Friday, May 15, 2015

AiIP: Let's Talk

Grab a seat. We need to talk. It's about something I usually avoid talking about, for a variety of reasons. But it's something that should be addressed, so we're going to talk about it.

First, though, story time. This is a third hand story, so take it with appropriate grains of salt and/or the spice of your choice.

Back before 3024AD came out, I was talking to a co-worker at that time, telling him about my goals. He related the story of a relative who wrote a book, and was offered a book deal with a solid five-figure advance- on the condition that the protagonist was male- not female, as she had written. She refused, and her book remains unpublished.

For a lot of people, for a five-figure advance, they would change their main character to a cucumber. Hell, if you've sent off fifty or sixty queries, you might do it for a whole lot less than that.

There is a lot to be said about the cons of self-publishing- I've covered a ton here, and on ye olde Deanfortythree(e) blog- editing issues, cover art, overall stories- but there are some definite pros, and this is one of them.

Hear Cap's immortal line "I'm always picking up after myself!"
Because- for whatever reason- there is a fantastic lack of diversity in publishing. The optimist in me (he's in there, I promise) wants to think this is unintentional, just coincidence, but... come on. People will talk about how we should read more diverse authors (correctly), but walk into a bookstore and grab one hundred random books. How many are written by non-straight-white-men? Twenty? Maybe forty if you grabbed a bunch from the romance section? The problem lies higher up than the reader, or the bookstore. It lies with publishers who select what gets published, what gets marketed and how much. The ones who decide that, no, that protagonist just won't sell.

But if you're publishing your own work (or working with a smaller press), you don't answer to those people. You answer to yourself, and to your readers. You can write what-who-ever the hell you want.

Because, here's the thing: I'm a straight(ish) white dude. I'm kind of (totally) in the majority here. But I can't change that, and I'm not going to stop writing, either, so what can I do? The same thing anyone can- write something. Write something diverse, something other than the same thing that's been written for a looooong ass time.

I'm probably not perfect at this, but I doubt there's a perfect formula at all. Stories and books will lose a lot if all you worry about if the literary equivalent of affirmative action. But stories will gain much more if authors take a few moments and make their characters more diverse. It will make for richer backgrounds, deeper characters and better books.

And no one will tell you to change it.


Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories. You can read his other ramblings and musings on a variety of topics (mostly writing) on his blog. When not holed up in his office
tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore.