Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    [IMG]
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  2. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    And really whats keeping them from deciding to make the said character a generic white guy and calling it a day. I mean they don't need to describe Luke because we know what he looks like, and if a artist or other writer don't know what the character looks like they'll just make him white by defult
    Last edited by Esg, Feb 13, 2013
  3. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    I agree that at some point, the differences in how a sentient being perceives the world would be too vast for the author to properly engage the reader. The average reader perceives their world with mainly five senses (the sixth sense likes to slack off for many), those being sight (the main one), sound, smell, taste, and touch. The first three senses tend to be used most often, with sight being the most-used sense in prose, followed closely by sound, and smell coming in at third. Smell and taste are often combined, as they should be, seeing as how 80% of taste is smell. Thus, in order for the reader to empathize with that character, it would be in the writer's best interest to use senses that the reader is familiar with.

    Granted, that is not to say that the writer can't have a little fun with that. If you're creative with your descriptions, your reader will also see in your character's ultraviolet vision. And smell in other species is a very important sense. People also associate certain experiences and emotions with smell. Your reader can still connect to your character, even if most of their world is perceived with their olfactory receptors (nose, hands, antennae, what have you). Not sure how to describe how pheromones affect your character? Attach emotion to it. Your reader will understand it.

    That said, the author's senses should not limit them in their species choices. Not every character need match a Human's senses. You just need to be creative and teach yourself how to see the world in a different way, without using solely your eyes.
  4. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I feel unclean saying this, but Esg's "joke" is completely right. We've had this conversation a hundred times - it's very noble and egalitarian to push for complexion-neutral stories, but that's just not this franchise. With Essential Guides, Suvudu, comic crossovers, the Reader's Companion, etc, very few major characters will last long without being depicted visually somewhere, and history has shown that 95% of the time an ambiguous character will end up white. That's why I decided to count them against books I do diversity scores on - ignorance is bias, and all that.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Feb 14, 2013
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  5. Karohalva Jedi Grand Master

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    Although I approve your stance, it has been my experience that authors and authoresses within this franchise don't do this. Of course, I have not read the entirety of the EU, so I hold out hope I shall find some.
  6. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    From a certain POV, is it really that hard to identify with 99% of the alien species in Star Wars since we (the readers) are human? I would actually argue no. With few exceptions, most alien species in are basically written like humans anyway.

    Is Ackbar, to use my earlier example, really that "alien" in his actions? Sure, he uses water metaphors, but that's about it. He walks, talks, eats, drinks, and acts essentially like the rest of us.

    My point is that whether it is a Mon Cal, a Duro, a Bothan, a Twi'lek, a Sullustan, or the vast majority of bipedal alien species we see in Star Wars, they all essentially mirror human traits, which makes them able to be identified with.

    Sure, a Hutt or a Duinuogwuin or a Killik doesn't fall in this category, but they are not bipedal so they represent the exception to the rule.

    --Adm. Nick
    Last edited by AdmiralNick22, Feb 14, 2013
  7. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    And many would argue that there's a great deal of room for the bipedal species you mention to be written much less like humans, and that they haven't been is due to a lack of creativity on LFL's part. Though I will admit that the GFFA's portrayal in the films does tend to back up the idea that everyone pretty much acts the same, so you can't be too hard on the EU for that.

    o_O
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  8. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Authoress... that's a new one. I take the view that the word "actress" is unnecessary, considering you'd never call a female doctor a "doctress".
  9. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Doctrix on the other hand...

    My preference is to restrain existing variation but to refrain from creating new ones or reviving extinct ones absent good cause.

    Thus poetess is disfavored except for artistic flourish.
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  10. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    To be honest Coop, I kinda like that the aliens of the GFFA are like that. In theory, if you have a society that for 25,000 years was knit together politically, socially, culturally, and in every other sort of way, you would have a sort of "galactic cultural norm" develop. Which, BTW, would imply that humans too have been affected by this. All species that have long ties to the Republic's civilization would fall into this category.

    --Adm. Nick
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  11. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Yet the "galactic cultural norm" just happens to be "random white guy from Des Moines". :p
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Feb 14, 2013
  12. Karohalva Jedi Grand Master

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    Authoress is an old one, actually, and I posit that the proposed extinction of gender specificity is disproved by my habitual usage. But then it is also my wont to say, "Forsooth, y'all!" Now stop making this Texan look literate. You're debunking stereotypes, and to whom whilst the rest of Americans be superior by comparison if not to we backward Texans? ;)
  13. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    I had a post earlier in the thread regarding this. Not only is there a powerful socializing force among mixed-species populations, but there is considerable evidence that many species that do not function within the human-dominated galactic culture that we see more or less 'opt-out' of participation altogether (or the case of certain xenophobic or aggressively superior species be blasted out). These species simply choose to avoid living among the other species we commonly see, preferring to remain on their own worlds the vast majority of the time. Several of the so-called Hive Species are evidence of this. They have considerable galactic influence through their industrial capabilities, but they hardly ever leave their own systems, and when they do it is primarily to engage in the exercise of blatant violence. This sort of behavior may even be the norm. Less than 2,000 species are listed on Wookieepedia, and several hundred are 'unidentified' entries linked to pictures or lone individuals, 35 years and counting. The core species stable of Star Wars is maybe 100 species.

