Hello and welcome to the very first, PEOPLE OF COLOR IN SCIFI & FANTASY BLOG CARNIVAL.
First off, this carnival was not put out on CPT. I was in the midst of moving house and unfortunately assumed I've be settled in and have time to stop unpacking and collate. That was not the case. My move wasn't completed until the 27th of June, fully 12days after the original deadline for the Carnival and one month after I was supposed to move house.
Secondly, I'd like to pre-emptively thank Ragnell of Written World, Delux Vivens on Livejournal, The Most Fearsome & Feisty Zvi (aka Witchqueen on LJ) and The FoCing Cabal in general. After a couple of weeks immersed in this project I couldn't begin to tell you all the various inspirations, but it's easy to give thanks for the support and encouragement. I saw a need, and your good will kicked me in the arse to help fill it.
Thirdly, I love SF. I love Scifi and I love Fantasy. I'm a reader and a writer. I've been a role player and a moderator. I originally said I'd ask for permission first before posting. Those rules will be changed in the guidelines. The information is much too important. I'd like to ask that people who stumble across this little gathering take care in how they go to discuss or 'confront' the various writers. Discussion is Good. Stupidity is Bad. I Carry A Big Stick. I won't hesitate to point out someone in need of help from trolls or if they're being pestered by idiots and sycophants.
Now, unto the original prologue - I am never not black. Ever. Other people see me and react to me and force me to see myself as black first, a woman second, usually an immigrant third and then as a human being. And that's supposing I'm not holding another woman's hand and then a sexuality label gets pushed past my humanity. There are only a few very short options I've found to deal with it - be ashamed and apologetic and try to hide who I am, ie disappear. Or be proud of my heritage as part of the diaspora and look for myself in the world's art, literature and music so I can nod and smile and say 'There I am. I count'.
SF, SciFi & Fantasy are the slice of the world I look at to see myself reflected. It's where I go to feel a part of the myriad ideas about life, love, the future, space, life on other planets, magic and folktales and myth of old. But there's a decided lack of people like me in this slice of the world and that needs to change. I'm hoping this Carnival gives a chance to pull together discussions and experiences so we can work towards change.
Enjoy the Carnival (sign up to host an issue)
Carnival Related: There have been various offers of help that I wasn't able to get back to promptly, due to my moving-house. Please email me again. The del.icio.us in particular does need the help of how many ever volunteers it can get. Let's not designate the Carnival itself as the only time we share links.
General: ♣ fanficofcolor. Announcing a new community!
In looking for links and information, I found myself face to page with far too many people who wonder, why 'a superficial attribute (skin color) is the most important thing about a fictional character'. As Glacierdust went on to say in a thread about 2004's SciFi Channel's EarthSea. 'How can we ever get past racism when well-meaning parents encourage children of all races to think of themselves as members of a particular race first, and people second?'
I feel and understand where Pam Noles of 'AND WE SHALL MARCH ON' was coming from when she wrote her essay response to the SciFi Channel's EarthSea and included what it meant to be a brown child growing up reading about blonde sorceresses with flashing green eyes. She lived in a household where her parents were determined that she grow up aware and proud of who she was and everything she could accomplish. Though at the time their pointed questions - and where are we in that fantasy universe - seemed like they were trying to dim the love.
I had relatives who wondered about that too. It made reading scifi a somewhat shameful and guilty little pleasure, somewhere between chocolate cake and porn. I wish I'd discovered EarthSea as a child. It could have changed that little tweak in my mind that had me wanting to treat people of color as rare and exotic even in my own writing. And not all of that mental block was because everyone I meet, in general, treats my own childhood experiences on a tropical island as distinctly unique.
Noles's rebuttal of Glacierdust's assumptions of 'reverse racism' is another good historic read.
