wouldn't my books be horribly boring, if that's the only demographic that populated my universe!) So I'll keep writing characters whom I adore, no matter the differences from the real physical me, because that's what makes them complex and vibrant and interesting.

Thanks for letting me vent my spleen. :D Write on!

Gay Soldier's Husband said...

I am one of the unaware, as I did not know about this particular kerfluffle. But, I belong to a deliciously blended family, and truly appreciate the need for efforts beyond simple token representation.