This week Silvia Moreno-Garcia gave us an excellent primer on the many ways in which fantasy filmmakers completely mess up Pre-Columbian cultures by lumping them all into one group, assigning practices and beliefs they don’t have, and generally turning them into random brown savages. Because who cares, right? They’re all dead anyway. Oh wait…
Hollywood is not the only offender when it comes to misrepresenting non-American, non-Western or non-white cultures. Literature, comics, television, and even games get in on this party. In your experience, what are some of the worst offenders?
In response to some of the discussion in the magazines that want more diversity post and the whole William Sanders thing, author Ashok Banker wrote a post about racism, sexism, and cultural insesnitivity in SF/F. The post makes several good points:
Today’s Science Fiction and Fantasy field, while possibly bearing some strands of DNA from other countries and cultures intermingled in its genetic makeup, is undeniably dominated by American authors, particularly in America.
And a sizable majority of those American SFF authors are white. Virtually all of them are American. And I won’t even venture to guess how many are Christian.
Which itself begs the question: Why is a genre that’s always so proud of its ability to explore worlds unable to integrate the world into its fold? Why is American SFF publishing not representative of American society and culture as a whole? Why is this white enclave dominating the genre and the field?
If anything, the very imbalance in the racial and cultural composition of the field in America itself points to a deep malaise.
The recent attempts by some editors to claim that they’re open to multicultural writing, that they welcome submissions from women writers, that they look forward to international writer submitting work, is itself an admission that these were failings of the field until now.
So is American SFF racist? And sexist, bigotted, culturally insensitive, etc?
Well, I suspect a great number of professionals in the field might be.
There’s also some stuff in the post about how authors of color such as Tobias Buckell and myself “pull punches” and focus only on specific editors and not the community-wide problem. I have a lot to say about that, but I think it’s a separate but related conversation.
Normally I would suggest we all go have a conversation about the race/gender/culture problems over on Ashok’s blog, but he shut down comments (the reason has to do with the stuff we’re not talking about here, which I will illuminate in a related post coming up in a bit). Since we can’t talk about it there, let’s talk about it here. It’s International Blog Against Racism Week, after all!
I’m particularly eager to have a discussion about how certain racist tendencies extend to non-American and non-European authors and the books they try to get published. Justine, Ekaterina and I discussed the sad state of translated books in the US a while ago. I shudder to think how many of those few translated are from non-Western countries. (my guess: not many)
It’s true that American SF is reluctant to embrace the whole world — why? And what can be done to move toward fixing that? Is Ashok correct that segregating international authors into just one issue of a magazine does nothing to help?