Tag Archives: race

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…

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part One

So, as Elf Saga: BLOODLINES comes out, I want to talk a little about world cultures in popular media, and cultural appropriation, and white dudes writing about non-white non-dudes.

(Disclaimer: I am a straight white dude in the US.)

The Elf Saga series takes place on a fictional world of elves, dragons, and unicorns. It is in no way historical. However, it is full of fictional people and places that are clearly similar to actual people and places in the real world. What am I up to?

When I sat down to write this series, my goal was to (1) write a modern, fun version of a classic epic fantasy adventure and (2) fill it up with characters and settings that would feel globally inclusive and create heroes that a wide range of readers could feel connected to on various levels.

I wanted real women who were professional, funny, angry, girly, athletic, gay, inventive, shy, or foul-mouthed from many different cultures (with many different appearances) to be able to find at least one heroine in Elf Saga that they felt a connection to.

Yes, the diversity was totally deliberate. No, I don’t believe in “write the best story and whatever characters show up are the right characters, regardless of gender or ethnicity”. That’s baloney. I wanted these specific characters, and they made for an awesome story. So that’s why the cast of Elf Saga is as diverse as it is. And it is awesome.

Continued in Part Two…

Explaining “privilege” to straight white males

Hey guys, I was going to write a really long and detailed response to the white male Princeton student who objected to being told to “check his privilege”, but instead here is the short version:

“Privileged” people are individuals who don’t have to deal with certain types of problems in life, ever. And this technically makes their lives easier by comparison.

Example: As a man, you really don’t have to worry (or even think) about the possibility of being raped. Ever. But as a woman, you do have to worry about it, and try to prevent it, and possibly be victimized. Here, male “privilege” is the freedom to completely ignore a problem in your life that women must deal with in theirs.

Having a “privilege” doesn’t mean that you don’t have any problems. It doesn’t erase your hard work, or sacrifices, or suffering, or achievements. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that people with other types of bodies (gender, race, sexuality, disability) have even more problems than you. Always. And you should respect that.

Problems like:

  • the danger of being raped,
  • the complications of being pregnant,
  • the likelihood of being assaulted by the police or by religious fundamentalists,
  • the challenges of going into a building with no ramps,
  • the hardship of affording the rare medication you need to control your bowel movements,
  • And so on.

Some people (women, blacks, gays, etc.) have to worry, fear, and modify their lives around these sorts of problems every single day. Not because they made bad choices or because they are bad people, but just because they have certain types of bodies.

Other people (men, whites, straights, etc.) never have to think about these problems at all. Which is why, in my opinion, a “privilege” is really more of an “exemption” or “immunity”.

So when someone says you should “check your privilege”, they are reminding you that other people face all the same challenges as you (school, work, family, health, money) plus even more challenges associated with the body they were born into, challenges that you may have overlooked because you never have to deal with them.

That is all.

Be excellent to each other.