As a blogger(I also blog about writing and occasionally review blogs on my own website) I think it’s incredibly important for me to support diversity in the arts. Other bloggers spend a lot of time talking about why we need diverse characters but still end up reviewing almost entirely books about straight white people, often because those are the books that have the marketing dollars and review copies.
Meeting hundreds of authors on Twitter has led me to believe that our issue isn’t necessarily a lack of diverse books. Yes, we do need more diverse characters in books and TV and movies, but there are thousands of diverse stories nobody knows about. Hell, Steampunk Cavaliers has only been open three months and we’ve already featured a novel centered around a relationship between two women, a novella about a mulatto heiress and a novel about a trans woman. The real problem is that mainstream media is ignoring the diverse series we DO have.
There are a few reasons for this. One is that these books are almost exclusively published by small publishers or self published and the mainstream media actively ignores small press/self published books unless they sell 100,000 copies in six months or do something equally impressive. Another is that the mainstream media is made up mostly of straight white folks who naturally gravitate to stories they identify more closely with.
Unfortunately I don’t have the power to make the mainstream media focus on these books, but there is something I can do: deliberately spotlight them on my blog and share them all over social media. I might not have a massive following but I know every voice helps, especially for authors who are just starting out. Even if nobody follows the buy link from my interview or review, the simple fact that I cared about these books can keep the authors going. Writing is a hard business fraught with emotional peril and every single kind word helps.
I think steampunk is a particularly great genre for diverse stories because of the combination of the severe conservatism of the Victorian era with steam technology. New technology often brings with it new ethical questions and even new morals. Introducing these to the Victorian era is a lot of fun.
The Victorian era was also a fascinating historical period no matter where you were in the world. Most of the steampunk I’ve encountered is set in the UK or a quite similar original world, but there are interesting historical stories to explore everywhere–and countries where steam technology would have made an even bigger impact. Frankly, I’m tired of reading repackaged England. Give me some European stories, some Japanese stories, some Indian stories, stories from places I haven’t even heard of.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been debating a change to my review policy both here and on my main blog(where I usually only take requests from authors whose work I’ve enjoyed before). Accepting books for review is a nerve wracking endeavor because I’ve made a commitment to only review books I love but finding the authors who most need reviews on my own isn’t easy. So I’ve decided to create a new review policy:
I will ONLY accept review requests for books with people of colour or LGBTQ+ protagonists. If your steampunk novella/novel has a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist please email firstname.lastname@example.org a review request with the title of your book and a blurb.
I’ve already got my first diverse novel and I’m looking forward to reading more. Tell me about the diverse books you love!