If science fiction/fantasy is not for you, it's not for you. But if you liked the idea but gave up on it because it was the province of straight white men, let me recommend you take another look: the Hugo and Nebula award candidates are full of amazing stuff like N. K. Jemisin's Stone Sky series, Yoon-Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire, Aliette de Bodard's The Tea Master and the Detective, and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver.
I remember the stifling white male ideas of the future - I grew up with Heinlein and Bester and Herbert and Clarke. They had interesting ideas but their viewpoint was very narrow. Even, say, John Varley's genderqueer future, even Iain M. Banks', felt imagined by a straight cis white man. Sometime in the last decade or two it seems like publishers have realized that different people have different viewpoints, and those are varied and interesting.
I'm not sure how much I should consider Asimov an exception - he was Jewish, and Jewish folks have historically and currently been a target of racists - Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver is heartbreaking because of the historically accurate anti-Semitism the protagonist and her family face - but in North American culture Jews are often "white enough", and Asimov's writing could "pass for white", at least to my teenage eyes. (I'm a WASP but my high school was 45% Jewish.)
@anne also Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (and sequels) and Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire!
@velexiraptor Ooh I haven't read the Arkady Martine books yet, it sounds like I should check them out!
@anne and Le Guin
@efi Indeed Le Guin was an exception, in that she was a different voice. But reading her "The Left Hand of Darkness" now is very strange - it feels like it's trying to convince of something we accepted a couple of decades ago. (Fair enough, it was written longer ago than that.) But we are fighting different battles now. And indeed her newer work is about more current issues. She was a terrible loss.
@anne I think the trouble is that it's the straight white guy fiction that gets the most attention. Octavia E. Butler, for instance, still doesn't get the attention she deserves.
Personally, I'm on a mission to decolonise sci fi!
@InvaderXan I really think things have improved in recent years - certainly the Hugo and Nebula candidates haven't been dominated by white men, and there seems to be a feeling that if you're writing a fantastical future society you can show it by having all kinds of gender diversity. But I think it's also true that more different writers are getting read in this day of independent ebooks and giant online retailers.
@InvaderXan But yes absolutely we need to decolonize sci-fi!
@anne I have a story I've been meaning to write. Actually a few. Let's just say that in my writing, you should never assume that anyone is white, straight, or cis.
@anne I also make a point of avoiding words like "colony" with loaded history.
@InvaderXan I've been wondering about that for some years now - people who talk about "colonizing" (say) Mars as a positive thing obviously have a different view of colonization than I do.
Going to live on a planet with no native inhabitants, not even microbes, is going to be totally different, practically and morally, from any of the historical examples of colonization. Can we find another word for it please?
@anne The word's ingrained, but it can be avoided. And more easily than some people seem to think too. When people talk about "colonisation" there's also the subtext of exploitation. Even without any native life, I don't like the implication that people would go, take what they can, and sell everything for profit.
Though there's a lot of care to be taken with language, because words like settle or exploration also have negative connotations now. There's a lot to undo. But then, imagining culture and language that's different to what we know is what good sci fi is supposed to be about!
@InvaderXan I think we have Ursula K. LeGuin, among others, to thank for this idea - early sci-fi was about imagining ray guns and atomic rockets, and it was her generation ("wave"?) that established that sci-fi could be about imagining societies and people who were different from ours.
These days there is all sorts of sci-fi, but some of it is writing about what a culture with room for all of us - sexuality, gender, neurodiversity, race, culture - would look like.
@InvaderXan I'd love to read it!
I think the current publishing environment makes room for stories publishers would not have "taken a chance on" a couple of decades ago - and there is definitely a category of ebooks I've been buying where diversity is the norm.
@anne I also love that there's been a big rise in Afrofuturism recently. Authors like N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, for instance.
@InvaderXan Indeed! My experience with Afro-futurism has been a little hit and miss, I think because my expectations are a little too narrow, but I try to keep an eye out for non-white authors because they often have interesting perspectives.
@InvaderXan Aaaages ago I decided on a policy: if I was looking for a new author, I would give a preference to female authors. Not exclusively, but the preference helped me find a lot of interesting fiction I might have missed. A friend pointed out the value of doing the same with non-White authors, and I've been trying to adopt this policy too.
@anne On a related note, I know it's not cool to like Marvel movies, but some of them have been interesting. Black Panther is an obvious ones, but Taika Waititi's perspective on colonialism is pretty clear in Thor: Ragnarok. It gave the movie some interesting depth.
Indigenous authors and directors are always worth paying attention to!
@InvaderXan The costs, the effort, to make a movie, are so high that it's amazing and worth remarking when one that defies conventional wisdom ("make it about white men", say) gets made. But there have been notable successes, and maybe a few people in Hollywood can see the potential?
@anne It seems like it's a double edged sword. On one hand, studios can be antsy with how much movies cost, and have ruined good movies by trying to make them more Marketable™. The Hobbit is a prime example.
On the other hand, a big movie franchise like the MCU is pretty much guaranteed not to fail at this point, which seems to mean they're willing to give directors like Waititi and Coogler a chance to just do their thing. And I'm really glad they did!
BTW, Nnedi Okorafor is keen to emphasise that her work is Africanfuturism/Africanjujuism (terms she coined herself) rather than Afrofuturism. She writes about the distinction here: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2019/10/africanfuturism-defined.html
@anne Haven't read many of these but can definitely second the recommendation for N. K. Jemisen's work. She's one of the best authors we've read recently.
Her Inheritance Trilogy is good too!
*goes to look up the ones we haven't seen before*
@Felthry The Inheritance trilogy is lovely too! And check out other people's recommendations in this thread - there are, encouragingly, too many great books by interesting people for me to list all of them.
@anne oh also I should mention The Stone Sky is one of the books in the series; the series itself is called The Broken Earth
@Felthry Oh, good catch! Quite right. The whole series is amazing.
@anne spinning silver almost made me cry i had never really seen real jews portrayed in sf/f before its so good
@ponfarr I can't judge their authenticity but Guy Gavriel Kay's "The Lions of al-Rassan" is about Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Spain during the Reconquistada. He's painted a layer of fantasy over the history and religion but it's still vivid and interesting.
@anne oooh interesting. this seems pretty similar to what elizabeth bear did with central asian cultures for the eternal sky trilogy
@anne I thought maybe I was just growing out of fantasy novels until I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Turns out I was growing out of a certain type of white guy dark fantasy. Spinning Silver is a continuation of a good trend.
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