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In a recent blog, I mentioned the “erasure” of certain writers. I think this topic deserves further discussion. Tying this to my recent comments about the award, self-published authors are now falling into this category. So what is erasure?

It’s fairly clear from the definition of the word. Erasure, when applied to people, means ignoring, removing references to, falsifying, or re-explain evidence about some individual or group in history, in books, academia, the news media or other similar sources. In some cases, this is just a matter of ignorance about history or laziness about doing research, but in extreme cases it can be an example of denialism, or a choice to deny reality because it’s an uncomfortable truth.

There are a number of groups that typically suffer from erasure about contributions in our culture. Examples include people of color (POC), older women, women in general, LGBTQ persons and other minorities. Talent, accomplishments and contributions from these groups are typically ignored, under-rated, or somehow lost from cultural memory.

In history, erasure means that only African Americans were involved in the US Civil Rights movement, and feminists and gays have nothing to do with it. It means that Native Americans almost totally disappeared from recorded history in the 19th century. It means LGBTQ troops didn’t serve in the armed forces during WWI and WWII. It means that bisexuality doesn’t really exist; there’s no such thing as non-binary gender, and women beyond child-bearing age have no value.

In the writing and publishing world, erasure means certain individuals will be promoted as “stars” and others who don’t fit the popular mold will be “erased,” even if they do fairly brilliant work. This has effects in the amount and type of work that’s published, but also in what’s remembered. For example, Wells, Verne, Asimov and Heinlein have a secure place in the history of science fiction, but where are Charles W. Chesnutt and Jane Louden?

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