Mon
Aug 10 2009 4:29pm
Creating Better Magazines (and Anthologies)

A couple of weeks ago at Readercon I was on a panel called “The Future of Magazines.” Actually, I was on the second part of this panel focusing on online magazines since the premise aimed at pitting print and webzines against each other. Granted, when talking about new vs. old models of publishing the divide often does come in the form of print or online, but not always. In my summation I said that the real issue is not print or online, it’s that SF needs better magazines, period.

This ties into the latest iteration of “Oh My God there are no female authors in that anthology, and oh look no writers of color, either” that Arachne pointed to last week. There are more layers to what’s going on with the Mammoth book than just one editor’s massive fail. More than just his failure to find and include women (which he has already attempted to pass off as a matter of taste, the first fallback position of fail-prone editors). More than just his failure to include writers of color (which he has, as far as I know, not attempted to explain away). This anthology, like so many others, like so many magazines, is lacking several other less-obvious minorities: LGBT, non-American/Western European, differently-abled, just to name those that come to mind. Obviously I can’t say for sure that there aren’t any authors in the book that come from those groups, and the reason is that you can’t always tell by the name. But considering the lack of attention paid to the more obvious exclusions, I feel safe in betting that there’s a severe (but perhaps not total) lack of the others, too.

Before you start yelling at me about quotas and affirmative action, let me explain that I do not consider the above as some kind of checklist. Editors need not collect one of each like Pokemon or something. No one is advocating for editors to engage in tokenism. We blew past the point where tokenism was useful about 30 years ago — some genre editors must have missed that memo. What people are advocating for is a change in the way editors think, the way they make decisions, in the way they see their jobs. It is not merely a matter of taste, anymore. It’s a matter of not having a small mind or narrow vision.

The other week I wrote a post about Intersectionality. If you don’t know what that is, I suggest you go read. In that post I talk about how oppressions and prejudices do not occur in isolation, they are all connected, they all intersect. So too with this problem. Though the easiest exclusion to notice may have been gender, it’s not just gender Mike Ashley failed to take into account. What he failed to do was to be a better reader. He failed to recognize the value of stories that do not cater to his point of view, his values, his comfort zones. He failed to make a better anthology.

He is not unique. Many editors fail to make better anthologies or better magazines. And this is why many online magazines and many indie press print zines are simply better. The editors of these markets recognize that the demographic for speculative fiction is not narrow. That the present and the future of the genre and the community is not just heterosexual, able-bodied, upper or middle-class American or British white males. The future of SF is made up of women and people of color, and people of various cultures and classes, and LGBT folks, and non-Americans and non-Western nationalities (China, India, the Philippines, to name just three).

Editors who understand this truth also better understand that broadening one’s perspective, one’s taste and one’s goals to seek out and encourage fiction from these quarters is not to fill out a set of quotas. If you do it right, you won’t need to. Intersectionality is not just some theory we use in activism, it’s a reality. Writers’ identities intersect on many levels (I am not just black, but also a bisexual woman, to name three). Those intersections, those aspects of who they are, how they were brought up, where, when, etc., affect not only what kind of person they are, but what kind of writer they are, and then, obviously, what kind of fiction they create. And when these aspects of themselves do not match up with the assumed default/correct way of being, writers either have to write to the “mainstream” ideal or choose not to.

Writers that choose not to are then faced with finding editors who aren’t invested in the idea that the “best” stories are ones that cater to the supposed default/correct view. This isn’t always easy to do. Mainly because so many editors haven’t even taken the time to examine in themselves whether they are operating under this idea by default. If they haven’t considered it, if they haven’t taken the time to examine their own privilege and the way culture shapes them (from how they think of themselves to how all this affects the way they imbibe media), then they are more likely to consider stories keyed toward white heterosexual males as “better.”

The magazines and anthologies that I love tend to have editors who have taken the time to examine themselves or their culture, to expend their knowledge of other people and ways of being, to open their minds. These magazines and anthologies contain far more stories I want to read by authors of many varied backgrounds. As I said, it’s not fully about print vs. online, it’s about better magazines and books.

The solution here is straightforward, though not simple or easy. Editors have to change their minds, change themselves. Of course there will always be bad stories in the slush, or stories they just plain don’t like, or stories that don’t fit their themes or editorial scope. These stories will be written by all kinds of writers from every race, gender, sexual orientation, class, physical ability, and so on. This has always been the case, will always be the case. But it doesn’t take a seer to predict that with more awareness and a more open mind, editors will be less likely to dismiss, even unconsciously, fiction that is good but isn’t only about white heterosexual male concerns.

109 comments
joelfinkle
1. joelfinkle
There's certainly a place, and a need, for different viewpoints. SF, more than any other genre, provides the opportunity to provide a mirror on the human condition. Tiptree, LeGuin, MacHugh and others certainly opened my eyes to gender politics in ways I'd never have found in other fiction. Orson Scott Card's "Folk of the Fringe" showed a future that included faith, something this avowed atheist hadn't considered (earlier books such as Jack Dann's anthology "Wandering Stars" deals more with the culture than the faith of my Jewish heritage).

I agree, not every book needs to include every viewpoint, but a good editor should be able to find things that will be, well Mindblowing, to get back to the previous article.
John Chu
2. JohnChu
Excellent article. It points out, among other things, why the answer isn't as facile as "just read the slush without looking at the authors' names."

BTW, did you intend to write "Mike Allen" in paragraph 4? IIRC, the editor of the Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction is Mike Ashley.
Paul Howard
3. DrakBibliophile
Some thoughts on better anthologies and/or better magazines.

IMO no magazine or anthology will please everybody. Editors who try to please everybody may end up pleasing nobody.

Second, while I don't know the publishing business very well, I suspect that it would be easier to get the multiple 'styles/viewpoints' you're looking for with anthologies. With anthologies, the editors could go looking for existing stories to include.

With a magazine, the editors are likely to be more limited to what has been submitted to their magazine. On the other hand, the magazine editors could put out the word that they'd be interested in certain styles/viewpoints.

Finally, more of a question, do you think a magazine would do better if it normally published a certain 'brand' of SF/Fantasy than if it tried to include all 'brands' of SF/Fantasy?
joelfinkle
4. Brandon Bell
Just a quick check: isn't it Mike Ashley who edited the Mammoth book you mention, and not the (great) Mike Allen of Clockwork Phoenix editorial fame? The Clockwork Phoenix anthologies have done a good of representing male/female voices by the way, though I am not sure about the other viewpoints mentioned.

Brandon Bell
http://nithska.blogspot.com
Paul Howard
5. DrakBibliophile
By the way, this phrase "white heterosexual male concerns" made me chuckle.

To the best of my knowledge, both Micheal Moore and David Weber are "while heterosexual males". One I like and the other I dislike. Would you say both write the same viewpoints?
K Tempest Bradford
7. ktempest
@ 2 and 4, yes, that's completely my fault. I *keep doing that* as well, you would think I'd have learned to stop by now.

@ 3, This post answers most of your questions, I think.

@ 5 Having never read either Micheal Moore or David Weber I cannot answer your question. But I think your question misses the point. Or maybe it actually clarifies it, somewhat. If both of these men are white and heterosexual yet one you like and one you dislike, it shows that, in this limited range and in the wider range of SF you have a lot of authors to choose from. You can like or dislike whoever you want yet still find plenty of people to like whose writing is aimed at you.

Readers who do not fall into dominant categories don't always have that privilege.
joelfinkle
8. mityorkie
A few years back I started listening to the Tavis Smiley show, and among the various things I learned one of the most potent is that the word "privilege" has a very technical, specific meaning in the world of talking about diversity. Also, it is short for any/all of "English-speaking, heterosexual, middle/upper-class, white, male privilege."
Diversity promoters would do well to be conscious of when they invoke the term - either explaining what is meant by the term or using less technical language.
Samantha Brandt
9. Talia
I don't get it. Is the implication here that most white, hererosexual males write fiction keyed towards other white, heterosexual males, whereas women write stuff keyed towards other women, and various ethnicities write stuff forwards various ethnicities, etc?

That seems to be what you're implying, but I'm surely misunderstanding you.
Paul Howard
10. DrakBibliophile
ktempest, are you saying that a white hetrosexual male has nothing to say to other groups? And no, your response didn't answer my questions/comments.

Talia's question is one that I'd like to see answered as her question reflects my concedrns about 'diversity'.

By the way, Michael Moore isn't a SF/Fantasy writer. He's a Left Wing movie maker. David Weber is a SF author who writes for Baen Books and Tor Books.
K Tempest Bradford
11. ktempest
The implication here is that a writer's background informs the kind of fiction they write. And writers who are part of the dominant group (in the case of America: white, heterosexual, able-bodied male) have the luxury of not considering the very basics of their audience when they write, because that audience is assumed to be the default, or assumed to be able to understand the concerns of the default. Obviously if a writer wishes to write science fiction and not mystery they must consider that, but this goes deeper than genre, this is about base assumptions.

Of course a writer from one background can write stories that appeal to readers and editors of other backgrounds. They have been doing so for quite some time. However, when the reader or editor belongs to the dominant group, they are very prone to assuming that because they mostly see fiction that speaks in a voice they can understand, a voice that, at it's base, is similar to theirs, that this is a default or correct voice or point of view to come from. It's not *incorrect*, mind you, but it's not the default.

When writers use voices or assume points of view different from this "default", the dominant culture sees this as a deviation. Note how recently discussions surrounding white faces on the covers of books with black protagonists once again revealed the book industry's habit of assuming that books written by or with black people on the cover are only of interest to other black people. They deviate from the default, therefore they are Other. This is complete silliness, because black people are attempting to write TO everyone but FROM their perspective, which differs from white people and also differs in the way all perspectives differ.

