Reviewers: Help Me Help Us All


(Note: Please keep an eye on this as it will change from time to time)
(Edit: I’m looking for books printed late 2007 or at any point in 2008)
(Edit–Disclaimer: This data is not being used for a thesis, book, or anything of that sort. It’s public domain. I’m not selling it or profiting in any way except by gaining knowledge, which will be presented in this blog. I will not accept money and you don’t have to put your name on it if you don’t want to.)

Okay, so the title is a little corny, but it fits in a way. What I’m asking from all of you reviewers out there is to help me with a project for the year: determining social/religious/ethnic biases in SF and F. Edit: It came to my intention that it seems as if I’m implying that SF and F intentionally create these biases, and that is NOT what I’m intended this to mean at all. The bias I am talking about is simply a lack of material dealing with social/religious/ethnic/gender issues. This in no way means that I suggest SF and F writers are racist, sexist, or whatever. Nor is this meant as a fuel for whatever fire might already burning that looks for reasons to discount SF and F as literary forms. Please understand that I don’t intend to point at SF and F in a negative way.
This came up in a conversation with Tobias S. Buckell on his blog and what I’d like to do is really get a wide array of information from all over to cover as much as humanly possible. I want to see what the bias really looks like from a more broad spectrum, rather than the readings on one or two people. There are a lot of reviewers out there and if you can just take no more than a minute of your time for every review to write down some info and save it, then we can make this more of a reality.
What I’m asking is this:
For every book you read in the SF or F genre, take a note of which ethnic, religious, social groups are present within a work in a significant way. What this means is if the main character or a significant character is White, Black, or Asian, then write that down. The same applies to religions and significant social groups (feminists, ACLU types, etc.). They must be significant presences, not just a mention. If there is a strong Catholic presence, say so. If you don’t know what religion is present, but there is one, just say unknown.
Edit: Also, I’d like to address gender too. Mention main characters that are male or female and secondary, but significant characters that are male or female (make them separate to differentiate).
This will allow me to gather as much data as I can on this. I want to see how it all pans out when there are loads of us gathering this info. For a quick look at all the info I think is relevant:

–Author and Title of the book (just so I can differentiate between books so I don’t double up when people read the same thing)
–Genre (so I can differentiate again to put the data in one large chart and two smaller genre specific charts)
–Ethnic presences (White, Black, Asian, whatever)
–Religious presences (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Unknown, whatever)
–Any other relevant info you can think of.
–Social presences (Feminists, ACLU types, whatever)
–Gender (For main characters)
–Gender 2 (For secondary, but significant characters)

The result of this, I hope, will be a load of data that will help determine what this bias looks like, to come to an understanding of it. I think after my discussions with Tobias that I have to agree there has to be some level of bias, but I don’t know how bad it is, or at least how prevalent. Edit: Again, this is not to mean that the bias is intentional or created by the writers of this genre.

Will you help me? Do you have questions?

Edit: Here is an example format of how I’d like the info:
Author and Title of the book: The Dead & the Gone (will be printed in 2008)
Genre: Science Fiction
Ethnic presences: Hispanic, White
Religious presences: Catholic
Social presences: None
Gender (main): Male main
Gender 2 (secondary): 2 female secondary and 1 male main

Also, send data either to my email – arconna@(no spam) (remove the no spam)
OR post it here. Either one works fine!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

9 thoughts on “Reviewers: Help Me Help Us All

  1. 1) Would you like us to send you an email, or to post here?

    2) Is there a time frame that you’re looking for (i.e, the last novel I read was “Blind Lake” by Robert Charles Wilson. Too early?)

    3) Novels only, or also short fiction?

    This is an interesting project, and I’ll do what I can to help. Good luck!

  2. Preferably an email. arconna@(no spam) (remove the no spam part)

    I’m looking only for stuff printed towards the very end of 2007 and printed this year. And only novels since I think short fiction would be too hard to do.

  3. Actually, you know what. I changed my mind. You could post data here if you want to. That’s fine. If you could format it as follows it would really make it easier (I’ll put this in the post too):

    Author and Title of the book: The Dead & the Gone (will be printed in 2008)
    Genre: Science Fiction
    Ethnic presences: Hispanic, White
    Religious presences: Catholic
    Social presences: None
    Gender (main): Male main
    Gender 2 (secondary): 2 female secondary and 1 male main

    That will end up in the original message eventually.

  4. I checked out “Crossover” from the library, so I don’t have it to reference from right now (though I think Pyr is going to send me “Breakaway” and Killswitch.”

    “Crossover” had a strong Muslim presence in the book. The main character was a “GI” or genetically engineered person who was basically Teutonic. But a lot of the secondary characters were either from India, or descended from families who were, with strongly ethnic names. It was used enough to be really noticable in the book.

    I need to go through my stack of books, but I know there’s a ton of stuff to refer to there…

  5. Ooh! This should be fun. Okay, I’ll try to keep this in mind as I read stuff and email you later.

    In re: to novels–any age category? I read as much YA and MG and adult novels, so do you want only adult novels, or anything “novel”?


  6. Just follow that little format so it’s easy to gather the data since I might get a lot of data coming in :S.

    And ANY novels are accepted so long as they are fantasy/sf or a crossover that fits in either. If it’s YA, great. If it’s adult, great too.

  7. Shadowbridge, by Gregory Frost
    Genre: Fantasy
    Ethnic presences: White, Asian
    Religious presences: Pantheism, with real fantasy gods that show up occasionally
    Social presences: None
    Gender (main): White female main, white male main
    Gender 2 (secondary): 2 major white male secondaries

Leave a Reply