Follow Friday Five: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong, Gay YA

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

This week? Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

It’s not enough to say we want more diversity in SFF, or genre fiction, or literature — we have to actually seek out and read authors and educators who write from a perspective that isn’t “middle-class white suburban America”. Today’s Follow Five can help you to do that.

Barbara Jane Reyes is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, award-winning author of numerous poetry chapbooks, and professor of Filipina American Literature. She was born in Manila, and raised in the SF Bay Area, where she got a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (U.C. Berkeley) and a M.F.A. from San Francisco State.

Reyes is constantly working to increase readership of Filipino — particularly Filipina — authors. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA), is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, and co-editor of Doveglion Press. She’s given numerous readings, lectures, and interviews (you can find some of them on her YouTube channel here), and she regularly writes comprehensive blog posts detailing authors, lit movements, and cultural history. For example, she’s recently shared several lists of Filipina American Lit Authors that should be required reading not just for students of Filipin@ authors, not just for literary students, but for readers in general.

Filipina American Literature Reading Recommendations: List 1 | List 2 | List 3 | List 4 | List 5

You can find her online at barbarajanereyes.com and on Twitter @bjanepr

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican-Canadian author and editor whose creations include Innsmouth MagazineInnsmouth Free Press, and The Jewish Mexican Literary Review (with Lavie Tidhar). She also co-edits The Dark with Sean Wallace. She was also the original fiction editor for People of Colour Destroy Horror, a special issue of Nightmare Magazine. As editor, her anthology She Walks in Shadows — highlighting Lovecraft’s mostly-ignored female characters — was nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year. As an author, she’s published dozens of short stories since 2006, and has two collections out now. Her novels (Signal to Noise, 2015, and Certain Dark Things, 2016) focus on the supernatural from a Mexican perspective, and have been widely praised.

Moreno-Garcia has long been a fan, and scholar, of horror — including exploring and expanding on the work of HP Lovecraft. (In fact, her 2016 MA thesis is available online: “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft” and has my vote for a “Best Related Work” Hugo next year.) Her Strange Horizons article on the history of Mexican Science Fiction is a must read — though I wish it were longer — and her Fantasy Magazine article on Pre-Columbian Cultures in Film recommends work you probably would never have heard of otherwise.

Start with those three pieces of nonfiction, move on to Moreno-Garcia’s stories and novels, and then keep an eye out for anything she publishes as as an editor.

You can find her online at silviamoreno-garcia.com and on Twitter @silviamg

Dr. Adrienne Keene is the writer behind “Native Appropriations“, professor of Native Studies, and member of the a Cherokee Nation. Hers is a tireless voice, active online (particularly Twitter), discussing and dissecting stereotypes of indigenous peoples. She frequently highlights cultural appropriation, and shares news stories you probably missed. On the Native Appropriations site, she writes long posts which thoughtfully and kindly — often, much more kindly than we deserve — explain in detail exactly what’s wrong with the lack of Native representation in Hamilton, or why polls claiming Native people don’t mind racist sports team names are probably very wrong.

In short, she educates the public. If you’re wondering whether she’s constantly the target of abuse and harassment for that effort, the answer is yes. Yes, racist white dudes flood her mentions on the regular, defending their team mascots, and entitled white women active insist on their right to dismiss critiques of their “native-inspired” Coachella headdresses. Keene educates us anyway.

You can find her online at Native Appropriations and on Twitter @NativeApprops

Alice Wong is a writer and activist, and founder of the  Project. She shares and discusses news to foster a greater understanding about the intersection of disability stories, culture, politics, public perception, and the individual people living with the experience of disability.

Wong is an organizer of , to encourage discussion of disability issues during the 2016 election season (which is still ongoing), writes curricula for home care providers and caregivers, and is a Staff Research Associate for the Community Living Policy Center. Her Twitter is full of insightful conversation about the variety of barriers faced by people living with disability, and their struggles against institutional ableism — and she contributes greatly to the discussion.

