Diversity in speculative fiction-- three covers

Bi-weekly Ali at Worducopia and the folks at Color Online host a meme designed to encourage readers to broaden their reading habits--to add color and diversity. Today's assignment, posted at Color Online-- "Spotlight science fiction and fantasy titles where people of color are the leads, works by people of color in these genres or discuss your thoughts about race in these genres."

Mr. Linky is collecting people's responses. Here is mine.

One of Shannon Hale's most beloved stories is Book of a Thousand Days, a fantasy set in an alternate Mongolia, featuring a strong, loving, intelligent heroine by the name of Dashti. The original cover was gorgeous, but did nothing to convey that the heroine was non-European.

Over at her blog, Shannon has just unveiled the cover of the paperback edition. Viz adding diversity to the shelves of speculative fiction, I think it speaks for itself:

This is a book that will be face-out at the bookshelves, a book that many people are eager to buy. Much as I love the hardback cover, I am glad to see Dashti's face.

Next up is a book that came out this may that I predict will be read by thousands and thousands and thousands of 3rd grade kids--This Side of Magic, by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones, authors of the Bailey School Kids. I am in the middle of reading this myself, to review tonight for a (planned but not guaranteed)wrap-up post of the reading year of my just-turned-nine-today year old son. So I have it next to me as I type. There's no physical description of the kids, but the illustrator of the cover and interior has given us a girl who looks Hispanic. Good for them! I recently tried to walk into bookstore and buy books for a boy this age that had people of color on the covers, and found it virtually impossible. I find it ironic that I then bought this book last week without even registering that the girl on the cover was not white.

And my final cover is not from a new book, but it's a favorite of mine, and it's one of the most direct discussions that I know of in the speculative fiction genre--Four Ways to Forgiveness, by Ursula Le Guin (1995). It is four related novellas, set on twin planets where the light-skinned people were enslaved by the dark-skinned people, and the road to revolution and freedom, and its aftermath.

Le Guin has created many characters of color, but this book is her most overt fictional discussion of relationships variously forced, nuanced, and given depths of meaning by the skin color of the people involved. I don't much like the cover, though. Where are the relationships? What's with wind?

(Non-diversity in speculative fiction related postscript: I am especially fond of this book because I was reading it when I met my husband to be, and so was he. The next time I read it was just after my son was born--not good timing, because there is a sad, sad baby story and I was useless all day from sniffing. That being nine years ago, I am overdue for a re-read...)

And in an on-topic second postscript, I would like to recommend what Tanita at Finding Wonderland has to say about Malorie Blackman.

(I would also like, in a third postscript, off topic, to complain about blogger's strange ideas about spacing, which I fight with every time I have more than one picture).


  1. (Blogger wears me out. Fortunately, Tech Boy taught me some code to get around the spacing issue. This doesn't look bad, though.)

    I absolutely loved the new Dashti -- now her cover fits her name. And I like that she's in the same outfit! And I adore Four Ways to Forgiveness, but my cover is just... hardback with a title. What IS with the freakin' wind!? So weird what publishers sometimes feel that they have to do to SFF...

  2. I love that new cover for Book of a Thousand Days. I think it's tragic that we have so much fantasy with characters of color yet so few covers that capture that. This one does so with homage to the first cover and puts a face on a great heroine.

  3. I keep on meaning to pick up This Side of Magic. A lot of times I fake the funk with the early readers. Though I do try read a few so the customers won't catch the funk am throwing. Besides it looks like a good book.

  4. Hi Charlotte, I'm definitely adding Four Ways to Forgiveness to my list. I've never read Le Guin before and I've always heard good things, so now is my chance to start. Plus the premise sounds very similar to a book I wrote about in my post on Samuel Delany! Thanks for bringing these titles to our attention.

  5. Doret--This Side of Magic is an utterly perfect eight year old fantasy. Do try it!

    And Claudia, I hope you like Four Ways! Let me know!


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