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Posts tagged ‘diversity’

Who — or what — are your characters?

My brain has been on overload the last couple of weeks as I published one book and started on another. Family obligations and scheduling conflicts added to the overload. So the other day I gave up, pulled out my Kindle Oasis and read. Just read. For more than 12 hours, I let my imagination go where several different authors took it. One book was traditionally published and several were indie books. Each had their strong and weak points. Each came to mind when I read a post and the accompanying comments on The Passive Voice yesterday.

PG quoted from a New York Times article telling us we need more diversity in romance novels. Read more

Oh, Diversity

As I sit here, I’ll admit part of me wants to go on a tear about several things currently taking place in and around the con circuit. I’m not going to. Partly because I’m still so angry about one item that I’m not sure I could be anything but profane in my comments. It is also partly because I have neither the time nor the desire to deal with those who would skim until outraged and then pitch fits here or elsewhere. Instead, I’ll deal with another issue that is currently trending when it comes to publishing (and most anything else). Diversity. Read more

Sunday thoughts

Good morning, guys — oops, there I go. I’ve already broken the cardinal rule. I’ve used a male pronoun to address everyone. Excuse me. Good morning, gentle (and not so gentle) persons. As you can probably tell already, this is not Sarah. This is the caffeine-deprived, more skeptical member of the Mad Geniuses, Amanda. I’m filling in for Sarah this morning as she deals with a couple of things AND tries to finish Through Fire (Sarah, get back to work. I want to read that book NOW!)

Anyhow. . . .

The past week has been filled with the usual “what the heck were they thinking?” moments when it comes to all things publishing. There have been the usual stories bashing Amazon, including a so-called debate where the not-so-unbiased audience decided Amazon is not a reader’s friend. Huh? I’m sorry, but Amazon lets me buy just about any book I want, lets me have instant access to e-books and even gives me multiple ways of reading books. Yet it isn’t my friend? The logic of the allegation that it isn’t a reader’s friend escapes me.

Then there was yet another article about how the first thing writers should think about when sitting down to start a new project is the diversity of their characters. Yep, you read the right, diversity comes first, even before plot, genre and the rest of it. After all, we must be PC at all costs. Forget about writing a book that people want to read. Forget about your characters actually making sense within the framework of your novel. No, you have to have diversity in it or else EVIL!

And then there was this from the always whining James Patterson, he of the “Amazon is Evil” ilk and who believes the only way books will survive is through the resurgence of bookstores and the return to the old publishing model. Patterson is oh-so-generously (well, his publisher) going to give one lucky fan the chance to read his next book before anyone else does. The catch? It will cost that reader close to $300,000. Yep, you heard that right. For the cost of a house and a car and who knows what else, you can have the privilege of being the first to read Patterson’s next masterpiece. Included in the price will be a trip to an undisclosed location to have dinner with Patterson and then you get to see the book be blown up — complete with having SWAT standing by.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m paying that kind of cash for a book, it had better be a damned sight better written than the last few of Patterson’s books and I’d better get it autographed and be able to keep it. More than that, the dust cover had better be gold leaf and that meal I’m getting best be the most fabulous dinner I’ve ever eaten.

But there is more. To prove how generous he is, 1,000 of Patterson’s fans will be able to download the book for free. Before you get all excited, there is a catch. If you are one of the lucky 1,000, you will have exactly 24 hours from the time of download in which to read the book (no big deal if it is anything like the rest of his work). The clock starts ticking with the download and there is no way to pause it. This “revolutionary idea” is his way of drumming up PR for the book and the publishing industry because, as he put it, publishing doesn’t have the money or other resources to promote its work the way movies do. Funny, if the publishing industry would put half the money it spends on promoting Patterson into promoting some of its other works, sales might go up across the board. But that is probably too logical for them to consider.

Now, the first thought I had when reading about this free download was to wonder why Patterson thinks it is such a revolutionary idea. After all, libraries have been using limited time check-outs for e-books for years. All this promotion is doing is adding additional DRM costs to the overall cost of the book. Sure, those 1,000 readers won’t be paying for it but the readers who come along later and buy the book will. But this is a good thing for readers and publishers according to Patterson.

