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The Individuality of Diversity

As we deliberately include writers that fall into superficial categories of diversity, let’s bear in mind that real diversity is individual.
| Dec 13, 2018 | 33 comments |

Recent posts to Speculative Faith by Daniel Whyte IV and Mike Duran have addressed the topic of diversity among fiction writers in general and Christian fiction writers in particular. This post I’m going to offer my own thoughts on the topic of diversity, which I believe are different from both Mr. Whyte and Mr. Duran. My ideas of course are my own and do not reflect any official position of Speculative Faith.

While serving with the US Army in Djibouti, Africa in 2012, I remember meeting the Ethiopian liaison officer to the US military command there (Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa or CJTF-HOA). I don’t remember the Colonel’s name, but I do remember noticing something distinctive about him. He was missing half of his right index finger, just like I am. His story of how he lost the finger was very similar, too. He was helping to cut wood for the winter (the Ethiopian highlands get cold enough to need it) when he was a small boy and a relative accidentally cut off his finger. He was five and I was seven and his cousin chopped his finger off and for me it was my sister. But both our stories spoke of hard childhoods in rural poverty–a poverty that made he and I more alike in that regard than I am with the majority of any ethnic group from the United States, no matter what their race is.

Foreign liaison officers at CJTF-HOA. Credit: United States Africa Command.

Likewise I’ve sat across the table from Afghans from remote areas of Farah province. While they and I were different in numerous ways (in many specific ways my life had more in common with the Ethiopian officer), most especially in our religion, these tough ethnic Pashtuns lived lives mostly without electricity, without running water, with “outdoor plumbing,” with their main energy for work provided by animal power. I too lived a portion of my life in a similar way. We usually had electricity (but it failed often) but as I child I passed extensive periods without indoor plumbing and living on a farm in which animal power was the primary way to get things done. Again, this is something about myself that showed more in common with foreigners than with most of my fellow US citizens, no matter what ethic group they come from (though rural Mexicans and Central Americans often have similar experiences to mine).

By the way, I found the Afghans were living rougher lives that most Africans, overall. Mostly because wartime pressures are worse in Afghanistan than most (but not all) of Africa–but note most Afghans are classified as (believe it or not) “white.” And they are desperately poor as a nation, overall. Though in fact, experiences vary in Afghanistan–some Afghans have lived relatively cushy lives, especially those who grow up in the families of urban professionals. Yes, even Afghanistan has urban professionals. And yes, even a nation that is essentially made up of one race can have sharp ethnic splits and class divisions.

For those of you who might be familiar with the history of Afghanistan, you might find it noteworthy that the East-Asian-looking Hazara of Afghanistan’s central Hindu Kush mountains have been picked on by most of the other groups in Afghanistan. You might be tempted to call that racial discrimination. But there’s a group in Afghanistan called the Aimaqs that are every bit as East-Asian-looking that are not especially discriminated against. Why not? Because they are Sunni Muslims like the majority of Afghans–while the Hazara are Shia Muslims. Surprise, racial discrimination is not really a worldwide thing–sure, it exists in many different countries, but in places removed from Western culture ethnicity (marked by language) usually matters more. As does religion. Actually, this is true in Western cultures, too. Though the modern conversation about discrimination based on race seems to miss that.

How do you suppose Afghans are treated that move to the United States? Maybe OK if nobody knows where they are from. But their accents and attendance at mosques tend to set them off–and from what I hear, they tend to get a little extra loving tender care from the TSA when they fly. Probably far more than those of you reading this receive. From what I’ve heard, that’s true even if they worked as translators for US troops and put their lives on the line shoulder to shoulder with us. And what race are they? Usually “white.”

Any intense focus on race I see as an ideological virus. It’s first of all a moronic notion–the idea that all of everyone from Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia have something in common making them essentially alike, just like everyone from sub-Saharan Africa supposedly has something that makes them alike, just as all Native Americans were supposedly alike and all East Asians alike. Nonsense. Individual differences are much bigger, much more important that real racial differences. Even benchmarks a racial theorist might think are reliable such as Africans having darker skin than Europeans isn’t always true–some Africans have relatively light skin (and not because of being so-called “mixed race”). While some Europeans are quite swarthy.

