White Characters Dominating Fantasy Worlds

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

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  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Aliette de Bodard, I believe (not the whole world, but the world of the stories). Maybe Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion, though I can't remember if the books have only Mexicans or latinos.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, but you're going to have to allow for Magic Realism to be part of the Fantasy spectrum in order to get an all latino cast. Magic Realism is absolutely part of the Fantasy spectrum - for me - even if some of the very writers most famous for M.R. would take deep umbrage at this.
     
  3. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Y'know, this thread is making me want to do a 'sequel' to the recent blog entry I made about sensitivity. This time about where the creator can draw the line. I may/may not use screenshots from my Skyrim game this time. Who knows?

    Not being snarky or sarcastic, this is actually very interesting to me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  4. Lea`Brooks

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey!! I thought about this thread while developing my characters recently. I had a bunch that I couldn't picture, so I changed their ethnicity and they came really easily.

    I still have a lot of white folks, but at least there's some diversity that I didn't have before. :)
     
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  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think it is fantasy as well. There is no good distinction that differentiates magic realism from fantasy generally.
     
  6. Stephanie Norman

    Stephanie Norman New Member

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    I think that really there are books in such genre with heroes of various race and nationality. Maybe you have chosen the books with white characters accidentally. But I am agree with previous posts that as a writer you can write about whoever or whatever you want as other ones.
     
  7. MilesTro

    MilesTro Contributing Member

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    Well the books I am now reading have different races.
     
  8. bionerdwithaporpoise

    bionerdwithaporpoise New Member

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    You have a great point and this is something I think about as I write my current WIP. And I hope you're ignoring the haters.

    For me, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing main characters derivative of other races (I'm white). I've read fiction books like, The Help, which was written by a white woman through the perspective of black female domestic workers during the 1950s. It received lots of criticism for this very reason. It's not that I fear criticism, I just don't want to be an asshole. Now, Civil Rights- era Mississippi was real-life scenario so the politics tend to have more weight, but I'd still feel stuck writing a non-white person in fantasy. Meaning, if I wrote a black MC, I don't think it'd be right to write from the perspective of real black experiences, settings, culture, etc. Or, if I made the character's culture, psychology, setting, etc. set in some Europe-derived world, it would feel very disingenuous.

    I do, however, create characters who have darker skin, but are not derivative of any real people. So maybe I'm a hypocrite...:dry:

    Anyway, I hope I made a valid argument. I wish you the best in challenging the status quo of this genre! :agreed::agreed::agreed:
     
  9. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    I'm not "white", but I see no problem with this. The only race we are is homo sapien. Ethnicity just denotes what human-constructed political boundary you were born in, and that is completely meaningless beyond citizenship and legality.

    I don't need characters with the same physical traits as me for me to identify with them. It's a minor cosmetic detail and contributes nothing to the plot.
     
  10. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think this is the whole reason The Help was criticized. It's not just that it was written by a white woman, it's that it was written by a white woman and had a "white saviour" character who organized all the black characters and helped them to express themselves. The character in the book essentially typed up a bunch of black people's stories and then took authorial credit for them, and readers were expected to celebrate her?
     
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  11. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. All that book was missing was for one of the black women to also have magical powers of some kind. ;)
     
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  12. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    Like this?
    Whoops, looks like you need a password. Nevermind.
     
  13. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I just realized this thread was necroed from last year. No biggie. I repair to an answer that seems to be an almost-all-purpose fit for these sorts of "Why is Fantasy so {fill in the blank}?" threads.

    Broaden your reading habits.

    Google "fantasy books with diversity". See those answers google is giving you? Go read those books. Give those authors some money so that they write some more books like that.

    I used to feel the same way about a lack of LGBTQ characters in SFF until I started looking for book lists with those kinds of characters, and guess what, my TBR pile is freak'n yuge! YUGE, I tell you.

    We, the readers, are just as susceptible to getting stuck in a rut as the writers.
     
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    So in my fantasy wip - dark fire - I have one white MC, one who's a shape shifter and spends much of the book covered in silver fur but who is white when in human form, and 2 gay lovers one of whom is black and the other is green (he has chloroplasts in his skin).

    I also have a talking tree who only makes a cameo appearance

    I think I've got the diversity angle fairly well covered
     
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  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If he has to spend a lot of time in the sun, would he start to have issues with his weight? Just wondering. Not the first time I run into photosynthetic humans in SFF, and I always wonder about that, because I like the sun, and I live in the tropics, but I also like to keep in shape. Shit that runs through my mind.... :whistle:
     
  16. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's because you need a certain amount of fianancial stability to spend your free time creating fantasy stories, which people of colour don't have as much. It also has to be in your culture to sit down and write fantasy books/ play or be otherwise interested in the fantasy genre, and that's not the case with black males or females for that matter. Besides myself and my friend I've never seen someone play warhammer for example who isn't white. Never even heard of black DnD players. These are see as aspects of white culture. Even then, what black or mixed people do take an interest in fantasy tend to reflect the eurocentrism and white superiority that's been drilled into our heads from birth. Who's overwhelmingly portrayed as the most attractive, powerful and courageous? Whites. Saying "just write and self publish main characters of your own race" as a white person in an eurocentric society is to assume your own perspective as universal and assume it's as easy for everyone else as it is for you.
     
