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Diverse Energies: Adding a Little Bit of Color to The World of Science Fiction

Updated on September 25, 2013

Ever since I heard about Tu Books, I've been fascinated about the concept behind this somewhat unique publisher. Devoted to presenting multicultural science fiction and fantasy for teens, they fill a hole that most speculative fiction fans probably didn't even realize was there until they stopped to think how blindingly white so much of it is. I was intrigued enough that I tracked down Tu Books' first story collection, to see what they came up with.

First of all, I was struck by the variety of different interpretations of the theme this collection provided. A significant amount of the stories merely featured a main character who was a person of color or multiracial, but whose background didn't really have much bearing on the story. Several others depicted heavily non-Western settings and characters, and several more involved cultural contact between very different cultures. Many of the stories took place in a future Global South, where all of the problems have gotten worse and the poor (usually Chinese or Indian) protagonist needs to struggle with the oppression of the West upon them.

Although I was mostly expecting stories about cultural interactions or ones that were "about" non-Western societies, I discovered there was power in having a story where the protagonist was South or East Asian (for whatever reason, these seemed to be the favorite ethnic origins of the featured writers, although they weren't the only ones), even if this had no bearing on the actual plot. As I mentioned before, you don't realize how white the protagonists of much mainstream sci-fi are until it's been pointed out to you, and these stories are persuasive for the argument that Caucasian protagonists should not be so ubiquitous.

The writing for these stories are universally excellent. The writers Tu Books got (including such established writers as Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Daniel H. Wilson, as well as many less famous ones) all have very distinct voices, and the stories they tell are usually very interesting ones. I would almost certainly read any other books by these authors, if given the chance.

All in all, this was a good first read for me with Tu Books. I'm definitely going to check out their books in the future, and so should anyone else looking to diversify their sci-fi reading.

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