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What I'm Saying Is, The Search For Equality Is Pretty Messy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    I agree with the sentiment that calling sexists sexists would be more helpful in some instances than differentiating between feminists and people who don’t consider themselves such.
    I disagree with quite a few things some feminists say and I’m not sure if I would give myself that label or not, depends on the definition, but if I read or hear someone say that they’re against feminism, I tend to believe they think that women are supposed to obey their husbands/fathers/brothers etc. again, aren’t supposed to have jobs outside of the house, are intellectually inferior and so on. I had a chat with Mindfire about this, so it can be cleared up if there’s a chance to, but if there isn’t, I tend to think the person wants to rob me of my rights which makes me less inclined to listen to anything else they’ve got to say.
    In writing, I think it would be really helpful if all this fuss about writing female characters would stop. If a male writer takes his inspiration from the women in his life and writes the female character as a person with some amount of respect, he should be alright. The vast majority of people interact with people of the opposite gender on a regular basis, so why act as if they were an alien species?

    Being white, I’m probably not supposed to say the same for writing non-white characters but I can state that it would be much easier to write them if they weren’t considered my statement on non-white people. The protagonist of my WIP “happened” to have dark skin and I didn’t think much about in the beginning but reading many online discussions about the subject, I started to wonder if everything she does would be considered a message of some sort. So I’ve decided to include more PoCs, some of very different background and hope this will be less so but I’m still left wondering if a character who is the son of a white man and a PoC woman counts as a PoC or not. This is a question I feel quite bothered by in itself because this kind of thinking is strongly discouraged where I come from.

    I have to admit that I’m also slightly baffled by the way the entire discussion about racism and hatred between ethnic groups is always dominated by some dichotomy between “white people” and “everyone else.”
    I probably don’t have to mention that “everyone else” is pretty diverse and the differences between say Chinese and Nigerians are probably as pronounced as the differences between Europeans and any of those ethnicities. I also highly doubt that a white westerner would be granted “privilege” because of this status in China.
    The worst crimes against ethnic groups in the last century have been committed against people who didn’t look very different from the perpetrators at all.
    Oppression of other ethnic groups (other cultures, religions...) is not something only white people do to others but something humans often do in some situations for a variety of reasons. Often, the “privileged” group is the one the majority of people in a given country and immigrants, minorities living in this country etc. are treated with distrust or worse.
    I understand why a story set in present day USA should represent the population and issues relevant there at the time the story is written. I don’t understand why the same issues are supposed to be relevant in a fantasy world though. I consider it extremely complicated to create a situation similar to the one created by immigration by people from very different ethnic groups and the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the US and I don’t see any reason why I should try.
    Discrimination, hatred against other groups, ethnic cleansings and similar play a huge role in my stories but they’re not linked to skin colour as the most important difference.
    A characters’ background and experience should always be taken into account of course but if it’s a fantasy story it’s one in the fantasy society with its history that’s different from real world history because magic, dragons, undead, Orcs or whatever exist in this world while historical events of the real world do not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
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  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    @Amanita: It depends to some extent on what kind of fantasy world you want to make. If you want to mirror Medieval Europe, that setting is incomplete without representing the Silk Road, the Moors, and other outside influences. If you want to mirror China during a xenophobic period, it makes sense to have an isolated world. (I like to work with Western and Southern Europe from the 1600s to the early 1900s, so I pretty much have to reflect the influence of other regions.)
     
  3. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    These statements fall onto a spectrum that goes from neutral ("I disagree with you," implying relativism and maybe even the potential to change someone's mind) to confrontational ("You are wrong," implying there is a right side of the argument and I know what it is better than you do). Hostility would be your previous example of throwing in a "moron" for an ad hominem jab on top of the absolute statement.

    "I disagree with you" is, as far as I've ever seen in action, the farthest point away from "hostile" on this spectrum. When presented tactfully, it's right next door to saying "That's an interesting point--here's what I think." It almost always leads to both parties elaborating on their positions and having a worthwhile discussion.