Wong also a contributor to The Nerds of Color and Model View Culture, so you know I’m following her for those things, too. (Geeks of the world, unite!)

You can find her online at disabilityvisibilityproject.com and on Twitter @SFdirewolf

The Gay YA project isn’t a person, but is an excellent source of news, information, and discussion about QUILTBAG+ characters in YA novels. They host a book club, share links, point writers at agents who are open to repping diverse authors, and moderate Twitter chats on various related topics. If you write YA, want to read YA, or are involved in any other aspect of publishing and want to stay on top of current trends in fiction, follow Gay YA. (So, basically, anyone who reads and/or writes. Yes, this means you.)

You can find them online at gayya.org and on Twitter at @thegayYA

10 Seemingly Polite (But Actually Racist As F*ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met

  1. Where are you from? Unless you’re prepared to respond to “I’m from Cleveland” with “You must be happy the Cavs got LeBron back”, do not ask this question of people you’ve just met. Why not? Because in America, the people who get asked that question are almost always people of color, and answering with the name of a US city usually gets “Ok, but where were you born?” as a response. The implication is that if you’re not white, you’re automatically not from here, you must be from somewhere else. The one exception to this is black people, who are usually assumed to be African-American (even if they’re not) because of course we know where they came from, right?
  2. Do you have an American name? If the person you are talking to was born in America or later became a citizen of the United States, their name is their American name. They are American. Even if they’re not, no one is issued an “American name” when they get their passport stamped at the airport on their way into the country. What you’re really saying here is “Do you have a more white-sounding name because I’m not going to bother to learn how to pronounce yours.”
  3. What ethnicity are you? Unless you’re taking a census poll, you do not need to know this when you meet someone. (As a white person, I have never, not once, in my life, been asked what my ethnicity is, even though pale-skinned people are not from the same hegemonious group somewhere in Europe.) If it’s relevant to the conversation, they’ll probably volunteer it. If they don’t, it’s either not relevant, or they may not want you to know.
  4. [greeting them in a foreign language] Unless you know for a fact the person’s ethnicity, place of birth, country they grew up in, and that they speak the language you’re attempting to use on them, AND THEY’VE TOLD YOU THEY ARE FINE WITH YOU SPEAKING TO THEM IN THIS WAY, do not do this. You’re most likely going to be wrong about either the language their ancestors spoke or that person’s ability to speak it, so you’re going to look like an idiot; worse, you’re starting off the conversation with proof you’ve both racially profiled and stereotyped that person, all at once.
  5. Who’s baby is this? when the infant in question is not the exact same skin tone as the adult you’re asking. Really want to be a jackass? Follow up them telling you, “Oh, she’s mine” with “Aww, is she adopted?”
  6. Your jacket/jewelry/outfit is so interesting/pretty/cool, is that from your home country? You know who rarely gets asked something they’re wearing is from their “home country”? White people. But, white people wear “ethnic looking” stuff all of the time. Mexican embroidery on peasant tops, Native American imagery on jewelry, Asiatic dragons on practically everything, and yet, few people ask about it with the idea that it’s somehow representing something specific to that white person. People of color get asked because they’re the other, they’re different, they’re foreign… even when they’re not. (Or do you just not ask white people about the origin of their clothes because you already know it’s appropriation?)
  7. Your hair is so complex/interesting/unusual — it must take a long time to do. Translation: you don’t have white people hair, your life must be hard. I’m so glad I have easy hair.
  8. Your hair is really pretty like that (when the person has a Western/American hairstyle that they don’t always wear). Translation: you made your hair look like white people hair, good job! You’re more acceptable to me now.
  9. What do your parents think of you being/working/living here? If you’re at a strip club, perhaps asking a dancer that question is reasonable — there’s a common misconception that erotic dancers are doing something immoral, and so, maybe their parents wouldn’t like their job. But it’s probably still the wrong thing to ask. When you’re asking it of a person of color, you’re signaling to them that you think it’s weird they’re there. You’re saying that you wouldn’t expect someone like them to have that job, or be in that place, and by phrasing it as a question about their parents, you’re trying to put a polite veneer on excluding them from what you think is “normal” for that place.
  10. Oh, do you know Bob Chu? He’s my neighbor/coworker/employee of a place that I go to. Pro tip: people of the same ethnicity do not automatically all know each other. Even people of the same ethnicity who are all in the same town, or all attending the same convention, do not know each other. By asking this, you’re letting the person know you aren’t going to remember anything about them except their ethnicity, and to you, all of those people are interchangeable and connected. Good job, jackass!

