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Author Topic: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?  (Read 4563 times)

Offline Yora

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #15 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.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #16 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 :

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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.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #17 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.)

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2018, 12:54:39 AM »
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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


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Offline Nora

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #19 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.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #20 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.

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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  ;)
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 01:13:43 AM by Lady Ty »
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline Ned Marcus

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2018, 09:57:36 AM »
How is asking what your opinion of the fantasy genre is a 'loaded question'?

Offline Nora

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #22 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..." ?
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #23 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.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #24 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.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 01:45:26 PM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Online Peat

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #25 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.

Offline Nora

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #26 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.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Skip

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #27 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.


Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #28 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.)

Offline Yora

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #29 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.
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