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Where Are All The People of Color in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?

Alright, everybody. Check your privilege at the door, ’cause we’ve got some important things to talk about today. If you’re like me (a middle-aged white dude or dudette) this conversation might make you a little uncomfortable, but that’s okay, you can deal with a little discomfort, right? I see you nodding an enthusiastic agreement (or is that a seizure? either way, we’re moving forward. Tallyho!).

Mind BreachA couple weeks ago I did a cover reveal for my forthcoming novel, Mind Breach. Overall, it was very well-received. But, as is the case with most parties I’ve ever been too, somebody just couldn’t resist tinkling in the punch bowl. They sent me an email that could be distilled as follows:

“You’ll sell more books if you put a white girl on the cover.”

– Probably A Well-Meaning Fan

Here, alone in my office, I expressed my frustration with a range of indignant hand-gesticulations and incoherent babbling. After working myself into a white-hot lather, I succumbed to the emotional exhaustion and took a nap (yes, I process most, if not all, my problems like a toddler). When I woke up, the anger had subsided, leaving me able to objectively analyze why this email had elicited such a visceral response.

The results were troubling because it brought to the forefront of my mind a problem I’d largely been ignoring (such is the convenience and villainy of white privilege, I suppose):

“Covers with people of color on them don’t sell.”

We’ve heard this one from the marketing teams at big publishing houses for a long time now. Without access to sales reports, we’ll just have to take their word for it—they are the experts after-all. Problem is, that adage is probably true; people of color on covers don’t sell books.

But the question you should be asking is: Why?

Trying to answer this leads to a Chicken or the Egg type puzzle. On the one hand, sci-fi/fantasy is a fairly homogeneous group dominated by people a lot like me (middle-aged white guy) with a fair smattering of people like my girlfriend (middle-aged white ladies). Common wisdom states people like reading about themselves, therefore you’d better put some white people on the cover. But, by that logic, the community is self-selecting the type of reader welcomed within the hallowed walls of fandom, and utterly ignoring everybody else.

So sure, the primary reader of sci-fi/fantasy is a white guy or gal precisely because that’s the demographic publishing houses are selling to.

Which, in fairness, is not always the same audience the author is writing to. Ursula K. Le Guin has populated her books with people of color for decades now, and even she (beloved Grandmistress of Sci-Fi that she is) has difficulty convincing the publishing houses to put people of color on her covers.

Le Guin has written frequently on this topic in the past, and summarizes the situation as follows:

“In a way it’s self-fulfilling, for if no one in America ever sees a book with a person of color on the cover, a book with a person of color on it may look quite strange, unfriendly, to something like 77% of possible American readers… Oh, it’s something about Them, it isn’t about Us, I only want to read about Us.”

-Ursula K. Le Guin (Knowing a Book by its Cover)

So here’s the real question we should be asking ourselves: Do books with people of color on the cover not sell because nobody wants to read them, or because there are so few on the shelves that they look strange and out-of-place when we do see them?

Wait, I see you over there, arms crossed and shaking your head. You don’t believe me, do you? Think I’m making mountains out of moles or something (<—pretty sure that’s how the phrase goes).

I’m as contrarian as the next guy, so the preempt your protests I went on a little field-trip to the bookstore (which was really just an excuse to get out of the office for a few hours).

IMG958038

Not a single person of color shown here. This is a problem.

At Barnes and Noble I carried out one of the most tedious, and possibly lamest, tasks of my life. I rifled through 1,500 books in the sci-fi/fantasy aisle marking every time a white boy or girl appeared on a cover versus a boy or girl person of color.

From the outset I predicted there’d be an 80/20 split in favor of whites. Which would’ve been an incredibly lopsided result, but as it turns out, I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

Here are the results:

Of the 1,500 books polled there were 594 ethnically recognizable people featured on the cover. Of those 594, 248 were white males (42%) and 294 were white females (49%). 18 were a male POC (3%) and 34 were a female POC (5%). Meaning that people of color only represented 8% of the results.

Consider for a moment that I live in Oakland, CA where (according to the 2010 Census) white people only make up 25% of the population and you start to get an idea of how bonkers this result is.

I have to admit I’ve been swimming in a kiddie-pool of my own ignorance for years now. At the bookstore, those covers splattered with white people are directed at me; I never even noticed the utter lack of people of color.

I’m part of the problem because I didn’t even recognize that there was a problem.

This whitewashing of book covers has gotten so extreme that it’s become the rule (and not the exception) to put a white person on the cover even if the main character of said book is a person of non-white background.

Here are two classic examples of books with main characters clearly defined as being of color and the resulting covers. Note that in both of these instances, uproar and indignation from the readership and author eventually lead to new covers being released.

 

If nothing else this proves change is possible, if we demand it. Which is frustrating because it’s what…2015 or something? We shouldn’t have to remind the publishing houses that the world is not a white sugar-coated candy shell. It’s a thousand times more diverse and colorful than 90% of covers would indicate.

The world is shrinking a bit more everyday in terms of inter-connectivity. The lines that divide us are thinner than ever, but they still exist. It’s about time we let go of the antiquated idea that white people are the only market for sci-fi/fantasy.

Want to prove this to the publishing houses? There’s only one way to do it (actually there are probably more ways than just the one, but I’m lazy so you only get one action step): Support those authors and publishing houses forward thinking enough to put people of color on their covers. Show them that there is a market for diversity, and that white people on covers are not the only way.

Maybe then I won’t have to field emails from people wondering why there’s an Asian woman on the cover of my book (hint: it’s because she’s Asian!).

Don’t know which books to start with? Try some of these out…

 


About Anthony Vicino (12 Articles)
Anthony Vicino has erected a word-fortress in the cyber-slum over at OneLazyRobotBlog.com where he writes about anything and everything SFF related. Stop over and see what he's scribbling on the wall.

82 Comments on Where Are All The People of Color in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?

  1. Makes you wonder if they shouldn’t be objecting to black ink type and insisting on white. I could see how they could relate to that. Blank.

    My favourite cover art doesn’t have a “pale face” on it. Julian Jay Savarin’s ‘LEMMUS: WAITERS ON THE DANCE’ features 3 majestic humanoid types featuring a light blue face, another with golden skin the last one darker. An amazing cover that drew the eye straight away.

  2. I agree with the basic premise that there should be more representation of People of Color (and indeed, other minorities) in all aspects of the genre – as authors, as editors, as artists, as fans, as characters, as art.