 

Chinoiserie is just another way that racism sells fiction.

I saw a comment on a Facebook thread which asked, “why do we have so many Japanese and Chinese science-fiction protagonists and authors featured, and fewer Indian ones?”

My response, built off my many years studying the history of art, and speculative fiction, along with my experience in the industry as a writer and publisher, and conversations I’ve had with many, many, authors and readers:

Because Chinese/Japanese authors and stories fall into the currently acceptable version of the same recurring Chinoiserie* that Western audiences have been buying since the 1600s. It’s Orientalism, really; the idea that certain kinds of Asian culture/fiction or writers of specific Asian descent share an aesthetic which is more “delicate”, more “refined”, more “exotic”, than Western styles but not too much so. We’re allowing an archetype (of that highly educated, polite, non-politcal, poetic, Asian, the one who would have counted up on your gold on his abacus or played soft music for you while another one poured a perfect cup of tea) to be bought, promoted, and win awards because it makes us (the Western, white, “us”) feel more diverse, while still not being threatened. Some Koreans or Singaporeans are okay, depending on the tale. That’s why only a certain kind of story is being bought by most publishers right now. The other type of Asians, the ones writing about the culture and stories of people from the Philippines, Vietnam, India (especially outside the cities), Laos, and so on — well, that feels too “tribal” to most Westerners. Too “other”. Too much like Mexican or African stories, and so it doesn’t get published.

Look at the award lists for the Hugo, Nebula, Andre Norton, Campbell, or even the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards… where Asians are nominated or win, what percentage are Chinese/Japanese? Can you think of an author of Asian descent who’s won a major SFF award who wasn’t Chinese or Japanese? (The few Asian authors we’ve lauded, that I can think of, are either Korean, which most Westerners think of as China-lite, or are women, because we expect them to be more delicate, more respectful, more graceful, more Oriental, and so, more acceptable.)

The long-form winner of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award was translated from Chinese in 2013. And 2012. Including it’s inaugural year, 2011, no Asian work was even on the long list that wasn’t Chinese or Japanese. No Asian author has won, or made the shortlist for, the Best Novel Hugo, but we’ve recognized white authors writing about China: McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang, Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, for example.

Look at the sort of stories we read, buy, and will only accept from even authors who aren’t of Chinese or Japanese descent: retold Chinese myths, dragon/carp/phoenix tales, Emperors, concubines and geisha, martial artists… We buy imagery that includes tea ceremonies and lotuses, cherry blossoms and samurai swords, jade, silk, kimono, brush-painted letters, origami, rice paper screens. Set it in the future, set it in space, retell it in the Singularity, sure, but it’s got to hold on to that classic Chinese sensibility. (Firefly, anyone?)

As the objects which were originally prized made their way, as descriptions or depictions of those objects, into art and literature, that commodity fetishism eventually (and now) implied cultural and historical significance into the imagined lives of those objects — and by extension, those people. After all, Chinoiserie was about collecting the “curios” of a place when importing the people (as servants, slaves, exotic mistresses) wasn’t always affordable.

I’m not saying that those authors don’t deserve to be recognized. Of course they do. It’s so rare we give out the big SFF awards to anyone who isn’t white that pretty much every one else is a victory for diversity. Yay! But let’s not kid ourselves that we’re truly celebrating the range of humanity.

