The Slow Destruction of Fantasy Fiction.

I’m not a huge fan of fantasy fiction, as I’ve explained here before, but the state of things in all corners of the publishing world interests me. They interest me not only as an aspiring writer but also as a lover of classic literature. I previously expressed my concern about the recent trend of denigrating older books. Most of the increasing animosity directed toward those books is due to their alleged racial and cultural insensitivity, a problem you’d think might be all but eliminated with those publishing in our postmodern, politically correct zeitgeist.

Lately, however,  it seems that even progressive authors are falling prey to the increasingly broad swath of culturally inappropriate or racially triggering offenses. It’s gotten so bad that even fantasy fiction, which by definition isn’t concerned with realistic portrayals of events and people, is being routed by the political correctness brigade. The result is that many authors are having to postpone the releases of their books to make edits of appeasement lest they offend the masses of people who were never going to read their books anyway. From The Spectator’s Even Fantasy Fiction is Now Offensive:

It was Lionel Shriver who saw the writing on the wall. Giving a keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival three years ago in which she decried the scourge of modern identity politics, Shriver observed that the dogma of ‘cultural appropriation’ —which demands no less than complete racial segregation in the arts — had not yet wrapped its osseous fingers around the publishing industry. But, she warned: ‘This same sensibility is coming to a bookstore near you.’ Reader, it has come.

Indeed it has, and the outrage isn’t being directed solely at authors of European descent, as many people might automatically assume and sadly, be perfectly okay with. Oh, no. This is an equally opportunity scourging:

Next month a young, Asian-American author called Amélie Wen Zhao was due to celebrate the publication of her debut novel Blood Heir, the first in a three-part fantasy series for which Zhao was reportedly paid a six-figure sum by Delacorte Press, a children’s imprint of Penguin Random House. Set in the Russian-inspired ‘Cyrillian Empire’, Blood Heir tells the story of a magic-wielding princess who is forced to flee her kingdom following her father’s murder. ‘In a world where the princess is the monster, oppression is blind to skin colour, and good and evil exist in shades of grey… comes a dark Anastasia retelling,’ blurbed the publishers.

Can you spot the problem here? It’ll all be clear in just a minute:

Before the manuscript had even reached the presses, however, a furore erupted when Zhao, a 26-year-old banker born in Paris and raised in Beijing, was accused of racism. Armed with merely the blurb and a handful of excerpts from the book, her critics — many of them fellow authors, editors and bloggers in the Young Adult genre (known as YA) — repeatedly tore into Zhao on sites such as Twitter and Goodreads, outraged by, among other things, the novel’s depiction of indentured labour. For despite Blood Heir’s Slavic setting, her detractors assumed the plot was inspired by American slavery and thus something Zhao had no business writing about because she is not black. In a tirade that might surprise students of Russian antiquity, one critic reportedly raged: ‘[R]acist ass writers, like Amélie Wen Zhao, […] literally take Black narratives and force it into Russia when that shit NEVER happened in history.’

I was tempted to leave aside the minor detail that slavery was actually a thing in Russia right up until the mid-late 19th Century, but it occurs to me that it would be a grave mistake to do so.More:

One prominent writer even claimed the very premise of a fictional world in which ‘oppression is blind to skin colour’ was racist and joined others in pillorying Zhao for creating — and then killing — a ‘black’ character in the novel. No matter that the only discernible evidence for the character’s ethnicity was a vague description of dark curls and ‘bronze’ skin. Another YA author, Ellen Oh, who joined in the fray by piously tweeting ‘colourblindness is extremely tone deaf. Learn from this and do better’, was herself forced to issue an apology after being castigated for using the phrase ‘tone deaf’, a turn of events that would be comical were it not so preposterous.

Stabbed by her own pitchfork. It is both comical and preposterous in my opinion. The utter ignorance of the woke brigade is the issue here. The fact that people so ignorant are wielding the  the power to influence and impact an industry which should be -at its heart- driven by educated people with literary and historical knowledge does not bode well for the future of publishing, literature, and literacy.

