First up before I get into the rant part of this post – Hi! DFWCon ended just a few hours ago and was awesome as always. This was my fourth year attending the conference, and the first time I actually pitched.
I won’t lie, it was a little nerve-wracking – especially since I didn’t start working on my pitch until last Wednesday or so? Didn’t finalize my pitch until Saturday morning… like an hour before my actual time slot. But I did it and it went so much better than I expected, the rest of the conference felt so much less stressful than the prior years (even though I had no intention of pitching previously!). I’m so thankful to my writing tribe for helping critique my pitch drafts, and oozing confidence for me.
Special shout-out to my husband for listening to the pitch over breakfast and guessing questions the agent might ask me, and to Leah for skipping the first class session with me to practice. Funnily enough, the agent did ask the same or similar questions to what I practiced with them, so I didn’t stumble over answering nearly as much! ❤ you all!
NOW. Rant time.
*Dear white men teaching “How to Write” SF/F courses at writing conferences: if the only books you’re going to hold up as examples are “classics,” especially if every single one was written by a white man: you’re wasting the audience’s time.
Is it good to know some of the pillars on which the genres were founded? Sure. But if all you’re going to talk about is their accolades within the genre, and not break down their elements at a craft level before moving on to MORE RECENT EXAMPLES, you’re doing a disservice to those being taught.
(Unpopular opinion: Dune is not a great book. Nor was it edited well.)
If all you do is point to works in the past, how exactly will that foster growth in the genre? How does that challenge writers OR the reader? How is that inclusive?
Maybe this is just a *me* thing. I want to know who the movers and shakers are in genres now, or within the last five years. I want to know what they are doing differently, how they’re turning the genre on its head or the ways they’re challenging it.
But you know what, I don’t think this is just a *me* thing. If you’re going to use comp titles in your query, it’s suggested that the comps be pretty recent titles (anywhere from 2 to 5 years old). Obviously there’s an exception to everything, but “classic” SFF has historically been het-white-male-centric (and racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. in a number of cases). So age of the book aside, why would you want to point to such titles as objects for study? It’s just…backwards.
You mean to tell me you can’t find ONE SFF by a WOMAN to hold up? Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Yoon Ha Lee, Rachel Aaron, Martha Wells, S.A. Chakraborty, Amal El-Mohtar, Seanen McGuire, etc.?
You mean to tell me you can’t find ONE SFF by a POC to hold up? N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Justina Ireland, Aliette de Bodard, Daniel José Older, Jeanette NG, Fonda Lee, Tomi Adeyemi, Roshani Chokshi, Liu Cixin, etc.?
Those are just a small sample of authors currently publishing in SFF, but seriously…if you won’t even use a recent SFF by a dude, like James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Andy Weir, etc… that gives me the impression you’re either incredibly lazy (at best) or you’re on the side of the fence clamoring to stay within the narrow-minded, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. style boundaries of 20+ years ago.
It’s not a good look, and not only am I going to (internally) side-eye the hell out of you, but your credibility to me – be it as an instructor or an author – is going to crash pretttttty quick. I get wanting to look to and acknowledge the “roots” of a genre, but if those are the only examples you give to writers new to the genre(s) or those looking to improve, guess what? You’re not being inclusive. You’re not helping the genre to grow, or giving said writers resources that illustrate how SFF is growing, changing, becoming more inventive. You’re stifling it.
You have a platform, so use it wisely. /endrant
*I’ve witnessed this two times, and both speakers/instructors were white males…hence the rant.
That’s it for me on the subject. If you’ve had similar experiences and want to commiserate, feel free to leave a comment!