    Your post prompted me to take a look at SF book covers from the 50s and 60s (a time when there was even less minority representation in the field) and I was struck by the fact that my cursory overview revealed a seeming majority of covers devoted to either abstract representations or to depictions of things but not people. In those cases where people were featured on the cover, they were either too abstractly depicted to determine race or even gender or depicted a character from the story (which in those days almost always meant white person).
    As an aside to your argument (and not meant as a replacement argument): it strikes me that abstracts and non-identifying artwork on SF/F/H covers offers the opportunity to appeal to anyone (except for people who hate spaceships, planets and dragons) and makes good marketing sense when one is trying to appeal to the widest possible audience.
    I’m not advocating that as a solution to the issue, just remarking in response to what you’ve pointed out. And wondering if the shift in cover art doesn’t reflect a shift in the focus of genre (SF in particular) from sci/tech focus to people focus.

  3. Did you run across DJ Older’s SHADOWSHAPER cover in your search? It’s one of my recent favorites.

    • In fantasy, books where the main character is a poc often have things that aren’t people on them. NK Jemisin’s 100,000 Kingdoms books have architecture, for instance, with nary a human in sight.

      But I believe that readers are more drawn to books with human figures on them, because they give the customer something they can relate to. I know I didn’t pick up George RR Martin’s novels for the longest time, because the “heraldry” covers that were on the US editions of the trade paperbacks were so dull and generic.

      Cover designers can get sneaky by having the character’s face hidden by cloaks or armor too.

      But dodging the issue doesn’t fix the underlying problem–white people oftendon’t learn to identify or empathize with people of other races. The fact is, people of color are a lot more used to buying things with white people on them than the reverse. There’s nothing immutably biological or sociological about this. It’s simply that they’ve had lots of practice at it.

  4. Hengist Montgomery Greaves // August 11, 2015 at 7:52 am //

    “It’s about time we let go of the antiquated idea that white people are the only market for sci-fi/fantasy.”

    What percentage of the SFF-fiction buying public is non-white?

    • I think it almost certainly depends on how you define SFF. Toni Morrison’s Beloved contains fantasy elements. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man likewise. Sherman Alexie, Zora Hurston, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Walter Mosley, Laura Esquival, Ben Okri, Arundhati Roy, etc are all nonwhite bestselling authors who write non-realistic fiction that maybe isn’t always folded into the ‘traditional’ SFF canon. I’d wager significant portions of their audiences are also non-white.

      • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey // August 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm //

        Walter Mosley, when I talked to him, certainly was looking for his SF in the SF section, and I believe would have been startled to have seen it shelved somewhere else. He was gracious about autographing my copies of his SF, too.

        (Where else would they have been shelved? With Zane and Iceberg Slim in the “Urban Fiction” section? In mysteries, because he’s best-known as a mystery writer?)

        • I’m not sure what you’re saying. I have Mosley’s most recent book on my bookshelf at home too. Certainly there’s plenty of traditional SFF written by PoCs, shelved in the SFF section, c.f. ASciFiWriter’s comment below. My point, which I guess I made somewhat obscure, is that in order to determine those demographics, you have to make the decision to put walls around genre, at which point you’ve already made decisions about what is inside and what’s outside. In so doing, you can pretty easily make those demographic results whatever you want. For instance, if I include YA in my SFF genre, all of a sudden there’s pretty decent gender parity and the average age of SFF readers is a bit lower. If I include ‘urban fantasy’ and alternate history romances, then most SFF readers are undoubtedly women (since those genres seem to outsell ‘traditional’ SFF.) I guess I’m saying that if you cut away your genre by definition until all that’s left is stuff that’s calculated to maximize appeal to white men, it’s not too surprising if most of the readers of that stuff are white men.

          • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey // August 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm //

            “…if you cut away your genre by definition until all that’s left is stuff that’s calculated to maximize appeal to white men, it’s not too surprising if most of the readers of that stuff are white men”
            Okay, we’re in full accord on that. I just never thought any sane person would want to exclude Mosley, frex, from their concept of what constitutes SF, any more than any non-bigot could exclude, say, BROWN GIRL IN THE RING or the Xenogenesis series.

    • If the percentage is low, shouldn’t we try to increase it? Don’t we WANT more people reading SF? Aren’t we interested in NEW stories?

  5. Personally, I thought the covers with POCs to be stronger, have more of an impact. Look at our demographic – do you want to sell more books? Change your covers to have a POC.
    Perhaps I am somewhat biased because my adopted daughter is a POC, and I do look at people differently since adopting her. And she’s been the model for all of my covers, as little as you see of her.
    This is a great piece. Keep them coming.

  6. The only ones I could find after a quick look at my own shelves were “God’s War” by Kameron Hurley (has a male and a female, both POCs) (and the sequel, “Infidel”, which has a male POC and a female white), and “Dark Orbit” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (female, only ethnically identifiable person on the cover, assuming ‘brownish skin’ counts as ethnically identifiable).

  7. Has anyone thought of actually checking out the people that actually buy Science Fiction books. If people will sell their own mother for a buck, why do you think a capitalist society where ANYONE can make a buck if he can find a buyer. Maybe they do not have more minority writers(People of color is a racist and exclusive term) because the pool of minority readers are just that(a small minority) now we all know this is true but it’s the elephant in the room that refuses to be mentioned even during this racial mud slinging.

    Us newly pegged Middle aged Nazi’s used to be the Liberal Skinny Nerds that the jocks picked on and the girls laughed at(yes not all, but enough for a stereotype)
    I don’t remember anyone saying they needed to check their privilege at the door. I dont remember any Whites only signs on the doors.

    And whose privilege is checked at the white house door Hmmm.

    This is like all the Jim Hiney and other’s complaints about how sexist SF cover art is. Well you can all take the time and see almost every single cover art of this loved/despised genre on this site for the last several years. But if you really do not want to see a lack of Patriarchy art, then I would suggest you not do so and just keep on hating because frankly they are few and far between.

    And if you want to fight a sexist stereotype in fiction. Then write a Dear Fabio letter and look no further then the Romance genre. Now that was sexist cover art times 1000.

    In fact search a little more on the sexism of the Romance genre. The only articles you will find about sexism on that almost total Matriarchy are not about female sexism but of Male Sexism.

    Now that is True Privilege.

    P.S. how quickly did you discount everything I said,. That’s right maybe I’m not Human
    Beep Beep.

    • “because the pool of minority readers are just that(a small minority) now we all know this is true but it’s the elephant in the room”

      Since there is no data to support this maybe you should try living in modern times rather than the 1950s – you might be surprised how much has changed (yet unfortuenetly based on yoyr comments and other recent actions, a lot has not)

      • Denying a truth doesn’t make a lie that sounds better the truth.

        If you cannot be honest, then why bother.

  8. So you can only read books by people who look just like you? Can’t believe someone wrote “Maybe they do not have more minority writers(People of color is a racist and exclusive term) because the pool of minority readers are just that(a small minority)”. Oh wait, yes I can!!

