Trying my best not to fail, but I’m not sure it’s enough

This is sorta off-topic, but it’s also my blog. (So deal.)

Okay. A bit of a preamble here. I’ve been agonizing over whether to post this here for pretty much the entire time I’ve had this blog. But since I’ve gotten pretty serious about finishing this project (described below) in the last few months, I think I owe it to myself to make this post rather than keeping my doubts to myself, despite that I’d honestly rather scoop my own eyeballs out with a rusty spoon.

(Also, I realize that all of this sounds horrifically cliche in less than 100,000 words, but I’m honestly not setting out to rip off Tolkein or the legions of Tolkein knock-offs. Honestly, I can’t stand Terry Brooks and authors like him. I’m not about to summarize the plot because that would be boring, so you’ll have to trust me on this.)

Full disclosure – I’m a middle-class white ciswoman, so despite the ranting I do here I certainly have a fuckton of privilege. I was brought up in a very conservative community full of pretty much every kind of fail ever, but especially classism and racism, and as such am painfully aware my own fail-worthy tendencies. The last thing I want is for this to sound like “oh I am a white woman with white guilt and I’m trying soooo haaaaard and I’m afraid the evil anti-racists will be meeeeaaaaaan to meeeee and I feeeeeeeeel so baaaaaaaaad”. This whole thing shouldn’t be about me, and I recognize that. However, I realize that silence doesn’t help anything. So despite that I grew up in a place where Good People just Didn’t Talk about Those Things and that I have more than my fair share of (ex)Catholic Guilt, I want to give this a try.

All of this is an incredibly long-winded way of saying – hey, I’m trying. Please let me know if I fail, and please accept my apologies in advance since I know I probably will.

The Dilemma

Okay. So one of the things that I’ve been doing during my soul-cripplingly long period of unemployment has been finally putting serious effort into the fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for … <ahem> waytoof*ckinglongnow.

Now I recognize that SF and Fantasy are genres with a disproportionate amount of fail of all kinds, be it gender fail, race fail, orientation fail, what have you. Tanya Huff in particular has been one of my favorite fantasy authors for a long time particularly because of her efforts to address some of these various types of fail. Similarly, while Ursula K. LeGuin’s purple prose tends to turn me off, I did read and enjoy the Earthsea Trilogy and wish that her writing was more up my alley, since I would love to support her more. So when I sat down to do my world-building, I made sure to engineer things so as to avoid the most basic types of fail that so many fantasy authors seem to fall into time and time again.

My protagonists are not all white – it’s a mixed group. Nor are the villains all brown. (That’s the basics of the basics, and yet people still manage to screw that up all the time, sadly. I’m looking at you, M. Knight Shayalaman!) Neither are my protagonists solely members of the aristocracy fighting to uphold a feudal monarchy. And I am certainly not pretending gay people don’t exist, nor am I demonizing them or portraying them as two-dimensional stereotypes. However, there’s something that I’ve been quietly angsting about.

My book has elves.

I freaking love elves. Maybe it’s being a visual artist, or a former anime freak, or having grown up stuffing my face with fantasy, I don’t know. But I loves me some elves. And I know, I know, I know that elves are one of the most problematic things in fantasy ever. They’re super-perfect, beautiful, slender, immortal, aristocratic, super-white people. (There’s a recent post on Ars Marginal that sums this up much better than I can.) So I get it. Elves are bad (not to mention lazy writing in about 99% of instances). But I adore high fantasy – I adore elves, and dragons, and mages, and especially romance set with elves, dragons, and mages – and the book I’m writing has all of this.

It’s important to me that even working with such cliched material that I find new things to say that aren’t just ripping off Tolkien and the legions of Tolkein knock-offs, and that I do so in a responsible manner. I’m not about to pretend that Fantasy Doesn’t Count, because haven’t I been railing against that argument here? I also don’t want to write a love letter to classism, or have this turn into “White People Are Awesome The Fantasy Novel”, because I would consider that a failure in every sense of the word. It sounds schmaltzy when I say it in less than 100,000 words, but I’m trying to make this my love letter to anti-isolationism, “being the change you want to see”, and “thinking for yourself”.

But the thing I keep coming back to is this – does making elves central to my story set me up for inevitable failure? Are elves just one of those things it’s not possible to redeem? I’m doing everything I can to portray elves as imperfect and flawed rather than the Platonic Ideal of Whiteness, but is that enough?

Some of the things that I’ve done in an attempt to controvert the worst fantasy stereotypes make me worry that I’m just setting myself up to fail in different ways. The main character of the story is an elf woman, because I’m fucking tired of the Great Male Savior. (And because, again, I freaking love elves.) The other main character is a nonwhite male human, because Jesus Christ I’m tired of nonwhite characters being relegated to sidekicks. And because I love romance there is of course a romance between the two, only then I can’t stop angsting about how OH GOD YET ANOTHER BLACK MAN WHO GOES FOR WHITE WOMEN SHITSHITSHIT. And honestly everything I think of to try and fix that just makes things worse.

I’m at a point where I’m not going to give up writing the novel, because I’ve been unemployed so long I’m beginning to entertain serious doubts that I’ll ever find traditional employment that’s not Tim Horton’s. (What can I say, unemployment makes you gloomy.) My economic situation is the primary motivation in finally putting my nose to the grindstone, as it were. But I don’t want to throw my hands in the air and say ‘fuck it, I’ve done the best I can’.

So here’s me asking for opinions and really wishing I wasn’t. Thoughts?

70 thoughts on “Trying my best not to fail, but I’m not sure it’s enough

  1. I feel like this is a real art dilemma, but it puts you in the position of many of the artists you complain about on this blog:

    If you want to do a good job as an artist, you have a limited (not nonexistent, but limited) -decide- what to write about or what it will mean to other people. Just like you can’t choose your sexual orientation or who you’re attracted to. You have to do what you’re interested in and the quality flows from there–from the fact that are truly, viscerally, intrigued by what you’re doing. You can put up a few signposts for commercial appeal or out of a sense of what’s right, but at a certain point you need to give yourself enough room to just write what you find compelling or else you’re not really creating.

    You also have to trust that since -you- are a person who believes in fairness and equality that your work will–if read carefully–will reflect that to fair-minded people. This “automatic reflection” can, however, only happen if you write -all the way- and you put your whole self into it.

    If you just stuff the work with characters who are -signifiers of fairness- whether or not you actually have ideas about how to make the characters this requires intriguing, what you will end up is you using your talent to do what amounts to creative writing homework, not a unique and uniquely-propelled work that is more than the sum of its parts.

    (Good example: read biographies written by politicians -after- they become important–like Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes A Village”. She’s so busy dodging accusations of this or that there’s no writing left.)

