Blogger Voice: Diversity in Fantasy


Hello everyone!

Today I'm going to discuss about diversity in fantasy. Ever since I started blogging and became an active member of the book community, I have seen arguments breakout over this topic just about EVERYWHERE; especially social networking sites. Recently I came across one such argument on Twitter. If you guys are active on Twitter, you probably know which argument I'm talking about. After watching the argument unfold, I felt I had to express my views on this topic on my blog. This is a slightly long post, so bear with me. Also these are my opinions. You are welcome to express your opinions in the comment box but do so respectfully. This is a discussion post not an argument post.

First off, before I express my views, let me tell you how the situation is. There is a faction of readers who want diversity in fantasy and another faction who say that since it's fantasy, the diversity in our world can't be forced into the fantasy world.

What do I think?

I'm all for Diversity in fantasy.

Let me explain. When an author creates a fantasy setting, they're creating a world; essentially, a vast expanse of area. When this WORLD has different geographical areas spread over thousands of kilometers, how can a person at point A be exactly similar to a person at point B, which is let's say, 3000 miles away? Not having diversity is fantasy is not just problematic but also very much UNREALISTIC.

Yes I can hear voices say, "But it's set in a FANTASY world!" Well honey tell me, since it's a fantasy world, does it not have continents? Does it not have oceans? Does it not have mountains? What makes you think that a group of people living near a mountain range will be similar to another group of people living in the coastal areas? The Wikipedia page on Human Skin Color can tell you that skin color results as a mix of genetics, evolution and geography. Are you going to deny the existence of these factors in your FANTASY setting?Also, LGBTQ people aren't new on Earth. There have been gay people and transgenders for centuries now. Now if you were to create a world where the only creatures living are let's say, dragons and sphinxes, then you could say, it's a completely FANTASY setting but no! Your fantasy world has HUMANS who are essentially based on the humans on Earth so the whole "because it's a fantasy world" argument makes no sense. On Earth, there is MUCH MORE diversity than White and Straight.

And then there is cultural diversity. If you're going to create a WORLD-remember, a vast expanse of area - and say that people across the entire expanse belong to same culture, I'm gonna say WHAAAAT? I mean listen to yourself! Does that sound like something that can actually happen even in a fantasy setting? 

Also, REPRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT. I cannot stress on this enough. The world is not white and straight. At the same time, wrong representation is bad too. I know a lot of writers out there are scared of writing about a culture that isn't their own because they're worried they might do it wrong. The answer is Research. I know research only goes so far but you've got to try. Also I know a lot of members of the book community who would be willing to help authors understand the diverse cultures. I know I am.

Diversity in fantasy isn't just about representing all the diverse communities but it's also about good fantasy world building. Diversity makes much more sense that an all-white straight world. BUT I must Stress that REPRESENTATION is the more IMPORTANT reason and factor here.

But I don't think an author should be forced to write about a particular group of people because readers ask for it. I think the author should KNOW for themselves that diverse fantasy is well written fantasy. I know many feel authors aren't responsible to anyone to write something particular. While yes, technically they aren't responsible, but we can see how much books influence people. So why write something problematic that might influence people negatively? When you create a world of only White and Straight, you're essentially ignoring every other community out there.

The recent argument on this topic was about Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Mass. (The tweets gave away a lot of spoilers for EoS that upset me as I haven't read it yet but I see why they are problematic) And with this, I'd like to say, it's okay to like a series that has it's problematic elements and ALSO, it's okay to criticize your favourite books. I have only read Throne of glass and I love the writing, I liked the characters and the book is a favourite. But that doesn't mean I'll keep quiet about any lack of diversity or improper representation. I like the book but I won't hesitate to point out it's flaws. Because, believe it or not, criticism is GOOD when done right.

That being said, advocates for Diverse books, it's great that you want to see diversity in the books you read but definitely not okay for you to BULLY or THREATEN an author. Trying to scare someone into writing what you want is not right. Get your opinions out. Don't force them upon others. Blog about it. Tweet about it. But do so respectfully. 

