I didn’t know, when I began reading speculative fiction, that I was stepping into an exclusive club. I didn’t know the worlds I read were made by people just like me. I didn’t know that there were people out there so very different from me, but who wanted to read of far off lands and daring sword fights just as much as I did, only it would be so nice if the fighters looked a little more like them sometimes. It was always about the books, the stories, the movies and games and toys that were just like me, Look how well it all fits to what I think and dream about!
Of course I felt accepted, of course I fit in and made friends and read the same authors everyone else read. Because they were all just like me. There was no one else to read, no one else to stand out and say, Where are the stories about us? Where are the books and movies and games and toys that look just like We do? Or at least, not exactly like her? White, blonde, blue eyed, or variations of that.
I’m a girl, though, after all, so there was a little pinch there. I was not welcome in all the circles, I was not the Ultimate Fan, the key demographic, that of the white male (nerd). But I was not far off. It was easier for me, being that male fantasy, the hot nerdy girl. That little bit of sexism opened doors when I might otherwise have been left out. But I didn’t know there were other people behind me, still waiting, with no way in at all.
It wasn’t easy all the time or even most of the time. Things aren’t even close to perfect for the average woman even in this genre that’s changed so much from the days of women on book covers with heaving bosoms to today, where maybe it isn’t so blatant but it’s still there, still pernicious, still driving the genre even as the genre changes.
I can’t ever know what it’s like to be left standing there even to this day. I squeezed into the club, perhaps under false pretenses, when they realized I wanted to play and not watch and admire and look pretty, but I was in. There were others like me who’d squeezed in the same way. There were voices and faces like mine, there was a tradition of feminist spec fic established before my time for me to fall back on, to use as a spring board if I needed it, as support if I wanted it.
And it has taken me so long, 23 years, to realize and acknowledge that those voices and faces and stories are missing. I didn’t know. I didn’t hear it. I didn’t see it. It’s so ingrained, even in my feminist brain, that all the -isms of the world are gone or not important to ME, because I’m at the top, or nearly so. But it does me no service to read all about ME ME ME. I live ME every day, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. To truly dream and reach and stretch and grow, we must hear stories and visions from all people, whatever they look like or whomever they love. My voice is being represented, not as loud as it could be or as much as I would like, but the battle is well underway.
For the Fen of Color, it seems that the battle has barely begun. But oh, is it a fight worth joining. Spec Fic is about dreaming up new possibilities and new worlds, so I choose to dream of worlds where all the Fen have a voice, regardless of where or who it’s coming from. I choose to support authors and artists that are superficially different from me, but who, inside, are human and deserving of representation, just as I am.
I didn’t know, when I began reading speculative fiction, that so much more was out there than I knew, but now I do, and I can’t wait to read it all.
Please join the LiveJournal group Fen of Color United and let your voice be heard. Whether you’re a POC or an ally, it’s a safe space for our voices.