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Zer Netmouse
April 7th, 2009
10:55 pm

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Pam Noles: Shame

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From:dd_b
Date:April 8th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
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So is Ms. Hopkinson actually saying she didn't discover Delany until 1982? Yikes; I wonder how one could manage that. He was really major in the field long before that.

I believe the first black and gay and transgender authors I read, and quite a number of the women, were in science fiction; the field didn't, to my eye, seem to much care "what" an author was, just what they wrote. And neither did any of the fans I knew and know.
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From:netmouse
Date:April 8th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I don't believe I read any books by Delany until this year. I started with his autobiography. Now I have also read The Jewels of Aptor. There is nothing on that vintage Ace cover (a pale blond woman hovering over a pile of skulls) to suggest to me that a) the book is hard SF and not fantasy, b) one of the main characters is brown, and another is black, or c) the author is black.

(the Gollancz (2000) edition isn't much better. At least the person on the cover is not pale-skinned, and it comes across as hard SF, but the scene on the cover never happens in the postapocalyptic novel.)

I don't know why I'd never read any Delany novels before. I certainly knew the name. I'd read some of his short stories. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand has been recommended to me multiple times. But I also don't know if I could have told you before fairly recently that he is african-american. I'm just saying, I don't think that "read something by Samuel R. Delany" and "found a black science fiction writer" are necessarily synonymous so far as personal experience.
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From:dd_b
Date:April 8th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
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Closer to the time of publication, SF was the default, fantasy hardly existed, so that wasn't going to be confusing to people reading that edition new.

I probably didn't know Delany was black when I first read him. At some point I learned it, and it didn't much matter in a lot of ways, hence I don't remember exactly when :-). Maybe an author photo, or something somebody mentioned in an introduction (Ellison or Asimov most likely), or maybe a photo in Locus (I don't remember when they started running photos at all often).

Delany was one of the seriously hot young SF authors; Driftglass probably summarizes that period best (collection, and one of my favorites). He kind of moved on out of the SF mainstream, and I suspect he's far less read in SF now than he was then.

It's certainly possible to know of an author for a long time, and even read them for a long time, and not know much about them; one could easily not know race or even sex (I understand there were people who thought Andre Norton was male, in fact that may be why she wrote SF under that name; but it never occurred to me, I pegged the name as female at first glance).

On the other hand, if one cared a lot about it, the information was out there to be found; I found it even without caring a lot, just stumbled over it (but I was very interested in SF in general, and in authors in general, so the bits of information did stick when I hit them). And Nalo Hopkinson says she did care a lot about it.

People who care a lot about the race of people in books should have learned by now not to rely on the cover illustrations for information!


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From:nnaloh
Date:April 13th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
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dd_b, I feel a need to speak up for myself. If you're implying that I hadn't been reading very widely in the field as a child and a teenager, of course I wasn't. Recall that I only moved to North America in 1977, at the age of 16. Before that I was living in the Caribbean, where 1) it was difficult to find science fiction and fantasy, 2) I was a minor, and 3) my parents' income was modest. There was limited access for researching and purchasing my own reading material. My parents did not restrict my reading and I read quite widely, but circumstances of age, income and availability limited what I could get my hands on. I was 16 and still living in the Caribbean before I first encountered another science fiction reader like myself. Seven years later, I was living in Canada and working in a public library, so I had much greater access and my science fiction reading increased quite a bit. I knew lots of black Caribbean and American writers. What I didn't know was how racism played out in North America. I probably encountered Dhalgren in Canada in my late teens, but not until I saw a photo of him in a library copy of Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand 5 years later and realised he was black did it occur to me that there was a mysterious and uneasy silence in the genre around writers of colour. And no, even though I'd been reading Chip's work for a few years before that, I hadn't been able to tell that he was black. If it pleases you to see that as a lack of perception on the part of the teenaged me, so be it. I wasn't born politicized. Racism comes at you as a series of accumulated epiphany moments. Seeing Chip's photo was an early one of mine.
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From:dd_b
Date:April 14th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
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I wasn't giving enough consideration to cultural / economic issues affecting access to SF (and hadn't researched your background, though I knew you were Caribbean and Canadian; but I didn't know when you moved).

I'm pretty sure I must have read Delany for a while before I noticed (or had the chance to notice) that he was black, too. And he was probably the first black SF writer I knew about, and probably the only one for a while. Still, the concept that a black person could be an SF writer wasn't surprising or shocking to me.
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From:nnaloh
Date:April 14th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
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My surprise at a black science fiction writer wasn't that I hadn't thought it was possible; I grew up surrounded by black poets, playwrights, fiction writers (my dad was a writer, as were many of his friends). What was unusual was why I'd never heard of a black science fiction writer before. Or an Asian one, or a South Asian one, or a First Nations one, etc. That was more than my not paying attention.
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