I'm adding links to some well written articles and interviews that talk about diversity and diversity in fantasy-

Jeann @ Happy Indulgence
Interview with Bestselling Authors about Diversity in Fantasy
Fantasy Faction- Diverse Fantasy is Better Fantasy

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I'm looking for Diverse Fantasy books to read! Kindly recommend some ☺

43 comments:

  1. EONNNNNNNNN. And EONA. You might want to punch the main character sometimes, but it's good! ^^

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    1. Thank you :) Will definitely check the series out :) I just saw on Goodreads and I really like the blurb!

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    2. But in all seriousness and much more elaborate than when I was on my iPad (really, commenting on a tablet is not fun), you make some really valid points, especially representation. The world is already full of stereotypes and assumptions - and it'll definitely take a long time before we all get past it.

      I try not to come across as forceful or aggressive (at least, I really hope I'm not) in my advocacy, but I admit a lot of the times I'm extremely passive and will retweet but choose not to participate. It doesn't really do anything, though. :/

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    3. I know what you mean! Even when the said argument was going on, some people made really valid points but all I did was retweet them..I never made my own point. In my defense, Twitter is a big, bad scary place! which is why I took to my blog to express my views :)

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  2. This is an excellent post! You make many valid points and do them so well. Thanks for talking about this with the nuance it deserves.
    When I talk about diversity in general or in Fantasy, I never set out to attack or bully authors or readers. I really hope I don't do that, at least. Sometimes I can be loud & bold, but I never want to be seen as a bully. I think I'm pretty good at that. :) But others can come off as more aggressive. I believe we can be passionate and fierce in our support for diversity without attacking anyone.

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    1. Thank you :) I'm glad to hear that!
      Yes I do agree. I particularly like the way you deal with diversity in fantasy. You make the correct points but NEVER bully anyone! Loud and Bold is great! We have to be... We have every right to want to be represented. It's extremely unfair to leave communities out of literature. Definitely we can :) Thank you so much for stopping by! Your comment means a lot!

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  3. Nice post! I think diversity is making some headway (I've noticed progress in YA) and in many ways has a ways to go. I think writers should write their passion, and hopefully that includes diversity! and when we don't see diversity there's no reason we shouldn't call it out or ask for more of it, but like you said hopefully it's done respectfully. I think you expressed that very well!

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    1. I've seen a lot of progress in YA... It's diversity in Fantasy and Science Fiction that is so lagging behind. We'd like to see diverse and beautifully crafted world in these genres ^^ Yes that is necessary. To express one's opinions respectfully without bashing others! Thank you :)

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  4. Brilliant post. A very well thought-out and valid argument, Uma. I haven't looked into this as much as I should, but now I think I will.

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    1. Thank you Amy :) After the recent 'arguments' on Twitter I really started thinking about it more :) I'm glad to hear that! ^^

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  5. I haven't been on twitter for a while now so I probably missed said argument.
    That being said, I enjoyed reading your thoughts in this post (:
    For a while now I was thinking how sad it is that there is hardly any LGBT in fantasy books.
    But I think the diversity is starting to happen in fantasy too. Slowly, but surely (:

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    1. Omigosh! Zoey it's been so long since we talked :D I'm so so glad to hear from you ^^ Yes it is happening but we definitely need more! I'd like to see more diversity in fantasy and sci fi! I'm actually planning on conducting a Read-A-Thon so we could get to know more diverse fantasy :) I'm soooo glad you stopped by! And yes the said argument was about Empire of Storms..Certain situations in the book actually...

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  6. What a great discussion topic Uma!

    Personally I love cultural diversity in Fantasy - it doesn't have to be major. You don't have to create bazillions of different races or cultures to make it a good fantasy - but do by all means make it realistic. Make it something that could actually happen (yeah, I know, Fantasy, but let's have it more realistic so it's easier to suspend my disbelief). I need RICH history and culture, I want to know WHY things are as they are and I want groups of people to have subjectivity. Also, I don't want everyone in a subset to have exactly the same beliefs or all be blindly fighting for the same cause! People, even fantasy people, are never going to agree on everything! No group, be it social, political, cultural or religious should be monolithic because realistically that is just not going to happen.

