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maxmordon
04-20-2013, 07:52 AM
This is a subject manner that has spinning around my mind for a while now. I enjoy speculative fiction, both reading and writing, and I particulary love imaginative societies and civilizations but sometimes it can be troublesome. Writers will base this or that element on some real life characteristics and it can feel wrong, even if they do it showing respect for both the characters and the source.

Take for instance a show I love like Avatar: The Last Airbender. It develops a rather interesting mythology and society from several Asian and even Amerindian cultures (Inuit and Incan) and it's the first to pop out in my head while looking for references of fantasy worlds not based on Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Yet, I can't still overcome the fact it's a show made by two white guys taking tidbits from a wide array of civilizations they have nothing to with it and using it as they please, just like C.S. Lewis did with the Middle-Eastern people to do the Calormen! The outrage!

The Calormen in The Chronicles of Narnia was the first time I was uncomfortable how an author managed race. The Carlomen's only positive attribute was that they were good entrepeneurs which is also stereotypical of Middle-Eastern people and by the time he described their body odor as the stench of onions, I was rolling my eyes. That saddest bit is that I always considered them the most interesting bit of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Both are wildly radical and opposing examples of the same bit: people of one culture taking exotic elements of another culture for entertainment.

But then, what would be the alternative? Limiting people writing using just their respective cultures? Having, for example, just European people using European history and mythology is something we have seen as many times as it can be counted to the point is just tiresome. A consensus have to be made, I think.

I've been faced with this problem. I've a fictional culture that is somewhat based on the trappings of Judaism (especially the Ashkenazi and the Orthodox) and Orthodox Christianity (especially the Russian Old Believers) in varying degrees. I was worried it would appear as overt, but so far those who have read it were reminded more of Muslims and the Amish than anything, which made me wonder to perhaps open to scope for my sources and, in overall, pleased.

But then... another wall...

This religio-cultural group is divided in branches. And the branches are important since the protagonist happens to belong to one that is look down by the rest due to its nomadic nature. They conjure images of gamblers, swindlers, prostitutes and carnies who roam the woodlands with the only real bit is that they are traditionally nomadic and most were forced to survive on oddjobs due to the prejudice against them and before you wonder, yes, they are despectively called "gyspies" in the story by other characters.

I never had thought much about the word "Gypsy" in the past, you know, but having on AW a rather lovely Romani member made feel bad, really bad about using the word and the connotations it brings up. But, then you say, its just a classical staple of storytelling, but then, you say, also are hordes from the East or the dark-skinned savages and they aren't any better, either, yet, it feels somewhat integrated to the most primordial elements of storytelling and you can see it as the norm in speculative fiction.

In the case of epic fantasy, White and European are the "default" and the rest is just "exotic". And that's the problem, one falls into exoticism, a simplification not unlike the orientalism and the chinoiserie of the early modern era (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism) but then again, a writer needs inspiration and those can come from many, many places to craft a setting, but at the same time, it can't ignore the time, place and meaning of what one does. It's a dilemma.

What do you think about it?

Polenth
04-20-2013, 08:46 AM
There aren't many people who suggest writers should only write about their own cultures. Those that do are often lashing out due to bad examples, rather than believing it should be true of everyone. Because it doesn't work in the real world, where someone may have many cultures, or not be accepted as a member of any culture, or be part of a culture in a specific sub-group, but not part of that culture's other sub-groups, or maybe they grew up somewhere until they were five and then moved, or they were adopted into one culture and moved back to their birth culture as an adult, or married into a culture... which of those people counts as being a member of which cultures? It'd be impossible to police.

So that aside, the question is how to write about a culture without being harmful. Respect and research aren't bad starts. Make sure you're aware of common stereotypes and harmful tropes, so you don't fall into them. Find out how things really are, from primary sources if you can. If you use other sources, see what people from the culture think about them. Be open to being told something's a problem. Try to find readers from that culture.

The gypsy example is how not to do it, to my mind. You shouldn't be looking for reasons to keep using it after being told it's hurtful. Instead, you should be out looking for more about that history you didn't know, so you can avoid similar things (and likely find some better alternatives, which don't have the same connotations).

Remember that any harmful tropes, stereotypes and words aren't being used against you, so how you feel about them is irrelevant. Don't focus the situation on your own feelings or upset at finding out you were being hurtful. Don't toss your marbles in the air and say you're going home because you can't win. Focus on making it as good as it could be and staying as open as you can to feedback.

Rachel Udin
04-20-2013, 09:35 AM
The problem with fantasy is that it often takes large strokes with cultures, but then fails to see how you could microcosm it so that not everyone fits the idealize stereotype.

And that's where you run into problems. It's not that tribe over there is maybe good, maybe bad, it's they are flat out evil and we are the good ones over here. This also breaks down to species, technology and then also peoples.

But the thing is no matter how much you try to cover for it, people will figure it out... say if you put someone black and describe them as "Coal" *cough* And then portray them all the same way hitting every stereotype there is. *cough*

Yes, cultures are a road map to tendencies in a society or a subculture. But do humans listen to the idealize blue print? Not usually. Keep that in mind and look for the diversity within the group so you don't get everyone has "onion breath" Everyone? Really?

So look for the range within.

Here's my personal checklist:
Magical X. No.

Token X. No.

Outting people who do not want to be outted. No.

The only person there of that representation to represent the entire novel. No.

Two people or more of that representation to represent the entire novel and show up, but are not named does not count as diversity. No.

Two people who show up and are named but only talk about how they are not part of the dominant or only serve the dominant class. No.

On the nose of everything that the dominant class writes about that group. No. (Make a list of the dominant group’s representations and see if you can find a way around it.)

Reverse prejudice on the those people. No.

one 100% bad, one 100% good person of that representation. No.

Last minute save representation. No. (If 99.9 percent of your story portrays it with prejudice, pushing a last minute save does not save the rest of the novel.)

Political and moral platitudes/soapbox of that representation. No.

Dominant class saves the minority power group ALL the TIME. No.

Using prejudiced slurs outside of a story atmosphere when you do not belong to that representation. No. And it’s not a double standard. It will make you look like a jerk.

You never describe their affiliation with the minority power group. No. People will assume the Dominant Power group affiliation every single time, even if they belong to the minority power group. That’s what systemic societal prejudice is.

You only describe the minority power group affiliation. No. Describe people equally.

Caveat: If you do have a minority power group representation, and it is less than 2 characters of that group, shown as neither good nor evil, you can short cut the stereotypes, however, I would not say this is what I would call "fair representation" and if one is only doing it to meet "quota" it really doesn't count.

kuwisdelu
04-20-2013, 12:05 PM
Dominant class saves the minority power group ALL the TIME. No.

Heh. I'm sure I'll be back to elaborate on my views on this, but this one is goddamn annoying.

What's particularly annoying about it is that it seems to be a pretty commonly accepted trope in Hollywood.

Privileged groups still view it as being "empowering" or "fair" to the minority group, but don't see the problem that one of the majority group ends up becoming "more native/minority" in order to save them. The message being that only someone from the dominant group can ultimately win, and can even always outdo the "native/minority" group when it comes to being "native/minority."

The movie Avatar is one of the latest entires in this genre.

Maythe
04-20-2013, 12:22 PM
This is an interesting thread. My big project (currently paused while I write other stuff) is a detective story set in a fantasy city. My created culture is egalitarian with regards to sex and gender but strictly caste-bound. I haven't decided where other cultures and races fit into this and that's something of a failure so there's a lot of food for thought here.

Rachel Udin
04-20-2013, 06:30 PM
I know I shouldn't steal, but from Kitty, Also Minority Pathology Porn. "Avoid" I would say, though it's really difficult since it's fricking everywhere and you really have to go digging to get past that. Usually it's built into the story's premise in the first place.