  9. TheAderian // August 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm //

    Firstly, I work in a largely black city in the human services field and have done so for a very long amount of time. It’s my job to get to know people and know them well and so I understand the interests of huge amounts of people. It’s not scientific, but I have a pretty good example of the interests of at least one group of “people who have color” (A stupid term).

    People of color is in fact a stupid term because it’s not about genetics but culture. Culture largely drives what we find interesting and interesting determines what we want to consume.

    Regarding the black community, there’s two things going on. The first is that both African culture and the African American one, tends to be grounded in concrete reality and subject matter. For instance, music tends to have lyrics like “I want to dance” or “I want to fuck” and there’s not a lot to guess about. Meanwhile, many European bands will write lyrics that people will wonder about the meaning of for years.

    Black movies tend to be relationship dramas or about struggles in urban settings. In other words, they mirror reality very strongly. It’s just like the music. European cultural films can be bizarre, metaphorical, allegorical, or concrete.

    There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc. I have never met an urban black person who talks about science fiction concepts wonders what’s on some planet, some star, etc or laments the loss of the space program, they would rather that money spent in their community. I have met black people who grew up in white areas who dream about these things though, thus proving to me that it’s all cultural. Anyway, if the average black person doesn’t engage in much fantasy then reading a science fiction novel will just seem like a “hot mess” a jumble of stupid ideas and a waste of time.

    Most blacks wonder how to navigate this plant and obtain a middle class lifestyle, not how to survive in some impossible future or fantasy world. That doesn’t mean blacks are better or worse, but that’s my typical observation based on topics of conversation.

    Regarding fantasy, most fantasy, straight up fantasy, is based on idealized times in the UK. Asians, especially Japanese, also have lots of fantasy material about similar historical times in their country. However, many other cultures don’t have that because they don’t have similar fantastic cultural roots. Black Americans have a confused cultural background due to slavery mashing all groups from Africa together thus erasing their historical identity. As an example, white people can frequently tell someone is “Irish” by how they look, blacks in America cannot do that with other blacks.

    The black issues is also similar to Native American culture. They have all kinds of great fantastic stuff from religion, to varied “good” and “evil” tribes in the past. However, much like blacks they’re “defeated” people and I don’t believe they want to fantasize about the past as it would seem pathetic. Europeans can idealize the past because all of that led to the present “awesomeness” of European based culture.

    All of the above, I believe, influences white writers heavily, without them consciously knowing it. Based on what I’ve said, other cultures/races, seem primitive as they tend to be “grounded” on Earth. That mixed with the tendency for many ethnic groups being associated with crime, low tech living, and a lack of interesting folk history makes white people dismiss their existence and see it as a “primitive” remnant of Earth. Thus, they don’t tend to have evolved into the future in countless stories, but likely died out somewhere in the distant past.

    It is similar to not wanting the leave Earth because you would miss squirrels. I doubt most writers would think to include squirrels in their stories just ensure us they still exist on Planet X in the year 3000. There’s no purposeful bias against squirrels, they just seem very terrestrial and don’t matter.

    Regarding fantasy, I’ve noticed that say “Orks” tend to look a lot like blacks and act in a stereotypical uneducated manner of a violent user type. In my city, due to poor education and black cultural bias against education, there are bands of orks that rove around. From a social perspective, I get why these people exist, but to a more concrete thinker these people seem like monsters. Thus, I see fantasy as been a set of wishes about when white people had an isolated white society where everything worked and one could be an individual winner. The various other races in fantasy typically share close ties to “people of color” and so fantasy isn’t nostalgia but rather an allegory about present life and disappointments.

    So, other races/cultures avoid fantasy and science fiction because it does not appeal to their interests and dreams. White writers have a strong cultural interest in what could be, much like religions used to provide, and maintaining the clannish/tribal interests of the past.

    I don’t believe any of this is bad! If Hillbillies love blue grass music, great, let them play and listen. I’m not interested in it, I like rock music because the lyrics and sounds appeal to me. I don’t need to write or buy Hillbilly music and vice versa.

    Art does not have to be inclusive.

    • Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) // August 12, 2015 at 11:22 am //

      @the Aderian

      Let me try and recap your argument:

      POC generally don’t read F/SF because of cultural reasons.
      Therefore POC in turn don’t need to be represented in F/SF.

      Do I have that right?

      • I had originally planned to sink my teeth into you but I realized something. You don’t realize what you’re saying. You don’t understand just how wrong it is to stereotype people based on your limited sample in your working experience.

        If you work in social services, you are working with the poorest and least educated among People of Color. Making an assumption about us in this way would be the same thing as me saying every hedgefund manager whose White and has no problem stealing from their clients, means every White person is a lying, thieving bastard.

        Instead, I am going to say to you: Broaden your sample base and get your head out of your ass. There are plenty of People of Color (POC) who read, write and enjoy speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, the more outrageous the better. I have been reading speculative fiction for forty years and know all of the masters of the craft from Asimov to Zelazny.

        I am a writer of speculative fiction, have written roleplaying materials, write prolifically on science, future technologies, social developments and humanity’s eventual role as Earth’s premiere super-organism.

        When you make a blanket statement about Blacks or People of Color as if you know every single one of us, you not only paint yourself as an ignorant racist, you denigrate people of color as having no opportunities, no future, and no vision. That sir, is as far from the truth as you waking tomorrow enlightened enough to understand what I am talking about.

        Take the time to read a bit more about those of us who are out here writing about a future for everyone, not just for the pretty White people on the cover of those books they turn into movies filled with White people who pretend Black people don’t exist in the future.

        You wish.

        Thaddeus Howze: http://hubcityblues.com

        • You just know I’ll head directly over to that site to follow you, right?
          Yep!

        • Love HubCityBlues!

        • I had a cute Indian young woman from the Humane Society come to the door today talking about how animals like dogs and cats need help as their are many that are abused physically that need our help.

          Her big sad story she used to tell me about it was to ask if I had heard of Mike Vick. I said yes I certainly had,She said what do you think was his excuse for thinking he wasn’t doing something very wrong.
          I thought about it a sec, but I already knew the answer. I heard it hundreds of times and I’ve known plenty of POC.In fact my sister thinks her dog abusive POC boyfriend might have poisoned her dog(course no way to prove it so it’s still only a educated guess)
          But I answered.
          “probably said it was part of his culture”
          She said that I was correct.
          We both agreed that it was quite sad.

          Now some here who are generalizing the evil straight white male will be quick to jump on me and whine that there are plenty of dog loving POC(yes I do know this, I did a generalization as you do to pretend there is a wall stopping black people from becoming Presidents or SF writers.

