Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Am I, Chopped Chicken Liver?

I'm not alone in noting the irony that a genre like sf, historically obsessed with alterity, should have so much trouble with actual people of color and women and LGBT peoples. But when one understands the degree to which nearly all our genres are haunted by, and have drawn a lot of their meanings, materials, and structures from the traumatic Big Bang of colonialism and its attendant matrixes of power (coloniality) - irony strikes one as the least of our problems.
Alien invasions, natives, slavery, colonies, genocide, racial system, savages, technological superiority, forerunner races and the ruins they leave behind, travel between worlds, breeding programs, superpowered whites, mechanized regimes that work humans to death, human/alien hybrids, lost worlds—all have their roots in the traumas of colonialism.

-- Junot Diaz

Well, yes. but... I have been writing SF about women for more than 40 years, as have many women SF writers. (Remember when the Second Wave of Feminism hit SF? Remember when Theodore Sturgeon said all the good new writers in the 1970s were women, except for James Tiptree Jr?) My second novel, begun 40 years ago and published about 30 years ago, has a lesbian protagonist. My third novel, a fantasy published about 30 years ago, has a main character (not the only main character, but the only male main character) who is black, as well as an entire black civilization. My fourth novel, published 24 years ago, has an Asian American (PoC) protagonist. My fifth novel, published 22 years ago, has two main characters, one a Hispanic woman and the other a gay man. I have been writing stories about an entirely gay alien culture for more than 20 years. I am not the only writer who has dealt with women, GLBT characters and people of color. Remember Melissa Scott? Remember Judith Tarr? How about Suzy Charnas? How about Joanna Russ? Nalo Hopkinson's first novel came out 17 years ago. (I am skipping over Butler, Delany and LeGuin because everyone knows about them.) The current new, improved history of science fiction has disappeared my entire generation of women writers, plus a bunch of writers who were prematurely GLBT or PoC.

Yes, SF has been too white and too male, but a whole lot of us have been chipping away at this problem for decades. And we're gone out of history.


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