This is to say, take a group and choose the WORST possible place in history for them, or a place of shame that it part of the dominant narrative of the ONLY thing the dominant power group knows about them.

The reason this is harmful is that it often shows that "they need rescuing from themselves anyway"

And also tends to rewrite narratives along the way. For example that Blacks had nothing to do with abolishing slavery (myth)

It doesn't mean that the Holocaust wasn't important, or that slavery isn't bad, but what about the stories about the rise to power? Or times that weren't always awful or on the nose?

There were Free slaves during slavery as well. There was Jazz, rock, country music for African Americans. There are other time periods where it's not the only thing that people know about that group one can write.

And this goes for Fantasy as well. If you're writing about such groups, the Other World in Other World Fantasy doesn't give you an auto-pass on the real world issues. So if you have someone vaguely Japanese and write about vaguely Japanese people in the midst of a WWII analogue--don't think no one will notice.

But taking any culture from this world means you need to know it inside and out. I researched, for example, What the dominant power class usually teaches about History, a rough overview of the actual history, sort the history I like and dislike. And then choose rough time periods from that, cultural items that will match up well (using cultural anthro somewhat) and create something that falls well in that range. Then study the time periods before an after it for any information I'm missing.

And do research. And ask PEOPLE (plural) from that group, who are willing. Not everyone from that group will know everything about their culture, just like you probably don't know the name of the person who was the architect of Mount Rushmore and his affiliations if you live in the US. Or who brought in the German traditions of Christmas in Britain. And if they criticize and you don't understand, keep your mind open and ask questions before making statements (Such as You don't get it--uhh... I think they do).

But other than that, it's never a loss. I think it's always win. You either get it and it works, or you don't and it fails and you learn something. And if it's public and no one caught it, then, you admit your mistake and more people learn, and you won't get death threats if you do it quickly or notice it before others do and admit it. Where is the loss? Pride v. having something to be proud about? I'll take the second.

maxmordon
04-21-2013, 08:52 AM
I know I started talking about it with my very own example, buy I feel it's important to keep the discussion in general terms. This is a very common occurence that needs to be talked, I think.

With that said, the nomadic ethnic group that gets defined as "gypsy" conjure the classical image we have related to the term with-in the story and to outsiders from that culture but is not the only term they are defined nor any character of that extraction fit in the stereotype. The protagonist's family main concern seem to be in adapting to the larger sub-group to improve their lives with mixed results. The protagonist doesn't understand why is their obsession and regard the majoritarian sub-group as arrogant and obnoxious since for him they are priests and schoolteachers.

This sub-group has emigrated due war to the dominant culture's main city. The protagonist eventually ends up in an orphanage where he's forced to take a new name and adapt and grows up to become a conservative politican rather obsessed about the inherent superiority of his dominant culture and do his best to pass and erase any trace of his pass. He doesn't relate neither to his nomadic culture nor the sub-group it belongs. To himself, he's an "orphan" in a nation of orphans.

If you want to read the first chapter, it's on SYW. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=265185)




So that aside, the question is how to write about a culture without being harmful. Respect and research aren't bad starts. Make sure you're aware of common stereotypes and harmful tropes, so you don't fall into them. Find out how things really are, from primary sources if you can. If you use other sources, see what people from the culture think about them. Be open to being told something's a problem. Try to find readers from that culture.

The gypsy example is how not to do it, to my mind. You shouldn't be looking for reasons to keep using it after being told it's hurtful. Instead, you should be out looking for more about that history you didn't know, so you can avoid similar things (and likely find some better alternatives, which don't have the same connotations).


Yeah, research is fundamental. I have been reading a bit here on Romani and the Travellers just to have some basics. But if I change the term but leave the same prejudices, it wouldn't be better, I think, as Rachel commented above with "Coal" and the "Save the Pearls" debacle and I can't remove the prejudices since it's part of the story. It's because of them that the protagonist gets obsessed with "passing".


The problem with fantasy is that it often takes large strokes with cultures, but then fails to see how you could microcosm it so that not everyone fits the idealize stereotype.

And that's where you run into problems. It's not that tribe over there is maybe good, maybe bad, it's they are flat out evil and we are the good ones over here. This also breaks down to species, technology and then also peoples.

But the thing is no matter how much you try to cover for it, people will figure it out... say if you put someone black and describe them as "Coal" *cough* And then portray them all the same way hitting every stereotype there is. *cough*

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! The problem comes from the broad brushes. I think the problem comes from epic idealism: Fantasy has its roots on a simplified form of mythology and as such it tends to have absolute heroes and villains with monikers to identify them. Think, for example, the Orcs and Easterlings in Lord of the Rings. Even when Tolkien himself denied Racism and even commented more than one time that in war every soldier was an orc, the whole fair beauty equals goodness is quite present. Or on sexuality terms, in the first Dune novel where Baron Harkonnen was heavily hinted to be a homosexual and effeminate and hence put as the villain, or, in a more subtle example, the British-accented Empire in Star Wars.



Here's my personal checklist:
Magical X. No.

Token X. No.

Outting people who do not want to be outted. No, but he's blackmailed.

The only person there of that representation to represent the entire novel. He has a family.

Two people or more of that representation to represent the entire novel and show up, but are not named does not count as diversity. No.

Two people who show up and are named but only talk about how they are not part of the dominant or only serve the dominant class. No.

On the nose of everything that the dominant class writes about that group. No.

Reverse prejudice on the those people. Yes.

One 100% bad, one 100% good person of that representation. No.

Last minute save representation. No.

Political and moral platitudes/soapbox of that representation. Mmm. Not really, no.

Dominant class saves the minority power group ALL the TIME. Not at all. They seem rather indifferent of each other at best.

Using prejudiced slurs outside of a story atmosphere when you do not belong to that representation. No.

You never describe their affiliation with the minority power group. It gets described.

You only describe the minority power group affiliation. I don't really understand this question.

maxmordon
04-21-2013, 09:15 AM
What's particularly annoying about it is that it seems to be a pretty commonly accepted trope in Hollywood.

Privileged groups still view it as being "empowering" or "fair" to the minority group, but don't see the problem that one of the majority group ends up becoming "more native/minority" in order to save them. The message being that only someone from the dominant group can ultimately win, and can even always outdo the "native/minority" group when it comes to being "native/minority."

The movie Avatar is one of the latest entires in this genre.

Wasn't that movie based on Dance with Wolves? I remember seeing the same trope on Dune with Muad'Dib, basically (spoilers): The Fremen, which are basically future nomadic Arabs, wait for a Messiah, but said prophecy was in turn implanted by the majority group to control them and ends up backfaring spectacularly when Paul Astreides uses it to make a war against the majority group.

At the end, it all drawns from the idea the majority group has a responsability to "take care" of the "helpless" cultures AKA The White Man's Burden (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man%27s_Burden) which is pretty much the biggest excuse in favor of neo-colonialism.


I know I shouldn't steal, but from Kitty, Also Minority Pathology Porn. "Avoid" I would say, though it's really difficult since it's fricking everywhere and you really have to go digging to get past that. Usually it's built into the story's premise in the first place.

This is to say, take a group and choose the WORST possible place in history for them, or a place of shame that it part of the dominant narrative of the ONLY thing the dominant power group knows about them.

The reason this is harmful is that it often shows that "they need rescuing from themselves anyway"

And also tends to rewrite narratives along the way. For example that Blacks had nothing to do with abolishing slavery (myth)

It doesn't mean that the Holocaust wasn't important, or that slavery isn't bad, but what about the stories about the rise to power? Or times that weren't always awful or on the nose?

There were Free slaves during slavery as well. There was Jazz, rock, country music for African Americans. There are other time periods where it's not the only thing that people know about that group one can write.