          There is no Wall. There is a Market but the book sellers will tend to sell books they can sell the most of. If one eyed,2 foot tall afro women with 4 legs sold the best, well you would see a flood of those books.

          And just give us one name who you are condemning as stopping POC anyway. You can’t do it, In fact you would have to condemn a lot of people that agree with you if you went on numbers.

          Ellen Datlow is a strict liberal, Yet there was many anthologies she did with no POC at all, George R.R. Martin has done the same.

          And Daniel Josey Older is openly racist. To mention him as a champion is to defeat any pretense of not being a bigot but also is to admit to being a hypocritical one at that.

          Again no one is saying POC shouldn’t be allowed(those that put those words in people’s mouth in a debate are the problem in itself, No way to have a honest discussion when you do this.

          And I’m still waiting for my tryout for the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m pretty sure I was invisible to them. But I’m sure you got your patented excuses for that too, Right!

          Try not to be so quick to judge when you are standing on a soap box telling people we shouldn’t judge each other.

    • Rowland Smith // August 12, 2015 at 1:50 pm //

      Excuse me? I am a black person who reads fantasy, and science fiction, and happen to think otherwise. If dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent didn’t lack POC, then maybe “I” would at least have given it a chance. But nope. The ignorance of your comment makes you look so bad right now

      • Rue / Thresh / Cinna / Commander Paylor // August 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm //

        Er… Hunger Games does have a lot of black people. Rue, Thresh, Cinna, Commander Paylor… Katniss getting smacked in the face for her comparative white-bread upbringing when she tours District 11 is a key part of the character development. So yeah, while it is a trend in other post-apoc dystopias – I think you’ll enjoy Hunger Games so you should give it a fair chance sometimes.

        • Yes, two people who don’t make it out of the first *book*, and somebody who speaks, what, a total of ten lines? That’s a lot of black people!

    • Have you heard of Afro-Futurism? It’s an African-American movement interested in sci-fi, futurism, etc. Or, have you hear Sun Ra? Parliament/Funkadelic? Flying Lotus with his cosmic music (and who is part of the Coltrane family, who also explored the interstellar in their music)? MF DOOM, with his comic-book inspired raps? And that is just in the music/hip-hop realms. You think black people don’t like sci-fi because you don’t know black folk.Also, keep in mind that the majority of white americans aren’t super into sci-fi – it’s always been a niche/nerdy interest. We aren’t the majority, either.

  10. Sean O'Hara // August 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm //

    There are some very good reasons to prefer “people of color” over the alternatives.

    1) “Minority” is a relative term — Ken Liu and Liu Cixin are both authors of color, but only one of them is a minority author.

    2) “Non-white” makes white the norm and defines everyone else by their lack of whiteness.

    3) We could try an abbreviation the way the LGBT community has, except that would lead to arguments over which group should come first and how many groups should be included before the abbreviation becomes too cumbersome.

  11. Thanks for the interesting article that provides hard numbers on the subject.

    Reading it, and the comments (most of which support diversity), I am starting to wonder if there is some silent majority of people who do like to read only about themselves (figuratively speaking), are not particularly active on the Web, or just don’t advertise their preferences much.

    I doubt the publishers are stupid not to study the sales demographics, but they would never release the numbers so we can only guess. It would be nice if some fun, who incidentally is salesperson at B&N or at some other bookstore reads this ind does a headcount.

  12. I wouldn’t dare try to speak for anyone, but there is a definite problem in modern fiction re: the lack of representation of people of color. The fans are out there, the writers are out there, and yes I think they are a silent majority.
    The loudest voice in the room does not speak for all – as a white person, I am embarrassed by other white people insisting ‘There is no problem with racism in the US.’ And this problem of representation in fiction is real, but if the choice for people of color is between fighting for representation in speculative fiction vs. not being subject to institutionalized racism in my daily life, I know where I would spend my time and energy.
    That said, there are still LOADS of sites, blogs, tumblrs out there that explore lack of representation in fiction/pop culture and are demanding change.
    http://thenerdsofcolor.org/
    http://blackgirlnerds.com/
    http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/
    Thank you for writing this, Anthony! It’s easy to notice these things and think on them but you actually went out and did something about it! Great article!

    • The only people I have ever heard say “There is no longer a problem with racism” has been snarky white liberals putting words in other non existent white people while pretending they are the good ones.

      I don’t know how many POC you know. But the few dozens I got to know, tended to hate what some called White Uncle Toms who condescendingly thought they were a Champion of their cause.

      I could quote some good X or Garvey which states that these types are far worse for race relations then all the KKK and White Supremacists groups put together.

      Again, being Dishonest or pretending solves nothing.

  13. TheAderian // August 12, 2015 at 7:56 am //

    Valentin,

    My comment was long and detailed, but the short version is easy.

    Genres exist because they appeal to certain types of people. An individual is a micro culture. So, each person has different interests. There’s enough of us that are similar and like fantasy/SF. However, there’s also macro cultures and ethnic groups tend to have different interests. Some are geared toward liking fantasy/SF and some aren’t.

    Most people of color aren’t interested in fantasy/SF because the genre doesn’t mess with the cultural interests they were taught.

    • John Appel // August 12, 2015 at 11:19 am //

      Perhaps the people of color you encounter. But you commit the fallacy of assuming your own anecdotal experience extends to an entire population. I suspect a casual examination of actual facts would illustrate the error of your assertions.

      • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 8:59 pm //

        Meanwhile, you’re replying to me with zero basis or experience.

        In addition, we’re talking about a type of art here and people who create and consume it. There’s never going to be a scientific study on what type of art black or Mongolians gravitate to, so it will always be based on observation. Anyway, observation is the basis for scientific study, it starts there.

        It will never ever happen here though, so observation and opinion rule the day.

    • AScifiWriter // August 12, 2015 at 11:26 am //

      Dear TheAderian,

      I too have a short, easy comment.

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

      Also, look up these people you’ve never talked to:

      Karen Lord
      Tobias Buckell
      Nalo Hopkinson
      Toni Morrison
      Tananarive Due
      Bill Campbell
      Octavia Butler
      NK Jemisin
      Nnedi Okorafor
      Edgar Mittelholzer
      Sutton E Griggs
      Samuel R Delaney
      Pauline Hopkins
      WEB Du Bois
      Alexander Dumas

      I will stop now because I don’t have time to list everyone who flies in the face of your baseless theories. Needless to say, we are here. We’ve always been here. Who you personally know is irrelevant as the limited scope of your reading and education is on display for all to see. Please don’t assume others share your short-comings.

