#WriteInclusively – We Can All Do Better

Yesterday, the news broke on Twitter that SC had been removed as co-host from Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, popular query competitions designed to help win an agent or editor. The reason? His "passion for the Write Inclusively campaign may be unsettling or umcomfortable for people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as [he] would like." Okay. I'm not going to talk about the decision, as many articulate people have already commented on Twitter. I am going to talk about my personal struggle to write diverse books and why we should strive to do better. I have written before about my difficulties identifying as a queer woman of colour, and about feeling responsibility for writing diverse books. My first novel Binary Witness is shit on diversity. Despite having a female protagonist, it doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test. One of the only queer characters is a victim. There are no prominent...
Read More

Not Accepted Anywhere? Authenticity and Diversity in Writing

From #WeNeedDiverseBooks to the recent #dontselfneglect, Twitter campaigns to encourage diverse voices in writing are gloriously active right now. This is awesome! I am delighted that there is a push to recognise the value of diverse voices in fiction and the benefits this has for wider tolerance and acceptance of all folks, just being who they are. But I struggle with this recognition in my own writing and, from browsing the #dontselfneglect hashtag, I'm not alone. So, I'm going to tell you a little bit about me - more self-disclosure than I'm usually comfortable with - and I'm going to try to explain why participating in conversations about authenticity and diversity in writing is so difficult for me. Who am I? If I had to describe my identity, I would say I'm a bisexual, Christian, mixed-race, cis woman. However, I would shy away from describing myself as a woman of colour or LGBTQ, even though I am both of those things. Why is that? Woman...
Read More

Sticks and Stones: Mental Health Stigma and Crime Fiction

Crime fiction is entertainment. Writers' primary goal is to entertain. But what is the impact of the written word on the most vulnerable people in society? Does crime fiction contribute to mental health stigma? What is stigma? The term stigma refers to the negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination directed towards a group - in this case, people with mental health problems. For example, the stereotype "schizophrenics are psycho killers" may lead to attitudes like "all mental patients should be locked up" and "I don't want a nutter around my children" and actions like avoiding people with mental health problems, opposing mental health facilities in their neighbourhoods, and beating a man to death. Stigma is not just about public attitudes to mental health. People with mental health problems can direct these negative attitudes towards themselves - self-stigma: "It's my fault I'm depressed - I'm not strong enough to cope." There is also institutional or structural stigma, where organisations discriminate against individuals, such as quietly...
Read More

Ada Lovelace Day: Rosalind Franklin

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in STEM and particularly their figurehead, Ada Lovelace. Ada is a particularly important figure for me at the moment, because the protagonist of my Cyber Crime Sleuth novel idolises her. Her internet handle is based on her name, her beloved computer is named for her, and she models herself on this driven woman who immersed herself in numbers and logic. Ada Lovelace Day calls for blogs to celebrate women in STEM, so without further ado, I bring you a short history of Rosalind Franklin: Deoxyribonucleic acid is the building block of every advanced lifeform on the planet. It is formed of a double helix structure, a ladder of matched pairs of adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. Anyone with a GCSE in biology has learned this at some point, and the names associated with its discovery: Watson and Crick. Watson and Crick were unlikely discoverers, and the truth is that they used a lot of other...
Read More

Writers’ Rights

I'm not one for ranting, but there are a few things on which I feel strongly. One of those is respect. Lack of respect is the fundamental reason for prejudice and discrimination throughout the world. In filmmaking, a lack of respect between the people involved in making the film sours the experience for all involved. And it's just plain rude. A director recently told me they were planning to rewrite a script and wondered if I wanted to be involved. I then discovered this was a script they did not originally write. Where then, I asked, is the original writer? (It turned out to be all above board, so I was pacified). If I'd found out that someone - anyone - had rewritten my script without my knowledge, I would be livid. I'm not talking about the process by which a script becomes a film, where the odd word sits more naturally in the actor's mouth than the one you wrote or the sun...
Read More

Equal opportunity writing

I'm a fan of the BBC. I enjoy the principle that you pay up front and receive a rich bounty of content delivered to your door. For less than 40p per day. PER HOUSEHOLD. That's insane. For that, you get an international news website, with full sporting and political coverage. Also, food and drink, hobbycraft, children's entertainment, and, oh, commercial-quality video games. And that's just the website. Today, Michelle Lipton posted BBC drama stats (garnered from the WGGB/BBC podcasts). They provide a fascinating look at the scale of the BBC, and how much we creators bombard them with submissions! But this line in particular caught my eye: "At the moment there are 194 men and 136 women writing across CDS, series and serials" That would be 59% men and 41% women. I think it only fair, at this point, to give a comparison. According to UK Labour Force Survey (2009), employed women make up: 36% managers; 43% professionals; 79% administrative and secretarial staff; 8% skilled tradespeople, and: 84% personal service staff (including...
Read More

NOW ASYLUM IF YOU’RE GAY

Unsurprisingly, I have hatred for the Daily Express. This is largely because it hates me, so I think I'm allowed. Via Enemies of Reason, I found out about today's headline: Today's headline reads: NOW ASYLUM IF YOU'RE GAY With the adorable tag: They must be free to go to Kylie concerts and drink multi-coloured cocktails, said judge. Putting aside whether I believe a court of law came out with such bigoted drivel, this is one of those things where the audience of hate is pretty wide. Gays and asylum seekers in one fell swoop - it's a gift to the right. My own mother, by most accounts a sensible woman, came out with this gem: but then they might all pretend to be gay so that they can stay here! My life. The complete ignorance of that statement. One, it's not exactly massive numbers. Say 10% of the population is gay (a plucked-out figure) and then how many would be out in an environment like that?...
Read More

Space Exploitation

My love affair with Space Precinct is already cooling - at episode three. This episode features what appears to be a twelve-year-old girl in a short skirt and what amounts to a bikini top. This child is being used by the villain to kill people. Oh yes. The other point of major irritation is the species ridicule. The team of Brogan and Haldane spend all their time mocking any different species they encounter, while this is all played for laughs and oh-aren't-their-ways-and-appearances-so-different-and-comical! They even had an East Asian man who started every sentence with his name and terrible "engrish". Nineties sci fi - I am so done with you....
Read More

Gender-blind casting

I've been collecting screenwriting blogs for my Google Reader, and came across John August's blog post about The Bechdel Test.. I already had some familiarity with the test (and its various criticisms), but for those still in the dark: Anyway, I then made the mistake of reading the blog comments. I should know by now that reading comments on the internet is bad for my health and I end up wanting to smack someone. The usual arguments came through: "more women should write then", "but all women do is talk about men", "women want to have discussions instead of fight", "maybe men AND women just don't want to see women talk", etc. etc. ad nauseam. I then read a persuasive argument from Overthinking It that Hollywood clearly had no idea what Strong Female Character meant, and that we could articulate it more clearly: Strong Character, Female. Which led me to consider one of my favourite things: colourblind casting. For those unfamiliar, it is the casting...
Read More

Fiction to escape the world, and still change it

When I woke up this morning, I was pretty convinced it was 2009. Now I'm thinking we're somewhere in 1953. Daily Mail columnist decides that Stephen Gately = gay = death US Justice of the Peace refuses to marry mixed-race couples I believe in escape fiction. I love immersing myself in a fantasy world and finding something better than what the world has to offer. But writers have great power, and that power can be used to shape the future. "Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because — what with trolls and dwarfs and so on — speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green." —Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad ...
Read More