A review by Evie Kendal
- Format: eBook
- Pages: 54 pages approx
- Publisher: Jim C Hines
- ISBN: 1230000232655
- ISBN: 9781310872624
- ASIN: B00JND5RBW
- BN ID: 2940149517329
Editor’s note: there is something to be said for having one ISBN number to rule them all.
Invisible is an anthology collection of short pieces focused on giving a voice to marginalised groups and individuals in fiction. This quote comes from the Introduction and summarises the project well:
“Art without a default, without dominant voices–imagine it! The writers in Invisible want to. Art without a default is art where everyone is able to speak and be heard, art where we all find ourselves in many roles, many ways of living: people.”
The collection addresses the absence or stereotyping of certain groups, exposing a tradition of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism in popular culture. Each contribution uses personal experience to give the reader an insight into other perspectives on how humans can and should live their lives, rejecting narrow definitions of acceptable expressions of fundamental human experiences, such as sexuality, challenging the dominant cis-gendered heteronormative discourse. As such, every contribution is unique and highly recommended, however, for the purposes of this review I have chosen to focus on just four.
First is “The Princess Problem” by Charlotte Ashley, which discusses racial identity in the context of children’s books and merchandise. Ashley gives the example of a colouring book containing pictures of princesses, that her daughter insisted had to be coloured in “the RIGHT colour” – in other words, the colour of the “normal” princess dolls (white) rather than the token “diversity” dolls (brown) given solely to children of colour. She brings attention to the fact that not being consciously aware of racial stereotyping in children’s products contributes to discrimination, and that brown princesses – and the diversity they represent – are for everyone.
“Gender in genre” by Kathryn Ryan addresses the lack of trans* characters in fiction. She (possibly Xe, but I am basing my assumption on the first person bio provided as I have not had the opportunity to ask the preferred pronoun) notes that even where trans* characters do exist in fiction they tend toward one of two options: victims or freaks. The lack of queer and asexual characters is also addressed, and from my personal experience the only asexual character I’ve ever read about was in Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead. She also laments the fact that when trans* people do appear in fiction it tends to be exclusively in trans*-themed books, which can work against normalisation and integration (much like the brown princess dolls only for brown children argument discussed above). For those interested, a study regarding the impact of gender representation in the media can be found here.
Dark Matter’s own Nalini Haynes’ contribution “Evil Albino Trope is Evil” discusses the overwhelmingly negative representation of albinos in popular culture, including Deep Space Nine and The Da Vinci Code. Haynes notes the evil albino trope is so pervasive it is now self-referencing and parodied – in other words, audiences are expected to fall for misdirection involving the motives of an albino, due to frequent prior exposure to this trope leading to a presumption of guilt for any albino character. Like the other pieces in the anthology, Haynes relates personal experiences to demonstrate how unfair and unbalanced representation of a minority in fiction can impact the treatment of members of that group in the real world.
Nonny Blackthorne’s “SFF Saved My Life” discusses the unique position science fiction and fantasy has as a site for encouraging diversity. She (again pronoun assumed from bio) recounts her childhood living in a fundamentalist religious family and how she couldn’t reject homosexuality or polyamory as they might have wished because she had already bonded with people who engaged in these lifestyles, albeit fictional characters from within SFF. This also helped with self-acceptance in the face of familial rejection. The idea that empathy for a diverse range of people can be encouraged through identification with fictional characters was tested in this study, summarised by i09 here.
The Invisible anthology is recommended for all audiences, but particularly those interested in gender and racial inclusiveness, and the impact of popular media on minorities and the differently-abled.