      Sincerely,

      A Black/Mixed Race Woman Who Writes Scifi & Fantasy
      A West Indian From a Multi-Cultural Nation Governed By People of Colour
      Someone Who Knows What The Hell She’s Talking About

      • And as reply to TheAderian: I’m a black female nerd. I work in a library, I live in the hood and have all my life, and have worked with other Nerds of Color. So it’s not that there are no Black people interested in the SFF genre, it’s that the person above just doesn’t know any. It also depends on the kind of environment you’re in. The environment I work in, such subjects come up often. They probably wouldn’t if you were a social worker, for example, as people have other, more pressing topics, to discuss in those workspaces.

        Also there are a huge number of websites celebrating black geekiness, including a dating website.

        Also they’re not taking into account the next generation of black scifi geeks and all the ones who are in the closet about it. PoC who are fans of scifi but don’t realize it makes them kind of geeky. They don’t identify themselves as such.
        Trust me, there are plenty of PoC interested in the genre and if we were included more, we’d read more of it. Sometimes a person of color just gets tired of ONLY reading about White men, that’s all.

        • Rowland Smith // August 13, 2015 at 7:47 am //

          I feel you. I used the Hunger Games as the common problem in today’s society. I get so tired of reading about popular books, that feature the near future world, but no black people or POC

        • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:10 pm //

          Please be a good nerd and careful read what I’ve said.

          Nowhere did I say ALL black people, nor was I talking about black people only. It’s illogical to conclude that ALL of any type of person doesn’t like something, but it certainly is logical to conclude that different demographics like certain things.

          Marketing is real and it’s a study of who likes what. I lived in in the West for a bit and all the car commercials were geared to guitar strumming Aryans who fashion themselves hippies. In the East Coast city where I live it’s slick and sexy ballers and white businessmen in car commercials.

          Groups of people tend to like and dislike certain things.

      • You presented POC authors that you are stating proves there are plenty of POC authors out there.

        Well doesn’t that fly in the face of what this article states.

        Now the majority of Liberals in america are White(does that mean they are racist as well)

        It’s very much the same question only publishers are just out for the money.

      • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:04 pm //

        What you posted means little, especially given what I wrote.

        There’s plenty of exceptions to everything all the time, but exceptions don’t disprove a rule. For instance, in the community where I live nearly all black people listen to “black music” and know nothing about rock music, which I like. However, my coworker who is black has a son who loves rock music and knows all of the bands I like.

        That does not mean that black people aren’t giant consumers of rap music and not so much rock music.

        I do know what I’m talking about and I presented it all logically. You did not.

        • AScifiWriter // August 17, 2015 at 8:20 am //

          My, my, you are the one who decides everything, aren’t you, TheAderian? The one who is the expert on other cultures, and then dismisses any evidence that doesn’t support your asinine conclusions as ‘exceptions’. The one who anoints himself as both logical and as someone who knows what they’re talking about apropos of nothing.

          Let me make something very clear to both you and your lapdog Yep. You do not belong to any culture but your own. You cannot claim expertise regarding a culture you do not live in because you’ve stood on the fringes of it. Simply put, not a single person of colour here needs your approval, belief, acceptance or debate about what their culture or race believes in, achieves or concerns itself with. We are not arguing with you. We were giving you a chance to back out of the ignorance you expressed by providing you with helpful links and names. You have rejected it all because you, who are NOT person of colour, have decided for the billions of us what we are really all about and interested in.

          Your privilege is showing and it’s an ugly sight. But no matter. I don’t have to deal with it. The Afro-futurism writers, readers and publishers (that’s scifi and fantasy written from the viewpoint of the African experience by writers from and about the African experience, for anyone open-minded enough to consider it–in other words, not you) do not have to deal with it. All the attendees at this year’s AnimeKon in Barbados don’t have to deal with it. The attendees at the two cons we hold in my Caribbean nation–which is 80% people of African heritage and East Indian heritage–won’t have to deal with it.

          (Love how you skipped over Tobias Buckell’s comment because he had links that make you look like an idiot for claiming black people interested in scifi and fantasy are an exception. Lots of exceptions in Barbados every year. All of them urban dwellers, by the way.)

          We will continue to dream our technicolour dreams, write our own stories and live our own lives, completely without your acceptance because your opinion matters only to you. NOT to people of colour. This in not a debate.

          You claim you did not speak of race or in absolutes, yet it’s there in black and white (to pardon the pun). ‘Black issues’, ‘no African nation’, ‘African culture’. Had you any inkling of culture you would have realised you can’t label your discussion one about culture when you have only presented race as your cultural distinction. Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth.

          For your information, there is no such thing as African culture, or ‘black issues’. There is African-American culture and issues, Senegalese culture and issues, Barbadian culture and issues, German culture, Nigerian culture etc. Culture has nothing to do with skin colour and not even location. It has to do with traditions, history, shared experience and whole bunch of other things that may even exist one without the other. None of which you or Yep have any personal knowledge of.

          Think of it this way–if you want to talk about ‘white culture’, how inappropriate it would be to lump white people in Germany, France and America together. Your cultures have nothing to do with each other. You don’t speak the same languages even. But by your logic, because there are elements that are the same, the entire culture is the same. Because there are black Africans and black African-Americans, their issues are the same. Well, there are white French people and white Americans and you both eat hamburgers and love democracy, so your issues must be the same too.

          See the problem here? No, don’t bother to answer. I know what you’ll say already and I’m not interested.

          Save yourself the trouble of reciting your white saviour stories next time. Spare me the arguments about how because you’ve met and talked to a some black people in your lifetime, you know all there is to know about all kinds of black people everywhere. Because whether you admit it or not, that’s exactly what your post was about. That it’s okay that we don’t care about scifi and fantasy because some stupid made-up reason you came up with.

          Well, we do care. All the writers who responded here, all the readers who called you out, they all care. You can call us exceptions and crown yourself winner of a argument that doesn’t exist all you want. We will continue to write, read and present ourselves in this genre no matter what you think. And bit by bit, we will have our pictures on the covers of books about us and by us because contrary to popular belief, not only is there a market for us, there are far more POC in this world than there are white people. There’s a reason why all the big scifi movies open in foreign markets now before the American market. Plain talk? Money for and interest in the genre is far stronger outside of the US.

          As for Yep–learn to read. This article was not about the numbers of POC authors. It was about the lack of representation of POC on covers, even if the story is about a POC. My comment had to do with TheAderian’s comment, not the story. He claimed African nations aren’t interested in going to space. That urban black people don’t talk about scientific concepts. That none of the black people he met likes scifi and fantasy, so that means none of us do. He thinks asking modern kids about Star Wars means something. Bit ageist to expect young kids struggling through life to know about an almost 40 year old series. I bet if you’d asked those black kids about The Matrix or the Hunger Games, they’d have had something to say.

