While we’ve mentioned our non-fiction book club, Of Mycenaean Men, we’re also preparing A Pun Goes Here: A Fiction Book Club. A Pun Goes Here will have a similar structure as Of Mycenaean Men, but will bring together a collection of 12 works of fiction to cultivate data literacy in archaeology.
We’ll explain how these guides cultivate data literacy in the future (when we test Of Mycenaean Men) and for today, we’re focusing on a couple issues we had when assembling A Pun Goes Here. The first was that The Alexandria Archive Institute staff love science fiction and fantasy. While this is not the worst problem, it meant that we almost created a “fiction” book club that was just Sci-Fi.
And while we might do that in the future, some people don’t read sci-fi and for this data story, we wanted to include those folks too. So, we expanded our search to include books from other genres, relying more on recommendations and keyword searches.
This was fine, until we recognized a second problem. The issue was that few recommendation lists for archaeology in fiction consider author demographics. Most suggest the same white male writers with a handful of white women. And none of those lists seemed to realize this.
Beyond diverse topics in data stories, the DLP wants to promote the work of historically minoritized creators. So it was important to us that A Pun Goes Here had authors from a variety of backgrounds. That meant getting creative when it came to finding works to include.
This was an interesting problem because, as avid sci-fi readers, recommending diverse authors in that genre was easy. Within sci-fi, we found many authors from minoritized groups using archaeology in some way to tell their own stories, re-exploring previously colonial histories.
However, outside of sci-fi, hours of searching found few, if any, non-genre, true-crime, or romance novels written by people of diverse backgrounds that included archaeology. We’ve explored some of the reasons that might be the case previously for popular science, and putting this data story together really highlighted this issue.
Our search, though, was not in vain! A few lists recommended Gigi Pandian, a mixed race author. And we found Qinghan CeCe‘s work by combining keywords like “Ancient China” and “mystery”.
Currently, A Pun Goes Here has 11 potential works in the list. This includes six white women authors, of a variety of nationalities, and five authors of racially minoritized backgrounds. Acknowledging this is part of our commitment to transparency, so that our users know that we are aware of who we recommend.
Furthermore, we’ve included this info in our Aggregative series book club data. This data set is something we’ll share publicly when we begin testing Of Myceneaean Men and includes demographic information about the first author of all the books in our Aggregative series.
A Pun Goes Here is a work in progress though so, if our readers have works to suggest, we’d love to hear about them. Even more so if you’re the one writing such works. We’d love to hear from archaeologists of color or archaeologists of minoritized genders writing fiction. Or from non-archaeologists of color or of minoritized genders who are writing genre-fiction including archaeology. Let us know where to find your stuff and maybe we can incorporate it into a future data story!