02 July 2015

Fiction will Rise: Minority Characters in Fantasy and SciFi

Since childhood I've been in love with fantasy and science fiction, devouring the mystical peoples, places, and languages that sprang from the most fertile imaginations.

There was just one problem: every character, every heroine, every prince, every fairy, witch, vampire, changeling and dragon... all of them, all of them in their most human guise, were white.

But wait! You say - it's fantasy! They could have skin of any colour!

Yes. They could. But they didn't. They were the most beautiful, perfect, and ethereal versions of caucasian-ness. Of white-ness. With pale porcelain skin and long straight hair (often blonde). They were blue or green eyed (vibrant, glow in the dark, or neon - but still blue or green) with perfect thin noses, and slender frames.

Where was I then? I would wonder. Why did no one that looked me exist in these magical worlds? Was dark skin just not magical, or not beautiful enough to be ethereal? Could it ever be?  Some authors wouldn't include anyone darker than toast colour (with the prerequisite straight hair and green eyes) in their whole universe. You can create a whole universe - with different races, and magic, and impossibilities around ever corner - and yet no one is dark skinned? No one has features like mine?

Is it so hard to write?

Night dark eyes, in an oval face framed by a wreath of thick, tight curls that spring from the scalp with all the exuberance of a leap toward heaven. Long slender fingers and full lips with a fuchsia tint that has nothing to do with make-up. Warm brown skin, deep and velvelty with the richness of mahogany and bronze.

If I was going to put myself into a fantasy novel, that's how I'd do it. That little paragraph is all you really need right? How would you describe yourself if you were a fantasy character?

Thankfully, there are some great authors that agree with me - it's not so hard. Dark skinned fae, and brown skinned goddesses, copper-toned heroes, and a little boy with Bantu-knots that just might be part dragon. Fros, and curls, and beauty! I've discovered a whole world full - several worlds full. These are my favourite authors and fantasy sci/fi novels featuring brown and Asian characters:

The Assassin's Curse (Series of 3 Books) - Cassandra Clare

The Earthsea Trilogy (plus 2 accompanying stories)- Ursula K LeGuin (Most of Ms LeGuin's other novels also feature dark or brown-skinned characters, her entire body of work is well worth a read.)

The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

The Lunar Chronicles - Marissa Meyer

Bordertown - Edited by Holly Black (theres's loads of Bordertown stories, all of them are amazing, and most feature someone dark(er) skinned.

Daughter of the Flames - Zoe Mariott

Frostfire - Zoe Mariott

Feel free to share any recommendations you might have! 

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