There are questions you have to ask yourself at the start of any major creative project, but when it comes to the topic of fantasy racism that list becomes longer. There’s more to consider than just ‘will this sell’, ‘is this idea fleshed out enough’, or ‘does this fit the world I’ve built’. Now you have to ask yourself about the impact of your story on the world around you. Is your story always going to have an impact? Yes. But is the impact of a story including a large and hotly contested real world struggle perhaps a bit larger? Also yes. In a world where Black Lives Matter protests are countered with back the blue, blue lives matter, and all lives matter slogans there is a lot more at stake in a story that highlights racism than a story that only highlights dragons. Well, get on with it then! What are these mysterious questions so that I can get back to building my world? Dear reader if you are in that much of a rush already I worry that you may find this process too tedious and abandon it all together. These are not questions to ask merely once and then go about your project. These are questions that you must ask yourself again and again even after your story is published. So, what is the list? It’s simple: What would your story add to the current conversations about reparations and community healing? Whose viewpoint is the story being told from and why? Which side of the conflict is being shown in a positive light? Is the level of on page racism the minimum or maximum necessary to convey your point? Are you using varied language and situational examples or is it merely slurs? How do the humans react to the racism or speciesism within your story? Okay let’s get started: What would your story add to the current conversations about reparations and community healing? There are many stories that condemn racism. In what way is your story adding some nuance or reflective element that can further the conversations people are already having given that so many transformative pieces of both fiction and nonfiction have been published on the topic. Whose viewpoint is the story being told from and why? In a story about oppression it is important to focus on the perspective of the oppressed class and their fight to free themselves from it. Not on an outsider who comes in to ‘save the day’ unless you are making very specific commentary on why that is far less effective and harmful to the affected group as that ‘savior’ will face less consequences and could ruin planes years or decades in the making due to ignorance willful or otherwise. Which side of the conflict is being shown in a positive light? Regardless of how sympathetic you like making your villains, racism should never be shown in a positive light. This includes having racism be the punishment for or response to an uprising, a curse due to the actions of someone’s ancestors, or a solution to garner peace during times of war. Those are inaccurate simplifications at best and propaganda at worst. There is no need to overly humanize racists. They already have a PR team, and most of the world already listens to it. There is no need for our work to also further this message. Is the level of on page racism the minimum necessary to convey your point? And Are you using varied language and situational examples or is it merely slurs? There is a difference between showing a societal structure in a creative way and trauma porn. We want to avoid doing the latter. This is your reminder that for every way racism can manifest there are people alive who have experienced it. They do not need to see the depths to which that evil can go numerous times. It is not in the interest of the story to utilize every slur imaginable in a single scene. It is also highly unrealistic. People do not enjoy being called racist so they utilize phrases like ‘those people’, ‘good neighborhood’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘aggressive’, ‘underdressed’, ‘I’m still learning’, ‘be patient with me’, ‘I didn’t realize you were from there’, ‘you speak the language so fluently’, ‘where are you from’ among other things. These can be innocuous and it is in that ambiguity that “unprovable” harm and cruelty can be conducted in the form of microaggressions. Now this is not a comprehensive list, but it is a great place to start while you work on the ins and outs of your story. As always if you’re stuck on how to write something reach out!!
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