This is topic Diversity, a contemplation. in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Diversity for diversity's sake?

I had this whole thing written out about concerns with submission requirements on about 90% of the sites, and the new tropes of movies and cable, but decided against it fearing for my future career.

I would like to state though that as a fantasy writer I would like to believe with a universe of races, sexuality, and power structures at my command I can mimic in my writing the plights of those who have suffered on our world, but-

I can't actually change my -real- physical appearance or sexual preference just to submit.

I would like to also ad that a professional writer does more mental and physical research on subject matters in a month, than most people do in a lifetime. Its as close as an outsider can get to understanding and sharing that knowledge.

Well, yet another challenge to rise too.

Sorry, this was spurred on by an unusual rejection from a submitted story due to criteria above, not my writing.

Thought I'd share,


PS: This has nothing to do with the recent lit. agent interest in my novel.
Posted by Meredith (Member # 8368) on :
Writing excuses last podcast was on precisely this subject.
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
So now writers are getting rejected if their stories don't show enough "diversity"? And yet, if they try to write about characters that are not from their own culture and background (not to mention skin color and orientation), they may be accused of "culture appropriation," correct?
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Thanks meredith, good podcast, but it made me feel tired inside. As if the act of writing isn't hard enough, now you have to be culturally perfect, 100% PC, to cover your a*s from a social lynch mob.

It is the first time I have ever heard of a 'sensitivity reader.' Someone of that race, sex, orientation, to make sure you are not offending/or misrepresenting anyone.

The irony is I have already had this done before without even realizing it. A while back I had written what I believed was an exceptional poem, but- I was overly worried to submit it, because it was about a girl that wanted to wear a dress. I stressed over it, thinking it would be thought of as sexist in today's environment. So I took a risk and gave it to several women including (L) orientated, and waited for the backlash. Instead, I got teary-eyed, it's beautiful. 100% opposite from what I expected. They told me it perfectly represented the plight of women to hold onto their femininity in a male driven world. But the fact though that I felt I needed that validation was disturbing to me, that I was afraid to submit, not because of my skill in poetry, but in fear of what others might think, especially being a man writing on a woman's issue.

Just the act of getting your writing to a professional level is an Everest-like accomplishment, but that seems no longer good enough to even submit, now you have to defend your right to write about any subject matter you chose to explore, which if I remember right borderlines on the act of censorship.

Yes, we absolutely need more diverse voices, especially now, I am a thousand percent behind that, but their should not be a pendulum swing. It should be an absolute equal field, measured by the quality of your writing. The problem with pendulum swings is they tend to swing back, look at the resurgence of nationalism and the resent oppression on equal rights. Both sides are escalating but to what end?

But like I said, it's just another hurdle to overcome, so one must rise to the challenge.


Oh, and I need help with a word I can't find. It means - the beauty in ugly/disturbing things.
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
I get a fair amount of diversity talk in real life. Stick with "be yourself."

Far as writing goes, you want to gather together characters who at least seem like all sorts of types---but on the other hand, what do you know well enough to write about effectively than you and those like you?

Also, with SF and fantasy, "diverse" can go further. Your characters might include people who are robots or gaseous clouds or electric impulses. Assembling a cast as Rainbow Coalition doesn't seem, well, necessary.
Posted by EmmaSohan (Member # 10917) on :
I agree, at some point the demands become contradictory and impossible. Sometimes I want to write about the ideal world I wished we lived in, and sometimes I want to write about the world we do live in. I can see the problems of making my bad person a disadvantaged minority; I get tired of making them always be white.

I don't like that I am afraid to make my main character black.

But there are reasons to be sensitive to serious concerns, or unintentional biases.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Diversity be damned! I'll write about what I want to write about, and in any manner I wish to. If this means I get rejection letters from the self-appointed arbiters of what is culturally/socially/morally acceptable, to hell with them.

I'm someone who knows how to take care of himself and what I've experienced in real life gives me all the authority I feel I need to comment on anything I want to comment on.

Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
What Phil said. If someone is offended because my characters and cultures and stories don't kowtow to Victimology Poker or the Oppression Olympics -- too damn bad. They know where they can stuff their crap. If they don't like it -- don't read it. It's that simple.

And in this era of self-publishing -- they can't do a thing about it. Oh yeah, they can send their mobs of lackeys to give you fake one-star reviews. Guess what, it doesn't matter (literally: Amazon ranks works on how MANY reviews they get, not on how they score). YOUR readers will pay no attention to idiots getting in a lather; if anything they will do backlash buying.