History mostly doesn’t reflect even Europeans fully believing this hokum–the English thought they were inherently different from the Irish, the French from the Germans, the Italians from the Greeks, etc, etc. It was only colonialism and a relatively-late desire to justify colonialism that caused the latter half of the 19th Century to become the heyday of racial theory, where people for the first time actually proposed that all Europeans have something in common and really meant it.

By the way, yes, these racial theorists did a great deal of harm to society. True. Yes, some of their idiotic ideas linger and even have a small effect in the direction of being self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, by believing that race was real and really matters, they created institutions that enforced racial divisions, especially in regard to African Americans, but also against other ethnicities at various times. But it’s never actually been true that all white people are alike. Nor all blacks not all Latinos nor all Asians or Native Americans or nor all whatever.

It is not a sign of actual diversity to represent two people who grow up in the same middle class suburb of a major American city, speak only English, attend the same quality schools, but one of the two has dark brown skin and is called “black” and the other has light pink skin and is called “white.” While the two people no doubt have different experiences to a degree, these differences are essentially pretty small. Both have about as much chance of success in life. I’m not quoting stats here, but it’s true. Neither of these people will face prejudice so crippling that they cannot get ahead in life in the United States.

However, if you are a black person who grows up in a neighborhood with high crime and terrible schools, you are at a significant disadvantage to both white and black “I grew up in a middle class suburb” person. The real issue is not race–it’s place. It’s more what the schools are like and unemployment and the substance abuse situation where you live than anything else (many but not all of America’s reservations are especially terrible places in that regard). This type of depressed ethnic neighborhoods was to a large degree caused by historic racism–and a person coming from a situation of dire urban poverty really does have a different perspective on life than a middle-class person. But it’s a situation that is only influenced a small amount by current racism. There are many very successful people from all ethnic groups in the United States. And not every black person is actually from the “hood”–not even close!

My use of “small amount” to refer to the influence of current racism may offend some people, and I’m sorry, but I think that’s fair. I say that from the perspective of having spent significant time in foreign countries and having observed how divisions can line up in foreign non-racial patterns, ones that still produce haves and have-nots, advantaged people and disadvantaged. Without racism being a significant factor.

You wanna talk real diversity without making a bunch of presumptions about race? How about someone being different from most other people by missing fingers? 🙂 Losing a finger in an accident changes your perspective on life, I’m telling you–people chopping vegetables on a cooking show probably generates winces in me that ten-fingered folk do not feel. Yet if we were to create a panel of people who are missing fingers, to include both the Ethiopian Colonel I referenced earlier and myself would not represent diversity simply because he’s from Africa and I’m from North America. We both lost the same finger in the same way, making us essentially the same in the context of missing fingers…losing a thumb in a different way, now that would be an example of diversity in that context.

It may seem that I’m rambling here but I hope I’m doing so with a purpose. If you have a panel of writers, all of whom only speak English, all went to similar universities, all doubt the existence of God, and all have similar writing style, is that really a diverse panel if fifty percent or better are women and there are plenty of blacks, Latinos, and Asians? In relation to the subject of writing, diversity should actually center around different writing style, different themes, and different underlying convictions that under-gird what people write. Do people from different ethnic groups (as in racially based ones) automatically have vastly different perspectives from one another in all cases which will mean their writing is totally different? I would say, “no.” In particular in regard to modern ideas about sexuality as expressed in writing, it seems to me there is a high degree of uniformity among modern winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards. Pretty much all are libertine–and that reflects in their writing.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not against deliberate efforts to include people of differing superficial groups, including people belonging to various categories hatched up by 19th Century racial theorists. Though that’s just to make people feel welcome–the racial categories themselves are essentially meaningless. People are not their race–race is not destiny–that was a lie hatched up by self-serving racists. They never succeeded in making it wholly true, even though they tried. And it certainly isn’t true now. And thinking that race is somehow deeply significant is perversely very Western-centric and United States-focused–my experience meeting Africans, Central Americans, Middle Easterners, and Afghans has led me to believe that America’s perspective on race doesn’t reflect the whole world.

So if we as Christian writers wish to be welcoming to people different from ourselves, does it make sense to celebrate human diversity based on outward appearance or other superficial criteria? Sure, there’s no downside in doing so as long as we don’t think we just solved the world’s problems by mixing people from different groups. It’s kind to let people know they will not be excluded based on superficial criteria–but to imagine there is something actually different about writing or writers based on such superficial things–c’mon now. Real diversity is diversity of ideas, of character, of experiences–and nothing about race or other similar superficial criteria determine that in advance.