    Making art is much harder than criticizing it. It’s much easier to say what cliches are and what we would like to see than to take what -we- would like to see and make sure it is what -you- have true internal fuel to write in a creative way about.

    I have seen a lot of terrible stories written by straight people who were so interested in social justice that they couldn’t bring themselves to write about main characters who were straight. Ursula K Leguin herself could tell you about social pressure she felt to stop writing sci-fi and write something more “relevant”. She ignored them because in the end art can’t compel people in -any- direction unless it’s good and wholly felt by the author.

    If you like elves, write about elves. But write consciously about what it is that is good and interesting to -you- about them and trust that you can communicate that if an honest and fair-minded person can like these things than it will show how an interest in all the cool or admirable things they’re supposed to represent does not necessarily translate into believing what they represented to, say, Wagner. And pray your audience is actually -reading the words- rather than doing a census on the characters.

    Which they may not–making something is risk. Far more than criticizing something.

    • Zak – thank you for your comments. This is a lot of food for thought, and I don’t have much intelligent to say by way of reply other than thanks.

  2. Sorry, top of second paragraph should say “limited -ability to- decide” and then

    “from the fact that -you- are truly, viscerally, intrigued by what you’re doing”

  3. Talking to my very patient and understanding girlfriend about racefail, genderfail, et cetera, has not infrequently made me want to stop writing forever, just because I feel like all roads lead to people hating me or telling me what a terrible person I am. Because, well, I’m a straight white Anglo-Irish-German Protestant male of average height and medium build. The world was designed for people like me by people like me. Where do I even start? Almost everything I recognize as familiar would be wrong, wronger, wrongest in the context of race, gender, or class.

    Maybe there are more fail-traps than options, so all that one can do is write something that succeeds in a different set of ways (and fails in a smaller list of ways) than everything else that is out there. And then write a second novel that hits different checkboxes, and fails in different set of ways. I dunno, but I hope it doesn’t stop you from writing, because that stops the conversation entirely.

    • I’d much rather do the best I can and still be somewhat wrong than not speak at all. I mean, hell, I started this blog despite the knowledge that I was still going to fuck up sometimes. So, yeah, I’m not going to throw the project away.

  4. From a fellow writer’s standpoint, first let me offer a hearty GOOD FOR YOU. THIS ROCKS. I’m also incredibly tired of everything the fantasy and science fiction genres have managed to get away with for so long, especially after reading your blog and seeing what sort of “little” things are also sexist, racist, everything-ist, well, I’m glad that you’re working on a project like this.

    That said, don’t be so obsessed with hitting all of the deconstructions that THAT’s the point of the story. It shouldn’t be. Granted, I haven’t read for this story, and I’m a full believer in letting the characters or plot (depending on what drives the story) speak for themselves. I just wanted to let you know that this post seems quite keen on making sure everything is deconstructing the many fails of those genres. Which is good! But yeah. Don’t get carried away with stressing those. Maybe some more plot details? Rough outline of what your characters may be going through?

    Onto my view on elves – I think they’re redeemable. It’ll be an uphill battle, sure, but they HAVE stuck around for forever. They’re popular. I think people will enjoy reading something that doesn’t have them pristine and perfect, even if they consciously aren’t looking for such a spin on them. Elves are flawed in the fact that they aren’t, but that’s from a more meta perspective. I say go for it, though! I’d love to see some more realistically (of a manner of speaking) portrayed elves in fantasy fiction!

    As a note from a reader’s perspective: I hope you have mages. I love mages. I’m thinking I love mages to the point that you love elves. 😀 You mentioned them, so now my curiosity and hope have been awakened! (If that’s the right verb. If not, ignore me entirely.)

  5. OK I am also wrestling with the issue of putting down my ideas into a medium (book, video game, animated series, etc. ; have not decided yet) and my ideas go in all different types of direction and in one of them I think I found an answer you might be able to use:

    OK elves in high fantasy are not always white and you could use one of the non-white options in an interesting way:

    1) Read about Drizzt Do’Urden the Chaotic Good Drow ranger hero from the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons (and check out his female companion Cattie-Brie while you are at it I would like your opinion of her).

    2)A lot of people ,not just Tolkien (and that is the proper way to spell his name by the way), uses the speciation of elves as a one of the background principles of conflict in their high fantasy settings. Now in case you do not know what I mean by this the speciation of elves is the event in which the elves separate into different tribes who’s genetics over a period of several millenniums become so adapted to the environment that they are at least a sub-species of elves each if not a full fled independent species. Tolkien described his in the first chapters of The Silmarillion, and the Forgotten Realms setting had the more violent three millennium long elven Crown Wars.

    Anyway if you do not want your elven heroine to be white you do not have to you can just give her a race of elves that speciated into something other then the white elves, for example: the blue skinned ice elves, red skinned fire elves, the brown skinned feral elves, etc.

    PS: if you want me to give you an example of how different elves can be just pick a color and/or an environment and post them as an answer to this post and I’ll come up with a background story that is an example of how different elves can be portrayed.

    • Also I agree with the comments that were posted before mine at some point it is more important to tell your story then to watch out for every little fail that you may or may not commit because in this world we live in truth is for the most part not objective in nature and very much depends form the perspective of the observers (readers, players,etc.) eye.

    • The problem is that the Drow as a whole make pretty crappy role-models. Drizzt might be one example of a non-evil Drow, but he comes from a race of dark-skinned evil dominatrixes. Problematic to say the least.

      Also, I’m not sure that making my elves blue/red/purple/paisley would really help, since none of these skin tones are possible in nature and I’m pretty sure it takes more than a color-swap to make something with as much cultural baggage as elves read as non-white.

      • Drizzt is an example of what the Drow were before they became the Drow, because of certain events within the Forgotten Realm canon storyline if one reads it as a whole Drizzt is not a Drow but a dark-skinned elf (not being stupid the Drow actually get divided into two races at one point in the story, one race is the Drow and the other are dark-skinned elves who are Drows who were cured of the curse that turned their people into Drows in the first place, and Drizzt displays all the characteristics of this young elven race and not of the Drows , and it is also possible that the Drows knew that they were splitting into two races as they had a tradition of sacrificing 3rd born males of their families which is never explained but it can be looked at that each of the 3rd born was certain to be a dark-skinned elf and not a Drow as Drizzt is one of them and was spared only because of the fact that a little after his his birth his eldest brother croaked of natural causes of being run trough by the middle brother with a blade).

        Now you are correct giving them a different skin color is not going to change their character but you are free to do so, and in fact if you find that your elven heroine should not be a standard elf then make her a rebel or a member of an elven race that is different from the mainstream versions or both.

        Oh and also each of the colors I suggested comes with different character traits: Ice elves are more frost resistant and have higher endurance and fortitude, fire elves are bloodthirsty, feral elves are bad at controlling magic.

