Reading along with Mark

I’ve been enjoying the hell out of my own books lately, thanks to Mark of Mark Reads/Watches/Does Stuff. I mentioned before that he’s been doing a read of the Inheritance Trilogy lately, and I’ve been following along. He’s at the penultimate chapter of the first book now, and… well, hell, just watch him:

For bonus points, count the number of times he says, “FUCK!” or “THIS BOOK!”

Let me tell you guys: it’s an unbelievable thrill for me as an author to watch someone react to my work like this. A good chunk of writing is trying to manipulate your reader’s emotions — yeah, I said it — and seeing if it worked is better feedback than even the best writing group or critique can offer. It’s also so gratifying to know that someone noticed a turn of phrase or line I was especially pleased with, and it’s awe-inspiring to know that someone finds my words, my little words, profound. Even though I wrote The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms years ago, watching this is doing wonders for my writing now, because it’s helping me refine and better-understand just how hard to hit something, or whether a delicate glancing blow would be more effective. Mark, if you’re reading this, thank you. And fellow authors, if Mark decides to do a reading of your work, brace yourself, because you’re in for an amazing ride.

To that end, I have just commissioned 10 videos for the last few chapters and end-material for The Kingdom of Gods. I feel a little weird commissioning readings of my own work, though, so to make myself feel better I’m going to throw down a challenge gauntlet and rope you into the fun too. :) Most of The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods have not been claimed thus far. So if you’re enjoying these videos too, then please commission a chapter yourself — it’s only $25, though please note the rules on length — and I will match your commission, up to $250. So if just 10 of you commission a video, I’ll do 10 more, and between us we could get most of the trilogy covered!

But even if you can’t commission anything right now, please spread the word about Mark’s awesome Reads. Seriously, these deserve to be seen far and wide.

New York Comic Con

After taking last year off, I’m heading back to NYCC this year — though only for a day (Saturday), since I generally find comic cons overwhelming and exhausting. But I’m making a nice packed day of it!

First off, I’ll be doing a signing at 1 pm at the Orbit/Hachette booth. I’m told there will be copies of The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun available! Second off, at 2:45 I’ll be on a panel sponsored by The Mary Sue on underrepresented groups in geek media. Lastly at 6:30, I’ll be on Geeks of Color ASSEMBLE!, on specifically PoC in fandom and media.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

How Long ’til Black Future Month?

In celebration of Janelle Monae’s new album, which I’ve bought but haven’t listened to yet since I’m holding it as a carrot/reward for meeting certain writing goals over the next few weeks… here’s an essay that I wrote for Jonathan Wright’s ADVENTURE ROCKETSHIP! Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco anthology. If you haven’t done so yet, check out both!

Note: this is the not-fully-proofed not-final draft of the essay.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? The Toxins of Speculative Fiction, and the Antidote that is Janelle Monae

Continue reading ›


Wah! I’ve been so busy at work I didn’t have time to post this here. But fortunately The Mary Sue is on the case. Here (and there) is the cover for the previously-Untitled Magic Seismology Project:

Book cover featuring a stone embossing flecked with gold inlay. Text reads "THE FIFTH SEASON. Every age must come to an end. N. K. Jemisin"

I haven’t talked much about this book because busy. But I absolutely love this cover. The Fifth Season is set in a world which has suffered frequent, repeated Extinction Level Events for millions of years, and all life (and magic) in this world has adapted to it. Hundreds of years might pass between these events — easy, plentiful years in which great cities rise, and people have the leisure for art and science and rapid advancement — but then, again and again, the cities fall. The world is littered with the detritus of these times of plenty, and this cover hints at them: past ages of decadence, now decaying; stone that endures beneath flaking gilt. Lauren Panepinto (Orbit’s Art Director) has nailed it again.


Stuff! Going! On!

Hokay! Belatedly realized I’ve been quieter than usual here, aside from occasional long philosophical screeds about SFF politics and global domination stuff. That’s because I’ve been phenomenally busy, and frankly when I’m busy it’s much easier to Tweet about stuff than take the time to do a blog post. But since it’s been so long since I’ve talked about Just Stuff here, I figured it was time to do an update.

First, I’ve finished the UMSP! My writing group, editor, and agent are now chewing on it, and I’m in Deep Thoughts mode, letting the heat of writing the first draft waft away so I can start the revision with a cool head.