“ A lot of white people - within the wide world and the narrow closet of genre - think that validation of Ethnic Self means exclusion or disparagement of Ethnic Other. They think that if you stand up for Blackitude, you are de facto beating down the Caucasians. ”
And so are Witchqueen's Jazz In The Machine an off the cuff essay on race issues in the slash community and the disparity between secondary characters of color and secondary characters who are white:
“ You know the slashed character I hate the most? I despise this character with a passion that others reserve for Buffy or Lana or Carolyn Plummer. I detest him and want to shred him into tiny little pieces, kick his butt, and forbid his name to be written ever again. It's Rafe. That guy with no last name (or maybe with no first name) on The Sentinel. ”
And her later and much more brilliant. Some Advice For White People In Fandom.
“I, an actual Fan of Color, am going to give you some advice on how to grab your CoCs, and what to do if the FoCing Cabal* accuses you of abusing your CoCs. ”
In one last round up, before pointing you to the delicious site, I give you Te of comic fandomdom and fanfic writing fame with:
“It's about fucking time the media recognizes something closer to the full range of Black ”
And LJ's WordofAStory on Cultural Appropriation & Defining The Other:
“ I took a writing class a few months ago. I happened to be one of the last to turn in my manuscript for critique, and so got to read nearly everyone else's before writing mine (because I didn't write mine until the night before it was due, of course). I got so annoyed with every single person writing about a white, middle class, suburban character who was living in Ohio that I deliberately wrote about an exteremly poor Middle Eastern character and set it in an unnamed location, but which was clearly not Ohio. And nearly every single one of the comments I got back wanted to know- how does this character feel about her race? Why didn't you talk more about her race? I want to know how her race affects the way she feels about this other character. I was furious. ”
It's slightly tangential as it isn't specifically about speculative fiction, but I think it's worth the read.
Guest blogger N. K. Jemison. in her essay hosted by Angry Black Woman discusses "No More Lilly White Futures & Monochrome Myths". It certainly got my attention, because I've currently overcome my own subconscious habit of thinking the world of scifi needed to be either white or description free. Click here for my personal response. It might make you smile.
Still, Jeminson has a point which set up a theme for a few ensuing blog posts.
“The show is set several hundred years in the future. White men are in the severe minority now on this planet, destined to become far more so if current demographic trends continue. Yet the Enterprise has a crew overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Another example is the current longest-running SF show on TV, Stargate SG-1, which has pretty much relegated people of color to the role of superstitious space-primitives (carrying space-spears, no less). There’s a whole planet of ‘em, or two or three. But there still aren’t many in the show’s version of the American military. ”
Her post links directly an extremely long conversation where in the SFWA get smacked in the face by the fact they've been coasting in terms of racism and race awareness and the promotion of and recruiting of young authors of color. There's actually a point where someone compares the lack of diversity in the organization and it's unwillingness to change with past resistance of SFWA members against the word processor - seriously, go read it here and skip all the rest if you think I'm kidding. It's mind blowing.
Also on point, if more touching, aggravating and poignant was this post on ♣ deadbrowalking from Delux Vivens and all the comments following.
“ Apparently its sorta expected for us to be Trek fans (especially of DS9 and ST:TNG) and maybe Firefly fans, but watching Who from back when Baker was the Doctor, being able to recite chapter and verse of Highlander or the X-files, and reading any books ever are astonishing signs of the earth shifting its axis.”
And as one fan put it in the comments:
“Just because they don't see us at cons, doesn't mean we don't exist. ”
We're all but invisible as consumers of SF product as well as being invisible in the SF product. The Angry Black Woman, however, has something to say about promoting diversity in fiction markets.
“Why isn’t the slushpile more diverse? There are several factors, some of which have nothing to do with the magazine or editor. Writing requires free time, some measure of economic stability, money, and a supportive environment. There are some writers who, despite all of these drawbacks, were able to make sales and become famous, but they represent a small minority.”
And she's not alone. Tobias Buckell speaks up too.
“ As for myself, online I keep seeing the same repetition. Someone says SF/F isn’t diverse, people respond by chanting “Hopkinson, Butler, Delany, Barnes” like it’s a magical phrase that dispels the +10 diversity attack spell. ”
Kawasi of 'Ramblings of an African Geek' puts up a Race & Science Fiction FAQ.
