Friday, August 23, 2013

Because You Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Back in the end of July, I posted Why Do All The Girls Who Save The Day Only Look A Certain Way? on my Facebook page.  It wasn't a huge deal.  I'd been scrolling down my feed and saw that question next to a photo of Katniss, so I clicked it.  I took issue with how the chart characterizes Hermione, but I appreciated the message behind all those checks and Xs: is that, as great as it is to see all these kick-ass young heroines making the movies the days, there's something wrong with the lack of diversity.  I clicked "share" and moved on.

Later, when I signed back in, I saw that an author buddy had written:

I do agree that race is an issue in YA (as in much of fiction), but until people start writing it, it's going to remain an issue. And, quite frankly, a lot of non-people-of-color steer away from writing people of color because we're constantly told we "get it wrong." Which is fine, since we don't live in those shoes and we can't just make it up (I'm not a vampire, but I can pretend to be.) In that situation though, people-who-do-know need to write those characters and sell them.
This is an old argument--not between us, but in general--and I have mixed feelings.  1)  I understand your fear and you shouldn't feel pressured into writing anything you don't want to write.  2) If your book takes place in the backwoods, okay.  But what urban center in the U.S. has NO people of color?  3) I don't think it's wrong for fans to note that few people in their beloved genre (be it YA dystopia, UF for youths or adults, or whatever) "look like them" and I don't support the answer then is for them to become authors.

I'm not writing this to rip the author's words apart.  In fact, I applaud that she does indeed have characters of color.  I'm writing it because there are two sides to the bastard coin.

Follow this crazy loop in my thinking.  See, like I said, this was at the end of July.  I read the conversation that followed and set out to find more YA, dystopian and, since that's not my favorite, other spec fic, featuring people of color and I put a lot of stuff on my To Be Read Pinterest board.  Done.  Almost.

While I was looking for those books, I came across things like Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Disappointed.  What?  I shouldn't have been surprised because I know the racists are happy to speak out over the internet. (I love that they were named and shamed rather than fuzzed out).  I cringed thinking of all the YA books (sorry, not going to search for links right now) that were whitewashed because the publishers gave in to imagined racists.

Those publishers could learn something from the inspiration of this post.  I'd done all that web surfing in a month ago, so why post now?  Because every time I see the Cheerios commercial with the cute little biracial girl, her white mother, and her black father, I think of the racist comments that came up around it.  The cereal company refused to pull the ad, and the support has far overwhelmed the hate.

So don't let those bastards grind you down.

But what about the fear of those who will say that you got it wrong?  If you're at the point where you're getting published, you've been critiqued.  You probably have a crit group or beta readers.  If you're not self-publishing, you've probably submitted to agents and definitely to editors.  You can take criticism.  Hopefully, you've also learned when and how not to take it.  If you screwed up on a cultural point, accept it graciously and move on.  You've learned something so you can do better next time.   If the only critique is that you're white (or whatever) so how dare you, well, they're bastards, too.  Don't let 'em grind you down.

More practical advice goes back to the fundamentals: write what you know.  I have never been a werewoff, and don't know squat about it.  I do have the ability to google wolf behavior and biology and every other little thing that might help.  I have the ability to view every movie that includes werewolves on Netflix and Hulu and decide what I think they've gotten wrong and right, and them imagine up my own mythos.  Why would it be so different creating the background and world of someone who's probably a lot more like me than a werewolf would be?

** For a smile on your face, check out kids talking about the Cheerios commercial.
***For an author kicking ass, check out Cassandra Clare not letting the bastards grind her down.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I've slept on it and I still want her to name names

I read Ann Aguirre's This Week in SF with my jaw dropping bit by bit until it just couldn't go any farther.  I'm not unaware of sexism (and racism) in's why it took so long to finally go to my first con and why I spend so much of my time interacting with people outside (or at least on the fringes) of my genre.  I grew up surrounded by fellow sci-fi and gamer geeks and I know how awesome the guys can be as individuals and how badly they can suck in groups or behind anonymity of a keyboard.  My shock was due to the behavior of Aguirre's fellow professionals.

Maybe there's no good reason to expect them to behave better, but I do.  I wanted her to name names.  I wanted to know whose careers not to support...which is fairly pointless since my readings in the genre have tapered down to the point that when my husband saw me reading Grimspace years ago, despite my being the one who introduced him to Julian May, he asked, "Since when do you read sci-fi?"   My continuing to not buy their books would do little.

But still....

I will continue to buy Ann Aquirre and Jaye Wells (number 55 in comments) books, which I enjoy greatly.  I will find someone who does zombies to gift Rhiannon Frater (#92) books.  I will start reading David Brin and   John Abromowitz (#67) because our supporters should be supported.

...I get SF fans not liking SF Romance.  Nothing bugs me more than getting paranormal romance all over my urban fantasy.  In the past, I bought just enough of the latter--with the romantic relationship too important to the story and worldbuilding consisting of "alpha werewolves/vampires/Scottish immortals are hot"--to be cautious. There's a market for that, and more power to them, but I'm not in it.  In fact, I borrowed Grimspace from the library (before buying the rest) just to be safe.

The answer to that, dear sexist male fans, is don't fucking buy it.   You'll miss out on good stuff along with the bad, but that's your loss.  You can not read it and yet still not act like fucking assholes.  Not mutually exclusive.  Sexist male SF writers, thinking you can behave this way toward fellow writers and fans...Aguirre didn't name names, but others will and we will happily treat you as you deserve.  Or you can grow up and enter this century.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Free Books!

Marata Eros is offering the first three ebooks of her DruidBreeders series free for a limited time.

Amazon description: This is a collection of the first three titles in The Druid Breeders series which are erotic dark urban fantasy books about vampire warriors who search for women of rare Druid witch descent. (Approx. 60,000 words total.) TDB is a dark urban fantasy erotica work, mature audiences only, 18+

I picked up the first book of the series because (1) I'm interested in paranormal erotica and (2) it was free.  The warning in the description didn't hurt, either.  She changed the price and warning because people didn't like non-consensual content that they consensually bought?  I had to check it out.

What I found was an interesting story about a young woman in peril saved by hunky alpha males who bring her more peril still.  The men who would have raped her at least would have let her go after.  The vampires who save her (but not, alas, her friend) realize that she's a druid, and druid women are the only ones vampire men can breed with.  They don't intend to take no for an answer.

The rape of her friend left me wanting to call the police--it was graphic enough for such a strong reaction and not eroticized enough to dismiss as an uncomfortable kink.  Moving on from that, though, I enjoyed the story enough to get book to and find out what happened next.