Second, some upcoming appearances: Brooklyn Book Festival on September 22nd, New York Comic Con in October, Arisia in early 2014, Wiscon later the same year. And there’s one more thing I’ll be doing after that, but I can’t tell you about it. ::looks Terribly Mysterious::

Third, I’ve adopted a new cat! Yeah, that’s news, if you’ve been following my feline roommate saga here. This new fellow was adopted from a family I know which couldn’t keep him, and he and I seem to be getting along well thus far. His given name is Ozzy, but given that he’s huge and rambunctious and kind of larger-than-life, I have embellished his name as KING OZYMANDIAS (yes, it’s supposed to be in all caps).

Orange tabby cat sitting on a couch.


Fourth, book recs (sorta)! Been reading two in particular that I’m enjoying thus far (not quite done yet with either):

  • While I was down in Oz, I met a lovely author by the name of Amie Kaufman, who along with co-author Megan Spooner is about to release YA novel These Broken Stars. It’s not at all my usual fare, but I’m actually enjoying the heck out of it so far, so I’m pre-recommending it! (That’s when I recommend something before I finish it.)
  • Also, I’ve been reading Annalee Newitz’ Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. Which, since I’m working on a post-apocalyptic fantasy right now, counts as research. But it’s fun research; the book is written in an easily accessible and engaging way. Another pre-rec!

Fifth, I’ve been following along with the Mark Does Stuff reading of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I don’t usually get to see someone reacting to my work in realtime, so this has been a treat — and Mark gets the most hilarious facial expressions. You can actually SEE HIM GO ALL CAPS. It’s delightful. And it turns out someone has commissioned him to make videos of his readings of the whole book! If something’s on his Confirmed list that you want to see videos of, you can commission him, too! Plus there’s two more books of the Inheritance Trilogy to go, and I’d love to see him capslock over them too. I think it would be a bit squinchy, ethically speaking, for me to commission those, but [blatant hint]maybe if someone here is interested…?[/blatant hint]

So that’s all the news that is news in Noraville. So, how ya been?

The Ten Percent

Note: Since I had 10 weeks to think about SFWA’s potential decision re Mr. Beale, I wrote two reaction posts. The one I posted last week is, thankfully, the “if he’s expelled” version, and I followed it up by renewing my SFWA membership. Below is what I would’ve posted if he had not been expelled, and I would’ve preceded it with a membership cancellation. As you can see, both posts use some of the same elements and arguments, though I think there’s an emotional difference that makes posting this one worthwhile. I also think it’s worthwhile to continue the larger conversation about the future of SFFdom — so I will cautiously open comments on this one, though let me remind everyone of my informal comment policy. Comments are moderated, so there might be a delay between you replying and me approving; sorry, but I’m a busy girl.

Warning for profanity.

Sign cautioning casino gamblers to set yourself a limit and DO NOT EXCEED IT

Random photo I took in Australia, just testing out my camera. Seemed apropos.

Steven Gould, SFWA’s new incoming president, is the first person who told me I was a good-enough writer to pursue a professional career. He was one of my mentors at Viable Paradise — a workshop I attended 10+ years ago in order to try and decide whether to turn the hobby I’d enjoyed since childhood into a real career. I went there with a partial novel, a little hope, and a lot of cynicism — because even as a newbie it was blatantly obvious to me that openly being who I am, writing the kind of stuff I wanted to write, meant facing a steeper uphill battle than most aspiring writers. Steven was one of the people who eased my cynicism, and encouraged my hope, such that I finally started submitting (and publishing). I will be forever grateful to him for that.

I’ve started with this so you will understand how hard it is for me to say the following: I have just cancelled my SFWA membership.

The sad fact is that Theodore Beale is right in one respect: this whole affair is really about the future of the SFF genre. He and I are ultimately irrelevant, just symbols of a bigger conflict — him gleefully so, while I have unfortunately been drafted into the role. Naturally I don’t agree with his particular gloss on the problem, which really just echoes all the stock white supremacist/misogynist/etc. rhetoric you could hear in Stormfront’s forums; he’s not really saying anything new. I’m not either. But in my view, what this boils down to is basically adaptation versus stagnation. Will SFF be an art form that evolves and grows with its audience, allowing it to survive the ages? Or will it go the way of Milesian tales and plantation tradition literature, becoming something studied in esoteric humanities courses but no longer relevant to modern life?

