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Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

Why do I ask authors about discrimination?

A few comments over on Tanya Huff’s Livejournal brought something to my mind. Some of her fans seemed concerned with the types of questions I asked her in our recent interview, mainly those dealing with whether Ms. Huff has experienced discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, both of herself and her characters. These are questions I have posed to every author I’ve interviewed so far, either based around race, gender, or orientation.

Why do I ask such prying questions? Why don’t I stick to the fan favorite questions about writing, storytelling, and their beloved characters? For one thing, many of these authors have been interviewed at least a few times before, so the answers to those tried and true questions are already out there. I do try to cover some of those bases in my interviews, because I find those topics interesting myself. However, as fascinating as I find the writing process of any author and as much as I enjoy talking about it with these great writers, what my blog is focused on is feminism, anti-racism, and LGBT issues. So yes, I do ask questions related to those topics, because that’s what I, and my readers, are interested in.

I’ve written before that there are still large prejudices contained within the Speculative Fiction genre. You can read my thoughts on this in my “Speculative Fiction is Still for Children” article. It was basically my call to action for lovers of great and diverse fiction. I can’t not respond to my own rallying call. If I ask uncomfortable questions, it’s because there are sometimes uncomfortable truths that people don’t like to talk about. So far, most of my questions on discrimination have been answered in the negative. Ms. Huff, for instance, did not feel that her gender and sexuality, and those of her characters, made it difficult for her to get published. She has enjoyed a very long and successful career as a writer.

And I could not be happier. I’m ecstatic that some of my favorite authors found it (relatively speaking) painless getting published. It has not always been so. There are real reasons why some of spec fic’s first female authors worked under male-sounding pseudonyms. There are still very few well known authors of color within the genre, and still few characters of color in published stories. It’s a treasure to find LGBT characters within a science fiction or fantasy story, because they are still so rare.

I ask because I want to know, and I ask because I think it’s important for well-known public figures to be seen talking about these topics. Enough people have come to the blog for just the interviews that I know I’m reaching people I haven’t before. If even one or two of them starts thinking about things in a way they never have before, it’s worth it to me, even if I make some people uncomfortable. I give the authors every opportunity to not answer my questions, and it makes me very happy that every one so far has been willing to discuss these difficult subjects.

If my questions make you uncomfortable, or my topics make you squeamish, maybe you should examine your own thoughts on these subjects. I’m not out to prove anything, negatively or positively, but I am out to bring the situation to others’ attention. That’s important to me, and it’s the point of my blog. I’m out to make people think and examine their own feelings. That’s why I ask these questions.

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Speculative Fiction is Still for Children

I don’t remember the first Speculative Fiction story I read. There are so many possible contenders; I literally cannot pinpoint which one got to me first. I read Anne McCaffrey, Brian Jacques, Tanith Lee, Bruce Coville, Philip Pullman, Piers Anthony, Madeleine L’Engle and many more, all before I got out of elementary school. In middle school, I discovered Tamora Pierce, Simon R. Green, Douglass Adams and Lloyd Alexander. In high school, it was Tanya Huff, Mercedes Lackey, Orson Scott Card, Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Moon, and Garth Nix. I was heavily into fantasy back then. It wasn’t until college that I really started to read science fiction: Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, James H. Schmitz, Neal Stephenson, and David Weber.

Throughout all those years, about 18 now since I’ve been able to read to myself, my books were what kept me going. I had a troubled childhood (who didn’t), and I was looking for ways to escape. Speculative Fiction provided that escape. If I couldn’t personally run away from the things that bothered me, at least my mind could. I read on the bus, I read during classes, I read while walking home. I wanted to be those characters, I looked up to them, I admired the heroes in all those stories.

I wrote quite a bit, too, and made elaborate stories up in my head. I wanted to discover distant planets or alternate realities. I imagined myself the wielder of great and dire powers, magical or psychic. Nobody would ever make fun of me again. I could rearrange the world to my liking. These were childish stories with obvious Mary Sue characters and little to no true merit. But when I was writing them they made a world of difference to me. It gave me power over my own existence.

Speculative Fiction probably saved my life, or at least my sanity. I’d like to return the favor by making it a genre that anyone and everyone can read. When I was younger, all that mattered to me was the story. It didn’t have to be particularly good, and it didn’t have to representative of real life people. It just had to be not my life. As a critically thinking adult, I’ve started to expect more from the books I read. While I grow and change as a person, I expect the genre of Speculative Fiction to grow and change as well. And it’s very disappointing when it doesn’t live up to those lofty expectations.

It is a flawed genre, in some ways very badly. Many writers are still marginalized or go completely unpublished because of their choice of material or what they themselves look like or the way they live. Characters that I could once immerse myself in now reveal themselves to be shallow stereotypes and trite clichés. I’ve begun to realize that some of my favorite authors are themselves quite human, and many times it has been their bad behavior within the spec fic community that has shown this to me. It’s much easier in the age of the Internet to knock your heroes off their pedestals, simply by means of being able to talk to them or hearing them talk about themselves.

These are not irredeemable flaws but they are daunting ones. The Speculative Fiction community isn’t the all-welcoming entity it would like some to believe. Prejudice against women, against people of color, against LGBT fans and writers, is strong and alive.

However, as a feminist, a lesbian, and an advocate for racial and cultural diversity, I can honestly see no better medium then Speculative Fiction works to advance the ideals I believe in. If we can write anything, we can write stories full of characters of color, stories of strong, capable women, and stories featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer heroes, not to mention many other marginalized members of society. As real life human beings, we can advocate for the publication and recognition of these works.

The true meaning of Speculative Fiction, for me, is this.

The world is infinite, the possibilities are endless, and anyone can save the day.

It’s up to the advocates and the educators to make sure those stories and the authors who write them have the space they need to flourish. We need to talk about the flaws of the genre openly, review the less well known works, write opinion pieces and analytical essays. Introduce your friends to the little authors and ask publishers for the kind of works you want to read. It’s not a fast process or always a safe one. People might try to intimidate you or even threaten you into silence. But if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

I love Speculative Fiction and I think it has some wonderful authors and amazing stories within its history. But I also think it’s time for the genre to grow up.

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examiner_logo-headerThanks to eXaminer.com I am pleased to announce that I will be covering local (and sometimes national) LGBTQ events for the Fort Worth area. I will be posting article teasers here on my blog, and you’ll be able to click over and read the full pieces on my examiner page.

This is a great way for me to get the word out about events in Fort Worth, while earning a little extra money and getting some good bylines. If you have any suggestions or upcoming events you’d like to let me know about, leave a comment here or use my contact page.

I’m really excited about this, and I hope to be an asset to the LGBT community in Fort Worth. My first article, covering the Fort Worth Family Pride Picnic, should be up soon.

Thanks,
Bonnie

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