And this goes for Fantasy as well. If you're writing about such groups, the Other World in Other World Fantasy doesn't give you an auto-pass on the real world issues. So if you have someone vaguely Japanese and write about vaguely Japanese people in the midst of a WWII analogue--don't think no one will notice.


Yes, now this is important to take in consideration and something I suffer while writing. The protagonist's childhood setting is pretty much a Steampunk version of turn-of-the-century bring-me-your-oppressed-masses NYC, not a very good time for minorities. I tend to think for these scenes something not unlike The Godfather II's flashbacks or Leone's Once Upon A Time in America.

Although, I try to show that even if they suffer they keep together as a community at the indifference of the dominant group. The protagonist ends up in the foster care system after running away and is there where he's given a new name and chooses to become the very modern example of what a prim and proper member of the dominant class is, only to slowly end up disappointed and bitter by seeing how the dominant class doesn't follow their own standards.

The story is set at alternating timelines so far: One chapter is the protagonist growing up and the other is him as an adult in middle of a political race. So far, I have to openings, the one I posted the link before and another one where he discusses on a talk show his view on culture. He's sure his country's dominant culture is the best in the world because they have cleaned themselves of all the vices and superstitions of "weak, backward societies" leaving only the virtues that has brought them peace, progress and prosperity: Adaptability, Individuality, Strength, Industriousness and Ambition. On the other hands, and in a personal level, he sees foreigners who do not adapt and demand better welfare as "smoochers" mainly because nobody helped him and yet he managed to be succesful. His and his like-minded party faction are based mostly on elements of Objectivism, American Paleo-Conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Neo-Liberalism.



But taking any culture from this world means you need to know it inside and out. I researched, for example, What the dominant power class usually teaches about History, a rough overview of the actual history, sort the history I like and dislike. And then choose rough time periods from that, cultural items that will match up well (using cultural anthro somewhat) and create something that falls well in that range. Then study the time periods before an after it for any information I'm missing.

And do research. And ask PEOPLE (plural) from that group, who are willing. Not everyone from that group will know everything about their culture, just like you probably don't know the name of the person who was the architect of Mount Rushmore and his affiliations if you live in the US. Or who brought in the German traditions of Christmas in Britain. And if they criticize and you don't understand, keep your mind open and ask questions before making statements (Such as You don't get it--uhh... I think they do).

But other than that, it's never a loss. I think it's always win. You either get it and it works, or you don't and it fails and you learn something. And if it's public and no one caught it, then, you admit your mistake and more people learn, and you won't get death threats if you do it quickly or notice it before others do and admit it. Where is the loss? Pride v. having something to be proud about? I'll take the second.

Indeed, every experience, good or bad, is a lesson. I need to ask more, my knowledge tends to be mostly encyclopedic when researching on something and in instances like that one tends to forget the human factor. Very imporant the human factor.

crunchyblanket
04-21-2013, 01:20 PM
The gypsy example is how not to do it, to my mind. You shouldn't be looking for reasons to keep using it after being told it's hurtful. Instead, you should be out looking for more about that history you didn't know, so you can avoid similar things (and likely find some better alternatives, which don't have the same connotations).



my two penn'orth:

I don't actually have a problem with the usage of the term 'gypsy' in this context if it's a self-aware usage - that is, if your awareness of how the term is used as a pejorative in the 'real' world is carried over into your fictional world. I actually toyed with this concept myself in a dieselpunk novel I was sketching out - a nomadic race thought of as thieves, swindlers, beggars and layabouts, with a protagonist whose view as an insider shows it to be infinitely more complex.

It's also important, I think, not to gloss over the problems we do have as a community. You mention your protagonist's obsession with 'passing', and in the excerpt I just read he seems to feel quite detached from his culture - this is all important stuff, IMO, as a great many young Roma, especially those in developed Western countries, feel an immense pressure from both sides to conform. The thing is, they often love elements from both the 'old world' and the 'new world', but some of the old ways are irrelevant to them, and outdated, and are seen as an obstacle to gaining acceptance. On the other hand, some of the new ways are in direct contravention of their beliefs, and the 'new world' is horribly insistent that they strip themselves entirely of their cultural identity. And that's before we even get into the problem of being half-Rom...;)

Anyway, I sense I'm rambling here. The point I'm trying to make is, if the parallel is sensitively portrayed, and you avoid any especially troublesome tropes (negative and 'positive' - the romanticising of the Roma lifestyle can be just as problematic as the constant criticism) then I think I'd be really interested to see what you make of it. You're doing your homework, and that's the most important thing you can do.

(This (http://www.enl.auth.gr/gramma/gramma06/homer.pdf) is an interesting essay which talks about the authenticity of Roma portrayal in films, and discusses the problem of 'othering' - one example given is how, though the intentions are good, we are 'positively stereotyped' as passionate, fiery, rebellious - a form of orientalism. It shouldn't be as big a problem for you as you are creating a Roma analogue as opposed to the culture itself, but it's something to be aware of. This is also (http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=966) an excellent resource on the same subject, showing how tough it is to get right, even if you have Roma heritage and a strong awareness of the issues involved.)

maxmordon
04-22-2013, 05:50 AM
I don't actually have a problem with the usage of the term 'gypsy' in this context if it's a self-aware usage - that is, if your awareness of how the term is used as a pejorative in the 'real' world is carried over into your fictional world. I actually toyed with this concept myself in a dieselpunk novel I was sketching out - a nomadic race thought of as thieves, swindlers, beggars and layabouts, with a protagonist whose view as an insider shows it to be infinitely more complex.

It's also important, I think, not to gloss over the problems we do have as a community. You mention your protagonist's obsession with 'passing', and in the excerpt I just read he seems to feel quite detached from his culture - this is all important stuff, IMO, as a great many young Roma, especially those in developed Western countries, feel an immense pressure from both sides to conform. The thing is, they often love elements from both the 'old world' and the 'new world', but some of the old ways are irrelevant to them, and outdated, and are seen as an obstacle to gaining acceptance. On the other hand, some of the new ways are in direct contravention of their beliefs, and the 'new world' is horribly insistent that they strip themselves entirely of their cultural identity. And that's before we even get into the problem of being half-Rom...;)


I'm glad to hear from your opinion, Crunchy. It was you who I was talking about when commenting on a Roma member. :) I'm relieved to know I'm heading to the right direction and, at the same time, it makes me realize so much about what I need to portray in my characters.

Why did you abandon that dieselpunk novel? I would totally read that. Though I define what I write as dieselpunk, I really don't touch tech as much as I should.



The point I'm trying to make is, if the parallel is sensitively portrayed, and you avoid any especially troublesome tropes (negative and 'positive' - the romanticising of the Roma lifestyle can be just as problematic as the constant criticism) then I think I'd be really interested to see what you make of it. You're doing your homework, and that's the most important thing you can do.

(This (http://www.enl.auth.gr/gramma/gramma06/homer.pdf) is an interesting essay which talks about the authenticity of Roma portrayal in films, and discusses the problem of 'othering' - one example given is how, though the intentions are good, we are 'positively stereotyped' as passionate, fiery, rebellious - a form of orientalism. It shouldn't be as big a problem for you as you are creating a Roma analogue as opposed to the culture itself, but it's something to be aware of. This is also (http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=966) an excellent resource on the same subject, showing how tough it is to get right, even if you have Roma heritage and a strong awareness of the issues involved.)

Thanks for the links! These are great resources that I know will help me on this I haven't properly considered.

