anghraine: leia holding a blaster in anh; text: girls & guns (leia [girls and guns])
[personal profile] anghraine
Sometimes, it seems like every discussion about how fantasy (especially high fantasy) tends to be focused on white, straight dudes rehashes the exact same points:

Person A: It’s just being historically accurate!

Person B: …there are dragons.

Person A: Yes, but–

Person B: DRAGONS.

There’s some variation depending on which work comes up in discussion, but the basic rebuttal is “the setting includes something that blatantly diverges from the basic laws of reality; therefore, there’s no reason not to diverge from reality in much smaller matters.” I do understand it, but I … um, don’t agree. And I actually dislike it quite a lot.

The thing is, it’s treated as completely irrefutable by the people who make it and/or do agree with it. Yet I suspect that it’s very unlikely to succeed with the people it’s aimed at (not me), for the same reason it doesn’t work for me.

As I see it, including fanciful elements in a story makes it more important to feel otherwise realistic, not less. The more dragons and wizards and such that a story has, the more it needs to be anchored in reality - less with things on the level of “laws of physics” (though layering on changes there does heighten the sense of unfamiliarity) and more with with the smaller, more significant stuff that resonates with the living experience of real people.

And the thing is, women/poc/lgbt folk are real people. They are not comparable to dragons, bizarre, impossible creatures from the realm of Faerie, they are right here in the real world, and have always been right here. There’s no reason for them not to show up in, say, an alternate version of late medieval England (+ dragons), since they existed in actual medieval England. So when people go “all my main characters are straight white men because ACCURACY,” the main offense is a white-washed, heterocentric, patriarchal view of history, rather than an author’s desire to keep their fantastic setting firmly attached to reality.

HOWEVER.

I do think it’s really suspicious that there are so many premises of the ‘how would people be affected if reality were different in [x] way, but otherwise recognizable’ variety, and it virtually never includes ‘hey! suppose gender equality evolved as the dragon invasion forced every fit adult into combat.’

We can have worlds where everyone’s careers are decided in infancy by the astrological signs at the moment of their birth, or where secret enclaves of mutant humans live among us, unseen by the normal world, or where social psychology can predict the future with pinpoint accuracy, but the associated breaks from reality rarely seem to include gender or racial or other kinds of equality, even where it’d be perfectly likely to exist. It’s not that ‘it’s fantasy, reality need not apply’ but that it’s significant which aspects of reality are commonly broken and which are treated as indestructible.

And “you don’t need historical accuracy because you have dragons” does not really address any of that at all.

(It's sort of like fics where you have your one AU premise. When all sorts of things get changed for no reason, it's usually a shitty AU, and you can't relate it to canon at all, unless it's just some kind of out-there idfic anyway. And ngl I judge unrealistic lalala funtimes fantasy a lot hrasher for perpetuating certain things than I do serious high fantasy, unless they're actually being accurate.

...Which they often are. Anyway, BUT DRAGONS is nonsense in either case. It should be more like BUT CONDOMS THAT AREN'T MADE OUT OF SHEEP GUTS in some.
 

on 2016-08-01 09:17 pm (UTC)
lizbee: (Attolia: kidnapped)
Posted by [personal profile] lizbee
YESSSSS, THIS BUGS ME SO MUCH FOR THE SAME REASON!

As I see it, including fanciful elements in a story makes it more important to feel otherwise realistic, not less.

Exactly! Which, for me, means that if you have a western European analogue fantasy where there are dragons, but also people wearing silk, you should probably give some thought to the trade routes that provide that silk (and other goods), and the people who travel, and the diversity they bring to your fantasy kingdom. It's lazy worldbuilding that excludes those things! And equally lazy worldbuilding to just go, "Welp, I've got my dragons, now for the human diversity."

(Obviously that's one potential starting point, I'm not the worldbuilding police.)

On the other hand, good worldbuilding doesn't mean your universe can't be well-constructed, diverse and still super racist, ie, A Song of Ice and Fire.

on 2016-08-02 01:41 am (UTC)
lizbee: (Avatar: Li or Lo)
Posted by [personal profile] lizbee
I've wondered if the early consummation of child marriage thing is a result of outdated history teaching -- I was taught in early high school (about 1995) that girls were married and pregnant by their early teens, but by 1999, my teachers were questioning it. It can take quite a few years for new interpretations to filter down from academia to general education.

on 2016-08-10 05:18 am (UTC)
brightlady_lise: (Siofran)
Posted by [personal profile] brightlady_lise
It's much of the reason I tend to avoid books with glowing reviews on the jacket about how the author is the next Tolkien or other Big Name in fantasy unless I have more than one other opinion on the subject. The same goes for Tumblr and the cutesy slideshows and bullet lists about how this piece of media is Transcendental and all that's listed are character's sexual orientations and races. We need more diverse media, but I'd rather suffer through a long list of Tolkien lite whitebread cast knock-offs than media which reduces people's sexualities and race to boxes to tick off in order to sell more copies.

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