Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: eclipse on April 07, 2018, 06:31:37 PM

Title: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: eclipse on April 07, 2018, 06:31:37 PM
Reading an interview by https://civilianreader.com/2016/12/28/interview-with-k-m-mckinley/

One of the questions by the civilian reader

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

Answer by K.M.McKinley

Oh man, what a loaded question. I think we’re perhaps a little too focused on inclusivity over telling honest stories, if you see what I mean? I’m no rabid puppy here, but last year I read three novels, one after the other, written by white people, whose protagonists were black lesbians. That’s cool, and one of them was an excellent book. You know, the world is so canted toward established elites it’s natural for folk to want to redress the balance, but I do think we have a tendency to get a bit fixated on culture politics in the genre and in some ways it makes the problems worse. Like, Donald Trump worse. Sadly, I think liberal culture has become weirdly intolerant in its quest for tolerance, and blind to its own failings. As geek culture is a part of that, we suffer too. It makes me sad.

If we all just tried to be who we are and respected each other for it, we’d reach a natural equilibrium far more quickly. That’s kind of happening anyway, I think. SF and fantasy is broadening its appeal year after year. In the West, we’re hearing so many more unforced voices from further afield that we perhaps ignored before. Over the last year I’ve read stories from Africa, Latin America, Russia and China. Good writing gets me, wherever it is from or whoever it is by. The oldest story in the world can be amazing all over again when retold well. I like a diversity of opinion. I enjoy stories by left wing writers and right wing writers and people who can cleverly use all points in between in their work. No human being has all the answers. That way lies fanaticism.

What I don’t like is bad writing, clichéd stories about princesses who think they are so ugly when really they are drop dead gorgeous, or lazy world building, especially ones fixated on complicated magical systems to the expense of all else. I like a bit of grimdark, if the grimdark is the flavour, and not the point of the story. Naturally, I level all these criticisms at my own work and feel dead inside as I see them in every word I write (apart from the princess part, you’d never catch me doing that).

As to my work, I’m just glad that it fits in at all. I am humbled that people buy it. When they like it, I get all giddy and feel weird. I jokingly say writers are cowardly show offs, only I’m not joking so much. We need validation, and we’re all scared we’re rubbish. I suppose I get imposter syndrome. On the one hand, that is massively self indulgent, a form of ugly egotism all itself, on the other, it stops me from being unbearably pleased with my life in a more direct way. I have a good life. I thank everyone who has ever bought my books for it.


Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 07, 2018, 07:27:32 PM
Meh. What's her point? She likes good books and doesn't like bad books and would rather read a book by a black lesbian than a book by a white guy about a black lesbian. Fair. She doesn't like Sanderson either me thinks. And what? She does sound a bit puppy. Too hung up striving towards diversity? What a harsh problem.
I've not read a single book about a black lesbian in my life, so it's all in the material we pick up.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 07, 2018, 08:17:08 PM
One of the fantasy sites I frequently read has a lot of great content, but some of the writers have a tendency to get admonishings about lack of diversity into every article about whatever topic. I can read past it, and in many articles it's a valuable point that adds to the subject, but when it's not it's still kind of nuisance. It certainly is something that is present, but what actually bothers me is that it almost always seems to be preaching to the choir. It takes a form that is not conductive to winning over new people, especially when it's in places that lay it on so thick that anyone who isn't already full on board is never going to read anything.

In my opinion the whole subject comes from honest intentions and applaudible goals, but I feel the discourse about it is off the mark. When we're talking about a lack of diversity in fiction, it's probably always about a entertainment landscape dominated by white creators writing for a white audience. This is a real problem as it creates a significant entry barrier for other creators who have new things to say but have a hard time to get noticed because their new things seem not mainstream enough. And I am fully on board with the notion that a normativity implied by our fiction had a real impact on how people perceive normality in their actual wold and life. (In university I encountered the wonderful German term Lebenswelt (world of life) that sociologists and ethnologist actually use a lot. :D)

But I think a demand that all works should portray a positive wide diversity of character is the wrong approach. Especially in a type of fiction that tries to mimic places and periods of very low ethnic diversity. I think it might be difficult for American readers and critics to fully understand how uniquely extraordinary their own culture is in that regard. Of course you did have the occasional foreign visitor passing through and sometimes hanging around and even integrating into local society, but to my knowledge we did not have immigration of whole groups deep into Europe and retain their ethnic and cultural identity and community until the late 20th century.
I think what we need is not "works of diversity" but a "diversity of works". All white casts in all white settings are not a problem anymore than all black or all asian works. The problem exists when we have only these all white works to the exclusion of any other. What should be encouraged is to have the space of discussion about works, that is news, audience forums, and also publishers (I'm sure we have a word for this in German too), pay more attention to works that are/have been perceived as being special interest and of no mainstream interest because they don't emulate European settings and casts. And at least as far as I can tell, this has actually been happening for the last decade or so. Fiction has become much richer because of the efforts of people who have actually pushed for it despite persisting resistance.
And it's not as if it's in any way hard for white audiences to get into works in non-white settings about non-white characters. Other people have been fantast fans for ages even despite the white dominance of works that was close to exclusive, and nobody had any troubles getting into Japanese fiction, which is massively succesful in Europe and America. There isn't anything keeping anyone from getting into any kind of fictional settings, except for just straight up racism.
But this idea that every individual work in itself should be diverse doesn't sit right with me, and I very strongly suspect that a considerable amount of resistance and aversion to diversity in fantasy is directed against this "specific diversity" instead of a wider "general diversity".
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Peat on April 07, 2018, 08:24:29 PM
Don't think fantasy is any more or any less fixated on culture politics than the rest of everything tbh. Which maybe doesn't answer the question. I guess my answer would be maybe? Art holds up a mirror to the world and right now, this is what the mirror shows.

Wish she'd said which book was the excellent one featuring a black lesbian. That would have been really interesting information!
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: ScarletBea on April 07, 2018, 09:40:58 PM
I'm with Nora and think it depends a lot on what books you pick up at a certain point in time. At least I've had issues in the past where every book I read (published in multiple years) seemed to have many points in common, and it was annoying me a bit.

Wish she'd said which book was the excellent one featuring a black lesbian. That would have been really interesting information!
Well, I don't know if it's the one she means, but Jen Williams' Winnowing Flame series does have a black lesbian ;D At least at some point it mentions Vintage's 'dark skin'.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 07, 2018, 09:46:53 PM
I get a bit annoyed about people who say things like "we need to write honest stories" and then imply "you can't write an honest story about someone who doesn't represent you as an author". I mean, I am not in this game to write stories about people like me. I am in this game to explore people who aren't like me. But no, if I write a story about a protag who isn't a white cishet woman (and possibly Australian? I mean, how does that work in fantasy??) it's not "an honest story", but "focusing too much on identity politics". I honestly want to write this story. Rack off. (I also honestly want to focus on identity politics because it's fascinating but that's a separate issue.)

This one, for me, is right up there with "selecting for diversity over quality!" claims. There's a presumption that diverse stories can't be good quality that is very insulting.

Anyway, to be less annoyed in general and more engaged with the actual quote, I'mma pick on this bit:

"If we all just tried to be who we are and respected each other for it, we’d reach a natural equilibrium far more quickly."

Saying this while dismissing all the hard work that goes into making this concept a reality when starting from such a tremendous and deeply-rooted inequality is a bit disingenuous. It's a little like people who say, "I don't see colour!" That's nice, but colour--and the harsh and complicated consequences of it--are a reality for a lot of people, and when you don't see it, you don't see their lives as they are.

