By the time this post goes up — at least in my part of the world — it will exactly be a year since the World SF Blog was retired. Its success, in my opinion, lies in the hands of the editor-in-chief of the site, Lavie Tidhar, and the efforts of the various contributors (the list would be too long…) from around the world. The Apex Book of World SF 3 has also been announced, so June is a special month for me (and because I had nothing to do with the anthology, I can read it with surprise and delight). Before I digress, I want to point out that the more I pondered the issue of World SF, the more I discovered how the term was problematic (which Is discussed in my essay “World SF: Our Possible Future”). Here’s the thing: no one owns or speaks for World SF. It’s too broad, too all encompassing, and it’s often defined by what it isn’t. It’s a reaction to the current status quo, of major publishers publishing books by US and UK authors, and those books becoming the canon in various parts of the world. It’s to rebel against cultural appropriation, to combat cultural stereotypes, and most of all, to not do a disservice to readers of various races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
There were some ironies that were not lost on me: sometimes, I felt that our primary audience was Western readers. We were using English to communicate our ideas (and while each nation’s English has its own cultural nuance, our standard style guide for the site was US English), the anthology was being published by a US (albeit independent) publisher. A lot (but thankfully not all) of the content was a reaction to what was happening in the Western publishing scene.
On the other hand, it’s because I was working on the site that I got to meet a lot of diverse writers, including Aliette de Bodard, Anil Menon, Lauren Beukes, Joyce Chng, Nick Wood, Karin Tidbeck, etc. The fact is, I’m not really what you would consider a diverse reader, but maintaining the blog, at the very least, forced me to become aware of these writers. I can only hope that’s also true for readers of this blog.
And over the years, you also become more aware of the growth of diverse voices. I’ve witnessed the publication of books like Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Currently, there’s even a call for submissions for Southeast Asian Steampunk. And there’s also the efforts of those who came before us, whether it’s the Carl Brandon Society, Islam and Science Fiction, Silver Goggles, etc.
And yet, for as much as I’ve become more conscious about these issues, there’s still a lot I don’t know about (and I’ve made many mistakes). Continuing these kinds of conversations can be draining, especially at how unqualified I feel at times. So I’m thankful for those who continue the conversation, for those who continue to struggle, for those who continue to write, edit, and publish books.
When I look at books like The Apex Book of World SF or the former World SF Blog, I hope it’s the start of the conversation, the beginning of a struggle, rather than the synthesis of what came before. As I previously mentioned, the success of the site was due to the efforts of its many contributors — and its many voices. If we want to fully embrace diversity, we need to broaden our horizons, and look beyond our own paradigms.