Diverse folk diversely they demed;
As many heddes as manye wittes there been.
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Squires Tale

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Prolonged absence

Obviously I haven't posted in a while. Quite a while. I haven't been completely absent from the blogosphere though as I've been reading my way through the parts of the interwebs known as Racefail 09. Or sometimes Mammothfail. It's hard going partly because of outright offensiveness of some of it, partly because of the rage, partly because of the hurt, partly because of the posts taken down or locked away behind passwords. Putting it mildly - and as the name suggests - Racefail was a mass (network) of posts where some science fiction and fantasy writers, publishers and readers committed (and I use that word on purpose) epic fail when talking about race, and then by refusing to talk about it. Summaries - and there are no unbiased ones because such a thing is frankly impossible - here and here, although there are lots more out there. 
This episode of racefail was a fairly short discussion in the long history of SFF not engaging well, again putting it mildly, with non-white perspectives and experiences, although more than one person has suggested that it's led to some positive changes. Nora Jemisin's post here is one of the more detailed.
From my perspective as a researcher Racefail 09 is a very strong reminder that what I'm working on has some very real manifestations and implications. As far as I can tell no-one has written about Racefail 09 in an academic forum, perhaps because its so emotionally charged that even a veneer of scholarly objectivity is hard to maintain. Also, there is a lot of truly excellent meta-discussion, eg in the second summary I linked to above. And, of course, given that a lot of posts aren’t available anymore, it would be hard to be comprehensive. But I don’t think any of these are a reason not to try. I don’t have a plan for how to do this in detail – a book chapter or article or even a whole book. But it’s a major part of the world(s) I’m working on, and is relevant in so many ways to what my project is about. Including the article I’m currently trying to write on some quite recent fantasy engagements with colonialism and imperialism. Naomi Novik’s work that I wrote about way back when will come into that article (and Novik made a well received if brief contribution to Racefail), but at the moment I'm working on Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy which is an interesting and sustained critique of colonisation and imperialism.

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