Saying, "Can't we all just be nice!" is a lovely sentiment that I 100% agree with, but it dismisses how damn hard people have fought to get us to this level of being nice. And we aren't at "all being nice" yet, so no, we can't stop fighting.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on April 07, 2018, 09:59:31 PM
This is a leading question. I didn't have to read the post (though I did) to know what the answer is. It's someone complaining in the guise of not complaining.

It's also a non-question. Fantasy cannot be fixated on anything, as it's an abstraction. It's a whole genre of literature whose boundaries are not at all sharply delineated. You can say a particular author is fixated, and it might be possible to find some, though I'd advise you not to say it to their face. The fixated are usually pretty adamant about them not being fixated.

The sub-text is clear enough. Someone is saying there's too much of it. Too much culture politics. By which they mean too much for them. It's fine to feel that, but just say it. Don't wrap yourself in hedging and disclaimers, doing the dance of the seven veils. Don't make me decode.

As for me, I've got my prejudices. I dislike present tense. I'm deeply skeptical of first person. Grammar errors will drive me out of your story. So will sexual violence. No vampires and no werewolves. Ham-handedness in all its forms. There. See? It's not so hard. Say what you mean.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 08, 2018, 12:35:40 AM
I've got my prejudices. I dislike present tense. I'm deeply skeptical of first person.

Wow. Well, I guess I'll never snag your vote xD
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on April 08, 2018, 03:48:46 AM
To my mind, art with a mission never accomplishes the mission. Impactful art is excellent art that changes the world along the way. A sure way to fail to achieve excellence is to put mission first, ahead of the art. It leads to ham-handed, distracting content, noble aims aside.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Lady Ty on April 08, 2018, 04:12:15 AM
Basic answer, no. But the author was certainly honing in to beat her particular drum despite the broad theme of the question.
Quote
You know, the world is so canted toward established elites it’s natural for folk to want to redress the balance, but I do think we have a tendency to get a bit fixated on culture politics in the genre and in some ways it makes the problems worse.

The new ability to address cultural politics is  not a fixation which is 'an obsessive interest in or feeling about someone or something'. There will always be a few who campaign continually and continuously about cultural politics and are obsessive but this is not overall.
It seems clear to me through my past several years reading that rather there has been a genuine and good hearted effort to redress the cultural  balances which have been missing and can only now be addressed openly and realistically in our modern world.  Diverse characters and cultural situations have slipped in naturally and appropriately more often, making aspects of fantasy as realistic as it can be- which is almost a contradiction.  ;)

Quote
I’m no rabid puppy here, but last year I read three novels, one after the other, written by white people, whose protagonists were black lesbians. That’s cool, and one of them was an excellent book

That is a hardly an example of fixated cultural politics. The fact that the author chose to highlight this rather than accept as part of modern fantasy indicates slight obsession.
Simply because white writers wrote non-white characters? That is not new but at least they are no longer the servants, slaves, or villains of past centuries.
Or that they were lesbian? Hardly new, but only recently legal, and certainly not universally so. Writers have been writing LGBTI characters through history sometimes overtly but more often disguised because of social and legal constraints. It is only nowadays that in many parts of the world diverse characters are safe to read and /or write about, again not everywhere.

Quote
If we all just tried to be who we are and respected each other for it, we’d reach a natural equilibrium far more quickly. That’s kind of happening anyway, I think.

That is never going to happen, but we can work towards tolerance at least, but better still acceptance.

Quote
In the West, we’re hearing so many more unforced voices from further afield that we perhaps ignored before. Over the last year I’ve read stories from Africa, Latin America, Russia and China.


I don't believe they were available to be ignored. Perhaps because all those places have been dominated for centuries by repressive government regimes. Writer who dared to express thoughts ideas or opinions, even exclusive of political content, but deemed in any way  unacceptable to the regime was promptly and forcibly suppressed or eliminated. Writers are among the first to suffer in those circumstances. Even now any of those writers who address gender diversity in Africa or Russia, and to some extent in China, are tempting fate.

Quote from @cupiscent

Quote
I get a bit annoyed about people who say things like "we need to write honest stories" and then imply "you can't write an honest story about someone who doesn't represent you as an author". I mean, I am not in this game to write stories about people like me. I am in this game to explore people who aren't like me. But no, if I write a story about a protag who isn't a white cishet woman (and possibly Australian? I mean, how does that work in fantasy??) it's not "an honest story", but "focusing too much on identity politics". I honestly want to write this story. Rack off. (I also honestly want to focus on identity politics because it's fascinating but that's a separate issue.)

Support this viewpoint with one proviso, that when writing about a diverse human character other than yourself (non Australian ?????) you meet such real life characters, talk with, interview and run your final past them to make certain you have got it right and truly understanding their thinking and also some of the practicalities of their life. Even in fantasy which can stretch facts and boundaries, that basis seems the only fair way to work.  This also protects to some extent against any complaints of cultural appropriation, but I don't think that should apply to writing diverse characters, and is another tricky subject.
I know this would not apply to you, cupiscent, but when a writer tries to address a cultural issue thinking they are doing something supportive and only considering it from their viewpoint they can get it disastrously, terribly wrong.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Peat on April 08, 2018, 05:41:43 AM
I'm with Nora and think it depends a lot on what books you pick up at a certain point in time. At least I've had issues in the past where every book I read (published in multiple years) seemed to have many points in common, and it was annoying me a bit.

Thing is, we can control the books we pick up, right? And while some things you don't know when you pick it up, details about the MC are usually something that pop out pretty quick if you do research. Not always, but usually. So... if you don't wanna read books by white dudes about black lesbians, don't read them?

Its a broad church and getting broader. If you want fantasy that shrugs at the notion of culture politics, we've got you.

Quote
Well, I don't know if it's the one she means, but Jen Williams' Winnowing Flame series does have a black lesbian ;D At least at some point it mentions Vintage's 'dark skin'.

Huh, I managed to completely miss this. I might have read dark skin, but I'd assumed she looked like someone from Sicily. Just goes to show little it can matter.

I get a bit annoyed about people who say things like "we need to write honest stories" and then imply "you can't write an honest story about someone who doesn't represent you as an author". I mean, I am not in this game to write stories about people like me. I am in this game to explore people who aren't like me. But no, if I write a story about a protag who isn't a white cishet woman (and possibly Australian? I mean, how does that work in fantasy??) it's not "an honest story", but "focusing too much on identity politics". I honestly want to write this story. Rack off. (I also honestly want to focus on identity politics because it's fascinating but that's a separate issue.)

There's another angle to this too. For a lot of people, even those without significant skin in the game, an honest story reflecting the world they live in touches on a lot of culture politics and includes a lot of people who have significant differences to them. I get that's not everyone, but equally the people who grew up in mono-cultural, mono-ethnicity environments should get they're not everyone either. That's respecting people who are just trying to be who they are, right?
 
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 08, 2018, 09:53:57 AM
I'm with Nora and think it depends a lot on what books you pick up at a certain point in time. At least I've had issues in the past where every book I read (published in multiple years) seemed to have many points in common, and it was annoying me a bit.

Thing is, we can control the books we pick up, right? And while some things you don't know when you pick it up, details about the MC are usually something that pop out pretty quick if you do research. Not always, but usually. So... if you don't wanna read books by white dudes about black lesbians, don't read them?

Yes and no. Depends on the type of reader you are, I guess? I get caught by the concept, or heavy recommendation. I also DNF easily. I never pick up books because the author is "such and such" or because the MC is such and such...
I'll never pick up black lesbian stories or stories by black lesbians if they sound bad. inversely if the blurb sounds good, I'll give it a shot, usually without knowing anything about the author.
So yes we do control books we pick up, but keeping away from certain types or digging others for the sake of a political agenda seems like a pure hassle to me.


