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Zoombie
12-19-2011, 11:32 AM
Man that was a tortured pun for a title! But I'm a Lovecraft fan, and I think that Lovecraft is a fascinating way to lead in with this conversation: People of Color and their depiction in science fiction and fantasy.

I mean, for all the amount I love Lovecraft (heh) for, I can't even hope to ignore the fact that the guy was...pretty racist. Then we move on to some other authors who are luminaries of the field: Heinlein, with his casts-made-up-almost-entirely-of-white-Iowans, or Niven, with his...again, mostly white, mostly male, all straight cast.

Great storytellers, but lousy when it came to multiculturalism and really acceptance.

And when we turn away from speculative fiction to, say, fantasy...you have again, most of the luminaries being mostly white (at least to start with!) LoTR, anyone?

And this bring us to today! We've made huge breakthroughs (Earthsea springs immediately to mind), but some equally baffling steps backward (the less we say about Star Trek: TNG, or Voyager...or Enterprise, the better). I think there's still a whole hell of a lot of work to be done.

Need I remind anyone of the disgusting reaction (http://www.racialicious.com/2011/11/15/yes-there-are-black-people-in-your-hunger-games-the-strange-case-of-rue-cinna/) to Cinna and Rue being played by...<gasp> Black people!? Or the whitewashing of Avatar: The Last Air Bender? Or...or...or...

Obviously, spec-fic and fantasy writers need to keep beating people with this fact: The future isn't going to be a bunch of Caucasians, and dragons don't get slain only by blond, blue eyed knights.

And thus, this thread!

This is a thread to discuss your POC characters in your spec-fiction or fantasy novels! You can talk about how their color influences the character (Or doesn't), your reasons behind including them (beyond the obvious: Because POCs exist and that's all the damn reason I need), the hurdles and challenges...or you can air questions, concerns, and hopefully get some good answers...or at the very least, some good discussions.

And...go!

shaldna
12-19-2011, 05:48 PM
Man that was a tortured pun for a title! But I'm a Lovecraft fan, and I think that Lovecraft is a fascinating way to lead in with this conversation: People of Color and their depiction in science fiction and fantasy.

I mean, for all the amount I love Lovecraft (heh) for, I can't even hope to ignore the fact that the guy was...pretty racist.

I think you have to look at WHEN those writers were writing. I mean, Lovecraft was the '30s.

Heinlein is interesting, given that the majority of his work was pre1970's and he is a white man living in the Midwest. He's going to have a point of reference, which will be mostly white.

But some of his best works deal with race in an excellant way - look at Stranger in a Strange Land, it's been seen a wonderful example of how humans segregate themselves, a parallel of the race issues that were going on around him at the time. Essentially he is 'the same but different' and struggles with that, not only his own perceptions of humans, but also other humans perceptions of him. It's certainly interesting to consider from a racial point of view and very revolutionary for it's time.



And when we turn away from speculative fiction to, say, fantasy...you have again, most of the luminaries being mostly white (at least to start with!) LoTR, anyone?

Again, written primarily during the 1940's (published in teh '50's)



but some equally baffling steps backward (the less we say about Star Trek: TNG, or Voyager...or Enterprise, the better). I think there's still a whole hell of a lot of work to be done.

Star Trek TOS was actually really revolutionary in terms of race. A black prinicpal character was a big break through, added to that the character was a woman. Also they had a Russian character, Chekov (admittedly played by an American) at the height of the Cold War, that he was a 'good' character was all the more unusual for the time and the political environment. Not to forget that Sulu was played by gay Japanese American.

In terms of multiracial cast, Star Trek was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.

Star Trek also had the first interacial kiss on television, which was a huge deal at the time. Of course, it's also been criticised because of the nature of the story surrounding it - namely the control of the alien race, rather than the incident being an act of love or desire.


I think part of my point here, is that it's easy to look back make judements, but the writing shouldn't be taken in isolation alone. You have to look at the whole picture, take in the time, the political and social environments that would help shape a writers opinions and views, but which also dictate to a point what he or she could actually write and publish.

ViolettaVane
12-19-2011, 05:59 PM
Lovecraft wasn't just racist like the rest of the white people of his time. He was so racist, it was downright pathological. I have to wonder what it did to his sex life. That's actually one of the reasons I find him so fascinating. Themes of racial corruption are so over the top in his work they actually end up reflecting in really weird ways on white racial identity formation.

