shame, by Pam Noles
I’ve never told my parents that, in a way, they ruined these books and movies for me. Nor did I ever tell them that gradually, during near-weekly pilgrimages to the neighborhood branch library, I’d started asking the librarian if she had books with magic and spaceships and dragons and stuff in them, but with some black people, too. Black would be the first choice, but anybody kind of brown would do. It seemed the answer, for my age group anyway, was no. When I got older, there would be a few.
Later that summer, during the weekly hajj to the library, the librarian gave me a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea. She told me it had just come in, that she held it special for me, and that she knew I would like it a lot.
I know I didn’t start reading it that day. But I was deep into it before the week was out. And because Le Guin snuck up on it, let us thrill with Sparrowhawk as he made his way, the Revelation came as a shock. I do remember bursting out into tears on the living room couch when I understood what was going on. And the tears flowed again when Mom came home from work and I showed her the book while trying to explain. Sparrowhawk is brown. I think he’s like an Indian from India. And Vetch is black like from Africa. There’s a bunch more and they have real power. Not the girls, though. But still they are also the good guys. It’s the white people who are evil. And Sparrowhawk is also Ged, and he’s going to be the most powerful one of them all, ever.
Le Guin’s racial choices in “A Wizard of Earthsea” mattered because her decision said to the wide white world: You Are Not The Whole Of The Universe. For many fans of genre, no matter where they fell on the spectrum of pale, this was the first time such a truth was made alive for them within the pages of the magical worlds they loved.
As We Mean To Go On, by Kelley Eskridge & Nicola Griffith
The first time I saw her, in the hallway of the unairconditioned dorm, close and hot as a greenhouse, I opened my mouth to say How was your trip? as if we were already each other’s friend, lover, partner, joint explorer. I knew in our first three sentences that she would be the best writer there; that I would help her be better; that all my assumptions about how my life would unfurl were wrong; and that I would someday be the writer I yearned to be, because she wouldn’t have it any other way.
By the time we met, we had both read the quintessentially English C.S. Lewis, and the resolutely American Jack London. We had both read Lord of the Rings and internalised it to such an extent that even from that first day we could quote it wryly (“It isn’t natural, and trouble will come of it!”) and understand a variety of meanings, heartfelt and ironic, wistful and smug, depending on context. We were connected by story; we came together in that space where character and plot illuminate and influence each other, much as Kelley and I do.
The first on sf and race; the second on being two writers in a relationship. Both excellent and thought-provoking reading.