Late to this party, but apparently science fiction publishing has a major race problem. The study does the requisite bean counting and discovers, as if it was some sort of surprise, that black authors are underrepresented in traditional SF publishing. The problem is that’s all it discovers. When your survey finds only 63 stories by black authors out of 2,093, you really don’t need the survey in the first place. One would hope that with the effort came some data about causes. Unfortunately, we don’t get any real insight as to why this is the case. Saying “systemic racism” is simply naming the cause without actually specifying anything, certainly not anything actionable.
Instead, we have data (showing a problem that was obvious beforehand) given in support of anecdotal information. Even the article itself is a little confused about what it’s talking about ; “The advice to write ‘what the market wants’ is code for white characters and white stories.” Which may be an accurate observation, but is conflating two separate issues of representation, that of authors and that of characters. The other examples of “subtle bias” fall into the category of anecdotal data and strongly suggest a confusion between correlation and causation.
This all seems to simply be an exercise to justify attacks on those “subtle biases.” That’s probably a valid goal in itself, but the problem is there are no particular data here that suggest that addressing those anecdotal issues will significantly alter the demographic issues being reported, and that’s arguably the point of the exercise. If these anecdotal issues are simply due to the field being dominated by white people, then you might fix every single one and just end up with a field dominated by nicer white people with the exact same demographic breakdown.
If you want to address the issue of author demographics, I can think of a few questions you really need to ask:
- Do black people consume SF at the same rate as whites, or are the black/white ratios for readers similar to the ratios of published authors? (The same way the male/female ratio of Romance readers and writers are probably similar.)
- Is SF somehow unique in this, or is there a similar demographic breakdown in other genres such as Mysteries, Horror, or Literary Fiction? (And are ratios for writers vs. readers similar?)
- Is the racial makeup of published stories the same, more representative or less representative than the racial makeup of submissions?
- How many blacks are writing, published or unpublished, vs. how many whites?
- How successfully in comparison?
- Is there any difference in the number of rejections white authors receive vs. black authors before they’re either published or give up?
- Do the numbers for Indie publishing reflect the anecdotal assertion that it is more representative demographically?
- What about the success rate for black Indie authors vs. white Indie authors?
Until those are answered in some degree, the only solution people are going to propose is “just publish more black authors,” which would make the particular symptom they’re pointing at go away without addressing whatever fundamental problem is actually going on.