The Rights of the Reader | by Daniel Pennac | illustrated by Quentin Blake
"We who hobnob with hobbits and tell tales about little green men are used to being dismissed as mere entertainers, or sternly disapproved of as escapists. But I think perhaps the categories are changing, like the times. Sophisticated readers are accepting the fact that an improbable and…
With the upcoming fourth season of A Game of Thrones about to hit TV screens, you will soon see ‘If you like reading GRR Martin, why not try these authors?’ displays going up in bookshops. I will give a book of mine, of their choice, to the first person who can send me a photo of such a display that isn’t entirely composed of male authors. Because I’ve yet to see one. I have challenged staff in bookshops about this, to be told ‘women don’t write epic fantasy’ Ahem, with 15 novels published, I beg to differ. And we read it too.
But that’s not what the onlooker sees in the media, in reviews, in the supposedly book-trade-professional articles in The Guardian which repeatedly discuss epic fantasy without ever once mentioning a female author. That onlooker who’s working in a bookshop and making key decisions about what’s for sale, sees a male readership for grimdark books about blokes in cloaks written by authors like Macho McHackenslay. So that’s what goes in display, often at discount, at the front of the store. So that’s what people see first and so that’s what sells most copies."
Juliet E. McKenna being brilliant (so what else is new) on the SFWA shoutback, public perceptions of the field, and equal access to offensiveness, sexism and idiocy. (via dduane)
In March 2012, while browsing in my then-local Waterstones in St Andrews, Scotland, I encountered a laminated booklet in the SFF section - produced entirely by Waterstones - that listed various recommended authors. I was so appalled by the almost total lack of women and POC that I photographed it as evidence. Behold:
So, to be clear: of the one hundred and thirteen authors listed in the genre-specific sections, there are a grand total of nine women and, as far as I can tell, zero POC. In the final two pages - the “If you like this, you’ll love-” section, things are little better: of the ten authors with suggestions after their names, two are women; but of the 101 authors recommended as comparisons, only twelve are women - and, tellingly, of those twelve, a whopping eight are listed as being similar to another female author. As far as this list is concerned, women have essentially become a speciality category, almost exclusively recommended because their work resembles that of another female author, and not because of their contributions to various other genres. As for POC authors, as far I can tell, there’s not a single one on any of the lists.
And, of course, as Juliet McKenna predicted, the authors recommended for fans of George R. R. Martin? All men.
When I saw the booklet, I suggested to a staff member that perhaps they might like to reconsider the contents, given how unrepresentative they were, and how many fabulous authors were missing from them. The sales person, a young man, looked vaguely sheepish, but said the matter was out of his hands. I don’t know if this same booklet is still in use by any other Waterstones stores, but if it is, it badly needs upgrading and replacing - because if I were a new genre reader looking for advice and guidance, literally the only conclusion I could draw from its contents is that SFF is a white man’s game.
Rare sighting of a William Gibson novel in German. That cover really seems more appropriate than a lot of the US ones.
Like. There are a lot of things I could say here. But I’m just going to do my best to answer your question, and the answer is either very simple or very complicated, depending on your current point of view.
1. “They” knew what people with brown skin looked like because people with brown skin had been there literally THE ENTIRE TIME. Some (and father back, ALL) of “them” had brown skin themselves.
2. “People with Brown Skin” and “Europeans” are not separate and mutually exclusive groups.
3. No matter how far back you go, the mythical time that you’re looking for, when all-white, racially and culturally isolated Europe was “real”, will continue to recede from your grasp until it winkles out the like imaginary place it is.
We can just keep going back. In every area, from all walks of life, rich and poor, kings and peasants, artists and iconoclasts, before there were countries and continents, before there were white people.
The time when “EVERYONE” in Europe was White does not exist. They knew what people with brown skin looked like because they were there. They knew what “Africans” looked like because they were there, and they weren’t “they”, they were us, or you. I think what you’re missing is something that never existed.