Submitting (SFF) While Black

37 thoughts on “Submitting (SFF) While Black”

  1. This is a very large reason I’m planning on self-publishing. I don’t trust mainstream publishing to read what I write, much less care, and certainly not pay.

  2. Cringe worthy data I must say. *OUCH*
    I’m writing a novel based in a futuristic African setting in the SF Genre and I know the climate is harsh but I’ll write it anyway.

  3. Thank you for calling out Onenana in your article. We were actually contacted about being in the report but we declined because we felt our market focus was too different from what the report was looking for. However, just to clarify, we do accept stories from the African Diaspora, but they have to either be set in Africa or deal with African-specific issues. We’d love to read any stories about African futures, African pasts and indeed anything that ties to the continent. We’re especially open to women.

    This was a a thoughtful article, I’m really glad you didn’t let the responsibility of creating diversity fall on black people. It’s a similar issue getting African women’s voices into SFF spaces on the continent. Thank you for taking the time to dig deep into the issues it brought up.

    – Chinelo Onwualu
    Editor, Omenana Magazine

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you found the piece useful. On the clarification: this was what I meant to state, with the understanding Omenana’s focus was specifically “Africa.” I’ll certainly update with your exact words here, to make it clear.

  4. I found your blog from N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter rant today (August 10, 2016). She also linked to a post about the differences between decolonization and diversity in literature. Both were educational.

    Your post mentioned interrogating what we’re used to and how it informs our choices. After reading Ms. Jemisin’s rant and the posts she shared in it, I’m looking at my bookshelves. Their contents leave me angry with publishers and myself. I was already pissed with the fact that too many “important” publishers and awards favor male writers and that my shelves reflect that sexism against my best intentions.

    Now, I’ve got to step up and ensure my reading list includes a wider range of voices. And, I MUST contact publishers and let them know I want a wider range of authors in their lists. They need to know that pale folks like me want to read those Afrocentric high fantasy novels too.

    1. Thanks for reading. It is a system of bias that’s hard to detect unless you’re aware, receptive and looking. Until later in life, my own book shelves were heavily male and white. I managed to reach adulthood without reading ONE SFF work by a black author b/c none were in the bookstores or libraries I frequented. In college I finally read Octavia Butler, and then it was *years* before I even learned more black authors existed. it takes active engagement to diversify your reading list.

      Speaking of “Afrocentric fantasy,” the great Charles Saunders remains the godfather: http://www.charlessaunderswriter.com/

  5. This is so good (Referred here through NKJ’s link, of course).

    I am what my people refer to as “appliance white”, but I really enjoy SF/F from people who are not melanin-deficient like myself. It’s supposed to be a mind-expanding genre, so let’s have some different ideas.

    (I thought Maurice Broaddus’ Arthurian Cycle in modern black Indianapolis was brilliant. Even though I am not black, have never lived in a slum, never been involved in the drug trade, nor even been to the entire state of Indiana. Or had supernatural powers. Still loved it.)

  6. Great post. I was recently lamenting the lack of black authors in Urban Fantasy and realized the problem was me. I spent a number of hours looking specifically for black UF authors, found a couple to start with, from there I have more to read. My method started out resembling yours. Book covers, names, bios, guesswork.

    My biggest help was a couple themed anthologies and magazines (like Lightspeed’s PoC science fiction destroys). Find one author and use anthologies/mags they were in to find others. Then follow the authors on Twitter – who are they talking with – more authors to follow and read. This has been my method on Twitter to get outside my white circle from day one. I consider it the easiest way to build a diverse network of friends and interesting people.

  7. Great article! I’m putting together a Intro to SF course for university first-years; I’m committed to including a double-digit percentage of authors (right now I’m at about 45-50%) who are not white dudes. Not for the sake of “diversity” but because SF is and should be broader than the voices that, because of privilege and more access to publishing markets, get more play in the anthologies.

  8. Thanks for the insightful article. I’m a white woman SFF author who populates her novels and stories with many people of color–not just supporting cast, but MCs–but the dearth of diversity in our genre has weighed on me heavily. I for one need to do a better job seeking out work by nonwhite authors to read, but I also wish white authors would more often step outside the European diaspora for our main characters. I believe this would help broaden the palette for editors and readers and open their minds to the idea of nonwhite heroic characters (Ursula LeGuin’s nonwhite main characters had that affect on me), which in turn would help more black and other nonwhite authors writing nonwhite characters from non-European cultures find success with publishers. It’s also important to do a better job avoiding tokenism–why, for example, are John Boorman, Idris Elba, and Forest Whitaker the only black actors in their respective scifi films? How about making half or more of the background actors as well as more than one MC per film a person of color? However, I suspect some (many?) white authors stick to characters who look like them because they fear “getting it wrong.” I, for one, did not get any of the black culture references you made, although I’m fascinated by and love the idea of Southern Black dialect and culture being transliterated from Elvish and will seek that story out!

    My personal belief and approach is that if one is writing science fiction set in the distant future or fantasy set on another world, that the cultural context of our notion of “race” shouldn’t apply. Even so, white authors who do include nonwhite characters among their principals can feel awkward pointing it out. How does a white author say, “my [white] heroine’s love interest is a black man” without seeming self-congratulatory? There’s also the “cultural appropriation” cudgel, which is levied at many white artists who try to include people of color into their work. When I was in college, I told my creative writing professor, a Latina, how much I liked Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. I was young and stupid and not particularly culturally aware, so I thought my professor would appreciate the fact that Connie, the protagonist of the novel, is Mexican American. My professor launched into a rant about inauthenticity that still stings, 25 years later.

    All in all, the dominant culture (mine) absolutely needs to do a better job publishing black and Hispanic and Asian and women writers with the goal of producing work that is more diverse. At the same time, I hope readers and other authors will be willing to let authors write what they want, not what they feel they should based on their ancestry or gender.

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