Save The Pearls And "Reverse Discrimination Stories"
I haven't read this book -- I just heard about it today. But I have something to say about this theme, because I've read way, way too many stories with this theme to even count.
I am not shocked. I am horrified, but not shocked. Why? Because I've been REGULARLY getting plots pretty much like this in the Expanded Horizons slush pile for the four years we've been running the magazine. They're standard fare, even though we have several explicit guidelines telling writers not to send them.
This book got out of someone's slush pile. (Or was self-published.)
I think you can learn a lot about a culture not only from what gets published, but also from what doesn't -- which people are nonetheless trying to publish.
My magazine continues to receive stories with plots like this, even though we tell authors not to send them. We have, for example, this guideline, which is less a "guideline" and more of a "no really, don't send us this crap" rule:
We do not publish “reverse discrimination” stories. ”Reverse discrimination” stories are single issue stories that follow a predictable premise: what if [privileged real life group] was actually discriminated against/oppressed/un-privileged? Examples: what if most of society was gay, and straight people were the discriminated minority? What if most male babies were killed and men were kept just for breeding? What if everyone was intersex, and cis-sexual people were considered “freaks”? Etc. Not only are these “single issue” stories about discrimination (usually by authors with no real life experience with the forms of discrimination described, it’s just made up), these stories do not further our mission of promoting the inclusion and representation of real life minorities in spec fic. In fact, these stories do exact the opposite — they pretend that privileged, majority authors can understand and write about the dis-privileged/minority/oppressed perspective if they just turn the tables in a simplistic, linear thought experiment. These stories also often frame the real-life oppressed people as the new oppressors: violent, insensitive, bigoted, etc. We believe the spec fic world does not need more “Poor oppressed men! Poor oppressed straight people! etc.” stories. These stories only marginalize already marginalized people even more. Please let minority/dis-privileged authors speak for themselves. (emphasis in original)
These stories are a dime a dozen. I've seen it with LGBT issues, with racial issues, with gender issues, and with other axes of identity. The concept is not new, not creative, not original, not fresh, and not clever. For any axis of real-world privilege, there are sci fi authors (and would-be authors) who think they are so clever for making themselves (as real-world privileged people) the "new oppressed people, oh woe is us!"
The sad truth is that this is the status quo of the slush pile, even for a magazine that explicitly demands that these stories not be sent to it. Usually, in my opinion, the authors are not explicitly setting out to be -ist, but they really misunderstand very basic things about How Oppression Works, and it shows, and it hurts.
I wish I had something insightful to add about why people write these stories (I can only guess). Guilt? Fear? A desire to see themselves as victims in some way? A misguided belief that this idea is progressive? I'd also like to be able to link to more articles written by marginalized people about what it's like to be on the receiving end of this -- not only to be marginalized and oppressed in real life, but then also to be told in fiction supposedly about people like you that if you were to obtain any real social power, you would automatically use it to oppress the formerly dominant group and then OH NOES, COSMIC CHAOS! Horrible injustice! Why can't we all just not see race/gender/sexual orientation/etc.?
So I'll just say... read those three links at the top, and listen up. This book is about race, but you should be seeing a red flag every time you encounter this plot line about any group. Thanks.
ETA 11:58 PM: Apparently one blogger did some research, and says that the reviews are fake.