There are a number of other things I saw over the course of the week that deserve their own posts but one that hit me and had me shaking my head was a comment by yet another wanna-be dahling of the publishing industry who was taking someone else to task because they wrote more than one book every year or two. After all, how can you be writing quality literature if you are writing that quickly? It is obvious that you aren’t agonizing over every word and nuance. As authors we shouldn’t worry about how much money we make. We are in this for the art and, if we are very lucky, the government will realize our importance to society and start giving us stipends to live on so we can continue to create literature that will help shape the right-thinking children of the future.

I guess that makes me a hack because I am in this to make money. I write the sort of stories I enjoy reading and, thankfully, others do as well. I price my books lower than I probably should, at least according to traditional philosophy, but I do it because I know my own buying habits. For a writer I don’t know anything about, I’m not going to pay $5.99 for an e-book (No way am I going to pay traditional prices of $9.99 or more.) But, by offering my novels at a lower price when the first in a series comes out, I can raise my prices for later entries. By doing so, I see my sales increasing. It has been slow but it has been steady and I am not about to complain, at least not too loudly, about what I now make. However, I wouldn’t be making what I am now if I only put out one novel every year or two. Part of becoming even moderately successful as a writer is building an audience and you can’t do that if you produce work at the speed of molasses on a cold morning. Not if you are just starting out. So I choose to be a hack. I’ll put out a book every two or three months, alternating series and stand-alones and I will laugh all the way to the bank. I might not be making James Patterson money — I’m only a few light years away from it — but I am making enough to do what I need right now.

I’m a hack and damned proud of it. How about you?

And, to show just how crass I am, here are some of my books currently available from Amazon:

boxsetcover2Nocturnal Lives Boxed Set
(Contains Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude)

Nocturnal Origins
Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal Serenade
Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude
Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes
(Honor and Duty, Book 1 — written as Sam Schall)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Duty from Ashes
(Honor and Duty, Book 2)

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

Stand up and be heard

I don’t think it will be any surprise to those who have read MGC for long to learn that I’m a gamer. While I’m not big into MMOs or the like, I love me a good RPG or first person shooter. When I look for new games, I look for story and interesting characters first and foremost — well, that and great graphics. I want to be entertained as I play. Yes, I want a story along with my explosions and gunfire. What I don’t do is take a head count to see how many women, gays, non-binary genders and people of whatever color there are in the game.

What’s gotten me on this kick, you ask? Well, you could blame Sarah. We were talking last night and I asked if she had any suggestions for this morning’s post. She sent me the link to this article. I’d seen the article earlier but hadn’t paid it much attention. But with Sarah, the non-gamer, knowing about it, I thought it might necessitate a second look.

I first heard about the indie game developer the article is about several weeks/months ago when the usual suspects on FB started talking about how badly she was being treated by the gaming industry and, most especially, by those evil, pimply faced gamers who still lived in their parents’ basements (read white guys). At no point did the developer’s supporters note any of her past history or reputation. Oh no, she was the victim because those evil male gamers were talking smack about her.

You get the picture. It was the typical SJW/GHH attack and response, much like what we saw with regard to how SFWA and that particular contingent went after Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. I’ve gotten to the point where I tend to shake my head, grit my teeth and say a silent prayer that one day common sense will rain down on the SJW/GHH crowd before they completely ruin not only SF/F and publishing but our society as well.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope of it, not unless we have more people — male and female — willing to stand up and rebut the shrill accusations and lies the other side is slinging at us. That is exactly what the article I’ve linked to does.

I could go on about what the article states but I suggest you read it. It doesn’t need interpretation and it speaks volumes about the bias in the media when it comes to the gaming industry and it confirms what we’ve discussed with regard to publishing. SJWs and GHHers scream so loud and long that they have either scared or convinced reviewers, the media, etc., that they are right and everyone must be brought, kicking and screaming, over to their side. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong. All that matters is that they are giving lip service to the politically correct cause du jour.

But, as a gamer, what absolutely sends me over the edge is how these same SJWs/GHHers claim that they can’t find games that spotlight THEM. You read their posts and reviews and you’d think there was never a game made that featured a playable character that was a person of color (hmm, does that include purple?) or gay or female or non-binary gender. If you were to believe them, every game — or almost every game — features only white males.

Give me a break.

I took a few minutes this morning to look at my Steam console as well as my Origin console. Yes, I am a gamer. Gaming is my way of relieving tension. I’m also female and most definitely not some 20-something male living in his mother’s basement.

Of the games I own, I can play as male and female, gay or straight, person of color or not. I can play as human or alien. Hmm, are they playing different games than I am?

