Tuesday, February 5, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Lundoff on Organizations Building Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science fiction and fantasy as a genre gives us the opportunity as readers and writers to explore new worlds, new futures and new concepts. As a reflection of the genre, science fiction fandom often prides itself on being very welcoming and inclusive. That said, sometimes both genre and fandom need some help achieving those goals. The organizations mentioned in this post are part of that help: sponsoring awards, increasing visibility of unrepresented writers and their books and providing support (emotional and/or financial).

I recently joined the Mother Board for Broad Universe . Broad Universe is a volunteer-run organization that promotes women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror through podcasts, convention readings, book tables, panels, a listserv and various forms of social media. We run an ad in Locus every year celebrating our award winners (it gets bigger each time!) and do other forms of outreach and promotion. "Women" are defined as anyone identifying and presenting as female, as I found out when I asked.  I'm really enjoying being on the board and I'm hoping to see the organization grow and expand during my tenure.

One of the things I'm working on as part of my board duties is building bridges with other organizations in the genre. We're hoping to start doing some joint readings and events such as panels at different cons in the near future so that more readers and fans find out about us and the issues that we're working on.

One of those organizations is the Carl Brandon Society. The Carl Brandon Society was founded to help build further awareness of race and ethnicity in speculative literature and related fields, to paraphrase their website. They sponsor events at conventions as well as the following awards: the Parallax Award (given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color) and the Kindred Award (given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity). In addition, they sponsor the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship which sends new writers of color to the Clarion workshops each year and the Con or Bust: Fans of Color Assistance Project, which helps fans of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions by providing financial assistance.

Another is the Outer Alliance , which promotes discussion about LBGTQ visibility and issues within science fiction and fantasy through a listserv, podcasts and a blog . The organization’s focus is on writing and reading science fiction, fantasy and horror by L,B,G,T or Q authors, as well as allies, about LBGTQ characters and issues relevant to LGBTQ communities. There's a monthly podcast which includes interviews and news, a Twitter feed and an email list. The main website is currently down, but check out the link for the podcast and look for the Outer Alliance at convention panels, parties and readings, particularly at WisCon.

And since I’ve brought up WisCon, I should mention that Broad Universe and the Carl Brandon Society were founded there. WisCon is an annual feminist science fiction and fantasy convention which takes place over Memorial Day weekend in Madison, WI. WisCon is one of several conventions that focus on diversity in the genre; others include Conbust, Gaylaxicon, Bent-Con, and Diversicon. I hope to see all of these organizations work together to build a truly inclusive and welcoming genre.

The photograph, "Catching Rainbows," is By D Sharon Pruitt and licensed under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Catherine has done a good job outlining what's happening with diversity in Science Fiction Fandom and writing. Many of the conventions mentioned have been held yearly for decades, and we are seeing the results grow and grow.

    Terry Garey