Editorial: Having it all
By Nuno Fonseca
We have it all. Seriously.
Bear with me a little while I digress.
“We” is a strong word. As a species, we managed to obtain some proeminence through brute darwinian force and relentless acculturation. As people, we gained sufficient aplomb to be able to communicate globally. As SF fandom, we thrive on the propaganda of change. We, as in all of us, are able to read and write science fiction every single day of our lives if we decide to do so. But here’s the catch: we, as in all of us, are only able to do it globally. Individually, or in each country, the speculative paradise is not.
Every time I see a flame war, a heated commentary discussion or simple online tantrum about the derision of a specific, be it gender-based, or around the colonialist-nationalistic axis, or about race discrimination, or even senseofwonder uberall-ism and whatnot, I feel happy and sad. Why? Because in most of these cases what we see is a plain bellyful attitude, even though it is a post-inclusive one. Let me explain.
I happen to live in a country where there are no women writing science fiction. Or black people. Or gay, or whatever you may think about as a specific. Oh it’s true there are a few one-off examples, but way too few. It is a country where the few people who do write SF, are inclusive ones, as it is possible in our global information society. The problem is not one of segregation, but a far more problematic one: we have been getting no one to include here. And this, I tell you, is the truly sad thing.
Let me repeat this: no one.
As a reader, writer, editor and full-time fan, I can assure this is the case. There are several factors that contribute to this sorry state of affairs.
As you saw through the comprehensive 1998 article By Teresa Sousa de Almeida on Portuguese SF posted here on the 23rd, we do have some genre-related problems when it comes down to simple publication, a problem that today, 11 years later after that article, though a bit better when we talk about fantasy, continues to haunt SF Portuguese publication. Today, as in most places, fantasy in Portugal is riding a fad, mainly centered in children lit and the paranormal romance mode; epic fantasy has been getting some attention by national authors, and there, fortunately, we have been seeing at least some new women authors, with moderate market success. And that’s it. On the other hand, in my editing experience, submissions are very scarce, mostly male-dominated (and as for race or other specific, I obviously have no idea since they are entirely from new unknown authors). If I tell you also that I only remember two submitted shorts by female authors, I will not be exaggerating (sadly of very poor quality).
Is there anything we can do to better this? Of course. But the main problem remains that of the whole genre market itself and its poor expression. In the last couple of years, two main publishing houses (Saída de Emergência and Gailivro) have been betting on genre, with low but steady rising success. But mainly in Fantasy, because Portuguese SF works published in this timeframe just number… two. Though more are planned for the next year, fortunately. The rest of the publishing world just treats genre as non-existing or a fad, with the occasional one-offs.
So, you see, I marvel constantly when I see people passionately flaming editors for not including women in an anthology. Or whatever. And I also feel sad, because this is a “comfortable” discussion. Because people, be they women, black, foreign, gay, etc. do get published a lot in the anglo-speaking SF market. And because I remember that the SF fandom, writers, fans, publishers and editors, throughout the years, have been the most socially inclusive and tolerant and active people in the literary world.
The speculative fiction inclusive paradise is globally here, but it still needs to get better outside the English-speaking countries. However, I assure you that, thanks to the long-standing efforts of the SF community, we do find the strength to carry on.
And it will get better.
Nuno Fonseca is a speculative fiction writer, was co-editor of the Portuguese e-zine Nova and is currently editing for the e-zine Bang!, the leader magazine of the genre in Portugal.