        Oh and also there is a race of elves that even Tolkien used (he did not name them he just mentioned them), they are usually called the gray elves and they are elves who have no natural source of magic and as such suffer from malnutrition and physical and/or mental deformities, yes I know they sound like blood elves from Warcraft, but the blood elves are not the only type of gray elves in storytelling, in other words Blood Elves are a type of gray elves but they are not the only type.

        Now I do not know where I read about this definition but it is my preferred when it comes to gray elves:
        ,,The wandering ones, those who had once been the most powerful of mages among our kin and have suffered a horrible curse during the last elven war. They can not reach for raw magic anymore, such is the nature of their curse and yet magic they require still, for someone who has lived their entire lives filled to the brim with powerful magic it becomes a form of nourishment and to deny them that which has fed them so is to doom them to death by starvation, thus they must seek out artifacts of magic to sustain themselves on, but by feeding on such artifacts they slowly drain the magic out of them until it is gone and then their hunger drives them to seek out new ones in their never ending cycle of destruction fate caries them with. How fortunate we are that they have neither the power nor the presence of mind from their never ending hunger to find this arcane vault, let alone raid it, or it would have been lost to the sand of time years ago.” I may have paraphrased some of the parts of this text (going by memory here) but the essence of the idea is in there. Let me know what you think about it if you find it interesting or anything else for that matter.

  6. Ok, a simpler way to put what I said:

    Your very existence proves it’s possible to:

    A) like elves and black men who like white women, and

    B) not be racist

    therefore if you write your whole self into this story, it’ll reflect that.

    Some people won’t notice and will complain–but these are people you can ignore.

  7. You will fail on some social issue, eventually. We all do, even when we’re really trying to remain socially aware. In some way or form you’re probably going to fail. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, we’re not perfect people and we’re going to mess up. So trying to make it perfect from every single angle probably just won’t work. But I think that you are trying is the important part, and while I rant on others for their fail.. I at least like to think I’m moving a bit further into thinking you can’t have that response for everyone. It’s not productive and it shuts conversations down and learning from others that, but so many years of mistreatment can make it hard to discern between the excuses and the actual productive talk sometimes.

    Anyway, I’m trying to be better and not to condemn them entirely if I can see they’re actually trying. (People who repeatedly indulge in the fail, fully aware or at least not caring enough to really change and instead make insincere excuses, while basically brushing the criticisms off.. like say Jim Sterling >.> Well, I tend to rage at those types.)

    Like you noted how Bioware has messed up before, big time, but I still kept buying their games. I probably still will. Because they’re trying. At least some of them at the company acknowledged the issues and didn’t keep trying to just brush everyone’s concerns under the rug or remain willfully ignorant or take the easy way out and say ‘that’s business’ and basically give everyone the middle finger. Even with the gender fail in Mass Effect I don’t now hate Bioware or something, I just think they fuck up sometimes, need to acknowledge those fuck-ups, and work to be better next time. As I think we all should. At some point you’re going to have to say ‘I did the best I could’. I don’t think you should give up because you can’t be flawless, because the idea that you /are/ remaining aware of this stuff and thinking about it while you’re writing is great all by itself. As long as you remain considerate and open, I think that is what is important.

  8. Naw, I think you’re cool. And here’s why– the problem isn’t elves, imho. The problem is Drow. Your elves can be golden skinned or pale or brown or whatever, and their culture can be whatever– the main thing is, you’re not likely to go the route of, “and the Dark Elves are EBIL and the Light Elves are good!”

    Also, personally, I am happy whenever I see interracial relationships. Which is my own thing, cozhey! I’m interracial myself. ^^

    But seriously, make the story compelling, be honest with yourself, be honest to the characters, and only avoid things if they actually bother you or you dislike them intrinsically. Sure, some people might complain that you didn’t do _enough_, or you got it wrong one place or another, but at least you’re not chickening out. I’d say that you should ask someone you trust and who is up-front to be first reader, and who is also sensitive to the kind of issues you’re worried about.

    But yeah– I agree this is a real concern, but I am way far in the camp of encouraging people to do what they like, involving people of different races as universally as possible, because being excluded out of fear is not better than being excluded out of ignorance or for whatever reason.

    And because elves can certainly rock.

  9. Your positionality means the writing is going to end up saying things about privileged white women regardless of your other injections. Choosing to include elves or not isn’t going to change that.

    That’s the opinion of this moderately privileged Native American male, anyway.

    Good luck.

  10. You seem way too worried about coming off as un-PC or cliched. Relax and just write what you’re going to write. Even if it turns out to be include incredibly racist hidden subtext about how the Greeks should be wiped off the face of the Earth or something, at least it’s hidden innate racism coming from an honest place.

    • FYI you GOTTA write in depth about the new Tomb Raider footage. Holy shit, that game is psychopathic in its sadism and the only negative response to it I’ve seen anywhere is “I bet her constant moans for mercy will get obnoxious after a while”

      • Apart from the voice acting (which truly is terrible, and which I have seen complaints about), I’m not sure how much of the unnecessary brutality stems from Lara’s gender at all. I don’t think anyone would have thought twice about it if Lara Croft’s model was replaced with, say, Nathan Drake’s (if I remember right, people were hoping for something like that after the Uncharted 2 trailer). It plays into it, of course, but I think it’s more complicated than them thinking pain is sexy. =/

        The real disappointment of E3 for me was Vanillaware. Their absolutely atrocious character design wastes their artistic 2D graphics so badly. =/

        • When bad stuff happens to Drake it’s comeuppance for him being a cocky wiseass. As far as we’ve seen Lara is just a doe-eyed young girl that horrible shit happens to for no reason. I guess the idea is that in order for her to grow from a weak character into a strong one she has to be beaten, bondaged, stabbed, and raped and then at the end she acts slightly badass and you go “Oh I guess I *didn’t* just sit through 5 hours of torture porn after all it’s really a coming of age cinderella story”

  11. I’m not fond of elves, first off.  I’m willing to cut them some slack when they break the stereotype (Rift’s Kelari, for one, kick the “dark elf” concept in the teeth and run off giggling)…but the fact remains that most of them remind me of that one Phil and Dixie strip, minus the last two panels.

    But that said: What are your elves like?  And what are your humans like, while we’re at it?  That could make all the difference in the world.