  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you looked?
     
  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll I tell you story, yes...:P Contributor

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    Just like it is my job to come up with interesting Alien Races, and the more prominent ones are
    tough because you have to invent a believable culture about them too.

    So if you want something to be written, then you have to write it. End of story.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This feels like a fairly large generalization. And, the first group of people that I ever roleplayed with included a black man.
     
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  20. Moth

    Moth Active Member

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    Without getting into the history of writing and all that middle-to-upper class white male domination over the fantasy/sci-fi genres, and how that plays a role in fantasy/sci-fi tropes and cliches, there are a few reasons why white people feature prominently.


    For fantasy (if you ignore contemporary fantasy, which usually go out of their way to be reasonably diverse) most writers go for a setting based heavily on idealized versions of dark-age or medieval Europe. Forests and fields and swords and stone castles, etc etc. Central Europe at this time was - or is at least perceived by many to be - about as white as a glass of milk. While this isn't particularly true (don't get me started on the cultural-clusterfuck that was medieval Spain), it's the idealization and perception that leads to white-washed settings.

    For sci-fi, just take a look at most western world leaders in the last two-three decades. What percentage have been white? These are nations filled with different creeds and castes, yet as almost always dominated by white folk in leadership and the celebrities. Without getting into why that is (that's something for another place entirely), the fact that it is as such matters. Western nations are often (almost unanimously) where authors live and western nations are always seen as the most technologically and socially advanced. It's easy to see why a sci-fi writer might base their futuristic societies on what they see around them without questioning too deep about whys and hows.


    There's obviously much more to it than what's above, but you get the gist of it I hope.

    Representation matters in books, but it should never feel forced to the reader and should never come at the cost of the suspension of disbelief. It's all well and good to have a fantasy world where three kingdoms; one filled with white people, one filled with black, one filled with asian, are all bordering each other and a small party of three (one from each of the kingdoms) have to go on a quest to stop the three kingdoms from going to war. That's fine, as long as you have an answer for all of the problems that come with it: How did three vastly different ethnic groups come to boarder each other in such a way? How are they culturally different, not just ethnically? Are the ruling class more ethnically "pure" or more mixed-blooded? Why? And so on.

    It has to make sense both within the context of the story, and reality itself.

    If you want to have a gay character in your book then that's totally fine. Go for it. But if the only characterization and personality that character has comes from their sexuality, they become nothing more than a token - which is the last thing you want. From what I've seen, stories with token black characters and token gay characters and so on, they end up doing far more harm to open-minded diversity than good. (And note that I say "stories" and not "books" or "novels". This applies to all forms of entertainment media.)

    Basically what I'm saying is be smart and thoughtful.

    I should have probably said that at the beginning, would have saved me on all this typing.

    Don't be a dimwit!*
    Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference without google-aid.
     
  21. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Supporter

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    Going to preface this, by saying that this is not directed to anybody in particular.

    Not sure how deliberately going out of your way to read literature with less - or no - white characters, is somehow better than reading literature with mainly white characters. (unless you simply can't get in the head of a pale skinned MC).

    Maybe other people will be awe-struck and amazed by how socially-just you are, for reducing people to a "black / white / asian / gay / etc." style checklist for the sake of diversity in a book or movie.

    I echo the sentiment of others. Write what you want to read.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  22. David Lee

    David Lee Member

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    I am a straight white male, currently writing a Jamaican/White gay couple (males) into my story. Simply because it occurred to me to do so, it's the way I envisioned them and it has enhanced the story; although they are not the focus of the plot.
     
  23. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would I go out of my way to look? My point is its not part of black culture. Not that no black people are into fantasy at all.
    The point is a black person who roleplays fantasy is going to be seen as a laughable Carlton Banks-like figure by other black people. It carries far more stigma than it does in the white community.
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    If he was running arround naked, possibly. wearing clothing it is less of an issue. his race evolved on the high mountain plateau where food is difficult to grow and nutrition is sparse, so being photosynethetic was an evolutionary advantage. Due to the altitude of his upbringing he also has blood which is unusually adapted to transporting oxygen, meaning that when opeating in the low lands he has more staminas, speed, and strength than usual

    Theoretically 'greenies' are discriminated against in the low lands, but given that he is part of band of sell sword/bounty hunters given to evicerating people for looking at them funny this is less of a problem for him than it might be for others
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  25. IcyEthics

    IcyEthics Member

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    I love having more ethnicities in the fantasy I read, purely because it makes the world broaden. A fantasy setting where both black and Asian characters would be as common as white characters would already have an instant hook for me because it tells me that this world is big, and there's a lot of cultural influences at play. It also posses a good couple of questions that get you thinking about the world. Is racism a thing? How did such diversity even happen?

    I think it might be interesting to pose the question "would ethnic diversity make my setting more interesting."
     

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