WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH
Last month, I ran a series of blog posts spotlighting Black Speculative Fiction Month. BSFM was designed to acknowledge and spread the word about black authors and artists within the speculative fiction genre.
In and of itself, speculative fiction is mostly represented by whites and thus doesn’t usually have protagonists of color. That said, the readers of speculative fiction are mostly unaware of black authors in the genre.
One of the intentions of BSFM is to not only celebrate the achievements of black authors—which can be easily overlooked by the mainstream audience—but to also inform and educate the readers and potential reader of speculative fiction that diversity does exist and that various racial and cultural groups are being represented.
Many within the black community don’t read speculative fiction because they see it as either silly—too far removed from reality—or dominated by whites who often exclude any characters of color. So, most of the black community isn’t even aware that black speculative fiction authors exist. This is where BSFM comes into play.
The month long celebration informs those within the community and in the mainstream who don’t know, of the existence of black speculative fiction authors. This is an effort to not only inform readers of black authors, but to also bring new readers to the genre of speculative fiction as a whole.
I was confronted by an individual who felt that having BSFM was divisive and separatist. I attempted to explain that his interpretation of the celebration was not at all its intent. I tried to point out the goals I stated earlier, but unfortunately to no avail.
Sure, as you would expect most black speculative fiction writers have a predominately black cast of characters, whereas most white speculative fiction writers have a predominately white cast of characters. We write within our framework of experience and what comes natural and to me there’s nothing wrong with that. I have white characters, Asian characters, etc… in my work(s), as white authors have black characters within their work(s). But how I approach any character I create—regardless of race—is to make them human, first and foremost. I don’t get caught up in trying to make them conform to typical stereotypes in order to assert authenticity. To do this, creates a caricature of an ethnic group and does almost nothing to develop the character as an entity.
I have enjoyed books where the cast of characters were all white, but I never got particularly angry or disgruntled, nor did I urge those creators to include token blacks to make their work more balanced. I write stories with black protagonists and a predominately black cast, not in answer to my white counterparts, but because that’s what comes naturally to me. It’s not divisive or separatist to write what you know.
It wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream public refused to acknowledge, let alone publish or feature black speculative fiction authors. If we as a group wanted to be seen or heard, we had to do it for ourselves. Now, there is a slow movement to integrate black creators into the mainstream however, much more is yet to be done and celebrations like BSFM only help to foster diversity within the world of genre fiction by spreading the word about those outside of the mainstream’s purview.
A lot of people I know within speculative fiction are coming together to explore our differences and learn something new about other people and to me that’s a good thing. It has always been my idea that when I’m reading speculative fiction, I’m looking for a bold new adventure. What could be more different than to step outside of the box you’re accustomed to and explore a more diverse take on genre fiction? I’m not sure how making people aware of diversity, exploring new cultural takes on genre fiction and authors writing within the scope of their experience is such a bad thing.