Every year I try to do something for professional development. Usually it’s attending a local writer’s conference, or taking a class.
The local speculative fiction writing community here is tiny, and that’s both good and bad. Good, because it means that almost everyone is a familiar face by now, and it’s not too weird to strike up conversations. That takes away a layer of anxiety as an introvert, and I feel comfortable trying new things, participating on panels, and even cracking dumb jokes that fail. It’s great because you can engage with a small, encouraging, group of people.
But, always low-key on my mind, is how weird it is to be the only (or one of the few) visibly non-white people, attending these conferences. I just… hmm… stick out like a sore thumb. The weirdest part is that 40% of the local population is composed of visible minorities (as they call POC in Canada). I can step outside of the hotel, or even into the lobby, and see this version of reality. So going into the conference space is a little like walking into an alternate universe. Welcome to the Twilight Zone, where everything is the same, but melanin doesn’t exist.
I can see why other minorities wouldn’t feel comfortable in spaces like these, and why they are absent or don’t return, even if an environment is not outwardly hostile: it can feel like it’s just not somewhere you belong.
I have no solutions for this tiny community. It’s hard enough to get anyone to show up, let alone find representatives from the small percentage of visible minorities who write in spec-fic. But I think it’s worth pointing out and being aware of.