Let’s see. Mass Effect. Three games by Bioware, one of the developers that often comes under fire from the SJWs. The main character is Commander Shepard. All three games allow you to basically create your own Shepard.  You choose the sex of your Shepard. You chose skin tone, eye color, etc. While the stats I once saw from Bioware showed more folks played as a male Shepard, it didn’t surprise me. Males are still the majority of gamers so it makes sense that they would, more often than not, play as a male character.

But there’s more. Depending on how you answer questions and interact with the other characters in the games, you can make your Shepard gay or straight. You can have relationships with other characters or not. It is your choice.

Still, the gaming industry hasn’t done enough, we’re told.

What else do I have in my games library. Hmm.

Skyrim. A huge RPG game. It had been awhile since I’d played it so I went in last night and started a new game just so I could remember the character tree. Yep, I was right. You can play as male or female. You can choose skin tone, etc. You aren’t even limited to human characters. There are elves of various types and even one race that looks a lot like a walking cat. But again, not enough diversity.

Borderlands 1 & 2.

Not so much character development here as a part of the story. But in Borderlands 1, you have one female playable character, the siren, Lilith. She is anything but helpless and she most definitely is not just an oversexed character. (That would be Moxxi who is fun and who I’d love to be able to play in a game one day). In Borderlands 2, you have a new siren — also female — Maya as a playable character. You also have, via DLC, a new female playable character, Gaige. Gearbox and 2k Games will have two playable characters in the next Borderlands game, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel.

But, Amanda, why aren’t there playable female characters in games like Assassin’s Creed, you ask.

Because it doesn’t make sense. Not in the AC games, at least not to me. Assassin Creed and all its sequels are quasi-historical games.  The playable characters are set into historical events, usually fictionalized, that set a certain social and political constraint on the story. Since the Assassin Creed games are as much story as they are action, the characters have to “fit” into the historical context. Not that it matters to the detractors who want a female or gay or non-binary sexed character no matter what (yes, they are stomping their feet and threatening to hold their breath until they get their way).

What it comes down to in the gaming industry and in writing is that the characters have to make sense in the setting we put them in. Does it make sense to have a heavily pregnant woman so close to term that the baby could come at any moment on the bridge of a starship heading into battle? Only if the ship in question was a pleasure cruiser and she was on the bridge as part of a cruise when they were attacked by pirates without warning. It doesn’t make sense to have her there in a command capacity in the middle of an on-going war. Not unless it was a world’s last ditch effort to save itself.

Nor does it make sense to have a checklist of characters and certain character traits that have to be in a story or game just to satisfy the PC crowd. A good author, be it of a book or of a game’s backstory and plot, will write so that readers will see themselves in the characters one way or another. Write the characters that are needed for the story, both main characters and supporting. That will win you more readers than writing the cookie cutter PC novel or game script.

Most of all, stand up to the bullies. Yes, bullies. That’s how so many of the SJWs and GHHers act. They run to the media and their blogs and social media to whine and cry and throw epitaths at those of us who don’t fit their ideal of politically correct goodness. Even when they are foolish enough to try to debate the issues with us, they run back to social media to crow their victory after they’ve been soundly thrashed. The problem is, too often we sit back and let them get away with it. We play into their hands when we remain silent or when we go against our better judgment and change out characters to meet whatever artificial standards they set for us.

The time is now to stand up for good stories, stories that entertain and actually make people want to buy our books and games. Who’s with me?

Don’t break canon without good reason

You know, it really isn’t fair that I have to follow Dave on this blog. That’s especially true after his post yesterday. If you haven’t read the post yet, go do so now. He gives the best response to the Hatchette “response” to Amazon’s letter that I’ve seen. That’s all I’m going to say on the Amazon/Hatchette subject today except for this: the double standard of the Amazon haters applauding authors like Patterson for their ad asking readers to email Amazon to say how evil they think Amazon is while at the same time condemning Amazon for asking its customers and KDP authors to email Hatchette boggles my mind. And that, for now at least, is all I’m going to say on the matter.

I have been in a dry spell for finding blog topics recently, especially ones that don’t include the words Amazon, Hatchette, Hugos or LonCon. The latter two mainly because I figure there will be lots of fodder after the Hugos are announced. Today is no different — sort of. It would be very easy to turn this post into one about the loss of Robin Williams. Whether you liked him or not, I doubt any of us can deny that his was a talent that spanned the years and proved that comics could also be great dramatic actors. Unfortunately, anything I were to write here would eventually lead to a discussion of his demons and there would be someone to blame him for taking his life — yes, I’ve already started seeing those posts on social media — and you guys really don’t need to see what my response that that sort of crap would be.