I like S.T. Joshi's work on Lovecraft. He hits those issues head on. Like him, I'm a Lovecraft fan, but a critical one.

Right now, I'm writing a multiracial m/m romance with heavy fantastic elements based on Hawaiian mythology. My co-writer and I are loving it.

Alessandra Kelley
12-19-2011, 06:10 PM
Funny thing is, I've got some pulp sf going back as far as 1952, and some of the artists are clearly trying to depict persons of color as included.

The artist in 1952 who depicted the dark-skinned protagonists in an Asimov story couldn't quite pull it off -- it was a white woman with a very deep tan -- but he tried.

Also soldiers in (I believe) a Clifford Simak story were illustrated as black, realistically and with dignity.

I also have a very weird Ed Emshwiller Christmas cover of little aliens, and right in front a little black girl, waiting to sit in Santa's lap.

These are just some random examples I pulled out. I'm not saying it's a lot, but that it's even there, in the early 50s, is notable.

Amadan
12-19-2011, 06:45 PM
I really dislike the "man of his time" defense. I mean, yes, when you live in a society in which certain groups are universally regarded as inferior, it can be hard to think differently, but if you are an empathetic and perceptive human being, there should be some evidence that you at least tried.


Lovecraft wasn't just racist like the rest of the white people of his time. He was so racist, it was downright pathological. I have to wonder what it did to his sex life. That's actually one of the reasons I find him so fascinating. Themes of racial corruption are so over the top in his work they actually end up reflecting in really weird ways on white racial identity formation.

Yes, exactly. I won't link to Lovecraft's infamous "n-word" poem, but you can Google it easily enough. The man was pathologically racist. Not just "a man of his time," but seriously hateful.

(Now, in his defense, I am also a Lovecraft fan and even did a biography about him in middle school. And one of the things I learned is that there's some evidence he had a change of heart around the time that the Nazis took power in Germany and he started hearing the horror stories. Most of his more virulently racist writings were from earlier in his career. But that's neither here nor there...)

I will grant a certain amount of leeway to people writing in an earlier time period for not being as aware and inclusive as they could have been, but shrugging at overt bigotry just because the writer "couldn't be expected to know better" strikes me as awfully similar to the whole Racefail incident of a couple years ago, when a bunch of white writers stepped in it and rather than saying "Oops, sorry -- let me rephrase that," said "Hey, quit being so mean, that's not what I meant and anyway it's not fair for you to expect me to have known better."

I'll credit people with having good intentions (but I'm white so it's easier for me to do that), which is why I extend a little bit of forbearance to Lovecraft (plus he's dead...), but there should at least be evidence of a capacity to change one's thinking, even if it's not an immediate process.

Anne Lyle
12-19-2011, 07:14 PM
Since my current trilogy is set in 16th century Europe, I have limited opportunity to include PoC in a positive way, particularly when dealing with the upper echelons of society. I try to fit them in wherever it makes sense to have non-white characters around, but it's difficult not to make them seem like token characters when they are (with good historical reason) few in number and usually peripheral to the story.

When I'm writing secondary world fantasy, I'm much freer to make the characters whatever race they want to be when they pop out of my imagination...

alessahinlo
12-19-2011, 07:44 PM
Lovecraft wasn't just racist like the rest of the white people of his time. He was so racist, it was downright pathological.

Yes, this exactly.

Nnedi Okorafor, who won this year's World Fantasy Award and is the first black author to do so, just recently blogged about this actually: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2011/12/lovecrafts-racism-world-fantasy-award.html

(The post also includes the infamous poem, if you don't want to google.)

shaldna
12-19-2011, 08:01 PM
Yes, this exactly.

Nnedi Okorafor, who won this year's World Fantasy Award and is the first black author to do so, just recently blogged about this actually: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2011/12/lovecrafts-racism-world-fantasy-award.html

(The post also includes the infamous poem, if you don't want to google.)

Thanks for the link

thothguard51
12-19-2011, 08:51 PM
One of my beta readers is a black woman from England. Almost all of her work centers around white Angelo Saxon type characters. I asked her why once and she said because that is what sells.

Another of my beta readers is a gay Canadian male, and almost all of his work centers around heterosexual characters. I asked him why and he said he wants to be read by the widest audience and not limit his work to the gay community. He has other books for that...

Both write almost exclusively in SF&F. Do they both have valid points or are they copping out? I love their work, so I don't see the problem if its what they want to do.

