I was right.
I’m just a lowly slushmonkey at The Town Drunk, and I can say:
a) I don’t give a f&*^ who the writer is — half the time I don’t even look at the name before I start reading — I’m just looking for a good story (and in our case, humorous). If it features a black, gay vampire battling a Hispanic, transgender zombie, and it’s funny and well written, chances approach 100% it gets kicked up the line.
b) I completely disagree that it’s the editor’s job to reach out to “unconventional” writers — it is the job of the writer to hit up Duotrope or Ralan to find places to send their story. Sorry, no special treatment for anyone. I know, for example, that the editor of my magazine has a full time job, a husband, makes her own attempts to write, and I imagine she enjoy some kind of social life. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for finding non-male, non-white authors to submit. (Oh, and 3 of our last 8 stories were written by women).
c)Publish stories that reflect a true balance (but don’t lower your standards to do so). Nice idea, but not to implementable in my mind. I know at least 95% of the slush I read isn’t fit for publishing in a high school literary mag, which isn’t unusual, but the ethnicity of a character means squat to me — once again, good stories get kicked up, the rest go straight to the round file.
It seems that the only way to really “fix” this problem is at the grassroots level. How many kids in inner city America even know about science fiction literature? I doubt many. Hell, with the inadequacies in our education system, a lot of black kids don’t even get a good education — how are they supposed to grow up to be speculative fiction wordsmiths? Is it fair? Nope. Is there anything an editor can do? I can’t think of anything. This is a cultural issue (US culture, that is), and I don’t see how Gordon van Gelder or Brit Marshalk (my editor) can do anything, short of volunteering to teach poor kids (be they brown, white, black, or polka dotted) how to appreciate literature.
So instead of railing against editors, start collecting speculative literature for inner city school libraries and wait a while — chances are, some of those kids are going to grow up to write specfic. As it stands, the majority of people who read science fiction are white dudes. I ride the bus, which is a good microcosm for poor/minority folks, and I see very few people even reading books. I don’t recall ever seeing any nonwhite person reading speculative fiction, and if someone has a book, I try to see what they’re reading.
Oh, and I don’t think that being a white male writer has helped me get published anywhere — all 5 of my sales have come through years of hard work and honing my craft. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to encourage anyone to get there through any other route. I’m poor, I work hard to frickin’ survive, and I give up a lot to write.
Anyone else is welcome to follow me into the fray, and if they submit a good story and I slush it, they’ll get love. If they submit crap, they get a rejection. Simple as that.
Her response was predictable:
Dear David Reagan,
No, it’s not as simple as that. That you’re unwilling to consider any of my points valid shows that you’re unwilling to consider that you might be wrong. And as such, you’ll always remain a lowly slush reader.
And I added:
OMG, what, are you in high school?
Your response makes no sense -- according to your arguments, as a white man, I'm the one most likely to find success in the field.
So which is it?
And do you reject my hypothesis that nonwhite kids should be encouraged to read more specfic so that they'll grow up to submit in the genre? Or should we introduce affirmative action into writing -- well, it's a crappy story, the opening five pages are irrelevant infodump, but hey, the writer ain't white, so let's publish it. That should be good for readership. I need Visine from all the eye rolling I'm doing over hear.
Make sure a wide range of people know that your magazine accepts unsolicited submissions by reaching out and posting notifications in venues frequented by non-white and non-male individuals.
Care to name a few? Solutions are good, bitching, moaning and groaning is so old and accomplishes very little. I didn't realize there were market listings that catered to non-white, non-male writers.
Put your money where your mouth is. Publish more stories by established authors that feature non-default people and non-default settings so that newer authors (and readers) will see your market as open to diverse views and ideas.
If we get 'em, and they're good, I already said I'd forward them. So once again, provide an answer -- how do you make these subs magically appear?
Oh, wait, dialogue is wasted breath in these situations. It's like trying to talk politics -- anyone who disagrees with you is a poopoo head, and only your take on the matter is valid.
Agree? Disagree? Bring it on.
You should probably rewrite the last line of your post to read, "Agree -- right on. Disagree -- your opinion is worthless and you're a (insert derogatory comment). Bring it on, but only if you think I'm correct in what I've said."
Love, kisses, and TANSTAAFL,
(aka Lowly Slushmonkey and hard-working writer paying my dues)
Ya'll are more than welcome to pile on in the comments, whether you agree or disagree. I promise, I won't call you names if you think I'm wrong ;)
EDIT: Things are getting nasty over there.