Friday, February 24, 2017

The Experience of Other Voices

(Alternate post title: Otter Voices, Otter Viewpoints, except http://discourseontheotter.tumblr.com/ hasn't been updated in two years, so no one will get the joke.)

So I'm headed into my fourth year of mostly sticking to my pledge to read books that are written by people who are not straight white dudes. I've made a couple of exceptions, but better than 95% of the books I've read over the last several years have been written by people of colour, women, queer, or some combination thereof. It's been an exercise I've been almost entirely happy about, too -- there is some really brilliant work out there by some amazing authors that not only tells stories that I didn't know I'd like, but tells those stories from viewpoints greatly differing from my own.

Part of the success of this experiment has been being a part of a Queer Book Club, where the mandate is to read Science Fiction & Fantasy works that are written by or appeal to voices that are not straight white dudes. We've made some exceptions to this rule -- the biggest being John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson -- but by and large our collective choices about books have been both interesting and eye-opening from this white dude's point of view, anyway. There is an enormous load of amazing work in SF&F even in the so-called classic era that was penned by non-straight, non-white, non-dudes that is so much, much better than anything I read by the so-called Grand Masters, a parade of dead white males so blind to their privilege they simply failed to account for worlds that contained anyone who wasn't like them. Hell, even the aliens and elves of the black and woman authors are more interesting, investing, and entertaining than all the stuff that Tolkien or Heinlein ever dreamt up.

There's not just a lot of good work by these folk, but there's even more of it coming in the pipeline; Charlie Jane Anders and Yoon Ha Lee and Saladin Ahmed are all authors with only one (amazing, remarkable) book so far, and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talented, brilliant authors of genre fiction who aren't cis white dudes. I have yet to regret giving up on books by white dudes. At this point, my biggest complaint is the inability of Amazon's search functionality to exclude all the dreck from my occasional trawling for new works by new authors. Sturgeon's Law states that 90% of everything is crap, but while I've read some "just OK" books in these last three years, I've yet to read an actual bad book so far. It seems like when an author has to be twice as good just to get half as far, their average work is much, much better than crap.

Interestingly, it's also encouraged me to read more books that aren't genre; I never would have read Between the World and Me without the push to find authors outside my "comfort zone".

All of this is to say: K.T. Bradford's challenge was both enlightening and enriching to this genre reader, and I'm glad to have taken up her request. I've yet to be disappointed, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything, so here's to another year without white dude authors!