    "You are wrong" can be almost as neutral in instances where the hypothetical I am presenting facts to counter the opinion of the hypothetical you.

    For instance, Tumblr social justice style, Hypothetical You says, "My neighbors are on food stamps but I saw one of their kids walking around with the latest Nintendo handheld. They can't manage money and their benefits should be cut off."

    Hypothetical I reply, "You're describing my family. My little brother bought me that device for my birthday. He fished coins out of gutters and mowed lawns and painted murals for months to save up the money. You are wrong."

    Personal? Yes, very. Hostile? No.

    I must admit, it explains a lot of our exchanges if you assume all disagreement has inherent hostility. ;)

    You're a writer. You have power beyond your daily interactions with individual people. You are the media. You can represent whatever you want.

    Don't limit yourself to the individual level. Don't throw up your hands just because you might never be at the top of the New York Times best seller list and the reach of your voice may be limited to a relatively small audience. Don't abdicate that power. You might be a drop in a bucket, but if you set a bucket out in the rain, eventually it will overflow.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
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  4. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    You make a lot of great points. I like this one the most. Yes, modern day Earth has many social injustices, but who is to say that those social injustices have to have the same weight or (in)tolerances in a fantasy setting?

    Is it the duty of every fantasy author to mimic Earth, it's population, and all the ailments plaguing it? Are we writing fantasy, or are we writing social commentary?

    Further, should we establish a checklist of what should be in all books? Do I have a PoC, a LGBT, an atheist, a strong female, a physically disabled, a mentally disabled, a war veteran, an immigrant, one of each of my minority races, a misunderstood dragon, a senior citizen, a peaceful orc, an orphan, and.....

    I'm sure you get the point.

    These subjects make me wonder when the notion of artistic freedom existed? Are we to turn our nose up at Robert E Howard and his Conan universe? I just read Paul S. Kemp. Even though he addressed the concept of gender inequality, he had the audacity to have not just one, but two Damsels in Distress. Women. In need of rescue. Did he not get the memo?

    These discussions are as sterilizing to fantasy fiction as the rules of writing discussions that crop up (and almost with the same frequency). Don't give me rules that govern who my cast should be, how I treat them, and what plots I wish to use to tell my story.

    People who want that kind of diversity have the freedom to do as they wish. You have a laptop, with some kind of word processing program, and the time. Go crazy. And I'll do the same, but with my story.
     
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  5. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    I look forward to the day when people realize that a general call for better representation does not equal a checklist of what your story must include to be "inclusive enough," and also that "I don't want to mimic modern-day Earth" does not equal "Instead I will perpetuate a tired and inaccurate model of what medieval Europe was like," and finally that "If you want diversity, go write it yourself" does not equal a solution to the problem.

    Also, not to beat Pacific Rim into the ground or anything because I feel like I talk about it here all the time, but it included a huge chunk of that satirical checklist, and that was no accident. It was done with intent. It was done in the spaces between the first draft (I know; I've read it) and the finished film. And it was a damn fine story. If that can happen in a movie about giant robots punching giant monsters, there is literally no reason why it can't happen in a fantasy novel. I'm not even talking about "modern" social issues transplanted to a different era/world (which feels shoehorned in many cases, but I also believe it's possible to represent the real struggles people face in a fantasy world). I'm just talking about the cast here.

    I've long since learned my lesson about asserting that writers "should" be able to portray a broad cross-section of humanity, lest they get the notion that I'm ~telling them what to write~, so instead I'll ask an honest question, and anyone can answer. What exactly is detrimental about running your creative process through an extra step to ensure that you populate your story with various kinds of people?
     
  6. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I agree with your post's larger point, but even though I like Howard's writing style and that he takes his characters to exotic lands, I do find his portrayal of non-Western peoples (especially Africans) regrettable even if it was symptomatic of his time and place. I furthermore doubt artistic freedom was much greater in the old pulp days than it is today, at least with regards to social justice issues. The pendulum would have simply swung in the opposite direction.