  12. I so hear you. I recently sold a short sci-if story about a mother & refugee, fleeing with her kids so they wouldn’t be enslaved. Being a white middle-class male, it was a daunting prospect. I over-thought it for a bit. Then I stopped that and just did the work. Something I was able to do because I knew I had first-round readers who would call out my male, non-kid-having, non-worrying-about-being-enslaved-tomorrow biases. They did, I learned a bit more about my biases, and I revised. The result: my editor loved the story, and she’s giving it a prominent place in the anthology.
    It sounds like you have a similar group, folks willing to point out when your biases affect the story. Right now, you’re going to spin your wheels in fear. Trust in the revision process. Trust that others will tell you how your biases affect the art far better than you can yourself. They’ll surprise you. Then your job is to look at the ones that are problematic and the ones that aren’t, and do the work of revising.
    It won’t be easy, but it’s how to move forward.
    And be true to yourself about who this book is for and your goals with this.
    – Ryan

  13. here’s an idea. remove it entirely from the european expectation of what fantasy is. everything we see as “fantasy” is based so heavily in european mythology (especially tolkien, who basically just ripped off old nordic sagas and changed some names) that it is in and of itself, a biased view.

    why, for example, couldn’t your world be one of south africa during the rise of Shaka Zulu? you still have dragons (of a sort), elves, dwarves, goblins, a brave “noble” king and most of the things that would make people feel comfortable in a fantasy setting.

    yet, if you fold in zulu mythology you have a twofold benefit. not only are you telling people a fresh story, but you’re using the power of tangential learning. say, for example, some of your readers became somewhat interested in zulu mythology and went on google or wikipedia to learn more.

    these people who have always been taught that africa is a cultural wasteland full of screaming savages would quickly learn that this is not the case. africa has a rich and vast culture that is worth preserving and venerating to the same level as that of europeans or asians. then they tell others, who in turn tell others, and who knows? in 20 years, our kids may be watching those fancy new zulu cartoons while we talk about how back in our day they all came from japan.

    then, if you really want to get edgy, have the heroes fight against the british imperialists trying to conquer and enslave them. think about it. how many stories have you read where africans are the good guys, and they fight against whites?

    not very many, i’d wager.

    • Oh God, this. Defining fantasy as “pseudo European mediaevalism” is horrendously restricting. You’d think that people would get over that after Star Wars and The Dark Tower, but no, the definition stays rigid for so many.

      “then, if you really want to get edgy, have the heroes fight against the british imperialists”

      Heh, that reminds be of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another example of non-medieval fantasy, where the fairy gentleman takes an interest in the butler Stephen Black and tries to “help” him. (spoiler: Pre-modern conception solipsist mercurial fairies aren’t very good at addressing racism)

      But it’s funny you should bring that up: That’s actually the premise of the pen & paper RPG Victoriana. The writers created it as an experiment to see what would happen if you fantasized the Victorian era the same way the middle ages are usually fantasized, but realized that there was no way to defend Monarchy in the 1800s (and besides, it’s the British Empire now, and we know how fantasy feels about those!) so you play revolutionaries instead. They covered republicanism, communism, nationalism (colonial and European), and anarchism.

      One of the things I really liked about it was that they didn’t make race correlate to nations, like the “elf forest” or “dwarf mountain” you see in standard fantasy games. Instead, you have races being particular social classes, so you have fun stuff like how the dwarven bourgeois overthrew elven aristocrats in the French revolution. (Orc is still pretty much “black person,” but that’s because “black person” was a unique social class at the time)

    • I totally second what proletariat and Hazmat Sam said, restricting fantasy to “pseudo European Medieval–timeline” is boring and first step to fail on issues that you said are important to you. On the other hand Americans don’t really get history and culture of other countries, regions and continents so since you are an American I would pass on that as well. Maybe something like “pseudo XVIII century America”, things like human rights, oppression, revolution, fits better there and it could be quite interesting to read.

      • I totally support this approach to fantasy. That said, I’m a little too far with this thing to take that approach now. Mind, I’m definitely doing what I can to make this not crypto-Europe, but I’m not about the throw this thing away so that I can start the process all over again with new research and whatnot, just so I can tell my story in crypto-Africa or crypto-North America. *Embarassedmumble* years of work is a bit much to just set aside.

        • well, i can understand that.

          as another idea, why not write one of the characters as an escaped slave who has to deal with discrimination and is hunted by his/her former master? the thing is, while some stories have minority characters, it’s rare that they deal with the repercussions of bigotry and racism on these characters.

          look at, say, the x-men. they’re supposedly a widely hated minority group, yet they live in a mansion full of state of the art equipment and fly around in a multi-billion dollar jet. they never have to deal with any repercussions of bigotry. i mean, when was the last time wolverine got denied a job because he’s a mutant, or beast got unfairly targeted by police and imprisoned?

          race is but one issue. the real problem here is how people remain largely silent on the societal issues of race.

        • You don’t even have to make it crypto-anything if you don’t want. Tékumel is a fairly popular fantasy world that sure as hell isn’t anything we’ve seen on Earth.

          (As you may have noticed, I generally prefer fantasy tabletop games to fantasy books; This is because the environmental pressures are to “not be a D&D clone” (brilliantly ahcieved by Tékumel, Glorantha, Exalted, Mechanical Dream, REIGN, etc.) whereas fantasy literature’s pressures are the inverse.)

          But I suppose that there are times and places for Archetypes Just remember that you are god of your work. If you don’t like something you can either change it or not do it.

  14. Don’t try to write a perfect story (it’s impossible); try to write YOUR story. And who the hell says elves have to be white? It’s your freaking universe, make them whatever the hell you want.

    • I’m a little afraid of sending unwanted internet traffic her way, but I’d recommend you look at what folks like Aysha Shehim did. I think there’s a lot of wriggle room left with the whole elf business. Isolate what aspects you’re convinced are inherent to the concept, jettison a couple of those anyway (no matter how much you love them), and remember not to make a monoculture of what is, essentially, an entire species (subspecies? Whatevs.)
      That’s really all I can suggest 😦

      • Oh fie. Let’s pretend I replied to the original post as intended, shall we? 😦 Sorry Digger.

    • Seconding this point (well, the elves = white thing). Why can’t elves be nonwhite? They’re generally coded white, but they don’t have to be.

  15. Readers will bring their baggage and overlay it on your story regardless of what you do.
    Don’t go down a diversity checklist and worry if someone will be offended, write the story you have in your head. A good plot and well rounded characterization along with making them individuals, each with their own virtues and faults will make a good story. The rest will sort itself out.

    • ^This fella has it nailed on the head,

      I have little input or advice to give you WG beyond, good luck and let us know when & where we can read it 😀

  16. I don’t know if I’m the greatest person to comment here, but I think you should lighten up slightly. It’s good that you don’t want to offend and that you want to include people who aren’t usually included in Western Fantasies. However, it shouldn’t be all about that. I realize it’s important to you, but very very few stories are good simply because they have diversity or are politically correct. Heck, there are even times when turning stories more politically correct ( or censoring) make a story ridiculous. But there is one reason that’s most important of all.

    If you constantly worry about what others think, writing won’t be as fun.

