What interests me here, however, is when that mountain of self-doubt intersects with the little doubts fed to writers of diverse fiction. We write in a time when marginalised voices are growing louder and more distinct, where platforms for expressing one’s identity are larger and more robust than ever. But that doesn’t mean we’re never pigeonholed as “that pan dude who writes all that queer sci fi” or “that Zulu person who writes all that African fantasy.” Indeed, you might just be that writer, but there’s a tone to the way it’s said, an implication that your platform is your queerness or your person of colourtude, and thus, not quite your skill as a writer.
Someone really smart said this a couple of months ago and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, not just in leui of what’s happened in the past week re: the conversations that come up every year after Watty announcements, but really for years now. Almost every time the discussion of literary merit meets opinions on diverse fiction, there are questions that arise that focus on how much a writer (or a story’s) social identity impacts how it’s recieved. Mind, this is only ever done for stories that fall outside the default.
I don’t know, there’s a deep fascination with the role a writer’s “otherness” plays in their reception, to the exclusion of any conversation of craft or even just timing and blind luck. It’s not an out-of-bounds fascination, but considering how it’s only ever hyperfocused on certain writers, it does raise questions in me. Genuine questions, no one’s looking to dunk on anyone here. There’s also a strong focus on how this represents a shift that threatens writers of the default, as if they haven’t always and continue to dominate platforms of merit, and always without facing questions of how their defaultness impacts their reception.
I suppose that’s one of the privileges of the default, the benefit of the doubt. People assume your skills paid the bills. People also don’t question your visibility, and your majority continues to be normal. That’s… nothing new but, I don’t know, I suppose I look for a little more in a writer’s ability to introspect and extrapolate. With that said, structuring this with key questions helped with the last thread I created, so I’m gonna try that here out of interest (I repeat, no one’s baiting anyone):
Do you believe, for whatever reason, that the rise of diverse stories negatively impacts writers who operate within the default? Why?
How do you, personally, judge a story’s quality, and do you think a story can have merit even when it falls outside of your own criteria?
(If you are a marginalised writer), do you have any concerns with the conversation of “identity vs merit”?
And good lord by all means skip this one if you want: Do you believe the push for diverse stories is disingenuous and/or motivated by anything other than highlighting the very best stories from underrepresented communities?