          In other words, both of you have to stop assuming that your standards for an interest in scifi and fantasy, that your knowledge of what other cultures are about, that your visions for the future, are not only valid, but more valid than those of the persons you are talking about, whose culture you do not share.

          POCs see things differently, because all of us are unique human beings, just like white people, and some of us may not have been interested in educating you. After all, lots of people just tried to on this comment forum and your response was the typical cowardly internet version of ‘well, that’s not my experience so you are wrong’. Thankfully, it’s not the job of any of us to set you straight, and as I said before, no one from my black community of scifi and fantasy lovers will give a damn that you don’t think they exist, or that their numbers don’t meet some standard for assimilation you’ve come up with.

          The world is not about you or your opinions. It will never conform to your silly ideas. Our numbers will continue to grow and thrive while you continue to know nothing, TheAderian.

          Have a nice life.

          • I stopped reading your hate speech at the beginning as soon as you stated black people need my approval to write SF(I never said it) so that means you are the only one who said it.

            Therefore you are the Racist.

            I know lots of POC, In fact I’m a minority of one, and I can tell you what they, X, Garvey etc hate the most and that is the condescending lying to themselves white liberal who pretends to champion and care more for their plight then there own.

            White Uncle Toms only without any of the dignity part.

            Yeah go peddle your own brand of bigotry and self loathing elsewhere, because when you pretend you are above it with me. Ill call out that hypocrite and closeted bigot in you.

            Go away, your dishonesty does no conversation any good.

          • Thank you for saying this.

            • My apologies AScifiWriter. My reply is to you. Thank you for saying what you said and much more eloquently than I would have.

    • Ian Osmond // August 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm //

      Compare the percentage of PoC who you encounter who don’t read SFF to the number of white people who don’t read SFF.

      You ever notice that most white people just don’t read much SFF? I mean, they’ll go and see superhero movies and stuff, but, generally speaking, most white people just don’t care about the literature of ideas, spaceflight, and so forth.

      In fact, a shockingly high percentage of white people don’t read books AT ALL.

      What do you think it is about white culture that tends to promote this intellectual incuriosity?

      • Snarky I’ll reply
        You mean about pretending to give a F’ that it’s a outrage that blacks are not published more often.

        Truth is that our loved field that is being hated on is a minority in the publishing world. And one in which skinny girlfriend’less white nerds was the face of for a long time. A Group that was very much discounted themselves.

        And with self publishing being the future is now. Why again are we finding reasons to hate on the field again.

        This is why people wanted modern politics out of SF, You cannot have a honest open discussion about it, So why bother.

  14. I see it’s that time of year for the ‘poc don’t read SF/F’ statements from the willfully ignorant.

    Meanwhile: http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2011/07/04/whats-a-barbados-sci-fi-con-like-animekon-expo-snapshots/

    And:

    http://deadbrowalking.livejournal.com/357066.html

    Hey, even rappers are into SF/F: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/backstage-rider/pharrell-williams-concert-rider-159073 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc and many more.

    Yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.

    Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.

    • I don’t see where anyone stated POC don’t read SF on here. I see generalizations, some accurate about the effects of majority vs minority sales. But as long as a persons not a hypocrite and honest.

      Generlizations,It’s what people do when they speak about groups. But I see no one stating POC do not write SF, And not understanding that is also huge problem.

      • You didn’t look very hard. I counted at least three people saying just that, and I haven’t even hit the end of the thread yet.

  15. I actually thought TheAderian raised a point worth considering, though I would chalk the differences he observes primarily up to class (or socioeconomic inequality) rather than some racialized idea of “culture”. Fantasy could very well be a luxury of the affluent rather than the overworked underclass, where marginalized racial groups are overrepresented for historically obvious reasons. It’s like that old concept of the hierarchy of needs. SF/F could be considered a form of “self-actualization” which people pursue once their more basic needs come in, and unfortunately a higher proportion of white people have that privilege.

    Not that there aren’t other factors like racism involved in this (and of course the economic disparity between whites and non-whites got started because of a long and ongoing legacy of institutional racism), but the effects socioeconomic inequality can have on interest in fantasy should be considered.

    • Great reply. Good point.

    • Hell, sometimes having books to read at all is a privilege. Buying books or even getting them from the library can be difficult if you don’t have means or support. When I taught 8th grade the kids without books at home read anything they could get their hands on. I brought in my old Dragonlance, Pern, Harry Potter, and Narnia books and they ate ’em up. The school population was 60% Hispanic and I forget the other numbers, but some kids came from home environments where reading (especially books with covers featuring dragons or white people holding swords) got them made fun of. I know because they told me so, and their essays were about their favorite sf/f and comic book characters. Wish I’d kept those papers.
      /oldwhiteladystory

      • “Hell, sometimes having books to read at all is a privilege.” – I would add that having the time to borrow books from the library and read may also be a privilege.

        Probably most people here would agree, that POC, just like Latinos, other emigrants and women, are typically paid less than the whites. So I suspect – I don’t have hard numbers to support it – they, just like any fraction of the society that suffers from stronger economic challenges, read less fiction of any type. Of course some do, but if you have to work two jobs, when are you going to read? The rapper mentioned above is a bad example, because he is probably richer than most writers, BTW. Add to that the prejudices that they are greeted with.

        In my view, their under-representation is more of an indicator and consequence of economic inequality, than anything else.

        I guess this is the political economics speaking, that I took 30+ yrs ago. 🙂

        • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey // August 13, 2015 at 8:05 am //

          Don’t forget, also, that libraries in inner cities are being shut down, or are operating on shorter and shorter hours, as budget cuts trickle down in a way that tax cuts never do.

    • “I actually thought TheAderian raised a point worth considering…”

      I think so too, although I would not be too extreme. I would reformulate it this way: there are subcultures in which the speculative fiction is less popular than in others. This is a problem and it should not be brushed aside.

      This is also an opportunity to attract new readers, and it calls for a targeted effort to make the speculative fiction more popular in those subcultures: e.g. including characters with that background, staging the action there, working with kids from them, donating books to the libraries where they are concentrated, etc. I am sure there are others. It is the same with the natural sciences, BTW.

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:21 pm //

      Brandon,

      Yes, I believe a lot of it is economic and AT NO TIME did I say it was race, as if Mongolian people come out of the womb disinterested in fantasy. I believe it’s CULTURAL and culture is very much tied to economics.

      However, I grew in a very poor area that was nearly all white and most of the kids I knew were completely interested in science fiction. Even kids who were very raw and tough had to admit they liked Star Wars, or whatever. Meanwhile, I’ve met many black kids who have never seen it and think it’s white bullshit.

