Before I get into it, let me give you a frame of reference for this particular entry. On the issue of race and racism, as it relates to me personally. As a black man in London. Or, at least, the UK. I'm aware this might make for uncomfortable reading. And to that, I say: good.
I've been called 'nigger'.
I've also had the word 'nigger' shouted at me in a department store.
I've been assaulted.
I've been spat at.
I've had a brick lobbed at me.
I've had people on public transport choose to stand rather than sit next to me.
I've had people introduce themselves with inappropriate handshakes
I've been accused of shoplifting.
I've been accused of not paying for takeout.
I've had people bump into me but apologise to other people - if they apologise at all.
Some of those instances were in early childhood.
Some of those instances were in the last twenty-odd years.
Some in the last few years.
Some in the last few weeks.
Some were isolated incidents.
Let that percolate for a while. Because these are instances of racism I've seen. There are instances of racism I still see - and I don't doubt for one minute that there are issues of racism I'm not seeing, or that aren't so easy to see. Responses to job applications. Behaviour in the workplace. Entry to/seating at bars and restaurants. These experiences will colour this entry.
What I'm thinking on now - and certainly of more recent times - are those issues of race and diversity in the genre of horror. Certainly from the point of view of fantasy: that umbrella that covers fantasy, sci-fi and horror.
Little over a month into the new year, and already I see issues of race that concern me. A backlash against Stormzy for calling out racism in the UK. Stephen King's comments on diversity in the Oscars. The representation of Latinx individuals as per the novel American Dirt. Barnes & Noble reissuing classic books (Frankenstein, Moby Dick, et al) books with POC (people of colour) on the cover but not written by authors of colour.
I'm no victim. But these things make me weary. Racism. A lack of inclusion. A lack of diversity. A lack of representation.
One thing I'm mindful of is the seeming lack of diversity when I'm at conventions throughout the UK. Don't misunderstand me: those who attend conventions make it worthwhile - there's a sense of camaraderie and fun. The likes of Paul & Marie (joint chapter heads of HWA UK) who are always quick to put me on, whether it's to speak on a panel, contribute to a newsletter, invite to a signing/gathering, etc. Tracy Fahey and her skull game and other grave matters. Phil Sloman, who brings humour and drive in equal measure. Dave Watkins and Eric Ian Steele, who are always generous with their time and support. And comedy. Meeting old friends and making new ones. But the vast majority of those individuals are white. I'm mindful that not every fantasy author in the UK will get to a convention. But there are questions I have.
How racially diverse is the population of fantasy authors; at least, in the UK?
What visibility does the industry have on those authors?
What steps are being taken to encourage and promote that diversity? That inclusion and representation?
What comes to mind right now is how many times I've been listening to Cameo's "Skin I'm In" - certainly over the last few months. Now I remember listening to this track as a kid, and thinking it was just so funky and cool. Some thirty years down the line and I'm thinking on how I've evolved. And that this song is still so blasted relevant right now.
Which brings me to the title of this entry. Because I remember a documentary some years back, where Young MC had commented on rap music getting a lot of scrutiny because it was black and making money. That it got a lot of scrutiny that other music genres wouldn't get.
As an author, I do my best to deliver top-notch work. There's no lie in what I do. Similarly, I do my best to support those in my genre. That doesn't mean each and everyone, because not everyone's work - or approach to it - will move me. But I will promote and support others: regardless of gender. Race. Sexual orientation. Age. Etc. But as of more recent times, I'm mindful that not everyone will see it that way. And as such, there's something else I'll be bringing to the table: scrutiny. A lot more scrutiny.