SFWA isn’t Ground Zero in this battle; that’s been raging for decades across movie and TV screens, game interfaces, and in the wallets of consumers worldwide. SFWA is a symbol too, however; a microcosm of this larger struggle — and frankly it’s the battleground that’s small enough for all of us to see and easily grasp. So this is why I feel driven to take this step: because if we as a genre are to choose adaptation over stagnation, we have no choice but to shed certain traits which are no longer compatible with our ability to survive. Put simply, we cannot embrace bigotry in any form and expect to appeal to the broad, diverse, international audience we’ll need to become the kind of literary form that lasts. And if SFWA is more concerned with protecting the paranoid, salacious interests of a few members over the best professional interests of all of its members, then I’d be shooting my own career in the face to support it.

But let me break this down to the personal level. Bigotry is inescapable in American society; I wish this weren’t true, but whether we admit it or not, it’s the foundation our country was built upon. I can deal with the usual cliché bigot — I did grow up in Alabama, after all. Mr. Beale is just a slightly more erudite version of the Klansmen’s kids I went to school with, and a significantly less genteel version of the Paula Deen-types I met everywhere else. But the KKK in Alabama was sued into bankruptcy, and Paula Deen lost her job, so I have come to reasonably expect that in public or professional spaces — in a civil society — blatant bigotry will be answered with blatantly severe consequences. Such consequences send a necessary message that bigotry will no longer be tolerated. By [censuring/temporarily suspending/retaining] rather than expelling Mr. Beale for promoting his hate speech via SFWA, SFWA has offered not a severe response, but a wishy-washy one. The message sent is that bigotry within SFWA won’t be tolerated for now. Much. But check back later.

I repeat: bigotry is incompatible with survival, for this genre. A tolerance for hate speech is incompatible with function, for an org that claims to welcome all pro writers regardless of their background. It’s definitely incompatible with my own ability to remain a member of said org.

Right now I cannot trust that any SFWA communication I receive in my mailbox or inbox will not contain grotesque insults to my intelligence or humanity, or the intelligence and humanity of others who do not fit the most privileged moulds. I cannot trust that a person who voices such insults, or who threatens me in however veiled a manner, will be regarded as unprofessional (to say the least) and therefore unwelcome in this “professional” organization. I can trust that I will be vilified by fellow SFWA members for complaining about such treatment, because it’s already happening. Frankly, that’s what’s happened every time a woman of color, or some other member of a marginalized group, has dared to discuss incidents like these. (It happens to white guys who complain too, but do I wonder how often they get death and rape threats for doing so.*) I can also trust that more incidents of blatant bigotry will happen on SFWA’s watch, along with more vilifications of those who protest, because SFWA’s tepid response to this incident will encourage more. It’s not surprising; 10% of SFWA’s membership thinks hate speech, attempts to intimidate, and incitements to violence are OK. (I do not have the luxury, or privilege, of assuming that the people who voted for Mr. Beale did so out of ignorance or anything benign. Reminder: death threats.) And now I can trust that SFWA will remain a haven for many other bigoted embarrasments to the genre, because it cannot even manage to rid itself of the loudest and crudest of them.

And then there’s the bullshit. There have been calls to expel me from SFWA because of my Continuum GoH speech, and/or out of some people’s misguided sense of evenhandedness — because I guess calling for an end to bigotry is the same thing as calling for the disenfranchisement of women and people of color? I can’t really follow the reasoning on that argument, sorry. I have been called a racist for mentioning race and an ageist for mentioning age and “incivil” for airing the dirty laundry of this genre’s history and present, as if pretending hate doesn’t exist is somehow polite. I’ve been told that I provoked Mr. Beale’s attack; that I was “asking for it.” I have quietly seethed while a SFWA officer informed me that they’d sat for several days on a letter I’d asked to have forwarded to the Board — a letter stating that I would cancel my membership if Mr. Beale was not expelled, and why; basically a shorter version of what I’m saying in this blog post — because s/he felt that I had sent it thoughtlessly, in anger. They then urged me to change the “inflammatory” content of the letter, for fear of alienating Board members. I told this person about the threats of violence against me, and that I was fully aware of the potential consequences. Alienating SFWA Board members is the absolute least of them.**

The word “professional” becomes meaningless, past a certain point.

