My Diversity In SFF thoughts: Not easily solved.

It took me a while to organize my thoughts and to sort them out. But finally, with the September rain outside my window, I have my opinions concerning the Diversity In SFF thing in Twitter and how it has not worked in the favor of people it was supposed to help.

Aliette de Bodard has written about it. Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Sofia Somatar have written about it. They have clearly articulated the issues within this noble-seeming hashtag (yes, it started as a Twitter hash tag, didn’t it?).

As Lavie Tidhar has tweeted, it is easy to start a hashtag on Twitter. Just type in #DiversityInSFF and voila, you have a conversation thread whereby people could easily pitch in.

That was it: people could have easily pitch in, add their voices, become points of learning for people and reinforce certain topics/issues.

Yet, for people who have witnessed the ramifications of Racefail and countless Fails throughout the years, issues that have been discussed to death are not learnt. I find it being repeated, reinforced, rehashed and repeated again, and people still keep saying that they are ‘learning’.

A lesson is not learnt if you have to teach it about five times.

Forgive me. I work as a teacher and when I repeat a lesson, to reinforce certain concepts or skills, it is to further and deepen understanding of the concepts and skills. But for Diversity In SFF, it is just another Subject 101 again. People have not clearly learnt and understood.

Then, the TOR blog post came up and my headache grew into a migraine. It has conveniently forgotten about people it was supposed to help. To tell the truth, I wasn’t surprised by the clearly UK (white) perspective regarding race and visibility. I get the feeling that white Americans and British people are still grappling with the concept of race. To them, privilege hides everything and gives them a pass in issues so complicated for disentangling and dismantling. Their word means everything. They push their way through. And suddenly, lessons become unravelled and we find ourselves repeating stuff again.

Are they listening?

Are they listening to POC, women, LBGT and other minority groups? Are they listening to people with disabilities?

Are they?

Why are they still uppity and arrogant when it comes to writing fiction with people of color and minority groups? Why do they – outsiders – think that they could write stories about insiders without being questioned?

Why are POC authors still being scrutinized for ‘authenticity’ while white authors easily get away from the whole interrogation business?

And why are POC authors expected to provide a tourist experience to white readers? What are we supposed to do?

What I took away from the whole Diversity In SFF problem (yes, it is a problem) is this: it is still an uphill battle for POC and minority group writers. It is also much easier for male POC authors. That’s another issue altogether: the problem of race and gender in publishing.

A question I want to ask my readers: What are you going to do about this?

EDIT:
1. Many ‘international SF’ authors write in English. That’s right. We write in English, our first language. To assume that international SF means ‘translated SF’ is erroneous and narrow-minded.
2. When it comes to ‘authenticity’, do white people assume that international SF should be written in English or translated into English?
3. English is an imperialist language. But as international SF writers, are we short-changing ourselves then?

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Last #Pitmad query and pitch

He is the scion of two dragon households, straddling in two worlds. But the Dark Claws hate him. UF. #pitmad

Dear agent,

I would submit my novella “Dark Claw” for consideration. It is approximately 30,000 words, urban fantasy and targeted at urban fantasy readers and general fans of this genre.

“Dark Claw” explores the adventures of Gabriel Sutherland, the half-drake, half-Lung son of Lord Kevin Sutherland, leader of the Sutherland drake clan. Not only does Gabriel have to deal with the issues of being half-drake, he has to deal with the threat of the Dark Claws, dissidents amongst the drake clans. Recalled back to Singapore, after a self-exile to Australia, what could Gabriel do?

I am Singaporean. My short stories appear in sf/f publications such as Fang, Claw And Steel, a zine for anthropomorphic stories, Crossed Genres (Issue 9 – Alternate History – “A Matter Of Possession”), the Apex Book of World SF, WE See A Different Frontier and Semaphore Magazine. Likewise, my urban fantasy series is also published under J. Damask.

I feel that an urban fantasy novel set in Singapore is unique in that it will provide an alternative background to the usual white/American/United Kingdom settings.

Warm regards,
Joyce Chng

Excerpt:

Brother Ignatius’s deep voice woke me up from my nap.

I sat up, flexing my shoulders. Ground-keeping work was hard. But I relished it and kept my inner demons at bay. A thin layer of perspiration gave my skin a faint sheen. It was the height of summer in Western Australia and the landscape reflected the intense dryness. It was bare, bone-dry and hot, without the stifling humidity of the tropics. The olive trees lining the pavement shimmered with the sun light, their leaves now curled inwards, purple fruits now full and rich with oil. Brother Ignatius told me that they were inedible. We were deep inside tracts of bush land and karri trees. The sand was parched with a hint of burnt aromatic wood. At night, the sharp fragrance of eucalyptus filled the air.
The monastery’s buildings were white with the glare of the sun. Most of the brothers were wisely indoors. So, it was significant, that Brother Ignatius came all the way to the main grounds to look for me.