The problem here is not that writers are aiming their fiction at only one segment of the readership, it's that the readership and the editorship often will not take the time to even begin to understand fiction that falls into their perception of "Other".

Also, DrakBibliophile, I am aware that there is a filmmaker called Michael Moore, but I'm also aware that his name is not super uncommon. Since I had no reason to assume you'd be bringing up filmmakers in a discussion about writers and editors, I hope you'll understand my confusion. If you'd like me to give you opinions on people, please give me a bit of info on them beforehand. It saves you having to explain later.
Johne Cook
12. Phy
The future of SF is made up of women and people of color, and people of various cultures and classes, and LGBT folks, and non-Americans and non-Western nationalities (China, India, the Philippines, to name just three).


Damn. I was hoping the future was made up of great writers / thinkers without regard to race, gender, creed, color, nationality, or religion.
Christopher Key
13. Artanian
Phy@12, that's because you're hoping for a future where authors won't be judged by the shape of of their plumbing or the color of their skin, but by the content of what they write. The "progressive" community left that sort of reactionary thinking behind years ago.
Daniel Abraham
14. DanielAbraham
(Had trouble posting this. If this is a duplicate, I apologize.)

Tempest:

Let me begin by saying that (as a white, straight guy) I have total respect for your position. I am concerned with your program for moving forward.

I appreciate that you flag that your proposed solution isn't simple or easy, and I agree that it isn't. My concern is that it may not be straightforward either. When we say that editors must change their minds and themselves, I wonder whether there aren't some more concrete, practical steps that could be offered.

When I used to work tech support, there was a sign up for a while in the sysadmin pit about how to become a sysadmin. It said Step One: Become a Jedi Master Step 2: Buy a copy of Learning Perl.

What I hear you saying (and I may have misunderstood) is similar. Editors must -- in essence -- become better people. It's an impossible point to disagree with. Who could be against becoming a better person? But then I feel you leave them with no clear idea how to accomplish that. Without concrete, specific requests, it seems to me we put them in an impossible position.

If I were Mike Ashley (having screwed up huge and publicly) and you told me (accurately) that I needed to become a better person -- to change myself and the way I think -- and then left the matter there, I would feel that the plan was that I should do my best (which I was already doing and it wasn't good enough). If I fail (which seems likely), I will continue to be humiliated in public until I do better as measured by a standard I have already shown that I don't understand. I would be reluctant to engage with that program.

Tokenism and quotas are, I think, reached for so often because they are concrete and specific actions that someone could choose to accept or reject. What I am hearing from my fellow white folks on this and issues like it is a struggle to understand what specific, concrete actions you and advocates like you are asking for.

I hope that doesn't muddy the waters.
Bruce Baugh
15. BruceB
I believe Artanian is being sarcastic, but I say it seriously. I've discovered that great writing doesn't emerge in a void but out of the thoughts and feelings of individual people, who have lives as well as minds. I've learned, again and again, that to find the best writing, I have to keep pushing myself to go look in places I might not on my own.

For me this began in high school in the early '80s, with friends from Colombia pressing me to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, then known only in select circles in the US. His books opened up whole worlds of thought and experience to me. Again and again since then, I've found new ways of seeing the world, and also of thinking about myself, because my attention got dragged to writers who are unlike me in some important way.

So yes, the vision of good work being found and appreciated "without regard to" the circumstances of its creation is a failed one. What can work - what does work already, for some of us - is a vision of good work being found wherever it may be rising up because of regarding the world as widely as possible, of being aware of our own position in it and looking to see what those in other positions are doing. When we train ourselves to take other kinds of lives more seriously and attentively, that's when we find more of the good work we crave.

Or, really, what Tempest said.

DanielAbraham: Hey, I can address this one, as a writer making a deliberate effort to broaden the perspectives reflected in the research I'm doing for my current project.

The beginning is actually simple. Know who you're reading. Learn something about the people you're drawing on, if they've chosen to share it. And when you find your pool of input is too homogeneous in some way, broaden it. That's where the idea of being oblivious to context fails us - we won't know what we're glossing over until we look.

In my case, doing a lot of research into early 20th century America, there's an abundance of good work by people with lives unlike mine, who bring other perspectives to bear. Some subjects will be harder, of course. But it's still a great way to start.
SF Strangelove
16. Strangelove4sf
Daniel Abraham @14
I can think of a concrete action: simply being mindful of diversity (women, people of color, LGBT, pick your issue). If an editor allows these thoughts to pass across their brain cells, it would seem unlikely to me that an anthology of all-white, all-male authors would result.

For more on the subject see my post: From Mindblowing to Mindfulness at strangelove4sf.blogspot.com
Christopher Key
17. Artanian
Strangelove4sf@14, and yet your solution won't make Tempest happy. That kind of tokenism that 'being mindful of diversity' implies she explicitly rejects, because to her, the skin color and plumbing of the authors mean more than the content of what they write.
Bruce Baugh
18. BruceB
Artanian, that's an impressive leap of interpretation you're making. It would be more impressive if I thought there were the slightest scrap of truth in it.
Cathy Mullican
19. nolly
The only attribute I care about when picking up a book/magazine is the author('s|s') ability to tell a story I enjoy.

And I'm getting a little tired of being told I should care about anything else. I'm not picking on this post or its author; it's just the latest in the chorus.

If I don't see the authors I like in an anthology, I vote with my wallet, and don't buy it. I don't call for the editor('s|s') head(s) on a silver platter, metaphorically or otherwise.
Daniel Abraham
20. DanielAbraham
BruceB@15:

I had a similar project for a while. It was before I was publishing, so I though of more as something I was doing as a bookseller and a educated fella than as a writer. And it may be that I've missed the part of the debate where a couple really good, thoughtful books / histories / essays were offered to Mike Ashley which he then refused to read. Likewise, I would be interested in a suggested readings for editors list from Tempest. But I would also like to know what actions the reading lists are meant to inform. If Mike Ashley deeply understood the history of gender and race and and still chosen the stories he did, clearly it wouldn't be enough, right? "Become educated" is a wonderful idea, but it's meant to lead to concrete change, no?

Strangeloaf@16:

With all respect, I think "be mindful" is also too vague to be much use. Can you imagine anyone saying "No, I prefer to be less mindful"? I'm afraid it's too much like "change how you think"?

My glib example of this is that if I ask my wife to be more aware of my needs, she can't really say no and doesn't really know what she's agreeing too. If I say I want her to clean the back yard more often, *that's* something she can engage with, either by cleaning the yard or telling me why she won't.

Strange
K Tempest Bradford
21. ktempest
Artanian, I don't know where you came up with such nonsense, but I never espoused it.

Daniel Abraham, others have given good suggestions along the lines of what i would have, but I'll confess that i thought I was being pretty clear on what actions could be taken to rectify this. But then, I did a bad thing in assuming that what is clear to me will be clear to others -- I have these kinds of conversations all the time, and other people whose activism intersect with mine probably grokked me easily. Not so with people like yourself who are looking to take that next step but are unsure what the next step is.

There are many ways to start, but I think a big one is talking to people who are willing to clue one in. Asking friends, friends of friends, prominent authors, other editors, about what authors you're not aware of because they fall outside of your comfort zones. Ask for names, lists of books or stories, ask for people to tell you why this or that author is someone you should pay attention to.

There are even groups within the community dedicated to raising awareness about marginalized groups of writers. The Carl Brandon Society, Broad Universe. Both of these groups have websites, mailing lists, very outspoken members that attend conventions, blogs, you name it. Though it can be tiring for folks to be in I Will Educate You mode, the people at the forefront of these particular organizations are in those positions because they are willing to do that educating.

I think that's a good beginning.
Genevieve Williams
22. welltemperedwriter
That kind of tokenism that 'being mindful of diversity' implies she explicitly rejects, because to her, the skin color and plumbing of the authors mean more than the content of what they write.


I'm not seeing that at all. What I'm seeing is that skin color and plumbing, as you put it, informs the content of what these authors write.

I'm not sure how it could be otherwise, really, since we are all human beings living in human societies. If you don't think an author's social and cultural context informs the content of their work, then how is it that, for instance, we can so readily identify Jules Verne as 19th century? Would a book like Paris in the Twentieth Century be written now? (For the sake of argument, retitle this hypothetical work to Paris in the 22nd Century instead.)
Bruce Baugh
23. BruceB
Nolly; At some point, the writers you like were new to you. You tried the work of strangers, maybe with recommendations, maybe on your own, and liked some and not others. This stuff Tempest is talking about is, fundamentally, about keeping the channel open, because we can pretty sure there are people whose work we don't know yet but should become acquainted with.
Christopher Key
24. Artanian
ktempest@21, of course you did. If the color/gender didn't matter more than the words written, then a book or magazine with all white male authors wouldn't be a problem. You've made clear with your comments on tokenism that the only thing that will satisfy you is significant portions of the author list to be made up of something else.
K Tempest Bradford
25. ktempest
I do not consider the above as some kind of checklist. Editors need not collect one of each like Pokemon or something. No one is advocating for editors to engage in tokenism. We blew past the point where tokenism was useful about 30 years ago
Daniel Abraham
26. DanielAbraham
Artanian@24

Did you read the same article I did?

I think you're responding to something that's not on the page. Consider that the argument you have may not be with Tempest or what she's actually said.
Christopher Key
27. Artanian
Exactly. You said that a checklist wasn't 'useful', meaning a token isn't enough, meaning you need more than a token.

Your words.
K Tempest Bradford
28. ktempest
Artanian, those words don't mean what you think they mean. Unless by "more than a token" you mean beyond tokenism to something better, more substantial, more open to embracing ideas and ideals and points of view outside your own. Is that what you mean?
Christopher Key
29. Artanian
Definition of Tokenism:

"The practice of hiring or appointing a token number of people from underrepresented groups in order to deflect criticism or comply with affirmative action rules."

