Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Here you go.
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  2. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Ahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahaahahaahahahahahahhhhhhhhahahahahahahajbxlaksasmdndsfcx

    I think I lost a few braincells
    Last edited by Esg, Nov 8, 2012
  3. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    Wait, so because some people are hopelessly obtuse or in denial, we all have to read really racially awkward/unsubtle/stereotypical writing?

    As long as the image on Wookieepedia gets it right, or there are enough fans around to correct the majority perception, those folks can continue to deny all they want,I'm good.
    Last edited by JediFreac, Nov 8, 2012
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  4. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Agreeing with Freac's earlier post --- Star Wars is hardly the only fictional universe where you can't call an Asian character "Asian" or a Latino character "Latino." Sure, it's tricky, but Del Rey's regular arsenal of Forgotten Realms vets should have at least some experience doing it. I feel like it takes only the slightest shred of creativity to do so, and I very much agree with this:


    Luceno described Sei Taria's eyes as "oblique" in Cloak of Deception. There, that's a start. Being creative has always been the most important requirement to be a sci-fi or fantasy author, and I don't see why that criterion shouldn't also apply to describing race.
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, Nov 8, 2012
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  5. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

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    Well its not just about being creative its about being creative and doing it in such a way that more then the most astute can tell. Not so much on the reader front it needs to be clear to other writers. But yeah do better is the right refrain.
  6. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Actually the world of Aber-Toril, and Krynn, and pretty much all D&D campaign settings have human "sub-races" that match Earth-based human ethnic groups both culturally and in appearance. They also tend to do so through mythology, which is actually a big part of the D&D meta-setting known as Planescape. Yes you can't use 'Asian' or 'Latino' but using proxy terms like 'Shou' or 'Maztican' is effectively the same and the audience is under the expectation of knowing what that means.
  7. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

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    True that is what makes fantasy tales on earth like planets easy.
  8. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    There are going to be readers who aren't going to "get" that Medrit and Goran are "gay" Mandos, despite all of the context Karen Traviss included and her authorial declaration that they are both men and a married couple. Some people are going to read about Medrit and Goran are coparenting and thing they're like the uncles from Full House or whatever.

    That's not ideal and kind of clueless for those readers. But that doesn't mean that for those folk's sakes, Traviss should have written Medrit and Goran as Mandos who dressed like David Bowie, said "fabulous" all the time, snapped their hands a lot, and called Jaina "girl-frieend" just to drive it into those readers' heads that the two were rarely-seen LGBTQ representation in Star Wars.

    And you're right, it's more important that DelRey is consistent about this. I think this is really where the editors and Leland Chee come in, and just pay attention. So they can tell a writer, "You just added 6 more original white human characters to a white human heavy dramatis personae" or "maybe we should make this red head female not a redhead" or "Oh, sorry artist, could you draw Cal Omas as a guy who looks like Morgan Freeman instead?"
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  9. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    On that note of diversifying skin color... What about species in general? Granted, this was back in the Bantam era, but it bugged me that the majority of the Rogue Squadron roster was Human or species with Human faces. Any alien characters, truly alien characters who do not have Human faces are usually relegated to being background characters. Granted, one could say that "well, the audience can't relate to a Gand character."

    That's not the audience's fault. To make the audience relate to the character is the responsibility of the writer. If they truly want to diversify their writing, they should take a gamble and play in different gene pools. Just because the character doesn't have a Human face doesn't mean that it is impossible to relate to them. You can relate to a dog, can't you? You write that dog so well that people can relate to that dog even as it sniffs a tree and lifts its leg. You make it so that the audience can relate to that character on a different level.
  10. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

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    not to mention lucasfilms new parent company never had a problem cashing in on talking animals.
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  11. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    If we can relate to animals and inanimate objects, getting the audience to relate to a non-Human character isn't that much of a stretch. If you got all misty-eyed during The Brave Little Toaster, I hazard hat you'd get out the tissues for that poor Verpine who suffered so beautifully.
  12. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    I see it now...

    Babe, the story of a lost little Huttling who just wants to find his way home...

    Edit: Wait, they already did that in TCW. :p
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Nov 9, 2012
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  13. Barriss_Coffee Chosen One

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    Agreed with the latter. And this is where it gets complicated. If HP were to "thought-text" something along the lines of "my Chinese friend Cho Chang," most of us would probably assume she came directly from China. But what if her family's been in Britain for generations? And to go a step further, what if she's partly of Chinese ancestry and of something else? Often times that sort of thing is hard to tell. I don't know about you guys, but when I walk down the street I don't automatically label everyone by a country of possible ancestral origin.
    Last edited by Barriss_Coffee, Nov 9, 2012
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  14. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Interesting. I didn't know that. The only Forgotten Realms I've read is a trilogy by T-Den about giants, and three years later I can't for the life of me remember anyone's skin colour. ... I bet they were all white, though.

    Regardless, though, any fantasy or sci-fi author should be prepared to write in a non-Earth setting and use non-Earth descriptors (or even proxy terms) for a bevy of things, including race. It may be tricky at times, but creativity is part of the job description.
  15. Robimus Force Ghost

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    I'm sorry, I guess I'm just not seeing them. All I see is another long reply that doesn't hold any suggestions short of "try harder".