Each individual is in fact an island to himself or herself in most ways. Like me and my Ethiopian Colonel, every single person has the chance to meet someone of another race who because of individual experiences is more like them than anyone else in the world. Ethnicity is not destiny. Individual differences matter more than ethnic groups.

And the Church that Jesus built, while it should be welcoming for all who will repent and enter it–while churches absolutely are diverse in race, ethnicity, and gender, it all started with twelve Jewish men. You’d be making a big mistake to think those twelve men were not a diverse group–they were diverse in profession, education, and personality. For example, the disciples included a zealot, a group who swore to kill the Romans, yet also a former tax collector, who had collaborated with them. That’s a more significant diversity than if one of them had been born in Africa and one had been born in Europe but both believed the same things and spoke the same language.

Diversity in fact is most importantly reflected in inner traits and experiences. Real diversity is individual. As we deliberately include writers that fall into different superficial categories (as we should do), let’s not forget that. Let’s also seek diversity of experiences, styles, and beliefs.

Travis Perry is a hard-core Bible user, history, science, and foreign language geek, hard science fiction and epic fantasy fan, publishes multiple genres of speculative fiction at Bear Publications, is an Army Reserve officer with five combat zone deployments. He also once cosplayed as dark matter.

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Jo Michelle
Guest

I have one thing to say. You know what’s missing from this conversation about race and diversity here on Speculative Faith in the last few weeks?

Racial diversity.

Could you invite as many minority writers to share their thoughts and experiences with race and diversity, as the number of white men you’ve published, sharing their opinions about this issue?

Do you *have* any minority authors you can invite to contribute?

If not, maybe start there. 😐

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

I know what you mean, but it bears saying that Christians ARE minority writers. Taking a look at Enclave Publishing’s lineup, I don’t see a single non-Caucasian writer on the list.

Autumn (who is “bi-racial”) basically wrote her own article in the comment section of the previous article. She could submit, but from what I can tell, it would re-enforce a lot of the basic ideas these “non-minority” writers have put down. Any other racially diverse writers should submit their own articles, as well.

Jo, if you know writers with “racial diversity,” why don’t you extend the invite to them, as well? Since you’re so fixated on it, maybe you should take a step with them toward solving what you’ve identified. I’d like to hear more thoughts and personal experiences, too.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Here’s a sermon from Voddie Baucham (a black man), who is currently the Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, on “race.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ5JZ9MUfKA

Jo Michelle
Guest

Race is a concept that is deeply unbiblical. But it’s also a concept that deeply shaped our country as our founding fathers had to find a way to reconcile slavery with their faith. So they invented the “white” race.

And through colonialism, that concept of race shaped much of the world.

It doesn’t exist biologically. It exists socially. Just because race isn’t a problem for you, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for a racial minority in America.

Daniel Whyte IV
Member

I don’t think race is intrinsically unbiblical. Division and discrimination based on race is unbiblical. I think, like Mr. Perry, that our concept of race in the West is very, very lacking.

The Bible teaches that our physical bodies will be resurrected in the New World. Doesn’t that mean we all will retain our racial distinctions? If something were wrong with race in and of itself, wouldn’t Jesus wash our new bodies clean from racial distinctions?

Jo Michelle
Guest

Honestly? This is something that has to come from the top down. The people who run this site would need to make that a goal and go after it. This is the problem with hoping for “naturally developing” diversity, instead of “forced” diversity.

To truly change something that is so ingrained, you have to have leadership by-in and active support, and frankly, I don’t see that happening here. I have one friend in particular who I could ask, but I wonder if the gatekeepers here would even publish it, and, if it’s the lone voice in a monolithic sea of the opposing view, would it actually make any difference?

This is exactly the problem:

“Taking a look at Enclave Publishing’s lineup, I don’t see a single non-Caucasian writer on the list.”

Why? Why are no minorities there? Are there no minorities writing? Or has the white Evangelical SF publishing world created such a toxic environment that they all go elsewhere.

Up until it was sold to Steve Laube, Vox Day/Theodore Beale was one of their premier published writers.

