December 06, 2019, 02:51:58 AM

Author Topic: "Level" of Diversity in books  (Read 616 times)

Offline Yora

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2019, 03:39:20 PM »
Having recently explored some ideas with mental problems related to magic has given me a new perspective on the idea that "historical accuracy" is a valid point for justifying low levels of diversity in stories set in historical settings or settings  strongly based on historic cultures.

I think when we're talking about diversity in media, the default concept we're instinctively think of first is ethnic diversity. Making purely an educated guess here, but I think the whole debate about diversity in media started about the consistent erasure of black people in works set in contemporary America. And because Americans are dominating the anglophone/international media community, and because this is still an ongoing issue, it has become the reference frame for all discussion about diversity in all forms of media. But when it comes to small focus fantasy settings or historical fiction, I don't think ethnic diversity is the appropriate default measuring stick for discussions about diversity in general.

I'm a white Northern European man, so I always feel comfortable with making sweeping assertions about viking stories. That it's also the reference frame of choice for white supremacists is unfortunate but in this case purely coincidental. I think this applies to all fiction set in any historic culture or a fictional culture that basically copies one.
Let's take our average, historically accurate!, medieval Norwegian village. Does it have pure ethnic homogeneity? Probably not. There's probably considerable numbers of foreign slaves. Irish, Finish, and Slavic slaves. Possibly one or two Moorish or Arabian slaves, but probably not even that. Or take medieval Poland. In addition to the Poles, you also have lots of Lithuanians, Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and Jews. Plenty of historically accurate ethnic diversity, but they are all white. Intuitively, that doesn't satisfy our wishes for more diversity in fiction.
So you have your village were every single person is ethnically Norwegian with complete ethnic and cultural homogeneity. But that does not mean that everyone in this village is the same. Even in such a place everyone is different. Not everyone is either a brave warrior in prime condition or a silent subservient servant. There are lots of different people and even if one group of individuals has a virtual monopoly on power, they still have to interact with the other people all day, every day. The women, the children, the old, the sick, the mentally ill, the criminals, the outcasts. Even in this culturally homogeneous setting the Brave Burly Bros are just a small segment of the population. Not having any adopted Samurai or Persian warriors in this story is historically accurate. But neglecting to mention that 90% of the population exist or meaningfully affects events is not.

Just because you can argue that your chosen setting is historically accurately as white as the Oscars does not let you off the hook. That is one form of diversity that you can justifiably argue is not appropriate to the setting. But there's still a dozen other marginalized demographics which the same appeal to historical accuracy demands you have to include.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor