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  1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    White Characters Dominating Fantasy Worlds

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by MilesTro, May 25, 2015.

    I don't know if this has already been discussed, but how come the major characters in fantasy worlds are white people? Even if they are from Earth, they are usually white. As half African American, I feel kind of insulted.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If you feel insulted, then write people of diversity into your stories. Simple as that. I'm gay and latino. I don't think it's anyone else's obligate job to write gay latino characters into stories. It's my job.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Also, read more fantasy. If you're only finding books full of white people, then it seems to me you're picking those books. That's most of what is out there, but not nearly all. Read N.K. Jemisin, or Octavia Butler, or Steven Erikson, or Nalo Hopkinson, or Samuel Delany, or Elizabeth Lynn, etc.
     
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  4. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    I think it's because Fantasy (Medieval-style Fantasy, anyway) is written to be reminiscent of a time when European people had the big empires. Most of the stories (LOTR, Game of Thrones, Narnia) are written to be like the Middle Ages in Britain. There wasn't a huge Black or Asian presence in those places at that time period.
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    True too. I mean, in the same train of logic, stories concerning samurai in feudal Japan are not exactly rife with caucasian characters, nor would I expect them to be. ;)
     
  6. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    People are far too easily insulted these days.

    It's like me complaining there are far too many Americans in films, yet i watch the films that come out of Hollywood. If you want more "half African American" people in you fantasy worlds either (as @Wreybies said) write your own or (as @Steerpike said) read more books/watch more films with "half African American" folk in them.

    I actually watched a Bollywood film last week, i wasnt insulted about the lack of white people, i also had a look at a Nollywood film too, wasnt insulted about the lack of whites there either.

    Maybe i should be insulted that you're insulted about seeing/reading about too many white folk?
     
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  7. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I just think writers should branch out and try to add different human races instead of the same race. Medieval settings are so overrated. I think an African fantasy setting would be unique.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Then get thee to writing, and with a quickness. I would read a fantasy story set in ancient Kush or ancient Songhai. :)
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well my main character in my current story is a black lesbian. It's not a European setting. Hope to have it ready around the end of June.
     
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  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What one cannot expect is for others to write it for you. It's not appropriate to place this kind of demand.

    When I first started writing, I was constantly badgered as to why my protags were gay. I was grilled and interrogated and made to feel that I had to give up some lengthy dissertation as to why my character had to be gay, and should the dissertation be found wanting, I was made to feel that I was making a bad/wrong/pandering choice.

    The only valid reason I need to write a gay character is "that's what I want to write".

    That's it. No other reason is needed. People who felt that there was some laundry list of boxes to check before my reason was good enough can get bent because they are simply wrong. Flat out wrong.

    Expecting/demanding others to write a particular kind of protag answers to the same paradigm. Demanding this forces the writer to answer a list of reasons why they need to make the character not-white, not-gay, not-whatever. It's the exact same thing, and it's just as erroneous.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Um, the protagonist of my sci-fi, the main narrator is a black woman who is the captain of her own starship.

    Also, one of the major protagonist of my fantasy is a black woman. I'm working on altering the setting from a Medieval European setting to a more Edwardian-era setting with a blend of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome thrown into the mix. That said, the lead POV character is a young white girl who is just a few years younger than said black character.

    Why are they all like this? Because that's how they appeared in my head. If my sci-fi character were a muscular Asian man, or my fantasy protagonists purple-furred llama people, then that's what I'd be writing.

    Here is my thought on this:

    Writers should feel free to do whatever the hell they want without the fear of a metaphorical gun. If their MC is a white dude from London, that's fine. If their MC is a black gal who has a sexual relationship with an Asian chick in Brazil, that's totes cool as well.

    Focus on the characters, not their skin color/gender/sexual orientation. If you want to write them, then go on ahead and write them, but don't force other writers to write their characters the way you want. It's theirs, they can do whatever the hell they wish to them.
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Also, when this question/observation comes up - as it does from time to time - I am left to wonder just how often the ethnicity of the character is an invention of the reader, not the writer. When I first read Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand, Rat Korga (the protag) populated into my mind as a great hulking white man. It was my first foray into Delany's work and I wasn't aware of his dynamics yet. A second, more informed read made me pause over the description given by Delany with respect to Rat's very ambiguous (by current standards) ethnicity. Rat is neither white nor black. His whiteness was purely an invention of mine, not of Delany.
     
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  13. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Are they always written white? Or are they white on the cover art or when they get made into film/TV? I'm just wondering, because I don't think I've ever described any character's skin colour. Granted, I don't write a lot of fantasy -- speculative fiction is as close as I get -- and my most frequent feedback is for more physical description, but I do wonder. I'm writing for tweenies at the moment and the MC is half asian, half white and I struggled with how to describe her. In the end, I haven't mentioned her skin at all, just her foreign parentage (that being the white side, in this case) because that's what's pertinent to the plot.

