In lieu of an interview this week, I want to just take a look at the things we’ve discovered from the fantastic interviews we’ve had so far. In each interview, I felt like there was a lot of poignant, informative discussion. This extended to the comments quite often and it was lovely to be a part of, so I’d like to quote a few people.
I have recently become acquainted with a couple of successful editors in UF and PNR. I wouldn’t ask them if race plays a part in their acquisitions, mostly because in my conversations with them, I think they would be thrilled to have more diversity. They are actively searching through their agent submissions for something new, exciting, and different. And if they’re searching for it, it’s because readers are too.
-From Cecy Robson in answer to if she’d ask an editor if race plays a part in acquisition
I love the last line in particular, because what will drive what diversity we see if what we demand as readers. It’s our support that moved the ball along and that doesn’t mean we all need to base what we look for/read on that idea, but that we should keep it in mind when we search the bookshelves (physical or digital). Perhaps we’ll find something different that we’ll fall in love with.
The importance of representation of all types of people and minorities, cannot be underestimated. Visibility or invisibility of different groups in popular culture has an immense power to affect readers.
-Holly Kench in response to Cecy Robson’s interview
It’s important that we see ourselves and each other in our literature. I don’t want people to think of inclusion as something that is required, but it is necessary and it’s all of our jobs to make sure that it happens. Because if we don’t, who will?
The other side of the equation is to deeply immerse yourself in stories, novels, etc. from other traditions and cultures. It will change your eyes, regardless of your culture of origin…
As writers, it’s important to diversify our beta-reading circles as well. It’s hard to hand your work to someone and say, “Let me know if I got something wrong,” or “Tell me if this doesn’t ring true,” but it’s thoroughly necessary for artistic integrity. Our job is telling human truth, and we owe it to our readers to give them characters not props, and to let our characters bring their full selves–historical, cultural, emotional, sexual–to the energy of the story.-E.P. Beaumont in response to Cecy Robson’s interview
As authors we need to expand our thinking and demolish pre-conceived notions about minority characters. Look at any movie with a black, or Hispanic, or Jewish, or Iranian actor. They are portrayed as their race/ethnicity, not as a person who happens to be black, Jewish, Hispanic, etc. When they are it’s seen as a deviation. Point and case, Nick Fury from the Avengers. In the original comics he was white, but is portrayed by Samuel Jackson in the movies. I read a number of articles and blog posts about how “interesting” it was or how much of a deviation from the “true” story. Nick Fury is a character, not a skin color.
-Lane Heymont on the existence of minority characters in the media presently
This really struck a chord with me, because I’ve always felt this way and never knew quite how to explain it. Lane did that for me. And he said it excellently.
I think maybe it gives them thoughts that only characters that look a certain way can do certain things. I know that if Buffy was African American, she’d be just as kick ass, but does the next Black person know that? I’m not saying reading books with predominately white characters will scar anyone for life, but minorities need to see more superheroes/ heroines or characters like themselves. I can go to a bookstore right now and go to the Fantasy section and just about every single cover will have a Caucasian person on the cover. It’s not a bad thing, but seeing a few mixed race/minority faces on covers would be a welcome change.
-Jasmine Walker on what effect she thinks reading books with primarily white heroines and heroes in them has on minority/mixed race readers
This is an important sentiment to me, because this goes back to Holly’s comment about visibility and representation. I think a lot of people may reject (not in a violent way, but subconscious response that sometimes manifests into actual complaint) the presence of minority characters, because they don’t see them often. Especially not in main character positions. This, I think, could lead to people (not just minority/mixed race) believing that a minority/mixed race character cannot perform in the same capacity as a white character. Which, of course, is not true.
I’d like to believe there is a fair representation of minority characters in fiction, but the recent controversy over the film version of “The Hunger Games,” reminds me that it’s probably not the case. Some fans of the book were surprised that Rue was cast as a black character in the movie even though that was how she was described in the book. Why were people uncomfortable with the way she was depicted? It’s odd that some viewers could accept the bizarre characters from Capital city but not a character who is “unexpectedly” black.
-Susan Griner on how she feels about the presence of minority or mixed race authors and characters present in fiction, specifically speculative fiction and all its varied genres
I always hate that struggle of feeling where you want to believe that everyone is fairly represented and that everyone wants to include everyone, but then you’re confronted by an uncomfortable absence of characters and then the rejection of their presence. And Susan summarized that feeling well.
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All of the interviews have been fantastic and I look so forward to hearing more from writers and readers on this issue.