By Adam Roberts | August 10, 2009
Categories: Book News
I have a picture of a Finnmug to share; but am having trouble getting the image posted. Before the end of the week, though, surely.
I finished a working draft of my next novel, to be called New Model Army: at the minute my editor has it, and I've also sent it to three of the most deftly expert novel-readers I know, who have, with fantastic kindness, all agreed to have a read too. In the light of their feedback I shall revise.
The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF (which I'm in, and which I praised here) has been the occasion of a heated SFSignal thread. Commentors noted that all the contributors are white men. This is, clearly, not good. Some commentators attempted a defence of this aspect of the collection, which in turn inflamed the tempers of other commentators, and it all became rather shouty. My view is bound to be a little compromised by virtue of the fact that I have a story in the volume; but in many respects it is close to what Al Reynolds (also a contributor) says. Like him, when Mike Ashley approached me to see if I wanted to contribute a story, I had no idea who else was being asked, or what the overall collection would look like.
You should read the whole thread, really; it's interesting, if often intemperate. So: I believe there should be more diversity in published SF, especially in terms of gender and non-white ethnicity. It's a shame this anthology doesn't do that; but the claims of several of the more choleric contributors don't seem to me tenable, specifically (a) accusations that Mike Ashley is sexist, or actively misogynist: I really don't believe he is; and (b) the belief that this anthology deserves to be held up for particular rebuke (instead of, let's say, the 2009 Hugo best novel shortlist) because it claims to be in some sense representative of SF. I don't think it does; not even in terms of the cover tagline's characteristic publishing-hyperbole (I don't know if the editor was responsible for this tagline anyway; probably not).
Actually, I think Jonathan M's first comment (also on that thread) may be closer to the truth: the problem isn't this anthology as such, it's a more generalised sexism and racism in SF publishing; and the point of getting so angry here, and of throwing so much vitriol around, is to turn this book into a deterrent case: to make future editors think twice. I can see some merit in that, although it seems to me hard that Ashley, a decent and conscientious man, must have this torrent of anger poured onto his head. It also seems to me a shame that Paul di Filippo gets so roasted in the thread, given that he is to the best of my knowledge neither a sexist nor a racist: his attempt at genial 'let's all calm down' commenting sparked some furious and indeed frumious responses. One interesting thing to come out of it, though, was a specific suggestion from Reynolds: a genuine ethical question that I am currently pondering ... should authors who are approached to contribute to anthologies make their agreement conditional on the finished product including an appropriate diversity of other authors? I wonder how that would work, practically: whether it falls within an author's responsibility; whether, indeed, it would tag the author in question as 'difficult' and reduce future commissions; and whether that would be a price worth paying for the larger good. What isn't discussed in that thread, and indeed can't be since, by their own admission, most of the people commenting neither have nor ever (on principle) will read the stories it includes, is literary quality. That seems to me high, although my judgment is of course, as noted, of course problematised by the fact that I'm also a contributor.No tags for this post.