About K.T. Bradford’s Challenge

Tempest_Nisibook KT Bradford, aka Tempest
K.T. Bradford, also known as Tempest, recently issued a controversial* challenge to speculative fiction readers. The headline of her piece, appearing in xojane, is: “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year” Hmm. Intriguing. There’s a lot more to the piece than its title and  I can’t do it justice by writing “about” it. It’s not long; I’d go read it if I were you. The rest of this post will be waiting when you get back. Predictably, there was foofaraw, mostly from a certain small, vocal segment of White, Straight, Cis** Male people whom I suspect reacted as much to the title as anything else. Like many other folks, I was curious about what one particular writer who fits that demographic thought about the piece and the surrounding foofaraw. I figured I had a pretty good idea what John Scalzi would say, and that it wouldn’t be a lot different than the way I thought. I was mostly right.

Where Scalzi and I agree:

  1. It’s only a year
  2. It doesn’t have to start and end on any particular date.
  3. In the grand scheme of publishing, it’s extremely unlikely that a large enough group of people will be avoiding white straight cis male authors to ruin anyone’s career. If I don’t read a book by John Scalzi (or some relatively unknown white straight cis male) within a particular span, nothing says I can’t read it once the year is up. There are unlikely to be a ton of people doing it the exact same time as I, so White Guy will still sell pretty close to the same number of books within a given year as he would have otherwise.

Where Scalzi and I differ:

He’s satisfied that what he reads is varied enough. He doesn’t feel the need to accept the challenge because he already reads, enjoys, and learns from many diverse writers. Besides, if he stopped reading white, male, straight, cis writers, he wouldn’t be able to read his own work, and since he makes his living as a writer, he’d be up a creek. On the other hand, I think my reading list could use some shaking up.  Plus, I don’t have the same problem he has. I could choose to take Tempest’s challenge and still be able to read/revise/proof my own work.

My plan:

This challenge isn’t a boycott. It’s a way of opening one’s eyes to other viewpoints that have not, historically, gotten much exposure. There are so books by different kinds of writers out there. The time I spend reading something from the dominant viewpoint is time I can’t be spending expanding my horizons in a way I find especially intriguing. So I think I’ll give it a try, once I’ve finished reading this year’s Nebula-nominated works by regular white dudes. Because I’m probably going to the Nebula weekend this year…it’s finally in Chicago! Tempest provides a few handy lists of interesting writers, providing 1- books by women, 2- books by writers of color, and 3- books in translation. I can’t wait to see what I’ve missed.
*Controversial to some people, though not so much to me. Upon reading this challenge, I felt like I was part of the choir to whom Tempest was preaching. There are a few white, straight, male, cis folks who are not pleased. To put it mildly.
**For those not familiar with the term “cisgender,” it means a person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than being transgender.

Shakespeare Readers Theatre – March 13, April 16 and April 24

The works of William Shakespeare are beautifully written but many aren’t aware of how much fun they are to read and to act. The Journey, the writing group associated with this Naperville region of National Novel Writing Month, has scheduled some sessions for folks to come out to read-through (no memorization required!) one of Shakespeare’s […]

What Brandon Said

I met Brandon Sanderson last Friday. In addition to the many stories he’s written, he’s also partially responsible for a podcast called Writing Excuses, which offers help to people like me who want to write fiction. It’s a great podcast; I listen to it a lot. Since he’s so helpful online, and is willing to meet people in person to sign his books, I thought I’d ask him for some writing advice. He said this early in the evening, when he was just chatting with everyone, and reiterated it for me later, so it must be important. In any case, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll need to paraphrase it, because I didn’t record him, but it goes something like this:
Many people, when they are writing, tend to think of the piece they’re writing as the product when they should be thinking of themselves as the product. The piece itself may or may not turn out to be wonderful, and the writer may or may not sell it, but with everything you write, you develop as a writer. You get better and learn from everything you do. So think of yourself as the product.
My takeaway from that is—writing is process; writer is product, or the sum of the process. There’s always hope! I like it.