A rule we must never forget is that characters represent firstly people and then whatever characteristics make them the people that they are.

lolchemist
04-22-2013, 08:01 PM
Everyone already made excellent points but I just want to reiterate just how ridiculous it is for anyone to say that authors should only write about their own races/cultures. So, for example, African Americans are only allowed to write about African Americans, they are not allowed to write about any white people, any Chinese people, any Arabs, any Afro-Caribbeans, any Nigerians. Nope only African Americans, no one else.

Does this seem problematic and ridiculous to anyone else? because it sure does to me! And anyone making such a suggestion is throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Also, as a middle-easterner and a Muslim, reading about the Calormenes broke my heart when I was a little girl. I think I can honestly say that none of the cultural 'borrowings' in Avatar hurt anyone, in fact, I think it made a lot of viewers happy because they were like 'FINALLY! A fantasy world that isn't based on white medieval Europe!!' And I'd say, don't view the creators as 'two white guys,' view them as Americans who made a cartoon for American children, which includes children of Asian and Amerindian descent.

Kitty27
04-22-2013, 10:34 PM
Everyone already made excellent points but I just want to reiterate just how ridiculous it is for anyone to say that authors should only write about their own races/cultures. So, for example, African Americans are only allowed to write about African Americans, they are not allowed to write about any white people, any Chinese people, any Arabs, any Afro-Caribbeans, any Nigerians. Nope only African Americans, no one else.

Does this seem problematic and ridiculous to anyone else? because it sure does to me! And anyone making such a suggestion is throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Also, as a middle-easterner and a Muslim, reading about the Calormenes broke my heart when I was a little girl. I think I can honestly say that none of the cultural 'borrowings' in Avatar hurt anyone, in fact, I think it made a lot of viewers happy because they were like 'FINALLY! A fantasy world that isn't based on white medieval Europe!!' And I'd say, don't view the creators as 'two white guys,' view them as Americans who made a cartoon for American children, which includes children of Asian and Amerindian descent.

The issue for African Americans is that when we are written about by others,it is ALWAYS the same thing.

The Help. Wash. The Secret Lives Of Bees. See the pattern emerging? Every high profile book in the past few years that had AA characters had mammies and other stereotypes that most of us find offensive and have zero interest in reading about.

Do you mean Avatar or the Last Airbender? Because both are a hot mess for many reasons.


The issue with writing characters of races other than your own is research and respect. The two R's mean everything to me. I can tell when a writer didn't bother to try and one who did,meaning a writer I'd be willing to support.

crunchyblanket
04-23-2013, 12:06 AM
The issue for African Americans is that when we are written about by others,it is ALWAYS the same thing.

I think the same is true of the Roma to quite a large extent, and that's why I'm quite interested to see what Max comes up with. There's a world of difference between writing and writing them having done one's homework, and actively seeking out a well-rounded portrayal of the group in question - avoiding stereotypes and tropes, whether they be out-and-out negative or 'positive' but just as problematic.

It seems that when it comes to writing African-Americans (and indeed, black British characters too) there's a hell of a lot of focus on 'issues' but not so much on 'people', 'character', and more importantly, on the characters [I]in relation to one another, and not to the white majority.

(I'm not to be considered an authority on Roma life, by the way - most Roma wouldn't even consider me proper Rom since I've a gadje mother and I don't keep to the Old Ways. Still, it's fun to talk about it. I don't often get to ;) )

Kim Fierce
04-23-2013, 04:32 AM
Heh. I'm sure I'll be back to elaborate on my views on this, but this one is goddamn annoying.

What's particularly annoying about it is that it seems to be a pretty commonly accepted trope in Hollywood.

Privileged groups still view it as being "empowering" or "fair" to the minority group, but don't see the problem that one of the majority group ends up becoming "more native/minority" in order to save them. The message being that only someone from the dominant group can ultimately win, and can even always outdo the "native/minority" group when it comes to being "native/minority."

The movie Avatar is one of the latest entires in this genre.

Oh, I think that's annoying, too.

Some very innocent seeming movies irk me and don't seem to bother anyone else. For example, the Curious George movie. Does anyone else think it's Not Cool to have the white yellow hat guy get a tour of the jungle looking for a "lost" idol (although his tour guides were rolling their eyes at him and I suspect they knew where the damn idol was all along) and then when the guy finds it he hijacks it and takes it to his own country? And I think they just said they were going to "Africa" and never named a specific country, just the whole continent. I have never liked that book . . . the first book I ever wrote was when I was 7 about a monkey in a jungle who meets a hunter (in a yellow hat, even) and the monkey gets him to leave the jungle forever and saves the day, a hero to the other animals. Going to another country to find "lost" artifacts and then stealing them is such a good example.

I was also disturbed watching Peter Pan yesterday with the kids all running around with feathers in their hair and Peter Pan had saved Tiger Lily and then was wearing a chief's headdress and dancing and singing some song about the red man. (on a side note, I was also disturbed that while Tiger Lily was drowning, Wendy just sat there watching everbody, as Peter Pan fought Captain Hook. Why didn't Wendy do anything to save the other girl herself!)

And I want to like Avatar but yeah, needing the help of humans posing as them is definitely weird. *ETA, oh I mean the Avatar that is not the Airbender: I never saw Airbender but I heard they cast someone white for the part which seems weird.

lolchemist
04-23-2013, 04:39 AM
The issue for African Americans is that when we are written about by others,it is ALWAYS the same thing.

The Help. Wash. The Secret Lives Of Bees. See the pattern emerging? Every high profile book in the past few years that had AA characters had mammies and other stereotypes that most of us find offensive and have zero interest in reading about.


I haven't read any of those. I mostly read & write YA and unfortunately NONE of the books I've been able to find even have black MCs let alone supporting characters. I'm lucky if I find a black or other minority background character. Everyone is white white white.

But yeah, this is really a rant for a different thread.



Do you mean Avatar or the Last Airbender? Because both are a hot mess for many reasons.

Last Airbender, the Avatar with the blue cat aliens was creepy as hell. But can you elaborate more on why you thought Last Airbender was a mess?



The issue with writing characters of races other than your own is research and respect. The two R's mean everything to me. I can tell when a writer didn't bother to try and one who did,meaning a writer I'd be willing to support.

TOTALLY AGREE. I didn't really go into all of that because everyone else already covered it but yeah, I'm always wishing there were more Middle Eastern characters in books but do I want to read about some burka-wearing girl who rides a flying camel and has an evil geenie for a sidekick? Or even worse, YET ANOTHER TERRORIST? It's like shit, I'd rather they just keep ignoring and erasing us if the only other option is for them to make us look like cartoons or like villains.

slhuang
04-23-2013, 07:16 AM
Last Airbender, the Avatar with the blue cat aliens was creepy as hell. But can you elaborate more on why you thought Last Airbender was a mess?


Agreed on Avatar. I suspect what the Kitty was talking about with Last Airbender was the whitewashing of the live action movie. (http://www.racebending.com/v4/faq/faq-airbender/)



TOTALLY AGREE. I didn't really go into all of that because everyone else already covered it but yeah, I'm always wishing there were more Middle Eastern characters in books but do I want to read about some burka-wearing girl who rides a flying camel and has an evil geenie for a sidekick? Or even worse, YET ANOTHER TERRORIST? It's like shit, I'd rather they just keep ignoring and erasing us if the only other option is for them to make us look like cartoons or like villains.Hmm, my MC is of Middle Eastern descent! Although she herself is thoroughly Americanized culturally, later in the series we're planned to meet her (estranged) mother and sister as well, who have a rather poorer opinion of the West. And none of them wear burkas, ride camels, or have genie sidekicks. Or are terrorists. #yayforlowbars?

