More on Loncon 3... Did I mention that 'diversity in speculative fiction' was a specific theme of this convention? Hence all these posts which need a home and probably shouldn't really be here. Anyway, I have a couple of observations on obstacles to diversity which came up across a range of talks...
THE BOUNDARIES OF GENRE
pretty much part of the definition of genre fiction that it will
conform to a set of expectations in terms of content, but also form.
When authors start to push against either of those boundaries, their
work tends to get categorised outside the genre, perhaps as magical
realism, or just literary fiction. Many western authors find themselves
in this situation, but it becomes particularly likely for authors from
other traditions - not surprising since the content and forms of
SF/Fantasy genre are a tradition of western origin. It isn't necessarily
a bad thing, at least not for the authors themselves. Literary fiction
is taken more seriously in some circles and may reach a wider audience.
downside is that it complicates the inclusion of such works in
SF/Fantasy centered events in ways that are currently bothering some
readers and authors. Works shelved as 'literary' aren't likely to
receive genre-based awards if they aren't perceived as exemplars of the
genre. They and their authors don't get included in conventions and
discussions around the genre, even if some* readers like myself
don't really distinguish between fantasy and magical realism in their
reading and thinking. This is quite odd in that we merrily group SF and
Fantasy as if they just naturally went together. At Loncon 3 I've been
quietly navigating around all the SF stuff because it isn't really my
thing. Then, when I go to discussions on the stuff that is my thing,
we're talking a lot about 'magical realist' authors without having them
directly included in the proceedings
* allowing for the fact that some readers are hardcore genre fanatics.
THE LACK OF TRANSLATIONS
very frustrated about this obstacle right now because of the
tantalizing existence of books I want to read and can't. The
English-speaking world does very, very badly at facilitating the flow of
translations compared to other cultures. However, other cultures mainly
translate from English, so they have their own problems of
access to diverse literatures. Whole swathes of literature are
essentially out of our reach, though often not from the groups we
usually think of first when we talk about diversity and inclusiveness.
North America, large swathes of Oceania and sections of Europe and Asia
are quite well represented by authors who write in English (although
also by authors who don't). South and Central America have largely
dropped off the map, along with very considerable areas of Europe and
Asia. The exceptions are authors who make it really big in their native
language areas and perhaps Japan, since demand for Japanese work has
been high enough to generate frequent translation.
I'm very much hoping is that the rise of low-investment publishing and
small independent publishing houses could be used to address this
problem in the near future. I really don't think it's due to a lack of
willing and capable translators.