Now let’s get back to that speech which so offended Mr. Beale and his friends.

I’ve been reading about reconciliation processes, these past few weeks — not just Australian Reconciliation but other countries’ attempts to reform themselves after historical evils. The first step of any reconciliation is to acknowledge that a problem exists. SFWA has had repeated opportunities to do so, and failed on almost every occasion. I understand why. We’re a community of geeks, which is a good thing… but geeks are notoriously conflict-averse. Thing is, seeking to avoid conflict is the wrong response in all these situations. Supporting the status quo is not a neutral choice — not in an institution which carries the history of racism, sexism, etc., that SFWA has. There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo. By showing any tolerance for bigotry, and by choosing to retain Mr. Beale in any capacity as an organization member, SFWA has made a clear and firm choice… to stagnate. So.

I’m sorry that this hurts Steven Gould, John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and all the other people who I know are working their asses off to save SFWA. I sincerely wish them luck in their efforts. And I am fully aware that my quitting SFWA plays into Mr. Beale’s hands to some degree — though please note that I am not the one who chose how SFWA would respond to his actions. On a purely selfish level I’m sorry that I’ll be losing the value SFWA provides to its members — but right now I’m forced to conclude that 10% is still too much shit for my tastes. Maybe I’ll come back when that percentage is down to 5%, or 1%. Those of you who’ve read this far will need to decide for yourselves how much you can put up with.

* If you’re wondering, I’ve been getting death threats since about the time I started publishing at a pro level. Only gotten the rape threats recently, tho’; progress! Not.

** Since I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this, an FYI: I’ve since had some conversations with folks on SFWA’s Board about this, and have been assured that this person — who is not elected; also, this was with last term’s Board — will be Spoken To and that this sort of gatekeeping won’t happen again. I’m content with that. Also, just a note: you can send a letter to any Board member, and it will get to all of them — or send it to all of them yourself. I wasn’t clear on that at the time.

Time to pick a side.

I’ve written two different posts about this issue. Circumstances decided that this one got posted first; good. I might post the other. Depends on how I feel over the next few days.

So, I’ve had a few weeks to think about the fallout from my Guest of Honor speech at Continuum. I’ve also had a few weeks in which to observe the SFWA controversy that was brewing before my speech, in response to the Malzberg & Resnick articles in the Bulletin. Lots of other things have happened during that time, on both the micro and macro scale: yet another incidence of sexual harassment at a con — or rather, someone finally naming names re a serial harasser about whom I’ve heard whispers and warnings for years. The US Supreme Court clearing the way for federal recognition of gay marriage. The Supreme Court also clearing the way for the return of modern-day poll taxes (complete with old-school grandfather clauses [PDF]!) in the form of voter ID laws. Queer people of color trying to figure out how the hell they’re supposed to feel in the wake of both. Some guy I never heard of mansplaining on how to (badly, in his case) write women. Julia Gillard getting booted as Australia’s Prime Minister. Penny Arcade offending a swath of the human race, again. And as always, everywhere, people fighting back.

I mention all these seemingly disparate things because they’re not disparate at all. Continue reading ›

World Fantasy Award nomination #2

…is for The Killing Moon. Yeah, baby! And congrats to the many other nominees — especially the writers also published in John Joseph Adams’ EPIC anthology, because that one got nominated too. Dreamblood-world short story “The Narcomancer” is in that one. This spotlight is crowded with awesome people.

So, that happened

Not going to spend a lot of time on yesterday’s shenanigans. I’m still in Deadline Hell on the UMSP, still in recovery mode from cross-planet/season-hopping jetlag, and still on vacation when all is said and done; I’ve got better things to do. And anyway, I’m too much of a counselor to forget that the most virulent-sounding hatred is always the result of fear. There can be nothing more pitiful — dangerous, certainly, but still, pitiful — than a person whose self-worth depends solely on their perceived ability to diminish others. That is a person who truly has nothing of his own.

Little Vegemite in the big city. Small jar with Brooklyn & Manhattan in the background.

Better things to do.

