Ignorance, Bigotry and a Free Book (5/5/2014)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so please excuse the lack of more free books. It’s been dragons and dragons and more dragons as well as some work on some proposals for what might come after dragons. I might post something about the benign annoyance of proposal-writing one day. But mostly it’s been about getting The Silver Kings knocked into shape before Summer, and it’s getting there, and another thing I might post about is how a character can come out of the background and take over what will ultimately be 700k words of prose. Thanks, Zafir. I think.

Usually I skip on to the free book about here. If that’s what you want to do then that’s find – scroll down past the cover art picture and you can skip to the end, but for the rest of this post I’m going to digress and rant a bit about top-ten lists and the difference between ignorance and bigotry, and it’s going to start with my own top-ten list of the greatest explorers of all time. Here goes (in no particular order):

  • Christopher Columbus
  • Marco Polo
  • Vasco Da Gama
  • Ferdinand Magellan
  • Yuri Gagarin
  • Captain James Cook
  • David Livingstone
  • Ernest Shackleton
  • Alexander von Humboldt
  • Jacques Cousteau

This is a pretty crappy list in many ways. After I wrote it I had a look to see what the internet had to offer, which made me feel a bit better. Anyone who has a clue would doubtless squeal over various omissions (Sir John Cabot? Sir Francis Drake?). Cousteau and Gagarin maybe show a little more lateral thinking than than most (smug smug smugity smug), or possibly a desperation to get to ten . Yes, doubtless you could critique this top-ten list of explorers from her to Sunday, but let’s just go in for the kill and point out that every single one of them is white and male. I did try (carefully without doing any research) to think of any explorers I knew to break that mold, and I couldn’t (I think Amelia Earhart was the best I came up with). I had a lot of trouble coming up with ten at all. I was struggling after five or six.

I submit that the absence on this list of any explorers who aren’t white stems from a considerable ignorance on my part rather than bigotry, at least on a personal level (one could argue ignorance stemming from systemic social bias and thus a passive bigotry). I made this list to make a point, although it really is the best I could come up without help. I’m quite certain there are explorers from Asia, India, the Middle East and Africa who contributed massively to their cultures. I’m quite sure that if I had bothered to do any research then I would have found out about them. I’m quite sure I would have found their stories fascinating and talked about them. I’m quite sure that if anyone were to look at my list of explorers and point out how Euro-centric it is and then pointed out some alternatives, I’d go and find out about them. I’m interested. I want to know more. I’m not as ignorant as it’s possible to be but I know there’s vastly more out there than I’ve discovered. So if you read my list and find it offends you with its monochrome, you could suppose it’s simply ignorance on my part and try to educate me, and I’d like that very much. The likely consequence is that I will have respect for your opinions and values. I might listen to what you have to say in arguments about things other than explorers with a desire to be sympathetic to your point of view. Or you could tell me how bigoted it is and get in my face about it and very all your friends and make me feel stupid and a jerk. You could suggest I did no research and don’t know what I’m talking about (and you’d be correct). You could tell me I’m an ignorant dick. You could do that. I don’t think I’ll be having much respect for your opinions and values if you do.

You realise that the bedrock of bigotry is ignorance, right? You realise that taking that ignorance and educating it makes a mind more open than closed, right? You realise that yelling “stupid” does the opposite, right?

So my plea to anyone who’s still reading is this: the next time anyone posts anything on the internet (say, for example, their best SFF releases of 2014, just by way of something that might come around at some point), and it turns out to be full of white dudes, or otherwise excludes a large section of thought or society, grit your teeth and swear quietly in a corner and teach rather than torment. Pretty please?

OK. Done now. Thank you for listening. This week’s giveaway book is a signed hardcover copy of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice.

thieftakers apprentice cover

Usual deal – comment on this post before May 11th and I’ll randomly select a lucky victim for a free copy. In addition, if anyone wants to play, I’m going to give away a an Angry Dragons T-shirt for the most interesting explorer anyone can point me at who isn’t a white dude. You can enter as may times as you like and I’ll count the first two entries – the rest are just for fun and showing off.

