SF novels by women of color

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SF novels by women of color

Post by Guest on Fri Jan 09, 2015 11:03 am

Inspired by reboot's post on POC feminism... I've been reading my way through this list.

19 Science-Fiction And Fantasy Novels By Women Of Color You Must Read

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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by waxingjaney on Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:31 pm

That list is extremely depressing, and monotonous.
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by Wondering on Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:25 pm

Why do you say that?

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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by reboot on Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:42 pm

waxingjaney wrote:That list is extremely depressing, and monotonous.

Wondering wrote:Why do you say that?

I am with Wondering, why would you say that?

PS: Almanac of the Dead is super
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by waxingjaney on Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:53 pm

The synopsis of practically every single one resides squarely in the Oppression ghetto. It's sad to see a list of stories by WOC limited to "woman/person of Western minority striving against mistreatment by the system/authority".
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by The Wisp on Sat Jan 10, 2015 1:04 am

waxingjaney wrote:The synopsis of practically every single one resides squarely in the Oppression ghetto. It's sad to see a list of stories by WOC limited to "woman/person of Western minority striving against mistreatment by the system/authority".

The one about sexuality in the future looked interesting to me, and seemed to avoid that based on the synopsis. I was similarly frustrated by that, though I'm not against some stories being in that vein. I mean, you draw on your experiences in your writing, no? Also, there may have been a bias on Buzzfeed's part. This is purely speculative, but it might be easier to miss a book by a WoC that didn't circle primarily around oppression because the race of the author wouldn't have been as noticed.
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by Wondering on Sat Jan 10, 2015 3:40 am

waxingjaney wrote:The synopsis of practically every single one resides squarely in the Oppression ghetto. It's sad to see a list of stories by WOC limited to "woman/person of Western minority striving against mistreatment by the system/authority".

I'm really bothered by this comment and your assessment that the list is monotonous, but I'm having a hard time articulating why. I mean, how many science fiction and fantasy works have I read by white men that are all very much the same and could be called monotonous? Many.

And a lot of science fiction/fantasy is about living under oppression and fighting to be free of it or fighting to ensure it doesn't come to pass.

I have more thoughts, but they're rather jumbled up at the moment.

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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by Werel on Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:02 am

Reminds me of this Ben Okri piece (not SF-specific) and this response to it. Wondering, they definitely helped me unjumble some thoughts on "the Oppression ghetto."


Last edited by Werel on Sat Jan 10, 2015 5:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:50 am

I'm gonna briefly answer a few prompts for myself and see if that leads to any further thoughts for me or sheds any additional light for anyone else.

What do I think about these lists of <media> by/featuring <minority>?
I don't love the spotlight. I'd rather see reviewers credit nonwhite or nonmale creators more regardless and treat them/us as equals. I am glad when I see a book by Michio Kaku on a list of must-read non-fiction, instead of on a list of science books by people of color. At the same time, almost none of us actually get a high enough proportion of works-by-people-of-color in our media diets, and many of us recognize that fact, and it's good to have a resource like this out there when we suddenly go, "oops, I have missed learning about an important experience; where can I quickly find some good examples?" As with any other method for deliberately correcting sample size, from anti-discrimination training programs to Affirmative Action, I can only say: there is not yet an ideal solution available; the ideal solution will reveal itself only when we no longer have a problem.

What do I think about people of color writing about people of color?
The unfortunate thing about this, or rather, the unfortunate thing about lists that only include works whose author and primary subject matter involves people of color (and almost always the same color) is that it gives the impression that that's all they know how to write about. I worry this makes it easier for white people to dismiss nonwhite writers as over-celebrated self-involved fools who only know how to write about themselves (never mind that white people write about white people all the time). But then again, maybe we've all kept our heads down too long already. Maybe the foolish thing is thinking we have to apologize for writing our own stories instead of other people's. (Dovetails with the second article Werel linked.)

What do I think about people of color writing about oppression?
Sometimes anvils need to be dropped. And again, while I foolishly waste concern (can't help myself) on the thought that making a big deal out of the few popular works that explore a piece of my own family history, eventually I realize that of all the people I know in my own city, I'm the only one who would advocate for such things.