Now, as to my own work, I didn't exclude characters of color, or gay/lesbian characters on purpose. I think the thing is that I don't want my non white or gay/lesbian characters to be stereotypical. The last thing I want to do is have someone point out to me that my characters that are non-white or gay/lesbian are unbelievable in their mannerisms, thinking, outlook, or the life styles they live.

Someone once told me that writing non white or gay/lesbian characters is no different than writing a white character. I agree that is the way it should be, but it really is not, especially if you have not lived their lifestyles and suffered any of the prejudices they have suffered.

In the past couple of years, I have included more diversity of characters and I think it is working well. I don't do it just to say, "I have non-whites or gay/lesbian characters in my story." The characters all have prominent rolls, which makes me feel good about the way I am going about being inclusive. Still, the majority of my characters are white, so am I copping out?

Zoombie
12-19-2011, 10:02 PM
I wrote this long post about how Star Trek is really a crappy example of inclusiveness, but this isn't really a thread about Star Trek specifically.


Someone once told me that writing non white or gay/lesbian characters is no different than writing a white character. I agree that is the way it should be, but it really is not, especially if you have not lived their lifestyles and suffered any of the prejudices they have suffered.

In the past couple of years, I have included more diversity of characters and I think it is working well. I don't do it just to say, "I have non-whites or gay/lesbian characters in my story." The characters all have prominent rolls, which makes me feel good about the way I am going about being inclusive. Still, the majority of my characters are white, so am I copping out?

Hmm...Thoth, I think that with speculative fiction, you CAN write POC or quiltbag characters as "like straight/white people, but different", to represent how your society views them as no different. However, if you are writing in a universe that is at least somewhat related to our own, I still think it's important to think about and consider the past.

See, one of the problems with writing "color blind" is that you also forget the history behind people of color. And history has this nasty way of acting on us MOST when we ignore it...if that makes sense.

In my writing, most of my characters have been multi-racial, because I'm coming from the assumption that when multiple nations work together to really colonize space, people will fuck everyone, because while the overall population will be pretty big, the individual populations of ethnic groups would be too small to really intermarry.

The end result? Lots and lots of weird mixes that no one really bats an eye at.

Mr Flibble
12-19-2011, 10:55 PM
The thing is about the history of black people (and me using that word is an example of what I'm about to say) is that a) I'm always going to be playing catch up on that and b) that history is very different depending on where you set your novel (if it's in this world that is)


For instance, as noted above I used 'black' rather than people of colour because as several black people of my acquaintance note, 'crayons are coloured, I'm fucking black, okay?' They find being called coloured offensive.

The history is different over here too. Very different, so what you may consider me ignoring the history might be me/the author just showing what I know of the history of black people in the UK/wherever rather than US history. (Which, admittedly, could do with me reading more about)

So, thus far, I've chickened out for fear of screwing it royally*. And I doubt I'm the only one, and maybe that contributes to the lack of different colours/ethnicities in SFF?


*Though all my stuff thus far has been second world, and I haven't shied from having people who look different, rather than have everyone white. But I have got this UF on my mind and a couple of secondary characters will be black. Or gay. Or both.

Amadan
12-19-2011, 11:09 PM
For instance, as noted above I used 'black' rather than people of colour because as several black people of my acquaintance note, 'crayons are coloured, I'm fucking black, okay?' They find being called coloured offensive.


Dunno about the UK, but in the US, there is a huge semantic difference between "people of color" and "colored people."

missesdash
12-19-2011, 11:14 PM
I actually had teacher say "colored" once. it didn't bother me t all, but I told my mom (casually after school one day) and she was really offended.

So even within racial /ethnic groups, there is a lot of variation as far as acceptable terms go.

MacAllister
12-19-2011, 11:17 PM
(If the mods or members want to make a suitable nomination for a better room name and/or description, by the way, that'd be completely welcome.)

Mr Flibble
12-19-2011, 11:19 PM
Dunno about the UK, but in the US, there is a huge semantic difference between "people of color" and "colored people."


Didn't know that. What is the difference?

Amadan
12-19-2011, 11:27 PM
Didn't know that. What is the difference?

"People of color" (or POC, as in the title of this section) is the current PC term for non-white people. (I'm not using PC in a derogatory sense here, but I don't think it's really caught on widely outside of social justice circles.)