And in any event, the ones who shriek and point are not your audience. They will never buy your stuff no matter how you try to please them by grinding away everything that makes it yours and unique. They just want you to be a loser they can lord it over. They want you to grovel in defeat as you beg, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

That's really what it's about. It has nothing to do with fairness, or representation, or 'diversity', or cultural appropriation, or any of the other Marxist horse****. It's about CONTROL.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
You know, I can't think of any story of mine, except one, where skin colour or sexuality is ever mentioned. In the one story where skin colour is mentioned it's because her skin is dyed in a WW2 German camoflauge pattern called Ambush Scheme, and that's for survival purposes only.

Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
There's a more accurate term for a 'sensitivity reader'. It is CENSOR.

And it's not about anyone's tender feelz (they can just not read your stuff if they don't like it, how hard is that?) As I rant above, it's really about making you kowtow to their authority, to give them that much-desired rush from lording it over lesser unfortunates.

Consider it the politics of envy, which is to say, Marxism, and all becomes clear.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
So, Reziac, who just got you worked up?

Posted by Princesisto (Member # 11113) on :
Actually, I agree with the majority on this issue, starting with the OP, but I am almost afraid to say it. Diversity is not an issue of literature but of politics and politics really should not have centre stage in literature (of course, there are political novels but that is a different matter). There are times when Communism descends into Fascism, Fascism descends into Socialism, Socialism descends into "user-pays" and Capitalism descends into Collectivism, which is why Governments often do the opposite of what they believe. But authors should not have to think of these things and publishers should not brainwash their readers with politics. The Princess has some Hispanic credentials, being bilingual, singing Latin music and having grown up in Guatemala and her music publisher certainly tries to profit from that. Of course, the PC Police must like that she is a female and a child, two disadvantaged groups. However, I never thought of trying to make her a "diverse" character, trying to pick up Editors and Hispanic readers: that would be intellectually dishonest. And the most basic moral and professional obligation of a writer is not to do that!
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
So, Reziac, who just got you worked up?

Only the usual suspects. [Big Grin]

No, let me be specific. The first time I saw this crap do real damage was when Mary Robinette Kowal trunked a finished novel because her 'sensitivity readers' deemed it culturally insensitive; I forget the details but it was the usual bunkum of their historically-questionable interpretation becoming PC gospel.

More recently the lynch mob went after a young Asian author writing about her own culture, and got her to pull her accepted-for-pub novel (tho to her credit, she later reversed course). With poetic justice, the lynch mob's next victim was the jerk who'd led the previous charge.

Originally posted by Princesisto:
Actually, I agree with the majority on this issue, starting with the OP, but I am almost afraid to say it.

And this is why the bullies are winning. We're too nice. We're afraid to push back, even when we know we've done nothing wrong. We're afraid of being called $___ist, or of being accused of committing 'cultural appropriation' (usually by someone who should therefore by rights be squatting naked in a mud hut), or whatever BS they think of when the previous accusation gets worn out.

And I've decided not to play their game, because the only outcome is that we lose. Call me whatever ugly un-PC terms you like; I embrace it. I'll write whatever I want, and ya know what? I might just be completely un-PC on purpose.

[ August 29, 2019, 01:16 AM: Message edited by: Reziac ]
Posted by Naomi Craig (Member # 11222) on :
Oh wow, the emotions are running high here. Where to begin?

Okay, I strongly disagree with the idea that literature has nothing to do with politics. Art transmits ideas, and ideas feed politics. And when you're a minority, politics can deeply affect your life and even cause your death.

So the real question is _why_ do you want to write diversity?

Do you see a wrong you want to right? Under-representation is a massive wrong. And whether you like it or not, being part of a privileged group (white, male, straight) you not only have a better chance of being published but you have a better chance of being taken seriously. It has been the case for centuries that a white man could write a book about a culture he's never even experienced first hand and his word would be taken over that of a member of that culture. The industry is slowly changing the course of that, but for now the privileged groups have more power.

Are you going to use that power responsibly? I think Mary Kowal did, as did Amélie Wen Zhao and Kosoko Jackson. Like don't get me wrong, it sucks that they had complete novels before the blind spot came to their attentions, but when the affected people said "this hurts us!" their response was "in that case, I will stop." They didn't have to. And you don't have to either. It's up to you. A bunch of people saying mean things on the internet doesn't have to stop you. There are hundreds of books getting twitter mobbed and still getting published and even becoming best-sellers. But it's only the handful of authors who say "in that case, I will stop" that gets more hand-wringing op-eds than you can shake a stick at. It's ridiculous to call it censorship. The author is still in control.

I think what's going on is panic that publishers are more interested in diversity and therefore they won't buy as many white/male/straight projects as they used to. In fact, I read a report that they're buying about 4% less of those than they used to over the past six years.

Walexander, you don't say why you wanted to write a poem about a girl. You clearly were afraid of being judged for it, but what were you afraid that judgment would mean? That women don't want to hear what a man has to say about femininity?