I can’t blame the Asian authors, who try to write other things and get told it won’t sell, or who submit other types of stories only to have them rejected in favor of the “popular” tropes. I can blame the readers who don’t look for anything more, or worse, don’t realize their error when they assume this is what all Asian fiction must be like. I can blame the publishers who profit off racism by catering to this illusion.

But instead of looking for who to blame, I’d ask you to seek out those who’re getting it right by writing and publishing more than the expected/accept tropes. Find stories about American-born Asians who’re struggling with the disconnect between their middle-class life here, and their grandfather’s upbringing in a jungle. Find stories about Mongolian settlers raising lizard-horse hybrids on a faraway planet, or Cambodian techs programming a new utopia. Seek out Sri Lankan authors, and Filipinos, and Laotian. (Start here. Or here. Or here. Or here.)

They’re out there, and they’re amazing.

* Not sure what Chinoiserie is? It’s defined as “a style in art (as in decoration) reflecting Chinese qualities or motifs; also :  an object or decoration in this style” and “reflecting fanciful and poetic notions of China”. This is a Google image search on the term; here’s the Getty’s 2004 exhibit “Imaging the Orient“. Read “Chinoiserie is Clearly French for ‘Hella Tacky’“, this post about Anna May Wong/Chinoiserie in 1920’s Film, “Imperial Glaze on China“, for a quick perspective. For a longer read, check out Ma, Sheng-mei, Deathly embrace: Orientalism and the Asian American identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

“A key point: chinoiserie as not just a european appropriation and adulteration of chinese imagery and artistry, but also a form that is produced by chinese people/chinese-americans to appeal to and satisfy the palates of whites. chinoiserie also relies on stereotyping china and on racializing art forms.” – notes in a diasporic tongue

Bringing Lovecraft’s Mythos into the future, again. (Or, hey, I wrote a story!)

A handsome boy delivered glasses of chilled water to our table, singing out, “Hydration!” as he slid one in front of each of us. They were always lovely, the ones who served our food and smiled as they took our coats.

I watched him walk away as Marc sighed heavily.

“You do look feverish,” Hassa said, concerned. “You’re sweating.”

“You should notify medical,” Elda added.

“Yes, I think …” Marc paused, putting a hand to his forehead. “I think I’ll go there now.” He lurched to his feet and left, bumping into our handler as he passed her. She looked shaken but managed to get our meal on the table in the right order. Her long hair was brushed straight and bound behind her head with a black bow. I thought about my own hair, cropped close to my head, the way it had been for years. Data processor chic; we all wore it this way.

“He’s gone to medical,” I said when I realized she was still standing at our table, Marc’s food on her tray, a lost look on her face. “You can take that back to the kitchen.” She smiled then, brightly, and retreated.

Mid-shift break never feels as if it’s long enough.

I settled into my couch, removing the cover from my data jack and slipping the transfer cable inside. The world fell away, and my real life came back into focus.

As I was unpacking the last file for the day, a vid with partial frame loss, a message flashed: my Architect advising me that I was needed on the University project. Marc’s project. I put the vid aside and sent her a reply, questioning.

“We have two processors out with illness,” she answered back. “Is anything in your queue a priority?”

“No, I’m clear to transfer,” I thought back at her, and she changed my queue with a quick “Thank you.” File attached. Info for the University. I put it aside for the next day, cleaned up my video, and placed it with the rest of its mates.

I wish I could say that I had some premonition of what was coming, but I slept dreamlessly and woke up refreshed. We have pills for that.

My cyber-Mythos story, “CL3ANS3”, is now available as part of the Eldritch Chrome anthology, out from Chaosium. This is one of two stories I sold to the same pair of editors in early 2012 (the other, “No Hand To Turn The Key”, is a clockpunk/Mythos mashup I wrote in January 2011, which will appear in Steampunk Cthulhu. I don’t have a release date for it but it should be out sometime this year).

