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Fair and Dark creatures - Any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Research' started by snabjorn, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. I'm in a similar predicament. But there's a logical, non-racist explanation for it. My story draws heavily from medieval Europe and the Crusades. As I write from the point of view of the western powers, the antagonists are distinguished by their darker skin. That being said, I've done several things to step away from the racial stereotype (not that there was any, but I could already hear the criticism).

    First of all, my story is a dark fantasy, which means there's no such thing as good and evil. It's just different shades of grey. There are bad guys on both sides, and there are good guys on both sides. Like Kingdom of Heaven, another (historical) crusader story, I strive to portray good people on both sides.

    Secondly, one of my main character's friends and mentors is Abbas-al-Morim (the namesake for my nickname here) which is an interesting character. He's a sutler who started to work for the poor brothers of St. Marke and who now travels with my main character's mentor. What makes him so interesting is that he's very extra-ordinary. He's got an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and is more of an academic than a good's peddler. He has learned to read and write and throughout the story he offers critical insights on both the western and the southern powers. He's the most rational, broad-minded character in the book. He's got his small sides too - he's not just a flat character to balance things out. But he does add some color to the story. Literally, and figuratively.

    EDIT: I just wanted to add that I think token characters of color are worse than no characters of color. Token characters are there just because they have a skin color - or the only reason they have that skin color is to have diversity. That makes those characters unimportant, or worse, an anomaly in the world that can break the suspension of disbelief. Let's be honest, if you want to write a story about medieval knights, in a western European setting (or a Fantasy equivalent, to be more precise) then you should go for it! Having black people pop up in a setting like that makes no sense.

    Forcing people to write stories in settings that include another ethnicity isn't a solution. I'm sorry, but I'm just not that into African culture. I think the Zulu are quite interesting and ancient Egypt is kind of cool but that's it. I'm not that interested in Middle Eastern cultures either.

    The "Saracens" in my fantasy crusader story have more in common with the Persian empire than the Saracen one. I write what I want to write and I don't think diversity should be an issue. It only becomes an issue when you do write about people of color but use them in a very cliché way.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
  2. Erudite

    Erudite Scribe

    Dark skin tones relate to "misdeeds" through lack of education in most situations. It's still largely built into our social conditioning that "dark" is bad, and "white" is right.

    If you have valid reasons to have them darker skinned, all the best. Just a note though : creatures who live in caves would have light skin, or even transparent (see "transparent fish" in google search). The only reason someone would be darker skinned, would be from intense (and hot) light exposure over centuries, chemical causation, or dirt. If there's no good reason for them to be dark, find another way to differentiate them.
  3. snabjorn

    snabjorn Dreamer

    Well, one of the reasons I want them to be darker skinned is because I find people with a glow very pretty and attractive. And that's also kind of what I want to portray with these creatures. They don't necessarily have to live underground, that was just my first thought.. But it totally makes sense what all of you are saying about them being more like greyish pale. Luckily I'm not that far in my story yet and there is still time for changes. I just wanted some thoughts on it since it suddenly came to my mind. So thanks to everyone for the responses. I will definitely take it into consideration :)
  4. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    As far as my black-elves go, I made them black-skinned because that's how they're described in the Norse myths -- "black as pitch", as I recall. Simply going the "black Irish" route and making them light-skinned and dark-haired wouldn't work, because more than one of my light-elven characters has those traits, and I wanted the differences between the races to be much more distinct. They aren't simply a different culture of elves, as Tolkien did; they have a completely different origin than the light-elves.
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