But overall I think this specific author is widely lacking in range in her observations. She says "I'm not puppy but.." and goes on to prove that the obsession is mostly on her side and not others. I could give her a list of books by non cis white males published in the last 5 years to some acclaim, most of which have good average representation or toss the gender/race war out the window or swap it for alien politics.
The books are out there, and as peat says if she wanted a broader view of SFF atm she may just as well start looking better at what she picks up.
She does say she read foreigners (good), but she doesn't seem to care about the nature of english books beyond the political range.
Seriously who goes to check what "wing" the author is when reading about dragons or spaceships? I mean sometimes it's obvious or interesting to know, but seriously, she may want to look at gender before political colours, no?

Also she says:

Quote
Sadly, I think liberal culture has become weirdly intolerant in its quest for tolerance, and blind to its own failings. As geek culture is a part of that, we suffer too. It makes me sad.

She says that and does nothing to prove or explain her point. She also does a lot of "but...".
Like seriously :

Quote
You know, the world is so canted toward established elites it’s natural for folk to want to redress the balance, but I do think we have a tendency to get a bit fixated on culture politics in the genre and in some ways it makes the problems worse.

HOW?? How does it make it worse, how does it pollute geekdom? I think it's a load of crock, since her ultimate point if you retrofit her sentence is that we ought to write less against the established elites. Lest every other book ends up being a little Trumpey?
Because featuring black lesbians is the same as voting trump to power I guess. Sigh.

If I ever end up published (likely never) such interviews would terrify me. I'd have nothing to say. I certainly would be afraid of using so many words to say so little, and the little said being stuff like "let's not try diversity too hard it's giving me a puppy attack".
We forget how basic humans writers remain. Just because you could assemble a story and brave publishing doesn't mean you have interesting views or well rounded opinions on non-fictional, real world things.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Rostum on April 08, 2018, 11:19:23 AM
Tell your story. Do not pander and don't apologize for doing so. Everyone has an opinion the trouble arises from those whose opinion are fundamentalist and claim all the right all the time. It is your story write it well and push it hard and it will be read regardless of the opinions of others. You will not ever please everyone and do not allow your story to be determined a vocal minority. Be true to your writing a reader can always stop reading if they find it dull, uninteresting, horrific or entertaining, but it is more likely be be these things if you are constrained by the controls put in place by others.



Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 08, 2018, 11:45:26 AM
That's what I meant with a "diversity of works". The problem I see is not with the writers and what they write, but with which writers and which works are getting any attention by readers, reviewers, and publishers. Any diversity problems are issues of the market, not of the works.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: JMack on April 08, 2018, 12:39:15 PM
I think the biggest objection I would have to what I understand to be modern correctness is the idea that a black lesbian can’t write about a straight white male, and the SWM can’t write about the bisexual Thai, and the bisexual Thai can’t write about the black lesbian, and ad nauseum. Plus the underlying division of everyone by sexual orientation and ethnicity.

Language about ally-ship and micro-aggressions and cultural appropriation is very off-putting to me. (That said, there are good reasons for me to work to understand the underlying points.)

It’s piling on to say that good writing is good writing. N.K. Jemison writes great stuff. She chooses to delve into themes about oppression of classes of people by other classes. For me, it makes her books powerful. And guess what, Charles Dickens did the same.

So, if the article writer believes that publishers are over-emphasizing a current trend, then she needs to write or champion works she thinks are being passed over. And make them fantastic reads.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 08, 2018, 01:40:50 PM
I think the biggest objection I would have to what I understand to be modern correctness is the idea that a black lesbian can’t write about a straight white male, and the SWM can’t write about the bisexual Thai, and the bisexual Thai can’t write about the black lesbian, and ad nauseum. Plus the underlying division of everyone by sexual orientation and ethnicity.
The consequence of a condemnation of cultural appropriation is cultural segregation. And that's exactly the situation that was deemed unacceptible in the first place. The statement "it's not your story to tell" is promoting homogenity, not diversity. There might be some merit to it when it comes to stories about the experiences of victims of historic attrocities that sit on the border to nonfiction, but for fantasy in particular it's just nonsensical.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 08, 2018, 01:53:56 PM
Yeah, it's like saying a great book like The Help shouldn't be written by its author cause she's white and it widely tackles black characters oppressed by whites. But the book may never have been done if not by her, and it's not like the world didn't try to put it down :

Quote
The Help took her five years to complete, and the book was rejected by 60 literary agents before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett.[1][2] The Help has since been published in 42 languages.[3] As of August 2012, it has sold ten million copies and spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.[4][5] The Help climbed best seller charts a few months after it was released.

The movie was awesome too. And it's a part of american culture I may never have truly known about without it.
But of course, some novels end up being better, or just existing at all, because their author talks about what they know best, a situation they understand first hand.
But it's not like we can go crazy over this right? Push it too far and women won't be able to write male MCs and vice-versa.
We should all write what we want, being as political or apolitical as we want, and we should get the best beta reading and research we can before we wreck ourselves. End of story, as far as I'm concerned.

This type of reactions (from the interview) is negative and would try and keep people from trying more diverse and different povs, which is an especially toxic mindset in fantasy of sci-fi.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 09, 2018, 12:17:02 AM
Hmm. Yes, BUT. It's a problem when white authors are getting published with stories about black characters, but black authors are having trouble getting their books (about whoever) published. There was a bit of a kerfuffle in YA fantasy a little while back where a white author had a book with a cover depicting her black heroine, and that was the first black-heroine-full-photo cover ever. Now, it's great that black teens can see themselves in the princess-on-the-cover, but why is it by a white author? Why aren't the stories by black authors getting black princesses on the cover? (There's currently a lot of shouting going on in YA about it being so much easier to get published as a "diverse" author, but there's only four YA books by black authors being published by mainstream US presses this year. There's that perception issue again. It's been zero for so long that four seems like a flood worth shouting about.)

There's always a lot of poor use of language in argument, but as I see it, the key issue is not "white folk can't write black stories" it's that the diversity issues in publishing occur at many levels, and sometimes what looks like a fix at one level is actually entrenching the problem at another level. (It's equally problematic if authors of colour/non-het sexualities/etc can only get published writing stories about white cishet characters.)
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Lady Ty on April 09, 2018, 12:54:39 AM
Quote
Support this viewpoint with one proviso, that when writing about a diverse human character other than yourself (non Australian ?????) you meet such real life characters, talk with, interview and run your final past them to make certain you have got it right and truly understanding their thinking and also some of the practicalities of their life.


....................but when a writer tries to address a cultural issue thinking they are doing something supportive and only considering it from their viewpoint they can get it disastrously, terribly wrong.

Surprisingly enough @Nora when I wrote this yesterday I had The Help in mind. That book made me very, very uncomfortable in terms of patronising without realising and white-guilt. Shows how two people can see a book in completely different ways. Just saying, don't want to open that particular controversy again, it is old now.

I think the biggest objection I would have to what I understand to be modern correctness is the idea that a black lesbian can’t write about a straight white male, and the SWM can’t write about the bisexual Thai, and the bisexual Thai can’t write about the black lesbian, and ad nauseum. Plus the underlying division of everyone by sexual orientation and ethnicity.

Language about ally-ship and micro-aggressions and cultural appropriation is very off-putting to me. (That said, there are good reasons for me to work to understand the underlying points.)



@JMack that is an extreme view and not a genuine correctness in any way. Cultural appropriation is really about  not just assuming you can co-opt a different cultural aspect without using respect,sufficient understanding or a degree of sensitivity. Or about disrespect, assumption and lack of understanding. Like my comments about diverse characters above, nobody here would set their world in an Arabic, Oriental, Celtic world without researching it and trying to be as true to it as possible.

