Tag Archives: media

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part Four

Read Part Three

When I create a fictional place that is meant to resemble a real place, I try to get the details right. The food, the clothes, the wildlife, the music, the architecture. But the more important issues are how the society functions, what it values, what it rejects, etc. These notions should inform how the society works and how the characters think and act. These are issues that I worry about.

And they are also issues that I tend to dodge. I admit that.

Elf Saga is a character-driven, fast-paced adventure. It’s all about the characters and their banter and shooting magic missiles at dragons. And yes, as individuals, my characters are partly informed by the cultures that they come from. But Elf Saga is not really about politics. My heroines spend most of their time in the wilderness fighting monsters, not in cities engaging in complex discourse on serious topics. Someone smarter than me should write those stories. I do these other stories.

With Elf Saga, I just want to entertain you guys. I do tackle real issues in other series (probably not very well), but Elf Saga is just supposed to be fun. And it’s supposed to be fun for everyone. I want all of my readers to feel like they have a seat at the Hero Table.

And logically, if you have an African Elf Princess, then you need an African Elf Country for her, etc. So I built a world, and while it may not be the most complete or believable world you’ve ever visited, I sincerely hope it’s one you enjoy visiting, where you feel welcome and visible and appreciated. Because you should be. And in my world, you are.

Holy crab, I’m getting sappy and sentimental, so that’s all for now.

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part Three

Read Part Two

To offer readers a different sort of fantasy book, Elf Saga features elven heroines from countries that resemble France, Nigeria, India, Japan, and the Aztec Empire. Sometimes I used historical names like “Amina” and “Lozen” because I thought it wouldn’t hurt to nudge people into learning about the real queen Amina and the real warrior Lozen, but sometimes I just made up names like Jenavelle, because I’m super creative like that.

(The only caveat to names is that when I did make up a name, I would Google it to make sure I had not accidentally invented the name “Adolf Hitler” in another culture. Because that would be a major oopsy-daisy situation.)

Some Elf Saga characters are straight, some are gay, one is asexual. There is drinking and swearing. Some are big and muscular, and some are short and curvy. Some have chronic illnesses. Some have extensive facial scarring, and some have golden unicorn tattoos. Different strokes, folks.

But the story is never about “what” they are. That’s all just what they bring to the table. The story is always about who they are and what they do. No one cares if someone is gay. But they do care if they have to give up a life of sword-swinging dragon-murder to become a faerie priestess!

Continued in Part Four…

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part Two

Read Part One

I did a lot of being-alive in the 1990s when there were a ton of popular shows featuring all-black casts, from A Different World to Fresh Prince to Moesha to Family Matters to Girlfriends. Black superhero Static Shock had his own animated TV series. Back then, it was easy (for me at least) to feel like it was totally normal to see lots of complex characters (and families and communities) with not-white faces in the media.

But not so much today, which is dumb because the US is about 35% not-white and the planet is about 80% not-white. (Also, Idris Elba is awesome. Have you seen Luthor?) The fantasy genre especially tends to be be fairly pale and male, even today. I don’t see a ton of evolution in diversity between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, or the upcoming Shannara series on MTV.

And this hurts our society. We all need heroes and role models, both explicitly and subconsciously, to help us grow up and become awesome people. (This has been proven by science, by the way, on everything from gender to race to mental health to body image issues.) Nichelle Nichols’s performance on Star Trek inspired a young Whoopi Goldberg to become an actress, whose performance on Direct from Broadway in turn inspired Shonda Rhimes to become a TV writer. See? It matters! It works!

So here’s me, doing the other thing. Why? Because I have two daughters, and I want them to grow up in the best world possible. I may not be able to change network television, or Hollywood, or the video game industry, but I evidently have the time and temperament to sit around writing Elf Saga books, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Continued in Part Three…

Liberty Mutual’s car insurance commercials are sexist garbage

I’m a Netflix-only sort of guy, so I almost never see TV commercials anymore. But I did manage to see two car insurance commercials from Liberty Mutual this summer that ticked me off. Then I went online and found some more. Take a look and see if you can tell why there’s sand in my craw.