      As I’ve mentioned, I believe European culture is very fantasy oriented. There’s been a huge number of religions, still are, white people believe in bizarre economic systems that don’t work and never will, whites build giant monuments, churches, pyramids, etc to fantasy subjects, and so on. There’s been lots of talk over the years that science fiction concepts like aliens, etc have replaced religious concepts no one believes any longer. Other cultures have far far less fantasy in them, and I believe that’s the root of it all.

    • AScifiWriter // August 17, 2015 at 8:25 am //

      No, it’s not a good point, because most writers have other jobs and not a lot of money. According to surveys in the US and in the UK, most writers can’t even afford to live off their writing. Just because GRR Martin exists doesn’t mean he’s typical of a fantasy writer. He is what we aspire to, but will most likely never achieve. Writers across genre write because they want to and because they love genre, not because economic well-being has given them free time and luxury. This is a complete fallacy. Just like the rest of his argument.

  16. Hannah R. // August 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm //

    One book I quite like that has a black man on the cover is Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London. Or at least, some of the cover art does. Some doesn’t, and the later books tend to be more silhouette and less Constable Peter Grant. But the first one!

    • I’ve had really good luck, in general, with both Del Rey and with Tor US when it comes to representation of diverse casts on my covers.

      Ben’s UK covers are just maps, I think–but UK covers tend to be much more graphical and less illustrative than US covers in general. And there was some discussion about his first US cover for those books being de-ethnicized via showing the protagonist only in silhouette, but I believe the cover got redesigned when the problem was pointed out.

      To the best of my knowledge, Ben, like me, is a white person. And one of the things I’ve noticed, based on my own experience as a white person who often writes protagonists of color, is that (anecdotally) it seems much easier for *me* to get my diverse protagonists represented on my covers than it is for my colleagues who are people of color themselves.

      It’s almost like there’s some social privilege involved in being a white author writing outside my ethnic group…

  17. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey // August 12, 2015 at 2:34 pm //

    I work in a job similar to that described by theAderian, and I am force to conclude that he’s a bigoted jerk, since he’s obviously unable to listen to the black folks around him. He should come to WisCon, where our problem is not finding SF fen of color, but helping even more of them be able to afford to come to our con! (He should also read the DARK MATTER anthologies, of course.)

    What I’m seeing reminds me in painful ways of Joanna Russ’ magisterial HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN’S WRITING, with all the denials stacked up to “prove” that REAL people of color don’t read SF and are not interested in the future. (It goes without saying that none of these people have ever heard of Afro-Futurism, to put it mildly.)

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:29 pm //

      Mike,

      I’ve worked in psychology for the last 26 years in the black community, in prison, and with black kids in schools. Currently, I’m helping a young man “of color” who jumped from a fourth floor window, due to his heinous family structure, then pulled his left eye with his bare hands after the event.

      I was there when he did it, I didn’t know him, but I was determined as hell to help the boy out. I am doing that now.

      I recently found out he loves Halo, so I bought him one of the novels to read. He had never imagined they wrote such stories and appeared very happy. I told me I’m very cool.

      Do you do something “similar” to what I do?

      Am I a bigot?

      Would you shit your pants doing what I do?

  18. The replies to this article are so awesome – I’m an aspiring writer of speculative fiction myself and the more I learn, the better!

    • I agree, Jen. I’ve been trying hard to stay out of the comment section, but reading them has proven very enjoyable (and educational). Keep it coming!

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:34 pm //

      Jenn,

      I just mentioned that I work in psychology.

      If you’re interested in writing a certain type of character that isn’t just a version of yourself, then I suggest getting to know that type of person. I have lived all over the place and known many different types of people.

      I really hate writers, say male ones, who think they’re cool and write female characters, yet this character sounds just like a guy on paper. I think that’s an insult. If the writer can’t get to know a cross section of women, then try to think how a women would approach a situation, he’s just writing himself and naming the character Sally.

      The same goes for creating characters of different races, etc.

  19. Seriously, those kinds of comments are not only tossing opinions and assumptions around without checking facts — I guess some SF people are better at the fiction part of SF than the science — but if you’re in the business, you’re cutting off your own livelihood by refusing to consider a pretty enormous and hungry market.

    Tiny real-world example. There was a #blackout social media hashtag celebrating black geeks on the internet a few months back. I browsed, liked some posts to show support, because I’m well aware that PoC fans tend to get forgotten or even scorned in geek circles like gaming, SF, comics and cosplay. Next thing I know, my videogaming blog’s followers had bumped over 10%. A quick check of social media profiles with pics showed the influx was largely or perhaps entirely due to black fans. Which is great, because THEY ARE GAMERS LIKE ME, even if the gaming industry is nearly as backassward as SF when it comes to featuring PoCs on the cover or in the content. Why do so many authors and studios like to claim they don’t exist? There’s a word for it, and it isn’t pretty.

    • It’s pretty funny but not in a ha-ha sort of way. I know if the gaming industry has a hard time admitting the existence of White, female gamers ,I know darned well they’re never going to acknowledge the existence of Black ones. They seem to be under the impression they must do representation in this piecemeal manner, where some groups of people come first.

      “First we’ll represent white women, then gay men, then Asian men…” like it has to be done in some kind of order, rather than practicing all-around inclusivity.

  20. Chris M. Barkley // August 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm //

    To TheAlderian,

    Google my name and the Hugo Awards. Then look me in the eye and tell me how people of color have had no impact in sf fandom or fantastic literature.

    You’re getting an earful here and you deserve every single negative comment…Really!

    Chris M. Barkley
    Cincinnati, OH

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:39 pm //

      Chris,

      Develop your reading comprehension and look me in the eye as I laugh in your face.

      Thanks.

  21. First of all, don’t blame writers for the lack of people of color on their covers. Those decisions are usually made by art directors at the publishing company, and those people will push back against any critique of their latest “masterpiece”. Authors don’t always get any say in the cover – it’s a marketing decision and we “don’t know anything about what sells”.

    Second of all, having published several books with POC characters in them, I can assure you that even the “social justice” reviewers will persecute an author – FOR including POC and minority characters. I was lambasted a couple years ago for having gay characters. I was told that I was just trying to capitalize on the sympathies of people for LGBT issues, that I would never understand what it is like to be LGBT, and my inclusion of LGBT characters was a “red herring dragged in and out of the plot”. This despite me being gay.

    And frankly, I really resent the way authors and readers alike are being blamed that there are not more minorities or POC in the field. We have no control over who writes and who doesn’t, and we are barely responsible for getting our own stuff published. We can’t be responsible for somebody else getting published. And I seriously doubt that most sf/f readers pay that much attention to the color of the author’s skin. I know I have read a lot of fiction by POC, as well as LGBT authors, non-Christian authors, etc. My decision to read that was not predicated on the color of the author’s skin. My decision to read was based on whether they wrote well, and whether the plot and subject were something that interested me.

