I’m not always on the up and up when it comes to the latest fiction releases, but thankfully I have some friends who are, and they share on their social media timelines links to highlight lists that I can check out to see if something good catches my eye. For example, thanks to my friend Judd Karlman, I read 95 SFF Books To Read In 2018, which added a handful of interesting titles to my To Read list.
Although these aren’t new, lately I’ve been seeing more of these type of highlights lists themed around minorities, such as 27 Female Authors Who Rule Sci-Fi and Fantasy Right Now at EW.com, and 11 Incredible Books by Writers from ‘Shithole’ Countries at Electric Lit. These are just two examples I had saved in my bookmarks to read later; a quick search on Google yields dozens more from the past couple years. These are excellent lists, and I’m glad someone took the time to put them together for my benefit as a reader.
But I have to say, I find it aggravating. Not that the list was made, but that it was necessary that it be made. I find it highly aggravating that we live in at a time when people have to write articles like these because some privileged ignorant, myopic, intolerant person or group said or did something seeking to insult, debase, and erase an ethnic minority or a whole gender.
Both of these articles were written as a response to sexist or racist remarks, at best out of complete ignorance (and that would require giving them the greatest benefit of the doubt the universe has ever seen), at worst due to outright intolerance. The EW article on women in SFF comes as a response to an article by the National Review where the (male) writer drops this gem:
“…it might also be true that the reason there aren’t as many women making films is that women’s movie ideas aren’t commercial enough for Hollywood studios. To be slightly less reductionist than the Bechdel Test, women tend to write movies about relationships, and men tend to write movies about aliens and shootouts. Have a wander through the sci-fi and fantasy section of your local bookstore: How many of these books’ authors are female? Yet these are where the big movie ideas come from. If a woman wants the next Lord of the Rings–style franchise to pass the Bechdel Test, then a woman should come up with a story with as much earning potential as J. R. R. Tolkien’s.”
EW’s (female) writer goes on to dismantle this absurd, preposterous, and arrogant assumption, including pointing out series already on, or shortly destined for, the screen with as much earning potential as Tolkien’s or Martin’s.
The Electric Lit article comes as a response to the president’s remarks calling a number of countries around the world “shithole countries.” Electric Lit (no individual author given) calls out the president on his remarks (because he can deny it all he wants, but yeah, he totally said it), and then goes on to show excellent literature from authors from those same “shithole” countries, some of them exploring the stories and national myths of their own countries, and others looking at the immigrant experience into the United States.
I’m aggravated because I’m frustrated that we still live in a world where we have to deal with this shit, where we continually have to remind people that women aren’t a minority, they’re freaking half the population; that this whole country was founded by immigrants (unless you’re Native American), so why was it okay for your ancestors but not for those immigrating now (and let me throw Exodus 22:21 in there for good measure); that you may not agree with someone’s lifestyle or sexual orientation or gender identification or religion, but they still have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that skin color is only an indication of melanin levels in a person, and nothing more. What’s even more frustrating is that if we’re not constantly reminding people of these facts, we will be swept over by the tide of ignorance rising higher and higher every day.
I hope one day we don’t have the necessity to write articles like these highlight lists, that if we do write them is in celebration of specific groups, not in defense or affirmation of their continued existence. Until then, check out the articles, and add some titles to your To Read list.