    Any writer who wants to create whole casts of distinct characters will have to differentiate all them somehow. I don't think anyone here would prefer to write entire societies of clones with synchronized thoughts and opinions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  7. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    When I first set out to detail my universe, I focused on what I felt were building blocks of societies. You have religion (and origin stories), communal hierarchy, government, language, physical traits common among a people, wars, migrations, economy, and sustenance.

    Then I focused on what intrigued me. Dragons, magic systems, bestiary, astrophysics, the mystery one feels when they reflect on a past beyond record, uncertainty of fate and national history,

    Then I focused on characters.

    That is what interests me as a reader, and, now, as a writer. I write about characters in that setting, dealing with life, death, the uncertainty of the hereafter, of multiple religions espousing multiple truths, of deities walking the land, destroying as they scream either in pain, rage, or anguish, of dragons swarming upon a city and laying waste without reason, of wonders buried in the frozen lands, of spirits animating bodies, of voluntary possession, of power, and struggle, and so much more.

    These are the things that excite me. My skin prickles when I think of the story, buried in the vortex of my imagination, needing a steady hand to pull it clear and polish it off. My heart stutters when I read another author echoing my thoughts. I'm jealous, and envious, and enthralled.

    Other things don't interest me. I can turn on the TV and get my full does of a diversified cast. I enjoy many shows that feature such casts (my latest being Scandel). But I don't want them in my books. TV is a relaxing way to waste some time. Books are my dreams, my passion.

    I do have male and female characters. I do have male and female secondary characters. I'll even have a damsel in distress, or a strong male, or a weak female, or a woman that dies. I've killed men, and women, and birds, and dogs, and etc. Do I hate animals? Nope. I love them, actually. Do I need to make a strong bird character that saves a man from the clutches of a strong female antagonist that isn't portrayed as evil because then sensitive readers will think I portrayed her as such to associate women with witches? Nope. That story doesn't intrigue me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  8. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    I really do wonder where I've mentioned that I want to write an all-white, pseudo-medieval setting where cultures do not influence each other.
    Society isn't medieval and cultures do influence each other a lot but there's no country which has been discovered by white sailors who considered it free for settlement even though there were native people living there, gradually settled there in larger numbers, drastically decimating the native population, later brought people from a very different part of the world there by force to work as slaves and even later attracted immigrants from very different diverse ethnicities and had the formerly enslaved people struggle for equality which they were formally granted but prejudice in favour of the white inhabitants still lingers. (Sorry for the inaccuracies but I didn't want this to take up too much space.)
    Therefore, there's no reason why the problems specific to such a society should exist there, it actually wouldn't make much sense if they did.

    It's probably obvious that the interaction of different groups in a medieval setting would be very different. Religion would be a much bigger issue than skin colour for one.
    I remember a version of Perceval where his father lived with a black woman before he married Perceval's mother. His half-brother later helps Perceval against an enemy and converts to Christianity which makes him perfectly acceptable despite of his physical differences.
    The theories on race and supposed racial inferiority came up later with colonialism leading to "scientific" attempts to "prove" it in the 19th century. They would be quite anachronistic in a medieval setting.

    So, a general question from me:
    Do the "pro-diversity-advocates" want to have people of different skin colours, cultures, etc. portrayed in a positive light, as main characters who are able to influence their destiny/that of the world depending on the story? Or do they want stories that deal with the problems that come up between different ethnic groups on modern day earth/ in modern day US and make a direct statement about them?
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  9. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I'll just speak personally, since I don't think I agree with anyone else in the thread.

    I don't care about the skin color of your protagonists. But I've read the fantasy version of medieval Europe over and over, and quite frankly, it bores me to see it keep being reused. I want ancient China! I want pre-Columbian America! I want the age of exploration! I want any time and place you can give me, so long as it's not freaking medieval Europe again!