    You should be writing for you. That’s not to say you should ignore what your editors/friends/blog posters think. However, you need to write for you, not them. As great as your story will be, it will not cause a revolution thinking. If you have a character you like the way they are, but they offend every citizen in Norway, well… that’s not good, but it shouldn’t mean you need to sacrifice this character you like or change it to the point it isn’t who you want it to be. And making a character that reflects negatively on Norway won’t cause people to hate Norway based solely on your character. And who knows, some Norwegians might not even mind the character.

    But I digress. Long story short: No one’s perfect, no one’s work is perfect, but if you like your work, don’t change it. Make yourself happy and hope what makes you happy makes others happy too. Isn’t that why you made this blog in the first place? 🙂

    • Also, my apologies to every Norwegian who reads this blog. I used Norway purely as an example. I will admit I know very little about Norway, but I have no ill feelings towards it. I will say, though, pretty darn cool flag if you ask me.

      • Looking over the comments, it seems my comments have already been stated a bunch. I hope you don’t mind the repetition. Great minds think alike, right?

        • Oh, one more Idea that just came to me that I don’t think anyone’s suggested: If you REALLY feel guilty, maybe you could make fun of yourself in the book by making a character who does all the things you are afraid you’re doing wrong. People are usually more forgiving of entertainers who poke fun at themselves, and you get to take your worries use them to make yourself chuckle, which is a lot better than stress.

  17. A few thoughts…
    1) Invent a “melting pot-ish” culture for your elves…. Mongol-Viking elves with a touch of Aztec?
    2) Base elvish culture off of a more ambiguous group – Imagine a moorish Spain where you have mix of central african, north african and european peoples.
    3) Try explicitly not specifying any (other than “is an elf”) racial tropes. Let the reader invent what they want to imagine. (I tried this in a couple of short stories in university with gender, with mixed results… I think the stories were weaker for it – though I’m not that good a writer, but I did cause debate about the gender of my main character in one story)

  18. I don’t know if a totally stranger comment would help at all, but I can see here lots of thoughts that I have constantly when I’m writing (some of them I fiercely agree, others I desagree with the same strenght…). Although I don’t write for a living, I’m always concerned about how my stories end up…

    Anyway I think that you shouldn’t feel guilty by “failing” (don’t know if it is a good word for this),
    you should “adapt” or re-think your story to some genre/storyline/public and obviously, to the genre or line you like to write, but as you mentioned you need to work with it, you’ll need to do some adjustments whether you like it or not (your story will be like a product, blablabla :/ ). Some people like “classic medieval stuff”, others like “classic medieval fantasy”, others like it more realistic, like Game of Thrones (once it’s getting all famous because it’s “adult and gore” etc), the age group you want to reach is another thing to think about.

    Just keep in mind that the more “different-to-the-WASP-pattern”, the chances you’ll have a stupendous feedback in short time it’s least likely if you had written about glorious blond elves riding white horses, but you’ll be doing something that you really want and that’s truly sincere to your principles.
    I’m interested in this development of your story once I wrote some background for fairies that are quite different from these shiny skinny little fellas you see on the internet. I hope you can find your line of work, it’s nice to see this kind of initiative. (sorry for my lame English, I need to improve it before typing so much xD)

  19. Well, I’m quite fail-y about race myself, but how about this: I’ve done some world building myself, mostly integrating fantasy elements into the real world, and if you think of leves as one race among others, that might bring some diversity. I imagine here that leves are all over hte world and that they evolve along the same lines as human, which makes the elves in northern countries the only white ones. Next one can think of the isolation issue – maybe they don’t isolate themselves within their village, but within their race. They could in fact be quite cosmopolitcan with other elves, turning up the likelyhood of even elves in Europe or its counterpart being a diverse bunch. Going along those lines, can’t the protagonist be a person of color? That way you either have both main characters as peopleof color or an interracial relationship that subverts the idea of for example black women being undesirable (not that I’m an expert on these things mind, there mingt be pitfalls here too). If you want to go even further you could turn the non-white elven cultures into the dominant ones

  20. I apologize for not reading the entire comment thread before posting so I apologize if someone has already stated these ideas.

    1) Embrace the ideas of elves as the upper class. If there is no reason to have human nobility have the elves be the upper class of your society. This would allow you to explore class through the the glass of elf/human relationships. This might actually make this discussion easier for some people to get into. This would also allow you to show that members of both social classes have flaws and are inherently human.
    2) Is there any reason you can’t have elves of different races? If humans have different races and cultures is there any reasons elves wouldn’t also be equal spread out? Maybe the elven protagonist is dark skinned and the human protagonist is more fair skinned. Assuming he would come from a group that is primarily used for manual labor this might be harder to justify, but if you can’t get away with a few quirks what’s the point of writing fantasy?

  21. The encouragement:
    Do this or you will regret missing the chance. You are an engaging expository writer and I believe you could write engaging fiction.

    But be careful:
    Do not get too bogged down with racial makeup of your characters or you risk looking like a 90’s cartoon, in which every conceivable combination of race/gender/capability must be included to the point where each character’s primary identity is race. I’ve always been a fan of racially ambiguous characters, but that only works if your story does not depend on race to advance the plot.

    More encouragement:.
    As much as these ideas have been rolling around in your head, I can understand the desire to do them absolute justice. Try to get over that fear. Your first work does not have to be your masterpiece, and very likely won’t be. Let those great ideas be the seeds of even greater things.

    • The problem with any work of art is that it’s impossible to divorce it entirely from the real world. People will ALWAYS bring their personal baggage into any work of art, be it a book, movie, game, what have you.

  22. I would just advise you not to pay any attention to what you read at Ars Marginal or elsewhere and just write what you want to write, not what you think you ought to write. There’ll be enough time to take criticism on board once you’ve actually written the thing.

  23. What assumptions are you making about the elves, though? I’m just assuming (based on you referring to the Ars Marginal article) that these are pretty standard Tolkien or D&D elves, who have been around forever and done it all better than anyone and aren’t we so pretty and perfect. Unless you’re really attached to that version of elvish culture, it seems that the best solution is not to use that culture. Just mixing in non-white elves and leaving them Better Than You probably isn’t so great.

    I think you should really examine what makes the elves interesting to you, and which parts are actually problematic. Is being obnoxious and holier-than-thou integral to being an elf? Is having already achieved everything and now languishing in ennui? Is spending sixty years as an adolescent? Is being extra sensitive to plants and animals? Being innately magical? Disdaining technology?

    For example, Magic: The Gathering has a bunch of different takes on elves that might be helpful. There’s one world where the elves take being Better Than You to the extreme and are devoted to cleansing the world of the hideous ugliness of non-elves. Then that world gets flipped into a mirror of itself, and the elves are desperate survivors trying to preserve what life and beauty remain in a blasted shadow world. There’s a city world where the elves are totally OK with the urban life, but they love the shit out of their gardens and parks. There’s a place where the elves are mostly nomadic, following and worshipping the gargantuan creatures of the forests.

