People familiar with my writing know that the characters in my stories are diverse. The majority of my characters are women or girls. Many are gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. They run the gamut in terms of race and ethnicity. Some live with a disability or mental illness.
The diversity of my characters is a deliberate attempt to reflect the diversity of the world I live in. Many of my friends are gay or bisexual or transgender or live with a disability or a mental illness. My friends come from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
I believe this has made it more difficult for me to get published. While some publishers claim they want fiction that is more diverse, this isn’t always reflected in the books they choose to publish.
When my agent was shopping my novel IRON GODDESS, I got a lot feedback from publishers. They LOVED the story. They ADORED the characters. They were ENTHRALLED with my writing style. But . . . “we don’t know how to market it.”
Granted, my experience is anecdotal—just a single data point. But when you look at what major publishing houses put out, the vast majority of story protagonists continue to be white, straight, cisgender men except in select genres like romance. It is especially a problem in science fiction and hard-boiled crime fiction.
So how do we change this? How do we get publishers to actually embrace diversity beyond lip service? Simple answer, I don’t know. But I have some suggestions.
Continue to bring attention to the issue. We see this in people speaking out about the lack of diversity in the Hugo Awards and more recently the Academy Awards.
But perhaps the best way is to read more diverse fiction. Read more science fiction by authors who are women, people of color, LGBT, etc.
After all, one of the goals of reading is to be transported to worlds and experiences beyond our own. This applies not just to Middle Earth or Hogwarts or distant galaxies but seeing the world through the eyes of people whose experiences are different from your own. In doing so, hearts and minds are opened.
Reading diverse fiction makes the world a better place, perhaps a safer place for those who are too often marginalized and othered.