Selling Out

in reviews

I’ve been busy writing drafts of reviews for books I’ve finished reading, and I keep linking to Amazon for them, and so I thought hey, as long as I am writing these things and including all these links, I might as well set up an Amazon Associates store. I don’t expect to make noticeable money from it, but maybe eventually I could make enough to buy another paperback to review, eh? Mainly, it’s an easy way for me to put together all the stuff I’ve found in a place where you can quickly check out the book descriptions and reviews and maybe buy something. The whole point being to increase the market for diverse SF.

I’ve added a lot more books than the ones I’ve personally read, including some that I don’t think I would like very much, but maybe there are others who would be interested. The content is also far from complete! I’m still working through lists and recommendations to find what’s available on Amazon. I added a section for HCI and design books too, because, you know, technically that’s what I do and all.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that I’ve included some books in the store that were actually written by white Americans (and white people from other places; SF is a pretty US-dominated genre and I’d like to expand that, too). There are two reasons for this, one is that while I think it is really important to be encouraging writers from a diversity of backgrounds, I also think “you write about yours, I’ll write about mine” is a pretty unfortunate attitude to take. I want the white authors to write about more than just other white people, straight authors to write about more than other straight people, etc, or we still won’t make much improvement. So I’ve got a few books by white Americans in there that I think represent diversity well.

The other is that diversity does in fact mean a lot more than race and gender, even if that’s most of what people in the US mean when they say it. For example, I added Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark, even though Moon just got herself disinvited as guest of honor at Wiscon for lecturing Muslims about the importance of not making Elizabeth Moon think about how different they are, because it’s a truly great book, and one of the best portrayals I’ve seen of neurodiversity. I think Moon was completely wrong in her stance about Cordoba House, and I’m really unhappy with the way she refused to engage with criticism on her blog, but at the same time, I don’t know of anyone else who’s written a book like The Speed of Dark. It’s that and Flowers for Algernon, basically. I don’t know a good way to deal with the tension between “you have said and done some really wrong and hurtful things” and “you have created this really amazing and good thing.” So the best I can do is tell both parts and leave you to make your own decisions.

I’ve also added a few books by Lois McMaster Bujold, who doesn’t have the best track record in terms of racial representation - people from different backgrounds exist in her Vorkosigan universe, but she did manage to populate the main character’s entire planet with people of white European origin. At the same time, she does so many other things well. The people of Barrayar didn’t all come from the same country, and there is ethnic conflict between the groups. Miles is another highly rare well-developed character with a disability, and there’s all this great stuff about gender roles and reproductive control - particularly relating to disability and mutation, and nuanced portrayals of psychological abuse and its aftermath. And you just can’t have everything in one book, you know? Or even one writer, most of the time. Unless maybe you’re Ursula Le Guin, who is pretty much the best.

So not every book in the store is there purely because of racial matters, and not every book in the store is free of problems, but that’s the whole point of seeking out diversity. The more you try to reach beyond a single perspective, the less you’re limited to the weaknesses of any single perspective. It’s important in research for design projects, and if you ask me, it’s important in life.

So, you know. Take a look at le store and see if you find anything interesting. Maybe write down a few names to check out of the library. And if you read something you love, let me know so I can read it too.