    For me, I don't actually care whether I see colour diversity in a fantasy novel, but there must be diverse elements - there can be humans and faeries, orcs and elves or there could be Asians and Africans but there has to be some diversity. (P.S. I don't actually know the arguments lately but I love SJ Maas, you know this already! And her series includes different races, different abilities and various sexual orientations with absolutely NO second glances).

    I love it when authors write worlds different to our own. I love seeing matriarchal societies, or (my personal favourite) egalitarianism because I'm used to living in a patriarchal society.

    Above all though, it's the suspension of disbelief that I'm after - I want to be able to believe what I'm reading, even if it's unbelievable. And certain amounts of diversity (again, not just on skin colour) are the foundation to great world building.

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    1. Thank you :) I felt after the recent happenings on Twitter, I had to talk about this topic. I totally agree with your first point. Nowhere is a group going to be similar. Everyone has different beliefs, ideas and opinions. I love cultural influences in fantasy and Rich histories. A book can't tell me "it's just the way it is" or "just so". I will possibly get infuriated!

      A PoC who loves fantasy books would love to see someone like themselves portrayed in the stories. The arguments are all over Twitter. The argument I'm talking about actually lasted 2 days or something -_- It was sad to watch people fighting. Actually the treatment of PoC and people with disability in EoS has been criticized by many. like i said, the discussion gave away spoilers that makes me so sad as I haven't read the series yet *cries*

      Yes that is true. It is always refreshing to see egalitarianism in the books we read :)

      Yes! All types of diversity matter! Thanks for stopping by Di :)

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    2. Theoretically I could be called a POC as I am half Asian! I've never really thought about it though, like I don't really think about it when I'm reading.

      I've been looking it up and I do see people raging about SJM killing off the only POC characters in her book - you know? I didn't even notice. A LOT of people die. Although if I do think about it I'm almost positive there's POC side characters still floating around in her world?

      I'd much rather that what authors do be done WELL than to try and please certain people. For example I just read Cinder and apparently that is diverse because we were in an Asian setting and had Asian characters.... Well, unfortunately the world building was terrible and it didn't come off Asian AT ALL. Some slightly Asian-ish character names and Chinese food does NOT an Asian culture make....

      So anyways... I hope you'll continue with Throne of Glass and I hope that SJM will not take these horrible comments being made to heart. She's an incredible author and I love her work and she's also as human as we are - maybe even more so given the feels that she can portray in her books, that's got to take some pretty incredible empathy, right?

      Have you ever read, The Reader? It's diverse in so many ways and a lovely book. Well worth the read!

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    3. OMG! I did not know that!!

      Yes that's what everyone was complaining about. I'm pretty sure I would never have heard of the argument if I weren't an active Twitter user. And yes I will continue with ToG because like I said, I love the plot and the characters!! I will definitely go all the way with the series ^^

      And that is so sad to hear about Cinder. I was hoping for an incredible read. I wish authors would do their research before they write about a culture that isn't their own. We readers are right here! I know if an author asks me about Hindu mythology and culture I'll sit them down and explain everything. It might take me at least a week yeah but I will :P I don't want to see my culture done wrong!

      And yes BULLYING an author or anyone else for that matter is not cool! The internet is a scary place. It's horrible to read hate comments directed at you. Like I said, yes expression is welcome but one should do so decently..and respectfully. BULLYING and THREATS are not the answer!!

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    4. And yes I've heard of The Reader! :) It's in my TBR!

