I wrote this in a hurry. It may be revised later.
So two interesting posts popped up on my facebook recently.
One was an article by Larry Corrira, fisking (once again) the Guardian, for whining that HP Lovecraft should be declared an unperson for not being politically correct. Read it here.
The other was an article whining (and I use that word quite deliberately) about the shortage of ‘people of colour’ among the world’s authors. Read it here.
So what, you might ask, is the problem with this?
Let me be blunt. The one thing that matters in writing is being a good author. If you can put words together that draw people into your writing, you’re a good author. The only subcategories that matter are genres. If an author writes in the genres I like to read, I will probably give him or her a chance.
It doesn’t matter, even remotely, what skin colour, or gender, or age, or sexuality, or anything else the writer happens to be. I don’t know what two-thirds of my favourite authors look like. And why the hell should it matter?
I’ll say it again. The only thing that matters in writing is being a good author.
The free market is what determines if you’re a good author, not a stamp of approval from an awards committee. If someone sells a million books, but gets laughed out of the Hugo Awards, he’s still a good author. It doesn’t matter what someone looks like – really, is there anyone in the world who looks at the picture of the author on the back cover to see if he’s a person of colour? – merely how well they write.
But – and there’s a very big but here – I’m not remotely impressed by merchandising someone as a ‘black’ author. Or any other person of colour author. It suggests, very strongly, that someone has already reduced the playing field in their favour. If someone happens to win an award for being a black author, I think of it as someone hitting a target painted to the end of a gun. This isn’t fair competition. This is arbitrarily eliminating a large number of contestants before the competition even begins.
This is not a way of levelling the playing field. This is a strong suggestion that the playing field needs to be tilted in their favour, as if they cannot win without having the game rigged in their favour. How racist is that?
The only thing that matters is being a good author. Colour is only an issue if you let it be.
Eric Flint said this – and it remains true.
Each author needs to write at least a million words before he or she gets published. He wasn’t kidding. I think I wrote at least twice that before I had any success at all. If you want to be an aspiring author, you have to work towards it. Or you can start complaining about how you were rejected because the ‘establishment’ hates you because of your race, sex, etc. But that really won’t get you very far.