Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Variety--Not Just a Magazine

I almost put “Variety: the Spice of Life,” but that wouldn't really bring any variety, and then you'd all abandon me...or that might just be my paranoia kicking in...

Any who, let's take a little trip back in time. Past 'The Hunger Games', past 'Harry Potter', past 'Earthsea'...we're going back to the era of budding sci-fi and fantasy, more importantly looking at the characters in these early works, at least in the United States.

I'd like you all to notice something: they're pretty much all straight white alpha-males.

Now jump back to our time and take a look at our modern fiction. While not as severe of a domination, the issue is kind of the same: our speculative fiction characters are predominantly straight white alpha-males.

Now you can try to claim that it's because we're the epicenter of speculative fiction. What about Europe? Poland, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Norway—they all have famous, storied, brilliant pasts in speculative fiction. What about Asia? Russia, China, Japan, Korea, India, Cambodia—the same thing. And look at all the great female authors out there: CJ Cherryh, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.K. Rowling, Alma Alexander, Miyuki Miyabe, Stephenie Meyer. While I can't really scout out any open and out GLBTQ authors from my mind right now, look at it this way: ten percent of the population is gay, so logic would hold that ten percent of authors are gay too.

Why, then, do we have little to no variety, even nowadays? Is there some codex I haven't received that says we all have to write speculative fiction like Puritans?

I've kind of said it before, but it stands repeating until the whole world gets it: we're different, so make characters different. There are some characters that vary, I know, but not enough, and not a wide enough splay of characters. I know it seems kind of superficial but, let's face facts here—until we get to know the characters, we base our opinions on these superficial factors, and those early opinions also stick even after you get more familiar with the characters.

So where are they? Why is it that all of our characters seem to be white and straight? I admit very joyously that heroines are finally on the rise, but they still tend to be white and straight...why? Are those the only stories we have in us at this point? I don't buy that we're all so streamlined and devoid of any ability to stray from the societal norm.

Apply the change! Viva la Revolution!


Jarm Del Boccio said...

I like your reference to history...we can learn much from it. Yes, our books do mirror our society. Some good, and some not-so-good, unfortunately...just stopping by to say hello from the Challenge!

Iliadfan said...

This is a really big deal to me. I'm glad things are changing and the biggest distributors of our stories (publishers and film production companies) are branching out and recognizing the variety of available stories, but I wish it would change a little faster.

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Last year, from July through December, I did another A to Z on my blog -- women writers of science fiction and fantasy. A lot of them write women characters, characters of color, and LGBT characters. I talked about Carnival by Elizabeth Bear, for example, which deals with a pair of gay men, and Ginn Hale wrote about how she had trouble finding gay and lesbian protagonists, so she wrote them. Nnedi Okorafor and N. K. Jemison both use other cultures as the basis for their writing.

I love variety, and there's more of it out there now -- but you do still have to look a bit.