Know what? Write your hetero, white male protagonist. I don’t really care. In fact, there are lots of white people in the US, so it’s not like there isn’t an audience.
I think you should write whatever your story calls for, whatever feels right for the tale.
Then again, the hetero white male thing is kinda played out. It’s ubiquitous. Not really a challenge, not very interesting. It’s so prevalent, you don’t really need to be a hetero white male to write one. There are a million examples.
Maybe you should flex your creativity.
After all, I’m betting you’ve told lots of people just how creative you are.
I think everyone should challenge themselves. Think of it as exercise for your imagination. I dare you to write someone that isn’t you. A protagonist, mind you — maybe even a positive depiction. The hero of your story! If you’re a Black lesbian woman, write a story featuring a transgender character. If you’re a gay white dude, write a mid-eastern bisexual woman. Switch it up, play with roles, put your abilities to work. Give us a heroine who rolls in a wheelchair. I dare you!
Choice of protagonist is not the biggest issue.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s “an issue.” It’s an interesting conversation, and I am definitely in support of having more folks represented.
The biggest issue is THE MARKET!
Get online. Check out the top publications. Flip to their descriptions or guidelines. You’ll see part of the problem.
Check it – everyone is already convinced that white people are hot. Proof? Theaters fill up with moviegoers, eager to eyeball the white hetero male protagonist, even if the movie sucks. Worldwide, there are operations and products that make millions from people who are eager to shift their appearance a step towards “white.”
In a story, especially with adventure, readers often fantasize that they are the hero. Sadly, while you may have a young bi-racial girl fantasizing that she’s white, you’ll be hard pressed getting the white baseball dude to fantasize he’s an Indian girl on crutches.
TV and Movies, Magazines and so on, they keep everyone brainwashed about what is beautiful. Their job, their bottom line, is selling products (often stuff that is directly all about looks). It’s a crazy cycle: tell people white is beautiful, then watch people spend money, feeding back that yes, white is beautiful, ad infinitum.
Having a different protagonist isn’t enough. It’s not “nothing.” But if you want to change things, you have to support and participate in a market that clamors for diversity.
I’ve met so many folks who are interested in diversity. There are panels on cons, conversations in Twitter, etc. Many of these same people talk about stories they’ve read in popular publications. It’s almost a badge, as if you aren’t qualified to speak unless you know the right stories. When I bring up smaller presses, even pubs that try to promote diversity, many of these same folks haven’t heard of them. Trust me, if I know about a publication, they aren’t that hard to find!
Reading the established, major publications… if they don’t support diversity, then you’re slapping yourself in the face. Especially if that’s all you read.
No offense to the more established mags, but if all folks do is talk about the same handful of publications, guess what? Diversity is going to remain a struggle.
You’ve got to get your nose in some other collections. More importantly, get other people to check out other sites. If you want to promote “#diversity in SFF”, then help pubs that actively support diversity.
I realized this when one such mag posted that it might not be able to stay afloat. I remembered talking with people at LoneStarCon3 about this mag. I was surprised at how many people who laud or cry out for diversity had never heard of it (or read a story there – which you can do online for free). And we’re talking about a market that pays, mind you.
Want the industry to embrace diversity? At the very least, visit diversity-friendly publications online. Help develop/ expand a market for diversity. Spread the word. Don’t simply create diverse characters and call it a day! Read pubs that have diversity as part of their actual credo.
Tell your friends, tell your fans. It all comes down to cash! If we can’t help spread the word about mags that promote diversity, then what the heck are we doing???
So… see below. I’ve generated a list of websites for people to visit. These are pubs that have some kind of diversity statement in their guidelines. Tell EVERYONE! Friends and family, fans, if you have fans. Check out these mags! Give them a chance. Help to grow a base of interested readers.
Without a market, diversity dies. That’s just how it is. Write what you want to write. But help to get people involved in the places that work to keep diversity alive.
Thanks and have a great day!
http://www.jerseydevilpress.com/ (not a “diversity statement” but I appreciate much of what they say in their guidelines)
http://podcastle.org/ (“range of backgrounds and ethnicities”)
http://corvusmagazine.com (not a diversity statement, but says “It should go without saying that we won’t tolerate racism, homophobia, misogyny, or stereotypes (on the part of the author. Perspective is a different issue, and one which we will have to judge for ourselves in each separate instance).”
http://oldtimeyhedgehog.com (not a diversity statement, but they publish queer lit books…)
http://etopiapressblog.wordpress.com (not a diversity statement, but sub call example: “Erotic Contemporary Romance (m/f, m/m, ménage, BDSM, IR/MC/BBW/OW, you name it)” I’m not even sure what some of these are…
http://roarandthunder.com.au (not a diversity statement, but says “If your story expresses your dislike of a race, sex or sexual orientation then don’t submit it here.”
http://www.musapublishing.com/ (no statement but… look at the stuff on their site?)
http://www.lillibridgepress.com (not a statement, but they have an LGBTQ section)
http://twbpress.com/ (not a statement, but says “If your story contains any hateful or derogatory attacks on any one race of people, any one religion, or any sexual orientation, you can bet I’ll reject it.”)
http://wildeoats.wordpress.com/ (not sure if I should include this one – it’s a gay/bi mag, but asks specifically for male protagonists)
New addition to the list! Thanks to Kaolin for calling it out!
New addition to the list! Although I didn’t see a diversity statement, Jason Sizemore of Apex saw my list and commented: “I think it is fair to say that Apex Magazine is diversity friendly.” I personally like Apex, so I’m very glad to have that from someone on the inside!
Another new addition!
Again, I believe there is no statement, but Alex Dally MacFarlane and Benjanun Sriduangkaew tell me Clarkesworld is very diverse. According to Bee: “Last year was about 30% POC in original fiction.” I’m inclined to believe them. Thanks you two!
Also check out Mothership Zeta, a publication with a statement: “We’d particularly like to see more stories set outside America, and stories that feature characters who represent a range of backgrounds and ethnicities.”
***this list was generated w/ a basic Duotrope search: Fantasy/ Short Story/ Electronic Subs/ Avg Response Time. It’s not exhaustive, comes from digging through 267 results, and reflects only what I found in a specific week of research. Mostly I glanced at submission guidelines, but did review some “about” statements as well.
I don’t argue that reading pubs without diversity statements is a waste of time or evil. Nor that the only good mags are those that have a diversity statement. I only argue that if you want diversity to grow, you have to support it in various ways.
‘Sides, some of these pubs are really cool. So quit your moanin’ and get some readin’ in!