Ask This Librarian: Reading suggestions

Next question is a great one – and I hope will fill many people’s reading lists for a good time to come:

I really want to read more sci-fi by writers who are queer and/or PoC and/or feminist besides Nalo Hopkinson, in particular more recently published stuff (i.e. definitely not the scifi canon – yet). Not picky about sci-fi subgenre. Open to multiple genres and formats: novels, anthologies, sci-fi magazines, online repositories …

May I slightly amend it to additionally specify whatever magazines or other serial publications tend to have the latest work in sci-fi? I want to be able to keep up to date with the latest developments, since the kind of fiction I want to write is more or less sci-fi. I hope that’s not too much of a separate question.

This is a huge question, but also a great one, so I’m going to take an initial stab at it, and I know that readers on my personal blog will have more comments, so I’ll come back here with a few more additions in a couple of days.

My answer:

One excellent place to start at are the awards for related topics. The three most relevant here are:

The Carl Brandon Society award gives two awards. The Carl Brandon Parallax award is given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color. The Carl Brandon Kindred award goes to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity (nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group.) Their blog also has a bunch of other links that may be of interest. They’ve also got a wiki with some great resources that includes publication lists, conventions, other organizations, and other such things.

The Gaylactic Spectrum Awards were “created in 1998 by the Gaylactic Network to honor works in science fiction, fantasy and horror which include positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues.”  They list a short list of nominees, which can also be particularly worth exploring. There is also the Lambda Literary Awards, which includes a category for science fiction, though the easiest way to see the specific SF awards is on the Locus Magazine website index of SF writing awards. (Locus is also a good general resource for what’s going on in the field.)

And while it’s not quite what you asked for, I think you’d find the Tiptree Awards worth taking a look at.  The award is defined as “an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.” What’s great about this is that they list both the winners and an honor list of other titles they felt were particularly worthy of attention in that context. Since you’re interested in short fiction, they include a fair bit of it, and have published several collections of short fiction winners and nominees for the award.

Both the Tiptree and Carl Brandon awards are generally given out at the Wiscon convention, which is held over Memorial Day weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Wiscon describes itself as “WisCon is the first and foremost feminist science fiction convention in the world. WisCon encourages discussion, debate and extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class. WisCon honors writers, editors and artists whose work explores these themes and whose voices have opened new dimensions and territory in these issues. And, oh yes, we also like to have fun while we’re at it.”

Finally, in terms of reading lists, a lengthy discussion triggered by a collection that included only men and apparently only white men, while attempting to claim it was the best of the genre, produced some great conversations about women and people of color who were writing science fiction (specifically, rather than fantasy or other genres). A great wrapup of those discussions (which links to the other places ideas came from) is at Tor.Com.

In terms of publication options: one common solution is look at who’s publishing the kind of stuff you want to write – and these award lists are a good place to start. Beyond that, it depends on a lot of specifics – what kind of writing you’re doing, whether it fits a particular publication’s style, etc. The forums at Absolute Write come up a great deal in conversation about how to figure this kind of thing out – they’re also especially good at spotting scams and other problematic situations. They’ve got subforums for different types of writing, and also for different genres that can help with places to submit.

I am sure that various friends who write in the genre will chime in with specific ideas to check out, but there are a lot of options out there, and I’m hesitant to make specific suggestions beyond that.

Where the answer came from:

In this case, I knew about all three of the awards already. Part of this is that I think that part of my job, as a librarian who reads heavily in the genre, is to be at least somewhat aware to ways to sample the diversity and wide range that speculative fiction can offer. But really, it’s simpler than that: I have friends who care deeply about this, many of whom attend Wiscon (I’ve never been able to go, because it’s been at a bad time in my work schedule.) and one does pick stuff up by osmosis and conversation if you’re around it enough.

I knew that the Spectrum Awards existed, but I couldn’t remember the award name, so I googled for that one –

  • “GLBT SF award” : turned up the Lambda Literary Awards,
  • GLBT “science fiction” awards : turned up the Spectrum Award which was the one I was thinking of.
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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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