"Colored people" or just "colored" is reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era and is generally considered offensive.

thothguard51
12-19-2011, 11:44 PM
Hmm...Thoth, I think that with speculative fiction, you CAN write POC or quiltbag characters as "like straight/white people, but different", to represent how your society views them as no different. However, if you are writing in a universe that is at least somewhat related to our own, I still think it's important to think about and consider the past.



Ohhh, I totally understand and my work is generally set on another world, so I really should not be worried about it because the acceptance is based on the history of that world and not ours. Still, there is the fear that I am not getting it right...

I have one book that is a novella, Lolita's Redemption, a non SF/F set in our current time period. My British beta reader loved the idea and then challenged me to rewrite it from the perspective of a black man.

I liked the challenge but have struggled with it for two years and it might take another two years or more before I get it acceptable to what I want. I do expect to have people calling me out on this for a variety of reasons, but with this book, I will welcome any criticism that opens dialogue. I may not succeed, but I will give it my best shot. If I live long enough...

Unimportant
12-20-2011, 12:03 AM
"People of color" (or POC, as in the title of this section) is the current PC term for non-white people. (I'm not using PC in a derogatory sense here, but I don't think it's really caught on widely outside of social justice circles.)

"Colored people" or just "colored" is reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era and is generally considered offensive.
Agreed -- as long as you're talking about the US. "Cape Coloured" is a distinct minority group in South Africa, and "brown" is the standard term in New Zealand to self-define people of Maori/Pasifika heritage as a group (whereas the Caucasian New Zealanders are called "Pakeha").

dolores haze
12-20-2011, 12:04 AM
In my writing, most of my characters have been multi-racial, because I'm coming from the assumption that when multiple nations work together to really colonize space, people will fuck everyone, because while the overall population will be pretty big, the individual populations of ethnic groups would be too small to really intermarry.

The end result? Lots and lots of weird mixes that no one really bats an eye at.

Yeah, this is my thinking too when writing SF. I've got random races and people of mixed race scattered throughout my galaxies. Writing contemporary stuff is much harder. In SF it's my world, my rules. In contemporary I have to be aware of the real world and write accordingly.

missesdash
12-20-2011, 12:14 AM
Yeah, this is my thinking too when writing SF. I've got random races and people of mixed race scattered throughout my galaxies. Writing contemporary stuff is much harder. In SF it's my world, my rules. In contemporary I have to be aware of the real world and write accordingly.

I wonder how realistic this is. Just because we've seen cultures where the ethnic groups are so mixed that an outsider can't differentiate. But they still find ways to enforce racism. Generally based on something like skin shade and hair texture.

I don't think that mindset will ever be entirely obsolete. As long as we look different, we'll judge each other based on these differences.

Mr Flibble
12-20-2011, 01:03 AM
"People of color" (or POC, as in the title of this section) is the current PC term for non-white people. (I'm not using PC in a derogatory sense here, but I don't think it's really caught on widely outside of social justice circles.)

"Colored people" or just "colored" is reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era and is generally considered offensive.

Hmm, I'm not sure if people over here would generally make that distinction (because of the civil rights history differences/difference in language etc over here - yet another example of who is doing the reading/writing making a difference) though the few I've talked to about it have looked at me like I'm nuts when I asked about the term 'people of colour'*. However, it's not a very large sample s these things go...and as noted above, even within a culture or subset of society, there can be wild differences in what is considered offensive/not offensive/bloody silly etc from person to person.

*In fact one response was 'FFS, just people is fine...'

dolores haze
12-20-2011, 01:14 AM
I wonder how realistic this is. Just because we've seen cultures where the ethnic groups are so mixed that an outsider can't differentiate. But they still find ways to enforce racism. Generally based on something like skin shade and hair texture.

I don't think that mindset will ever be entirely obsolete. As long as we look different, we'll judge each other based on these differences.

I'm still writing about humanity and, yes, they have found ways to judge and discriminate. Just not on skin color/hair texture in this particular far-future universe. I do have a near-future scenario I'm working on. Race does play a part in that.

kuwisdelu
12-20-2011, 05:43 AM
(If the mods or members want to make a suitable nomination for a better room name and/or description, by the way, that'd be completely welcome.)

Might I suggest "Colourful Personalities"?

maxmordon
12-20-2011, 07:35 AM
About Heinlein, didn't Starship Trooper stars a Filipino protagonist that was whitewashed on the movies because a certain Dutch director wanted to make a point about fascism?