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    5. Oh. Cinder. See it didn't bother me. It's a silly YA novel about a cyborg Cinderella. Great concept. Great premise. Lovely story. It plays in Asia. But it also plays in a world where there's people who are living on the moon. As in, they come from there. As in, they're a different species. And in that moment the whole "Asia just sounds like Europe/US with Beijing as the capital" did not actually bother me.
      The author shouldn't be shredded for that.
      Now. However. If the author walked around in her press tours and book signings, claiming how great she is because of being diverse and using an Asian setting, then I'd have to laugh at her. I hope she didn't... but I guess she did?

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    6. I see what you mean! The author shouldn't be shredded for that definitely! Oh I'm not sure..I don't think she said anything like that. I haven't heard any such controversies regarding Marissa Meyer :)

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    7. Look - it wasn't a bad book, but I had heard it touted as being diverse... Not by the author, but by readers, reviewers, bloggers.

      Cinder is set in Asia or the new Asia and Scarlet so far as I've gotten is set in Europe (particularly France). Honestly the European vibe is playing out better. Maybe Meyer's writing improved? I'm sure! But also maybe there's subtle nuances playing towards the culture that weren't there in Cinder. In fact, world building was my biggest issue with that book. Having said that though it's definitely readable and entertaining - I'm not putting it down (too much!).

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    8. Yeah I see what you mean. I remember people on Goodreads being over the moon about having a well written 'diverse' fantasy! Cinder was an idea that grew when Meyer participated in Nanowrimo..she went to become a winner...So i'm guessing yeah her writing became better with the next novels ^^

      But yes I do love great World Building!

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  7. Oh. Wow. Interesting post. Important discussion, I think. Obviously I have nothing to add to a discussion about diversity when it comes to skin colour, because I'm white. But, I'm gay. As a gay woman who was born in the middle of the 80's, I've watched gay couples become a thing on TV.
    And part of me was happy about it. But then they started the 'the lesbian usually dies' trope. And I watched over and over again how the gay couples I was shipping were torn apart by heartbreak, cheating or death. The message was clear... and it wasn't a good one.
    That got better, but it turned into something else. Now it's, oh we need to be diverse, quick add a gay couple in the background. Quick, let's say Dumbledore was gay, quick, that one character who doesn't matter, can they be gay?
    And I'm bothered by it. Because it's diversity just to be diverse.
    I read a book earlier this year that I praised because it was diverse and I think it's important to point diversity out, so that more people think about it and include it. But if diversity was normal, then the book would have bothered me. A gay character, a transgender character, an autistic character, like each one of the characters was diverse and it felt like they all needed to be diverse.
    I dislike when I have the impression the black guy, the Asian guy, the South American guy is only there to be the black guy, the Asian guy or the South American guy. The gay man is there to be the gay man. They're there to be able to say, look, my work is diverse.
    I'd rather read an entirely white and straight book, that at least rings true, than read a book that is forced to be diverse.
    I just wished we lived in a world where it didn't matter. Because we have a prominent amount of literature that isn't written by white and straight and male authors. Because then it wouldn't matter if one world was entirely white and another was entirely black and a third one had a mix.
    For now it matters. But I wish publishers would give more POC authors, more women, more lgbt people publishing contracts and add diversity in that way than authors and filmmakers having to worry that they added enough diverse characters, just so they don't get shredded on social media, even though the characters are clearly only there to be diverse (and then, to die or be unimportant.)

    Does it make any sense at all, what I'm trying to say?

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    1. Love your points Olivia and totally agree - I REALLY dislike it when characters are there simply to BE that diverse character. You've hit the nail on the head!

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    2. It makes so much sense! I see what you mean! Diversity for the sake of Diversity isn't right. You don't just add a queer character in the background (who probably is killed off or disappears) and say "hey, see? I write diverse novels. Now you can't be mad at me!" Well guess what sweetie? We're going to be even more angry! I'd like to see diverse characters in a novel who aren't there just to add to the diversity but also the plot and the story. I'd like to see a black gay female in a story who isn't there to just fill in the diverse checkbox. By adding these background just to do away with diverse characters, the author is only making things more problematic! PoC, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities are people too! Why does adding them have to be like a task or something? Why can't it be normal? You know what I mean?