Aaaaaand, just as I was about to type “so I’m going to do a promotions post today”, I checked FB one last time and am now having to clean brain matter off the walls because my head exploded. The SJWs and GHHers have done it again. Let me get another mug of coffee and I’ll explain.

Back. Now gather around children and listen closely. Characters can be anything you want them to be. They can be pink or purple, black or white, gay or straight or bi or whatever. But what they are has to make sense within the confines of your story and, if you are writing in a “universe” that has a canon, you’d better not break canon without setting the groundwork and there being a pretty darned good reason for it.

Consider this, a letter from a fan to a writer in the Star Trek Universe who states he will never again read anything from this particular author because of a break in canon by the author. While the reader didn’t approve of the homosexual affair written into the book, that wasn’t what brought such a firm stance from him. No, it was the fact that the affair was between a Vulcan and a Klingon spy.

Read that again and you don’t even have to add the word homosexual. The important part was that there was an affair between a Vulcan and a Klingon spy. Heck an affair with anyone would have been against canon. As the reader stated, it simply wasn’t logical. Logic is the driving force with Vulcan’s and, unless the Vulcan was in the midst of the mating drive, would she be having an affair with anyone, much less a Klingon, the hereditary enemy of Vulcan?

The author’s response was not to explain how the affair was justified by the plot — so I have to assume that it wasn’t — or how it was allowed by canon. Nope, not at all. Instead he blogs about how there must be diversity in science fiction and how proud he is to be pushing forward in bringing such diverse characters to SF, and the Star Trek universe in particular. In fact, the closest he comes to trying to justify such a character arc is to quote Spock from one of the movies: “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”

All the author seems concerned with is the fact that the reader was closed-minded in his beliefs and the fact that he, the author, was so very proud of how he wrote the character and how she grew during the story. Now, I’m the first to say it always feels good as a writer to see your characters evolve during a story. But to put that ahead of the story, and story canon, can be disastrous.

Now, I know you guys are going to note that I haven’t linked to the post in question. I haven’t and I won’t. For those of you curious enough, I’ve given more than enough detail to let you find it through a quick search. But I frankly have no desire to send any more traffic to this person’s blog than necessary. To me, the response to the read email epitomizes the stance of the SJW/GHH crowd. To them, the message is more important than the story and to hell with what the readers want. In this case, the author broke canon, or at least appears to have and I’ve seen nothing in his response to tell me otherwise. That will lose more readers than the fact he wrote homosexual characters.

So here’s my two cents’ worth. Write the character that needs to be written for the story. But don’t make a character into whatever the current “character class du jour” might be just so you have a “diverse” cast of characters and stories. If you force the diversity, there will be a feeling of artificiality to it. Your reader will see it and that will detract from your story. Is that what you really want to happen and all for the sake of being politically correct?

And, for the record, unless there is a really good backstory explaining it, there’s no way I’d buy a Vulcan and a Klingon having an affair — gay, straight or otherwise.

***

Now for the obligatory self-promotion.

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

nocturnaloriginscoverSome things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
written under pen name Ellie Ferguson

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what.

Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)
written under the pen name of Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

 

 

Jason Cordova takes on “Con or Bust” and more

My second post ever at Mad Genius Club was going to be a gentle, “Hey, cool. I’m part of the club now!” kind of post, until I was directed to something called “Con or Bust”. Sponsored by former SFWA president John Scalzi and grandmaster Mike Resnick (there are others, but those are the only two I recognized at a glance), “Con or Bust began as a response to RaceFail ’09, when people of color expressed the desire to help each other attend WisCon (a prominent feminist SFF convention).”

Their words, not mine. I quoted that for context.

I actually had to look up the RaceFail ’09 incident, which led me to attendees at WisCon getting butthurt about there being a lack of diversity in SF as a whole and wanted more programming dedicated to race topics. Not race in science fiction or fantasy, from how I’m reading this. Just race. Not sure how many people would attend this sort of panel, honestly. This is on top of the recent developments regarding unnamed patrons of the art demanding that we rid ourselves of the binary gender in all SF novels because it offends them, has cause my own personal landmines to be triggered.