Home, I suddenly thought. I dropped the rake and sheepishly picked it up. My skin prickled. I didn’t like the feel of anxiety suddenly spiking inside me. It was an unwelcome sensation in the midst of tranquility.

“Gabriel,” Brother Ignatius had dark patches on his robes. He was perspiring too, but his face always bore a gentle smile. I was glad that he took me in. For months, I worked at the gardens, cleaning the monastery’s kitchens and toilets, and carried the flour that they ground for their bakery. The brothers were famous for their sweet nut cakes and pastries.

“There was a call,” the Benedictine brother continued. I gazed at his blue eyes. The phone call was from home. I knew it and suppressed a shudder.

“Was it my Father?” I ventured, my throat as bone-dry as the fallen branches on the ground. I pretended to rake the leaves. The eucalyptus trees were shedding more than usual.

Brother Ignatius nodded.

“What did he say?” I pressed on, deciding that it was better to get it over and done with. As much as I would like to get away from drake affairs, I couldn’t, thanks to modern technology. Sharon had already sent me a cryptic email along the lines of “Be careful, bro!”, which I deleted promptly.

“He wants you to return to Singapore,” the Benedictine brother answered, absent-mindedly scratching his bald head. I admired Brother Ignatius. He ran the monastery and its attached bakery like a tight ship, handling its accounts, its management and the brotherhood deftly and skillfully. He had taken me in, as a groundkeeper and jack-of-all-trades, without question. He was also Father’s close friend and an ally of the Sutherland clan.

#Pitmad Pitches and Queries

Flame, family, fire, hope within a young princess, heir to the Phoenix Court. But will her fire burn her first? #pitmad

Dear agent,

I would submit my novella “Phoenix With A Purpose” for consideration. It is approximately 30,000 words, YA science fiction and targeted at speculative fiction readers and general fans of this genre.

“Phoenix With A Purpose” explores a future where the matriarchal Phoenix Court rules an Alliance of planets. Enter Minfeng, princess and heir to the Phoenix Court. Not only does she have to deal with the issues of growing up and falling in love, she has to deal with her inner fire which is out of control. Add the usual court intrigue – and you have a delightful YA science fiction where fire is also hope.

I am Singaporean. My short stories appear in sf/f publications such as Fang, Claw And Steel, a zine for anthropomorphic stories, Crossed Genres (Issue 9 – Alternate History – “A Matter Of Possession”), the Apex Book of World SF, WE See A Different Frontier and Semaphore Magazine. Likewise, my urban fantasy series is also published under J. Damask.

I feel that a YA science fiction novella will appeal with girls and people who want to see something different.

Warm regards,
Joyce Chng

Excerpt:

When the Empress of the Phoenix Court, matriarchal ruler of the Alliance Planets, gave birth to her first daughter, the royal midwives took blood samples from the blood-covered newborn and ran routine tests. The princess was healthy, immensely so – and she carried the gene that would turn human to phoenix. The midwives brought the good news to the resting Empress who, tired after an exhausting labor, simply nodded and drowsed, the little princess in the crook of her right arm.

The gene carried the phoenix flame, the vital spark triggering the fantastic transformation from human to a mythological bird created from fire. No one knew how the gene came about, only that it was passed down from mother to daughter, from a matrilineal bloodline stretching way back to Old Terra. What people knew was that certain women could shape-shift into glorious birds of light and energy, and the gene could jump generations.

Stories and myths grew around this genetic gift, an almost magical aura surrounding the Phoenix Court which, in itself, was purely Imperial and political in nature, run by women and female relatives. These lordly women sent their starships across the galaxies, founding and strengthening the Alliance Planets, a conglomeration of planets and colonies formed after the Dispersal from Old Terra, with inter-marriages and pacts. As they spread their influence like large cosmic wings, so did the myths and legends of phoenixes.

Yes, I do have a Tumblr…

For people who are interested, I do have…

A Tumblr.

Guest post!

Why POC and Non-US/Non-White Science Fiction Matters

It’s September!

And the list of new books launching during the Singapore Writers’ Festival is out:

Speaker, 2nd book of the Rider Trilogy, is due to be launched on the 7th of November, at the Binary Pavilion, Singapore Management University.

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