  24. My suggestion is to make elves non-white. While some people are suggesting different cultural bases and human-like, but non-Caucasian skin colors, I say go with something completely unorthodox. Maybe elves are children of the forest and have green skin or tiger stripes or something. Or they are bright purple. Or whatever

  25. As a number of people have said, start by writing your story, then worry about how it’s going to fit in with the rest of the universe. The most important criterion for any work of fiction is “does it work?” – and that’s far more important to the majority of readers than “is it politically correct?”, “does it move outside existing tropes?” or “does it say something worthwhile?”. I’ll be honest and report as a long-term fan of fantasy as a genre that the real criterion I use for determining whether or not a story works is “is the world it’s set in believably flawed?”.

  26. Hi, folks. Just want to let you all know that I’m following comments really closely – I just don’t feel like I have a lot to offer in the way of response. Just letting you know you’re not being ignored, and I’m taking all of this in. Thanks.

  27. Adressing your post in general I’d only repeat what Jeffrey Cuscutis already said, so I’ll stay silent in that regard. With some thoughts on elves I can chime in, though:

    One problem of elves (and other fantasy races) is their lack of an element of the fantastical in quite a lot of fiction, at least to my mind. Dwarves have become something akin to drunken cliché Scots; elves are privileged hippies, comfortably living in the basically magical environment the 21st century provides for us in the 1st world but vehemently protesting anything even remotely non-green that might create better living conditions for those in the 2nd and 3rd world; etc.

    So, in my admittedly shitty fiction (usually set in the Forgotten Realms, which are – at least when not digging through tons of lore – themselves quite guilty of the above) I try to underscore the Otherness of those races. For the reader, hopefully, elves cease to be better and whiter humans, because they are not human at all – approaching qualities of the Fair Folk instead. White skin, but a little too white for comfort; beautiful, but a beauty that’s decidedly non-human; not quite in touch with human morality; in some pathological cases unable to feel empathy for us hairless apes, all that.

    By and large you still have High Fantasy Elves this way, but it probably has become harder to nod in agreement when they declare themselves “Better than you”, even though they continue enchanting characters and readers.

      • The whole book is pretty amazing too. Here’s another bit I particularly liked:
        “Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You’ll see them influence each other’s lives, you’ll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you’ll see them come to various ends. And this process of discovering the story will often take place in fits and starts. Don’t worry about it. Keep trying to move your story forward. There will be time later to render it in a smooth and seamless way. John Gardner wrote that the writer is creating a dream into which he or she invites the reader, and that the dream must be vivid and continuous. I tell my students to write this down –that the dream must be vivid and continuous — because it is so crucial. Outside the classroom, you don’t get to sit next to your readers and explain little things you left out, or fill in details that would have made the action more interesting or believable. The material has got to work on its own, and the dream must be vivid and continuous (pp. 56-57).”

  28. As long as you write the relationship in a compelling and believable way, it won’t matter.

  29. I’d like to second a recommendation for bird by bird, its really an amazing book, and even me, who hates writing, sat down o do 20 pages of a shitty first draft after finishing it. Its realistic, but still inspiring and it reminds you of why you really SHOULD write. because like with most artistic endeavors, its usually rather thankless unless you can thank yourself for it.

    As for elves, there’s two examples I can think of. There’s Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody series, which I think did a good job of making elves varied (or as she called them ‘lirin’). Basically my suggestion would be to look at ‘what do my elves do.’ and have that reflected. Her city lirin are basically a mishmash of lirin and pretty human like. Her grasslands lirin are olden and both their body and culture reflects being nomadic grasslands hunters. The forest lirin are super isolationists who worship trees. But the interesting thing is how even the Lirin aren’t the most magical – they’re descendants several times removed from other some of the more elemental races.

    Bujold’s sharing knife isn’t a series that is easy to categorize as having elves, but considering they were like ‘more magical than humans with no magic’ I tended to put them in that box – but what I rather liked about that series was how superficially this culture that we were introduced to just reminded me so much of some of the plains indians cultures (with a bit of romani mixed in). I rather liked it because these elements weren’t used to make the culture appear inferior or savage, but to emphasize how their background, history and culture informed how they interacted with with the ‘european’ culture the main character was from. And they both learned a lot from each other and got past their own misconceptions, while still coming against the misconceptions of others… And even within the one race, you had different ‘tribes’ have their own different culturual histories dictated by their own past and interactions with other people. (God, I love this series) .

    So yeah… two examples of series that I liked with ‘elves’ and I certainly think that looking at the history of the cultures, and how different regional histories reflect on those regional cultures and how others interact with them. (sorry if this didn’t make sense, but I just finished finals, and my brain is DEAD)

  30. Two things, as several other people have said, write YOUR book, not someone elses. And even if this book, when all done and written out, turns out to have stuff in it you dont like, there’s always the next one (c’mon its fantasy, so i’m assuming at least a trilogy). How will you ever get better at writting if you so paralyze yourself with fear of doing something wrong, that you do nothing at all?

    Second: A world that does both the usual and something different with elves is Shadowrun, a RPG that is basically cyberpunk plus magic. One the one hand you have very “classical” elves liking trees and actually re-instating an aristocracy with princes and all in the new country they set up in the U.S west coast. On the other hand you have elven biker gangs beating people up for calling them “daisy-eaters” (elven racial slur) and being pissed at Tolkien for creating the view that all elves are tree-huggers and destroying their image as badasses.
    Also, elves as POC. So long since i read those books i dont remember it all that clearly, but know they’re there.
    Shadowrun is certainly not fail-free from a lot of perspectives but it might be worth looking at for a few good examples

  31. I like this blog!

    Hopefully helpful suggestions for the romance: It’s not a “black man that goes for white women” unless you write him that way. It’s entirely possible for him to be a black man who usually goes for black women, and is conflicted about the protagonist. And she could fall for him first, and make the first move(s). And not have those moves be “Show up naked. Bring beer.”

    I think it’s fine as long as the author displays awareness of the issues with the tropes involved, though, of course, other people might not think so. Just write a good story.

  32. I have to admit that for me a book is ruined as soon as there are elves in it. I am not a fan of high fantasy at all. That said: Have you considered making the elves dark skinned? Do you subvert the stereotype in any meaningful way? Does it have to contain romance at all? In most stories it appears forced to me. I mean, it happens once in a lifetime unless you are in fiction where it appears once per episode.

  33. My $.02: Why do the elves have to be white? I’ve never understood that one. Seems like they could be nonwhite, if you wanted them to.

  34. What do you like about elves? If you can figure that out (which isn’t always as easy as it sounds) you can keep the good parts and get rid of the rest.

  35. Late to the party, but whatever. Just two things:

    1st) elves can be any race you want. If you have black men that indicates there is somewhere a climate where elves with darker skin tones could originate from. No big deal.

