9 comments on “Missing the Point part 1

  1. “This one elicits a sigh when I see it. Obviously they do, or there wouldn’t be POC authors struggling to get recognition. There wouldn’t be people like me writing this blog. All this question, or its variants, shows is that the writer has a very limited idea of who is reading, gaming, and interacting with modern SF&F.”

    That is EXACTLY why I decided to write the “Do Black People Really Do…?” series. To educate the masses of POC who even believe that we don’t read and / or write SF&F.

    Thanks, so much, for your informative and well-stated blog and for including me in it!

    Balogun Ojetade

    • The thanks is to you. Your blog popped up when I was looking into Afrofuturism and has been a great resource for putting me onto topics and issues that I knew (and still know) comparatively little about.

      Your point is well taken though, and a future post will be about POC thinking that POC don’t game, read, or otherwise consume and interact with SF&F materials.

      Thanks for writing a great blog, and don’t be surprised if I link to you again in the future!

  2. “It’s not real, it can’t be racist!”

    This is one of the weakest – yet most commonly levied – argument I encounter in SF and Fantasy groups when the subject of race comes up. The reason I find it so problematic is because it attempts to decontextualize game and world creation, in order to make it appear as though SF/Fantasy races or cultures just magically appeared from the ether.

    We get it, Toril isn’t a real place; it was spun from the minds of its creators over at Wizards/TSR. But the spinners didn’t exist in some cultural vacuum deep in the vaults of the gaming company: they exist as social beings enmeshed in a huge and complicated web of other social beings and institutions, all of which influence the minds that bring fantasy worlds to light.

    If “everything” about Forgotten Realms is fake, then how come we can all so clearly see cultural archetypes from our world stamped upon the face of this other one? We all recognize that Waterdeep is a European city-state; Maztica is analogous to “Generic Meso-American Civilization A”, or that the Barbarian clans of the Dales are shadows of the Gauls (Mostly).

    The names, people, and places are fake, sure, but the stereotypes – even down to the naming conventions – are just as real on Toril as they are on Earth.

    At an even more fundamental level, arguing that a given piece of work is merely fiction is not a valid defense against charges of racism. When “The Turner Diaries” was written, the fact that it was fiction didn’t stop it from being monumentally racist. The same holds true for SF/Fantasy writing; Just because an author or a reader claims that a work of fiction isn’t racist doesn’t mean that it isn’t. As the old saying goes, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

    • Precisely. Unfortunately, some people think that if you don’t explicitly say “This group/person is X”, it means it doesn’t count. That’ll be in the “shifting goalposts” section of the second part.

  3. I feel like a lot of things you point out in regard to the three most common attacks on POC in gaming can also be applied to female representation in gaming or just fantasy/sci-fi in general. Generally speaking I find myself at the bookstore struggling to find a non-male European centric storylines and it feels almost impossible. Too often I feel that writers (especially in gaming) feel that humans need to be racially located analogous to our own reality. Forgotten Realms is especially guilty of explicit racial/geographical demarcation. I don’t understand when POCs are included they become almost templated off off reality. It’s a fantasty world we shouldn’t be chained by these conventions.

    • You’re absolutely correct, similar arguments and ideas are used to maintain the sexism all to common in SF&F.

      It’s my thought that they get templated into “Exoticness”, close enough that game designers can say “We totally have POC in our game!”, but not so close that they can serve as anything but a different backdrop for the (presumably) White player characters to visit before returning to the “real” setting.

  4. D&D rpgs were something of my youth 12-13, and recently got back into it with an old favorite that I vaguely remembered (NWN and mods). Everything that you’ve mentioned here is clearing the fog and patching up old memories (i.e. like rewatching disney movies) To be specific, the treatment of half elves especially if you roleplayed one and a couple of LIs in both the campaign and expansions was terrible.

    I’m heartbroken about D&D but also disgusted that I failed to look deeper into it. Modders for NWN are still somewhat following the formula as well. This blog is really great! I can’t stress that enough, it’s really a gem!!

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