Up until it was pointed out to me (again by John Scalzi) that being born white automatically entitles you to have a better start in life, I had been blissfully unawares that white people are so much better than everyone else. I’d been unaware that white people were better at sports, were smarter, worked harder, and generally succeeded at everything because of their skin tone. Nothing was hard and everything came easy.

You.

Are.

White.

Congratulations, you win at life.

Damn. I want to be that kind of white.

You can deride the previous paragraph all you want, but the message of diversity is one of preferential treatment. You can’t have “equality” with “diversity”, because diversity means creating equality through artificial means. It’s as simple as that. The moment you force people to identify as a color or race, you’ve lost equality, because preferential treatment is exhibited in order to create your self-perceived diversity.

Think about it for a moment. Don’t just skim this and draw a conclusion that fits your preconceptions. Actually sit down and think.

Okay, now that you’ve calmed down and had a chance to think, tell me: who are your favorite authors, and why?

You’ve probably named a few from the MGC off the top of your head, or perhaps another author somewhere else. Why is that author your favorite? Is it because of their tightly-woven plot structure, their fast-paced action, their compelling character development?

Or does your favorite author focus on diversity and race in their novel? Do they push the envelope with the GLBT theme? Is the primary focus of the story about society’s flaws in gender equality?

Odds are, you typically don’t go out of your way to find a novel about race and diversity. If it’s in the story, that’s fine, but you bought the book of the author because of the story. I recently read (okay, two years ago, but it was just that good of a book) a book written by Maurice Broaddus called “King Maker” which featured a cast of purely “people of color”. Did he beat me over the head with it? Not really, because his take on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in the urban fantasy element was so cool that I barely noticed. Should people buy it purely because it has “people of color” in it? Nope. They should buy it because it’s a good book, plain and simple.

Besides, when you get down to it, the book had a decided lack of diversity. It featured three Asian people, one old white guy, and the rest of the characters (including the main) being black. Did it matter? No, because again, I didn’t notice until I read the book a second time (for the review I was writing).

When I look at “diversity” in the SF/F arena, I see a bunch of faceless names. I have no idea who is what, or what their sex is, or what sex they prefer, or even if they enjoy being a sex (that’s a lot of sex in one sentence, by the way… awkward). I want a well-written, exciting book, not something being pushed because of the personal tragedies the writer was forced to endure as a nongendernormative individual in a world of gendernormative fascists (or something… I kinda lost my train of thought trying to type that word out), or the compelling struggle of some guy because his skin tone of .2 shades darker than mine.

That’s racism, by the way. Pure and simple, though it is thinly disguised as “equality”.

It is, really. Oh sure, you can quibble all you want about the actual definition of the word, but when you push someone’s race as the selling point of anything (instead of substance or quality of work), that’s racism.

Back to the “Con or Bust” people…

In the 1970’s, legend has it (I wasn’t born yet) that there were very few women actually attending SF cons. So cons, instead of implementing group-think and demanding equality through subversive means, decided to figure out a way to draw women to cons and have them spend their hard-earned dollars on… stuff (hey, I just buy t-shirts at cons. Some people buy swords and countries. It’s a free market and I don’t know what people buy at cons is what I’m trying to say). The problem fixed itself, and now it seems that women outnumber men at conventions.

The problem can fix itself, if given the proper room to breathe. Forming a committee to help the “noble savage” see just how good the other side lives is not the way to do it.

I oftentimes wonder if people look in the mirror and say “It’s not okay that you’re white. You have friends who are not, and you even have gay friends as well. The fact that you’re born white is bad, and in order to change, you must hate all that is white, because white is racist.”

Dear white people: you’re forgiven.

I know you never owned a slave (unwilling, that is… see, I have friends in– wait, never mind). I know most of you never insisted that there be two types of fountains for whites and colored. I believe you when you say that you’d never commit a hate crime, and that you’d never treat anyone else different because of the color of their skin. I believe you when you say that race is not a factor in your admissions process in colleges

So why the guilt? Why the urge to sabotage everything that people have worked hard for in the name of diversity? Why not simply take their name, sex and race from their admissions papers, applications or anything else, and judge with what is left over? That would encourage equality, would it not? But if you argue that this wouldn’t promote diversity, then true equality isn’t your goal at all.

It’s okay if you want to admit it. Equality, in its pure form, is a stone-cold bitch.