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    3. Yes. Exactly. And I feel like a lot of the criticism lately has led to a few authors/filmmakers doing just that. Sadly. Hopefully we're on our way to changing this though.

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    4. Yes I hope things are changing! I hope next time an author adds a diverse character, they don't add them just to do away with them!

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    5. You expressed our opinions exactly Olivia! That was such an insightful comment, we totally agree - we didn't express it as well as you though. Yes, some diverse characters are there as though they're part of a checklist, which is really frustrating.
      ~Pendragons

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  8. Excellent post! Diversity seems to be a scary word for authors. I like good plots and characters I can root for in my favourite genres-I'm fine with these characters being diverse in every way. I'm white and straight but I'm happy to see more gay characters, MCs who are not white or western based, MCs who have physical disabilities etc as that reflects the diversity we have in the real world so why not have more in our reading worlds? Readers are diverse so the books we read should be more representative.

    I'm interested in what Di said about the POC in a book being killed and people were ready to riot.I saw a similar row years ago about a gay character being the bad guy and that the author was homophobic for doing it. If we want real diversity, characters have to die or be evil as well as heroes! Readers can't have it both ways.

    There are a lot of good points in your post and in the comments left by bloggers. I think I might have a diversity post in the new year. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you :)Me too! I think a lot of different characters add to the well rounded and three dimensional feel of a story! Exactly! I'm cis and straight but i enjoy having queer and/or gay characters in the story! There are some wonderful books that have diverse main characters who aren't white and straight. Yes Representation is important! Books are amazing when they're inclusive!

      True that! I think it's more that is there had been many diverse characters and a few were killed, people wouldn't have gone so crazy. But yes it's reallllyy horrible to try and scare or bully an author into writing what the reader wants.

      Yay! I'd love to read your post! I think it's a really important topic to be talking about and I wish more people would TALK about it and not FIGHT over it!

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    2. As a lesbian, I can tell you it's annoying when the character you identify with almost always ends up dead or in other ways shredded to pieces. I can understand people thinking: oh, finally, an important POC character, oh no, they're dead.
      In 2016 a prominent TV show (don't want to spoil the show, so not naming it) did a thing where the lesbian community exploded. And whilst it didn't bother me as much as others, I wasn't surprised.
      In my opinion, POC should cheat, die, get killed, be evil, be good, be human, be cyborg, be happy, be the hero, be the villain. As should the LGBT. As should white people. As should any gender, ethnicity etc.
      But for that we need to see minorities get a happy story line every now and then. Otherwise I'll keep being annoyed/sad/angry when I see the lesbian die yet again.

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    3. YES! That's exactly what we need in books! Everyone be treated the same. Yes! Killing off every diverse character IS NOT including diversity in a book. Treat a diverse characters just the same as you would treat any other character. No one wants to watch characters we identify with die over and over again!

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  9. I agree with your every single point.

    I mean, come on, we have to accept the flaws if there are. But that doesn't mean you can threaten a life. Seriously? This is ridiculous. You have the RIGHT to point out, but you DON'T have the right to threaten or bully someone. At least I hope anything like this won't happen in future.

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    1. Thanks Jan :) <3

      Exactly! No one has the right to threaten anyone! author or otherwise..Point it out and have civil discussions! Don't go around bullying anyone..You want the right thing..don't do it the wrong way!

      I hope so too!

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  10. Great post. I'm so glad this conversation is still happening. The change has been slow but it's happening. I'm trying to figure out why some people are against diversity in fantasy and books in general. It's nice to be able to see myself as the heroine and not just the monstrous villain.

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    1. Thank you :) Yes the change is there but it needs people like us to spread the word! :) IKR? Like I've heard of people being indifferent to it and AGAINST it. like i don't understand even the former mentality but the latter one really bugs me. Why would anyone be AGAINST it?

