Or: why the Male Only Table of Contents issue is about both Gender and Race
So over on Marguerite’s blog editor Mike Ashley of the Mammoth Book of White Men Fail Mindbowing SF explains that the stories he was looking for, those that blew his mind with science, aren’t usually written by women, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find any to include. Women are writing about people, you see, not necessarily science. Whatever. But, as I pointed out there, even if this was a valid excuse for an all-male TOC, that does not explain the lack of POC. A white male friend then pinged me, privately, to say: but isn’t that confusing the issue? Are you criticising him for having only men or no POC? And the answer is: both. And, not surprisingly, the two issues are intertwined.
To wit: when anthologies like this hit the Internets and we look at the TOC it’s very easy to notice that there are no women. It is therefore very easy to comment on and get angry about this fact. It is also easy for editors to come along and address only this exclusion, usually by saying “I didn’t pay attention to the bylines” and “women don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for” or “I don’t want to include them just as tokens”. Because at that point editors can pass it off as taste, and not even one based on gender, but on types of fiction.
When one notices that these anthologies also don’t include any writers of color, either male or female, that complicates the issue, doesn’t it? It’s no longer just about whether men write these kinds of stories and women don’t. Because men of color write science fiction, too. Are we then going to even begin to say that they write more about people and not about science? Of course not. Stupid people are more likely to whip out, “But their stories are about race and only black people care about race!” Those people are wrong on both counts.
The same mindset is at work in both cases. It’s not “women/POC don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for,” it’s: I only like/read/understand/connect to/care for stories about white, male concerns.
That is a problem. Because SF, be it mammoth or mindblowing or sciencey, is not just about white, male concerns. And any anthology of SF or fantasy or horror that essentially posits the white male concerns as representative, normal, baseline, or default is an anthology made of fail. Because that is not what the genre is right now. Maybe 20 years ago. Hell, maybe 10 years ago. But not now. Not in the future.
As I said at Readercon, the future of this genre is women, people of color, people of different classes, people outside of the default American culture, people outside of America, period. When people ignore or suppress or marginalize this truth, be it intentionally or through laziness of mind, as appears to be the case here, you are In The Wrong in every way imaginable.