“ ...I’ve noticed a trend when this topic come s up of a set of basic excuses/rationalizations that always get rolled out...”
I personally recognize quite a few of the excuses from Racism Bingo.
Just as important, though again only tangentially related is Millenia Black's, a romance writer, complaint against her publishers. One blogger got her hands on a copy of the complaint.
“On information and belief, defendants’ employee and agent, Kara Cesare, who was assigned by Penguin to be Aldred’s editor, asked plaintiff’s agent, Sara Camilli, whether she had ever met Aldred in person and whether Aldred was black or white. Camilli responded that Aldred is black. ”
If publishers can set a standard of thinking that a black author has to be writing about black characters and be marketed as such, then that will undoubtedly affect any scifi/fantasy writers, or paranormal romance authors of color. Do publishers believe that black folk have nothing to say that will appeal to a broader audience? Or is it as Mat Johnson believes. They don't want to read anything where they aren't the center of attention, for good or ill.
Self-centeredness? Or some strange twisted belief that 'THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE' and Octavia Butler was it.
And speaking of Octavia Butler....
CONVENTIONS & CON REPORTS
'We're all the next Octavia Butler'. WISCON 31's Panel: Genre Tokenism Today: The New Octavia Butler. I suggest a look at the transcripts. There's a real feeling of admiration and gratitude to Butler for the path she forged and yet an intense frustration to the publishing world for wanting to make every black writer of science fiction into some kind of Octavia mold, or at least to see us all in said mold, as if we're not allowed to be as different and varied in our writing as non-blacks.
Also relevant among those con reports, are the following link write-ups, as I cannot begin to get into everything that's gone on in the WISCON 31 (2007) Con Reports regarding racism and white privilege. It starts with the Panel But The Master Has A Black & Decker, wherein just by the very name, those in charge of the panels show a certain level of Cultural Appropriation mixed with Cultural Unawareness.
EXIBITS / EVENTS / AWARDS
Looking For A Face Like Mine . May 12 - Sept. 10, 2007. From the Museum of Comics & Cartoon Art is a show to explore and examine the roles African Americans have played in the comics and cartoon industry. The Museum is in NYC, NY. 594 Broadway, (between Houston and Prince)New York, NY 10012.
“ 'Blacks were deliberately left out of comics and American society for many years,' Foster noted. 'On those rare occasions when we were included, we were misrepresented as savages, cannibals, simpletons, and worse. My research documents this important history both fair and foul, for all time, while there are still traces of it left.'”
General admission $5. Children under 12 for free. Are you going to NYC sometime this summer?
The Glyph Awards. From historical analysis to current times, the The East Coast Black Age Of Comics Convention, held their first annual awards for outstanding achievement in black comics. Mikaela of Mikahela.Net offers a pictorial review and more of this occasion to honor those striving to carve a presence in a majority white industry.
Angelina Jolie has been tapped to play The Fox in a movie version of Mark Millar's WANTED. Fox in the comics is a brown female play off of DC's Catwoman. She's sleek, she's smooth, she's a jewel thief and her ex-boyfriend is 'The Detective'. But with Angelina Jolie playing her, she'll no longer be a sistah.
Now I know rumors fly all over the place as to whether or not Angelina has Iroquois blood in her. And thus would make her a woman of color. But I don't think the 'one drop' rule even matters when she's almost always played white characters. Her recent role as Mariane Pearl not withstanding. I'm left wondering what have we done, or failed to do that Hollywood doesn't think twice about putting a white actress in a woman of color's role. Whatever Halle Berry did to the association of black women and comicbook movies can't have been bad enough that known and unknown black actresses never even get to see the casting door.
