On being an under-represented voice in speculative fiction.

Skin Deep Magic was included in this challenge by K. Tempest Bradford. I’m beyond pleased that she thought of my work, and I love her promotion of diverse voices in fiction. (And I can personally vouch for some of the work of fellow authors that she included).  As open-minded as I like to think of myself, I am woefully under-read with regard to certain under-represented voices myself.  To me, the article is more of a ‘wake-up’ call than it is a call to action. It’s as much about ‘mindful’ reading and examining your biases as it is about the actual challenge.  (Besides, you can cheat and/or modify the the challenge. Or, ignore it—no-one will know!)

However, some people took the ‘challenge’ as a slight against white, straight, cisgendered (non-trans) authors. (The article has over 1000 comments) She was interpreted as mandating/policing people’s reading habits. She got hate mail, and in one particularly nasty case, described in racially-tinged dehumanizing language by one author. As one of the authors Tempest recommends, I’ve faced all of fears that the white, cis, het authors will supposedly face with this ONE CHALLENGE (not mandate) just as a matter of course. I know for a fact that many mainstream readers upon seeing my picture, or notice that I’m published in the queer small press will immediately assume that my work has nothing for them. I’ve resigned myself to be ‘niche’, even though I think there is something universal in my stories about black people, trans folk, and gay people–and my take on dark fantasy owes as much to Angela Carter or Charles DeLint as it does to Toni Morrison or James Baldwin.

In the end, Tempest challenges people to read underrepresented voices for ONE YEAR. When you are an under-represented voice, your entire writing career is often ignored for more than that.

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