We See a Different Frontier is an anthology of colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the First World perspective that Fábio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad are putting together. They are raising funds for it at Peerbacker, so everyone can contribute to this great endeavor! I hope everyone does, because this is an important book and an important perspective.
We often talk about lack of diversity in SF/F, but often it translates to white Westerners writing about other cultures, an enterprise generally fraught — especially since there are many cultures which are not commonly seen in the West through their native representations (such as translated books etc), and the risk is of course that for cultures not commonly seen a writer from a dominant culture may become the voice of that culture. Djibril offered this quote by Salman Rushdie that nicely sums up some of the issues:
“If you want to tell the untold stories, if you
want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language.
Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as
autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.”
In some cases, the so-called “voiceless” many philanthropists are so fond of turn out to be not so voiceless after all, at least not on Twitter (witness the Kony 2012 fiasco); in others, marginalized cultures remain marginalized. I say the time has come to stop privileging Western descriptions of the rest of the world — and to do so, we need more representations of different cultures written by the natives.
I spoke to Djibril and Fábio about their expectations for the book. Here’s what Djibril had to say:
“We’re very keen to pay fair professional rates to the authors and
artists involved in this anthology, especially since some of them may
not have had much exposure in the Anglo-American SF publishing world
yet. We’re perfectly happy to raise more money than our $3000 target,
for that reason: we can certainly use it!
Aishwarya posted an interesting blog the other day about reading
Western fiction as a brown reader
and the potentially patronizing attitude of an ally calling for more
diversity “on behalf of the poor Brown/Queer/ThirdWorld child”. ”
Fabio added: “What I would like to see most are works
written by people living in their own cultures. For instance, an
Angolan writing about Angola, be it in the past, the present, or in
the future; the same applies to a Nepalese, a Birmanian, a Sudanese,
I am looking forward because I am CURIOUS to know things that I
don’t know about OTHER PEOPLE of our OWN planet. Isn’t that strange
that, in Internet days, we still know so little? How can we be so
ignorant of each other’s cultures? I strongly suspect that that’s
where the future is today – not out there as in other solar
systems (as much as I like space stories), but in stories on Earth,
dealing with ourselves.”