It's the second listed definition, but in context it's the correct one here because we're talking about hiring practices, and not accomplishing a goal, as the first definition references. That's what you've said offends you. And I don't know what you'd define as token, I'm assuming it would be one or two based on your post.

So let's talk numbers. Let's say you have an anthology with 20 stories in it. You obviously get angry if it's all white guys as the authors. At what level will you not be angry? 3? 5? 10? You can't plausibly say that the actual number doesn't matter to you, because a token 1 or 2 would clearly offend you.
Daniel Abraham
30. DanielAbraham
Tempest@21

Thank you for clarifying the specific, concrete steps you would ask of editors. They all seem eminently reasonable, and if I had had your background I might have seen them more clearly in the original post.
Daniel Abraham
31. DanielAbraham
Art@29

I think you've misunderstood. As I read Tempest's post, what's offensive isn't simply the lack of non-white, non-male authors, but the implicit fact that the editor's doing a bad job.

I suspect that Tempest (Oh God, am I putting words in *her* mouth? I'm an idiot.) would agree that it's possible that by pure chance all the best stories for an anthology might be by white, straight guys, even if they weren't overrepereented in the slush pile. Kind of the way it's possible to flip a coin a hundred times and have them all come up heads. That, I should note, is not the defense offered by Mr. A and the Mindblowing.

As I understand her argument, by having editors as a class be intentionally more aware of which writers outside their personal defaults are doing interesting work, magazines and anthologies would become both more diverse and higher quality.
Christopher Key
32. Artanian
But that's not what she said, DanielAbraham @31. She wasn't talking about the presumably hundreds of white male writers outside of the personal defaults of the editors. She was explicitly talking about about ones that don't have "white heterosexual male concerns". She's offended if there's not a good chunk (my terms, but she hasn't nailed down what percentage yet) that's not white males.

Which is certainly her privilege - that's what she looks for in anthologies. Me? I look for editorial consistency. In other words, if I see an anthology that contains a few authors I know I like and a bunch I've never heard of, I want the ones I haven't heard of to turn out to be 'if you like (big name author we included) you'll like (new author you haven't heard of yet)'. Editors that manage to do that will get more of my business, editors that don't manage to do that won't. On the other hand, if I look at an anthology and see a mix of authors I like and dislike, plus a bunch I don't recognize, I'm probably going to skip it.
joelfinkle
33. mission accepted
I think the issue here is a misunderstanding of why tokenism is a poor solution.

"The practice of hiring or appointing a token number of people from underrepresented groups in order to deflect criticism or comply with affirmative action rules."

The problem is not the number of tokens but the reason for the appointment (just to defer critics). The idea is to recognize what makes the token different from the majority group (and therefore an interesting inclusion). Anyone asking for a concrete number is missing the entire point in my opinion, because any predefined number is just more tokenism (and exactly the same thing as quotas). I don't think Temepst is at all saying that increasing the number of "others" is a solution to any problem, but that a lack of others creates a problem of more homogenized viewpoints... which in turn lowers the quality of fiction when you've got so many authors saying such similiar things.

My question is: do people think Tempest's post is wrong in its identification of a problem, or if it's just a question of whether the proposed solution is good enough.
Johne Cook
34. Phy
Roger Zelazny spoiled me for many other writers because I was so fond of his lean, lyrical style. I've had a very difficult time coming to accept deep POV because Zelazny was so good at evoking deeper POV without actually wallowing in it. I loved his thin, fantastic novels. There was so much he wasn't telling us that I looked askance at writers who couldn't get to the freaking point. Roger knew how to tell a story without recounting one character's entire existence. I really loved that about him. He had a light, deft touch that relied very much on the reader filling in great gaps from their own imagination. He rarely held your hand, giving three or so character observations at first introduction and then filling in additional details through later context.

I mention all this because I liked Zelazny's first person stories immediately but had to really work at writers with deeper POV and fatter novels. As a space opera fan, it took me many recommendations and many years before I gave Lois McMaster Bujold a shot. Her work persuaded me that there were other ways to tell a story. While I don't prefer the much longer, much more detailed deep POV stories the way some do (because of my prior deep-seated affection for Zelazny and his particular style), I have grown to love Bujold's novels in a different way. I created fresh space for her works and her style in my personal reading. And I built on that fresh perspective. Without LMB, I don't know I would have had the patience for the brilliance of Brandon Sanderson. And so on.

But it wasn't that Lois McMaster Bujold was a woman that was important to me, nor that Brandon Sanderson comes from the particular spiritual heritage that he does. What mattered most to me were the stories and how they were spun, and it has been thus since I discovered SF. This discussion of the identities of authors looks to me like a monumental step backward. What matters more to me are diverse stories than diverse authors.

But how do we find those diverse stories? This is the first quote that really resonated with me:
Asking friends, friends of friends, prominent authors, other editors, about what authors you're not aware of because they fall outside of your comfort zones. Ask for names, lists of books or stories, ask for people to tell you why this or that author is someone you should pay attention to.


Finally, something we can agree on. But that goes both ways. I'll explore your Octavia Butler if you give my John Scalzi a shot. Deal?
joelfinkle
35. mission accepted
Phy@34

I'm sure you didn't mean it like this, but did you consider it might be offensive to say "your Octavia Butler" and "my John Scalzi"? That seems to set up a clear Us and Them mentality ot mode of discussion. Besides, I thought both those writers were so prominent that they were merely "SF's Butler and Scalzi" at this point. Not picking on you though, just wondering if you'd thought of that.
Bruce Baugh
36. BruceB
Phy: Tempest and Scalzi are friends, and Tempest has blogged at the Whatever at John's request on race and bias matters. It's not like she's sitting around refusing to look at the work of white writers, or being uninterested in what's popular with readers whose experience may differ from hers.

So Mission Accepted's concern about us-versus-them is well-taken.
K Tempest Bradford
37. ktempest
Phy, why would you think I *haven't* explored John Scalzi, though? Just because he's white?

I am also getting a kick out of Art's insistence on interpreting my words in such creative ways. But Daniel, yes, the coin analogy is apt.
Cathy Mullican
38. nolly
BruceB: I find new authors many ways. They're in anthologies with other authors I already like. Friends recommend them. My local book pusher recommends them. Other authors I like recommend them. The book catches my eye and the cover blurb sounds interesting. Winning the Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree, etc. makes me somewhat more likely to pick up a book, but is not sufficient in and of itself.

I do not select new reading material based on any authorial attribute other than storytelling ability. Not race, creed, gender, able-bodiedness, orientation, or any other adjective you can think of. In many cases, I don't know those things. Quite frankly, they're none of my business.

And, once again, I'm really, really, really tired of being told I should.

For the record, to use the most recently cited authors, I've read a good bit of Octavia Butler, and enjoyed it very much. Scalzi is on the "I'll get around to it eventually" shelf. This is not about "Leave me alone with my White Men"; this is about "I don't care if they're read, green, purple, or blue; can they tell a good story?"
Emily Horner
39. emilyhorner
I remember sitting in geometry class in high school and reading Ursula LeGuin's "Coming of Age in Karhide," Tiptree's "The Screwfly Solution" -- and much later, reading Ted Chiang's collection. And thinking, in those cases and others, that my brain hurt. "I don't know if I like this. This is WEIRD. This makes me uncomfortable. I didn't know you could DO that."

That feeling is one of the reasons I am a science fiction fan in the first place. I bet that's true of a lot of us. But it's not wholly a positive feeling. You have to push past the initial discomfort, just a little. Heck, on my first try reading Octavia Butler I gave up. She made me nervous.

I don't want to impugn editors and suggest that they can't, or won't, make that leap. But it's possible that if you're dealing with hundreds of slushpile stories the difference between the bad story and the good, uncomfortable story, gets harder to see. You're put in a different frame of mind if you're reading manuscripts for the purpose of deciding whether to accept or reject them, than if you pick up an already-published book off the shelves.

I think reading more widely -- including outside of the science fiction genre -- is one of the things that ultimately open us up to the good story that, at first, just feels weird or uncomfortable. And if we open ourselves up to that, I think we'll ultimately get more diversity of all kinds.
Johne Cook
40. Phy
I think you've misunderstood. As I read Tempest's post, what's offensive isn't simply the lack of non-white, non-male authors, but the implicit fact that the editor's doing a bad job.


DanielAbraham @ 31: A bad job according to whom?

I accept it when Damon Knight observes "Science fiction is what I point at when I say science fiction." As Orson Scott Card wrote, we accept Knight's definition because of his reputation as a 'writer, critic, and editor of known credentials.' But given Mike Ashley's rather lengthy list of anthology credits, who is to say that when he points at a story, it isn't mindblowing?
Samantha Brandt
41. Talia
I suppose the implication is that because the authors represented in the anthology are not diverse, the editor is doing a bad job.

Regardless of the quality of the stories. I just.. have a hard time accepting diversity is more important than story quality. Something seems wrong with that concept.
Bruce Baugh
42. BruceB
Nolly: This is where I get confused. What is it you think Tempest is saying, if not "Here's how to cast your net so as to catch more great work, and miss less"? Do you think she's suggesting making do with less than the best, most engaging, most just plain cool you can find?

The point (for me at least, and I think also for Tempest) is that narrowing the pool of writers an editor will seriously consider too much costs the readership - we're less likely to get some of the great stuff if editors don't stir themselves a little to go find it. We think that the best work could be anywhere, and we'd feel stupid for letting it slip by on grounds like "I already had enough work by guys like me" and "everybody knows women get all emotional in their writing anyway" and like that.

(I should be clear that I'm thinking here more of di Filippo's commentary, and some other things said by folks as uninvolved as I am, than anything Ashley himself has written. Apart from wondering what his lists of work he considered seriously for the volume looked like, I'm not in a position to say much about the specific instance and I figure the world doesn't need me to add to the pool of ignorant exposition.)