Although, though no one has yet complained about how long it takes me to get to the post office and post things, it can take a while and if you live abroad then it can take even longer. Sorry about that, but they do get there eventually. Well, so far. I am currently very behind so if you’re waiting for a book from a previous giveaway then, er, sorry. They’re packaged up now and should go in the post today.


18 Responses to “Ignorance, Bigotry and a Free Book (5/5/2014)”

  1. Ade Couper (@bigade1665) says:

    Ok, applying a bit of lateral thinking here….how about Alex Haley? He explored his family & cultural history, & gave the 1st widely-read insight into the past of Afro-Americans….

  2. Laura says:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estevanico there is Estevan.

    “Long before the explorers Lewis and Clark crossed the continent, Esteban would traverse the land that later became the United States, through the Southwest, to the Pacific Ocean. Esteban/Estevanico was born in West Africa and sold into slavery in a Portuguese town on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. According to the historian Robert Goodwin, Esteban was shipped to Spain as a slave from the town of Azemmour, in Morocco. He and three others travelled through what is now Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Northern Mexico, ultimately a total of 15,000 miles! Esteban was killed in May 1539 by the Zuni Indians of Hawikuh in New Mexico, as they regarded him as a harbinger of more unwanted and dangerous visitors. By the time of his death, Esteban and his three companions had seen more of the North American southwest than any other non-Native American.”

    Or Matthew Henson – Mr. Matthew Henson (1866-1955) was a famous explorer and associate of Robert Peary. While he was an exceptional seaman, Mr. Henson is mostly noted for his expedition to the North Pole in 1909. On this voyage, he became the first person to reach the geographic North Pole. Later in his life, Mr. Henson was awarded a silver medal and recognized by presidents Truman and Eisenhower for his incredible achievement.

    These two are the most interesting, my son learned about Matthew Henson during his explorers topic last year :)

  3. Weirdmage says:

    As a Norwegian, I would have put Roald Amundsen and Fritjof Nansen on the list of explorers. But they are of course both white, so that won’t help diversity much.

    Two explorers I would also place on the list, who are not white are:

    -Ibn Batutta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Battuta)
    -Zheng He (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zheng_He)

    Ibn Batutta beats Marco Polo hands down. And his journeys are definitely real, unlke Polo’s who has some discrepancies in his descriptions taht leaves a question mark about how far he really travelled.
    Zhen He did some incredible journeys, and some prople even credit him with sailing to the West coast of America. Although that is not likely, it makes for an interesting question; What if the Chinese had colonised America before Columbus?

    There is a female explorer, who was either British or USAian who travelled extensively in the 19th century, but I can’t remember her name.

  4. Jack says:

    How about: Bessie Colman (USA, 1892-1926) first black female aviator (though she didn’t manage to do any exploring as far as I can tell, stuck to barnstorming.) And: Ynes Mexica (Mexico, b.1870) botanist, who travelled alone in Mexico, Alaska and South America and collected 145,000 plant specimins. Or Junko Tabei (Japan) who became the first woman to summit Everest in 1975 and now campaigns for sustainable mountaineering. http://www.autostraddle.com/10-amazing-lady-explorers-who-are-not-columbus-147470/

  5. Paul Walsh says:

    Sacagawea is probably an obvious one. technically the guide but we all know Lewis and Clark were rubbish and she did all the hard work.

  6. Paul Walsh says:

    Plus the best Arabic explorer
    Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta
    Like the great Johnny Cash He was everywhere

  7. Andrew Angel says:

    The Explorer space craft wasn’t a white dude – does that count?

  8. Jane Barnett says:

    Mary Henrietta Kingsley, a Victorian lady from Islington who travelled all over Africa and may be the original Terrifying Englishwoman. She also wrote thrilling books about it. Definitely worth further reading.