In this article there are both examples and it may help, but it will always be controversial.

Aboriginal art it's a white thing
 (http://www.eyelinepublishing.com/write-about-art-5/article/aboriginal-art-its-white-thing)

Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 09, 2018, 01:07:03 AM
Oooos! Expressed myself quite poorly by calling the book great, and saying "too" : I've only seen the movie! And the movie was really good as far as I'm concerned. I should have made that clearer and not endorse the book as much given I've not read it. I felt no patronising from the film, though it did tend to have a slant towards "oh, if only we all grew to still love our black nanies, and then we'd all be happy in that system together". It still gave me a good window in a time and setting I knew nothing about and empowered black women on the screen through the story.
You could tell the same story with a different tone in a book, so I indeed can't say.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Lady Ty on April 09, 2018, 01:10:32 AM
 And I refused to go and watch the film.   ;D But I am glad it made you more aware of that era and that culture.

Quote
You could tell the same story with a different tone in a book, so I indeed can't say.

And you can read a book with a bit of an attitude against it from the start, so I can't be trusted to say either  ;)
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Ned Marcus on April 09, 2018, 09:57:36 AM
How is asking what your opinion of the fantasy genre is a 'loaded question'?
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 09, 2018, 12:28:07 PM
How is asking what your opinion of the fantasy genre is a 'loaded question'?

Maybe because "she's not a puppy but..." ?
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on April 09, 2018, 01:26:39 PM
Rant incoming: what a bunch of whiny, never-satisfied, self-indulgence in this thread. Progress isn't enough progress. Rate of change isn't fast enough. It's not enough that the content contain X, but the sources of that content must be X. In short, it's never enough.

Half the comments here fail to realize the author wasn't answering the title question of the thread, at all.

How many of you are yourselves published? How many of your works include the material you are lamenting the absence of? How many of you are yourselves involved in publishing and actively working to change things? If you're not doing any of these things, than who are you to criticize the original quoted author or anyone else for failing to meet your ridiculously high but actually non-existent standards?

And if you are, yay for you, but maybe you should be working on the quality and completeness of your work instead of bashing other, more successful writers who are not scoring high enough on your social-justice meter. Sounds like whiny jealousy to me.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 09, 2018, 01:42:09 PM
Wow. What an orator. I'm sure you'll convince everyone with that sort of language.

If you read the comments attentively you'll notice no one commented on what she wrote as an author. I think none of us read her work? We comment on her opinion as a READER OF FANTASY. Turns out it's something we're all qualified to comment on.
Being published doesn't give you a monopoly on opinion. Many respected critics aren't authors themselves.

Imagine, if we followed your advice, none of us could call out lovecraft for his rampant racism just because we're not published authors...

Seriously, have you read the thread? We're talking about whether or not the current state of SFF isn't too concerned with inclusion and diversity and other politically oriented things. I didn't see anyone attack the author for her published work or any lack of representation in it.

Edit: and even then!! It's our right as humans, readers, and fans of fantasy to have wishes and desires for the content of books. We can want more inclusion, more diversity. It's our taste, our opinion. It's not a rule or a formal request or a pouting tantrum. We're entitled to our desires and entitled to express them politely on this forum. Thank you for respecting that too.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Peat on April 09, 2018, 05:24:21 PM
Rethinking this one, and going just by the question Eclipse posed in the title thread rather than the woman's words  -

I'm not sure I'd use the word fixated, but it does seem to be everywhere in some form, subtle or not. There's no shortage of authors whose work deliberately makes points about the culture wars and a lot of them are highly feted. The awards ceremonies, by accident and design, often seem to be mainly about them. No shortage, either, of authors coming under fire for being too liberal or not liberal enough (and this thread has tinges at least of the latter). And if I had a pound for every discussion I've seen about it online, I'd have enough for a very fancy meal.

And if I had a pound for every discussion about it online that's turned nasty, I'd have enough for a second very fancy meal but this time just sharing a dessert. But I could get that money back by adding a pound for every member I've seen banned, or enter voluntary exile, as a result.

I don't know what word I would use - and I don't really see what else is to be expected, as this is the world we live in - but I can see why it's the first thing someone thought about when asked about the state of the genre.


As for her words - I've gotta admit, at first my reaction was "And?". Not so much what she said, just I didn't find another opinion on the subject all that interesting. But, since I've read so much here, I decided to re-read them closely and have a look at the full interview.

My guess is she's a mostly liberal person who believes that you collect more flies with honey than vinegar when it comes to getting a fairer world and that the best way to achieving diversity of character is diversity of author. She's certainly a big Ursula Le Guin fan, which points more liberal than anything.

Hard to be sure mind from a few short paragraphs, but that's what I feel like from trying to understand her PoV.

And I've ducked posting that a couple of times as I didn't really fancy an argument about it but there we go. Thought it deserved saying. Some of what I think she's saying I certainly agree with. Particularly the bit about it not being great for a happy geek community - which may not be the most important thing to the world, but should be pretty important to the community.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Nora on April 09, 2018, 05:33:37 PM
Particularly the bit about it not being great for a happy geek community - which may not be the most important thing to the world, but should be pretty important to the community.

Could you expend on that for me please? Because she made no sense in the interview, at least in the quote, on that point. I don't get how people wanting more diversity on every front being a Trump situation and hurtful to the community. I don't even understand how being 'able' to read 3 cis/het white blokes writing black lesbians is bad for the community. I don't understand what she thinks is hurting geekdom.
I'm not sure I understood what she meant, or what you mean.

As far as I'm concerned, if I were asked about what's hurting geekdom right now I'd say shitty unnecessary reboots and overbloated franchises, thinking mostly of the film and game industry. I'd have a different answer for the anime/manga community I'm part of, but I sort of merge sff 'geekdom' between books/comis/movies under the sff banner.
So yeah, I'm confused.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on April 09, 2018, 07:22:34 PM
In every community there will be people unhappy with how things are going, people who don't see a problem, people who think other people are the problem, people who acknowledge problems but think they're not as bad as others say ...

There will, in short, be people.

The "geek" community goes at least as far back as the 1930s when quite lively arguments took place in the pages of Astounding and other magazines. The arguments were political from at least the 1950s. Yet, despite all, fandom abides.

This does not at all belittle the issues raised. But no I don't think geekdom is in any way threatened by the arguments. If anything, it's a sign of health. Corpses don't argue.

Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on April 09, 2018, 08:33:37 PM
Fantasy, and fiction in general, have always been and always will be somewhat political. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was written to save the Cathedral of Notre Dame (and to make money), it was highly successful, kickstarting the whole idea of preserving our monuments and important buildings, and it is a great book. Today's books deal with politics just the same and they should. If you don't like an author's politic, don't read their books. Dune and Time Enough for Love are both steeped in eugenics - it disgusts me - and that's it for Heinlein and Herbert. (I have other issues with both of them, but eugenics is crossing the line.) If you can't write what you feel what can you write? (I am not a published author, I have never even completed more than a short story, so you can trash me as unqualified if you feel like it.) I think that this world is obsessed with Western Europeans, but that makes sense as they were the dominant group for the past 450 years, give or take. The playing field is starting to level out, with Japan's Manga and Animae clearly influencing Europe, and I'm sure anyone else who has managed to hold onto some of their culture will follow suit reasonably soon.