Yet there's also a place for works that don't deal with oppression, and I want those to be celebrated more, too. Beyond that, I want them to exist more. I am still very much in love with the Big Hero 6 movie, because it's gratifying enough simply that the Hamada brothers look and act and think and sound rather more like me than most movie protagonists—they don't have to also carry all my baggage and fight my same battles and speechify about my problems, and in fact I'm glad that they don't. For once there's a piece of myself I don't have to give up to partake in an escapist experience, and it's wonderful. I wish lists like this included works like that. On the other hand, good luck finding 'em.

What do I think about white people writing about people of color?
Even with the best of intentions, I think it's this sort of thing that gives us Sheldon.

While it has been done well, there are too many examples of it not being done well for me to trust that sort of thing or allow it on this sort of list. Besides, I'm at least as interested in supporting nonwhite/female creators as I am in supporting works about nonwhite/female characters.
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by Mel on Sat Jan 10, 2015 10:35 am

waxingjaney wrote:The synopsis of practically every single one resides squarely in the Oppression ghetto. It's sad to see a list of stories by WOC limited to "woman/person of Western minority striving against mistreatment by the system/authority".

I'm not quite sure where you're getting that?  The only ones that I see where the synopsis says the conflict is of a racial minority striving against systemic mistreatment are 3, 11, 16, and 18.  10 and 12 mention past oppression but it doesn't sound as if that's the focus of the plotlines. Even if we count those, six out of nineteen isn't even a third, and it'd be kind of ridiculous to expect a list like this to completely exclude those narratives (which presumably were important to the authors to share since they wrote them), especially since systemic oppression is a huge theme in SF in general.

I think you may be assuming this exists where it actually doesn't--for ex, THE SUMMER PRINCE synopsis mentions fighting against the government, but AFAIK from what I've read about the book, the oppression being fought isn't racial, but about technology restrictions and similar.  The three books on the list I have read didn't involve that theme as a primary conflict, or in two of the cases have race as a conflict at all.

Or am I missing something?

nearly_takuan, I totally agree with you that it would be better if books like this simply being included in general lists without needing special singling out, but that this is better than their being ignored altogether.  And BTW, as a white author who writes characters of color (because I wouldn't be representing the world I see around me very honestly if I didn't), I also totally agree that recognizing authors of color is as important as the race of the characters and would never expect white authors to be included on a list like this.
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by Enail on Sat Jan 10, 2015 1:39 pm

I agree with Wondering that looking at being about oppression as a WOC-authored book thing is kind of missing context in a way that makes those books seem like more of a monolith in mood and focus than they are.

For example, The Summer Prince sounds like one of the recent crop of young adult dystopian novels. That genre is almost entirely about conflict between the heroes and an oppressive system or government; some of them are very dark (whether by/about people of colour or not), but most of them are also pretty energetic, entertaining action stories about youth empowerment and rebellion. (Contrast this with Ash, which is also a YA novel but not dystopian, and is largely about magic, romance and self-discovery, not oppression).

Or, Who Fears Death. It's a post-apocalyptic adult novel; super-dark stories about genocides and survivors marked as different are hardly rare in the genre. The fact that particular story's horror and suffering is based on existing conflicts in that region of Africa makes it stand out among stories of horror and suffering predominantly based on existing problems in a region of Europe or North America, but I don't think that makes it more "about" oppression than them unless we assume that stories of people of colour are about oppression by default while those featuring white or probably white characters are about specific conflicts and overwhelming forces set up against them, not just generic "oppression".

I haven't read The Summer Prince, so I can't say for sure, but from other YA dystopian novels, I would be very very surprised if it was at all similar in focus or feel to Who Fears Death, and reading the two side-by-side, and especially in the context of their respective genres, I doubt they would feel like they belonged together in an "oppression ghetto."
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Re: SF novels by women of color

Post by reboot on Sat Jan 10, 2015 1:50 pm

NT, I agree with everything you said and also wish that if the author is anything other than a white, cis, get male a special list was not made and the works could be included. However, I also find lists like this (and frankly any list) to help find works in the vast sea of media. It is so easy to miss interesting authors/artists/films/etc., so I will take the bad with the good.

On waxingjaney's point, I can see what you mean about WOC being pigeonholed into only writing about oppression and "minority issues" much like immigrant authors often get trapped in the "immigrant experience" rut and struggle to get books not on that topic published. But also need to assume that these are stories the authors want to tell.
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