Brilliance from Hal Duncan

The status quo is segregation. It’s a state of segregation in which black, queer and members of other abject groups are not deemed to belong as main characters. This is the segregation of not being able to sit at the front of the bus. They may be allowed in as an exception if it “serves the plot” (c.f. your reviewer’s expectation of a *reason* for the character’s gayness.) This is the segregation of being stopped in a white neighbourhod and challenged on your purpose in being there. They may be allowed in as Gay Best Friends or Magic Negros in service of the straight, white protagonist. This is the segregation of travelling into a white neighbourhood to work as a cleaner in someone’s house.

It’s segregation for the readers too. They may be able to go to a little corner of the genre where they can find stories that speak direct to them (a gay spec fic mag like Icarus, say.) This is the segregation of the ghetto. While this holds, as much as the abject may appreciate much of the narratives they’re written out of, the constant awareness of their erasure from these narratives is a barrier that prevents full enjoyment, a sign that says, “No Blacks” or “No Gays” (or whatever) that they must choose to ignore. This is the segregation of water fountains at which the abject cannot drink and be refreshed as the non-abject can.

There’s no requirement on an author to engage with the issues of race or sexuality or whatever as subjects; an author’s thematics is their choice. The desire for inclusion is not a politically correct demand for quotas whereby X% of seats at the front of the bus are allotted to the abject, such that some poor old lady who deserves that seat will be forced to stand; that’s a straw man of the committed segregationist. Nor is it a trivial petition for “diversity” that can be met with perfunctory tokenism; that’s a complacent delusion of the unwitting segregationist. It’s a desire for integration, plain and simple — nothing more, nothing less.

From here, at author Mark Charan Newton’s blog.

Sorry for simply posting someone else’s thoughts, but a) I’m still in Deadline Hell, got no time for bloggery, and b) this is just so damn brilliant, it doesn’t need commentary. Posted with his permission. Also, go check out his chewy, intricate, equally brilliant novel.

4 Responses »

  1. Vellum is one of the most awesome novels EVER.

    And that is a truly awesome post.

  2. Yeah, see, I would say things that way if I could. But he does it so well. It is really quite a brilliant statement.

  3. How fortuitous! I was just engaging in a conversation on Google Reader about novels that exemplify left-leaning values, since right-leaning novels have some clear representation (ala Ayn Rand). See http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/03/what-is-the-ultimate-left-wing-novel.html for more on what I’m talking about.

    I’ve already said it twice, but I think the kind of sci-fi and fantasy that moves beyond the typical is where we find the best modern examples of these values. (As for what I mean by typical, these have been pointed out before, on this blog and elsewhere. For sci-fi, it’s speculative or space opera fluff written by straight white men about straight white men; for fantasy, it’s those same things, but with the added twist of serving as apologetics for religious conservatives, imperialists, and monarchists.)

    The other assertion is that creating compelling narratives necessarily channels left-leaning ideals, because the Progressive movement is at its core tied up in notions of universal human rights, the same elements that make good drama.

    But I am curious if you share this view of your own work.

  4. one area where i think things are really changing is YA. i’m 26 and i read a lot of YA which i share with my 14 year old sister. and at least the YA that we read is not so dominated by heterosexual white males. there are a lot of kick ass female protagonists, a lot of female writers (kristin cashore’s and suzanne collins’ books are great, and the heroines rule). and gay and non-white protagonists seem to be a lot more common than in other fiction i read (maureen johnson, john green, david levithan are authors which come to mind). YA is an exploding genre, and its affecting the future, because its targeted at young people. i love that my sister is growing up loving SFF and books in general, and she has so many options where the protagonists are all different sorts of people.