    I don't care about the gender of your protagonists. But I'm tired of farm boys and princes. Can't a single mother save the world? How about a military medic? Or what about a tribal shaman--one NOT in another of those science-is-evil stories, because I'm sick of those, too!

    I don't care if your protagonists are gay or straight. But wouldn't it open up more opportunities if you portrayed different kinds of love? A soldier and a commander. A spy and a diplomat. A tyrant and a rebel. But please, no more helpless maidens rescued by brave knights.

    I reserve the right to hate stories where an active character rescues and woos a completely helpless character, because I think one-sided gratitude is a terrible foundation for a romance. And I reserve the right to be totally weirded out if you never allow your female characters to do the things your male characters do all the time. But this isn't about representation for me, it's about the power of fantasy, the genre that can do anything, and about actually seeing that power put to use.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Amanita, I've stayed out of this discussion up until now because I covered my stance on this in the other diversity thread before. I don't see the point in retreading things I've already said, but I think this is a new point that I haven't considered before.

    I'm all for diversity in fantasy, but for me it doesn't need to be necessarily only to show non-white, non-straight characters in a positive light only. If we do that as writers, then we're severely limiting the scope of many great characters throughout history. For example in the non-fantasy realm, Gus Fring, the villain in Breaking Bad, is of Venezuelan descent and is hinted at as being gay. He's not portrayed as a horrible person because of these things, but because he's a money crazed, cold-hearted maniac. There wasn't a point where I thought "Gus Fring is a poor representation for South Americans and gays." It just made me think, "This guy is an awesome villain with an interesting back story that led him to where he is now." If he was played like a stereotype and his race and sexuality were played up as part of his villainy, then it would be a different story. But because he came from a different background than I am used to, it made me personally more interested in him rising up the ranks to become who he did.

    For me, I'd like to see characters from different kind of backgrounds in stories because they offer something different that I may have not experienced before as a reader and writer. However, being fantasy, I'd love to see writers explore these issues in their own creative ways. Letting someone pressure you into writing specific kinds of characters even if they don't fit your story, I don't think that's what people are saying. Pro-diversity advocates aren't saying to just shoehorn different kinds of people into a story so it pleases everyone, but it's more about what Feo said about offering up different kinds of stories that maybe haven't been told yet. Instead of a farm boy on a quest, why not a single mother, like he said? It allows a different perspective and POV on fantasy worlds that could be explored deeper and deeper.

    Fantasy is such a wide genre, so why not crack it open even more? I think the push for diversity could just be the push for different kinds of stories and characters than we keep getting over and over again. At least that's how I interpret it.
     
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  11. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    When my characters form, I focus on them as individuals, not their demographics. I never ask myself, "would a woman say this?" or "would a black man do that?" I ask myself, "would this person do this or say that?" Be true to the characters and to hell with everything else.
     
  12. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    I thought I made it clear that when I said "various kinds of people" in the context of this discussion, I was asking about characters' race, gender, and sexuality, not homogeneous behavior, but if not I'll just specify that now.

    Again, my hypothetical practice is meant to ensure diversity in your cast, not dictate what those characters do or want once you have created them. I don't understand how people have so thoroughly conflated these ideas.

    My co-writers and I had already developed the mechanics of our world and written the first draft of the story when we realized that there was no reason at all that our female squire could not be mixed race, or that our young woman who is reluctant about her arranged marriage couldn't be reluctant in part because she's not attracted to men. These aspects of their characters have not become the focus of their arcs. They haven't deviated the course of our story in the slightest.

    The thing about adding more diversity to your world is that it means that if you have a prominent character that can be described as part of a certain population, and you make that character an antagonist, or weak, or negative in some other way, the more minor characters who are also part of that population will make it clear that you as the author don't subscribe to a particular stereotype. In the case of your weak women/damsel in distress, the inclusion of more women who aren't damsels in distress will counteract any negative connotations that come with having the only woman in your story be the one that needs rescuing. I get that the negative connotations don't concern you, but I'm just throwing that out there in case it concerns anyone else.