About geekdom and fandom, it ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's almost completely lacking in geniuses and is becoming so mainstream it can hardly claim to be a place for everyone. LotR, and many other cornerstones of geekdom have been turned into mainstream cash cows. However, 'geekdom' is still somewhere you can discuss what bothers you about authors, movies, history, etc., and be taken seriously, therefore it is very much thriving.(bad words, I know, but I can't think of better ones.)
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 09, 2018, 09:46:01 PM
While I did say that it doesn't bother me when people write fantasy stories set in all white conservative utopias (if any other populations are only ommited and not put in a bad light), the subject of diversity is something that does have a very central part in how I am thinking about the kind of world I want to portray. When it comes to appearance and culture, I deliberately attempt to make it impossible to pinpoint any historical analogs. Almost everyone is either "light brown" or some completely unnatural color with dark hair. I decided to make woman warriors and leaders rare, but put a lot of thought into how half of the population does half of the contributions to society. I decided that gender makes a difference to how people are perceived, but that comes with the choice of having it be an issue that people think about.

It was important to me to make these things informed and deliberate descisions, instead of just defaulting to the standard European medievalesque environment. It is something I think all creators should put some deeper thought into it. Because no matter what you chose to go with in the end, it always becomes part of the message. If you include things that some people or the general population would consider bad, then it better should have a solid reason why it's in. Violence is almost universally considered bad and fantasy without it is almost nonexistent. But nobody complains because most of the time it's part of the story how characters are dealing with the presence of violence in their lives. Often very clumsily, but we acknowledge the intention.Discriminating behavior and customs should be treated in the same way.

That I consider it important to put serious thought into these things is almost certainly a result of the ongoing discourse about them. My position may be quite different from the two vocal outrage bastions, but it feels quite important to me that I did think about what my position actually is.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Lady Ty on April 10, 2018, 02:23:13 AM
Rethinking this one, and going just by the question Eclipse posed in the title thread rather than the woman's words  -

I'm not sure I'd use the word fixated, but it does seem to be everywhere in some form, subtle or not. There's no shortage of authors whose work deliberately makes points about the culture wars and a lot of them are highly feted. The awards ceremonies, by accident and design, often seem to be mainly about them. No shortage, either, of authors coming under fire for being too liberal or not liberal enough (and this thread has tinges at least of the latter).

I don't know what word I would use - and I don't really see what else is to be expected, as this is the world we live in - but I can see why it's the first thing someone thought about when asked about the state of the genre.


On point here @Peat. This is the world we live in and cultural politics in the real world are a point of discussion in every arena. In countries all around the world racial and gender policies will contribute to making or breaking governments. These aspects are relevant, have writers focusing on them, factually or in fiction, so it is only natural that this trend will be addressed in various ways unique to fantasy. What better medium, where so many relevant viewpoints can be explored without the need to consider accepted tradition or custom? Fresh ideas and new perspectives.

But that doesn't mean that the community is fixated, there are still all the traditional ways to write if that is your preference.  LoTR and D&D will always be revered as groundbreakers, some will want to model their writing on them, others will want to break new ground and experiment.  Each has a place and each will have their dedicated readers, while there are plenty of readers who will read both styles, although if you are planning to write for profit the market may well influence your choice.

I feel the answers here generally were taken aback by the use of "fixated" and that was my main point of disagreement. Also the rather strange example the writer use of three black lesbian MC's and a reference to Trump. Like Nora, this made little sense to me, unless it was to highlight a reaction against his exclusivity.   

Thanks @Eclipse, you found an interesting subject to introduce and there have been some thought provoking replies, resulting in a well considered discussion with a variety of ideas and viewpoints.
It is not a subject that is going to disappear into the woodwork and all writers will have to choose their own approach. I enjoyed @Yora's comments on his own ways to do this, although I don't perceive any genuine 'vocal outrage bastions' here. ::)
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 10, 2018, 04:19:14 AM
Dunno about a "happy geek community", but I'd certainly like a community where all geeks, regardless of race, colour, gender, religion, sexuality, etc, etc are welcome.

And...
Rant incoming...

No kidding. Get off the board and write then, TGC. I'm a reader and a member of the community as well as a writer, so I'll continue to participate in discussions about my genre and community. If that's all right with you.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 10, 2018, 05:51:31 AM
although I don't perceive any genuine 'vocal outrage bastions' here. ::)
No, there  aren't any here. That's good.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Peat on April 10, 2018, 12:12:13 PM
Particularly the bit about it not being great for a happy geek community - which may not be the most important thing to the world, but should be pretty important to the community.

Could you expend on that for me please? Because she made no sense in the interview, at least in the quote, on that point. I don't get how people wanting more diversity on every front being a Trump situation and hurtful to the community. I don't even understand how being 'able' to read 3 cis/het white blokes writing black lesbians is bad for the community. I don't understand what she thinks is hurting geekdom.
I'm not sure I understood what she meant, or what you mean.

As far as I'm concerned, if I were asked about what's hurting geekdom right now I'd say shitty unnecessary reboots and overbloated franchises, thinking mostly of the film and game industry. I'd have a different answer for the anime/manga community I'm part of, but I sort of merge sff 'geekdom' between books/comis/movies under the sff banner.
So yeah, I'm confused.

What I think she's getting at -

The black lesbian thing is her saying she's thinking there's a bunch of white male authors writing about things because doing so is cool, its on trend, it sells - and not because its the story they really absolutely want to tell the most. It's her example of authors being more concerned about cultural inclusivity than the stories they want to tell.


The cultural inclusivity leading to Trump - there's a theory that a large part of the sudden popularity of people like Trump is that it's a backlash against liberal values and cultural inclusiveness.

Part of the theory is that a softer approach to promoting liberal values and cultural inclusiveness may have avoided this backlash and therefore achieved a more liberal society overall. The whole "you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar" thing.

To someone who believes these things - such as presumably the author in question - having less stories that are being culturally inclusive for the sake of it and no other reason would result in less opposition to cultural inclusivity, because less backlash. With the white guys writing black lesbians being an example of cultural inclusivity for the sake of it and no other reason.


For the record - there probably are people adding cultural inclusivity to their books because it's the done thing/cool as well as people who genuinely want to have it there anyway. I'm not sure that's such a bad thing though.

I do agree with the belief that the alt-right and Trump is a reaction to liberal values. I am not certain that a softer approach would have avoided this or achieved more though, although I do often see cases when I think a less confrontational attitude would have achieved more.


To go back to this and happy communities - cultural politics has created (or maybe merely exposed and enabled)  two sizable chunks of the community who seem unable to communicate for too long without implying or outright saying the other group are arseholes.  It makes things pretty toxic on the regular and has at times escalated to threats and action against others' livelihoods, privacy and physical security. That to me is a major problem and arguably the biggest one in the community today.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on April 10, 2018, 05:37:29 PM
When I was younger (so much younger than today), the SF world was deeply divided over those who argued SF writers needed to address the ills of the world--most especially the Vietnam War but also race riots, nuclear annihilation, pollution--and those who argued that the author should write whatever he pleased and was under no obligation to be socially aware. And no matter how much someone did, there was always someone to argue they ought to do more.

Sound familiar?

Culture politics is the conversation of the moment. It's a good one to have, and not only in America. Humans have struggled with tribalism for a very long time, and artists have always been in the thick of that struggle. That doesn't mean every one of us must be a warrior. To coin a phrase, they also serve who only stand and write.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 10, 2018, 11:38:24 PM
To go back to this and happy communities - cultural politics has created (or maybe merely exposed and enabled)  two sizable chunks of the community who seem unable to communicate for too long without implying or outright saying the other group are arseholes.  It makes things pretty toxic on the regular and has at times escalated to threats and action against others' livelihoods, privacy and physical security. That to me is a major problem and arguably the biggest one in the community today.

