I originally posted this yesterday on my tumblog, but I think it bears repeating here.
I felt I should make this comment, considering there’s a large discussion currently going up on my dash (yes, Snowy, I blame you, but not in a bad way). Said discussion can be followed here, here, and here. It deals with sexism and trans* bigotry in fan fiction, which can also be used as a discussion for original speculative fiction. Writing fiction, fan fiction or otherwise, has the same basic elements to story creation. In speculative fiction (such as like my own book, Black Mask & Pale Rider, and the current work I’m writing with the Barrow’s Revenge), many times you are creating your own world, or, in the case of Peter David writing a Star Trek novel or the Supergirlcomic series, creating a new series of events for established characters. In the latter, the author has been asked to create this or has pitched an idea to the publisher that holds the rights to publishing such works. With fan fiction, the author is writing established character, merely for enjoyment for themselves and others in the fandom. The basic aspects of writing either are implied here, such as correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure, plot, and even characterization.But there’s another aspect that does not involve basic writing skills. That aspect involves impact upon the reader.
People read shit. Lots of shit! They even read my shit! And because of that, as authors, we have a really big responsibility to ensure that things we write are going to have an all encompassing feeling for everyone.
Having said that, there is something that should be pointed out to the fans. Stories are going to have racist/sexist/bigoted people in them. It’s a part of life (even though I wish it wasn’t), and often times these characters are portrayed as “the bad guy”.
Bad guys don’t just wear black hats and have handlebar mustaches. They often act like douchebags, mistreat women, say unthinkable things about people of colour, and in general act with no regard for their words or actions.
To authors, this can be a device you can use in any story to convey to the reader who the bad guy is, or to convey a point where someone might rise above their current views of the world around them. To fan fiction writers, however, this is played out in a much more delicate manner.
Characters in fan fiction already have a set view of the world based on what has come before. For example, it creates a lot of ire in fandom when a female character who is viewed as strong and independent, and typically seen as a role model, is suddenly thrust into a position of “gender norm” roles. There has to be a reason why they are suddenly thrust into that situation, and if it was a complete about face from what they are normally seen by the readership/viewership, then it must have been extremely traumatic. For instance, in my own book, Black Mask & Pale Rider, one of the characters happens to be gay. Pania, a.k.a. Pale Rider, has been that way for a long, long time. She may find certain male figures attractive, but she is sexually attracted to the same sex; female. If someone were to write fan fiction of Shani and Pania, and suddenly Pania was married to a male and pregnant, I’d be asking “what the hell happened” because that’s a complete about face for the character.
When you’re writing a character that might make an off handed joke, whether racist, sexist, or trans* bigotry, as the narrator, you should explain this was offensive in some way. The character might not find the comment offensive, but you can be sure as guns your readers might.
And it’s not just a matter of saying “well, if you don’t like it, don’t read it”. As authors, we have a responsibility to educate as we story tell. The only way that the discussions of racism, sexism, trans* bigotry, misogyny and more will end is if those who happen to make a living or enjoy the hobby of writing don’t step up and start to make the change. Writers hold as much power as educators in that regard.
- Writing a world (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- Some suggestions (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- The inspiring music (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- Ideas are there, but… (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- Where did they come from? (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- Introducing, The Barrow’s Revenge Page (taholtorf.wordpress.com)