 *     *     *

Jason is a fellow author and Barfly. For more information about his books, check out his website. Also check out Shiny Book Reviews where he and Barb Caffrey offer up fair and honest reviews of newly published books.

Gah and gag and arrrrrrgh

No, it’s not “Talk like a pirate day” nor am I trying to cough up a hairball. What I’m trying to do is keep from throwing my laptop across the room. Over the last few months, Dave, Sarah, Kate and I have written about the idiocy that has been happening in SFWA specifically and in publishing in general. I honestly thought things had calmed down a bit — until a couple of days ago that focused more on what our ethnic background and sexual preferences were than about what we liked to read and why. I could fisk that survey and the reasoning behind it and, to be honest, had planned to but then the latest bit of idiocy came across my facebook feed and, well, I can’t let it pass.

To start, I’ll admit that I have issues with companies and publishers making decisions like the one DC Comics has apparently made regarding Batwoman. Part of the current iteration of Batwoman story arc is that she is gay and is in a relationship with a Gotham City policewoman. This isn’t something that is alluded to but something the readers are well aware of. Yet the powers that be at DC have decided that they will not allow the couple to get married — which would, from what I can tell, be a natural progression of the story arc and character development. But the corporate suits said no and that was the final straw that broke the back of the current creative team for Batwoman. They will be leaving after issue #26 in December.

I don’t care if the suits are afraid such a wedding would draw attention to Orson Scott Card and his association with Superman. Frankly, I don’t care what Card’s beliefs are. He can shout them from the rooftops if he wants, no matter what a certain faction in the SF community thinks. This is the US of A and that means he has the right to say pretty much anything he wants (with a few limitations) just as he has the right to believe what he wants. You don’t have to like it nor do you have to agree. All I care about is if he writes an entertaining book. Part of that means he doesn’t beat me over the head with his beliefs in some attempt to “educate” or “enlighten” me, something his naysayers are all too often guilty of doing.

Then there is this next piece of “what the bleep were they thinking?” also from DC. I appreciate the fact the suits are looking for new art talent. I even appreciate the fact that the character involved, Harley Quinn, isn’t your normal girl next door. Far from it, in fact. However, one of the required scenes the artists entering the contest have to depict is a naked Harley in her tub about to kill herself. Here’s how DC describes the scene:

Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.

Now, and this is where I’ll get in trouble with the “right thinking” folks, I don’t really have an issue with Harley being naked. She’s in a tub filled with water, after all. My issue is in the set-up. If you read the previous three images DC is looking for, they are all out of the ordinary — and dark humored — scenes where Harley is putting herself in the jaws of death without success. This last panel is an all too real scene and there is nothing humorous, evenly darkly humorous, about it.

But the PC folks are screaming because Harley is to be depicted naked in the scene. That’s wrong. It shows what’s wrong with comics and graphic novels and SF. It’s anti-woman and perpetuates all the bad things men think about us. Gah and gag and arrrrrrrgh.

No, as with refusing to let Batwoman marry her female partner, is goes against character and story arc. Harley is anything but normal. Just adding more electrical appliances about to drop into the water doesn’t make it fit her. So, nope, don’t buy it.

And that brings us to the true source for my irritation. Part of me wants to follow the example set by a friend when he commented about the article on Facebook. He didn’t link to the article because he refused to give the author any more PR than he’d already received. (Hat tip to Steve Simmons). However, to properly fisk the article, I have to link to it. Besides, there are some interesting comments — from both sides of the argument — following it.

So, here goes and you can blame Sarah for what happens next because she’s the one who inflicted this article on me in the first place.

Let be start by saying I was already in the mood to not like what I was about to read simply by looking at the headline: It’s time for science fiction to face up to discrimination

Followed immediately by: Why are most SF authors straight, white western men? Science fiction writers can’t ignore the diversity that exists on planet Earth

Basically, according to this author, science fiction is just too darned conventional, too darned white, too darned male and too darned heterosexual. Oh, there’s more, but I’ll let you read the post for yourself. It’s too darned early for me to go back to it and get upset all over again.

However, here’s my issue with the article. Well, my issues. First, the author states that the majority of sff authors are white males from the US and Great Britain. But what’s his source for this? We don’t know because he doesn’t say. As one FEMALE author pointed on in the comments, by SFWA count as well as by another survey, that gap between male and female authors in the genre isn’t much and I’d put to you that it is closing even as we speak.