*holds up big Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass* Story spoor! Still fresh! And I'm determined to follow it where it may lead, whomever the author may turn out to be. That's the point.

Phy: There are two separate kinds of criticism one can make, though. One is "These are not mindblowing." The other is "Those are also mindblowing but were apparently ruled out without any serious appraisal." It's the second kind some of us are making, and doubting that the collection is as mindblowing as it could be because of tunnel vision. There are, to make a limited comparison, lots of great stories by writers with feet size 6 to 9 (American). You could fill books just by writers with mid-sized feet. But there are also great writers with smaller feet, and some others with big bugsquashing huge ones, and it seems worth doubting that you've got the best you might if you settle right at the outset for the middle sizes.

Fair notice, speaking here with my writer's hat on. Just this summer I read the Memory of Fire trilogy of histories by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, at the urging of a Hispanic friend. They blew my mind. I can compare them to a few things, like the documentary interludes in John Dos Passos' USA trilogy and the expository style in Aaron Copland's Lincoln portrait, but Galeano takes it so much further and does such wonderful things with it...it's a shock of discovery for me as a writer very much like when I first read Borges, or William Burroughs, or John Wyndham, one of those "this changes everything when it comes to what's possible" moments. Three whole books sliding seamlessly from reflections like this to meticulous journalism to compressed biography to all kinds of other things:

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them - will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn't rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever. Good luck doesn't even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.

The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.

Who are not, but could be. Who don't speak languages, but dialects. Who don't have religions, but superstitions. Who don't create art, but handicrafts. Who don't have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.


So I'm feeling particularly jazzed up right now about the whole "look beyond what you already think you know" concept, because it wouldn't have occurred to me that a left-wing Uruguayan journalist and poet would so rattle my sense of what I want to do as a horror writer. I was just interested in more varied perspectives on life a century ago. But that's how these things work.

And that third paragraph...the big-picture meta-goal of efforts like what Tempest is encouraging is to humanize the people that have been dehumanized in the past, to bring them up and us over and move all of us some so that we can see each other more clearly, and thereby see ourselves more fully.
joelfinkle
43. Nick Mamatas
The funniest part of this thread to me are the public claims that if people don't like an anthology they should just silently move on (but if someone doesn't like a blog post...)

Oh, that and the idea that somehow editors are constrained by what is submitted to them over the transom.
Bruce Baugh
44. BruceB
PS to my last:

PS: ...and also to get more super cool reading. Which is a worthy goal too, and one I take seriously both as a reader and when I get a chance to be editor or developer.
Helen Wright
45. arkessian
Nick @43: Yes, the idea that editors are somehow limited to publishing only what happens to be submitted to them is ludicrous. The relevant limits here are the limits that (some) editors place upon readers, who don't have the same degree of freedom of choice in acquiring their reading matter.

I want SF to stretch my mind, by introducing me to ideas and viewpoints and contexts that I haven't come across before. If the only stories ever published were by white middle-aged British women -- no matter how good each of those stories might be in its own right -- I'd be missing the wealth of what SF ought to be offering. Talia @ 41: That's why diversity matters every bit as much as story quality.
joelfinkle
46. Haddayr
This is such an excellent essay. Thank you and yaaaaay!!!
joelfinkle
47. Nick Mamatas
I suppose that the other funny bit is the implicit (and sometimes explicit) claim that "diversity" --that is, increasing the pool of potential writers -- would somehow dilute quality of fiction. SF would be a pretty peculiar thing if the best way to guarantee the generation and distribution of excellent stories would be to limit the field of producers to, oh, whoever Mike Ashley (or whomever) already had in his Rolodex.
p l
48. p-l
Talia @41: Diversity matters because when editing a magazine or an anthology, there's more to consider than just the quality of each individual story. Equally important is the overall impression given by the mix of stories.

If every story is written by a white male (for example) you're more likely to get a bunch of individually good stories that have too much in common. When considered as a group, they blend into an undifferentiated hum and you risk creating a "seen one, seen 'em all" effect. You might like that predictability, of course, even though it's not usually considered a feature of a "better" magazine or anthology, which is what this post is about.

What a "better" publication wants is a lineup with some surprises to it, in which the stories contrast with each other in interesting and fun ways. For this, diversity is essential. And as people above point out, diversity and quality are usually not in competition, anyway.
K Tempest Bradford
49. ktempest
Talia @ 41:

Diversity is just as important as story quality. *just as* Not more. No one, except for crazy people, is saying that story quality should fall by the wayside. What we are saying is that an editor's judgment of story quality is not just based on how well an author can string together words. Sometimes editors say "this story wasn't very good!" because of unconscious or sometimes conscious biases. As in the case recently with Bev Vincent, an editor or editors decided that the author in question didn't know how to write men very well. The editor or editors assumed that Bev was a woman, and thus decided the story wasn't very good. Bev is a man.
joelfinkle
50. Shveta Thakrar
@Nolly:

I hope the day does come when we don't have to make a conscious effort to expand our horizons and include diversity in our choices, because we'll do it naturally, but today is not that day.

We as a society have normed white as the universal experience. We see it all around us, the people we work with, the pictures on TV, the people in power (and before you counter with Obama, let me point out that some people have insisted on calling him a "tan" man in order to deal with the fact of a half-black man in the Oval Office). It's everywhere we look. It's what we've been raised--mostly unconsciously--to believe. People of color do this, too, because we've all been bombarded with these ideas and images. I know I have to check some of the crazy ideas that appear in my brain, and I make a determined effort not to think these things!

Anything outside of that norm is Other. There's an assumption that people of color have a monolithic experience. We’re not seen as actual people. We're stereotyped as being this way or that. All books by black people must be about race. All books about Indians must have a submissive woman who cooks all day and lives for her husband. I've had people come up to me on the street and beam about having an Indian friend, although there's no way I could know this friend (never mind that there are millions and millions of Indian people on this planet). Can you imagine doing that to a white person? You wouldn't, because white is everywhere.

So we tend to stick toward what we know—stories that reflect the experiences we've had (or, more importantly, have been shown to us as "normal"--the white, often male, heterosexual, etc. experience). We shy away from anything that questions that norm, certain we will not be able to relate to it. How could we possibly relate to that?

We're forgetting that the individuals within a culture are as disparate as we are. We're forgetting that they're ultimately looking for the same things we are: meaning, love, success, happiness. And when we avoid their stories, determined that we can't relate to them, we continue the "us vs. them" mentality a commentor made above.
Cathy Mullican
51. nolly
BruceB: You may be missing the larger context I see this as the latest installment of; if that is the case, I can see that you would not get where I am coming from.

My main point, in a nutshell: I reject the assertion that I should consider any attribute of an author beyond "ability to write a story I enjoy" when selecting reading matter. As a rule, I don't even want to know any other details, because they are none of my business. I resent being told that if I do not read N works by Authors of Color in X period of time, I am a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Racist Fan, as has happened elsewhere in the larger conversation.

My second point:

One anthology is one anthology.

A pattern of anthologies containing only works by a given class of authors -- white, black, male, female, whatever -- if not specifically labeled as such -- that's a problem.

The Mammoth line as a whole looks reasonably diverse. Other Mike Ashley anthologies look reasonably diverse, at a glance.

I'm tired of the Chicken Littles.
K Tempest Bradford
52. ktempest
nolly, your assertion is incorrect. One anthology is never just one anthology. See here for longer explanation of such.

Also, I don't know what you count as "reasonably diverse", but I'm not seeing much diversity in the mammoth books. Even when there are more than 10% female contributors, I'm not noticing any authors I particularly recognize as POC, but plenty I recognize as white.

I'm tired of people who haven't examined their own privilege and can easily dismiss the concerns of the marginalized doing just that. I guess we both need a nap, then.
joelfinkle
53. Nick Mamatas
I resent being told that if I do not read N works by Authors of Color in X period of time, I am a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Racist Fan, as has happened elsewhere in the larger conversation.

Link? That's such an explosive claim, I'd like to see a little evidence that the conversation happened the way you say it did.

Also, as you only look for good stories, when was the last time you spent your time in, say, Borders Books or your local library flipping through the titles in the African American Interest section, or the Gay/Lesbian section, the Erotica section, or the Inspirational/Religious section?
Johne Cook
54. Phy
The Mammoth line as a whole looks reasonably diverse. Other Mike Ashley anthologies look reasonably diverse, at a glance.


http://silk-noir.livejournal.com/308817.html?thread=2622289

Mike Ashley has apparently had a clear vision for the specific focus for each of the anthologies his name has been attached to, and the specific focus for this one was "stories that took unusual scientific concepts and developed them in even more unusual ways."

He wrote that the stories by women from his pool of samples didn't include the vibe he was looking for.

"That probably has something to do with my concept of "mind-blowing". Women are every bit as capable of writing mindblowing sf as men are, but with women the stories concentrate far more on people, life, society and not the hard-scientific concepts I was looking for."


Furthermore, he said he did contact women to write new stories just for this volume, but it didn't work out.

"I did in fact contact a couple of women writers early on hoping they could contribute new stories, but one didn't respond and for the other, the timescale for compiling the anthology proved too tight, which was a shame."


Finally, he's already looked forward to the next anthology, and already had a more diverse lineup before this thing became a Thing.

"For those interested, the next anthology I am compiling, of apocalyptic sf, will include quite a few stories by women writers..."


I'm not convinced Ashley's out of line here. SF used to pride itself on being colorblind. It used to be enough that the stories themselves contained diverse ideas, characters, situations, genders, races, etc. Now, the focus seems to be on the authors and not the stories. It feels like we're falling backward, not moving forward.

