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