I’ve been taking a break from the genre. I think everyone should do this every few years just to clear their heads and find new perspectives. At least this is what’s happened to me. I’m well rested and energized.
While I was away, an interesting discussion on cultural appropriation and the concept of white privilege, among many other things exploded in the SF&F genres. It has been dubbed Racefail09. If you haven’t heard of it you can catch up here. But let me warn you, it is very long and involving. As these things tend to go, it has gotten very heated and crazy things have been said. Stupid things. Harsh, insensitive things.
But, I don’t want to talk about that right now.
Well, thank God, I guess you say. Who wants to talk about that? It’s a mess.
Well, I say that is the problem.
You see, there has been this deafening silence in horror. One that is so loud that it’s become the giant elephant in the room. This is so out of the norm that it struck a chord with me. After all, how often does SF&F spill over into horror and vise versa? All it takes is for you to think back to the Harlan Ellison and Connie Willis fiasco of ‘06. Everyone had an opinion about that. It invaded blogs and message boards across fandom. This is to be expected. We’re writers. We write. We form opinions and then write about them. So, what about this Racefail thing? Why all of a sudden did we big mouth, opinionated writers have nothing to say? Nothing to write about?
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s hard. It’s damn hard. We don’t want to get involved. We want to pretend that either this doesn’t effect us, or that if we just keep quiet it’ll go away.
Of course there are those who think that because we aren’t talking about it, then maybe it’s not a problem for “us” like it is for “them.” And by we, trust me, I don’t just mean you white folks. No, I mean us PoC too. Because you see, there are a whole lot less of us PoC in this field than there are in the SF&F field. So, we also pretend and hope no one mentions it and turn our heads. Even worse, we hope that by staying out of it we won’t hurt our already slim chance of getting published.
But I must ask myself, is it worth it?
Let’s be honest, no one wants to hear a person they respect say something so unbelievable that it’ll affect their view of them forever? No one wants to get called ugly names and made to feel as if their view is not valid. I don’t want this. So instead, I—like you—ignore it for a few weeks and hope no one notices me. Or better yet, I hope to God they don’t ask me how I feel because I’m black.
But, come on people, at some point we have to admit the truth to ourselves. If we aren’t talking about it, then we are simply avoiding it. And to be honest, this is a topic we have avoided for far too long.
There has been much heated discussion in fandom over this. The term Racefail says it all. But overall the horror community has buried its head in the sand. The problem with the current discussion is that people were so angry that they began yelling past each other (which is not easy to do on the internet, so it’s kinda comical). However, I think we, as a genre, can do better than that. I think we can discuss this much more rationally and intelligently than they did. In fact, let's be honest, we can’t do any worse.
But ignoring this issue and hoping it just goes away isn't going to help matters. This is so huge and so potentially damaging to the genre that we can’t continue to ignore it. Think about it, do you want people to feel so isolated from your work that they can’t even comment about it? Or worse, just stop reading you all together? It’s a serious issue, especially as the genre itself seems to be disappearing. Beyond the big names, it seems to have become an underground genre. Horror, I think, is seen as something for solely fourteen year old white males. And if young white boys are your perceived audience, how can you hope to expand and broaden that audience to other people?
Yes, people will get their feelings hurt. People may even threaten to blackball others. But, hopefully, when all the smoke clears, we will be a better, more diverse genre because of it.
I hate waxing philosophical right now, but—they say, that all it takes is for good men to do nothing...
So, kick me out. Threaten not to publish my books (idle threat, at this point), call me a troll. But, for Gods sake, let’s begin to discuss this. Let’s put it out there, let people listen, and understand. Or don’t, we can continue to pretend these things do not affect us or our characters. But do not make the mistake of thinking that if we aren’t talking about it, it’s not a problem. Even yelling at one another would be better than...silence.
So writers, go write.