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Thread: Fantasy world where skin color is arbitrary -- questions

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  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin AnWallace's Avatar
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    Sep 2018

    Fantasy world where skin color is arbitrary -- questions

    My fantasy series features a Fae changeling girl growing up in the human world, but isolated from most people except for her white (Scottish, Russian, British, and American) parents and her Indian best friend and her parents (Indian, Bengali, British, and American).

    She travels to the Fae realm, where skin color has nothing to do with genetics, it's all down to "how the magic manifests." So even though my Fae are based in British and Celtic traditions, they're all different colors, and it's totally random. DNA has nothing to do with it because they're a magical race. An Asian-looking woman can marry a pale-skinned blond man and they can have a black child with curly hair, and no one bats an eye because that's how the magic manifested in the child.

    My girl is horrified to learn that one clan of black Fae are the ones who are slaves ... but when she brings it up, no one knows what she's talking about, because the king and several of the nobility are black too. It really is all random. It's a non-sexist society as well, with men and women both having equal opportunities across the board.

    Before I push forward on this idea, because the series is all finished and I've started querying for book 1... I wanted to run the concept past some more people of color. Only 1 of my 3 beta-readers so far has been a POC. She said she liked my treatment, but I wanted to get a broader range of opinions.

    I don't want it to be disrespectful to have a fantasy character's physical characteristics--skin color, hair texture, epicanthic folds, for example--totally disconnected to the cultures of people who have those characteristics in *this* world. I'm of British descent and even though I've lived in places where I'm the minority (and do now in fact), I'm aware that my experiences are still limited to white ones. I want to listen to others'.

    Will it work, in terms of representation, to have diversity of looks represented but not culture in this context? It drives me nuts that the whole fantasy genre is so white-oriented and I didn't want to contribute to that... I didn't want to have a completely white cast, even though it's based on Celtic mythology. My black characters, Asian-looking characters, etc. still all speak English and Gaelic and share a common heritage. I just don't want it to be disrespectful to disconnect looks with culture.

    I'm not into "color-blindness," in case anyone is worried. I don't think differences in color should be ignored. I think they should be noticed and appreciated, and that's the approach I use in these books.

    My *human* characters are much more aware of race, culture, and racial issues. My white girl and her Indian best friend encounter some prejudice on their way to adulthood. Our girl goes to the Fae realm prepared to fight racism and sexism, but they don't exist there. It's no utopia, though: there's still clannism, classism, and slavery, which she deals with over the story arc.

    So... opinions?
    Last edited by AnWallace; 11-09-2018 at 10:24 AM. Reason: Edited to clarify the wording

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