Is speculative fiction a "whites-only" artform?
You'd kind of hope not, but the evidence from Fireside Fiction's research makes grim-as-fuck reading. I urge you to look over their research and editorials yourself and a related Guardian article but the bottom line here is that of 2039 speculative stories published in 2015, only 38 were by writers who identify racially as black. That's less than 2%.
Some have quibbled that without knowing how many actual submissions from black writers there were in the sample, the study's conclusion is meaningless, but such sophistry badly misses the point.
If only 2% of stories published are by black writers then regardless of the reason then speculative fiction is deep in the bantha poodoo. As a genre that supposedly opens up a discourse with the possible, in the face of these numbers, you've got to ask yourself: exactly whose possibilities are we writing about here?
Reading the articles got me wondering though, what do I know about black speculative fiction?
Answer: fuck all really.
Which then got me thinking, doesn't that really make me part of the problem? Worse still, perhaps, is there anything I can actually do about that ? I'm not an editor on a pro-magazine. I'm obviously not a Gaiman or a Scalzi. In summary, I have bugger all clout in the spec-fic community.
Upon reflection, the only thing I think I can really do is make a concerted effort to buy and read more speculative fiction by black authors. So, with that in mind, I've found a couple of resources to help remedy my ignorance. And I've committed to read (write about) a book by one of these writers every month.
Of course this doesn't really make any difference in the grand scheme of things, and while it may not be anything like a solution, maybe it'll make me less of a problem.
- Top Ten Books To Read For Black Speculative Fiction Newbies
(Via BlackSciFi.com http://www.blacksci-fi.com/top-ten-books-to-read-for-black-speculative-fiction-newbies/ )
- 7 Black Women Speculative Fiction Writers Everyone Should know - http://www.forharriet.com/2014/08/7-black-women-science-fiction-writers.html#axzz4KKsLaCuW (with thanks to ...)
- And I'm starting with this: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Matter-Century-Speculative-Diaspora/dp/0446525839
On a related note, our only UK equivalent to Clarion and Viable Paradise, the Milford Writers Conference, is providing a bursary to fund two places for persons of colour for the 2017 Milford (9th September-16th September). Here are the details, reproduced from their newsletter:
"Each bursary is worth £610 and covers the whole cost of the Milford week, inclusive of accommodation and all meals - but doesn't cover the cost of transport. Applications open on 1st October 2016 and close on 28th February ... You can find out all the details and download the form from the website at http://www.milfordSF.co.uk"