I don't buy book (or magazines, or anthologies) based on diversity or lack thereof. I buy fiction because of ideas and skill at representing those ideas. Within the last year, I discovered Arturo Pérez-Reverte and loved his Captain Alatriste character. I'm currently reading 'The Club Dumas' and am finding it to be a rollicking read.

One of my favorite books from the 80s is When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger. The book, the story itself, could not have been more diverse, and I found it to be a challenging, disturbing, gripping, enthralling read that I return to again and again. I defy you to gig me because Effinger himself was a white male.
joelfinkle
55. Julia Sullivan
Let's see who some of the current leaders in the field are, as indicated by the Hugo Awards: Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Bear, Nancy Kress, Ted Chiang, David Anthony Durham.

H'mmm. Yeah, clearly an anthology of all white men is representative of the current best of science fiction, and anyone who suggests otherwise is the person who's out of touch with the field as it is.

I'd love to be judged by the content of my character, not by the shape of my chromosomes (XX). I know that I am judged by the color of my skin (very very white), not just by the content of my character--I remember this every time the nice cop stops me for speeding, jokes around with me a bit, and lets me go.

The myth of a meritocracy that just happens to be dominated by white, straight, middle-class men is profoundly toxic. I know why it's so hard for such men to let it go--they'd have to acknowledge that they're the beneficiaries of privilege and that they haven't earned everything by their own hard work.

But the truth is that the biggest affirmative action initiative ever has been going on for centuries, and it's called the old-boy network.
Paul Howard
56. DrakBibliophile
Hey Julia, where do I sign up for the benefits of being a white male? I seemed to have missed getting them.
K Tempest Bradford
57. ktempest
Before this conversation completely devolves due to ignorant statements: DrakBibliophile, read This and This and please direct any issues you have with the premises of those posts to those posts. Because it's derailing here.
Paul Howard
58. DrakBibliophile
Sorry Ktempest, I'll bow out this 'conversation'. You've convinced me that diversity means "While Hetrosexual Males" need not apply".
Bruce Baugh
59. BruceB
DrakBibliophile: If you're actually curious, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is the compact classic on the subject. I know it was very eye-opening and unsettling for me, reminding me of many, many things I'd never thought about consciously.

(This complements Tempest's pointers, I hope.)
JS Bangs
60. jaspax
Understanding what "privilege" means is one of the hardest things for someone coming from outside the activist community to do. It took me a long time to grok what was meant by it, and longer to admit that it actually exists (and works in my favor, most of the time). So for Drak and others those who don't understand what the conversation is about, I heartily recommend the "Invisible Knapsack" article above.
JS Bangs
61. jaspax
Also, this seems like a great time to break out one of my favorite quotes:

"Realism" only works for people whose worldviews are already accepted as realistic. The rest of us must make do with genre. - Eve Tushnet
Bruce Baugh
62. BruceB
Phy: I'm quite sure you didn't mean to do this but...wow am I missing my friend George a lot at the moment. I got to know George Effinger on GEnie; for several years I hosted a web preview of the first two chapters of Word of Night. We had some late-night exchanges of private messages, and as we got to know each other found a lot of overlap in what our respective health problems meant to each other. He was a uniquely good listener on some of that stuff where pretty much you have to have been there, since there is no reliable vocabulary about the experience's nuances. His writing had already been a big influence on me, and then he became a personal one too. There are things I've been through this summer that I wish I could tell him and talk with him about, to round out some dangling loose ends from ten years ago.

There's no bigger point here. Just missing a friend, wondering if re-reading some of his stuff now would make it better or worse.
joelfinkle
63. Nick Mamatas
You've convinced me that diversity means "While Hetrosexual Males" need not apply".

So, to sum up, an invite-only anthology full of white dudes certainly cannot suggest anything about the possibility of !white !dudes getting into such anthologies.

On the other hand, a mere blog post about casting a wider net for such anthologies is equivalent to banning white dudes (at least the ones that don't sleep with other dudes).

Now all Drak needs here is that li'l bump on the noggin...how he feels right this very second may well be how !white !dudes feel a whole lotta the time. Especially when editors say things like, "with women the stories concentrate far more on people, life, society and not the hard-scientific concepts I was looking for."
Johne Cook
64. Phy
BruceB @ 62: I'm missing George as well, and only as a fan. He seems to epitomize the kind of author who represented the best in this discussion on diversity in SF. His work certainly expanded /my/ horizons.

Nick @ 63: I took Mike's comment to be in the past tense, (supported by the last four words of that sentence), that the stories by the women in his pool that he was choosing from for this anthology in question concentrateD less on the hard-science concepts that was the specific focus of that specific anthology. I don't know that I'd read any more into his comment than that.
joelfinkle
65. delagar01
Two comments:

(1) anthologies are, often, how readers discover new writers. It was how I learned about Octavia Butler (Speech Sounds), Connie Willis (Firewatch), and Bujold (Mountains of Mourning). So does it matter if the editors of anthologies read widely and deeply -- if those editors don't keep themselves current in what is, after all, meant to be their field? Yes, I think it does. Mike Ashley claims, as his excuse, that he just didn't happen to know any mindblowing stories by women or PoC. He says he asked two women he knew (he only knows two women writers?) to contribute, but when that didn't work out, oh well. PoC didn't enter his radar at all? Sitting at my computer for half an hour, I came up with a list of a dozen mindblowing SF stories by women and/or PoC, and I am not an editor. That is, this is not my job. I don't get paid to do this. He does. With power, comes responsibility.

(2) Folks who say, I don't care if a writer is "red, green, purple, or blue" chap my last nerve. Yeah, I know this is SF, but none of us are green or purple or blue, oddly enough. None of us are unmarked either. We're actual people coming in actual colors, from actual cultural backgrounds, from actual countries. Only someone standing in the empowered and privileged position would get to say color and privilege didn't matter. Yes, it doesn't matter to you.
joelfinkle
66. Nick Mamatas
Phy @ 64 -- that's a tortured misreading. Mike Ashley, an editor of long standing, did not mean to type "concentrated" and accidentally typed "concentrate." We know this not only because he is an editor of long standing but because he is clearly and obviously speaking of women SF writers in general in the first clause of that sentence: "Women are every bit as capable of writing mindblowing sf as men are"

Your ideological commitment to claiming that SF is "falling backward, not moving forward" (backward, because now there are public complaints about all-white male anthologies, not because anyone, anywhere, is being published solely on racial grounds) is intense enough that you are misreading straightforward English sentences and then attempting to get ME to misread sentences in the same way.

I know that Ashley either thinks that SF by women writers "concentrate far more on people, life, society" or at least that he wishes me to believe he thinks so because that is exactly what he said.
Johne Cook
67. Phy
I don't understand folks who take offense where none is given. Fans are Slans.

I get the feeling some would prefer that the cover of every book featured a full-color picture of the author to justify the worth of the story. If one is white and male, move along, the story cannot possibly be diverse enough to warrant reading.

I don't buy books / stories based on ethnicity, I buy books based on stories, based on craft, based on art. My favorite books tend to follow genre lines, not racial ones. Take last year, for example. Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother" astounded me. It was the closest thing to Heinlein I've read in a long, long time. Doctorow is a lot of things, but he's hardly your typical white male. He pretty much exists in a category unto himself. But even most astonishing than his book was "The Automatic Detective" from A. Lee Martinez. His protag isn't even human and would seem to relate to many of these issues of privilege and basic rights.
joelfinkle
68. Nick Mamatas
If one is white and male, move along, the story cannot possibly be diverse enough to warrant reading.


I'll take this as an admission of the fact that yes, you are indeed so committed to your ideology that you routinely misread straightforward English sentences in order to preserve your opinions.
joelfinkle
69. Nick Mamatas
Doctorow is a lot of things, but he's hardly your typical white male. He pretty much exists in a category unto himself.

Also, yes, this is true. Here's a pic of Doctorow without make-up and before morning coffee.

Johne Cook
70. Phy
Nick @ 66: I read the sentence as wandering from present tense to past tense and assumed he neglected the trailing D. It /was/ a tortured mis-reading on my part. Mea culpa.
Johne Cook
71. Phy
Nick @ 68: Ouch. I like to think that I operate based on observation and not entrenched ideology, but if one's own observational abilities are suspect, well...

[quote][i]I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.[/i]
; )

(I'd already apologized, but I apologize again, and what the heck, there's never a bad time to quote from 2001.)
joelfinkle
72. Nick Mamatas
Thanks for the apology and the mea culpa, though of course I'm not the only person (or perhaps not even one of the people) you had previously suggested would only be satisfied by author-photo litmus tests. I'm never offended by other people's comments, just often amused and bemused (sometimes both at once). Anyway, you may wish to direct any apologies you feel the need to give to others who might actually be offended or upset. But again, thanks.
p l
73. p-l
I agree that Mike Ashley messed up big on this one, though I think his explanation of what "mind-blowing" means to him, and that women "don't write that kind of thing" was sort of interesting in what it revealed.

Let's suppose he had given his anthology a title more in line with its intent. Something like...

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF THINLY PLOTTED SCIENTIFIC EXTRAPOLATIONS, DRAMATIZED BY SOCK PUPPETS

Other than Ted Chiang, whose most recent Hugo-winner is both a great story and totally in line with this description, I'm having a hard time thinking of PoC/female writers who could fairly be placed in such an anthology. A lot of the writers whose SF I consider mind-blowing - Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Maureen McHugh, Justina Robson, and others - honestly do not meet Ashley's criterion, summarized by the title above.

So I ask the community, assuming that Mike Ashley was being totally honest about the "vibe" he was looking for, who should he have solicited?
Samantha Brandt
74. Talia
I personally find that invisible knapsack arguement both badly flawed and offensive. She seems to imply I'm automatically racist because I'm white, that culture automatically makes me racist regardless of anything I do, think, or say, which is the most bloody stupid thing I've heard.