    @Wreybies I'm not sure I agree that you can't expect other people to redress the balance with their writing. I fully expect male writers to play an active part in writing fuller, 3D female characters rather than just perpetuating the bimbo tropes; what I don't expect is for them to be the only ones doing it and, naturally, I write with that bias myself.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Asking writers not to write poorly written females* is not the same as demanding that caucasian writers must write black/latino/gay characters. Have you ever written a gay latino protag? If the answer is no, then by your own expectation, as described, I would have good cause to repudiate you.

    * I expect writers to write well rounded, well written characters regardless of the character's gender or reproductive accoutrement. ;)
     
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  15. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Aren't the majority of fantasy and sci-fi writers white males? Stands to reason they'd have a tendency to write characters that are like themselves. Whether that's deplorable or not is up to your politics. Like others said, if you want to see more of a particular kind of character, write them!

    I'm a white dude, but I tend to imagine my characters as a variety of colors/heritages, and try to make it make sense given the time period and setting. In the sci-fi universe I'm writing in right now for my novel and some short stories, the people are descended from the population of North and South America in the 22nd century, because they're the ones that sent the first colony ark into space. So they're generally a medium brown color with dark hair and eyes, with some variation of course, being mainly a mix of Hispanic/African/Caucasian.

    The novelette I finished recently features a white main character and secondary character, because it's set in near-future Kansas. The MC's love interest is a Hispanic woman from Sacramento, and the several 'bit' characters are mixed white/black; Slavic; Brazilian pardo; German; and an AI/human hybrid, who looks Mediterranean.

    My fantasy short in progress is loosely set in Minnesota during the colonial period, so the people are native Americans, and therefore some shade of brown.

    And my other novel in progress, an epic fantasy emphatically *not* set in pseudofeudal Europe, draws aesthetic inspiration mainly from the Mediterranean/North Africa/Arabia, and has a fairly diverse set of human characters, most of whom are some shade of brown or another, as well as several other non-human races who are not dwarves, elves or orcs.

    Of course I am not yet published, so I would not be counted in your informal survey of the literature.
     
  16. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Not yet, no. There's no reason why I wouldn't though, and I'm quite happy to and/or be asked to!

    I didn't make my point quite as succinctly as perhaps I could have, it's simply that I empathise with the OP being fed up, and think we all have some responsibility for making variety visible. Like you, I'd love to read something different if the OP writes it... though I suspect half the issue is commissioning and publishing markets for it in the US (where the OP is, I think?), not the lack of work available. I wonder what the Fantasy market's like in South Africa, for instance?
     
  17. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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  18. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I created a a humanoid elvish race with different skin tones exactly for this reason. :D I try to keep my characters diverse, cause i'm white and i find all white characters in everything offensive too (Unless the Setting calls for it, such as 1920's mafia ). Gotta get the other races in.
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with the "you want it, you write it" approach to some degree, but I think there may well be an extra challenge when it comes to getting fantasy in less-than-expected varieties published, and if that's the case, then it's not enough to expect writers from different backgrounds to write the books - we also have to expect publishers to publish those books.

    Now, I don't have hard evidence that it would be an added challenge. But I suspect it might be, based on the many incidents of "whitewashing" characters of colour when they're shown on book covers.

    YA examples here: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/12/10/it-matters-if-youre-black-or-white-the-racism-of-ya-book-covers/

    SciFi examples here: http://thebooksmugglers.com/2010/02/cover-matters-on-whitewashing.html

    If we have publishers apparently trying to hide the fact that there are characters of colour in their books, then it doesn't seem like to much of a stretch to worry that they may also try to avoid characters of colour altogether.

    So, yeah, sure, people should write the characters they want to see. But also, we should as a society make sure there are minimal obstacles to getting exposure for those characters once they ARE written.


    PS: And, @Wreybies? I've got your gay latino right here, dude! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15839073
     
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  20. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Cool. Even non human races should have different colors.
     
  21. Todd Carnes
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    I don't know what books you're reading, but the books I read rarely, if ever bother to even mention race. For the most part, you're free to imagine the characters as being of any race you please.

    On the other hand, once a book has been turned into a movie, you can't say the same. That choice is necessarily taken from you by the person casting the movie. However, the movie industry and the world of novels, short stories and the like are very different beasts.
     
  22. Todd Carnes
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    If you want to read stories set in ancient Kush, read Conan the Barbarian. :)
     
  23. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would it make you feel better if they threw in some black characters in order to stop hurting your feelings?
     
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  24. Diatribe
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    Diatribe Member

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    I've always had the mindset of that if you don't think something is represented enough, then change it! Seriously, if there's not enough people of color in literature of ANY genre, then pick up the pen/keyboard and write stories that help balance the status quo out a bit more to your liking! That's the beauty of a book. We can create an entire universe if we want and it is completely and utterly of our design and of our choosing. Have fun in your writing and create something that makes you happy.
     
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  25. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Exactly. It's the old advice, 'If there's a book you want to read, and it doesn't exist; you must write it.'
     

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