Three events this weekend have got me thinking (very slowly- Monday of a Con makes thinking very tiring). Firstly, this article by John Mullan in the Guardian, where he fails to name JK Rowling by name, or mention any other woman writer of SF, fantasy or speculative fiction.
Secondly, the Hugo award slate was announced yesterday. In reaction to last year’s sweep by more diverse voices, a group of mostly right wing, mostly American fans (at least so it seems from the blogs and articles discussing the “Sad Puppies list”) have block voted, seemingly to exclude what they call “Social Justice Warriors” from the slate. IO9 sums up the situation fairly.
And thirdly, I attended an interesting panel at Dysprosium, the 2015 British Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, called Equal Rites?, where a comment by one of the panel seemed to suggest that the panellist seemed to suggest that even if the central characters in TV shows are white and male, the increasing presence of secondary and periphery characters who are women and/ or people of colour, this is progress.
Until that point I was getting a little frustrated with the panel. It was not the fault of the panellists, but it seemed to me to be the same conversation that I have heard by panellists at conventions for at least the last 5 years: listing the issues, outlining shows/ books/ films that do it well and calling for more. One panellist at this con outlined intersectionality- an example of an illustrator that she knows who drew a mixed race gay family for a book for an independent press and was asked to change it by the publisher and author. But otherwise, I felt, don’t we all know this? There are great diverse books. There are great authors of colour, from diverse backgrounds and what we need to do as fans is to celebrate them and buy their work and pass it on. There are wonderful TV shows (Agent Carter, Orphan Black, Once Upon A Time, Steven Universe) and we need to watch them, tweet about them, ask for more of the same.
But then: that article. That block voting. That comment. And here we are, still needing that privilege checked and that conscious raised. But I console myself with the hope that perhaps there could be more than one panel explicitly talking about diversity at next year’s Eastercon. Perhaps we could all do better at supporting books/ films/ shows we love. Perhaps if we go to film, TV or book events and the panels are stale, male and pale we can ask why. I must say that there were no all-male panels at EasterCon- but that may be because of what I chose to attend. But the conversation has to move on, or in 2020 very little will have changed.