I will say this: we’ve spent a day talking about this guy. That’s good and necessary; some people would prefer to forget that we have a big problem with racism in SFF, and now we’ve got another Exhibit A of the Especially Blatant variety. But I do want to remind everyone that it’s the Unexamined Privileges and Assumptions variety that does more damage over time, and that’s a far, far more endemic problem in this genre than the odd frothing change-phobe. We have to deal with both kinds of racism if we are ever to begin a true Reconciliation — but each type of bigotry deserves a proportionate response. One day’s about enough for that guy. Now let’s get back to the conversations we were all having before he so rudely interrupted.

Like, holy shit, it looks like over $10,000 has been raised for the Carl Brandon Society, and I’m guessing Con or Bust is probably well past $500 (they’re not the same thing, note — and you still have time to get a matching contribution on Con or Bust)! That’s all kinds of awesome. You can still donate, if you haven’t, and do things like help an up-and-coming writer of color attend Clarion, help fans of color go to SFF cons they would otherwise never attend, and more. But note that CBS and Con or Bust need volunteers as much as they both need money; these are all labors of love on the part of the people involved. They could use more love.

And speaking of love… If you donated yesterday as an expression of support for me, thank you. I got bombarded with emails and texts and FB messages and whatnot yesterday, all of which were supportive — and thanks for that, too. I saw a few of the conversations happening online about this — not many; remember, Deadline Hell — and I know important convos are happening where I can’t see. All that’s very good. Please keep talking. Even an argument is better than silence.

In the meantime, Imma get back to writin’. And, er, contemplating this Vegemite. Yeast, huh? How ’bout that.

Continuum GoH Speech

Apologies for not posting this sooner, folks; my schedule as a GoH is packed almost solid, and I just got a free moment to upload. I ad-libbed a bit, but this is the text of my speech from earlier today at Continuum. Might miss some emphases and other formatting; no time to check it right now.

Warning for profanity.

My father was afraid for me to come to Australia.

He mostly made jokes about it — “Good, you’ve got dredlocks, maybe they won’t think you’re Chinese”, stuff like that. But I know my father, and I know when the jokes have a serious undercurrent. Now, mind you, I travel alone all the time, and I’m not always traveling to places that are friendly to Americans, or women, or black people. I’ve walked past trucks in Japan blaring “Gaijin go home” on loudspeakers, underneath billboards featuring a black man in an ape costume who was somehow selling breakfast cereal. I’ve sat on a public bus in Italy while a Somali woman was refused entry. I don’t speak Italian so I couldn’t be sure why, but the fact that everyone turned to look at me as soon as the bus pulled off was kind of a hint. And mind you — I live in New York. In Brooklyn, in a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood called Crown Heights, which is internationally famous for a series of racial clashes between white Hasidic Jews and black Carribbeans; nowadays both groups have largely been driven out, replaced by wealthy young hipsters. But the cause celebre in New York right now is a police policy called Stop-and-Frisk, which gives the cops pretty much the right to search anyone they deem “suspicious” for any reason — and which in practice has resulted in a tremendously disproportionate targeting of black and Latino people for basically the crime of walking around while black or Latino. 95% of those stopped have been found to have committed no crime.

And both my father and I grew up in Alabama — he in Birmingham, dodging dogs and fire hoses turned on him and other Civil Rights protestors by infamous police Chief Bull Connor; me in Mobile in the 1980s, when the Michael Donald lynching — the last “traditional” lynching of a black man in the United States, with a noose and a tree and everything — occurred around the corner from my grandmother’s house. I remember my grandmother sitting in her den with a shotgun across her knees while I cracked pecans at her feet; I was maybe nine years old, had no idea what was going on. She told me the gun was just an old replica; she’d brought it out to clean it. I said “OK, Grandma,” and asked whether she’d make me a pie when I was done.

I say all this so you will understand the context of my father’s fear, when I told him I was going to Australia.

See, I just have a typical American education. When I took “World History” in high school, I think we spent three days on Australia — which, all things considered, is three times more than we spent on the entire continent of Africa. And though I’ve made an effort to educate myself further in the years since in a number of areas, I will admit that Australian history hasn’t been very high on the list. But my father has studied civil rights struggles everywhere in the world. He understood that a nation which classified its indigeous people as animals less than fifty years ago might not be the safest place for a woman like me… with brown skin and a big nose and a tendency to tell people to fuck off when they get on my nerves. Even in the depths of the Jim Crow era in the US, black people were people. Inferior ones… but people.