And Jolie is not the only one taking on character of color roles. Jessica Biel has been rumored as lately as May 2007 as taking on the role of an Asian character in the 2008 movie version of Street Fighter, Chun Li. Angry Asian Man is pissed as hell over it. And the rumors don't seem to be going away. Just Google Jessica Biel and Chun Li and see what some other critics think. Though you probably might not agree with all of them. They probably see 'cute white hot young blonde chick doing martial arts'; not OMG WTF Cultural Appropriation - ColorBlindness Leads To Invisibility.
In somewhat brighter news the seventh smartest person in the world of Marvelverse has returned. Amadeus Cho. I don't know him from Adam or a hole in the ground, but it's an Asian character getting play and I'm thinking he has fans out there who're overjoyed to see him again.
Just the same way fans of Daughters of the Dragon would love to actually see Misty and Colleen and not the really tanned chick with the puffy Buckingham Palace Guard Hat (guides on how to draw black hair, obviously needed) and that blonde chick with the slanted eyes.
But Brad MacKay has something to say about Black Superheroes, the Hero Deficit and why we don't see enough African Americans in the media. He's done research and asked questions and gotten some very interesting responses.
“ Reginald Hudlin: ... Somehow, in this medium people are so out of touch with popular culture that they don’t understand that black culture is popular culture.””
It's a beautiful article, the original un-edited version, discussing everything comics fandom is missing out on by sticking to a nostalgia base. For discussion see the re-posting of newspaper 'The Star's version at One Diverse Comic Book Nation.
And it'll be a good buffer before reading 'Why Don't Black Books Sell'.
“ Alan Grant: I'm pretty sure "black books" sell okay in Africa...”
SilverBullet Comics asked some creators and noted their responses. The above is just one of many replies, some of which are incredibly thoughtful about institutional racism in the industry.
SilverBullet Comics also hosted Myth Conceptions - Black History of Comics during Black History Month in February.
“ When reality is so depressing and oppressive, who can dream about the wonders of fantasy and science fiction? To frame it a little differently, it’s kind of hard to dream about flying through the air like Superman, if you can’t get a decent education on a day to day basis. Or how can you have these grand visions of soaring to the stars in a space ship, if you can’t get a decent job or even vote here on earth.&8221
While my mind blanked out when I thought I read praise for Joe Quesada. I will be re-reading this, especially in light of Christopher J Priest's experience trying to produce his comic Xero. Some say there's progress, look at Storm, Black Panther in comics, look at Dwayne McDuffie. But I think when we're still pointing out exceptions, there's something wrong with the system.
Slightly related to comics is the background history for the character known as 'The Hatian' to most viewers of NBC's Heroes. To members of a certain LJ community, however, he's called Bob. The online comic adjunct to the series has revealed a stereotypical and (I find personally) insulting history for the character who still has no name, but whose foundation is now one of superstitious darkie. Chapters 35 to 38 are all about voodoo, sexual appetites and a white man coming to save the day. As someone of Caribbean descent and who has found herself involved in Haitian culture, the amount of stabbings I want to do to this drek and the people who insensitively created it are best left lightly mentioned but not expressed.
In less aggravating news CBS's Jericho has been renewed. And this summer the first season is being repeated to draw in more veiwers. Fridays, 9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT. Yes, there is only one black man in the show, thus making only one black family in the show. And yes, the world as we know it now has ended but those black women found pressing combs and good conditioner. But Robert Hawkins is a vital character. He's in the know in a way the other characters on the show are not. He's involved in a way they are not. And all of this happens while he's being a strong black man, a concerned father and an intelligence agent trying to juggle his strong feelings for his family against national security. His is a plot line that rises to the top and we don't often get to see that.
And speaking of strong black characters who've won over majority white audiences, the character of Martha Jones, the latest Dr. Who companion and the first black female companion (I count Mickey as the first black companion) has had an outpouring of outrage over her treatment on the show.
Dr. Who is the longest running scifi television series ever. There was enormous excitement over Companions of Color. But now the season finale has left many viewers talking about institutional racism; Mikey, Martha And The Message That Doesnt' Belong On Who. It's also left them discussing whether or not TPTB for the show were aware of just how they'd marked the character; Martha As Mammy And More' Isms' In The Whoverse. The last post is especially interesting for a thread wherein someone compares being black to being a redhead. No lie, I'm totally serious here.