Edited to add: I don't mean to imply that wearing a burka is at all a bad thing, btw -- was just continuing from lolchemist's list of common stereotypes, as reducing all Middle Eastern women's existences everywhere to "someone who wears a burka" and nothing more is obviously a bad thing. I hope I didn't word that clumsily, but if I did feel free to smack me.

maxmordon
04-23-2013, 07:38 AM
These are great points and I wish to talk about them further but I just had my first day of the semester and after 12 hours in the campus I'm tired. As a a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, just to be in the same page...

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Nickelodeon animated show based on Asian and Amerindian cultures.

Avatar: James Cameron's Dance with Wolves but with blue naked cat furries.

The Last Airbender: Movie adaptation of the cartoon where they made the Inuit-inspired dark-skinned protagonists white (The only white folks in their village to boot) and the fair-skinned vaguely Japanese villains vaguely Hindu and the poor villagers needed to be saved Black or (East) Asian. Giving the impression that the only two "advanced cultures" were the white tribe from who the protagonists were from or the mighty and powerful vaguely Hindu empire.

No need to say fans from the cartoon like myself ravaged the movie.

eyeblink
04-23-2013, 09:52 AM
I mostly read & write YA and unfortunately NONE of the books I've been able to find even have black MCs let alone supporting characters. I'm lucky if I find a black or other minority background character. Everyone is white white white..

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson has a black female MC, although it's historical YA rather than speculative. There's a sequel called Forge, but I haven't read it yet.

lolchemist
04-23-2013, 04:53 PM
Agreed on Avatar. I suspect what the Kitty was talking about with Last Airbender was the whitewashing of the live action movie. (http://www.racebending.com/v4/faq/faq-airbender/)

Oh God! Don't even mention that disgusting thing to me! I get so filled with rage everyt ime I think of it!!



Hmm, my MC is of Middle Eastern descent! Although she herself is thoroughly Americanized culturally, later in the series we're planned to meet her (estranged) mother and sister as well, who have a rather poorer opinion of the West. And none of them wear burkas, ride camels, or have genie sidekicks. Or are terrorists. #yayforlowbars?

This sounds great to me. So many writers fail to realize that exactly the same way Christians and Jews can just be -for the lack of a better word- normal and average not-really-practicing-Americans, so can Muslims! Where did this rule come from that ALL Muslims MUST be super-devout??



Edited to add: I don't mean to imply that wearing a burka is at all a bad thing, btw -- was just continuing from lolchemist's list of common stereotypes, as reducing all Middle Eastern women's existences everywhere to "someone who wears a burka" and nothing more is obviously a bad thing. I hope I didn't word that clumsily, but if I did feel free to smack me.

Don't worry, you didn't. A character wearing a burka is fine, a character wearing a burka because the author failed to do research is NOT fine.

Rachel Udin
04-23-2013, 11:09 PM
You only describe the people from the minority affiliation.

In another words, you only describe, say the black skin, the epicanthic fold, the culture of the people who live in the minority power group culture. But then turn around and assume that any analogues to say, dominant Christian values, and people from the dominant class do not need to be described at all. This creates the "default" effect.

You can make analogies to this in other groups as well. For example, explicitly showing someone is gay by having them date, someone, but then no one else "dates" if other orientations.

It also creates the "this is the exception rule" So I have "dwell" on it.

I'd rather all cultures be treated as equal. All features be treated as equal, unless you have an exceptional reason for it. Such as the lead character is a roaring racist... but I'm not touching such books anyway.

And reverse racism really sucks when built into the world building--it can be done, but it's rarely ever done well (You have to be really versed to be able to catch all the subtitles.). Even I, if I were writing about my affiliations, wouldn't touch it and certainly not about groups I don't know that well.



TOTALLY AGREE. I didn't really go into all of that because everyone else already covered it but yeah, I'm always wishing there were more Middle Eastern characters in books but do I want to read about some burka-wearing girl who rides a flying camel and has an evil geenie for a sidekick? Or even worse, YET ANOTHER TERRORIST? It's like shit, I'd rather they just keep ignoring and erasing us if the only other option is for them to make us look like cartoons or like villains.

I still want more books about Al-Andalus. There is only one I know of (even in historical fiction). ^^;; It's the kind of obscure history that people deny and try to write over with the dominant narrative. I'd love to see a bisection of this. I have zero confidence to write such a thing, but I would love to read it. Hey, it's Europe! It's a familiar place. Why not? There has to be some awesomeness waiting there. (Plus if you choose towards the middle or beginning of the reign, it's a high point in the culture... and you can highlight things such as religious tolerance. The introduction of mathematics as we know it. Science. The recording of history from other regions. Women learning to read and write.<-- All high points, I would think.)

Lyra Jean
04-23-2013, 11:39 PM
Like Sisters on the Homefront (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/like-sisters-on-the-homefront-rita-williams-garcia/1100488881?ean=9780140385618)this is literary YA not SFF but all the characters are African-American.

judes
04-25-2013, 08:36 AM
You only describe the people from the minority affiliation.

In another words, you only describe, say the black skin, the epicanthic fold, the culture of the people who live in the minority power group culture. But then turn around and assume that any analogues to say, dominant Christian values, and people from the dominant class do not need to be described at all. This creates the "default" effect.

This hits the nail on the head I think and brings this thread in with the other thread about describing POCs nicely.

Which is why I think these types of characters have to be different based on things other than their appearance. It's not enough for us to just be present, we have to be portrayed as real people who are made up of bits and pieces of our social environment and our family upbringing and also societal influences.

I don't think race always has to be a central focus and not everybody is conflicted about their identity, but I think people have to be made uncomfortable and challenged too, and I think it may have to come in subtle ways where race issues provide a tension but it's framed in a paranormal romance for example. Definitely would love more genre books where people who are from diverse backgrounds are just chilling out living their own lives.

Instead of having a label of "this is an African-American book that will appeal to African-American readers" or "this novel is about moving to Canada and being an immigrant", it's more "This Asian dude can be a detective chasing down a serial killer and actually be an attractive male lead but doesn't actually know any type of martial art".

Lyra Jean
04-25-2013, 04:41 PM
Your description reminds of Glenn in The Walking Dead.

Rachel Udin
04-25-2013, 06:59 PM
This hits the nail on the head I think and brings this thread in with the other thread about describing POCs nicely.

Which is why I think these types of characters have to be different based on things other than their appearance. It's not enough for us to just be present, we have to be portrayed as real people who are made up of bits and pieces of our social environment and our family upbringing and also societal influences.

I don't think race always has to be a central focus and not everybody is conflicted about their identity, but I think people have to be made uncomfortable and challenged too, and I think it may have to come in subtle ways where race issues provide a tension but it's framed in a paranormal romance for example. Definitely would love more genre books where people who are from diverse backgrounds are just chilling out living their own lives.

Instead of having a label of "this is an African-American book that will appeal to African-American readers" or "this novel is about moving to Canada and being an immigrant", it's more "This Asian dude can be a detective chasing down a serial killer and actually be an attractive male lead but doesn't actually know any type of martial art".
I think you missed the point. ^^;;

And I don't think of people as "those types of characters"

It's that people from the dominant group DON'T get described at all while the minority group is made exception to.

So far example, you might go on and on about how this person's eyes are black and this person's skin is like mahoghany. And they have "nappy hair" (I've heard this as a self describer--though not universally true.) and so on...

But when say, the white person comes in. You just say they are tall and maybe good looking. Why don't they have say, Ivory skin, blue eyes, and straight brown hair? That would even it out.

In another words, you are taking exception to their otherness.

This also doubles for culture too. If you're going to go on about say, how this family has the Lady of Guadeloupe in their home, and they like to eat Mexican food and so on...

Then why aren't you also describing what the Dominant power family is also eating? Where they also worship? What objects in their home also has religious connotations?

