I grew up in libraries, usually in the Science Fiction section. I’ve been an SF geek since I read “Brave New World” way before I could really understand what it meant. There aren’t a lot of people of color in SF. Those who do show up, especially in the works I grew up reading, are stereotypes typical of the cultural attitudes of the times. The one exception to this was the day I read A Wizard of Earthsea and realized that Ged wasn’t a white guy. I was thrilled.
I still don’t see a lot of diversity in the genres that I love. Daniel Jose Older’s article at Apex Magazine lit a fire under my ass a couple of days ago. Couple this with the whitewashing of Mandela’s legacy, and–well. Don’t even get me started.
I like to write stories. Most of them are set in the surreal landscape of the desert Southwest because it is a place that is rich with songs and stories and mythologies that stretch back into ancestral memory. It’s the place I grew up, figuratively and literally; the place where I became a woman and left my childhood behind.
I want to tell new stories of the high desert, my heart’s home. I see so many possibilities for science fiction, magic realism, even horror. There’s much to be explored just in the physical landscape of the place. The Navajo, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Zuni, Jack Mormons, desert rat survivalists, polygamists, BLM and BIA agents, tourists and new-age seekers can provide some great characters and characteristics to play with. The last thing I want to do is stereotype any of them. I grew up with all of these people. I don’t want to piss any of them off.
I’m also not going to smear them into one big pile of “everyone is the same underneath it all, no matter what color they are” horseshit. I’m not going to play that game where everyone gets along in a post-racial world. I mean, do you follow Arizona politics at all? Denying cultural differences is not the opposite of stereotyping.
Yeah, I write what I know. There are stories kicking around in my brain. The Arizona wilderness is a place where you can die without trying too hard and live by the tips of your fingers jammed into a rock when your climbing gear fails. I’ll tell you about ex-crickers and cowboys and lost tourists and the pack of teenagers who just can’t shake the need to take their three-wheelers offroad where they know they shouldn’t go. I can look back into a past full of oppression and I want to look forward into a future where the situations are different.
From the linked article:
“Let’s envision a market saturated with fantasies based on cultures from Africa, Asia, and the Americas — not just for the sake of cheap exoticism: stories rooted in the cultures, philosophies and struggles of the people they depict. Stories by the people they depict. Stories that value perspectives of “Western Civilization” from people it has tried to exterminate instead of just those insistent on its inherent rightness.”
Challenge accepted, Sir.