#1 – This white bearded man spent $40,000 on a new car and got hit by a minivan

#2 – This white bearded man’s new car got hit by a pickup truck

#3 – This black man’s daughter is turning 16 and he really doesn’t want her to drive

#4 – This white woman can’t parallel park and is going to rip some guy’s bumper off

#5 – This Asian woman totaled her car

#6 – This black woman tapped the bumper of a station wagon

Notice anything?

We have two white men with beards who bought new cars and then got hit by someone else. The subtext here is that white men have money and can buy new things, and other people are bad drivers. But don’t worry because Liberty Mutual will swoop in and save the poor victimized white men! (Also, why did Liberty Mutual feel it was necessary to make two versions of the exact same scenario?)

And then there’s the black dad. He’s laying it on a little thick about not wanting his daughter to drive. Well, I guess that’s not so bad except then we have…

Three women: white, black, and Asian. (Nice diversity there.) But all three of these women are responsible for hitting other people. The sad white woman is incapable of parallel parking, and her only alternative to hitting cars is riding the bus. The Asian woman “totaled” her car, which she named Brad. And the black woman is annoyed that her rates are going up after she hit someone’s car.

So, what’s the story, Liberty Mutual? Men need insurance to replace their toys when some idiot breaks them? Women need insurance to cover their own screw ups? Because that’s how it looks to me.

But hey, maybe men really are statistically awesome drivers and women really are stereotypical goofballs behind the wheel. Right? No. Of course not.

Women are safer drivers than men. Here’s two minutes’ worth of research:

Of course, car insurance companies know better than anyone that women are safer drivers than men. It’s the primary reason why women have lower car insurance rates. Esurance even says so right on their site. (Thanks, Esurance!)

So, based on actual data, the most realistic car accident scenario is a woman being hit by a drunk man.

The women in the clips should be glad to have an insurance company that will go after all the drunken idiot men on the roads.

The men in the clips should be sadly grateful for an insurance company that will cover their reckless driving.

And yet, we have these commercials.

Stay classy, Liberty Mutual.

The problem with dystopian trilogies

Alt title: “Why I’m (probably) not going to write any sequels to Ultraviolet”

Do you remember Fahrenheit 451? The book or the movie? It’s pretty straightforward. A regular guy living in a dystopian society meets a pretty woman in the Resistance and gradually comes to understand how messed up his society is, and then he joins the Resistance. That’s it. You may recognize this from The Matrix, because it’s the exact same concept, only with crappier special effects. It’s very similar to The Hunger Games and Divergent too, only they replaced the adult male lead with a teenage girl.

And the thing is, this is a perfectly good story format. It has social and psychological messages. It can evolve with the times to address different dystopian concepts. So It’s good… except today the storytellers keep making sequels. I can just imagine them wanting to make Fahrenheit 452: Revenge of the Inflammable and Fahrenheit 453: Rise of the Burninators. Apparently, it isn’t enough for them to introduce and comment on their dystopian worlds. They have to then show us two more installments of their heroes violently dismantling the Old Regime. And honestly, that’s boring.

There’s no real story in these sequels, and there’s definitely no new social commentary in them. They’re just generic action movies/books for the sake of making more money on the “franchise”. More violence, more bodies, more screaming. Yawn.

And that’s why I’m (probably) not going to write any sequels to Ultraviolet. I think the book does a pretty good job of introducing its world and its issues to spark some thought and conversation while still being entertaining.

(I keep hedging with the word “probably” because there are other dystopian ideas that I might want to talk about in the future, and the world of Ultraviolet seems like a perfectly decent place to talk about them. But I would only write those books if there was a new and different reason to, not just for the sake of watching Carmen Zhao continue to be awesome. Which she is.)

What do you think? Are dystopian sequels just pointless money-grabs, or do you think they actually add something to the conversation?