Every now and then, I have a conversation during which I mention that I spend a lot of time volunteering for an organization that hosts literature-related events (though I typically only mention it when I think the person would be really interested, or uninterested enough to let it pass). One of the events is a conference that focuses mainly on women* in fantasy, as consumers, producers, and characters. Sometimes, I get this:
PERSON: I didn’t know a lot of women wrote fantasy.
ME: Oh, they do, but it’s a lot harder to find it in book stores than you’d think.
PERSON: Well, if women wrote it, it would be there. So there can’t be all that many. [Digression about GRRM, Tolkien, and others, whose work I like, but.]
ME: There are loads! I despair of ever making it through my reading list. It’s probably as tall as I am, if you print it out very small and use both sides of the page.
PERSON: Well, Tolkien Tolkien Tolkien…
From there, I start fretting that my favorite people won’t be able to write anymore, etc., and zone out.
But here’s a better ending, and I’m lucky to encounter this more often, if not recently:
PERSON: Women write/women write something other than what I know about (often only romance and a few blockbusters)/women write fantasy?
PERSON: Oh, cool. What would you recommend/what do you like about it/what’s the interesting news?
And I think this is a good rule of thumb for any time you encounter something outside your realm. That’s interesting, can you tell me more, or recommend something, or tell me your favorite? It doesn’t have to apply to this specific scenario, but polite curiosity tends to open people up to sharing, which benefits both people. Let’s exchange ideas. And let’s not think that what is offered up to us first is the entire world.
*All genders welcome.