    Also, I had a giggle when you included "a LGBT" in your checklist earlier. If you ever find a writer who managed to create a character that is lesbian and gay and bi and trans (throw in queer and asexual just for fun!), please let me know.

    I have no idea why you think the swath of social problems in America are only specific to America. The rest of the world has more than its fair share of racism, homophobia, and misogyny too, and has throughout history. There are flavors of it everywhere; you can draw on any of them for inspiration, or create entirely new problems for your fantasy world.

    Again, I was not asking about social problems, but rather the diversity of the cast. Writing a diverse cast does not require you to transpose modern Earth sensibilities on your fantasy world. There seems to be a misconception here that the people are the social issues. If they were, every single human being on Earth right now who identifies as gay, for instance, would be out campaigning for gay marriage every waking moment. They're not. They have lives. They have stories that do not revolve around them being gay. Being gay is part of who they are; it's not their whole story.

    The terms we use to discuss race were, in large part, coined at that time. The idea of racial differences was not. Class distinctions based on race have been with us throughout history.

    I have already answered this. Overlaying "gay marriage" in a fantasy world would be very difficult--not impossible--to pull off without making it terminally silly and grating to the reader. Adding "and this character is gay" with the additional considerations of what that means in their world, on the other hand, is a readily achievable goal.

    We agree a lot. For me it's about both the importance of representation and the power and potential of the fantasy genre.

    Nor for me. See above in my response to Ankari for reasons why more diversity will actually solve the "problem" of making a villain non-white and non-straight.
     
  13. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Ran out of space. Continued:

    I do that too. As stated in other threads, I would never ever encourage someone to approach this problem with the questions "would a woman say this?" or "would a black man do that?" Those are generalizations and they won't lead to well-rounded characters, and might even end up perpetuating sexism or racism. But including women characters and black characters and every other kind of character does not inherently lead to sexism or racism. It's more likely to help combat it. Just by including them! Amazing. That's the difference between tokenism ("would a black man do that?") and inclusion.

    After the first draft of The Stone Front, my co-writers and I looked back and discovered we had written a story full of straight white people. This is partly because we're straight white people, but that's not necessarily the root cause--a lot of stuff gets internalized no matter who you are. Look at Bryan Lee O'Malley.

    The point is, none of this occurs in a vacuum, and I have read enough of the fantasy genre to see that diversity in representation does not just "happen" when authors ignore it. In fact, every single interview I've ever read with an author who wrote a compelling story that embraces a diverse cast takes pains to mention the intent it.

    When you have a "to hell with everyone else" attitude, you're statistically very likely to end up with a story that would fit right in on that list Feo posted, and Feo is not the only one who is tired of reading those things. There are plenty of people who are more likely to read work by an author who cares not only about telling a great story, but also about using a lot of different kinds of characters to tell it and representing something that diverges from all those stories we've read before. Nobody can make you care about this if you don't; I wouldn't dream of trying. I'll just take my time and money elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  14. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    For me, that would be considered subplots. How do they not influence the overall direction of the story? If the woman set to marry, for instance, felt reluctant to wed this man because she found out he was gay, doesn't that create a different story? Or if she recently acquired knowledge of a family curse that demands the first born is claimed by the demons of hell, isn't that a different story?

    And to the "mixed race" squire. That may or may not have an impact on her story. In my world, mixed-blood people have different levels of acceptance from the "parent" races. Some would be severe (death), others would be minor (sorrow), and others would nonexistent. So, for me, it would change the story significantly.
     
