About The Project
The conversation about diversity and representation is unavoidable. People are constantly clamoring for diverse media and denouncing what they see as harmful or not good enough. Fantastic fiction is a big target of this criticism. There is that stereotype: the idea that fantasy is all Arthurian white guys waving swords around and winning the helpless girl, and that science fiction is all white guys on spaceships waging wars against bug-eyed aliens.
But that conception never felt right to me. Yes, there was plenty of that, but I had seen so much more! I had stumbled on a few queer SFF books by chance, had passed around copies of The Last Herald-Mage (featuring a gay mage as his nation's legendary hero) and Ascension (featuring a black lesbian spaceship engineer) to a few friends, told everybody who would listen about The Dark Wife (a lesbian retelling of the Persephone myth) and A Door Into Ocean (featuring an all-female planet), but to hear the way people talked, the queer and racially diverse scifi/fantasy scene was tiny. Curious about what else was actually out there, I looked up some queer science fiction book lists- and found a whole world of books I had never even heard of.
I found a series where most characters used nonbinary pronouns, a book about a deaf Native American woman as ambassador to aliens who used sign language, a book about kids in Nigeria learning magic, a book about a queer black girl traveling in space with a gay couple. There were scores of books with queer and diverse characters. And it disappointed me that so few people knew about them. I wanted to share them with the world, make them easy to find for all the people who wanted diverse media, and all the people who said there was nothing out there.
This project was partially intended as a response to the sort of discussions that had led me to assume there was very little diversity in SFF. I wanted an alternative to what felt like endless criticism of popular books and disdain of new ones, focusing on the problem rather than the solution.While criticism has its place, I think promotion is a more dynamic method of activism. Instead of talking about the flaws in one popular book, I want to bring two better ones to the table (or six hundred!) and promote them with enthusiasm and without snide comments about the popular one. Share good books. Promote indie authors who need the attention. Dig up old gems. Encourage new authors who work in webcomics and ebooks. If people can see the momentum already in the diverse book scene, if they buy newly published books and make them popular, more authors, especially minority authors, might be inspired to write, knowing they have a support base. Big publishers will see a new market. Readers will be excited to discuss new books instead of being afraid that their childhood favorites will be cynically dissected. It's a win for everybody: the authors get the attention, diverse works become more popular, and readers have something new to celebrate.
-Kate Diamond, Oberlin College Winter Term 2015 Reflection Essay