So does anyone remember the popular hashtag #DiversityinSFF? We discovered this amazing writer/social activist during that amazing hashtag and we noticed she had an insane passion for diversifying everything that is fiction ESPECIALLY Steampunk!!!
Her life is dedicated to righting social injustices and exploring how important diversity is in not only books but all media outlets. She's really amazing as she sounds and we're looking forward to getting to know her better from here on out, but for now for those that don't know her, we'd like to introduce you to Jaymee Goh.
1. You're pretty well known in the twitter realm as well as the SFF network for your work on but for those who know a little about you, care to give us a little glimpse of who Jaymee Goh is?Ha, well, I'm not sure about being well-known, but who Jaymee Goh is really depends on who I'm talking to. Baha! Generally I describe myself as a Malaysian-Chinese middle-class grad student, a SFF writer (and looks to be, an editor! Just like my grandfather before me), and an aspiring publisher. Currently I live in Riverside, California, after spending ten years in Canada, where I do a PhD in Comparative Literature at UC Riverside. My academic background is informed by my blogging background, and my writing was initially shaped by epic fantasy novels but is now shaped by RaceFail conversations about identity, social justice and world transformation spectulative projects. I am also a proud member of the Carl Brandon Society For the Promotion of Diversity in Spectulative Fiction, and of course, a member of the feminazgul legion.
2.On your blog Silver Goggles, you focus a great deal on the SteamPunk movement with a strong concentration on promoting Steampunk that features Poc. What was the inspiration behind your blog?
So, I saw the alternate-history and technofantasy aspects of steampunk as a way of taking back history from the colonizers. If you can control the narrative of history, you can control the narrative of the future--offer a different viewpoint of history, and you help create different options for how society can evolve in the future. Otherwise, we're stuck with "well that's the way it's always been and always be" which is a very defeatist approach to speculative fiction. What is your science and magic for if you can't change the world?
These were some of the things I was thinking through, and decided to go back to grad school to write a Master's thesis for. I used Silver Goggles as a platform to share my thoughts about postcoloniality and steampunk, and how they would interact. Initially it was just me talking at the aether about postcolonialism in steampunk, but I realized I had to walk the walk and not just talk about the potential of POC in steampunk--in the Steampunk Bible POC in steampunk are talked about as "the future of steampunk" and I realized that no! We're NOT THE FUTURE! We are HERE! We're the present, we always have been, and it's waaaaay past time to show that off.
We know that we need role models to encourage us, so after my MA was underway (and you can read the PDF of it here!) I decided it's time to create a showcase of all the POC currently doing steampunk, and in their own way that may or may not depart from mainstream steampunk. The important thing is to prove that steampunk doesn't have to be white, nor does it even have to START white.
I think being able to re-imagine our history into something more empowering for ourselves is a powerful tool to shape our future with. I am also a lover not really of history in terms of facts, but a lover of history in terms of tracing ancestry and genealogy, which differentiates steampunk from my other SFF interests.
Another is that some folks are starting to realize how imperialist and white supremacist they sound if they make a steampunk that is all white all the while and they actively try to move away from that. How they do it has various results--we know, of course, that white liberals who don't unlearn racist habits keep falling right into the same trap even when they mean well.
And another strain, the one I belong to, is mostly a fierce desire to put ourselves, as POC, firmly on the map and remind folks that we exist and we have important stories to tell too. We don't always succeed well--how can we, when so many of our histories and stories have been lost through cultural genocides and other forms of whitewashing? But I think it's important that we shape our own self-image rather than have other people write them for us.
If by "lead characters" you mean very important characters who are different from each other, racially and culturally, then I suggest Ekaterina Sedia's Heart of Iron; it's a YA novel about a Russian aristocratic girl who gets embroiled in politics, particularly the British-Russian-Chinese triangle in the 19th century.
Her two main love interests are an Englishman and a Chinese fellow student. That's not a combo one sees very often, and the Chinese love interest isn't exoticized the way most Anglo writers tend to carelessly do with Asian characters.
If by "diverse lead character" you just mean non-white, well, one cannot go wrong with Balogun Ojetade's Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, which I have not read but well, just look at that title.
By and large the most enjoyable way to get a diversity of characters in steampunk has been to read anthologies, and the widest range of characters I have seen in an anthology are the Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories books, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft.
Strangely enough, I do not get a lot of fan mail! My rate of fan mail has maybe been one every year or so. If I want compliments I have to look at my blog comments.
What I do want to see? More People of Colour. More Writers, Artists, Cosplayers, Makers and Producers of Colour, re-inventing steampunk to reflect our historical realities and daily ambitions more faithfully. (I was going to say "daily realities" as well but if steampunk has to be a form of escapism, let it be our utopian dreams, not those imposed on us!)