SFF in Conversation

SFF in Conversation – Mahvesh Murad: Diversity is a Tricky Word

SFF in Conversation is a new monthly feature on The Book Smugglers in which we invite guests to talk about a variety of topics important to speculative fiction fans, authors, and readers. Our vision is to create a safe (moderated) space for thoughtful conversation about the genre, with a special focus on inclusivity and diversity in SFF. Anyone can participate and we are welcoming emailed topic submissions from authors, bloggers, readers, and fans of all categories, age ranges, and subgenres beneath the speculative fiction umbrella.

Today, we have the pleasure and the honour to host editor and podcaster Mahvesh Murad to talk about diversity and the way that we center the discussion about it. This essay was originally published as her introduction to The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 4 and is being reprinted here with her and the publisher’s permission.

Mahvesh Murad Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]


Diversity is a tricky word. We talk about it all the time. We talk about the need for diverse voices and diverse books but I’ve always wondered what that really means. Diverse for whom? Not for me, surely? I’ve lived in Karachi my entire life – stories from Asia are not diverse to me; they’re my childhood. Diversity is a problematic term for me, because it often seems to indicate that the inclusion of who or what the West sees as the exotic Other into Western mainstream literature is enough to make a difference. But it isn’t. And it won’t be until there is a shift of the entire status quo. So while there are stories in this book about aliens and spaceships, stories about strange beings, politics, family and love, stories about magic and power, there are, most importantly, stories with the magic and the power to change the way you see speculative fiction.

But let me make this claim: this is not a book of diverse stories. This is a book of really great stories from all over the world, by writers who bring a new perspective that doesn’t fit in with the mainstream western status quo. These are writers who don’t care what the mainstream thinks or wants, can understand or digest. These are writers who write with a ferocity and a truth that represents their cultural heritage, their lives and our world.

This is a book that comes as close to representing the world I know and live in, the world I am excited by, frustrated by, the world I marvel at every single day. Diversity isn’t something I need to find – it isn’t something you need to find either. It’s always been around you. Embrace it. Let it in. It has a story to tell you. The world is always bigger and better than we know.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity edit this volume, and so immensely grateful to each of the writers who let us publish their stories. This book belongs to each of you, to the world you are a part of and the worlds you create. These are your voices, your visions, your futures. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Changing the status quo, shifting the centre away from the West & forcing it wider to encompass more is never going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. To paraphrase the poet Allama Iqbal, don’t be frightened of these furious violent winds – they blow only to make you fly higher.


Mahvesh Murad is a book critic & recovering radio show host. She writes for multiple publications and hosts the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi. She was born & raised in Karachi, Pakistan, where she still lives.

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.


  • S. C. Flynn
    January 28, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Very interesting new feature.

  • Weekend Links: January 30, 2016 | SF Bluestocking
    January 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    […] the Book Smugglers, Mahvesh Murad talks about what a tricky word diversity is in an essay reprinted from Volume IV of the Apex Book of World […]

  • Ann @ Writing Lunacies
    February 9, 2016 at 9:07 am

    That is a great idea to discuss and mull over. I’m from Asia and certainly, I don’t clamor for “more diversity” in the Asian people around me, but I do read a lot of fiction books from the West, mostly by authors from USA or Europe, and I often wonder about diversity in terms of cultural perspectives and identities. And it’s a great thing to discuss, esp in a beloved genre like fantasy.

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