I'm also being serious when I point you to this link where a self admitted priviledged white chick starts talking about the possible racism with Martha in Who and how she thinks people are stretching to find offense. But when called out for telling minorities how they should feel, she then insists her conversation was only meant for other priviledged white chicks.
Yup, typewriters, redheads and other white people, when it comes to looking at racism in certain SF institutions, we're objects or just like them only tanner.
Are we really meant to just be grateful we see ourselves reflected on the screen in the first place and not complain at the treatment of those characters?
I say no.
The FoCing Cabal (Fans of Color) are restless. They've been restless for a while and it's likely that I'm only just noticing how restless we are in fandom. In a space where it's all about shifting paradigms and counter-culture and reinterpreting the text and expanding and spinning it and playing with it... there's a huge and obvious lack.
MakesMeWannaDie @ Livejournal sums up in very few words why The Archive For Fanfiction For Characters of Color: Remember Us is important.
And now that archive, is not alone. Livejournal plays host to Fanfic of Color, a community for posting fic and also discussion of Characters of Color. It's a new space being carved and realized - check it out.
I mentioned Millenia Black, earlier, and romance writing and racism in publishing, but that's not the only 'out of the corner of the eye' situation going on when it comes to protagonists of color in genres that can be intertwined with SF. Where are all the People of Color Young Adult SF? Why are libraries and bookstores filling up with ghetto-lit and street-lit but not something magical, something about saving the world, or discovering magic powers ? There should be more out there than retellings of fairy tales like Bound by Donna Jo Napoli. Disappearing Black Girls In Young Adult Literature, takes a look at YA literature and how it seems to be devoid of colour.
I've had the opportunity to pour through bookstores and the library recently and I couldn't find anything. There were a few young black or Asian or East Indian girls in high school scenarios. But young adults of colour in fantasy settings? Where are they?
Does anyone know of any articles discussing why we have no Menollys or Vanyels?
Though that does lead me directly to the very freshest and newest wtf.
America loves a new racial profile to stereotype and jail. Asian Highschooler and Gamer, Paul Hwang, age 17, is labeled a threat, for putting a detailed build and description of his high school in his Counter-Strike Map. This is May news. I'd like to be facetious and suggest we all wait two more months for the newest Asian stereotype to turn up in television - Not only will Asian men not get the girl, they'll now all be labeled as potential threats to national safety and security. Except that now in July I can't find a follow-up mention of him any where. A teenager's life is blasted open by 'suspicion' and scapegoating and that's it. I'm not a gamer, I'm interested in gamer responses to what happened to this boy.
In other news: "I Gotta Pay To Be Black?. Yes, yes you do.
"Black is an EXTRA feature. It makes your person look unique, so that is an EXTRA feature. Therefore, you having to PAY for it. (Or ask a friend to pay for it).".
Game company Acclaim is branching out. And no, I'm not giving them direct linkage so - http://dance.acclaim.com/index.htm. The game's in beta and the forum moderators believe it's making a fuss out of nothing to insist that a game in beta not think of white as the default.
But if that pisses you off, you're not going to want to hear Chris Mottes defending his company's games as not being racist. He claims there's a double standard. He wonders why bigoted, racially insensitive characters can exist in movies like The Departed but not in his games (doesn't that contradiction of motives just hurt your head?).
Still, someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Jack Nicholson play the 'bad guy' in that movie? The man who is definitely in the wrong and who does several bad bad things? I haven't seen it, but I'm pretty sure all the trailers etc pointed him out as the bad guy.
Chris Mottes is claiming artistic expression for games, games such as one wherein there's supposedly a move called burrito blasts.
But it's all okay, because this native South African says there's nothing intentionally offensive in his games at all and he did hire Mexican-American voice actors and tried to promote some Mexican underground bands using their music.
I have no more words.
Next Carnival: August 15th. Hopefully hosted by Angry Black Woman