Mammothfail and me

A recent article, YA Twitter Can Be Toxic, But It Also Points Out Real Problems" by Molly Templeton on Buzzfeed, took me back in time:

"In the late 2000s, the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) community — which overlaps greatly with YA — had something of a reckoning. Eventually known as RaceFail ’09, it was, as author N.K. Jemisin wrote in a blog post a year later, “a several-months-long conversation about race in the context of science fiction and fantasy that sprawled across the blogosphere. It involved several thousand participants and spawned several hundred essays — and it hasn’t really ended yet, just slowed down."

RaceFail started as MammothFail, when Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child was widely called out for its erasure of Native Americans (there were lots of mammoths, but no indigenous people).  I was part of that conversation, and it was a watershed moment for me as a reader, a reviewer, and a purveyor of books for my own kids.

Here's my review of Thirteenth Child.

The conversations that took place on line were a real wake up call for me, and I set out to do what I could to promote diverse books.  Here's my post about what I did in the immediate aftermath, which included a trip to the local bookstores to try to put my money where my mouth was by buying diverse books (this did not break the bank). Subsequently I made a concerted effort to seek out diverse middle grade and YA fantasy and science books, and started compiling the list of my reviews  (around 240  of them so far).  In the past few years, my attention has shifted some from my own blog; I now write for the B. and N. Kids Blog, where I try to make sure diverse books get included (which is annoying to me for the purpose of my own list of review, because once I review a book there I don't review here, so my list is missing all the Rick Riordan Presents books, for instance....).

It was good to have this reminder of MammothFail because I have been becoming complacent, and need to make sure I keep reviewing diverse books here, and supporting new authors by actually buying books from local bookstores (I've mostly just been keeping up with what comes in the mail....).  Happily I think it would actually take more money than I have to go back to the same bookstores I went to in 2009 to buy every book with non-white kids on the cover (I can't go today, but will try to later this week....), but of course they're still outnumbered by the white kids and animals, as this infographic from CCBC shows (the full article in which this image appears can be read here):

I squirm a bit reading some of my 2009 thoughts; "own voices," for instance, wasn't something that had come into my consciousness, and I'm glad for all the folks on twitter who keep educating and informing me.  That being said, this reminder of MammothFail also made me badly miss the blogging days of yore; twitter is a thin substitute for the conversations that took place in blog comments. Reading blogs made it easier to connect to people in meaningful ways, both because you could say more and give more context in posts than in tweets, and because you actually could get to know the people you were interacting with.  Of course, blogs attracted toxicity too, and for many of us it was an echo chamber, so it wasn't perfect, but I still miss those day!

And just for kicks, looking back at 2009, I found another controversy I'd forgotten about.  From my post about it:

There was a bit of a stink recently when it was revealed that a new anthology, The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF, edited by Mike Ashley, had in it not a single story by a woman or a person of color--here's the table of contents, and some interesting reading in the comments. I found at Feminist SF-The Blog this quote from Ashley, explaining that this "...probably has something to do with my concept of “mind-blowing”. Women are every bit as capable of writing mindblowing sf as men are, but with women the stories concentrate far more on people, life, society and not the hard-scientific concepts I was looking for."


  1. Awww, those indeed were the days. Conversations were a lot deeper in the comments - which is why I really feel like conversing on blogs is safer - and slow enough for people to think before they speak. Here's to returning to that - for myself, I hope it will be soon.

    1. and when you commented on a blog, you knew that the people you wanted to talk to would be reading it. My tweets mostly disappear into the void. But there's probably no going back....

  2. It's feeling strange that I don't remember Mammothfail, though I was blogging then and like Patricia C. Wrede books in general. Maybe because I had a baby that year... but I, too, can see how my views have evolved, from just being happy when I found books with kids of color on the cover and vaguely wondering why there aren't more to actively seeking out #OwnVoices books.

  3. Nice article as well as whole site.Thanks.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles