I’ve thought about this post all week — did I want to write about it, did I not — and as I open this box to write, I am still unsure where it will go. I’ll tag it “womenSFF,” so I have some idea of my direction. (Natalie Luhrs wrote a great and thoughtful piece, too.)
Earlier this week, author Andy Weir held a Q&A on Twitter with @XploreDeepSpace, and they asked him if he would recommend contemporary SF authors to high school readers.
Three white men who’re dead, and three white men who are presently writing. So I asked,
Weir didn’t reply. I wasn’t surprised, so when he posted an email address where he always responds to “fan mail,” I dropped him a note.
I talked about my friend who went two years without realizing he hadn’t read a woman, (ETA: amusingly, that piece links a book list from Weir that is all male authors) and about how men who submit stories to Shimmer largely include other male writers in their cover letters when they list influences. I asked Weir why he thought this was, and if he had read any women or writers of color.
I thought I would get an answer.
Weir didn’t answer my question — there was no yes or no, no list of who he thought was great when it came to women or authors of color. Weir told me that he didn’t see gender or race that if I did, and it had a bearing on whether I liked the work or not, I needed to re-examine my priorities.
It must be amazing, not having to see those things. To be a white man who sees no need to acknowledge that people other than his own kind exist. Weir probably doesn’t believe that — I don’t know — but it’s what his attitude implies to me.
Writers like Weir — male, white, on top of the NYT Bestseller lists, movie deals, a break out book — are in an amazing position to boost voices that are not like their own. They have the ability to lift others up. And time after time, they mention work that is exactly like their own. Authors who mirror their own selves.
If Weir heard my question, he made the choice not to listen. Instead, he told me why my question was awful and how misguided I was — he accused me of seeing things I should not see or acknowledge. Things we should apparently be beyond.
Instead of saying “hey, I also dig these authors, and didn’t have Twitter space to mention them,” he said no, I don’t see those things and neither should you.
Race and gender have no bearing on what I love to read, but do I intentionally seek out voices and writers who are different than me? Yes. Men and women who’ve had experiences I can not fathom, experiences I might come to understand through their words. My life would be far less rich without those voices.
And if I never sought them out? It might rather be like being stuck on Mars for eternity, alone in the dust, my vision forever obscured.