Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Endarkening us all

Conversation about all things Aqueductian is this blog's remit, and for the next week or so its founder has left it in my hands, desiring me to "enlighten and entertain" you.  If my posts aren't entertaining you probably won't bother reading them.  But I would rather endarken than enlighten.
Some time shortly after the turn of the millenium, sitting in a Capitol Hill cafe with my friend and co-author Cindy Ward, I listened to Timmi Duchamp tell us how she was going to start a publishing house.  She was really serious about this idea; she'd gotten advice on buying ISBNs and everything.  My initial response--which I kept to myself--was a mixture of skepticism and provisional resentment.  I hoped she knew how much work she'd be taking on.  I didn't see why her pet project would ever have anything to do with me and my writing.  And I certainly didn't expect she would change the face of publishing--least of all that face's racial profile.

There are four books that could be called mine.  All come from Aqueduct.  Next year I'll be able to claim a fifth.  Same publisher.  So I was wrong to think Timmi's project would have no impact on my career.  And deliciously wrong in my other conclusion as well.

Aqueduct's stated mission is to provide challenging feminist science fiction to the demanding reader.  Nothing explicit in there about race or ethnicity.  But when it comes to authors, racial representation within the catalog departs from the unmarked state, which is whiteness.  I love, love, love that the press does this--and without marking that departure.  Don't believe me?  Check out this list of authors.  I count eight who aren't white--there may be more.  Eight of 50.  That's 16%--a smaller percentage than in US demographics, but it feels huge to me.  Huge in a good way.  An endarkening way.

Author An Owomoyela noted that her linguistics studies taught her that:
"gender" is just a word for "kind."
We were talking at the time about the intersection of race and gender in her story "Of Men and Wolves" and also in the excellent Cat Rambo's "Clockwork Fairies."  Talking about a certain kind of kind really doesn't keep you from talking about another kind of kind.  In fact, it can make The Grand Conversation easier to engage in.


1 comment:

Nisi said...

Linguistic anthropologist MJ Hardman emailed me to comment on the above as follows:

Some languages, like Swahili, have something like 15 genders, none of which is sex-based; one is human-based. Lots of languages have shape gender (e.g. Navajo), or animate≠inanimate among many other ways of organizing this world we live in. Gender got coopted out of the taboo on saying sex (like when I was young) because gender in IE languages IS sex-based, even if idiotically so at times.