I love getting to use Lovecraft’s universe and monsters to make something new, without the racism, misogyny, or Protestant morality endemic to his writing. Sex, especially, seeps into my Mythos tales – I can’t seem to stop making them naughty and exciting in a way poor old Lovecraft would certainly not approve of. “CL3ANS3” is definite dirty; it’s meant to be wrong, the kind of sexy that makes you want to scrub off your thoughts after you have them. It’s been long enough since I put the words down that I think I’m a better writer now, but this story was fun to write. I hope it’s still fun to read, in a creepy sort of way.

Taking out the bad parts of Lovecraft isn’t enough, though, and I tried to go further. The narrator of this story is as featureless as possible, without identifiable race or gender, to allow all readers to find a little of themselves in this character. In this future, anyone can be tempted by the darkness seeping in. I’d like to think the Elder Gods, should they ever come for us, wouldn’t discriminate at all.

Dear (Jackass) Just because I’m a woman, don’t assume I’m talking about women all the damn time.

Dear Jackass,

When I talk about increasing diversity, or problematic tropes, or the state of publishing today, you always assume I’m talking about women.

If I say, “using alien space hookers in your story is a tired old trope that came out of a time when SF writers hid their racism by attributing negative stereotypes to aliens instead of non-whites”, you assume I’m upset that you portrayed women as prostitutes.

If I say publishing should use blind submissions, because it’s been proven to increase the diversity of authors, you assume I want quotas for women.

If I say your space opera movie about a platoon of soldiers fighting alien bugs isn’t diverse enough considering the source material, you point out the two white women who play supporting roles.

Yes, having women in a book or film that is otherwise populated by men is slightly more diverse than one where there are only men. And yes, because I am a woman, I would like to see myself in some of the characters portrayed in my fiction. But you do know that “diversity” means more than slapping breasts on a white guy and thinking you’ve satasified me, right? Why should science fiction, of all genres–the one where we talk about the future and human potential and evolution of both man and machine–be struggling so hard to find acceptance for anyone who doesn’t look like Casper Van Dien*?

You want to use prostitution in your SF as a way to talk about the problematic roles forced on women by the men in their lives? Sure, go ahead. I’ve done it myself. But make the hookers human and let the aliens have some positive characteristics for once.

You want to write a novel about an army of clones serving their God-Emperor as he fights to expand the Empire? Okay, fine. But do they need to be clones of Jason Statham? Base your soldiers off the best fighters and athletes on the planet right now, since that’s what anyone actually building a clone army would do. Chances are your future scientists are going to pick people like Michael Jordan, Haile Gebrselassie, Paula Radcliffe, Jet Li, Christiane Justino, Ji-Hyun Park…

And diversity in publishing means picking the best writing regardless of who submits it, which is what blind submissions gives you. It’s not about setting a quota for how many of what kind of people you “must” let in. It’s about making sure the door is wide open for everyone in the first place.

I don’t want to less women in SF. More would be better, since twice as many strong female characters who aren’t there just to serve as a romantic interest for the main character would be, let’s see, carry the 4… About 1% of the fictional people in SF. I think we can handle a few more without the universe collapsing. But that’s not the whole of the problem, so increasing the number of white women in your book isn’t the whole of the solution.

Do me a favor. If you could, from now on, pick one character in your otherwise-white story and make them a person of color, that would be a great start. Just make sure that every time you write a story, at least one person is something other than the straight/white/male default. If you have 10 or more characters in your story, make another one of them QUILTBAG, too. Two people out of ten. That’s all I’m asking. Even if your story is only 20% more diverse than it was before, IT’S BETTER THAN IT WAS BEFORE, because it more accurately reflects the world we live in and the future we’re going to live in.

If everyone writing SF got 20% more accurate than they are right now, you couldn’t say we’re ruining SF with our calls for diversity, could you?

* I swear, if they make another Starship Troopers movie where Johnny Rico isn’t a Filipino or at least an Asian living in Brazil, I will set something on fire.