But my issue goes beyond that. Everything this person decries as happening in SF/F is because of the editors and publishers. Authors have tried for years to write stories with persons of color and characters that might be gay or bi or whatever. Editors have rejected those stories, saying the public wouldn’t read them. Publishers refused to publish them or buried them by refusing to give the book any push. For years these same publishers demanded women write under pen names or use only their initials because the sf/f reading public wouldn’t read science fiction written by women.

BTW, that’s the same argument that’s been used when men have tried to sell romance books to publishers.

So if you are going to take anyone to task for not publishing books which meet the diversity of the world, look no further than those publishers and editors in their ivory towers in New York and London. These self-proclaimed liberals (in most cases) who have no problem telling their authors they need to write socially relevant books decrying big business, the military and pushing global warming and socialistic policies. Ask yourself why these so-called enlightened editors and publishers weren’t pushing their authors to write novels with these more diverse characters in them.

Oh, I can already hear that side of the argument saying it isn’t the fault of the editors and publishers any more than it is the fault of the authors. It’s the reading public’s fault because most readers of science fiction are pimply faced boys who also like to play video games like Grand Theft Auto (whichever the latest number is) and other video games where they can beat and rape women and kill persons of color for the hell of it. Give me a break. Those guys aren’t reading — at least not much — and if you want to reach other readers, you write books they want to read. End of story.

But if you buy into that argument, why aren’t you out there protesting a lot of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre with equal vigor? After all, the driving plot device in many of the books in those genres is sex, often non-consensual sex until the girl realizes that the hunky male creature of whatever flavor is her life mate. I guess the only reason those books aren’t condemned is because most of them are written by women. Funny, seems like a double standard to me.

Back to the article. Another problem I have with the basic premise of the article is that it demands we put today’s so0-called sensibilities and “diversity” into our stories about the future. Stories that might not take place on this planet and, even if they did, time and events have changed the way the world looks and people act. I would like to think that in a thousand years, we will have gotten past the issues that plague us today. Even if some of those same issues still exist — and religious conflict certainly may — most will not. We’ll have other things to worry about.

There’s something else to consider and I’ll go back to gaming for the example. Borderlands 2 from Gearbox has been out about a year now. It is an over the top science fiction action/shooter game set in what could be called a dystopian world. It garnered rave reviews when it was released.

And then, as people started playing through it, there came the naysayers. Why? Because of one character, one non-playable character. Suddenly there was a spate of posts calling the game racist because it had an over the top white, female character talking in what the detractors called a bad imitation of black slang. How dare Gearbox allow this. It was insensitive. It was racist.

It was a lot of bull.

And it is what I’ve seen happen in the science fiction community as well. All you have to do is go onto Facebook and see how some — and it is a very small minority — writers of color (as they call themselves) condemn any writer who doesn’t happen to fall into their group and who then tries to write a character of color. According to this small group, we can’t do it because we can’t identify with the generations of prejudice, etc., that they can. Funny, we can imagine what it is to be an alien from another planet or to live on a spaceship traveling across the cosmos but we can’t do the research and talk to our friends in order to get a handle on what a character of color might feel and do IN THE FUTURE.

So, for the author of the article saying we need to start showing the diversity of today’s world, I have one thing to say: that’s fine for stories set now and in the near future. For stories set in the distant future, the realities will be different and if we’ve done our world building right, we will have characters that are necessary for the story, no matter what their color, religion or sexual orientation. The key is to write a story that the readers will enjoy. Instead of telling the rest of us what needs to be done, perhaps the author should have taken the time necessary to write the article to do a little research and look at the number of female authors and authors of color there are in the genre. Compare it with a list from a hundred years ago and tell me things aren’t getting better.

If you think we need more diversity in SF/F, write it. Ask your publishers why they aren’t putting it out. If they won’t, then put it out yourself. Believe me, science fiction fans have reveled in the new selection offered by Amazon and Kobo, etc. As long as you write a good story, you can slip your message in. Just don’t make it a sermon.

In the meantime, look at your bookshelf. How many of your science fiction novels have female lead characters? Gay characters? Characters of color? How many were written by women? Now, how many of them are by a certain publisher that most of the “right thinking people” love to condemn because it is conservative and — gasp — pioneered e-books?

Now pardon me while I go look for the brain bleach to get the after-effects of that idiotic article out of my head.