    2nd) unless you write your black man as a sexual assaulter you won’t get any problems with an interracial relationship. In fact it would be pretty progressive if you manage to write a good believable romance with a white woman and a black man BECAUSE of those tired old racist and sexist tropes. It’s pretty rare to have a healthy interracial relationship like that portrayed. I still remember Will Smith mentioning in an interview that for a movie the studio wouldn’t pair him with a white female lead cause black/white relationships like that are still a taboo or something. You are already aware of bad tropes so I think you are cautious enough to avoid such missteps.

    Good luck!

  36. You’ve already gotten quite a few responses to this, and though I haven’t bothered to read through all 64 of them, I’m sure you’ve sifted through and found all the information you need.

    Nonetheless, I’d like to put in my two cents, as a fellow writer.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with elves, regardless of whether or not they have been highly sexualized in the past. Go back to myths from hundreds of years ago–elves have existed in various mythogies, outside of the relatively modern idea that they must be white, perfect in every way, etc. Just look at the Keebler elves. The point is, elves, in your fantasy universe can be whatever you want them to be. They can be three feet high, they can have a variation in melanin similar to that of humans, and they can be either slender or otherwise. The point is, you are the writer, and therefore you have complete control, regardless of the base you have borrowed for your species. That’s what the best part of being a writer is, in my opinion: control.

    As for her relationship with the male protagonist, admittedly the same relationship mold has been followed many times, and many of those times, the characters have been flat and stereotypical. But if you treat the characters well and develop them to their full potential, your readers will gladly look past what they’ve seen over and over again on television and other media, and will see your characters as original.

    Don’t worry about what people will think, at this point. Be true to your image of the story. Once it’s written, you can go through and criticise, but it’s not likely there will be anything to criticise from a feministic standpoint so long as you stay true to your characters, not their species/race.

    No doubt you’ve heard this before. In any case, I wish you the best with your novel.

  37. In sociology, there is a term called white allies. White allies are those who are aware of the overt and covert entities of racism still very much engrained in this world, particularly in the United States. Thank you for being a white ally and speaking up against racism and also against sexism and classism and all other -isms.

    As for your story, just write what you think will make a great story with memorable characters. I remember ever since I was young I’ve had a love for fantasy, but as a person of color I kind of felt left out when I looked through AD&D rulebooks and watched films like Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. I realized later on that AD&D, unlike its predecessors was based more on medieval Europe, and even Tolkien, based on the letter to his editor published in The Silmarillion, had Middle Earth intentionally based on a Europe/England like setting. If you’re doing high fantasy sword & sorcery, I think it’s great to include characters of various backgrounds, but if you’re trying to write a work based on the feel of medieval Europe, don’t try to force diversity into those settings just for the sake of it.

    Good luck. I look forward to reading your future posts and hopefully your published book.

  38. It may be worth pointing out that the modern trope for elves seems to recognize that they are privileged, white, ego-eccentric etc. but that this is also seen as their flaw. They are blind to real world and blind to their prejudices of it, often to the point where it will, eventually, destroy them.

    I’ve grown to like that perspective because their failings have something interesting to say about similar failings in the real world.

  39. I think that it’s worth bearing in mind that, done well, something that falls into a usually-prejudiced trope can be empowering. I kinda think that the need to include a character who isn’t white is a bad reason to set up a mixed-race romance–that’s why they can become problematic tropes: there’s not a genuine need/intention to tell a story about such a character and the world they live in. But I think by now in your novel-writing you probably know this character and his background, his relationships with other people who aren’t white; he’s not just a dash of color. Some people might groan at the synopsis and reach for other reading material, but that’s okay. You honestly can’t avoid absolutely every problematic trope, if only because many are flip sides–if you don’t include interracial opposite-gender relationships with a white female, you’re erasing the experience of people whose lives do include those relationships.

    As a female-assigned person with debilitating mental illness, I’ve been conscious of falling into the weak/hysterical female stereotype. Yet I don’t want every woman in entertainment to be an action hero or other great success. I want to see female characters who fall prey to their own emotional problems, but I don’t want there to be a huge dichotomy between portrayals of mental illness in characters of different genders, with, say, the male drug addict and the woman driven to extremes by anxiety. Someone could take these stereotypes but if they got through the strength and humanity of both characters, their self-awareness and the shared underlying illness, it would validate my experience. And as long as other works existed that challenged these stereotypes, that would be a good thing.

    Maybe it seems like a weird tangent but I’m trying to say that, for all the validity of the dominate narratives against certain kinds of prejudice, even those narratives alienate/exclude some people: when you can’t match your ideal x-ism free plotline, make your story real enough to validate everyone who happens to superficially resemble some cliche (and may be quite conscious of that). And just don’t write it like the stupid tropes are a given!

    • To clarify, I don’t mean to say, “Don’t exclude generally overrepresented populations!!!11!” I just mean that, for instance, interracial relationships and people generally *aren’t* overrepresented, at least not compared to white people. And men. Additionally, dehumanizing portrayals are often more common for minorities or people who fall into stereotypes. So if you do a real, complex, compassionate portrayal of a cliche, then you’re not doing something that’s done too much. That’d be like saying art that has one male surrounded by a load of oversexualized fawning female characters has plenty of female representation.

      A similar situation close to my own heart is the woman whose sexuality does include BDSM, exhibitionism, or similar. You can get turned on by being seen as an object without condoning the objectification of women, but that requires thought, soul-searching, relationship negotiation, hard work, and judgment. If *that* part of it all (or anything to indicate the woman was a human being and had sexual agency) were included in all media portrayals of such women, I think we’d have taken a rather large bite out of the male gaze. I think it’s many people’s desire to see *themselves* represented in an even vaguely humanized context that leads to these arguments over whether some portrayal’s empowering or objectifying.

      I think it’s smart to avoid minefields of kyriarchy, but if the story requires something, then just do it right. Like if you have to draw boobs, include gravity. 😛

  40. Hm, well don’t try to fix the world with your novel one that my first advice ,
    Any form of media creation or storytelling is subjective and has a very limited range of what it can actually be communicate decide carefully who you want to communicate for and go for it
    . This communication socially degrades the further you move away from your target audience. There are no such thing universalistic symbols, soon as you leave your class and culture the sense of universality vanishes the world is turned upside down. The most of the specific American example of race may be completely irrelevant or misunderstood even in the Caribbean’s which is right next door to us , If I say “Africa” that encompasses thousands of cultures of which have little in common with each other, so even with my own identification as African American , I am also studying to be an anthropologist I know how to separate that from my study of Africa. Not only do the word black mean nothing in this context ,but neither does my physical appearance , since in the context of US culture I have a very different identification than I would in a place like Nigeria . Even with West Africa state of Nigeria your dealing with countless groups 250 ethnic groups gonna quote wiki here”; Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo 18%, Ijaw 6.5%, Ibibio 4.5%, Kanuri 4%, Annang 3.5%, [Etsako]2.2%, Tiv 2.5%, Efik 2%.[4]” And there countless smaller groups that speak different languages .

