Here’s one of the great circular conundrums of our time:
We need more characters of color/LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t the default white, able-bodied cis male in commercial literature.
I, a fiction author, am afraid of writing characters of color/ LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t like me or from my cultural and social understanding because I might get it wrong, and if I get it wrong people will be angry at me and yell and also ruin my career.
I’ve seen and heard writers (mostly white) express some version of that at least a hundred times since RaceFail 09. They point to that discussion or any number of other public Fails since then and go: SEE?! You see? That’s what happens when we try!
There are a few things about this that need addressing. First, large, public Fails actually happen when authors don’t try. Second, the problem is rarely that the author tried and didn’t get it exactly, 100% right. It’s that they failed and then acted like an ass when someone pointed it out to them. Third, avoiding author Fail isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be.
Most importantly, the consequence of being ruled by that fear is that you aren’t helping with the first problem. And if I may be so bold, I think the issue of representation is far, far more important than individual fears of getting it wrong. I also know that it’s hard to tackle that first issue without also addressing the second. Luckily, I have the solution.
You can attend a Writing the Other class, seminar, workshop, or retreat in person or online1. You can find upcoming classes on the Writing the Other Tumblr or get notifications about them via this mailing list.
[UPDATE: The retreat mentioned here is over, but there are new classes listed on the Tumblr and on my sidebar under Classes.] Next summer I’m teaching at the Writing the Other workshop/retreat alongside Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward, David Anthony Durham, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Tomorrow, registration for this workshop opens up. If you are the type of author who has been held back from addressing the issue of representation in SF by fear that you’ll get it wrong, this workshop will give you tools to help you get it right. There’s no guarantee that you will always, 100% get it right if you attend this workshop. I am confident that at the end of it you won’t be 100% ruled by fear.
Registration opens tomorrow, October 13th, at 12pm Eastern. The workshop fee is $500 and includes meals but does not include accommodations. Click over to the Eventbrite page to see all the details2.
How many of you will I see there?
- This section of the post has been edited and updated from the original version. [⇧]
- This workshop has come and gone! Join the mailing list to get a notification if we do it again or when we do online classes [⇧]