I would make a terrible superhero girlfriend.
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Why? Because I’d be all over killing the bad guy. Not to mention not being willing to play the victim who gets held hostage or dropped off buildings or whatever. In fact as fantasy/horror/romance books go I’d make a terrible damsel in distress period. Because my first thought has always been that she shouldn’t be waiting around to be saved, she should be trying to save herself. Which isn’t you know…part of the formula or anything. On some level it has always felt like the women in those books weren’t quite representative of me (unless we start talking alter egos ala Jem, or secret identities, or even women like Eowyn who dressed as a man to fight for her land) and yet like a lot of genre fiction fans of color I kept reading them. Kept watching the shows and even going to the movies despite the fact that the women didn’t act the way I would or look the way I do. Because I grew up on a steady diet of Dark Shadows, Flash Gordon, Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, and Isaac Asimov.
And now? Now I’ve got people claiming that readers of color didn’t exist until the advent of the Internet. For the record? We were here at the start and we will be here at the end. Lois (Bujold in case you haven’t been following the latest incarnation of Race Fail to know that she’s the one eating her knee in that comment) seems to think that con attendance = fan. I can’t imagine why there would be so few POC at conventions held in the wake of segregation and Jim Crow. Or why fans of color today often prefer to discuss the books they love with people who don’t think the Open Source Boob Project is the height of social behavior. Oh wait, I’ve never seen the point to spending a ton of money to hang out with people who think my perspective is unwelcome or who think they should be able to touch me because they feel like it. I suspect I am not alone.
For the last time, just because it is not happening in full view of white people does not mean that it is not happening. I am so tired of dealing with this attitude that wanting sci-fi to represent and respect the reality of life as a person of color is somehow asking too much. Especially when the reaction from white authors who are told “Hey you’re doing it wrong” is to say “Well then I won’t do it at all” like we’re supposed to be a-okay with being erased, ignored, or misrepresented just to get a few crumbs from the table. I did an interview this weekend about Verb Noire, and one of the questions was about our hopes and fears for the press. You know what? As long as at least one new perspective is brought to the table of genre fiction I’ll count it as a success. Because it is time for the superhero’s girlfriend to learn to fight back and for the woman to ride as herself to save her people. It is time for the books to reflect more than one view of strength, of femininity, and of reality. And it shouldn’t be a case of “Well there’s this one author or this one perspective that represents *those* people” but I know that breaking the mainstream of this habit of viewing POC culture as monolithic is going to take a lot more than just attending cons and putting out books. We can’t be the only ones doing the work to change the face of fiction. So, less assuming and more listening? Probably for the best.