A Response to the Fireside Study Detractors: Burning Down Your Strawmen

So, the response to the Fireside Fiction numbers has been predictable.  But since some folks are still all about Misdirection 101 I wanted to tackle some of the predictable criticisms I saw directly.  If these sound familiar it might be because I wrote about them in my Diversity 101 post.

 

How is an editor or reader even supposed to know if an author is black? I don’t even know what the race is of the authors I read!

This is a really fun way to dismiss internalized bias and cultural cues! “I don’t know! I never pay attention.” Even if you say you aren’t paying attention, the reality is that your brain is.  Researchers have discovered that even if a person thinks they aren’t making choices based on cultural indicators, they are, and those decisions are based around perceptions of blackness being bad.  So, of course it will be even harder for a story with a black main character to get selected. But this also extends to black authors and their work.  And if you don’t think cultural cues seep into a work, you aren’t paying attention and really shouldn’t be discussing literature in any form.

 

How many black people write SFF anyway?!? Maybe those numbers represent everyone who actually writes.

This statement is adorable in its complete and utter lack of reality.  Reading is one of those things that appeals to pretty much everyone equally across a demographic, meaning for the most part you can assume a standard distribution of representation across any broad genre, such as SFF.  Remember a few years ago when we were told women don’t read SFF? How funny was that?

But taking this literally, you should expect to see about 16% of submissions to a magazine coming from black authors, which aligns with average US population.  And if you think black people don’t read SFF you’re ignoring sales data that points to the exact opposite. This also ignores the numerous authors who end up self publishing their SFF.  Take a walk through the self published aisles and you’ll see many more black faces than you ever do in traditional publishing.

Black people are reading and writing SFF at the same rates as white people, if not more.  The real question you should be asking your self is what if those numbers are higher than the standard distribution? How bleak does the data become then?

 

Okay, that’s all fine and good, but black SFF just doesn’t sell.  No one wants to read Afrocentric fantasy.

Cool story bro, but NK Jemisin and her Patreon would disagree.  So would all of the people who bought Black Panther number one and made it the bestselling comic of 2016So would this study that found movies with diverse casts did significantly better at the box office. 

Gee, it’s almost like there’s a reason short SFF is struggling.