By giving an equal hand to both it cancels the exotic effect. And it's NOT because the whole self righteous crap of "Whites have a culture too." But that people around the world have a right to not be treated as other and be treated as human without having to pound on what makes them ultimately different, but also to show there is sameness between us despite our differences.

And I'm talking from a writer's POV. (I've heard all the character arguments. Yadda Yadda. Not the point.)

Of course this rule cancels a little if you don't have white people in your story at all (Which is rare, even among fiction written by PoCs)... but if they are there in the story, then this rule applies.

Kitty27
04-25-2013, 09:31 PM
I think the same is true of the Roma to quite a large extent, and that's why I'm quite interested to see what Max comes up with. There's a world of difference between writing and writing them having done one's homework, and actively seeking out a well-rounded portrayal of the group in question - avoiding stereotypes and tropes, whether they be out-and-out negative or 'positive' but just as problematic.

It seems that when it comes to writing African-Americans (and indeed, black British characters too) there's a hell of a lot of focus on 'issues' but not so much on 'people', 'character', and more importantly, on the characters [I]in relation to one another, and not to the white majority.

(I'm not to be considered an authority on Roma life, by the way - most Roma wouldn't even consider me proper Rom since I've a gadje mother and I don't keep to the Old Ways. Still, it's fun to talk about it. I don't often get to ;) )


YES!

That is what I wanted to say. We are people like anybody else. I cannot stand the dreaded issue book. Lawd,kill it with fire! Yes,we have issues going on,but that isn't the sum of our various cultures and lives. This is also true for LGBT people and their lives. I cannot stand books where the gay character either goes crazy because of their "condition" or commits suicide. This got to be so common that it became a trope.



I haven't read any of those. I mostly read & write YA and unfortunately NONE of the books I've been able to find even have black MCs let alone supporting characters. I'm lucky if I find a black or other minority background character. Everyone is white white white.

But yeah, this is really a rant for a different thread.



Last Airbender, the Avatar with the blue cat aliens was creepy as hell. But can you elaborate more on why you thought Last Airbender was a mess?



TOTALLY AGREE. I didn't really go into all of that because everyone else already covered it but yeah, I'm always wishing there were more Middle Eastern characters in books but do I want to read about some burka-wearing girl who rides a flying camel and has an evil geenie for a sidekick? Or even worse, YET ANOTHER TERRORIST? It's like shit, I'd rather they just keep ignoring and erasing us if the only other option is for them to make us look like cartoons or like villains.


But we are going to change that,ya heard me?:)

The casting drove me insane. I am not ashamed to tell y'all that I was foaming at the mouth. I don't understand why filmmakers and the publishing industry continue to ignore a huge and ever growing market of POC youth. It makes no sense from a business standpoint to do such a thing. Not to mention they are so hungry for positive representation and let it be said again,have money in hand. But that gets into deeper issues not meant for this thread.

maxmordon
04-26-2013, 12:36 AM
You only describe the people from the minority affiliation.

In another words, you only describe, say the black skin, the epicanthic fold, the culture of the people who live in the minority power group culture. But then turn around and assume that any analogues to say, dominant Christian values, and people from the dominant class do not need to be described at all. This creates the "default" effect.



Yes, I think I suffer a bit from this somewhat.

Kim Fierce
04-26-2013, 03:01 AM
There was a recent discussion in a different writing group I belong to where a young unpublished teen writer was encouraging someone NOT to write a fiction-sort-of-based-on-his life about a gay teen boy because she said won't sell and agents won't represent it and no one would want to read it gay or straight! (She also insisted on using the word homo multiple times, while claiming she wasn't trying to offend anyone because it's just an abbreviation. Unfortunately to most people, homo is actually synonymous with fag, and can be perceived as derogatory no matter what your actual intentions.) Despite her ignorance on several levels, I felt that her opinion about marketing is true not only for LGBT but PoC and this is ridiculous. She probably did read or hear in her research about what would make it in the mainstream world and big publishers. The young girl is sadly right that agents may not pick up a work unless it is white straight MC but I just don't understand why? (And I tried to educate her, and a few other people did as well. I won't go into more detail because of her youth, but she seems to be at the age where she knows everything, and the published writers in the group know nothing.)

If there were only agents who would take a chance on the diversity of all kinds I just feel that they would discover people really do want to read about something other than the "default".

I encouraged the other writer to go along with his idea and gave him the link to my publisher. His basic idea was that of a depressed homeless gay teen who overcomes his circumstances. Yeah, that's so not popular right now! Maybe I should have put this in QUILTBAG but I feel this opinion to not write the story is so out of touch, but apparently even some young teen writers feel that you have to write something else first to get your foot in the door that appeals to mainstream and THEN get into the diversity stuff. And this is so so so so wrong to me. I would rather be poor the rest of my life and write the books I want through a small company than have to invent some mainstream white straight story to appeal to the so-called masses. I just can't do it.

Rachel Udin
04-26-2013, 03:26 AM
If there were only agents who would take a chance on the diversity of all kinds I just feel that they would discover people really do want to read about something other than the "default".
I think we've covered this before... but isn't it systemic?

I mean there ARE agents and editors specifically calling out for diversity, but then you get book sellers with the belief that covers can't sell if there is someone explicitly-whatever on them. (Be it gay, Jewish, etc).

It's discrimination for a reason. Because if you clear one hurdle, you have another.

I have a friend that has this awesome book I've critiqued, which she's finished and shined. I so, so want to see it in print. I can see the awesome. She's written it about a Chinese woman that rises to power. It's a high time in Chinese history. It features (so far) zero white people. And she's explicitly been told by agents that they don't think anyone would want to read about that. I had fits. It's like feminism too.

Who are those people so I can so beat them up? <--my reaction

Anyway, the point being is that none of the agents she's contacted think they can sell a story about Chinese life with Chinese history.

Which throws it up to the editors. And the editors blame the book sellers and the book sellers blame the readers and the readers are like, "You didn't even give us a chance!!"

Because the Library associations and so on have been putting heat, but I think we'd need more massive effort than this.

Meanwhile, here I am writing a book set in 100% South Korea, contemporary times going this will never sell in a million years. (I'm mainly writing it to try to nail down some stuff I need for the Narrow Birdcage book... 'cause juggling cultures isn't fun, so I figure I can work with a quick baseline.)

The Narrow Birdcage book, though I will try to sell. It's just harder than I thought since it's fussy. Also features a high time in history, only light mention of white people. (And no, Christian missionaries either. =P Muism and Hinduism).

To me, I only see human stories. I just want to see women from all different places to be able to thrive, people from all different cultures prove they have what they need to survive hardships. I want to read those stories. I want to write those stories. And I realize it's just harder to get there.

Kim Fierce
04-26-2013, 04:25 AM
Anyway, the point being is that none of the agents she's contacted think they can sell a story about Chinese life with Chinese history.

.

Hm, I guess none of them remembers The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer prize winner (I own that one--set in China)

Good luck on your own story in S. Korea and definitely don't give up!

Rachel Udin
04-26-2013, 08:38 PM
Hm, I guess none of them remembers The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer prize winner (I own that one--set in China)
This might sound blunt... But that book is set during WWII. Not exactly a high point in anyone's history. Hers is about a woman rising to power in a pretty good time period. (No Minority Pathological Porn)

Also, it's written by someone white, whereas my friend is Chinese... so... yeah. (You can see Wikipedia on Pearl S. Buck and *get* that the "compliments" about her are something that PoCs from, say, China wouldn't get. Meaning there was White Privilege involved, though, I sincerely DO NOT fault her for it. Yeah know, someone white getting complimented for writing PoC, but PoC never complimented for writing someone white thing. <-- slightly off topic.)

=P She has a better chance of getting published than I do, I would think with the subject matter she has. But we have a deal not to give up.