      I agree with that. I'd like to see happy stories for characters like myself ^^

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. This is such an interesting post! We don't have Twitter so we weren't sure what you were referencing at first, but it makes sense now! We agree - YES to diversity but NO to bullying and threatening. Your opinions are absolutely valid though - we totally agree with you!

      Not sure if someone mentioned this but although we're eager for diversity in books, we feel that if authors feel pressured to add diversity, they'll add it as a part of a checklist. As in "I'll just put a LBGT character here... an Asian character here..." Promoting diversity is great, but pressuring does seem to lead to unrealistic representations, but by all means, yes to diversity.

      You could try Laurinda by Alice Pung, it's a book from the viewpoint of an Asian protagonist, so it was really refreshing to read.

      This was such an insightful post!! <3
      ~Pendragons

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    3. Thank you guys ^^ Yes that's exactly what Olivia said in the comments before. Authors add diverse characters just to add ticks to the checklist. So it can be like "look, I've added a diverse character" You can't blame me now!" But that's not what we are looking for in a diverse read...i'll quote Olivia now - "In my opinion, POC should cheat, die, get killed, be evil, be good, be human, be cyborg, be happy, be the hero, be the villain. As should the LGBT. As should white people. As should any gender, ethnicity etc.
      But for that we need to see minorities get a happy story line every now and then. Otherwise I'll keep being annoyed/sad/angry when I see the lesbian die yet again." She puts it so beautifully! This is exactly what we want..I wish authors would understand that but yes a big NO to bullying and such..

      Thanks for stopping by :)

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    4. Yes, we found Olivia's comment as well, and she expressed it perfectly! All the comments on this blog post are so insightful - your blog post was amazing! <3<3<3

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  11. I definitely agree with you!! It absolutely boggles my mind how books can come up with complete magic systems, dragons, elves, magical wizard weapons, and like flying continents...and yet they can't put POC characters in there or like have equality or lgbt representation?!? Or like disabilities?? For goodness sakes, where are my characters with disabilities and mental illnesses too?!? I NEED IT ALL. I think fantasy needs to be diverse and I see zero reason why it shouldn't be.

    However if an author doesn't write diversely, like I might disagree with them, but I don't think they should be attacked and threatened and abused either. No one should!! But I do hope authors start putting more diversity into fantasy because it sorely needs it. *nods* And why I love recommending and making lists of diverse fantasy to get it out there!! If we readers keep buying diverse fantasy and clamouring for it, hopefully publishers/authors will hear and respond by giving us more, right?!

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    1. I know! It should be a natural thing to add diversity in books! I like to see diverse characters in the books I read. People need to stop using "FANTASY" as an excuse! YAY Cait! High five!

      Exactly..Me too..internet is a crazy place as it is..let's not make it worse! Yes. Let's follow that..The more we demand, the more publishers will look for diverse stories and authors will write them too ^^ Thanks for stopping by Cait <3

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  12. I haven't read TOG et al. (and not really planning on it anytime soon even though I do have the UK paperback pretties) but for this series in particular, I think the difficulty for Maas is that she's already built this world a few years back with its rules, cultures, and what have you. So this current push for greater diversity onto her story (inclusive of representation of aforementioned people, culture, backgrounds, etc.) might not serve her current narrative. I'm only speculating though. It's a shitty thought, yeah, but it's not as if she's rewriting the series all over again, right? Anything she puts in would have to have a lot of context than just a "passing coloured person" to have substance in the story.

    It's certainly frustrating that this happens but I guess she just has to own up to this criticism and just do better in her next series. That's my best guess anyways.

    Know that I'm completely for diversity in everything (not just limited to the scope of this post). So I hope the above didn't sound anti or anything.

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    1. I do understand what you mean. An authour can't change her pre determined plot because readers want it to be different. I'm just saying every author when they start to write MUST think of diversity!I wish any new series Maas begins would have more diversity :)

      Exactly! Not much can be done about a series that's reached it's penultimate book!

      I do know that!! I personally love your tweets regarding this matter and also otherwise :) Not at all! What you are saying is completely true! Thanks for stopping by Joey :)

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