Guys. The Evangelical Christian SF community has a race problem. And it’s not “the other side’s” fault for talking about it. When someone says “this hurts,” maybe don’t immediately dismiss it, since it doesn’t hurt *you.*

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Sounds like a cheap cop-out from someone not willing to take ownership of their own words. Along with bold claims not backed up by anything. Ask your writer friend to submit. If their article ISN’T accepted, tell them to put it in the comment section right here so we all can see proof of your claim that there’s racism here. You’re throwing around some big claims that, if untrue, are honestly very toxic.

That’s assuming your writer friend is a Christian. (This is a community of Christians)

Take ownership or stop moaning.

Jo Michelle
Guest

Re: “I’d like to hear more thoughts and personal experiences”

See, that’s the thing. I’m still learning about this myself. I’d much prefer to platform and promote people who have been talking about this forever, but no one was listening, because of the color of their skin.

“Shouting into the ocean” was how one Christian writer/teacher (Vivian Mabuni) from a racial minority described the experience of trying to talk with her Christian brothers and sisters in Evangelical Christianity.

Most talk about the exhaustion they feel about this topic. Many are now quietly leaving the Evangelical world to other Christian traditions. Lecrae was one “big name.”

Others continue to stay and fight.

Rasool Berry, who’ve I’ve linked to in the past is one of those. He’s a missionary with an established Evangelical para-church missionary organization.

They’ve been speaking and writing about this for years and years. Their books and blogs are out there. But they’ve been shut out of the conversation by terms like “cultural Marxism” and “social gospel.” They’ve been told to shut up, listen, and agree that all the issues they face every day of their lives aren’t actually a thing, and racism died in the 60s.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

I’m not telling them to shut up. I don’t see anyone else here doing that, either. “Shouting into the ocean”? I feel I’m shouting into the ocean when I talk about Christ, and how there’s ONE RACE (the human race). Welcome to life. Ask your friend to submit. What one “feels” or interprets in people’s behavior is different from what actually IS. I just co-wrote a screenplay with a guy named Julio. He lives in Puerto Rico. We wrote it for a Hispanic film company, and the story is based on a true story that happened in Colombia. In the marketplace, instead of finding suppression of this important story, we’ve found it even easier to sell (to white Christians in high-up positions at big film companies-like SONY). And guess what? The film doesn’t have a single white person in it. If I asked Julio to write an article about diversity, he’d probably scratch his head and say, “What’s the big deal?” In my day job, I work in a ministry with people from around the world. Japanese, Africans, South Americans, etc. and guess what? They love and respect each other and work together. They’re not racist. And neither are the white evangelicals partnering with them. The most racist people I meet are young liberals boxing the air in the name of “anti-racism.” The majority of everyone around them says, “Settle down, we’re not racist,” and they respond with, “YOU’RE TRYING TO SUPPRESS ME.” Racists are out there, I know, but good God Almighty I’ve never met one (in person) in my entire life. And I’ve gotten around. I’m as tired as you are of hearing Christians blast immigrants and fear refugees. But that’s not racism. That’s the result of political fear mongering.

Part of the problem with talk about diversity is that it’s bred so much hatred. And that’s a serious systemic issue, especially now with people like Trump stirring up right-wing psychopaths with hateful rhetoric. But I don’t believe any good change will come from hateful words or throwing around threats or insinuations in response.

I don’t have any desire to suppress the truth that people have been slighted for their skin color. I don’t know any Caucasian who honestly does. But I, for one, am sick of people implying that I’m racist, or that I’m disqualified from speaking on the topic of racism because of my skin color.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I think it’s also worth noting that the conversation is getting framed partly in terms of SpecFaith having only ‘white men’ contributing articles, while ignoring the fact that, at the very least, it has women voices as well. Maybe they aren’t writing here on this topic, but SpecFaith isn’t only a place for white men. Racial minorities may be lacking, though as we’ve established, it’s hard to judge that based on skin tone alone(I used to have a pretty good tan in my early teens because I used to do cross country running a lot. But now I’m paler than even some white guys I know because I stay mostly indoors at present. I’m the same person either way. Do I need to go out in the sun and bake for a few days before my voice matters?). There is room for improvement on SpecFaith as far as diversity goes, but people don’t exactly always acknowledge what diversity is there.