  9. Adam Parkinson says:

    How about Xuan Zang the Chinese Buddhist monk who wandered China, Asia and India for 16 years, On foot!

  10. jacky khan says:

    Hi just read all..didnt scroll..and it struck me that there are some we wouldnt class as explorers because of their (to ‘us’) bad press. Im thinking Genghis Khan as an example. From his neck of the woods his ‘conquering’ was also maybe seen as exploration…Hannibal…elephant pre-occupation aside, same kinda issue. That of ‘discovering’ us! We dont look at the subject of starting explorations from anywhere but the west. Uk..europe..usa etc. This gives 2 sides to the bias (or ignorance (-; ); That the explorer will by default be white(ish) and that the discovered will be ‘the other’ (not white-ish). A third default also fixes on our ‘great age of discovery’ – victorian and back…at this time again the default will be white and male…no-one else was doing anything..or so we are led to believe…look at history deeper and we see many intrepid women explorers. The fact it was frowned upon and thus passed over means we have/ had no real open promotion of these people even now..thus i cant recall names!! Again the race card has the same effect. One only has to look at the exploration of everest to see the invaluable work of the sherpas. Altho we know of 1 many others are passed over..tensing being an anomalie that popped up as a direct result of his promotion by his peer..an unusual situation then, and now it would appear! So there are many many non white men and women. But youre right we only ever look out from our lands across history…never back at ourselves…we never needed discovering..we were always there…as opposed to china..the congo or the east. Maybe ‘they’ took a quick look at ‘us’ and ran a mile! Who would blame ‘them’. I hope ive managed to garble my way thru clearly enough to makes sense without offending anyone. Never dived in like this…just thought i would pass on the thoughts that popped into my head (thus emptying out names etc of the famous..tried to skim over that but it does show i guess..sorry ??)

    Be happy.. jacky khan xxx

  11. Alex says:

    Europeans really did do more global exploration than previous cultures, largely thanks to technical innovations such as the carrack. That said, the most epic non-European explorers that I know of are the unnamed Phoenicians who (reportedly) circumnavigated Africa c. 600 BCE, during the reign of the Egyptian King Necho II.


    Also worth mentioning: the Chinese explorer Zeng He (c. 1400 CE), and of course every Polynesian seafarer ever.



  12. Ros Jackson says:

    The only major explorer I can think of who hasn’t been mentioned is William Dampier, again a white dude. In his time (early 1700s) the Kit Cat club were very active in the publishing world. They weren’t just one of the first gentleman’s clubs, they were also a society of men who were very active in suppressing women’s voices. It was one of those times when things were definitely getting worse for women.

    Anne Bonny and Mary Read probably explored a fair bit as pirates, but they had to pretend to be men to even get on a ship. (Dampier and Drake were pirates too, more or less).

  13. Tom says:

    well, there’s always Dora.

    seriously though, try Matthew Henso, first African-American arctic explorer

  14. Tom says:

    or try Zheng He for a chinese explorer

  15. Kris says:

    Muhammad al-Idrisi, 12th century geographer and explorer of wild uncivilized lands like France and England. :)

  16. Mango Heroics says:

    I was going to mention Sacajawea, with the same disclaimers as Paul already did. And Zheng He, but He’s been mentioned twice already. There have been astronauts who were not white dudes. After that, I want to turn to fictional characters, but that won’t do. Oh well. Maybe I’ll come back later for a second chance.

  17. Michael P says:

    First off, we can always use more Zafir. She is certainly what made Dragon Queen so good.
    And on the ’strong female’ note, how about Amelia Earhart? While not an explorer, per se, she most assuredly pushed boundaries, and went to explore where no man, at that time, had yet thought to go.

  18. Stephen says:

    The Gods of Random decree Tom shall win the book. As for the rest, you were all awesome with so many interesting lives to go and research that it was really, really hard to actually pick one. But pick I have, and now I’ll go back to letting the Gods of Random do the hard work in future!

Leave a Reply