    How would you describe an asian character in the Star Wars universe?
  16. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    I'm not reading that. I've been exposed to a few Hunger Games fans (do rabid Hunger Games fans have a disparaging name yet?).
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  17. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Not sure if that was directed at me, but I lean more in your direction on this one. I do think it's an interesting conversation to have, though - I'm sure there were a fair amount of people who didn't realize Rue was black, but didn't care either way. Not everybody reads the same way, and it's worth at least considering ways to work with everybody.

    On relatable aliens, I think this goes back to Star Wars' bigger problem of main character accumulation. As surprisingly low as the X-Wing series' diversity score was, I think Ooryl, at least, stands out as one of the best-written alien characters in the EU. The problem in this franchise is that characters like him are always in the second or third tier, so they don't stick around for very long.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Nov 9, 2012
  18. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Makes me wonder who could be considered the "most prominent" alien character in Star Wars. My gut reaction is Chewie, but while he's a big character, he does occupy the "sidekick" slot. Yoda is a huge one, though he's only been the main character in two works that I know of, Dark Rendezvous and the Yoda CW comic, and in those two cases there were arguably other "main" characters that Yoda was there to guide.

    Thrawn might rank up there, being the main villain of his own trilogy. I suppose, if you count Red Sith, Vitiate would also be up there, being the primary antagonist of a game (though you could of course argue that he's only the real primary antagonist of one class, and the Empire as a whole (or the Republic) is the enemy of everyone else).

    Any obvious one I'm forgetting?
  19. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    We have to be careful to distinguish between "important" and "main" - Yoda is obviously a huge deal, but even in YDR, he's not really the main character in an audience identification sense - that's why the Plucky Young Humans are in there. Not should he be, honestly; he's the Grand Freaking Master and he's not really there to be related to anymore than Palpatine is. In terms of nonhuman characters that are presented in such a way as to be related to (or at least understood on a personal level), I would say Ooryl, again, I-5 and Den Dhur, maybe Madhi Vaandt (who of course was very minor), and...I dunno.

    Though I'll also note that, this being SFF, aliens don't have to be "everymen" to have diversity value. But aliens not being capable of "everyman" status (not counting, y'know, the "man" part) isn't a good argument against using them, IMO.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Nov 9, 2012
  20. Random Comments Game Winner

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    I'd definitely count Madhi Vaandt.
    What about the more recent books with Thrawn? Outbound Flight and Choices of One?
  21. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Thrawn is a Near-Human, which is in many ways something distinct from a member of a truly alien species. While Near-Humans may manifest some differences in physiology and psychology from humans, they are still differentiating off a human baseline. A true alien species is just that - alien. Portraying such a viewpoint is extremely challenging, and will be, if done correctly, difficult for an audience to relate to - that's the point. The key here is mindset, not appearance. Relating to the Brave Little Toaster is dealing with an anthropomorphized appliance. A proper alien species portrayal is something that continually carries reminders of just how different they are.

    Star Wars is, admittedly, not the best sort of series for this. It is a epic space opera and often struggles to find the time for the in-depth character evaluation that would properly reveal such things. Further it tends to present aliens within a constantly human and Near-Human dominated setup, so that we see the aliens conforming to the viewpoints of others through an immensely powerful force of socialization. Voort saBinring is perhaps the ultimate example of this: a Gamorrean whose mind has literally been remade into that of a human's.

    Many of the best portrayals of aliens in Star Wars occur when the story steps outside the struggle of the day and is forced to deal with the aliens on their own terms. The experience of Voss in TOR is a very good recent example. Though humanoid, the Voss are defined by their absolute faith in the visions of the mystics, and their society presents some very strange and properly disturbing outcomes. We are able to see the Voss (and their counterparts the Gormak) in this way because neither the Repbulic or the Sith are dominating them, which colors a number of other species seen in TOR, such as the Talz.

    Of course Star Wars does need more truly alien presences, personally I think that is the diversity slider that needs the most attention in-universe, not the issue of intrahuman diversity, but the treatment of those two issues occurs seperately and in a very different way. Speciesm, after all, is a powerful force in the Star Wars universe.
  22. FatSmel Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 23, 2012
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    This is confusing . . .
    If your worried that all the characters in the books you are reading are white, that is the fault of your imagination rather than the books.
    They don't lack "diversity", they just don't always explicitly state the race of the character.
    A lack of diversity is 100% the fault of the reader
  23. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Random diversity comment: got a chance to read Darth Maul: Death Sentence. Fun comic, though I also enjoyed the high number of aliens among the cast. I mean, Maul and Savage are aliens, of course, so that helps things a bit, but the humans really came off as the minority in this one. Also, the main human character is black, so bonus points.

    Of course, comics are generally a better medium in depicting tons of wacky aliens in any given scene.
  24. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Yeah, I though Salmara and Alien Lizard Guy were great. Then they died. Ah, well.

    [IMG]

    This conversation will not go well for you.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Nov 9, 2012
  25. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    At this point, I go into every Darth Maul comic with the expectation that the entire cast will die. I'm usually right :p

    I hold the same expectation in any comic that features Vader.

    Speaking of diversity and Maul comics... anyone read The Sith Hunters? What's the reaction to Bruu Jan-Fan? Good that they featured an Asian Jedi master, or bad that they made him a kung-fu movie stereotype? :p I didn't have a problem with it, myself, though I had to laugh at the combination of his name and appearance. So that's what a Star Warsy Asian name looks like. [face_devil]
    Last edited by instantdeath, Nov 9, 2012