I guess this is a tad off topic, sorry. I just find that article .. bad.
joelfinkle
75. Claire L.
@14 (because I don't think this question was adequately answered, and because the answer is complicated) here's a blog post I just wrote on it.

@ 74: Talia, "racist" and "privileged" are two different things. If you are white you ARE privileged. Period. But you're not necessarily racist. Privilege allows you to ignore the racism that is all around you, to not see it. That doesn't make you racist, but it does make you part of the problem.
joelfinkle
76. Claire L.
@14 (because I don't think this question was adequately answered, and because the answer is complicated) here's a blog post I just wrote on it.

@ 74: Talia, "racist" and "privileged" are two different things. If you are white you ARE privileged. Period. But you're not necessarily racist. Privilege allows you to ignore the racism that is all around you, to not see it. That doesn't make you racist, but it does make you part of the problem.
joelfinkle
77. mssion accomplished
Talia@74

I've always thought the invisbile knapsack arguement was that individual benfit from racism in automated systems, institutions, and bureaucracy. Not that any individual was racist. That's been my interpretation at least
Johne Cook
78. Phy
75 / 76 (heh): I may be privileged as an American over people from other, less-developed nations, but where I live, I am not privileged because I am either white nor male. If anything, being white and male where I live doesn't get me many benefits accorded to non-white, non-males. It certainly doesn't assist me when trying to sell creative fiction.

We have plenty of problems in the community where I live, but they are largely based on economics at the present time, not race / gender.
[da ve]
79. slickhop
@Phy, Talia et al ... this isn't all or nothing. Acknowledging privilege is uncomfortable but doesn't HURT. What hurts is NOT having it. Even when you've looked at your privilege, acknowledged it, you still HAVE it. And the purpose of looking at it isn't to create a pecking order, but to dismantle it, perhaps recreate a system based on the merit or skill that you're espousing.

I'm being sort of florid, sorry. I get hyped up. Phy, where do you live exactly? I'm not sure what you meant by your last comment. I think the writer above who described herself as a white woman who was keenly aware of her privilege when stopped for speeding hit the nail on the head. She's not gonna tell the cop to ticket her. Its hard not to profit from those sort of things. Its ongoing. But it doesn't hurt to talk about how it affects other people.

I think everyone who is seen as the "default setting" has privileges, not least of which is being thought of as the default setting. Not having your lifestyles described as "special interest." Being able to see a movie or read a book with someone "like you" in it, or someone "like you" who isn't a tired stereotype, without having to go out of your way.
Rob Hansen
80. RobHansen
Mike Ashley has edited a number of themed SF anthologies over the years and, as I understand it, this was one of those and not a general anthology. That being so, I'm curious as to what the theme 'Mindblowing' means to most of you in the context of SF. To me it means big concept tales embodying what we used to call 'sense of wonder'. So from my pov something like, say Le Guin's 'The Dispossessed' is brilliant, sociological SF, but it's not mindblowing. In fact though I've read a lot of brilliant SF in the past decade I don't think I've read any in that time that I'd regard as 'mindblowing'. Either I'm just getting jaded or there's a lot of big concept, hard SF out there I'm just missing.
Bruce Baugh
81. BruceB
RobHanson: "Midnblowing" for me would include a lot of what Maureen McHugh writes about back to the mega-architecture and terraforming in China Mountain Zhang (and the flight, oh, wow, the flight), and Peter Watts' dazzling cosmic vistas and hard, hard thoughts about the role of self-awareness in Blindsight, and Caitlin Kiernan's use of real paleontology and utterly evocative, poetic language in stories like Threshold, to pick a few I've either read or thought about recently.

A supplemental note about privilege:

Privilege is what you get because of who others think you are without regard to what you as an individual do. It's bankers giving better terms to white people than people of color with the same qualifications, for instance, and employers more often hiring white felons than equally qualified people of color without criminal records. It's about sales people taking men's questions and competence more seriously than women's. And on and on. It's the system in operation, and we as individuals can do very little alone about it - it's why awareness has to translate into organized social and political action, because individual efforts get lost in the haze.

Racists and the egalitarian alike get privileged treatment when they're seen as belonging to privileged groups by others.
K Tempest Bradford
82. ktempest
Talia, I will only say that people often find the knapsack post "offensive" when they are in the first stages of unpacking that knapsack. It's completely true that Racist and Privileged are not synonyms. Plenty of people have privilege and are not racist, are even activists against racism. You are not a bad person because you have privilege.

You just have to (1) Own it and (2) Be aware of it and (3) work to eliminate it.
Johne Cook
83. Phy
Tempest @ 82: [quote][i]You just have to (1) Own it and (2) Be aware of it and (3) work to eliminate it.[/i]

Depends on the definition of terms. I agree with you if you mean #1, "...a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich." I would not agree we need to eliminate #5, "...any of the rights common to all citizens under a modern constitutional government: We enjoy the privileges of a free people."

This is where I dispute that I automatically have privilege in the eyes of some because I am a white male. In the community where I live, because of various factors (vigorous ADD, no classes lower than mine, and so forth), the only people I have more privilege than are those who are unemployed, and that fact that I have work (as a writer) has nothing to do with my race or gender and everything to do with my chutzpah and initiative. Nobody gave me anything, I earned my career the hard way, I have no schooling to validate my career, and I earned my current position through many long hours of extra study and labor when others were on lunch or had gone home for the night or the weekend. Anybody could do what I have done had they the drive and the knack and the patience and the ability to cheerful weather the disdain in the eyes of those who had a college education or special schooling. I've had to earn my bona fides by working harder and being willing to look ignorant while I asked questions that others might have considered obvious until I learned the ropes, got my bearings, and won a fulltime, permanent position. Despite my whiteness and maleness, I haven't had any breaks I didn't make myself. I have keenly felt what it is like to be an outsider looking in, and I overcame that the hard way.
Micah Schwantner
84. Chiblade
Prepare to crucify me to the pillar of self-conscious affirmative action, but I think the thesis of this post was, at least, faulty. Tempest (I think that's your prefered moniker?) seems to think that better anthologies are built on displaying a wider range of viewpoints. I agree, if simply from a money making perspective. A wider range of viewpoints means a wider range of people who will be willing to spend money on an anthology.

Where I disagree with Tempest is the ideas that a) to get a wider range of viewpoints one must pay specific attention to the race/gender/sexual orientation/economic class make-up of one's anthology, b) one must look for stories for one's anthology outside the limits of the target audience and c) Mike Ashley is somehow a grand bigot (it's the last one that I find most annoying).

First, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, and the best of them often defy generalised demographics. Instead of specifically searching for, say, a gay author for your anthology it would be better to search for a story that takes a different view on (or even acknowledges at all) het/homo-sexual politics and lifestyle. Instead of looking for a black author it would be better to find a story with a non-white protagonist, or even a non-human protagonist. Or a story that averts or explores the standard racial balance of power. In short, a story that anyone could write. It's sexism/racism/bigotry to specifically single out minority authors for higher consideration that non-minority authors because to single them out is to assume that they, in a vacuum, could not stand alongside the the best non-minority authors. The action of the editor will have changed, yes, but the viewpoint will not have changed. To be objective race must become a non-issue.

Second, Tempest says
Mike Ashley failed to take into account. What he failed to do was to be a better reader. He failed to recognize the value of stories that do not cater to . He failed to make a better anthology.

And this is why many online magazines and many indie press print zines are simply better. The editors of these markets recognize that the demographic for speculative fiction is not narrow.
.
This, and other statements in the post imply that to build a better anthology one must cater to all people by employing authors of all viewpoints, even those outside one's comfort zone. This, I agree with, with a caveat: if one is editing a zine/online or print magazine then a wide spectrum of viewpoints is a good thing. Once again, more range equals more money. But if one is editing a highly specific anthology about, perhaps, Hard SF superscale engineering (a genre that appeals mainly to white males) then one should emphatically not broaden one's reading beyond the boundaries of that genre. To do so would be to create not a better anthology but a bad anthology. To dilute the theme and quality of one's collection in the pursuit of of the boundaries of one's comfort zone would definitely turn off the target audience of the collection. This would be bad, not only from a money making perspective (one that an editor must always keep in mind) but also from an artistic perspective, because to dilute the theme would be to create a meandering and direction-less anthology.

Third, its by now pointless to bring up the 'Mindblowing SF Anthology' example because, once Mike Ashley explained the process, a string of posturing and misunderstandings became clear. Yes he made a mistake: He failed to account for the rabid reactions of a small but vocal group of SF fans who are specifically on the lookout for this sort of juicy outrage-inspiring scandal. If only for this reason he should have at least looked for a token female or person of colour. No matter how much tokenism is decried by this group of fans, its so near to undeniable as to be insignificantly dissimilar that if even one black person or gay person or woman had been on the table of contents then this hullabaloo would have never happened. Instead, and this ties back to my second point, Mike Ashley, with his attempts to secure two female authors failed and deadlines looming, chose to put out an anthology with the best stories he had available about a specific theme, regardless of minority issues. For this he has been castigated across the angry feminist internets, his good name destroyed for a portion of the anthologies readership that otherwise would never have noticed the sociological make-up of the anthology as long as the quality was good. If there is a "fail" anywhere in this story it is on the part of those who could be dedicating their time and efforts to worthy feminist causes and instead feel the need to sling mud and arrows at a statistical blip of an editor's minor marketing blunder and said editor's reputation.
K Tempest Bradford
85. ktempest
Phy, two things. 1 - read the links I posted earlier about white and male privilege. They address everything in your comment. 2 - freedom is a privilege, but not necessarily an unearned one. Unearned privilege given based on accidents of birth are not great. But American citizens do earn their privilege of freedom by being involved in government, abiding by laws, etc.
Cathy Mullican
86. nolly
Nick @ 53: Feel free to browse my library on LibraryThing, same username as here (nolly); you will see an above-average number of religion-related books (I'm a PK from a branch of Christianity which encourages an academic/scholarly approach to the text, and attended a church-affiliated university). You will also see a number of books dealing with gender in various ways, books by authors from several cultural backgrounds, etc. It's not quite a complete catalog; some books on sexuality and books of erotica are deliberately not cataloged (public catalog == family-viewable, if they choose; I'd rather not have those conversations), among other boxes. You'll also see how large my backlog is...