I wouldn’t mind submitting an article at some point, and have actually thought about doing so eventually(I kind of haven’t been submitting guest posts to very many places because I haven’t published anything yet. I have a lot of experience with writing, and I share my thoughts on that in comments, but if I posted an actual article on a place like SpecFaith without any actual stories to show people, I’d worry that people would wonder if I really have any authority on the matter. That might become irrelevant in a month or two, though, since although I won’t have a book published yet, I might start posting pages of a webcomic or two)

I feel like SpecFaith is in a bit of a cruddy trap now. On one hand, they’d like to have more minority voices, and the audience wants it, too. But doing so on purpose would look like affirmative action, or like charity. Yet, if they don’t, it looks like they’re trying to exclude people. And, in a way, that whole issue kind of messes with the ability of minority writers to enter places like this. Once I was ready, I might have asked if I could submit an article, and SpecFaith would have posted it if it met their criteria/were looking for guest posts. I doubt I’d be asked for my race before saying yes, so eventually a minority voice could have probably entered the scene without being forced. But now that’s all kind of called into question. I’m glad we’re having this conversation, but this situation does kind of show that affirmative action can be a problem sometimes.

How people give voice to a group matters a lot, though. I wouldn’t want someone to post one of my articles simply for the sake of diversity or because that’s the only way for people to prove they aren’t racist. But, if someone wants to do a blog series that, say, gives tips on writing girl chars better, or tips on writing guy chars better, that’d be a good time to consider which female writers/bloggers stand out as talented and then invite them to share their ideas on writing good female chars.

I wouldn’t say that no men can write about that topic, or that girls can’t share their experiences when it comes to writing guy chars, because they might have valuable insights as well(I know what it’s like to be a girl that writes guy chars, for instance, so I can share some things that make the process easier for me. And the same goes for guys that try to write girl chars.)

In general, the way people share their experiences matters, too. Accusing someone based on their gender and race often just makes people defensive, because deep down they are basically being told that there are people that hate and resent them based on things they can’t control(race and gender), no matter how good they try to be. But, simply describing experiences, doing what what we can to get rid of any hatred deep down in our minds, showing people that we aren’t hateful and just want to make things better, goes a long way. Not everyone will respond to that, but many people will, or at least be less resistant. At the very least, we will be giving out more concrete info than ‘white guys are the worst!’

Daniel Whyte IV
Member

I wouldn’t say Christians are minority writers. Christian SFF writers might be in the minority. But there is a pretty massive Christian writing community. And within that community, unfortunately, there is room for marginalization and racism, and that should be acknowledged.

Daniel Whyte IV
Member

Hi, Jo. I don’t know if you read my article or not, but I’m black, although I didn’t discuss my own race in the article. I’ve been reading Speculative Faith for years.

I haven’t seen many (or any) authors of color on here, but that’s never bothered me. When I first came to this site, I was just happy that there were other Christian writers and readers that loved SFF as much as I did.

To be fair, I am not easily “triggered” on race issues. Much less so than other blacks (and now some “woke” whites) apparently are.

I like the fact that people who read my article (or my books) can consider it on its own merits without thinking, ‘Oh, a black guy writing about diversity. He must be right.’

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

I think Jo Michelle is right about the general problems in Christian speculative fiction though I don’t think Travis Perry is part of the problem (the whole aspect about Travis’s race and Mike’s is a bit of a red herring. It falls under a classic logical fallacy called the genetic fallacy that says an argument should be considered less legitimate because of the racial, religious, sexual group someone hails from. Which ironically, is the major logical fallacy used to justify racism).

That being said, Jo Michelle has many good points. I think in particular the prominence of Vox in the Christian spec faith industry has been problematic and has troubled me, as has some of the ideas about Jews present in Kathy Tyers’s work (a much lesser problem than Vox to be sure and probably not intentional on Kathy’s part). My point here is not even to attack Vox, but merely to note that his presence and prominence in the industry may be turning off other voices from the industry.

I think there has been some progress in the industry, particularly in Steve Rzasa’s works, which do promote more diversity than was common when I first read the genre. But I think Jo is right to note that the genre is still essentially seen as a white, or white male, genre. To my knowledge, I know of only one POC who has written for Enclave.

