“It’s been making me think afresh about the problem of scarcity, and how books and other fictionalised narratives with non-straight non-white non-guy protagonists carry so great a weight of hopes—because there have been so few of them, comparatively, that it’s not like you can just shrug and find another with a protagonist that reflects these aspects of your identity if you don’t like it.“”
To say that “not publishing damaging books is censorship” is to start from the presupposition that the industry is publishing a balanced amount of books across the full spectrum of diversity. In that scenario, eradicating one part would be “censorship”. But that is not happening. What is happening is that we continue to broadly publish white people and white stories. When there was pushback about diversity, we started writing stories about PoC and other marginalized groups in an effort to prove we were Good White People. It’s only when we fuck up and get criticized that we cry Foul.
Apparently now is the time for uncomfortable truths because I’ve just had it.
How many posts have I seen that talk about fanfiction ‘setting the bar higher’ or about how ‘unoriginal’ published fiction is? How many posts have I seen where someone’s saying “I wish someone would write about X thing that subverts some popular trope!’?
Trans Cinderella? I have a friend who’s written that. Books about people who are actually, for real, bi or ace? My publisher has whole categories for those. How about ABO? Or werewolf stories that aren’t about sex and dominance? Hell, I’ve written that. Enemies-to-lovers? Mecha-wearing cops? These people are some of the most creative and welcoming and kind people I’ve ever met.
And nearly daily, I see fandom deride us like we’re somehow other. And look, I get it. In large part, I think a lot of the pushback is the inaccessibility of publishing in large houses, and the way that those large houses churn out the same tropes over and over again, while enforcing and maintaining the societal status quo.
But hey, those are large presses. Those are The Big Four. There are so many smaller, younger, more inclusive presses running around now, not even to mention self-publishing.
If I read a book that I absolutely love and I immediately develop a writer-crush on that author, 9 times out of 10 I say to myself “I wanna be friends” and then we become friends. It’s great. Authors have no chill about each other, none at all, I love it.
So when I finally caved and came to tumblr and started getting involved in fandom, it was like a bucket of cold water to the face when I found out, over and over, that fanfic writers and readers wanted nothing to do with me and my original fiction. I mention that I’ve finally been writing again, someone asks what pairing, I say it’s orig fic and the immediate disinterest is nearly palpable. There’s the continuous parade of posts talking about how no one ever writes about this, you never see books about that, I wish there was a book like this, with this, not with that, and every time I see those posts I become an incredible combination of sad and indignant.
Because these books do exist, these authors and publishing houses do exist. These editors and artists, they exist. I know because I’ve worked with them, I’ve emailed and tweeted them, I’ve published with them. These posts and this attitude are willfully ignoring and erasing the industry that’s closest to your own works. Do you think mainstream publishing and The Big Four, do you think they’d accept ABO? Do you think they’d accept triads with an ace member? Do you think they’d accept trans love stories? Sweeping epic fantasy where the main character being gay isn’t the driving force behind the plot? Or sweet and fluffy contemporary romance? No, they wouldn’t, because on the whole mainstream publishing, when it deigns to include us, is pretty much only interested in killing us.
Fandom needs to understand that there are queer spaces in publishing too, and we are not the enemy. It really sucks to try to fit in with the people you think will understand you best and have it made clear, time and time again, that you’re still too other for them.
And it is because of these explicitly queer spaces in publishing that the big New York houses are beginning to adjust and allow for more diversity in all aspects. We can make a difference, but we do it by reading and supporting what’s there, not denying it unless it comes from a pre-existing property.
Stop Using the Harry Potter series’ Original Publication Dates as an Excuse for Rowling’s Diversity Fails
Every time I talk about J. K. Rowling’s current and continuing diversity fails, someone always has to show up to remind me how she “couldn’t write diversely because it was 1997”.
Without fail, people are more invested in protecting Rowling from criticism she will never see or care about than in acknowledging the way that her writing has continued to erase marginalized people while allegorizing their struggles in order to pad her plot and make her characters more interesting.
Even if I knew (or cared) more about the realities of publishing when I was seven years old, the fact of the matter is that JKR managed to put a ton of atypical things in her “kids’ series”. She wrote about the violent effects of racism and blood supremacy as well as child abuse and children coming of age in a war torn world.
And yet, she “couldn’t” include more than eight characters of color or any queer characters who made It to the end of the series alive or who were queer onscreen?
The “it was 1997” excuse for Rowling’s diversity fails only holds a scant bit of water when it comes to looking at the body of her work. Other writers wrote queer characters into their works, other authors managed to have diverse children’s books during the same period that Rowling was publishing her books.
If you like what you’re reading and want more you can:
Whenever authors talk about how much they hate “forced diversity” and how annoyed they are that readers and bloggers now expect writers to create that they call “unrealistic” worlds where people who are not the default (by being queer, POC (or the fantasy/sci-fi equivalent), and/or not being cis), I always want to laugh.
Or ugly cry.
Romance readers and authors get a lot of derision thrown their way. So much so that many have a mental checklist that runs every time they read mainstream media articles about romance or the people who write it. We know that even the most well-intentioned pieces will use terms like “bodice ripper” and make mention of Fabio; some will praise the genre for moving past the days of clinch covers and…
If respecting another culture and being exposed as a racist is keeping you from writing, then that’s on you and your lack of ability and you’re own ignorance hindering you.
You wouldn’t have to worry about getting dragged if you had the capacity to do it gracefully. I’ve been dragged plenty of times but it’s never been an issue because I understand my view of the world is limited and allowing others open my eyes to other perspectives isn’t something I’m scared of, but something I welcome.
But that’s me, being a bottom level, barely even trying, decent human adult.
I am so tired of writers (both fan and professional) saying that they’re “scared” of writing diverse characters and cultures because of the backlash they’ll get if they fuck up.
This is a thing I’m seeing in multiple genres and multiple communities and it’s so annoying –
Instead of even bothering to try and respect the diverse world we live in, these authors instead want to be cradled in a bubble where no one ever critiques anything in their work even when it’s problematic. Because of the very unlikely chance that they might get threats or yelled at (when fandom and publishing history shows that the fans of color calling racism out are the ones most likely to get doxed or have their legal names connected to pseudonyms).