I will attempt to address other points tomorrow, when I've had more than 4 hours of sleep and worked less than 12 hours, and been awake less than 18 hours, and can therefore be more coherent. If nothing explodes.
joelfinkle
87. K. Chen
I've had to earn my bona fides by working harder and being willing to look ignorant while I asked questions that others might have considered obvious until I learned the ropes, got my bearings, and won a fulltime, permanent position. Despite my whiteness and maleness, I haven't had any breaks I didn't make myself. I have keenly felt what it is like to be an outsider looking in, and I overcame that the hard way.

Bootstraps, dammit. Bootstraps!

I'm seriously baffled by people who insist on playing the Oppression Olympics.
Daniel Abraham
88. DanielAbraham
Chiblade@84 suggests:

But if one is editing a highly specific anthology about, perhaps, Hard SF superscale engineering (a genre that appeals mainly to white males) then one should emphatically not broaden one's reading beyond the boundaries of that genre.

I'm not entirely sure that an increased production of melanin in the skin precludes a sense of wonder at hard SF superscale engineering. Perhaps you are suggesting that there is some sort of genetic link between genes for low melanin production and an appreciation of this kind of fiction? Obviously Y-linked.

I kid. Of course, I kid.

I suggest that you and Tempest are working from different axioms. As I understand it, she assumes a world in which talent and interest are more or less evenly distributed. (This is like the old saws about 90% of everything being crap and that no matter what political or religious affiliation you choose, you get the same percentage of jerks).

You appear to be working with the axiom that only white men write and enjoy hard SF. This appears to be a specific case of a more general assumption that the distribution of talent and interest is lumpy, and specifically breaks down along lines of gender and race.

In fairness, neither of these is easily testable. You can't disprove the existence of a poor of talented women and people of color who would be publishing hard SF superscale engineering. Tempest can't prove that no subgenre exists in which women and people of color have (of their own free will) simply never chosen to take part as readers or writers.

For myself (1) Tempest's assumptions better match my experience, an (2) I suspect both sets of assumptions are self-reinforcing and tend to create the world they describe.
Torie Atkinson
89. Torie
@ 83 Phy

You have white privilege and you have male privilege. This has little to do with your economic or geographic situation. You can look all around you, in movies, in books, in television and magazines and history books, and be guaranteed to see many people your color. You can walk down the street without men hollering at you about your body, and you can go shopping without people condescending to you because of your gender. These are but some of the many, many examples of privilege. I agree with you that class is a form of privilege, but that's really irrelevant to what we're discussing here.

In any case, this thread isn't about you, and I'd like to avoid further derailing the conversation with trying to convince individuals that these things exist and they are a part of it. They do, and you are. Let's focus on Tempest's post, and get back to how it affects SFF.

@ 84 chiblade

It requires specifically seeking out historically marginalized groups to incorporate because, well, they're marginalized--they lack the same visibility and network that white heterosexual US/British males have in the genre. I wish that you didn't need to actively find the outstanding writers doing this kind of work, but many factors--including their lack of inclusion in anthologies such as these--means it can be difficult to get on the radar. That requires, as Tempest says, exploring beyond one's comfort zones to find the great work that's already out there.
joelfinkle
90. Nick Mamatas
nolly @86 -- thanks for the link. You certainly own many books, and I certainly haven't scrutinized all 3000+ listed titles, but a more or less random clicking around didn't show me much outside of SF, the occasional bestseller and novelty book, the religious material you mentioned, and cookbooks.

And that's fine. You can read what you like and really, nobody on Earth is telling you not to. But is is pretty clear to me that the plurality of the books you have are in broad-strokes SF/F, which tells me that indeed you really do have interests other than just a "good story." You do, as do well all, have specific ideas as to what a good story is and where in a bookstore or library you might find one. That was my point. Lots and lots of people say, "I just want good stories!" but when one looks at their stacks, what they really mean is "I just want adventure titles with SF/F themes!" (I suppose we can both agree that you don't own cookbooks for the good stories.)
Johne Cook
91. Phy
Ok, fine. I don't like (or agree with) all the broad-brush generalizations at my expense that don't take into account my experience—we move on.
The future of SF is made up of women and people of color, and people of various cultures and classes, and LGBT folks, and non-Americans and non-Western nationalities (China, India, the Philippines, to name just three).

The future of SF is made up of diverse stories as well as diverse authors, and I point again to George Alec Effinger's Budayeen Nights stories as my case-in-point.
Blue Tyson
92. BlueTyson
89

The little to do with geographic situation? You've clearly never walked around Kingston then Torie, for example.

--

As for the rest :

However, editors are the easier target - shouldn't you also be directing some brickbats publishing's way? Certainly the former are deserving of criticism. Ultimately, it is the latter who make the decisions, though, whether it is another sf anthology full of yank and pommie white guys, or urban fantasy novel set in the USA number 4632 by a white American woman.

They are the ones responsible for even such lack of language diversity inanities as changing footpath to sidewalk, or tap to faucet. At least the USA variety, anyway.

How about asking some of the tough questions of the money people?
joelfinkle
93. Julia Sullivan
You can't disprove the existence of a poor of talented women and people of color who would be publishing hard SF superscale engineering

You can prove the existence of talented people of color, male and female, and talented white women who are publishing hard SF superscale engineering.

Nancy Kress is just as detailed about her science as Alastair Reynolds. Ted Chiang is as hard as they come. Tobias Buckell can spin out the details of an artificially constructed planet and its tethered moons as well as anyone out there.

And those are just three names from this year's Hugo ballot.
joelfinkle
94. Julia Sullivan
Sorry, forgot that this was a bb format. The first paragraph above is a quote:

"You can't disprove the existence of a poor of talented women and people of color who would be publishing hard SF superscale engineering"
Daniel Abraham
95. DanielAbraham
Julia:

That is absolutely true, but I fear getting into debates about whether x many individuals is sufficient population for all editors, and whether all hard SF anthologies have to have a story by author X or Y, and on and on with the dog biting at its own tail. All that I meant by that is that it is very difficult to demonstrate that a pool of untapped talent exists until you've tapped it.

At heart we agree as to the other reason that the pool (poor? God and to think I type for a living) of talent is impossible to disprove.
Joseph Lewis Szabo III
96. pointman74250
At first when reading your piece I started to immediately disagree with your assessment then, as I kept on keeping on, I found that…well, you're right. We should show life in fiction from a different viewpoint and those editors shouldn't get in their own way, picking stories in magazines based solely on their own background and ideas when deciding what stories should be published. That's not to say however, that if a white writer creates a story better then a black man or vise versa, that the black writer should be published over the white writer because he's of a minority.

But does that need to be said…I think it does. You should publish them both if their both worthy of being in print.

http://ultrahip.blogspot.com/
K Tempest Bradford
97. ktempest
DanielAbraham @ 88:

(1) Tempest's assumptions better match my experience, an (2) I suspect both sets of assumptions are self-reinforcing and tend to create the world they describe.

You are correct in your assessment of the axiom I'm working from, Daniel, and I agree that both axioms are self-reinforcing. Therefore I choose to reinforce mine because I think it's better for everyone, including white heterosexual males.

BlueTyson @ 92:

However, editors are the easier target - shouldn't you also be directing some brickbats publishing's way?

In a way I am, but indirectly. Mostly because, yes, the editors are the more visible people, and the editors are the ones with a direct line to the publishers. I feel as if changing an editor's mind is useful because then that editor is more likely to turn to the publishers and say “we need to do this a different way.” I'm sure that if they needed to, editors could find some economic reason for getting publishers to do what is right.

Also, you speak as if getting to “the publishers” involves going to an individual, necessarily. A lot of publishing houses are conglomerates, and I don't imagine there is any one individual you can go to and plead your case. There's probably a board or something, somewhere.

Indie presses are different – when we had the great Eclipse One cover debate a few years ago people DID complain right to the publishers as they are two guys who have internet presences.

Pointman74250 @ 96:

I don't know why you feel that needs saying. I haven't ever seen anyone imply otherwise.
Larry N.
98. Larry
I've been following this for about a week now and I'm still trying to imagine all the possibilities of a more multicultural SF scene. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but if there is a stronger post-colonist element in much of the emerging SF markets, wouldn't it stand that "first contact" and exploration-type stories would be transformed in ways that would make them "fresh" all over again?

If women continue to be published in greater numbers, then perhaps SF stories of all sorts might benefit from stories that might be more empathic in scope, with perhaps plot/theme structures that might reflect different values from before?

If SF becomes as pluralistic as global society/-ies is/are, then wouldn't there be the possibility of some very real changes in what we might view as "SF?"

Sounds exciting to me, although I suppose for many, such changes would be threatening to their conceived views of what is/isn't "SF."

As for the editor situation, perhaps it'll take a generational turnover for the more multicultural US, UK, Canada, etc. Gen X/Y/etc. groups to have literature of all genres being published/written that reflects their values?
Blue Tyson
99. BlueTyson
97

Sure, but a lot of publishing people here, likely they know who the next people up the chain are? e.g. who signed off on this. In larger companies, they'll have a superior, too.

It wasn't the Night Shade's etc. I was meaning here as you surmised with the board reference. For public companies those people should be listed anyway, the top level management.

Those sort of publishers are again small fry in comparison.

Editors are also likely quite used to public criticism, even if perhaps not this vehement in general.

