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Attention All SF/F Book Reviewers!

S.M. Duke is undertaking a project that needs your participation: determining social/religious/ethnic biases in SF/F:

What I’m asking is this: For every book you read in the SF or F genre, take a note of which ethnic, religious, social groups are present within a work in a significant way. What this means is if the main character or a significant character is White, Black, or Asian, then write that down. The same applies to religions and significant social groups (feminists, ACLU types, etc.). They must be significant presences, not just a mention. If there is a strong Catholic presence, say so. If you don’t know what religion is present, but there is one, just say unknown…I’d like to address gender too. Mention main characters that are male or female and secondary, but significant characters that are male or female (make them separate to differentiate). This will allow me to gather as much data as I can on this.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on Attention All SF/F Book Reviewers!

  1. Screw that. Why should I bother to work for somebody else’s agenda?

  2. Thanks very much for posting this!

    And you don’t have to help if you don’t want to Fred. It would just be great to have as many people as possible giving information 😛

  3. This sounds like it translates to, “I can haz free thesis data, pls? kthksby.”

    “The result of this, I hope, will be a load of data that will help determine just how bad the bias is. I think after my discussions with Tobias that I have to agree there has to be some level of bias, but I don’t know how bad it is, or at least has prevalent.”

    Also, is there any doubt what conclusions this duck will reach? Maybe it’s just a “see how much more inclusive my work is than all y’all” or something. I don’t honestly know, but I’d certainly not want my name associated with this project.

    -Jim

  4. This isn’t for a thesis. It’s free information for everyone. I’m not writing a paper with it and I don’t want to write a paper. It’s just a more inclusive ‘poll’. All I’m asking for is help from those out there that read SF and F since I can’t possibly read every single book, or even a good portion of them.

    I don’t know why there is a negative reaction to this idea. There are entire panel discussions over biases in SF and F at conventions, which is where the idea came from, and I’m simply trying to collect more data to come up with a better answer to it than simply running around saying “yes, there’s a bias”. I’m not asking for money or information for a thesis paper, or information for a book or anything of that nature. I’m not profiting from this except that I’ll have a better picture in the end, which will just be put on the blog and that’s it. Nothing more. I’m not selling it, I’m not being paid for it. It’s just an interest, a side project.

    Some people have been really enthusiastic for it, so perhaps you can make me understand why there is a negative reaction to it and why you have the impression I’m just trying to use people for my own gains.

  5. I think it’s the fact that your thesis appears to be slanted toward there being a bias and merely determining how “bad” it is. But let’s assume there is a bias, and assume further that you can categorize it handily from the data you’re asking for. What then? Shall we urge greater political/racial/gender correctness in sci-fi? Shall we use it as ammunition to add to the litany of why sci-fi isn’t great literature?

    If you were tracing the evolution of inclusiveness in sci-fi, from the early days through today, you’d have an interesting project. There’s a story to be told there, particularly if you can identify the roots and reasons of the change. There’s a story to be told if that increase in inclusiveness stalled. There’s a story to be told if you get into the cultural morass that underlies whatever bias you find. But as presented, the data you intend to make public seems like it’s just fuel for flamewars.

    -JIm

  6. Erg. Hypothesis. Sorry. My bad.

    -Jim

  7. “What then? Shall we urge greater political/racial/gender correctness in sci-fi? Shall we use it as ammunition to add to the litany of why sci-fi isn’t great literature?”

    Good lord no. I don’t want that at all. Anyone that knows me knows that I push very hard for SF and F to be considered legit forms of literature, and in some cases I consider it to be the most important form of all. I would never condone the use of any data like this to be a reason to discount SF or F.

    “If you were tracing the evolution of inclusiveness in sci-fi, from the early days through today, you’d have an interesting project. There’s a story to be told there, particularly if you can identify the roots and reasons of the change. There’s a story to be told if that increase in inclusiveness stalled. There’s a story to be told if you get into the cultural morass that underlies whatever bias you find. But as presented, the data you intend to make public seems like it’s just fuel for flamewars.”

    Okay, now I get some understanding why you were negative towards it. I don’t want this to be fuel against SF. That was never my intention in this and I can see why the language suggests that. No, not at all. My blog is entirely for the inclusion of SF & F as a legit form of literature because I very much enjoy it. I do reviews and my reviews would be part of the data too, but since I can’t read every single book published this year I am asking for help on that matter.

    My intention is only to get an idea what that bias actually looks like, not to indicate that SF is evil and bad and racist/sexist/etc. SF is far from it as it has dealt heavily with very deep issues on those subjects in the past. Schuyler’s Black No More, for example, or even Butler’s Parable of the Sower, among others.

    I don’t want this to be fuel at all. I want this to be data to understanding, to determining and coming to a conclusion what the bias looks like in relation to the body of work published in this year. Perhaps I should use another word other than ‘bias’. I think perhaps bias makes it seem like I’m implying that the literary form is intentionally ignoring matters of race/religion/gender, but what I mean to say is that the literary form just isn’t addressing, not that it’s doing it on purpose. I highly doubt there are any large number of writers writing novels thinking “I won’t write about women EVER, because I don’t like them” or whatever it might be.

  8. On a side note: I’ve been editing this post because I do understand, Jim, why the language could be misunderstood as a means to add fuel to the dislike of SF & F. I want this to be a project of understanding, as I said. So hopefully I can edit this so it doesn’t sound so against the literary forms.

  9. Donna Scott // February 18, 2008 at 7:17 am //

    Hi SMD – I can probably do this for you for the few books I manage to read. It will take, what, ten minutes. Does it matter if the books are not very current?

  10. Donna Scott // February 18, 2008 at 7:19 am //

    No worries – followed the link! That’s, er one book I can list for you!

  11. Thanks very much, Donna. One book is better than no books 😛

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