    That being said, there is considerable room for more subtle leverage of the differences between species in long-running species to show how they ultimately do differ from humans in significant fashion even if it happens to be things that prove relevant in a very small number of situations. Of course, this is difficult to do, because most non-human species are represented by very small numbers of complete individuals, and so the boundary between species trait and individual character quirk is very hard to establish. It requires holding a small basket of traits within a select range that deviates from human norms consistently across multiple characters, while otherwise allowing for individual variation. Given that multiple authors are involved and don't have any way of perfectly communicating their ideas for a species, this gets muddled fast.

    At this point I think several of the most common species: Twi'leks, Zabraks, etc. have become too humanized to ever really unite as their own thing. There's better representation among some of the mid-major species: Trandoshans, Zeltrons, Chiss, etc. Hopefully we'll see more emphasis this way. Disney seems to want to engage in a lot of character studies with its new movies. If the novels and comics take that direction it could really benefit species depictions.
  14. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I don't think that's how "whilst" works. :p
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  15. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    @Karolhalva -- indeed, it's one if the extinct ones to which I referred. Unlike poetess, though, I can't see it ever being used in a useful fashion.


    Should be random aristocrat from southeastern England. :(
  16. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Tell that to Hobbie and Janson.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Feb 14, 2013
  17. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Tongue-in-cheek though this may have been meant, there's more than a little to this. The cultural system that dominates Star Wars is inescapably Western in origin. Though I actually think Jello's closer to it in many ways - Star Wars has a rather anachronistic social system, and holds to a very late 19th, early-20th century setup.

    I think this contributes to the 'whiteness' of the setting in a number of ways, especially considering how names have been largely neutered as a means of ethnic identification. To your average white american (which, critically, is essentially all Star Wars authors) the very terms used, such as Princess, Baron, Admiral, General, Knight, and so on, conjure up images of historical figures (or fantasy versions there of, such as Disney characters) who happen to be white. This is obviously rather unfair, western civilization doesn't have a monopoly on those terms, but considering how ignorant Americans generally are regarding the history of western civ that they're actually taught, the average American's knowledge of African, Asian, or Latin American history is close to nil.

    Of course, in some ways this is also good. Western culture is malleable. It accepts change fairly readily. A random guy from Des Moines doesn't have to be white. He can be black, or asian, or hispanic, with out losing any of the 'Des Moines' part of the character. Contrast with say 'Random asian guy from Beijing' and 'random black guy from Beijing.'
  18. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    Great points, Mechalich. I have no problems with Western Civilization being the basis of society in the GFFA. For starters, it makes sense, as the films themselves are a product of that very civilization. Your point about it being malleable is well said. Hence why we can have Western values & viewpoints, but not be limited to simply white characters. Human characters in the GFFA can be based on any number of non-white cultures and still espose the same values. An American of Japanese ancestry or a Briton of Indian ancestry all are part of Western Civilzation and it's fabric.

    Which I guess circles back to the original point of this thread. Diversity of color and gender. Reducing the number of white folks doesn't change the story or message one darn bit. :p

    --Adm. Nick
    Last edited by AdmiralNick22, Feb 14, 2013
  19. MistrX Force Ghost

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    So was the OT, to be honest. Which is why all of the white faces in Ghost Prison didn't bother me as much. But that was the Empire. The Rebellion does show itself to be more diverse, and a true rainbow coalition would be great. At least it's progress. Maybe more than Empire and Rebellion showed, as all I can really think of there were Basso and Able.

    Really? I'd never noticed that. Though I'd always pictured a certain Irish actor as Corran, that's a funny little coincidence.
  20. Karohalva Jedi Grand Master

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    Your Honor, I rest my case.
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  21. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    And whose fault is that but the author's? This problem lies with the writers. My point is that they need to think outside of the box.
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  22. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Traviss, for one, makes some rather interesting aliens. Though she hasn't used many of them. I loved how she used Ko Sai in True Colors and her take on Ahsoka showed some of her alien traits as well, when she wasn't blurting out "Sky Guy" that is :p
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  23. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Her take on Jabba in the TCW novel is also pretty fun to read.
  24. Likewater Force Ghost

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    Ewoks eat manflesh! Do they represent cannibalism? is what they do cannibalism?
  25. Skaddix Force Ghost

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    Not really. They are not cannibals unless they eat each other.
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