I know that being in Grad School and writing SF/F my stuff will continually be labeled as Magic Realism and it irks me. I’ve always had issues with the genre of magical realism, not because I don’t like the genre or writers but because I think there’s a large tendency in the literary community to lump any People of Color who write Sci-Fiinto Magical Realism. The line between the two genres is more arbitrary and personal I think than anything else. For me it’s where the magic is incorporated into the story and not remarked on as something extraordinary, when the focus of the story is more personal than global and it often revolvesaround family (both of blood and the families you create on your own) but again that’s my personal definition.
But the idea that pisses me off is that if a POC is writing a fantasy at alls then it must be Magical Realism whereas you rarely see white authors treated the same. One example I’ll bring up is Nina Kiriki Hoffman who is one of my favorite authors, her works have many of the hallmarks of magical realism, the subtle magic weaved into an ordinary world but you’ll rarely if ever see her lumped into that category, most of her work is considered urban fantasy. Then you have authors like Nalo Hopkinson – also one of my favorite authors – whose “Brown Girl In The Ring” I see lots of folks terming Magical Realism which I don’t consider it to be because it’s about something that affects a lot of folks in the area and is the hero story of Ti-Jeanne as far as I’m concerned.
Now of course there are pluses and minuses to being considered a Magical Realism writer. The big plus being that you will automatically be given a higher degree of respect and authority within the literary community. The big negative for me is the why POC are automatically Magical Realists. It goes back to the “of the earth” stereotype – that brown folks are somehow closer to the earth and magic than white folks. Which is really a dehumanizing thing because along with this idea is the attitude that magic is something completely disconnected from “civilization” – it’s considered something connected to the primitive and when you look at it that way the fact that any fantastical work by a POC is considered Magical Realism becomes a little insulting because the idea is that if a POC writes about magic they are connecting with some primal force etc…
Magical Realism versus Fantasy is a tricky thing but this goes back to the idea that anything written by an African-American author is automatically shelved in the Af-Am literature section as opposed to its genre. It’s a form of segregation of the books and that’s the same feeling I get when folks divide books that deal with magic into Magical Realism and Fantasy, almost all the POC end up on the MR side and most of the folks on the Fantasy side are white.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not dissing Magical Realism I think it’s an awesome genre and some of my stuff does fit into the category. What I’m angry about is the automatic assumption of any POC who writes SF/F is actually writing Magical Realism. And then of course comes the hand-wringing and wailing over there not being enough POCin SF/F when those who try to break in are often shunted off into Magical Realism.
So yes, that’s my rant for the day.
P.S. – Grad School is totally kicking my ass but I’ve got it all under control…for now.
Posted in aversive racism, fantasy, magical realism, People of Color, race, sf/f
Tagged aversive racism, fantasy, magical realism, People of Color, race, sf/f
A few links for the day
#1International Blog Against Racism Week 3 (IBARW3) is set to go from Aug. 4 – 10. Here’s the call for submissions:
This year’s IBARW will take place between August 4 through August 10 (although please let me know if the dates conflict with important holidays). The theme (completely optional) is “Intersectionality,” as in, the intersections of various oppressions (ex. racism + sexism, racism + ablism). Suggestions and critique welcome here.
How Can You Help?
1. I need people to help compile links to posts. Last year, there were four of us and about 500 posts; I’m hoping this year will be bigger. Each person will basically take a day, put up a post in the ibarw comm, then tag links in the IBARW del.icio.us. If there aren’t enough people to do one day/week, we’ll rotate. We’ll also keep track of requests to retag posts in case something is tagged wrong. Also, if you can read a language that isn’t English, that would also be really useful for tagging non-English posts.
2. Volunteer to make icons! Examples from last year.
3. If you’re not American by self-definition, I would really, really, really appreciate a post or posts from you, as the “international” part of IBARW is very important. Extra love and appreciation if you aren’t from an English-speaking country/nationality. Posts in non-English languages are also very welcome!
4. Spread the word!
5. Post! If you’re white and don’t want to take attention away from POC bloggers, I respect that. But if you still want to contribute without taking attention away, you can also links to posts by POC or drive traffic or search for IBARW links for the compilers.
#2 Bankuei breaks a lot of shit down in his post – Debunking White Fantasy:
Well, why is that? All these weird species either boil down to alien non-human species or white people that look a little different and act funny. In other words, neither type threatens to dislodge the white normative. (Remember, human is synonymous with white!).
When and where we do see characters of color, they’re carefully shown with heavy stereotypical markers- asian people dress and act like this, african people dress and act like this, etc., because in that way, they’re not complex and full humans and threatening to the fantasy itself
Check the post out, you won’t be sorry.
#3 Black Voices has their list of the Top 25 Black Superheroes of All Time. Of course going through the list you see a lot of stereotypes and caricatures, non-humans and very few women. That’s not Black Voices fault at all but I would have liked a little more criticism on how these heroes were often bastions of racism and dehumanization on a really large scale but I realize that’s not what the list is about. I didn’t agree with a lot of the characters on the list or their placement but I can’t disagree with their number one, who despite his problems is one of my favorite superheroes.
#4 Last for the Sci-Fi shopping geek in all of us, Best Buy is having a sale on DVD TV seasons from Fox including Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, X-Files, Dark Angel and more. Head over and shop until you’re overdrawn, it’s what I intend to do ;).
Posted in aversive racism, comics, fantasy/sci-fi, IBARW, links, People of Color, race, racism, shopping
Tagged aversive racism, comics, fantasy, fantasy/sci-fi, IBARW, links, People of Color, race, racism, shopping