Speaking of #diversity
Over the past twelve months, I’ve been noticing an uptick in the number of posts and tweets around the topic of diversity. As a small, brown Asian woman who mostly writes non-white protagonists, I’m very happy to know that the voices of people like me are starting to penetrate the writing and reading landscape. Speaking as a non-white woman, however, I wouldn’t want to think that, by championing diversity, we are trying to take the voice away from others. This shouldn’t be a space where one group of people should automatically lose out (or feel they’re losing out) because someone else is finally getting some recognition. It’s my personal belief that the co-existence of a plurality of views is the optimal situation, which is why I’d like to suggest that diversity isn’t just about One Thing. Indeed, seen in its proper light, diversity can be sought out and championed everywhere. Allow me to share some examples.
Diversity in experience. I can tell you that our Fiction Editor, Diane Dooley, is ecstatic when she discovers a debut author. If you go back through our Fiction archives, you’ll see that we have a good representation of writers for whom SFRQ was their first sale. Even though it was all Diane’s work, I can’t help but feel inordinately proud of our efforts in helping support new writers. I’d like to see more anthologies with this kind of vibe. For example, too many SF collections I pick up have the same old names making up the contents. I’d love to see editors shake things up a bit and get out of the predictability rut. I know, I know, it has to do with the pulling power of famous names, but a reader can still hope.
Diversity in intimacy/sexuality/relationships. Wow, have we come a long way in this! And SFRQ continues to be very much open to GLBT stories, but I’m still seeing a dominance of human-human stories. How about human-alien? And, by alien, I don’t mean just-stick-something-on-her-ears/nose Star Trek type aliens, but something really different. How about an alien robot? How about falling in love with a ship? How would you feel if a planet fell in love with you? How would that work? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be interesting finding out?
Diversity in profession. As much as I’m utterly meh on Firefly, Joss Whedon did an admittedly wonderful thing in creating engineer, Kaylee Frye. But that doesn’t mean I want every capable heroine to be an engineer trying to coax an additional kilojoule of energy from her engines by cross-patching the secondary power relays. The family are in a bit of an Arrow/The Flash glom at the moment, and we adore Felicity Smoak. Okay, the IT stuff? So not realistic, but Felicity is smart, brave, capable and yet vulnerable. Some smart SFR author out there could pitch a heroine who, at the story’s climax, uses recursive algorithms to tie a tachyon transmitter to input from a nearby quasar in order to set up an amplifying resonance loop to completely blow the invading fleet into smithereens and…lookie here…no space-grease needed. (Or any gratuitous Arrow references.) Of course, the nearby planet would need some kind of shielding in order to…no, I’m not going to figure it out here! But I’d like to see the heroine being taken out of the back room and given something else to agonise over. Something that puts her on the bridge, rather than in the nacelles, giving her a whole new world to explore. To use the Star Trek schema again, why not a female cyborg Head of Security? Why not a female telepathic astronavigator? Why not a female alien tentacled starship designer? Why limit a capable woman to the bowels of the ship when she can roam freely throughout it?
Diversity in length. I’m talking about stories, get your mind out of the gutter! 🙂 We writers like crafting long stories. I myself have become a novel writer over the past couple of years, but I’ve come to realise that perhaps I’m getting a bit too comfortable with novel-length stories. Short stories are a bitch to write. Whenever I think of them, I imagine using a magnifying glass to carve objects out of a grain of rice. I don’t “do” short stories…which suggests that maybe it’s high time that I tried. The same applies to you. Try something out of your comfortable zone, like an SFR short story. And, once they’re done, you can submit them to SFRQ!
So there you go. Like everything else in the world, diversity is a movable feast. Whenever I read a story written by a brand-new author, whenever I cheer for a heroine who isn’t a soldier or engineer, whenever I marvel over how much universe has been packed into a few hundred words, I believe I’m championing diversity. It’s everywhere. You just have to look.
Which is a nice segue to that time of year again: the SFR Galaxy Awards. I’ve always liked the Galaxy Awards because they put resonance over category. As complex beings, we have many likes and dislikes; many things that appeal to us. And the Galaxies mesh with that completely, because it doesn’t force you to mark a story that includes your favourite type of character above or below another that contains your favourite setting. Both appeal and both are rewarded.
Moving forward, we hope to make the first issue of every year an SFR Galaxy Award issue. The team and I think that the best way to promote SFR is to promote its awards, and we’re starting with the Galaxies. If any other body would like to take part of an issue to write about their own SFR or SFwRE awards, drop us a line and let’s talk. We don’t bite…hard. 😉