And now that I’m here I have spent the past three days — coupled with the three days in school, that’s twice as much as the average American! — visiting your museums and talking to your fellow citizens and just walking around observing your city streets, and I know now that Dad was right to worry. This is not a safe country for people of color. It’s better than it was, certainly, but when the first news story I saw on turning on my first Australian TV channel was about your One Nation party’s Pauline Hanson… well. Still got a ways to go.

Now. Before you tar and feather me, let me tell you something else I’ve come to understand in the past three days. Australia may not be the safest place for someone who looks like me… but it’s trying to become safer. And Australia may have classified the peoples of the Koorie and other nations as “fauna” until very recently, but Australia has also made tremendous strides lately in rectifying this error. I’ve listened in fascination to the Acknowledgements of Country made at nearly every public event I’ve attended since I’ve been here. I’ve marveled that indigenous languages are offered as courses for study at some local universities. I am awed that you don’t shove all of your indigenous history into a single museum, where it’s easy for people not of that culture to avoid or ignore, because that’s what happens in the US. So as horrified as I am by the nastier details of Australian history… I am also heartened, astonished, inspired, by the Australian present. You’ve still got a long way to go before Reconciliation is complete, but then again, you’ve started down that path. You’re trying.

I want you to understand: what you’ve done? It will never happen in my country. Not in my lifetime, at least. Right now American politicians are doing their best to roll back voting rights won during our own Civil Rights movement. They are putting in place educational “reforms” which disproportionately have a negative impact on black and brown and poor white kids, and will essentially help to solidify a permanent underclass. Right now there are laws in places like Florida and Texas which are intended to make it essentially legal for white people to just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence. So: admitting that the land we live on was stolen from hundreds of other nations and peoples? Acknowledging that the prosperity the United States enjoys was bought with blood? That’s a pipe dream.

I want you to understand that what you’ve done makes me want to weep with envy, and bitterness, and hope.

So: segue time. Let’s scale down. Let’s talk about the community — the microcosmic nation — of science fiction and fantasy.

For the past few days I’ve also been observing a “kerfuffle”, as some call it, in reaction to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ of America’s latest professional journal, the Bulletin. Some of you may also have been following the discussion; hopefully not all of you. To summarize: two of the genre’s most venerable white male writers made some comments in a series of recent articles which have been decried as sexist and racist by most of the organization’s membership. Now, to put this in context: the membership of SFWA also recently voted in a new president. There were two candidates — one of whom was a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavors of asshole. In this election he lost by a landslide… but he still earned ten percent of the vote. SFWA is small; only about 500 people voted in total, so we’re talking less than 50 people. But scale up again. Imagine if ten percent of this country’s population was busy making active efforts to take away not mere privileges, not even dignity, but your most basic rights. Imagine if ten percent of the people you interacted with, on a daily basis, did not regard you as human.

Just ten percent. But such a ten percent.

And beyond that ten percent are the silent majority — the great unmeasured mass of enablers. These are the folks who don’t object to the treatment of women as human beings, and who may even have the odd black or gay friend that they genuinely like. However, when the ten percent starts up in their frothing rage, these are the people who say nothing in response. When women and other marginalized groups respond with anger to the hatred of the ten percent, these are the people who do not support them, and in fact suggest that maybe they’re overreacting. When they read a novel set in a human society which contains only one or two female characters, these are the people who don’t decry this as implausible. Or worse, they simply don’t notice. These are the people who successfully campaigned for Star Trek to return to television after 25 years, but have no intention of campaigning for Roddenberry’s vision to be complete, with gay characters joining the rainbow brigade on the bridge. These are the people who gleefully nitpick the scientific plausibility of stopping a volcano with “cold fusion”, yet who fail to notice that an author has written a future earth in which somehow seventeen percent of the human race dominates ninety percent of the characterization.

Unlike the ten percent, these people do not overtly hate me, or people like me. But they are not our friends, either. And after all: what is hatred, really, but supreme indifference to the suffering of another?