I'm, frankly, not surprised, though I am quite disappointed that it's still like this after the flood gate known as 2009 Race Fail debate. (which went over other discrimination too)

Kim Fierce
04-27-2013, 12:39 AM
Well *frustration* I don't understand why someone writing a book about China who is Chinese would be considered less competent than a white person who may or may not have any experience with China. (And I really never looked into Pearl S. Buck's race but I suppose it shouldn't be surprising?)

The Good Earth was published in 1931 so I don't know why it says in Wikipedia "the life of a Chinese family before World War II." Since WWII started in 1939 I am not sure how that's relevant with the plot! lol Well later it says that during the time leading up to WWII people use the book to try to convince others that Chinese should be allies to US but the book itself has nothing to do with the war.

This quote does the story justice though: "The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of his fortunes. The House of Hwang, a family of wealthy landowners, lives in the nearby town, where Wang Lung's future wife, O-Lan, lives as a slave. As the House of Hwang slowly declines due to opium use, frequent spending, and uncontrolled borrowing, Wang Lung, through his own hard work and the skill of his wife, O-Lan, slowly earns enough money to buy land from the Hwang family. O-Lan delivers three sons and three daughters; the first daughter becomes mentally handicapped as a result of severe malnutrition brought on by famine. Her father greatly pities her and calls her "Poor Fool," a name by which she is addressed throughout her life. O-Lan kills her second daughter at birth to spare her the misery of growing up in these hard times, and to give the remaining family a better chance to survive. During the devastating famine and drought, the family must flee to a large city in the south to find work. Wang Lung's malignant uncle offers to buy his possessions and land, but for significantly less than their value. The family sells everything except the land and the house. Wang Lung then faces the long journey south, contemplating how the family will survive walking, when he discovers that the "firewagon" (the Chinese word for the newly-built train) takes people south for a fee." There is more, but that's just some basic info.

lolchemist
04-27-2013, 12:54 AM
How about Amy Tan and the success of The Joy Luck Club? Also Lisa See (half Chinese/half white author.)

Rachel Udin
04-27-2013, 06:51 PM
How about Amy Tan and the success of The Joy Luck Club? Also Lisa See (half Chinese/half white author.)
Joy Luck Club was a fantastic book, but set in the US and had white characters. She has subsequently written about China and set it in China 100%, but I noticed that it's about a poor village. (Again, not saying this is "bad" but showing that there are advantages--though by now she can get away with writing whatever if she wanted.)

Lisa See set her book in China Town America. Haven't seen the other books.

I'll make it clear that I don't mind white writers writing PoCs, and writing about low points in history... and I'm not trying to "prove" anything by this. Just smacking this with reality.

Friend is Chinese, has female lead character, no white people show up, her female character comes to power, it's a good point in Chinese history--before the modern era, set all in China, is not previously published. Reality is that it'll be hard. But that doesn't mean give up. (It's also not YA--or doesn't read like it, which also stacks it against her since the YA market is more receptive). I'm cheering for her. (I emphasize the female character bit mostly because there is some myth out there that men will be more likely to read a male over female character, though the surveys I've seen have proven this false. More women seem to be prejudiced against women characters as leads on the basis of sadly the idea that "Women can't do anything compared to men." Even if not historically true. =P)

Do you have a book that clears all those hurdles? I'll send her the title, she can then look up the agent. She's currently looking for one for any agents out there. It's Chinese Historical Fiction, no spec fic in it.

LJD
04-27-2013, 07:26 PM
Lisa See set her book in China Town America. Haven't seen the other books.


Some of hers are set entirely in China, eg. Snow flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, at different points in history. I believe Lisa See and Amy Tan have the same agent, actually.

This isn't going to help your friend because she isn't writing romance, but Jeannie Lin has had a bunch of historical romances published with Harlequin set in the Tang Dynasty, which I believe is considered a high point for women in Chinese history. (Note: historical romance is DOMINATED by regency England.)

Kim Fierce
04-27-2013, 07:43 PM
I don't know anything that clears all those hurdles...have you read Clockwork Angel or Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare? (Clockwork Princess just came out and I haven't read it.) It is steampunk, set in Victorian England. The white MC has two shadowhunter friends (all three of these characters have special powers) and end up of course in a romantic dilemma...one is white and the other is half white and half Chinese named James/Jem. It is like one step up from an all white cast but has potential for more. (I am under the impression that learning Mandarin even today is considered important, right?) Jem doesn't know much Mandarin, for example, which seems a bit unlikely for the time period, but I guess it is better than nothing. I would like to see more diversity, and felt like something was missing because my own steampunk stories are so diverse.

There is also an adult character named Magnus, a warlock. Again just partly a different race...part Indian (not Native American, I always feel like I have to specify). (*ETA: I am not sure where the India came from-- this was a friend's description who had read the earlier series, which I have not read. In Clockwork Angel he is just described as having black hair, brown skin, and facial features "in the same cast as Jem's" by a person who is apparently not used to being around anyone who isn't all white.More about this below)

He is also bisexual. In Clare's earlier series he has a male love interest. This series is City of Bones, etc and I have never read it but I heard it is going to be a movie. I will be very interested to see if they not only completely whitewash Magnus but straight wash him too.

Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang is successful, child of immigrants (from China to Taiwan to US) memoir, through a big name publisher but memoir can be different from fiction I suppose.

I definitely believe when you say that both you and your friend will face publishing challenges. I do think if we all work and look and try enough that hopefully the challenges will be overcome!

Polenth
04-27-2013, 08:20 PM
There is also an adult character named Magnus, a warlock. Again just partly a different race...part Indian (not Native American, I always feel like I have to specify). He is also bisexual. In Clare's earlier series he has a male love interest. This series is City of Bones, etc and I have never read it but I heard it is going to be a movie. I will be very interested to see if they not only completely whitewash Magnus but straight wash him too.

Magnus is played by Godfrey Gao, so he's not whitewashed.

Kim Fierce
04-27-2013, 09:33 PM
Oh I hadn't looked up any info yet about the movie. I plan on reading to see what that series about.

Gao is Taiwanese and Malaysian?...so not whitewashed but not what I expected either I suppose. Lol. Plus I pictured Magnus as rather older looking and less "model" vibes. Hee hee


*ETA: ok here is the official word, and I will stop my thread jack! Magnus is part Indonesian, part Dutch. I think the confusion over India may be because there is a shadowhunter base or something in India. But here is a link to a very interesting interview on Racebending.com.

http://www.racebending.com/v4/featured/mortal-instruments-casting-diversi/


"Despite the explicit description of the character’s ethnicity and his integral link to the plot of the first book and its film adaptation, Cassandra Clare had to draw a line in the sand in regards to casting Magnus as Asian. She went to great lengths to explain to her fans why racebending his ethnicity would by hurtful (http://racebending.tumblr.com/post/26031354782/author-cassandra-clare-addresses-the-importance-of-not) and would be just as wrong as removing his sexual orientation from his character. When some fans reacted negatively to the casting of Taiwanese Canadian model/actor Godfrey Gao (http://racebending.tumblr.com/post/27673591007/well-that-was-fast-fans-reactions-to-godfrey) as Magnus because he was Asian, she again took to her blog (http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/27700846778/magnus-and-whitewashing) to talk to fans about the impact of racebending roles and her own explicit descriptions of Magnus character. (http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/23181390945/magnus)
Some fans have expressed a different concern (http://racebending.tumblr.com/post/30870570139/all-asians-are-the-same-is-not-really-any-better-than), that Godfrey Gao’s casting showcases a trend of all Hollywood painting all Asian nationalities with the same broad ethnic brush in depictions on screen. Godfrey is Taiwanese and Peranakan Malaysian, not native Indonesian as Magnus is described in the book. Clare has expressed her happiness with Gao’s casting (http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/27570303425/casting-news-magnus-bane), but says she did not have a final say on casting decisions."

