08 May

Diversity in science fiction markets

Angry Black Woman gets heated discussions going in her comments about diversity in fiction markets.

Nick Mamatas weighs in as well.

As for myself, online I keep seeing the same repetition. Someone says SF/F isn’t diverse, people respond by chanting “Hopkinson, Butler, Delany, Barnes” like it’s a magical phrase that dispels the +10 diversity attack spell.

Delany doesn’t write SF anymore. Butler passed away.

Hopkinson and Barnes.

People aren’t even considerate enough to add “Due” to that list, Barnes’s wonderful and incredibly talented wife. Also a person of color.

So out of 1500-2000 or so writers who’ve sold at least 3 professional stories by SFWA’s standards (let’s say there are 500 or so not in SFWA who might be eligible) people only can realistically name 2 working current writers of color in the comments section off the top of their head.

12% of the US is African American. By simple math you can take our figure of 2,000 writers who’ve sold 3 or more pro level short stories and we should expect to have 150-200 SF writers of color active in that grouping.

We don’t.

Even accounting for statistical variations, that ratio is wildly uneven.

Is the cadre of writers in the field diverse?


Whatever conclusions or actions you wish to draw next, the mathematical fact remains that we don’t even have a healthy fraction of even 100 writers of color.

This could be a larger societal issue, an issue of fandom, the technical nature of SF/F, or that readers don’t see their faces in SF/F and don’t read it and therefore don’t write it, whatever your theory is (and I’m making no accusations or forwarding theories of my own here, that isn’t the point of this particular entry), it still doesn’t change the fundamental fact that is not a racially diverse field.

Seriously, do the math.

But please stop saying “Hopkinson, Butler, Delany, Barnes” as if it makes that problem go away. All it does is embarrass the field and further alienate potential writers and readers of color because by saying that as a defense, you’re demonstrating just how unbalanced the equation is, and how ignorant you are of it. They’re some of my favorite writers, and its troubling to see their names used as a tool to disprove the lack of diversity in this field when the issue is the math.

Seriously, and with all respect and friendliness, this being said in a friendly and neutral tone of voice: do the math and think about it.

Here’s a link to US Demographics.

To find currently published writers of color, keep up with the Carl Brandon society. The awards list mentions how hard it was to find works, and if you know the markets, you’ll see a lot of them were combed from *outside* our field.