Yes, there are problems with people behaving poorly. I'm always going to encourage people to state their views without being hostile. But so often things are expressed in variations of "can't we just be nice to each other" and, even worse to my mind, "can't we just go back to when things were fun / people didn't shout so much". This latter view ignores the fact that not everyone was allowed to have fun, and you didn't hear the shouting because some people weren't welcome inside the room. It was not that long ago that fantasy was heavily weighted to white men. I was reading something just the other day about there being black spec-fic conventions in some parts of the US because those fans still don't feel welcome at the "regular" cons.

Having a genuinely open, welcoming community requires more than just a passive desire for everyone to be nice. Not to mention that the community is having trouble with just achieving that--there have been a number of people recently waving their arms and shouting over having been asked not to be arseholes please. (Jon del Arroz springs most immediately to mind.) We are still in a transition phase, an implementation phase, and that means things need a bit of work if we genuinely want to see improvement in inclusivity.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Lady Ty on April 11, 2018, 01:01:06 AM
@cupiscent You are referring here to a wide SFF community far outside this particular forum and I suspect many here are unaware and do not participate, although some incidents are noticed.  I understand exactly what you are getting at, but again this forum is not representative of any of those very wide views, so this discussion has centred mostly around personal reactions to the question.

I don't believe in nice which is bland and can come off as insincere, I do support fun within a community, but also an accepted level of courtesy, which does not negate a right to stand and advocate for a principal. There is a difference between shouting with venomous narrow-minded ignorance and shouting with directed argument points and sound facts to support an opposite view.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 11, 2018, 04:15:18 AM
Thanks, @Lady Ty, yes I am referring to the wider SFF community. Then again, so was the original quote and, I presumed, the "Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?" question overall.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on April 28, 2018, 01:49:48 PM
Hello, fellow anarcho-communists.

So I've been reading a fantas site that has completely harmless content that is often quite nice, but there's a couple of other sites linked at the side that I find somewhat disturbing.
One thing that has been posted on those sites with some degree of pattern is their perception that fiction publishing these days is exclusively limited to "extreme left propaganda", with everything else not being given any space.

Anyone any idea where this conspiracy theory comes from? At least, I am asuming it is one. Anything happening in mainstream circles that is somehow connected to extreme sanitizing of fantasy? I still see Prince of Thorns getting praised and Game of Thrones being a huge hit on TV. And their subject matter is as socially unacceptable as it gets.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on April 30, 2018, 06:59:20 AM
Yora, it sounds a lot like you were poking around on the edges of Puppy space. Or at least, that's a very similar sort of rhetoric as gets bandied about by Puppy-and-related people. I have seen their comments specifically about awards--the Hugos are an implement of the extreme left, it's all a Tor plot, etc etc--but that sort of rhetoric rarely remains contained in a box.

I don't really know a huge amount of their messaging nor the reasoning behind it. I believe an element of it is that a number of very big publishers--Tor being chief among them--make no secret of actively seeking out diverse authors and stories, and wanting to see stories different from the same-old boys-own sci-fi. Presumably, that's making Tor money or they wouldn't do it, but Puppy types seem to think it's about Conspiracy, and that everyone secretly wants to read... well, whatever it is they're writing.

But in general, every time I've seen someone shouting about the terrible takeover by the extreme and repressive left, it's because they've been told they can't be racist, misogynist, homophobic, or otherwise terrible in public without there being consequences. So my sympathy is pretty reduced.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on April 30, 2018, 03:01:57 PM
I would like some good commie fantasy. Never read any though :(
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on May 01, 2018, 06:12:13 AM
I would like some good commie fantasy. Never read any though :(

If you mean fantasy that promotes communist ideals... that might be more something explored in sci-fi/utopia type fiction. Though perhaps consider Jo Walton's The Just City, which is less communist than explicitly interrogating Plato's Republic, but still an interesting story / thought experiment on individualism, equality, merit, resource control and sharing, freedom, etc.

If you mean fantasy in a communist setting, try Peter Higgins' Wolfhound Century. It's very bleak, very Soviet, very soul-strapped-to-the-grinding-machine (...literally). I didn't much like it, but I can't fault its style and delivery.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on May 01, 2018, 09:51:58 AM
I would like some good commie fantasy. Never read any though :(

Does Animal Farm count?  I guess it's more anti-communist. Orwell fought fascim (the dictator Franco) in Spain alongside anarchists who were ultimately betrayed and killed by Communists, so he's got some opinions he works out in animal farm.

So Marx requires industrialization as one of his steps... And communism is built on Marx. (My personal take is that communism is built on socialism which is built on capitalism which is built on feudalism). Anarchism, on the other hand could really work in a fantasy setting, though it usually shows up as some sort of Malthusian bullshit
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on May 01, 2018, 11:06:35 AM
You do have some proto-socialist ideas in various ancient religious movements. Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas. The principles can be applied to agrarian societies as well.

I think the difference that came with the industrial revolution was not the methods of production, but rather the development of social mobility. To be an industrialist you didn't have to be born a noble. With the hard borders between upper and lower class removed and the prospect to rise in status becoming more realistic, it would become much easier for people to question the established status quo. It's no loner a fact of life that peasants are poor and nobles are rich, but the division of upper and lower class is clearly a mam made construct that can be remade into something else.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on May 01, 2018, 05:13:27 PM
You do have some proto-socialist ideas in various ancient religious movements. Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas. The principles can be applied to agrarian societies as well.

I think the difference that came with the industrial revolution was not the methods of production, but rather the development of social mobility. To be an industrialist you didn't have to be born a noble. With the hard borders between upper and lower class removed and the prospect to rise in status becoming more realistic, it would become much easier for people to question the established status quo. It's no loner a fact of life that peasants are poor and nobles are rich, but the division of upper and lower class is clearly a mam made construct that can be remade into something else.
Unsure of this. Yes both early Judiasim and Christianity were rather socialist (only two I know about at all.), but the focus was still heavily capitalistic. Read the 10 Commandments. All about money, marriage, ownership, and parenthood, all Capitalistic ideas.
I would like some good commie fantasy. Never read any though :(

Does Animal Farm count?  I guess it's more anti-communist. Orwell fought fascim (the dictator Franco) in Spain alongside anarchists who were ultimately betrayed and killed by Communists, so he's got some opinions he works out in animal farm.

So Marx requires industrialization as one of his steps... And communism is built on Marx. (My personal take is that communism is built on socialism which is built on capitalism which is built on feudalism). Anarchism, on the other hand could really work in a fantasy setting, though it usually shows up as some sort of Malthusian bullshit
Capitalism, I think, predates Feudalism.
 Yes I read Animal Farm. Even if you can  count Animal Farm as Fantasy, it is not about Communism; it is about the Soviet Union, which is a different entity altogether.
I would like some good commie fantasy. Never read any though :(

If you mean fantasy that promotes communist ideals... that might be more something explored in sci-fi/utopia type fiction. Though perhaps consider Jo Walton's The Just City, which is less communist than explicitly interrogating Plato's Republic, but still an interesting story / thought experiment on individualism, equality, merit, resource control and sharing, freedom, etc.

If you mean fantasy in a communist setting, try Peter Higgins' Wolfhound Century. It's very bleak, very Soviet, very soul-strapped-to-the-grinding-machine (...literally). I didn't much like it, but I can't fault its style and delivery.
Thanks, I'll look into Jo Walton's The Just City. it sounds good.
Soviet =\=  Communist. I know people who lived there, and I know people who were/are communist, and I can say they have nothing to do with each other. Corruption describes the USSR, not Communism.

