I recently had the opportunity to play moderator/host to a panel on diversity in genre fiction. You can listen to it (or download it) over on SF Signal. It was an interesting experience and conversation.
When the Pikes Peak Writers Conference first approached me about doing stuff with them – like podcasts/interviews – I was all for it. I want to say that I suggested the live podcast panel, but I honestly don’t recall at this point. Anyway, they said yes and things moved forward. The Diversity aspect came from them, which is good. I’m glad they want to talk about that and shine a light on the issue, but I have to admit – I was nervous about being the moderator. Why?
Well, I’m a white dude. And straight. And kinda getting old.
Everything out there on this topic says I’m the problem.
So putting me in charge? Yeah – nervous.
It’s hard to read an email because we add tone where there (usually) isn’t any. As an example, I asked the PPWC folks if they get a diverse crowd. The answer was a (nervous tone injected by me) “Not really”. Yay. “But we want that to change.” Okay. I can get behind that.
I wasn’t sure, exactly, who was gonna be on the panel. I’d asked for a keynote speaker or two, and they (PPWC) said they’d do what they could. I believe (I’ve no confirmation on this part) that they reached out to a lot of the faculty to see who would be interested. I was very happy to see two of the keynotes, Chuck Wendig and Jim C. Hines, on the final list. I was also very happy to see Carol Berg and Amy Boggs on that list.
Going in to these kinds of things, I don’t prepare questions ahead of time. Some people think I’m mad. Most of the others think I’m bat-shit crazy. Either way, I like to have an organic conversation. I do this in all my podcasting. Scripting questions makes it sound like an interview. I want it to be cozier than that. I want the listener to feel as if they’ve come across a conversation and have been invited to sit down and listen, or join in. I think it’s more personal that way. Those involved open up more, they relax. Most of the time.
I had to prepare a couple of questions/topics ahead of time simply because panelists asked for it. No problem. But I still feel as if we had that good, organic conversation I wanted. I’m being vague on purpose because I want you to go listen to the episode. 🙂
As for the crowd, it was overwhelmingly women. I took hope from that. I think there are a lot of women who are out there writing, learning the craft, going to these kinds of workshops, submitting their stories to various markets – and that’s all good, and needed, and overdue. Did I let Carol and Amy talk a bit longer than Chuck and Jim? Yes. On purpose. The women in that audience needed to hear from Amy and Carol. Hear what they had to say, their stories both good and bad, and know that it can happen to them – both good and bad. But they also needed to hear that it’s getting better. And it is getting better.
I made a joke – I do that. You know this. Someone mentioned the panel itself as lacking in diversity. Three men and two women – I think that gives us some diversity, but as far as skin color? Without knowing for certain and asking each person their ethnic backgrounds, I’ll go out on a limb and say, yes – everyone was white. Hence the joke: We were the White Elephant in the room.
But that’s okay. It’s getting better. It gets better every time we have a panel like this one. Every time we share it with others, and it sparks something and grows.
Jim C. Hines gave a speech – his keynote – and part of it was about diversity. After, a gay writer sat there and told me he felt better. He could write what he wanted to write. Tell the stories he wanted to tell. I had a similar reaction from another gay writer friend after he listened to the podcast. So I think we did okay.
I encourage you to go over to SF Signal and listen to the discussion. And tell your friends, too. Spread the word.
Diversity. It’s getting better.