    You will offend people regardless of what you do, particular in a very uptight and openly ecclesiastical secular puritan culture of North America people love to be offended that just what we do. It a pastime like entertainment . So I think your stressing yourself over something that will be irrelevant in the actual end product of your novel.

    Even with Artist “Intention” very little actually communicate soon as our social network changes or is disrupted
    So my advice is this Knowing your audience and people will assign symbolism based on their audience.

    I’ll give some fundamental difference for example with common sense concept of art art that just basic “Social beliefs “ create impassable obstacle of culture

    , East Asian Culture Which in this case include culture influenced heavily by Buddhism had a much more fluid concept of reality . Traditionally the native representation of their culture where highly abstract and highly styled even with different philosophical conception of realism . Realism just means a state of suffering in Buddhism it had nothing to do with representation of the physical world and all the ideas we place on “art” become irrelevant .

    Here a big one Differences in mythology around sex Japan

    Also if we are specifically talking about Japanese culture there definition of sexuality are rooted in celebration of sex , the Japanese island were formed via intercourse between Kami (Kami doesn’t directly translate into any English word ) .. So there a long history of basically being pro-sex down to the art form even in patriarchal society they have nothing in common with Islam . And that shows in there art and media productions

    North Americans come from a cosmological mythological background that Celebrate Puritanism and celibacy and a very ridigit moral order with sexual chasity and monogamous marriage , so a woman perspective on sex coming from Japanese social culture will be different from your own it inevitable (Japanese concept of marriage is different it historically was idealized of having no love to be honest and both side cheated on the other , The wife had her boy toys and the husband had his mistress . It was consider idea harmony without love Marriage was seen solely as a Business contract in traditional japanese culture ), you won’t necessarily connect to them simply by having a woman character in your novel . Simply being biologically a woman isn’t enough too connect you too them any more than it would connect you to a lower-middle class black woman who watches Taylor perry and BET. The culture difference of you being White and born in Canada will separate you and close that market off .

    And of course there always individuals who will like your stuff out of left field for there own personal reasoning.

    Even with Global medium , Hollywood Blockbuster are Shallow for a Reason and that the reason they sale and are easier to sale., A super specific cultural drama wouldn’t be understood in Malaysia . Explosions and fighting are very easy to understand . Casablanca is Not easy to understand or easy to translate into radically different culture and there no guarantee it will be Enjoyable . Why should it be why would expect someone living in the South Pacific to understand it ? The few people who do understand these things are stereotypically obsessed with America or Equivalent of an Foreigner who an American Nerd/Film buff.

    Some other Random examples of base line media and art conflict With America vs other .

    Western are conditioned to reduce all art to the literal and the realistic . Particular for North Americans this is a Religious moral obligation because any form of stylized art is a distortion of are perversion of notion of reality . Which usually leads to people complaining about the stylized art of other culture and calling entire culture “Childish” or Juvenile for not copying White North American mainstream public art sensibility . This is old ,old complaint down to the first colonialist that complained about Hindu sculpture in the temples of India as being perversion of humanity

    Japanese Art history had no history of realism visual neither does most of non-western culture till rather late import of these ideas from Europe via Colonalism. Still The heart of there culture art is visually stylized and very abstract . Once again “Direct conflict with Visual convention of Western Secular-Christian Modern Society “ Are Art notion are still heavily influenced by Christianity , The Idea of God world untouched by human hands and being perverted by human interpretations and exaggeration

    . Such concept has No place in Buddhism or Other Eastern beliefs for such a concept , One the physical world is an illusions if you follow Buddhist beliefs there is only energy and the mind and there no concept of Divine Creation in Buddhism , so there concept of creativity is different Creativity with no native concept of “Originality”.

    So Conflict is inevitable

    Another example Many Mesoamerican (Latin America countries descendants from colonialism) and West African culture prior to Christianity associated sexualization and sex with happiness fertility and good life very common that sex was either a neutral force or a positive one rarely evil one as it is in Christianity (And if you look at Samba Salsa and all the other music forms there a reoccurring pattern of happy music that celebrate sensuality) . All sex did not lead to an Objectification Evil and Exploitation as it does in the Christian Anglican Cosmology , Basically they had nothing common with the Christian Colony Europeans your descendant from they had a different concept of individuality than Americans Rugged individualism . Also depicted in how the figures and spirit are depicted Prominent breast or a large phallus on a statue. That why the music of many of these culture usually”Happy sounding “ and talking about sexual themes, but was called evil sexually exploitative devil music by the White Christian church .

    There ideas of art and culture .Will not communicate to someone living in Iowa or North America there so radically different that it simply won’t translate .

    I’ve ranted to long anyway.

    So firstly my suggestion is “Determine “ Who can you can actually communicate too and Who are you trying to communicate to Black Fantasy fans ? are your trying to get African Americans and Mexican Americans more interested in Fantasy Cultures and Novels .If that your target goal that hard goal ,but I’d start by actually finding a way to communicate with those people and that will give your ideas . If your goal is to communicate to a small vocal minority of upper-middle class black fantasy fans who hare subculture then you may not communicate to a small subset and still get called a racist lol. because doesn’t relate to the majority

    I’d know if I wanted to communicate to average Mexican woman lower-class , Not the upper class who aspire to look like Europe and copy Vogue . I’d use Mexican iconography and folk art and Mexican ideas of beauty , a big butt and curvy elf with dark hair , I’d watch Mexican movies and art I’d consult people who are apart of that target demographic for my consultations . I will offend someone , Probably ,but regardless ,but who cares ?

    What I am saying is ….choose your battle and goals carefully if you pick the world as your target you will lose , and by default you will offend people that inevitable it very easy to critique something (To Easy) much harder to create something.

    And as a white woman who middle class living in North America you will run into conflict if you make your novel as a theme about equality ,

    if your audience is American. There many woman who argue that Feminism is Racist and predominately based on White North American European philosophical construct and ignores other cultures for their own imperialistic beliefs , and and hold imperialistic notions of sisterhoods that are not true and nor universal . And Also ignore concept of equality female power not rooted in a White Modern Anglophone Culture beliefs s

    .. That upper middle class woman use sisterhood to subjugate and block anyone Opinion who has a different viewpoint than small White elite (And that a complaint from just about every woman group that not white , wither they be based on Islam ,Brazil or Africa or Japan , including African American Woman who refuse to be associated with Feminism and rather be called Womanist ). So you might just enter into a whole other hornet nest and give yourself a new headache making your novel a target for every political correct person in town .

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