Emma, go ahead make your main character Black. Read Black writing, do your best, hire a Black sensitivity writer. Be prepared for some folks to be offended by it and just listen to what they have to say, like any other critique. However, probably you should not not make your plot about being Black in America. Chances are you do not have enough experience to handle that topic responsibly. Do you see the difference?
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Seems to me something is missing from the above. A lot of people here are into the writing of science fiction. And one thing science fiction does is deal with change.

Two hundred years ago, the experience one had while having a different color skin was different than it is today. Two hundred years from now, it'll be different again.

Write what you want to write.
Posted by ForlornShadow (Member # 9758) on :
This might sound a bit insensitive but I think those that are feeling a little hurt about content in books need to buck up and get the heck out. I agree offensive language, if it is used to be intentionally offensive to a real person, should not be condoned in creative works; but, if you are writing a story and using "offensive" language as a means of story telling then it shouldn't be a problem. I work for an anime convention and there are panels that are age-restricted. The rule for those panels generally is you can say what you want, just don't direct offensive language at specific people.
I just feel people nowadays are too sensitive and overreact to every little thing. 'I forgot your pronouns so now I am a cis a**hole who doesn't care about LGBT rights and wants every trans person to die. Please, I barely remember people's names you think I'm going to remember what pronouns you use especially if its they/them. I don't want you to die I'm just forgetful.' Yes, I seriously have seen people respond in this way; a gentle correction would have better suited the situation. I've seen someone get offended by a Village People costume, one of the ones from the YMCA videos, for godsakes.

I think it's terrible that the publishing companies are taking this route. Whether you're published or not should depend on your ability and how well its written. While content is important it shouldn't be the only determination factor.

Originally posted by Naomi Craig:
So the real question is _why_ do you want to write diversity?

Simply because I want to try my hand at writing something other than what I know. I love Japan and Japanese culture. I found a love of some very specific anime and have come to want to learn more about their culture, language, and history. So when the opportunity presented itself during my senior year in a high school creative writing class I jumped on it. I did my research, I think I spent well over a month or more on it. I compiled cultural information and customs, food recipes and ingredient lists, and history. The only thing I couldn't do was talk with someone who was Japanese. (As a side note, now that I'm older, I would reach out and see if I could do this if I were to continue the story.) My teacher and class loved it/ Have I thought about what people would say if this were published? A little, but never about how people would react to a white American woman writing about Japanese characters. I'd be more worried that I didn't do enough research and was inaccurate about little things. Should I be worried about how people react? In this day and age, maybe; but I wouldn't let that stop me from exploring a culture different from my own through writing.
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Originally posted by Naomi Craig:
However, probably you should not not make your plot about being Black in America. Chances are you do not have enough experience to handle that topic responsibly. Do you see the difference?

Let's flip this, shall we? Let's start with a Black American writer:

However, probably you should not not make your plot about being White in Africa. Chances are you do not have enough experience to handle that topic responsibly. Do you see the difference?

Or perhaps:

However, probably you should not not make your plot about being a spacer on Mars. Chances are you do not have enough experience to handle that topic responsibly. Do you see the difference?

Once you give in to this nonsense, there's no logical stopping point -- it constricts and restricts until you can only write about people who are just like you.


And there's an easy way to avoid being offended, with no need to police what others write: don't read stuff that offends you. Since none of the perpetually-offended have the sense to stop reading what offends them (or so one would think from how they yammer on, tho the truth is none of them are your customers anyway), one can only conclude that they read for the purpose of finding offense.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Right now in Australia there is desperate competition between publishers for new writers. So much so that they accept unsolicited complete manuscripts on a monthly basis.

Any publisher who wants to be P.C. and censor their writers will be out of business pretty quickly. At least here.

Let them whine and just keep on writing. There's a market waiting for you if you're good enough.

Posted by EmmaSohan (Member # 10917) on :
Hi Reziac. I am guessing it's easier for a minority to write about a majority, because they would have experience with the majority.

I once listened in on two black men talking. When I was done, the one thing I had learned was that I could not write about their life, I was pretty clueless.

Writing what you know about is both impossible advice and good advice. Impossible because, as you noted, we have to write about things we have not experienced. Good because it's more accurate and better.

And within that contradiction is our efforts to be good writers. Being careful. Doing research. Trying to understand people and situations.

From then on I agree with you. Tolerance.
Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
Phil - Which Australian publishers?
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
All the major publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts on a semi-regular basis. Simply go to their websites and carefully check out their submissions requirements.

PS make certain your submission is the very best manuscript you can produce: no typo's, no spelling errors, good grammar, active rather than passive voice, and a riveting opening or you may not get a second chance. Especially if you submit 'rubbish'.

PPS. Remember that we use British english and grammar here, not American.


[ December 05, 2019, 01:21 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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