Publishing management types, probably not so much. :)

They could certainly be given the scorecard treament, too. Probably a publishable article in that for someone.
Blue Tyson
100. BlueTyson
And from memory, Tor.com - stories that aren't by North Americans?

1

Charlie Stross, a real reach that one. :)
Cathy Mullican
101. nolly
Nick @ 90 -- I don't see any contradiction or conflict between your observation and my assertion that I filter authors solely by their ability to tell a story that I enjoy. (The audiobooks I'm currently listening to are: Fear Itself, Walter Mosely; Rhett Butler's People, by I forget who; and Wuthering Heights. Of the three, I'm enjoying the Mosely most so far.)

I'm not saying everyone should have the same taste in what they enjoy; I'm saying race, gender, etc. are orthogonal to storytelling ability. I'm not going to buy a book or read a story that doesn't interest me solely because the author meets some demographic criteria, and I'm not going to pass up a book/story that does because the author is the wrong shade.

Regarding reading N books in X time; I so far this week have not had time to go digging for months-old posts, but there was a great deal of peer and community pressure to join/participate in projects like this one during the dramafest known as RaceFail09. Googling may get you some examples, but may not reveal the full force of the dogpiling happening then.

tempest @ 52: I reject your analogy. One anthology containing only white men does does not make the editor/publisher/imprint racist/sexist/whatever any more than serving a vegan meal for a party would make me a PETA member. Had the editor said something like "Of course there's no women; minds aren't what sluts blow", then the analogy would stand.

As for diversity in other Mike Ashley anthos, I was only focusing on gender at the time I checked the comic fantasy volumes, which are the ones I have. I did a quick skim over a list of Mammoth Book of.. anthos I found on line, and saw a volume each of gay and lesbian SF, and one where the listed title included some of the authors, at least one of which was female. I am not, and have never, claimed to have made an exhaustive analysis of the demographics of Mammoth Book of...authors; I don't have that kind of time, and could not make accurate classifications on race in all cases.
Pablo Defendini
102. pablodefendini
@ Blue Tyson #100:
Touché. We're working on that, actually.
joelfinkle
104. Sherwood Botsford
Bat pucky.

If I understand you correctly, an Anthology should have as much diversity as possible. This will mean that each anthology will have 3 stories I like 6 that I'm indifferent to and 15 that I actively dislike.

I subscribe to Analog. I picked up all the back issues I could of it, and Jim Baen's Destinies. Indeed, the Baen Books label, at least while Jim was running it, meant that 90% of the books would be to my taste.

I do not subscribe to Asimov's. Too many of the stories are flighty, too loose.

Right now you have an issue with a public that is less and less inclined to read. As Heinlein commented, you are in competition for my beer money. A paperback better provide as much entertainment value as a 6 pack.

I want to know that an editor is picking stuff HE likes. Often after two books, I will know if I agree. I know now that any anthology edited by Damon Knight is to be avoided. Any by Eric Flint will be a good read. Just as I know that I like the stories of Stanley Schmit, George O. Smith, Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, and Timothy Zahn, and don't like the ones by Ursula LeGuin, Robert Silverberg, or Harlan Ellison.

A swiss army knife does 37 things, and does them all badly. Anthologies that try to be all things will be all things badly, and will vanish in the marketplace.

Do Tor a favour. Collect a stable of editors and tell them that they are to indulge their taste. Each editor will attract a following, just as favorite authors do.
joelfinkle
105. wealhtheow
KTempest, thank you so, so much for writing this kind of post not just once, but over and over. I know it can feel like beating your head against a brick wall. You must love sf/fantasy very much to be so adamant that we, as a genre, cannot continue to rely on privileged or narrow-minded viewpoints and practices.
joelfinkle
106. JohnBrown
This has been an interesting discussion. It's also one that, in many instances, seems to conflate a number of issues.

Issue 1: discriminating against an author because he or she belongs to a specific demographic, overtly or in a mindless sort of way.

Issue 2: the value of hearing the stories--specifically the problems and points of view--of more than one demographic, either for intrinsic enjoyment of variety or because variety "makes you a better person."

Issue 3: the ability of people outside a specific demographic to write about stories common to those in the demographic.

Issue 4: developing and marketing a product for a target audience.

Looking at these four issues, it is not clear to me that a "better" book will always be the book with the widest variety of author demographics. Nor is it clear to me that a "better" book will always be the book with the widest range of demographic specific points of view in the stories themselves.

What's best, it seems to me, depends entirely upon the goal of the book.

Goal A
A book with the primary goal of giving voice to authors who belong to demographics that are seldom heard (issue 1), would compel the editor to make sure that each author in the anthology had a significant and different demographic attribute. We see this all the time, e.g. Southern writers, Black writers, gay fiction. Or it could be a smorgasbord of author demographics revolving around one topic. However it's configured, the goal here is author-focused.

The original post and the post @21seems to be addressing this issue with these comments: "Asking friends, friends of friends, prominent authors, other editors, about what authors you're not aware of because they fall outside of your comfort zones. Ask for names, lists of books or stories, ask for people to tell you why this or that author is someone you should pay attention to."

Goal B
A book with the primary goal of hearing stories from a wide variety of demographics (issue 2) would compel the editor to focus on a variety of demographics IN the stories, not necessarily in the authors. It may be argued that you cannot effectively write outside your own demographic (issue 3). If you agree with that, then you'd have to look for Hispanic authors writing about Hispanic characters, Amish authors writing about Amish characters, wealthy authors writing only about wealthy characters, etc. If you don't think this is the case, then the goal here is story-focused, and the editor shouldn't feel compelled to consider author demographics.

The post @84seems to be addressing this issue with these comments: "Instead of specifically searching for, say, a gay author for your anthology it would be better to search for a story that takes a different view on (or even acknowledges at all) het/homo-sexual politics and lifestyle. Instead of looking for a black author it would be better to find a story with a non-white protagonist, or even a non-human protagonist. Or a story that averts or explores the standard racial balance of power. In short, a story that anyone could write."

Goal C
A book with the primary goal of delivering a specific type of experience (issue 4) would compel the editor to look for a certain sameness in effect. The goal here is story-focused. And an editor shouldn't feel compelled to consider author demographics or story demographics.

In this last case it may be argued that variety in story demographics will intrinsically improve the enjoyment of the book because having the same exact effect over and over produces diminishing marginal returns. But this is still an effect question. Not one of author demographics. Furthermore, character demographics are not the only thing that can be used to address DMR.

Mammoth's editor seems to be saying this issue is the only thing he considered.

Question
Some here seem to be suggesting that addressing issue 1 or issue 2 must be an objective of every anthology and magazine that isn't specifically focusing on a stated demographic (and thereby excluding other demographics).

It is certainly one strong way to introduce novelty. And I'm all for reading new and different voices. I'm all for reading about new and different experiences. I love the novelty and insight variety brings. But I can't see why every antho or magazine must have demographic goals.

Those of you who take strong exception to the Mammoth antho, is this what you're suggesting?
Sean Wallace
107. oldcharliebrown
@JohnBrown, nearly every successful business (or product) is aware of, and targets, a given audience. This impacts everything from content, packaging, and marketing. Not every antho or magazine necessarily needs demographic goals, but if you want to sell books, subscriptions, or advertising, you have to be aware of whom your audience is, in order to properly sell your product. That's standard for any business model.
joelfinkle
108. RoseG
nolly @ 101: While "just read what you like" is a fine strategy for an individual reader, and I think we each have that well of the familiar and comforting that we return to again and again; and from that well we raise books that may range from adequate to frankly astonishing; the criteria for what I, individual reader, likes is not created whole and pure, separate from the storms and tides of the culture(s) I live in. A thousand things can influnece one's personal taste, from the big -isms to that one day you stayed home from school and watched a "Murder She Wrote" marathon, leaving you with a lingering fondness for "cozies".

But an editor must be *informed* by their personal taste without being overwhelmed by it. To take an example outside SF/F: I love regency romances and particularly dislike contemporaries with divorced heroines. So I read what I like. But if I were compiling a Mammoth Anthology of Incredibly Romantic Stories and only included stories about young, white het couples, I would justly be accused of picking from my biases.

And if I said: "Well, when assembling this anthology the emphasis was on stories that took the sparks that fly between a man and a woman and show how they can burn down the strict rules of Society. Others are every bit as capable of writing romance, but with Christians the stories concentrate far more on marriage and status quo and African-Americans with contemporary urban settings, and not the environments and themes I was looking for. I just picked the stories that worked for me."

Man, as an editor I kind of suck! My anthology uses such a narrow definition of "incredibly romantic" that it renders the concept ridiculous at best. My inability to work with my biases had led my biases to work me over--to the detriment of readers.

Long comments=probably being redundant to the conversation...
joelfinkle
109. karakuri
I think that those in privileged groups who are called upon to "consider" minorities misinterpret this as an unfair demand - but that's exactly what minority groups do day by day - they can't live without the constant awareness of more dominant groups and their culture. A man can get along fine in the world without being mindful of women (in general)'s concerns, but women can't get along blissfully unaware of the desires and interests of men. They are reminded of them whether they like it or not. Men don't have to walk around seeing posters of their own gender half naked and beckoning and winking at them, nor would they possibly have been exposed to this imagery and the associated attitudes so much that it actually makes them feel inadequate.

This is why I think it is any dominant group's responsibility to try to undo this bias, at least start by noticing the lack of minority representation in things like these SF anthologies, because it's /not by chance/. If you "treat everyone equally" without considering their gender, race, sexuality or other, you are unknowingly reproducing culturally ingrained bias. As much as I would like to treat everyone as if I don't notice their gender or race or whatever, it doesn't result in equal treatment. I am still judgmental or dismissive of things I don't understand once in a while, and if I didn't think about it I wouldn't even be aware of it or try to correct it.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment