Africa is a country — special SF edition

What struck me about Mike Resnick’s defence of being guaranteed a place in a proposed anthology about “alien encounters” that boasted about its dedication to diversity…

For the record, I have been to Africa 6 times on prolonged trips, I have won 4 Hugos for stories about Africa and have been nominated for 8 more, and my knowledge of the Kikuyu and Maasai peoples has been praised by Kenyan office holders. Are you suggesting that I -shouldn’t- write about Africa, or perhaps that no right-thinking editor should buy them?

… is the idea that having won Hugo awards for stories set in Africa is evidence that said stories treated Africa with respect and weren’t stereotyped, reductive or orientalist. I mean these are the same awards as voted on by American fans so unwilling to travel outside their own country they hold a special con on the rare occassions Worldcon moves outside the US, aren’t they? What makes these people knowledgeable about Africa?

Also, the idea that visiting a continent a couple of times makes you an expert, or that a (presumed) expertise on two Kenyan peoples makes you an expert on Africa as a whole or even the simple fact that Resnick’s stories about these peoples are labeled as “African” and discussed as such? Not helping his case.

Now personally I would prefer it if Resnick wouldn’t write at all, as he’s dull as dishwater and a godawful writer regardless of whether or not he gets “Africa” (sic) right, but nobody has actually been arguing he shouldn’t write about Africa or not get his stories published, just that, you know, to privilege an American writer over actual African science fiction writers like say, Nnedi Okorafor (who has just written a whole novel about alien encounters set in Lagos) isn’t actually being that committed to finding a greater diversity.

(For a more indepth look at why this anthology is problematic, Charles Tan and Natalie Luhrs have all the gory details.)

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