Communism is about group pooling of resources, abolition of marriage, utilitarianism, 'freedom' and children raised by the community rather then their parents. (At least when taken to what I think is its logical extreme.) It has existed, (and in some cases still exists) I think, on communes in the US, India and Israel, maybe in some other places, I don't know.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: cupiscent on May 01, 2018, 11:48:03 PM
Communism is about group pooling of resources, abolition of marriage, utilitarianism, 'freedom' and children raised by the community rather then their parents. (At least when taken to what I think is its logical extreme.)

In that case, have you tried Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet? Not fantasy, quite space-opera sci-fi, but it's a great exploration of diversity in a galactic conglomerate where humans are barely an important component, and at least one of the alien cultures explored was quite communist in elements.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on May 02, 2018, 03:44:03 PM
Will look into it.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on May 04, 2018, 02:28:28 AM
Capitalism, I think, predates Feudalism.

Some economists would agree with you, anthropologists would vehemently disagree.
Economists pose theories of human behavior as if they are human nature without actually looking into the past in any depth, other economists with a historical bent agree with the anthropologists and dispute that universal claim.

Anthropologists (who look at changes across cultural boundaries in the present, as well as researching historical and pre-historical human social configurations) would say that capitalism most definitely does not predate feudalism.  The idea is that feudalism led to mercantilism which led to capitalism. Then Marx, studying these transitions, suggested that society would inevitably progress to communism.

You do have some proto-socialist ideas in various ancient religious movements. Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas. The principles can be applied to agrarian societies as well.

I think the difference that came with the industrial revolution was not the methods of production, but rather the development of social mobility. To be an industrialist you didn't have to be born a noble. With the hard borders between upper and lower class removed and the prospect to rise in status becoming more realistic, it would become much easier for people to question the established status quo. It's no loner a fact of life that peasants are poor and nobles are rich, but the division of upper and lower class is clearly a mam made construct that can be remade into something else.

"Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas" is absolutely true, but calling things "proto-socialist" can lead to confusion.  "Everyone is equal" is more of an anarchist idea than a socialist one, especially in the context of representative democracy. Socialism is specifically about redistribution of wealth, it can be democratic or not depending on the way it's implemented. So it's less about everyone being equal than it is about everyone having access to material goods.

I'm not disagreeing with you entirely, but I do want to add some things. Egalitarian ideas are alive and well in non-socialist environments, meaning they don't have to be proto-anything to matter.  Go to the Amazon and you see all sorts of complex egalitarian decision-making structures, communal labor etc. They haven't had any impact on the practice of politics by the states that occupy the cities surrounding them.  Some theorists say that the democracy of the modern nation-state (first implemented in the US) owes a larger debt to Native Americans (like the Iroquois) than Montesquieu, regardless, there are clear lines from the British Bill of Rights to US institutions then back to Europe again.  It's hard to say if traditional nordic "things" (pre-state deomcratic practices) had a hand in the reception of these structures, but there is too much structural convergence in democratic practices, meaning democracy as we practice it a bit of an imperialized structure instead of emergent from previous practices.  Material re-distribution, while it remains active in say monasteries today did not necessarily impact the practices of the state.  So I think you're right and wrong at the same time, specific cases might be proto-socialist practices, but the bulk of egalitarian practices that we can observe out there did not have an influence, and in fact persist *in spite* of the state due to the autonomy they've been afforded.

Yes I read Animal Farm. Even if you can  count Animal Farm as Fantasy, it is not about Communism; it is about the Soviet Union, which is a different entity altogether.
...
Soviet =\=  Communist. I know people who lived there, and I know people who were/are communist, and I can say they have nothing to do with each other. Corruption describes the USSR, not Communism.

Communism is about group pooling of resources, abolition of marriage, utilitarianism, 'freedom' and children raised by the community rather then their parents. (At least when taken to what I think is its logical extreme.) It has existed, (and in some cases still exists) I think, on communes in the US, India and Israel, maybe in some other places, I don't know.

I think you might be blending "communialism" and "communism" into a new word or something.  Communism, by definition is derived from Marx.  That said, millennials have gotten "literally" to mean something new in the dictionary but so far "Communism" still means what it does.

There's all kinds of communal practices that have nothing to do with communism, and others that do.  Marx was writing on the cusp of industrial and political revolutions, he had a lot of great observations, but he wasn't really great when it had to do with understanding rural livelihoods and subsistence. He eventually became aware of this-- after writing Capital, he received letters essentially thanking him for giving the Soviet government a rationale for forcibly integrating rural peasantry into the economy, and Marx was like... uhhh maybe I shouldn't have said all that. A lot of things that we find deplorable about the Soviet variety of communism is built into Marx's ideas, he calls for a anti-democratic phase of government and a lot of what he calls for is a recipe for corruption. The dictatorship of the proletariat, for example.  Famous intellectuals and social movement leaders of his time pointed this out to him repeatedly: Bakunin (later by Emma Goldman).  Bakunin, and other mutualists who opposed statism split the IWA, the international Union that Marx and Bakunin were both a part of.  Anti-statism was much more popular among the poor of Europe as well, leading Marx to move his faction of the IWA to the United States.

There are groups that took communism in different directions (quite a few different directions) and some who circled back and ultimately came to the same conclusions that Bakunin and others did over 100 years ago. But while autonomist communists may have ultimately arrived at an anarcho-sydicalist position, the anarcho-syndicalists were never communists.  Does that make sense?

I guess the intellectual arguments I wanted to make the the two of you aware of are 1) egalitarianism isn't socialism (tho socialism is free to be egalitarian if it feels like it) 2) communalism isn't communism 3) communism shouldn't disown the Soviets or other places it's led to authoritarianism, b/c that's a part of it too (another point I didn't have time to make in this space is that critical theorists see communism as built on capitalism-- where else do you get the profits for the state to redistribute?-- and it's all just state-captialism really), i mean you can't separate Capitalism and Western Democracy from the corrupt shitshow that was our last US election, corruption is built into all of it, just as it's built into communism 4) personally, I'd categorize non-state egalitarianism more as anarchist than proto-socialist, or autonomist entities with their own trajectories outside of socialism and the state entirely.

Anyway, I hope that didn't come off as too pushy.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on May 04, 2018, 05:10:50 AM
The historian in me can't sit out this dance.

Capitalism is not a political system, it's an economic system. It's probably also worth observing that Lenin called it socialism, not communism. The latter was the goal.

Also, Lucien Febvre makes a pretty good argument that there was no such thing as capitalism prior to the 17th century, when the word first makes an appearance, and probably ought not to be applied to anything prior to the 18th. "Capitalism" is not a synonym for private property or for making money.

But hey, this is a fantasy forum, so let a thousand flowers bloom. *chortle*
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on May 04, 2018, 07:04:30 AM
The historian in me can't sit out this dance.

Capitalism is not a political system, it's an economic system. It's probably also worth observing that Lenin called it socialism, not communism. The latter was the goal.

Also, Lucien Febvre makes a pretty good argument that there was no such thing as capitalism prior to the 17th century, when the word first makes an appearance, and probably ought not to be applied to anything prior to the 18th. "Capitalism" is not a synonym for private property or for making money.

But hey, this is a fantasy forum, so let a thousand flowers bloom. *chortle*

@Skip  In American high school textbooks (aka thinly veiled propaganda) they pit Democracy vs. Communism as if they were in direct opposition, which is obviously wrong.  So when Yora mentioned everyone being equal, I wanted to highlight that socialism could mean economically egalitarian with or without being politically egalitarian (basically what you just said-- one is a political system the other is an economic system).  That said, the economic and political spheres can't entirely be separated.  Capitalist representative democracy, for example, relies on having the money necessary to win a campaign-- by design it creates a debt between politicians and the wealthy, and the state is largely an instrument of corporate interest.

