When I was a college student and a very casual reader, at best, of fantasy, one of my favorite chunky anthologies were The Mammoth Book of X series. Such as: The Mammoth Book of Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories, The Mammoth Book of King Arthur, The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy, etc. Even The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, back when I thought SF was “fantasy, but in the future.”
So when I heard about the upcoming The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction (Running Press) I was filled with a mix of nostalgia and anticipation, because now I know more about SF (although a lot of times I still class it as “fantasy, but in the future, and sometimes with science that my college physics professor would probably shoot the author in the head over”).
And then the table of contents for TMBOMSF were made available at SFSignal.
Summary: not a woman or a person of color to be found in the entire book.
Now. Okay. I’m Asian. Not obvious from the name. Also, I’m female, probably obvious from the name. Just to clear things up, in case someone minds.
But that table of contents is stupid and made of FAIL. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to advertise yourself as The Mammoth Book of Anything these days, people might expect you to, um, actually be representative of the field. You know. With all the women and PoC that populate it, with skill and style in equal power to the traditional white male representatives.
I mean, hell, if you’re going to advertise yourself as The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction and not include, i.e., Samuel R. Delany, who is the definition of mindblowing science fiction, there is something wrong with you.
In this day and age, there is no excuse. There actually wasn’t much of an excuse a few decades ago either, but times change. And so does the composition of the field. And so should the Mammoth Books.
Angry Black Woman has a wonderful blog post out about this fiasco’s current state of affairs, taking apart one of the anthology defenders’1 convoluted arguments with surgical and humorous precision (along with one of the best uses of WP-Footnotes I have seen in a long time). You should read it.
While she gets legitimately angry, I, on the other hand, get depressed2. It’s hard for me to see something I love go down in flames in this way. It’s hard to see something I love say, “Your gender is not worthy to be included in this survey of the field. Your race is not worthy, either, just to twist the knife.”
Why can’t they do what people like John Joseph Adams do? I reviewed Federations (Prime Books) earlier on Tor.com with much praise, and have caught up on Adams’ other anthologies as well, which are also excellent. Obviously a wonderful anthology including women and PoC can be done. Which is, duh, Captain Obvious territory, but sometimes these incidents make me question my general worth so much that I need to pull out concrete examples.
Unfortunately, my experience with SF/F multiple-author anthologies can currently be thought of as Mammoth Books and John Joseph Adams’ books.
So help a sad SF/F newbie out, Tor.com readers. Give me recommendations for anthologies that are not as full of fail as this recent Mammoth Books one. Surely there must be more than JJA, as excellent as he is. Surely in this day and age.
1 I’d mention the name, but I’m upset enough right now that I don’t want to. I used to like his stuff a bit, and this is just making me sad.
2 Depressed Asian Woman doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Arachne Jericho writes about science fiction, fantasy and other topics determined by 1d20, at Spontaneous ∂erivation. She also thinks waaay too much about Sherlock Holmes. She reviews at Tor.com on a semi-biweekly basis, and needs a frakking drink.