  15. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Just to clarify, what I said was to hell with everything else, not everyone else. My point was be true to the characters and story and a lot of these problems will be solved. By being true to the characters and making sure they aren't just xerox versions of each other, I think you'll have diversity covered. Much of my first story took place in the desert, so there were some characters reflecting that culture. The story I'm writing now has trade guilds hiring a bunch of people from all sorts of regions for a rescue expedition to an island, so there are characters of different races or species. In both cases the story and setting dictated it so I did it. When I cast my characters, I don't do so based on an affirmative action program. I cast whichever character I think is best for that role. If that happens to be a lesbian atheist black woman in a wheel chair, so be it. If it happens to be a straight white male, so be it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  16. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    With regards to racial diversity, that would depend on the setting. People have always traveled and explored to far-off parts of the world, so having one or two European people visiting ancient Kush (aka Nubia or "Aethiopia") may not necessarily be inaccurate. Nonetheless I would still expect the local African people to predominate the cast there, and most likely they would regard our hypothetical European visitors as an exotic curiosity. If anything, having a lot of major non-African characters in Kush would detract from that setting's fundamentally African character, and people of African heritage would definitely not appreciate that.

    To be sure, racial diversity would make more sense in trans-continental civilizations such as classical Greece or Rome. African characters do pop up in Greek mythology and art from time to time. For example Perseus married a Kushite woman after saving her from a sea monster, and a Kushite king name Memnon did fight at Troy. One thing I like about the ancient Mediterranean is that you had a bunch of racially and culturally distinct people living within short boat trips of one another.
     
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  17. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    Well saellys in some places, I get the impression that we mean to say the same thing and talk past each other because of different wordings. Just to clarify, I never claimed that racist prejudice exists only in the US and I never would do that.
    There is the idea that one needs to be an expert on slavery in the US and its ramifications to write a non-offensive PoC in a fantasy stoy in some places though and I'm opposed to this. The fantasy characters needs to be true to the situation he or she is in within the story and if her people's background didn't include slavery, she won't be influenced by it. On the other side, there are people claiming that a group is "white" because it's strongly patriarchal and oppressive towards minorities, even if it's non-human or similar. Seriously, I don't get this, as if there wasn't oppressiveness and brutally patriarchal systems in other ethnic groups.I also don't see why there should be a law that dark skin tones has to be a reason for oppression in every coneivable society and that everything else is called "colour-blind."
    This is the kind of thing that leads to the "to hell with everything else"-attitude because it seems impossible to do it "right" anyway and limiting it to characters who look similar to yourself seems the easy way out.
    Upbringing makes a huge difference in such matters. I'm probably writing things you've learned to consider offensive while I can hardly bring myself to type the term "race" for humans even though I see that it's deemed perfectly acceptable in the English-language discussion.

    Re: Feo Takahari: Are there really so many books with damsells in distress, farm boys and princes nowadays? I mean outside of known cliche fireworks like Eragon? I've recently read quite a few books with female leads who were a healer, a food taster and, yes the heiress of a magical dynasty but done in a highly unusual way and two low-born city girls with magic they shouldn't have.
    Might be because I'm looking for books with female leads in the first place though. I don't see such a huge problem in the represantation of female characters in modern fantasy stories but non-white characters are really absent. I can't think of any story that has them I've come across recently, a few Asian-inspired settings but that's about it.
     
  18. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    On the one hand, I might be contributing to my own problem. I rarely pay money for self-published stories due to the lack of quality control, but with rare exceptions, the fantasy stories I read that aren't generic tend to be self-published ones. (This leads to a situation where the works I gush about tend to be ones you can find on the Internet for free.)

    On the other hand, I find science fiction stories all the time that aren't self-published and do something daring. It can be as major as The Golden Oecumene's embrace of a future society with vastly different mores, or as minor as the occasional mention that the protagonist of The Hunger Games has brown skin, but more than any other genre I read, science fiction feels free to do something different.

    I suppose I'm a sci-fi fan at heart. Almost all of the things I complain about in fantasy are things that are less of a problem in sci-fi. But I write fantasy more often than I write sci-fi, and I think Brandon Sanderson, at least, has proved that a sci-fi attitude is compatible with fantasy.
     
  19. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I do think people will vote with their pocketbooks, so to speak. If people want to see more diverse fantasy with different kinds of characters represented, then publishers will promote such. I read a while back that Tor.com was going to be pushing to crack this open by accepting more fiction that represents a wider human experience.

