I am so sorry, but deadlines have taken what little time the day job has left me.
I have never been fond of kneejerk reactions. Better to say that I used to like them far too much. After half a life of black eyes from slamming a patella into my zygomatic arch, I have learned to like them far less.
That being said, I read two blogs from two talented and lovely writers. The authors in question know one another, and were working off of one another. One was speaking about diversity in genre fiction. The other was much the same, but taking it a step further to exclusion based on fashionable facades and faces, and being lambasted for trying to be diverse and offending the eminently offendable.
But as well written as these were, my first reaction was, sadly, knee jerk.
Let’s be honest, I’m a white guy. To be even more honest, I’m tired of people pointing it out. White guys have run things in most of the world for two centuries. Was it right? No. Is it changing? Yes. Is it changing fast enough? I have no idea what that means. What I can say is that it is changing, it is changing constantly, and one day, true meritocracy will be attained.
So I get a little defensive when people talk about genre fiction being a white male game. I feel somewhat under attack, truth be told. And then I nearly break a thigh having another attack of knee-jerkiness over market forces, over social responsibility, and over the idea of using a white male as a lead is somehow wrong. Then I nailed my feet to the floor to keep them where they damn well belong, and I thought about it.
The lead protagonist of The Radiation Angels sets of stories and novels is an African extraction guy (there not being an America, or anything like it, and never having set foot on Earth, he is African-extraction)
And then I began listing things out in my head: Overall, I have written more about a black man than I ever have white guys, but they are a close second. I wrote about a 16 year old nerd, an ancient Greek, a man with asbergers, and most recently a 70 year old gunslinger. But then there’s the 14 year old female white mechanic, a spring powered robot, as well as a large part played in one story by a genetically engineered female tiger, four giant lizard men, a horror story just completed with a strong, Persian woman in 1870s Boston… I guess I only notice their genders and races when it is pointed out, it brings me out of the story otherwise. I’ve got some diversity, but just as bubbles are round, the protagonists are who the stories they inhabit need them to be.
I remember the all-white good guy casts of the 80’s ninja movies with a kind of bemused disappointment now that I am older. Then it came to mind that I am a fan of current martial arts movies, and if you look at the last 20 years, it’s hard to find a bad guy that isn’t a white guy. I still enjoy them. I still watch them.
I guess I want to agree with the ladies, that diversity is important. I also think that self expression is important. I just think that there is just as much racism and sexism in having the white guy as the universal bad guy, as having anyone else in that place. The story is what the story is. I am hoping that diversity takes hold, because reading should be accessible to everyone. I also hope that diversity does not become its own dogma.