And here’s the thing: women have been in SFF from the very beginning. We might not always have been visible, hidden away behind initials and masculine-sounding pseudonyms, quietly running the conventions at which men ran around pinching women’s bottoms, but we were there. And people of color have been in SFF from the very beginning, hiding behind the racial anonymity of names and pseudonyms — and sometimes forcibly prevented from publishing our work by well-meaning editors, lest SFF audiences be troubled by the sight of a brown person in the protagonist’s role. Or a lesbian, or a poor person, or an old person, or a trans woman, or a person in a wheelchair. SFF has always been the literature of the human imagination, not just the imagination of a single demographic. Every culture on this planet produces it in some way, shape, or form. It thrives in video games and films and TV shows, and before that it lived in the oral histories kept by the griots, and the story circles of the Navajo, and the Dreamings of this country’s first peoples. People from every walk of life consume SFF, with relish, and that is because we have all, on some level, contributed to its inception and growth.

We tread upon the mythic ground of religions and civilizations that far predate “Western” nations and Christianity; we dream of traveling amid stars that were named by Arab astronomers, using the numbers they devised to help us find our way; we retell the colonization stories that were life and death for the Irish and the English and the Inka and the Inuit; we find drama in the struggles of the marginalized and not-quite-assimilated of every society. Speculative fiction is at its core syncretic; this stuff doesn’t come out of nowhere. And it certainly didn’t spring solely from the imaginations of a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys in the 1950s.

Sadly what the SFWA kerfuffle reveals — and MammothFail before that, and MoonFail, and RaceFail and the Great Cultural Appropriation Debates of Dooooom, and Slushbomb before that, and so on — what this reveals is that memories in SFF are short, and the misconceptions vast and deep.

So I propose a solution — which I would like to appropriate, if you will allow, from Australia’s history and present. It is time for a Reconciliation within SFF.

It is time that we all recognized the real history of this genre, and acknowledged the breadth and diversity of its contributors. It’s time we acknowledged the debt we owe to those who got us here — all of them. It’s time we made note of what ground we’ve trodden upon, and the wrongs we’ve done to those who trod it first. And it’s time we took steps — some symbolic, some substantive — to try and correct those errors. I do not mean a simple removal of the barriers that currently exist within the genre and its fandom, though doing that’s certainly the first step. I mean we must now make an active, conscious effort to establish a literature of the imagination which truly belongs to everyone.

I think to some degree this process has already begun. Discussions like the one that’s been happening in SFWA for the past week are the proof of it; not so very long ago, there would have been no response at all to that kind of casual sexism or racism. All this anger, all this sturm und drang — these are good things. Signs of progress. What I am proposing, however, is that we take things to the next level. Maybe it’s time for a Truth in Reconciliation commission, in which authors and fans speak out about their misconceptions and mistakes, and make a commitment to doing better. Maybe we need practical reconciliation efforts such as encouraging more markets to accept blind submissions, demanding that more publishers depict diverse characters on book covers. At the same time, let’s have some self-deterministic reconciliation, since women and people of color and disabled folks and the like certainly haven’t been shy about offering their own suggestions for change. Incidentally, if you did not follow RaceFail when it occurred or if you dismissed it as too much to handle, try. It’s all still there; just Google it. Hundreds of people poured millions of words into articulating what’s wrong with this genre, and how those wrongs can be made right. You owe it to yourself to read some of what they wrote.

I’ve been in this country three days, and I love it. The things that have happened here are in many ways far more horrific than what happened in my own country — but you as a people have shown a stunning willingness to progress beyond those wrongs, and to transform and improve yourselves in the process. Now, I do not mean to belittle what has happened here by the comparison; no one has died in SFF for its failure to acknowledge and embrace its own diversity. No lands have been stolen, no children kidnapped. But careers have ended, in some cases before they began. Opportunities have been stolen, dreams kept segregated. A potential richness of content has been hoarded and hidden from the SFF readership. So I am asking you, Australian fans, to share what you have learned about how to be a multicultural society, with the world. We can learn from your mistakes and your successes. This is what science fiction and fantasy need to do, if they are ever to truly become the literature of the world’s imagination.

Thank you.

ETA: Got pointed out by several folks that the little space between “trans” and “woman” is important; whoops. Fixed!