    If publishers don't accept this, then people will continue to demand it or take their money to writers who are self-publishing the kind of diverse fiction they want to read. For me, however, diverse fiction doesn't necessarily mean to me writing about societies that represent every single kind of person imaginable. For instance, for someone living in Japan I don't see a lot of diversity as far as race, but you do see more in sexuality and social standing. So if I wrote fiction that took place in fantasy-styled Japan, I wouldn't just put a bunch of non-Japanese in it just because I want to represent everyone. That doesn't make sense to me.

    On the other hand, if I'm writing something that's more global in scope, perhaps an urban fantasy story that takes place in a futuristic Tokyo where due to low birth rate and laxer immigration, foreigners are let in en masse, it makes more sense.

    For me it isn't about just doing something because I'm supposed to or that the public is pressuring me to because it's right. It's about exploring these kind of diverse worlds and characters in fantasy because I'm intrigued by them. I guess that's one reason I don't live in my home country. I have wanderlust and interest in so many other cultures that I hope to explore throughout the years. I hope my fiction can reflect that.
     
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  20. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Yes. Your examples tell us a lot about the world around the woman, but not about the woman herself. You're talking about plot; I'm talking about character. We already had the plot--she doesn't want to get married. We hadn't addressed why, apart from "she wants to live her own life!" and an implied modern Western sensibility about arranged marriages being icky and backwards. So as we work on our second draft, we're establishing more about the practice of betrothal between noble families and how widespread it is, and how our character has been prepared for most of her life to enter a (probably) loveless marriage when she came of age. Now, not only does she have aspirations to be a spy, but her resistance to the idea of marriage is not because of ideas we've projected on her that don't actually correspond to her upbringing, but rather because she is viscerally repulsed by the idea of performing her wifely duties with a man. That doesn't make it a different story.

    In this world, knighthood is a relatively new concept, and it was introduced simultaneously with the notion of chivalry, which is spreading quickly throughout the nation. The city-state that introduced those notions is quite patriarchal. The squire comes from a city-state where women can hold rank and enter battle alongside men, which means the resistance to the idea of her as a squire in the traditional of the chivalrous order would be based on her gender first and foremost. She is also the daughter of her city-state's ruling legate, which makes her of equal or greater social standing with regard to anyone who might object to her wearing armor and fighting with the men, so very little gets said out loud. She is out to prove herself as a knight, not to prove herself as a woman. Making her mixed race (from a city-state that is now racially diverse) does not change the challenges she already faces in the story.

    Again, this is where writers have to understand that who people are and issues certain kinds of people face are not the same thing.

    That was a great big typo on my part. So sorry!

    And my point is that the overwhelming majority of the fantasy genre, written by people who will insist to the death that they were "being true to the characters," proves that diversity is not covered.

    Firstly, both stories sound rad. Have you posted portions of them anywhere?

    Secondly, the setting doesn't have to "dictate" it for a writer to write it. See Feo's earlier point about the influence Silk Road and the Moors in medieval Europe. Even in a conventionally whitewashed fantasy setting, it can happen.

    Thirdly, oh good Lord is the term "affirmative action" ever getting stale. Please don't. You've obviously internalized the idea of a "checklist" as an inherently negative thing; I'm still waiting for someone to answer my question as to why it would be detrimental. You don't want to? Fine. What's stopping someone else who does care about this? Why is it bad?

    Fourthly and closely related to that point, okay, you cast a straight white male. What happens when you look back at a story that has six main characters and they're all straight white males?

    I feel like Feo already addressed the inverse of this pretty well with the Silk Road point. There are reasons to have very isolated, homogeneous people groups in a fantasy world, and even to set an entire story or book exclusively among them. I have read a handful of stories like that, and they had an internal logic that rang true and did not make me question where all the non-white people were.

    More frequently though, if you're shooting for something along the lines of epic, or even any story that involves travel, there is absolutely no reason why racial diversity can't be introduced.
     
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