If you have time to click on the link about "explain to fans why racebending will be hurtful" I think it will be pretty impressive. She pretty much said she would never watch the movie or mention it if they made Magnus white.

And ew I thought the people expressing concern in the link above would be saying it was because Gao was not Indonesian, but no . . . apparently some fans are freaked out that Magnus does not look like "Adam Lambert".....

kuwisdelu
04-27-2013, 10:25 PM
part Indian (not Native American, I always feel like I have to specify)

Makes things less confusing for me.

maxmordon
04-27-2013, 11:01 PM
I find the term Native American confusing, though, since it refers only to those ethnic groups indigenous of what is now the continental United States before the English colonization instead of the Americas and some ethnic groups extended beyond the modern borders all the way to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but nobody says "Native Canadian" or "Native Mexicans" (First Nations and Indigenous, respectively) it's understandable having said definition for government porposes but it still weird have a group defined by the random borders made by people who came afterwards.

kuwisdelu
04-27-2013, 11:07 PM
I find the term Native American confusing, though, since it refers only to those ethnic groups indigenous of what is now the continental United States before the English colonization instead of the Americas and some ethnic groups extended beyond the modern borders all the way to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but nobody says "Native Canadian" or "Native Mexicans" (First Nations and Indigenous, respectively) it's understandable having said definition for government porposes but it still weird have a group defined by the random borders made by people who came afterwards.

There's no good collective term for us.

Hang out with a bunch of us, and the general usage is "Indians" when we're talking casually, "Native" or "Native Americans" when talking professionally, and "Indigenous" when we're feeling intellectual.

And naturally all tribes have both what they're called by other people (Zuni for me) and what we call ourselves in our own language (Shiwi for me).

Someday I want to make a map of Native American tribe names that documents what tribes named what other tribes. (E.g. "Apache" comes from the Zuni word "a:bachu" which means "enemy.")

lolchemist
04-28-2013, 01:08 AM
Wow, reading about that Magnus Bane stuff is heartbreaking. First they complain WHY IS HE ASIAN! and then they complain WELL THE ACTOR ISN'T INDONESIAN THO!

Literally NO ONE cares if a white actor is of the same nationality as the white character they are playing in a movie but when it comes to Godfrey Gao, suddenly he isn't Indonesian enough?? Let the freaking *ASIAN ACTOR* play the Asian role for fucks sake! Why is this so hard??? Do we seriously need to start doing genealogy and DNA testing before we cast actors now?

Kim Fierce
04-30-2013, 03:11 AM
I don't understand how they can be such die hard fans of the series and have no idea what Magnus looks like. I even saw one quote that says "I'll just re-read the book instead of seeing the movie."

I guess they would need to re-read it! In the series I have read, Magnus' ethnicity isn't painstakingly spelled out, but in the one being made into a movie, I guess they make it pretty clear. But just like The Hunger Games, I have no idea why people were surprised that Rue is black. It was spelled out even more clearly in The Hunger Games about Rue than in Magnus' character.

I think, from what I have heard though, there are two sides to the spectrum going on here. At least in the US, white is just considered white these days, and not much attention is paid to whether that is Irish or German or even if it is known what the roots are . . . and so in representing other cultures, it seems one end of the spectrum says "We need more PoC characters represented, and no whitewashing." and the other end says "If you write an Indonesian character it is wrong to use a Taiwanese actor because that is like saying all Asians are alike."

I think the only view that makes me sick are the ones where all these indignant "fans" are freaking out that he isn't white when he was never written that way at all!

Rachel Udin
05-01-2013, 07:07 PM
Some of hers are set entirely in China, eg. Snow flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, at different points in history. I believe Lisa See and Amy Tan have the same agent, actually.

This isn't going to help your friend because she isn't writing romance, but Jeannie Lin has had a bunch of historical romances published with Harlequin set in the Tang Dynasty, which I believe is considered a high point for women in Chinese history. (Note: historical romance is DOMINATED by regency England.)
Thanks, I sent her the names, and I hope she follows through. =P I really want her book published. Because I believe it's that awesome.


I don't understand how they can be such die hard fans of the series and have no idea what Magnus looks like. I even saw one quote that says "I'll just re-read the book instead of seeing the movie."

I guess they would need to re-read it! In the series I have read, Magnus' ethnicity isn't painstakingly spelled out, but in the one being made into a movie, I guess they make it pretty clear. But just like The Hunger Games, I have no idea why people were surprised that Rue is black. It was spelled out even more clearly in The Hunger Games about Rue than in Magnus' character.

I think, from what I have heard though, there are two sides to the spectrum going on here. At least in the US, white is just considered white these days, and not much attention is paid to whether that is Irish or German or even if it is known what the roots are . . . and so in representing other cultures, it seems one end of the spectrum says "We need more PoC characters represented, and no whitewashing." and the other end says "If you write an Indonesian character it is wrong to use a Taiwanese actor because that is like saying all Asians are alike."

I think the only view that makes me sick are the ones where all these indignant "fans" are freaking out that he isn't white when he was never written that way at all!
Still baffles me about Rue, since it was in her very introduction and then said again and again. And then the defense "But main character said she was like her kid sister." --;; Apparently personality dictates how one looks.

I think we need more Asian actors period, but I can understand the reluctance to go out there an try to be scene, when you're getting pigeonholed, kicked out like Bruce Lee, and put pressure on to represent your whole race (not just your country, but you're whole race) and then add on top of that a bunch of myths about Asians and the entertainment world and vóila.

I *do* wish that we had enough actors in the industry, so that like with white actors, if you call for say, Italian, you'd get Italian. (Which they do with casting calls). A quick look also shows that Taiwanese doesn't look Indonesian, (quick Google images survey) so I understand the objections. Hollywood still has issues with the default effect too. I wish they'd say white when they mean white. Instead of omitting and expecting white...

But seriously deviating from the main subject which is spec fic.

I think you can chalk up spec fic and PoC representation as part exposure issues (either wrong exposure or not enough exposure in general), idealization of cultures (which doesn't mean auto-good but you know the other meaning), a lack of PoC authors due to years of getting choked out through lines like, "No one will read about PoC"/I won't read about PoC/PoC won't sell/has to be on its own shelf/change the cover crap and a huge dose of ignorance.

Might be me, or is the publishing industry a bit slower than the rest of the world by say 50 or so years on the uptake? Well, Hollywood isn't much better, so maybe I shouldn't be pointing. (The music industry is marginally better than both. Marginally.)

maxmordon
05-25-2013, 12:30 PM
I wanted to touch the topic of Caprica and the Tauron, but wasn't sure on how to do it. I remember a joke on Twitter that the Tauron where "all the brown people stereotypes in one culture". And it's true: They come from a backward harsh region where famine has been common enough to force them eat dirt, earning them the slur "dirt-eater". They seem to have a deeper sense of family and groupal unity compared to the Capricans and to survive the prejudice they had a dependency on organized crime to defend themselves and, in the show, we see how many face the question of adapting to a new culture while managing the weight of old traditions.

I had mixed feelings about the portrayal. I have not seen all episodes of Caprica, I liked to have not only PoC but also not just the trite old Space Earthly Culture done here but a new interesting culture taking elements from many existing ones (Latinos, African-Americans, Middle-Easterns) so it can be relatable but still original.

The problem comes when the Tauron are compared to Capricans. Capricans are set as "raceless" while everyone is "different" to them and Tauron seem to be written only to come off as only "ethnic" compared to the very modern American-like Capricans, and not only that but Capricans actually come off as bland default because of it.

Some early morning food for thought.