Supernumerary, self abnegation, suicidal tendencies and such


Two new stories today, from the talented Marissa Lingen, got me to thinking about being supernumeary again.

Yes, I know each voice and every person is different and that is value in and of itself.

And yet! I am a white single heterosexual male in my 40’s. Not exactly an underrepresented class in any of the artistic endeavors that I participate in. And I am not even stellar in doing so. (A Hugo nomination for podcasting notwithstanding). The stellar voices–those are okay no matter what they look like, believe or who they are. Average voices like mine from the mayonnaise majority–who needs them?

So, why should I bother? There are women’s voices, POC voices, voices from LBGTQ people. Those voices have been historically undervalued, underrepresented, under seen. White men like myself have gotten more play and still get more play. There are venues which do a good job in balancing things out, but its still a tilted playing field.

Are any of my efforts crowding out *their* efforts? Marissa is getting published, but am I making it slightly harder for equally worthy people to have their work seen, read, enjoyed? People whose work who hasn’t been seen, and should? Diverse voices unjustly not heard?

This all goes to my fear and secret wish–that my withdrawal would make the world a better place (yes, this also goes to suicidal tendencies). The thought that the world would be improved by my absence. That my efforts hinder others.

That it would be better if I not only did not exert my efforts…but that I *never* did. That the Marissa Lingens of the world would have a better time of it without me crowding the field or trying to. Or the Elizabeth May and Dallas Nagata Whites of photography, to give a different example.

As I have said before, if Metatron came to me and said: “I erase you from existence, backwards and forwards, and the world is improved”– I take that deal, no hesitation.

4 thoughts on “Supernumerary, self abnegation, suicidal tendencies and such”

  1. Well, considering the overpopulation of the world, any of us – white male or not – could make an argument that things would be better without us. Certainly somebody else wants my job, my apartment, my savings, my cats. Well, probably not my cats.
    However, I might want somebody else’s job and cats, and I wouldn’t expect that person to commit suicide for my benefit. So I don’t consider myself obligated to commit suicide for somebody else’s benefit.
    When it comes down to it, if I think people deserve consideration then I, being a person, deserve consideration. If I think people shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of sex, gender, or number of ears, then I should not be discriminated against on those bases either. There isn’t one set of rules for important them and another set for worthless me.

  2. I can sympathize with this point of view quite a bit – sometimes it feels like we white guys should shut up and step out of the picture, I definitely get that. Struggle with it too when I’m depressed. But ultimately, I don’t think self-negation is a requirement of being an ally to the under-represented. If anyone tells you that their success needs to come on the back of your suffering and negation, I would be very suspicious of them. C.C. Finlay told me once, when I was much younger: “There’s always room at the top.” And I think so far, that is true in my experience.

    I think we all have something unique to us to share and say. The hardest part about writing for me is figuring out what that is, what is that uniquely Jeremiah Tolbert story. Sometimes I succeed, but mostly I fail. I think that’s just the nature of things.

    Take care, man. I think the world is lesser every time we lose *any* voice. Even the white male ones.

  3. The arts aren’t zero sum games. Your being published doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else isn’t. All voices are valuable. Being part of a majority group doesn’t negate the uniqueness of your own voice, skill and experiences, which are different from everyone else’s.

    Taking yourself out of the world just reduces the variety of the world by one. You do great work. And you help promote the work of others, which they find invaluable.

  4. Your voice matters far more than you think, and I am dead certain that the world (and SFF fandom) would be worse off without you in it. Your support and encouragement have meant a LOT to me as an author, ever since those first days of the Night Bazaar blog in 2011, continuing all the way up until now. I know I’m far from the only author who feels that way. You worry that your voice is pushing others out, but what I see is that your voice is raising others up. For new authors, female authors, PoC authors, all those most in need of support, you have stood ready to give it, with unstinting generosity. If you were “erased” from fandom (let alone life!), that would be a huge loss for everyone.

    And not just because of your support for others. Your voice and talents are worthy in themselves, too. I always enjoy reading your reviews and comments, and my walls and twitter feed would be by far the poorer without your beautiful pictures. I know you compare yourself to other photographers and feel downhearted – but just as in writing, remember that your photos are unique because they are the world seen through *your* eyes and camera, not another’s, in a way nobody else can replicate. You share the beauty of the world with the rest of us, and that is no small thing.

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