One wonders when peak absurdity will intersect with a plurality of people willing to display the courage to declare that enough is enough.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “The Slow Destruction of Fantasy Fiction.

  1. hearthie says:

    -facepalm- They have evidence of Irish slaves being sold as far south as the middle east ….

    Like, have any of them opened any history book EVER? One of the reasons we don’t want to lose wars is because we don’t want to become slaves.

    My head hurts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Krysta says:

    These cases fascinate me in part because they seem so unevenly and arbitrarily applied. For instance, there are plenty of fantasy stories where prejudice and oppression are not tied to race, but to magic–such as Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. But, for some reason, Blood Heir gets called out for it and the other books don’t. It’s baffling.

    We’re also apparently heading towards a world where nothing can be written because 1) you are supposed to write diversely but 2) you can only write about your own identity, but how can you be diverse if you only write about yourself? It’s weird, for example, because authors get called out for not writing gay characters, but also called out for writing gay characters if they are (assumed) not to be gay.

    I also think of how Kosoko Jackson’s A Place for Wolves was cancelled because it was alleged it was wrong of him to write about Americans in the Kosovo War. Presumably he wrote about Americans because he thought he had to, being an American himself. But now the new rule is you can’t write about Americans in other countries? It seems rather limiting.

    There is, of course, also the troubling aspect where these identity politics call upon authors to publicly announce their gender identities or their histories with mental illness, when they might prefer not to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. no display name says:

    It’s already happening, it’s just happening in a decentralized, diffuse fashion. The very social media performance addictions that led to this kind of purity spiraling are also allowing tiny bits of dissent to bubble up from the general morass of endless social media uploads.

    Eventually a tipping point will arrive and people will go “Wow, I guess I’m not the only one in this city/town/state/company!” and that will be some happier days, at least somewhat.

    Like

  4. Elspeth says:

    The shrillest voices in the woke brigade are -in my experience- among the most ignorant of history, law and politics. So nope. They haven’t opened a history book since high school.

    Like

  5. Elspeth says:

    Good morning Krysta:

    We’re also apparently heading towards a world where nothing can be written because 1) you are supposed to write diversely but 2) you can only write about your own identity, but how can you be diverse if you only write about yourself?

    You are right. There is a lot of cognitive dissonance into our current discourse. It’s enough to make your head hurt.

    There is, of course, also the troubling aspect where these identity politics call upon authors to publicly announce their gender identities or their histories with mental illness, when they might prefer not to.

    Ah, for the days when one could use a pen name or be judged on the force of their ideas and talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elspeth says:

    @ no display name:

    Eventually a tipping point will arrive and people will go “Wow, I guess I’m not the only one in this city/town/state/company!” and that will be some happier days, at least somewhat.

    I do have hope that what you are predicting will eventually happen. The question I have is how long will it take, and how bad will thing have to get before we tip over that point and start to return to a sane, balanced place?

    Like

  7. Sara Jane Kehler says:

    “We’re also apparently heading towards a world where nothing can be written because 1) you are supposed to write diversely but 2) you can only write about your own identity, but how can you be diverse if you only write about yourself? ”

    Krysta, it’s like you’re in my brain (except, you can write better – LOL).

    I am compelled to write, thus I must enter the writing world; yet, I am terrified of this ridiculous situation. Does it mean that I can write only about white females because that’s the only experience I’ve ever had? What a boring book that would be.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. pukeko60 says:

    Hi Elspeth. Quoting you here.

    The pushback has started. For the last two or three years I have walked in and out of bookshops without buying anything. This usually is a sign there is something wrong with me.

    The reason is That there is nothing in the shop I want to read . Ditto the library.

    I am reading — but old stuff, or stuff that is so politically toxic that it still has a plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Maea says:

    @Sarah,

    Does it mean that I can write only about white females because that’s the only experience I’ve ever had? What a boring book that would be.

    What’s more sad about this is if you did write a book from your experience and perspective, you’d have those same woke people lambasting you for being “privileged” and “failing to consider other perspectives.” Toss in a good statement about “intersectional feminism.” These people cannot make up their minds! It must be EXHAUSTING to live in a state of cognitive dissonance.

    Like

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