Monday, January 11, 2010

The Hypocricy of Political Correctness

I keep reading in various places around the web about people bashing fantasy and sci-fi writers for so often writing white characters. They always want to make it be about racism, rather than about what it really is, at least in my opinion.

If an African writes a story about Africa, or an Asian about Asia, these same people, more often than not, praise that person and even give them awards for their authentic cultural writing. Why exactly is it that a person of European extraction is supposed to be different? True, for authenticity's sake, when I write a contemporary or futuristic piece, I will include non-white main characters, because that is what life is like now. But, when I write fantasy, I take the viewpoint of the European Middle or Dark Ages.

Why shouldn't I? I love history, and I have both taken courses and read many books about non-European history. It is interesting, however it doesn't resonate with me the same way that European history does. When I read about the Romans, Charlemagne, or William the Conqueror I have an innate feeling that this is my own history that I am studying. I can wonder where exactly all of my ancestors were in relation to these events. I have a personal stake in it. So why exactly is it fine for anyone else to have such feelings, but not me just because I am white?

I am as against racism as anyone, but I am not against common sense. I see it as natural that any culture will more often wish to write about itself, and I don't find it fair to say this applies to everyone except those of European extraction.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Deaths of Major Characters

I just read this post from Jim Hines about the killing of major characters, and it reminded me of a pet peeve. Basically, it seems that everyone I read on this topic believes that any death of a major character needs to have a good reason within the context of the story. I really disagree with this.

How many deaths have you seen in real life that fit neatly into the 'story' being played out by the friends and family of the deceased? The truth is that death tends to come rather randomly, except in the case of those dying of natural old age.

I have a character that is traveling with two others through a land where most people are fleeing an invasion. While passing through a nearly deserted, looted village, a couple of refugee teens throw rocks at the men from behind a house, striking the horse of one character in the eye, causing it to buck crazily. The character is thrown, and unfortunately his neck strikes a fence post. He is paralyzed from the neck down, and after some fuss convinces his comrades to put him out of his misery.

Does this death fit neatly into a storyline? Not really. I liked it, because it contributed to the realism of the story. This is what life does - it throws randomness into things. People may not like it, but I see it as if I am writing the history of what happened, rather than trying to tailor every last point to specifically fit the story.