A More Diverse Universe, and Engraved on the Eye

I’m way late for this party, but you should know if you don’t already: a group of bloggers has organized a blog tour event to celebrate and raise awareness of minority authors in speculative fiction. It’s called A More Diverse Universe, and you can read the gritty deets over at BookLust. I didn’t find out in time to sign up to be on the list, but the concept is pretty simple. Read a work of speculative fiction by a minority author and review it.

Though my participation is unofficial, I want to draw your attention to Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed. I read that earlier this week, and it was a blast. Saladin is an Arab American from Detroit, and this perspective gracefully informs his fiction. I had already read Throne of the Crescent Moon, so I knew I was in for something good.

So, here’s my review of Engraved on the Eye, originally posted in my Goodreads account.

This collection of short stories offers a departure from the usual science fiction and fantasy fare. Saladin Ahmed brings his unusual (for sf/f) viewpoint as a practicing Muslim and Arab American to the party and serves up a delicious buffet of refreshing stories.

The stories vary pretty widely. There is the tale of the first case in which the characters Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed (from Throne of the Crescent Moon) work together. Another story set in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms deals with the internal politics of the Lodge of Dervishes. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the story of a cybernetically augmented Lebanese soldier trying to keep his wife alive in a post-war world. There is also a historical fantasy set during the Abbasid Caliphate. One story is set in a secondary world and gives just enough detail about it to be intriguing.

My personal favorite is “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride.” It’s a Western starring people you don’t see often in Western stories. Mister Hadj and the narrator (O’Connor) are working as bounty hunters on the trail of some seriously bad men. Mr Hadj, an immigrant from the same area as O’Connor’s Pa, has a knack for making things happen when he sings. How it all plays out is more than I care to share here.

Engraved on the Eye at Amazon.com
Throne of the Crescent Moon at Amazon.com

So, there you have it. An excellent book by a talented new author. Please visit the links above, and check it out. Visit Saladin’s site and take a peek at his blog and twitter. In addition to being a good author, he’s a pretty droll Tweep.

For most of my life, I haven’t paid that much attention to the details of the people writing the books that I liked. Because of that, sheer statistics meant I ended up mostly reading books by Caucasian men. But as I have gotten older, and started paying more attention, I have come to appreciate the differences (some subtle, some less so) that arise from reading an author of a different background. That’s one very good reason to support an event like A More Diverse Universe.

Another is that those statistics can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We mostly have white writers is SF, so white writers get more sales. Add in people avoiding non-white authors for racist reasons, and the disparities get bigger. Then the money-driven corporate machine looks at those numbers, confuses cause and effect, and decides that white writers are the way to go. So they buy fewer books from non-white writers, spend less on marketing for the ones they do buy, etc. And the snake eats its own tail. (This assumes that the companies is question are not racially motivated themselves, which I can neither confirm or deny, but you can see the obvious additional problems that would cause.)

Once we create a machine that minimizes the diversity of viewpoints, we narrow our scope of people that will identify closely. Or we annoy members of the groups being marginalized. And so our SF fandom and pool of future writers doesn’t grow the way it should.

So, friends and neighbors, what SF books by minority authors have you read recently? How did you like them? I’m always open to new recommendations!

7 Responses to “A More Diverse Universe, and Engraved on the Eye”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I haven’t heard of that author. Thanks for the review.

  2. Liviania Says:

    Sounds like a good read – I love a good SF short story, and getting several in one collection is a bonus.

  3. aartichapati Says:

    Thanks so much for participating in this event! I’m glad you posted this review as no one else read this book – great to have diversity in reading choices!

  4. silver price Says:

    The line of storytelling that has been troubled me lately is the prophetic style of fantasy, and it’s one reason why I tend to favor more science fiction-flavored stories in general, which tends to avoid it. Far too often, character lives have been pre-determined, with the central focus revolving around the character realizing their inherent importance or internal strengths. Far more interesting to me is when the characters move the plot forward on their own, with their own actions helping or hindering them. Thankfully, this is largely what I’ve found over the course of reading Throne of the Crescent Moon with its three central characters: Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, a ghul hundter of Dhamsawaat, Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s assistant, and Zamia Badawi, the shapeshifting protector of her band. The trio is deeply and at times, broadly flawed, but as the novel progresses, there’s an increasing recognition of this, and growth to overcome it.

    • Eric H. Says:

      I think much the same way. In particular, the prophesied hero who starts off completely divorced from proceedings but becomes King/Pope/etc by the end of the story. Some friends of mine have dubbed that “The Milkmaid of Destiny.”

      Black God’s War is different in that it doesn’t seem like predestination is what’s at work. The gods, particularly the Black God, are characters in their own right. They are working to move things forward, mostly by manipulating people around them. It’s unclear to me against whom the Gods are moving. Is it Gods vs. men? Are the Gods external projections of the human characters, making them a combination of Man vs. Himself and Man vs. Man? Is there internal strife? They claim they act as one, but one doesn’t quarrel in front of the Help, do we?

      I really enjoyed TotCM. I thought it was interesting how the magic seemed largely faith-based, but other than the charms working, there was no empirical evidence. Could be legitimate, could be an outgrowth of the user’s will, etc. I don’t know if you saw my review of Ahmed’s Engraved on the Eye, but it’s another great offering.

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