I would note, however, that racial justice untied to economic justice really does nothing, as those two trends are intrinsically interlinked. And until that conversation is held, which I have some doubts on, I doubt any changes in inclusivity or representation are going to have any more than surface-level effects.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Do you think the fact that the vast majority of Christian spec writers are Caucasian is caused by current racism, or because of other issues? (Example 1: perhaps American youth [ethnically from India] don’t read Christian speculative fiction because they don’t relate to the characters or struggles as much as they’d like, and so they don’t become readers/writers of it. Example 2: Publishers want to publish what they know they can sell, and they don’t see an active “racial minority” readership that they can easily sell to, so they don’t take as many books by minority writers with niche topics that would appeal to minority “races”)

Jo Michelle
Guest

“I would note, however, that racial justice untied to economic justice really does nothing, as those two trends are intrinsically interlinked. And until that conversation is held, which I have some doubts on, I doubt any changes in inclusivity or representation are going to have any more than surface-level effects.”

That’s a fair point.

But listening to marginalized voices *can* be a first step toward addressing the systemic issues they face. Until you know there is a problem, you can’t work to fix it.

Mike Duran
Member

Responding to Jo and John — I’m linking a post from several years back in which I dug into the question of race and evangelical publishers. In it, I interviewed several industry reps, both agents and editors. While all agree that diversity is needed (both in content and actual authorship), the move to be more inclusive has not been easy. Interestingly enough, several publishers have actually tried lines aimed at people of color, which have failed. Also, the actual percentage of poc writing and reading Christian fiction is really small. Point being there’s a lot more to the issue.

http://www.mikeduran.com/2015/08/17/does-christian-fiction-have-a-race-problem/

notleia
Guest
notleia

Yeah, race IS a social construct that was invented expressly as a basis for discrimination. But just because it’s a social construct doesn’t mean that it isn’t A Thing. It has a crapload of historic baggage dragging behind it that isn’t just gonna magically disappear, and because the current discrimination is real, and the douchebags like Dylan Roof who want to start a race war are real, and it’s real that white cops can get off scot-free for shooting unarmed black people in the back.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Addendum: One thing we’ve missed here is the concept of unconscious biases. I mean, we all like to think we’re not racist because we’re not going out and punching dark-skinned people, but we all have our blind spots in perception. Even you. Even me (I’m trying to get better).

We’re mostly talking race now, but I’ve seen a study where men are hecken terrible at judging how equal things are. Like, if a group is mathematically 50-50 men and women, they would say that was a female majority. And groups men thought were equal were actually only 30%-ish female.

Or college students after a class were asked to report the stats on who talked how much, and while the women students were relatively accurate, the men perceived women as talking more than they actually did.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Good post 🙂 I haven’t been out of the country yet, but a lot of things you said fit with what I’ve seen and experienced. Like, place and community does make a huge difference. Obviously there’s going to be some racism everywhere, but where I’m from, I see a lot less of it than what people talk about in other areas of the country. Upbringing and family also matters a lot, too. If someone’s parents are reasonably stable, teach their children well, encourage them to get good grades, etc. then that person will be far better off than someone whose parents are abusive and/or addicted to drugs.

