While poking around on John Scalzi’s blog, I became aware of something called the Tempest Bradford Challenge, which was posited by spec fic author Tempest K. Bradford in xoJane magazine in 2015. The challenge is to read books by authors who are not straight cis white men for a whole year.
A salutary challenge, I thought. Something to expand my literary horizons. I don’t feel I, personally, am particularly in hock to white male authors — I read plenty of female authors, for example. And I can’t say I really notice much of a difference in the writing between men and women; humans are humans, to my mind, and writing is writing. But I don’t think I read too many people of color, or non-American authors. Not because of bias, just because I mostly read F & SF, and that mostly is written by white American people. That is the default. As it is in most of American culture. (Or British — the picture headlining the xoJane article is an image of Tempest disapprovingly holding up a copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman — and you can bet all the Gamergate/Red Pill types absolutely lost their shit over that.)
But that is not to say there is not plenty of spec fic by people of color, non-Americans, women, LGBT people. And good stuff, too, award-winning books — think of N. K. Jemisin, who is black (and a woman), or Charlie Jane Anders, who is a trans woman. Or Samuel R. Delany, who is black and gay and an actual SF Grandmaster. That is the point of the challenge. To increase awareness. So it seems like a good thing to do, to broaden my horizons and give these authors some support.
And if you’re going to get all butthurt about it and rag on me, I don’t want to hear it. I mean come on. We’re all adults here. And as I keep reiterating, in my work and in my life and on social media, life is not a zero-sum game. There is enough for all. If I read non-white male authors for a year, that doesn’t mean white male authors are going to starve and die. Plenty of other people read their books. Neil Gaiman does not need my help. It’s all good.
With the caveat that I’m talking fiction here, novels and stories. When I read non-fiction, I read for the information contained within, the author’s voice is secondary. It informs the work, of course, but it’s not my primary interest in that arena.
I will log the books here as I read them. In honor of her recent passing, it seems good to me to start by re-reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, a book by a female author that interrogates the very idea of gender roles, and see if I understand it any better than I did when I was a sixteen-year-old virgin.
I am impatiently waiting for it to come in for me at the library where I work. All copies are checked out. I was not the only person who had that idea.
Check back for further entries. Wish me luck.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Jade City by Fonda Lee