(If the mods or members want to make a suitable nomination for a better room name and/or description, by the way, that'd be completely welcome.)

Something relating "Minorities" perhaps? The Minoritarian Point of View?

thothguard51
12-20-2011, 07:52 AM
What about people of color that discriminate against other people of color? India is a prime example of white washing to get a head...

backslashbaby
12-20-2011, 08:33 AM
I don't like 'minorities' because it's not always the right description. South Africa. California universities. Many PhD programs in the US! There are a lot of places where PoC are in the majority but the power folk are still (or were) European.

My vote on that is: Writing People of Color and PoC Authors. Something like that.

shaldna
12-20-2011, 02:37 PM
I don't like 'minorities' because it's not always the right description.

Every minority is a majority somewhere.

Kitty Pryde
12-22-2011, 12:11 AM
I've been watching Terra Nova on tv (tho haven't watched the finale yet) and as far as portraying PoC it's pretty appalling. It takes place 150 years in the future. Amongst the good guys in Terra Nova, I think the hero's wife is of partial Indian heritage maybe, with pretty fair skin. Their kids appear white. Nearly everyone else in the colony is white. They live in buildings, surrounded by manned fences and automatic defensive perimeters.

The bad guys are rebels, collectively called Sixers. They live in trees in the jungle. Their leader is an African-American woman*. Almost every Sixer is a person of color. Of the four white people we know live amongst the Sixers, three are hostages.

The premise of the show is that the Sixers were snuck back in time with the Terra Nova colonists to help greedy business interests make money on the resources of ancient Earth. They torture and steal and terrorize and threaten and otherwise make mayhem at every turn. I don't understand how they could cast all the characters and extras like this.

*I'm torn on her, because she's a pretty powerful and interesting antagonist, so I like her in that respect. But she's part of the overall distressing pattern of casting here, so...

Psychomacologist
12-22-2011, 12:23 AM
^ Wow. That's pretty... wow.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time.

maxmordon
01-15-2012, 01:19 AM
I feel that the main topic of my two latest WIPs set in the same Dieselpunk-ish world is Cultural Supremacy Vs. Otherness rather than addressing race issues specifically.

One is about a conservative politician who is from an ethnic background but passes as the main culture and is obsessed about his own skewered idea of belonging and perfection. He has befriended this man who essentially like a mix of JFK and Tom Cruise, a very example of that world's equivalent of a WASP. The MC adores him because to him he represents the perfection of that culture: fitness, ambition, strength, adaptation. But on the other hand, he loathes him since this person doesn't realize how privileged is he and that my MC has needed to struggle for: respect, being recognized,etc. it's taken for granted to him.

Of course, he's not the only one. The city these stories take place suffer something simply called The Paleness. Essentially, since the city surroundings are so polluted and the synthetic meat doesn't have all that nutrient thing figured out everyone, no matter their skin color, have the same milky skin.

In the other WIP a PoC character also discusses the social ramifications of The Paleness, the way of speaking among the middle and higher class workplaces of the city is completely neutral to avoid giving away a social or regional background even lacking contractions and he comments how he feels such an alien among his own relatives and that them to avoid The Paleness color themselves pitch-black as a sign of pride while others take advantage to blend with the main culture. The character in question has a faint ash tone due The Paleness.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-17-2012, 08:20 PM
@KittyPryde: Oy, I feel you on Terra Nova. I watched one episode and was like, "Jiminy Christmas. Are you serious with those casting choices?" Not to mention the numerous Idiot Plot moments in the script itself.

My own take on Race Mixing In Space! is that it depends on the universe and how the population of Earth originally wound up going elsewhere. There's a lot of Asian culture and language in Firefly, for instance, with the idea that China became a huge superpower and overwhelmed Western culture as the dominant one before they all left Earth. The main crew is mostly white, but the only (established) couple is mixed-race.

I have a WIP right now in which space travel and colonization is growing, but not yet common. However, Japan has been wrecked by Earthquakes and no longer habitable, so one planet in particular has an almost exclusively Japanese population--there are still Japanese people on Earth, of course, but the ones who left staked out some territory.

I also have, in a different WIP, a black woman as my narrator. I have yet to describe her physical appearance, as I tend to be skimpy on descriptions of people generally, but I am a little concerned. I'm 99% sure readers will assume she's white until I correct that but I'm struggling over how to do that this far in. (10k.)