Interestingly enough, my parents have a lot of shared life experiences as well(difficult childhoods, lost parents, having their appendix removed, etc). And yeah, race didn’t shield either of them from those realities. But one thing that’s made a difference for them and for me has been the fact that they’ve worked so hard to improve their lives. There’ve been times when I’ve been very angry with them and had a hard time getting along, and I’ve had a lot of difficulties of my own, but in general I’d say my childhood was a lot more stable than theirs. We don’t have a lot of money, but they always did things to give me the best chance at life, such as pushing me to do well academically and putting me in extracurricular activities that were good for me. That’s a big contrast to people on both sides of my family that have made poor choices or had terrible upbringings.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Jo Michelle,
I understand your point, but what I tend to see is that people often talk about race so that they don’t have to talk about class and race together. Talking about race by itself or class by itself is to my mind pointless. Perhaps on individual issues like this it may help, but as a general rule, one of the major problems with the “identity” wing of the left right now is that it has no coherent economic critique of the social problems our world faces, and often seems reluctant to address them (one suspects because much of the identity wing is actually fairly well off economically). The Sanderites meanwhile, do the same thing, thinking class should be the only thing we talk about (one suspects because the Sanderites are not doing so bad economically themselves). Both issues should go together. What I see with strategies like yours – not from you, but from other people – is just a tactic for dividing black working class people from white working class people like me. Which is neither a new idea nor racially progressive at all.
To Mike’s point, yes those problems obviously are real problems in the genre. But they were produced by the fact that Christian speculative fiction has had heavily racially charged narratives of African-American culture from the start. If I was an African-American, I would not trust a genre that has produced Vox Day or novels like Gideon’s Torch. White evangelicals seem to only notice African-Americans when they need to weaponize them for some policy objective. And frankly, without meaning to be disrespectful to Jefferson Scott\Jeff Gerke, I think writers may have been put off by the general right-wing trend of much of his 90’s and 00’s writing\activism (particularly the Y2K fearmongering). Jefferson’s work falls rather comfortably in the “New Economy” neoliberalism of the right during that era. And I think that Jo is right to see this as an institutional problem in the genre. The point where I disagree with Jo is simply that I see it less as a problem created by persons (whether Travis, you or someone else) and more as a systemic issue that needs systemic, not piecemeil reform. And I do think the genre needs to ask real questions about promoting people like Vox. I’m not saying even don’t publish him. His work should be judged on its quality, not other factors. But I’m frankly dubious that Vox’s stuff would pass that test. What little I’ve read certainly has some innovative plot ideas, but hardly is characterized by great writing. I think his fellow writer (and sometimes co-writer) Steve Rzasa is much the better writer, and much more to be commended on his racial politics. With people like Rachelle Dekker, Morgan Busee, and Steve Rzasa in the industry now, I just don’t even think the industry needs Vox anymore. Aside from John C. Wright and old Pournelle works, I don’t really see much of quality coming out of Castalia.
And I think that all these discussions point to a deeper problem, which is the lack of viewpoint diversity within Christian speculative fiction. Here I am frankly distrustful of both the industry’s approach and Jo Michelle’s, because to me they are just different forms of Puritanism, which is essentially what both the Christian Right and Identity Politics tend to descend into. And frankly, I suspect the Alt-Right and Sanderites will get there almost as quickly. They produce terrible, didactic fiction, on BOTH sides of the cultural divide. Whether it’s Socialist Realism, Identity fiction, didactic Christian sci-fi, or what passes for fiction on the alt-right, they all basically succumb to the preaching urge, and it’s just very boring to read. Frankly, that’s why I increasingly just read Japanese fiction – Mishima, Abe, Oe, etc – or the French Decadents. I’ve read many positive and uplifting books from the Socialist Realist, Identity, and didactic Christian schools. But I have not read many good ones and I doubt I will. And people can say that results from prejudice. I do not really care. But no one really wants to listen to hymns to tractors. As I mentioned to one of my friends recently: “The problem with Christian speculative fiction is that it thinks the artwork should preach a message. It never aims for a far better goal. That the artwork BE the message.” And the same could be said about Identity works, Socialist Realism, and all the other schools of Artistic Puritanism.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Folks, I’m going to sign off from discussion. Nothing bad, I just try to keep a low profile on social media. If anyone wants to contact me, though, feel free. I just want to say, in conclusion, that I think Jo does raise valid points, whatever my disagreements with her. My apologies to Jo and to Mike if I communicated my position too vehemently. I just am generally scared of anything that reminds me too much of the Puritanism of my youth, and right now, every side in our culture reminds me of that. God bless you all.

Daniel Whyte IV
Member

Travis, thanks for writing this article. I agree with you on most points. But I don’t agree with your sentiment that race is a false idea. I suppose it depends on how you define “race.” As part of the whole diversity salad (inclusive of ideas and experiences) that you espouse, I think race (the color of one’s skin, unique facial features, etc.) is an element of it. That can’t be denied.

However, like you say, even within “races,” there are differences and even discrimination. I’ve heard tale of some black people criticized for “acting too white” or “not being black enough.” And, within the black community, we know there is a difference between the mentality and outlook on life between a black person whose ancestors were slaves in the U.S., a black American who comes from Africa whose ancestors were never slaves, and a black person born and raised in England. (My dad even claims there is a difference in mentality between blacks in Texas and blacks in the rest of the South.)

Samuel L. Jackson got in trouble for pointing this out, in regards to actor British Daniel Kaluuya, not too long ago. That upset some people in the liberal progressive crowd who like to lump all black people into a monolith, but Jackson was only expressing what blacks in America already acknowledge. Everybody of the same race, even all black people, aren’t the same.