When I saw Tempest’s challenge to stop reading straight, white, cis male authors for a year, I knew that I couldn’t do it. I have professional and personal obligations that simply prohibit me from doing so.
But I’m likewise stunned by the hate tweets that Tempest got in return. I mean, FFS, people, it’s a challenge. Like NaNoWriMo, or something. It’s not a rubric to determine if you’re a decent human being or something.
But here’s the thing: I looked at my “To Read” list. And damn, if it ain’t a bunch of straight white men. (What exceptions there are largely are due to the influence of Clarkesworld, Nightmare/Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com.)
And I think that’s where Tempest’s challenge is pretty frakking awesome. One of the most interesting comments at Mo*Con 9 was pointing out that folks tend to gravitate to the types of story (e.g. the cultural voice) of authors like themselves…and steer away from ones that are not like themselves.
Without impetus, we’ll keep reading (and doing) the same things we’re used to. I didn’t start to read “literary” works until a college class got me reading Tobias Wolff, Barbara Kingsolver, and Tim O’Brien. And then I realized there was a lot more out there I wasn’t letting myself experience.
It’s like Doug Warrick’s experience with Apocalypse World, or where Ferrett Steinmetz has talked about reading enough female authors and how he’s caught himself “defaulting male”.
FFS, it’s like how I just caught myself citing two white men in an article about doing something other than that.
These sorts of habits are subconscious. They’re not your fault. At the same time, changing those habits is entirely your responsibility.
And that’s where I’d propose the “soft” version of Tempest’s challenge – but only for those of you who complained about her challenge. (And please note that this does not include Neil Gaiman, who supports the challenge…)
Look at your “to read” list. Inject diversity.
Is it all male? Add in more female authors until it’s roughly parity.
Is it all white authors? Add in more people of color.
Is it all straight folks? Add in more LGBTQ folks.
And if you’re saying “I don’t know any authors that fit those criteria”, then that should be a huge warning sign for you.
Nobody’s forcing you to do a damn thing.
But they sure as hell are encouraging you to read more and different kinds of fiction.