    I don’t see where publishing houses would be discriminating either. They have no idea what the author looks like when they decide to offer a contract. Up to that point, they have only had text (emails, letters, the manuscript) contact with the author, and even that is often channeled through the literary agent.

    You know what I hear most often from the geeks-of-color that I am acquainted with? “Science fiction and fantasy is stupid.”

    • I was with you right up to that last sentence. Did you learn nothing from reading the rest of the comments? Stereotyping a group based on your limited sample size makes your argument specious and carries no appreciable weight. Your statement instead makes you look just a little biased, instead.

      Be responsible. Don’t speak for other groups. Speak your piece. Put your thoughts out there and you will be fine. When you do what you did, you make yourself sound like a bigot, even if you aren’t one. You haven’t met even a decent sample size to make any qualitative statements about what Geeks-of-Color really think about anything.

      • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:45 pm //

        Your comment is ridiculous.

        Marketing and demographics drive sales of nearly everything. They’re based on gathered opinions, observations, and so on. Data and ideas aren’t gathered in some lab under a microscope.

  22. Lenora Rose // August 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm //

    So far the lie that Hispanics and black people don’t read SF/F has been debunked well, but I’d like to hit on a part of what you said that is not yet directly answered.

    “…is also similar to Native American culture. They have all kinds of great fantastic stuff from religion, to varied “good” and “evil” tribes in the past. However, much like blacks they’re “defeated” people and I don’t believe they want to fantasize about the past as it would seem pathetic. Europeans can idealize the past because all of that led to the present “awesomeness” of European based culture. ”

    First Nations people may not fantasize about the past in the same way, but they have an incredibly rich set of folklore to draw on, and have done so. They write plenty of things we would read as fantasy or magical realism. Drew Hayden Taylor wrote a book about vampires, the modern world of the Rez, and the historic world of the Ojibwa. Look up Tomson Highway, Leslie Marmon Silko, Thomas King, Louise Erdrich. Sherman Alexie has mostly written general fiction, but has a few entries into SF/F.

    Also, this:
    http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/Books/bid2331.htm
    An anthology of Indigenous SF.

    And this, while steampunk focused, is a great resource.
    http://beyondvictoriana.com/2009/12/20/beyond-victoriana-9-first-nation-sci-fi-technology-resources/

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm //

      I can think of a very enjoyable Native American fantasy movie, but it’s ONE. A couple of people are a couple of people who wrote things.

      This conversation is about large groups of people.

  23. Wow. This conversation is a little surreal to me.

    I am a middle aged white dude. The main character of two of my three published novels (and part of the ensemble cast of the third) is a black, Noomi Rapier. I chose to make the main character a black woman in part because I’m pretty sick of white male protagonists, but mostly as a tribute to my Web Goddess, an amazing woman who has supported me in innumerable ways in my writing career and who just happens to be black.

    Peter Buck of Elsewhen Press, the publisher of my novels, was happy to allow me to work with him on the cover designs. It was understood from the beginning that they would represent a chosen scene from the novel, and that Noomi would be depicted as Noomi, which is to say as a black woman. It never occurred to either of us that this would be a problem (we may have been a little naive about that, but, frankly, now that I have been made aware of the issue, I am even more determined to get Noomi on the cover of future books in which she appears).

    TRUE STORY: for the launch of the first book in Toronto, I ordered a cake with the cover in icing. The person who baked the cake went overboard, creating fondant figures of the two characters on the cover (Noomi and her partner, Crash Chumley); although the figures were simple, Noomi’s was clearly black. I don’t know if that affected book sales, but I know it didn’t affect anybody’s enjoyment of the cake!

    Unfortunately, I don’t know how to embed images in this kind of comment, so I can’t include the book covers or images of the cake and the fondant figures. I had considered including URLs to the Amazon pages where the books are sold, but this comment already seems too self-promotiony to me, so, instead, I will just say that the books are called WELCOME TO THE MULTIVERSE* and RANDOM DINGOES. If you’re curious about what a black woman looks like on the covers of books of humourous science fiction, you can find them easily enough with a simple Google search.

    * SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE

    • TheAderian // August 14, 2015 at 9:55 pm //

      Ira,

      I think it’s awesome that you went for it.

      However, I think that typically middle aged white dudes would be more impressed with your creation than black women. Culturally speaking, I can’t think of any other type of person who is more sure of what a black woman is, than black women. I’d like to see your success rate with sitting down with several black women and explaining the psychology of your black woman character.

      More casually, I believe if black women, young black women, and black males found that a white guy invented a black female character and was attempting to sell them that story, they wouldn’t buy. It’s just my guess, but I’d like to know!

      I’m not insulting you either, I’m just keeping it real, rather than surreal. Surreal means “fantastic” and can you find what’s fantastic about our posts?

      • I was wondering if you were going to respond to my post, even though it doesn’t have anything directly to do with your post, or, indeed, any of the responses to your post. Thank you for your advice about marketing my books; there is probably a lot of truth in what you said. Bear in mind, though, that I write for my own satisfaction; I certainly hope that at the end of the day, my writing will find an audience, but I cannot say with any certainty what that audience will be.

        Other than that, I feel no need to respond to any of the arguments that you have made, tempting as it is. You’re a troll. You’re not here for honest discussion of issues; your posts are laced with anger, self-righteousness and condescension. Your purpose is to poison this well, making it sufficiently unpleasant so that people will drop out. That’s just sad.

      • Rowland Smith // August 15, 2015 at 6:46 am //

        Sorry TheAderian. You are wrong yet again. Alot of Black people are sold on white characters writing about POC. See Kate Elliot, or Elizabeth Bear. And TheAderian, apparently you don’t know much about the urban community do you?

        • Thank you for the info. Ira.
          I don’t care who is writing about WoC in scifi as long as somebody’s doing it. I love it. As a WoC I pay attention to who is on the cover. It doesn’t necessarily stop me from reading a book, if there are White people on the cover, but if there’s a Black woman on a genre cover, I ALWAYS buy it or recommend my library to do it.

  24. Sorry, that first sentence should read: “I am a middle aged white dude. The main character of two of my three published novels (and part of the ensemble cast of the third) is a black woman, Noomi Rapier.” An editing glitch (mostly in my brain) caused it to be posted without the word “woman.”

  25. In a surreal turn of events – photo picturing Obama reading The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt appeared today in a Bulgarian newspaper:
    http://c1.24chasa.bg/Images/Cache/Image_4923623_126.jpg
    I have nothing to do with it, I promise.

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