We are not the boss of you, or of your SFF con, but we think that Australian cons can do better in finding diverse creators to be guests of honour. (We do not exclude cons we’ve personally chaired from that.) But it’s not uncommon to try to think of a potential guest, and go completely blank. Names, how do they work?
So here is an incomplete list of non-binary, female, and male local and international people of not-whiteness who you could consider inviting to your con.
(Note: wherever possible, we’ve taken descriptions of people’s backgrounds and work from their own bios. If anyone has been mistakenly described, please let us know.)
Zen Cho (Malaysian author of Sorcerer to the Crown and a multitude of wonderful short works, resident in the UK)
K. Tempest Bradford (African-American critic, columnist and author)
Nisi Shawl (African-American author of fiction and non-fiction)
Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian-American author of speculative fiction for adults and young readers, most notably the novella Binti)
Joyce Chng (Chinese-Singaporean author and editor)
Nalo Hopkinson (Jamaican-Canadian author of novels and short fiction)
Ken Liu (Chinese-American author and translator)
Likhain (Filipina artist resident in Australia)
Queenie Chan (Chinese-Australian manga author)
N. K. Jemisin (African-American novelist)
Ambelin Kwaymullina (Aboriginal YA novelist from the Palyku people)
Julie Koh (Australian fiction writer of Chinese-Malaysian descent)
Martin Hsu (Chinese-American illustrator)
Gabrielle Wang (Chinese-Australian author and illustrator)
Sami Shah (Pakistani comedian and novelist, resident in Australia)
James Ng (Hong Kong steampunk artist)
Jon Tsuei (Asian-American comic book author)
Marjorie Liu (Taiwanese-American author of novels and comics)
Gene Luen Yang (Chinese-American author/artist of comics and graphic novels)
Irene Koh (Asian-American illustrator and comic artist)
Tanya DePass (African-American gamer and advocate, director of I Need Diverse Games)
Diana Pho (Ay-leen the Peacemaker, scholar and activist, Asian-American)
Shaun Tan (Asian-Australian illustrator and artist)
Tananarive Due (African-American author and educator)
Tade Thompson (African-American author)
JY Yang (Singaporean-Chinese author of silkpunk fiction; note: “they” pronouns)
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Filipino author)
Chinelo Onwualu (Nigerian author, editor and journalist)
Mahvesh Murad (Pakistani critic and editor)
Aliette de Bodard (French-American speculative fiction writer of Vietnamese descent)
Grace P. Fong (Asian-American illustrator, concept artist and author)
Elaine Cuyegkeng (Filipino author, resident in Australia)
Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigerian author, resident in the UK)
Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Muslim American author)
Cindy Pon (Chinese-American author and artist)
Karuna Riazi (Muslim American author)
Nin Harris (Malaysian poet, writer and gothic scholar)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican author and editor, resident in Canada)
Daniel Jose Older (American (Latino) author)
Malaka Older (American (Latina) author)
David Bowles (Mexican-American author, critic and translator)
Sabrina Vourvoulias (Guatemalan author, resident in the USA)
Liu Cixin (Chinese author) (Note: Liu has very limited English; conrunners should budget for interpreters)
Please suggest more in the comments and we’ll update the list accordingly. As you can see from the heavy Asian-hyphenate influence from Steph, we have our own biases, and we need to move beyond them, too.
We were going to leave this as the equivalent of subtweeting and let you assume we made this post out of general malaise, but the truth of the matter is that we want Australian cons to get better, so we’ve decided to use our words and tell you why in a gentle, forgiving way. Steph promises no yelling for the rest of this post, even though she loves it.
Guests at Australian cons happen often because of who the committee knows, and that’s inevitable. And when your committee lacks true representation, it can lead to some awkward problems.
A few weeks ago, an Australian con (Swancon) had a non-white Guest of Honour (Wes Chu) last minute pull out. The replacements (who needed to be local-ish – i.e. not from America – due to short notice) were announced as Alan Baxter and Sean Williams, who are perfectly fine Guests of Honour, but who are both white. It is a flaw of the echo chamber of our committees that a non-white Guest of Honour can be replaced by two white men, to create an all-white con of guests, and nobody blink an eye.
Well, I blinked, and many people messaged me to make sure I knew it had happened. (Thank you to all of those people, I love how you endorse and support my yelling.) After the yelling stopped, it turned out that someone (not me) had shared this yelling post from last year, about cultural inappropriateness at Aussie cons, with Sean Williams, who in turn shared it with his readership and (presumably) the ConCom.
After that, I was approached for GoH suggestions from the region, did I have them? Of course I have them, and I willingly shared them, and I am delighted that Joyce Chng, who is from Singapore and has written a lot of local urban fantasy and SFF, and who studied at UWA, will be Guest of Honour at this Swancon. I am so delighted! Joyce is a great speaker, and she is going to be an excellent guest! You should take her out for food because she loves food, we have had many a meal together, and before she arrives you should read her books.
This is a good rectification, but I’d like it if we could get to a point where such rectification isn’t necessary, because our organising committees are as representative as our communities.
Decisions get made because of who we know. And we should know Joyce (and, in fact, Joyce was a member of UniSFA in the late 1990s, so if you’re of my generation and from Perth fandom, maybe you do already know Joyce).
It’s not that any one guest is deserving or undeserving, it’s about bias, and it’s about community, and it’s about who we know.
This is not a call out post. This is a post because when we make mistakes as a community, it’s important to acknowledge them so that we can all learn from them; and it’s important to talk about what went wrong and what went right, so that marginalised people in our communities (LIKE ME) don’t have to shoulder all of the emotional labour.
Liz and Steph wrote this list together; Steph wrote this post with guidance from Friend of No Award Rivqa, and on consultation with Joyce Chng. Joyce is so happy to have this discussion in person with anyone in her role as GoH at Swancon, and you should take her up on that. She loves yelling, too. ;P