I wrote recently on this blog about my cultural appropriation concerns when I was researching and writing my novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, which deals with and incorporates Anishinabe (specifically, Ojibwe) and Cree characters, stories, traditions, and issues, all around a theme of environment destruction and loss of animal habitat.
In November, I had the pleasure of meeting Zainab Amadahy, a fellow novelist and (among many other things) a writer for Muskrat Magazine, when she attended the launch for the book in Toronto.
A frequent discussion point around SF&F literature relates to its traditional domination by white writers of European ancestry (I could add "male" to that list, but that's not to the point of this post). Zainab is writing a three-part series for Muskrat, that she describes as follows:
What I’d like to offer in the next three segments are some suggestions to Science Fiction and Fantasy convention organizers everywhere who might be interested in growing and diversifying their events. Part one of this blog will outline the issue. Part two offers solutions and approaches. Part three will contain concrete suggestions for panel titles.
Part one of her series outlines her own experiences (some positive, but mostly not) stemming from the typical lack of ethnic diversity at SF conventions. Happily, she cites my book launch as one of the positive experiences.
In part two of the series, just posted today, Zainab explores ways of diversifying events and discusses why diversifying your con might be important.
I'm not sure I'm in full agreement with her point #5 in part 2. If you tell a con organizer that something needs to be fixed, you're generally going to be invited to join in trying to fix it. Cons are volunteer-run, fan-funded operations that can always use extra help. And being invited in is a good thing, since it implies interest in solving the problem--and fixing an organizational problem is generally easier from the inside.
But beyond that, I'm in strong agreement that much can be done to make SF&F cons more ethnically and culturally diverse and inviting.
I'll post the link to the third part in Zainab's series when it goes up. I hope you'll check out the posts and leave Zainab a comment. Feel free to leave a comment here as well.