From a historical point of view, it was a combination of colonialism and human rights violations that made the industrial revolution possible (basically colonial exploitation brought both wealth and cheap calories like sugar that could be used by impoverished families forced into urban poverty after enclosure laws made living off the land illegal, where they could be exploited by industrialists, everyone over the age of 7 working to the bone so they could barely survive. Some of this is in Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz but there's a ton of other books on the subject).  Industrialization was central to capitalism-- a mass market didn't really exist on a large scale during medieval times-- some goods were traded but the poor were largely self sufficient and trade was primarily luxury economy of the rich.  The industrial revolution created a motive for the wealthy to sell goods to the common people, and also a desire to see the common people have enough money to pay them. The urban economy was sort of born out of that. This coincided with political changes, the first bill of rights in the UK, a wide range of attempts at democratic revolutions in Europe, and ultimately the US revolution.  So basically the birth of the particular kind of democracy that we see in states today was very much tied to economic transformations. If you write a political history of Communism, you can see that it ends up with it's own corruptions that are built into it's history and are very much by design, not by accident. Meanwhile there are all kinds of social arrangements (perhaps you could describe them as "democratic" or "socialistic") found everywhere from pirate ships to monasteries to tribes in the Amazon rainforest that have their own trajectories, completely independent of the state, and perhaps much more humane because of it. So I guess what I was trying to say above was that these aren't socialistic or proto-socialist in the sense that they're related to the capitalisms and socialisms of the state-- they are their own thing.

So anyway, I guess I really didn't mean to leave you with the impression that I'm conflating political and economic systems, but it's important to recognize that they are interrelated.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Yora on May 04, 2018, 07:30:14 PM
Any economical sytem is also a social system. And the state's involvement in shaping and supporting the social system is politics! *waves a red banner*

Capitalism can only exist in the presence of states that guarantee and protect certain rights and enforce duties. And in our world, these states also regulate taxes, subsidies, and which types of contracts are considered legally binding and are enforced by the states. There is no clear border between or economic and political system and the two are impossible to separate. States are actively involved in business and companies are actively involved in politics. If you have a problem with capitalism, you have to approach it politically. Voting with your wallet is of limited use when the state subsidized and protects monopolies.

"Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas" is absolutely true, but calling things "proto-socialist" can lead to confusion.  "Everyone is equal" is more of an anarchist idea than a socialist one, especially in the context of representative democracy. Socialism is specifically about redistribution of wealth, it can be democratic or not depending on the way it's implemented. So it's less about everyone being equal than it is about everyone having access to material goods.
To me, the more important aspect was collective ownership.

Everyone is equal also applies in hardcore wild west capitalism. If you're poor and getting exploited, sucks to be you. By random chance, you could have been the one exploiting others to get rich. You totally have the right to work your way up and get rich. Good luck.  8)

In other news, I decided to remove one site from my link list. There wasn't anything objectionable written by the owner of that site, but his link section includes a whole bunch of political rant blogs that occasionally have a little piece on fantasy books. Both far left and far right, to his credit, but I really don't want to link to a fantasy site that thinks its readers would be interested in political agitation.  :P
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on May 06, 2018, 03:33:04 AM
I see I need to do a good @bit of reading before i talk about politic, economic systems and government systems again.
Thank you, @Skip @Bradley Darewood
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on May 06, 2018, 04:12:34 AM
Please do keep talking, Dark Squiggle. If we all fell silent just because someone else knows more about the subject, none of us would ever speak again!
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on May 06, 2018, 04:21:25 AM
I only half know what I'm talking about and I haven't quite mastered sharing what I know without sounding like a pompous dick
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Rostum on May 06, 2018, 07:03:40 AM
Quote
I only half know what I'm talking about

Like every economist ever

Quote
and I haven't quite mastered sharing what I know without sounding like a pompous dick

very much not the case. I always feel you are reigning in and using little words not to confuse us.
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Dark Squiggle on May 06, 2018, 05:49:59 PM
Okay @Skip , I will go on even though I am quite sure I am outgunned.  ;D
I thought Feudalism only truly appeared in the after the rise of Babylon/Assyria? From reading The Illiad, The Odyssey, and the Old Testament, I was under the influence that what was going on was a mix of communalism, capitalism and a (not strictly) Patriarchic society. A "slave" in ancient Greece or Israel had rights, for example, in Ancient Israel a master who beat or raped a slave had to set him/her free, and pay for damages; a "concubine" was what today we would call "a girlfriend" or "mistress", rather than someone who was chained to a master with no control over her body. A lord/king did not have the power to arbitrate, the "Judges", or "Elders", or "people of the land" or some other group usually could veto anything and even "impeach" a king. Towns and cities were often run as large, extended families, even if not everyone was related by blood, with the "Lord", "High Priest", "Queen", "King", or "Chief Judge" serving as head of the house, and therefore handling any squabbling, allotment of resources, and any dealings with the outside world, including trade.
All of these ills really only became an issue with the introduction of standing armies and Empires, where countries went from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. We see no complaints of a "Third Estate" in
The Illiad, The Odyssey, or the beginning of the Old Testament, but by the time of Alexander, or Saul we see such complaints, because the ruling class had grown large and strong enough to begin crushing those beneath it. I thought that Communism was supposed to be a return to the old roots of government, with some mods to allow it to scale up and work without religion as a force. I did not realize that The Manifesto is considered to be in err, and that Marx retracted later in life, or that the USSR ever attempted to implement Communism at all.
(words in quotations are ones I don't like much).
Title: Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
Post by: Skip on May 06, 2018, 06:33:31 PM
Oof. There's a lot in that post, so I'm going to stick to my own turf, which even that little will require some 'splainin'.

Most medievalists (but not all!) will say there was never a system called feudalism. The critique was first raised in the 1960s and was more or less definitively delivered by Susan Reynolds in the 1990s. Crassly oversimplified, the argument runs like this:  yes, there were fiefs (feodum is the original Latin term). Yes there were oaths of fealty (unrelated word) between lords and vassals. But that's really as far as we can go.

That society--even the society of the ruling classes--was ever organized around this principle is largely the invention of 13th century lawyers employed in justifying and explaining various claims put forward by lords, mostly in France and England. That was Susan Reynolds' main contribution. Well before her, however, historians had noticed that Italy did not fit this mold, nor did much of Germany, nor the Iberian peninsula, and that even in the "heartland of feudalism"--northern France and England--there were so many exceptions that it's really impossible to speak of a system.

Which brings in the final point. The very use of "-ism" to create a noun is a modern invention. We love to simplify the world, including the past, so we are attracted to summing up a thousand years of human experience across an entire continent with a single word, and think we've explained something. It doesn't, and we haven't. The term in fact obscures the wonderfully complex network of relationships that informed the daily life of anyone with land and a title in the Middle Ages.

And this is really why Engels (more than Marx) got it utterly wrong. He misread history. There was no feudal system. What the "rising middle class" fought against was a world largely created in the late 16th and 17th centuries, the world of absolute monarchies and rigid social structures. It's fairly easy to make this mistake, as early modern Europe inherited its vocabulary from the Middle Ages. But just because we find the word "rex" in 1550 doesn't mean it's the same institution as it was in 1150 or 850 or 250. Romans called the barbarian chieftains they encountered "rex" mainly because that was the word they had.

I will venture outside my back yard long enough to say that there were no fiefs and no feudalism in Babylonia. We cannot document that practice prior to about 800AD, and even then there is much room for disagreement.