Does race have anything to do with genre writing?


Ok, now that I’ve said that… I’m not sure where to go next.

I’ve been watching what’s going on in our nation, and I felt typing up a normal blog entry would be kinda pointless right now. There’s big things going on. Important things. And while I’m still writing and submitting my fiction, the blog here is usually about fiction or writing life.

I’m a white guy. I’m really white. I live in the suburbs. My neighborhood and city are predominantly white.

The last church I served as a pastor was in a much more multi-ethnic neighborhood. We had black kids and Hispanic kids coming to our teen center all the time. I got to serve a mixed culture. So I’m not coming into this totally blind. I think I ticked off some friends when the rioting started when I said, “I get it.” I don’t get it as someone who’s suffered from systemic bias, but I have seen friends suffer from it.

Which means, it’s not my place to really answer the question as to how the issue of race fits in with genre fiction writing, other than that it does.

But perhaps I can start?

When you write fictional characters, you’re telling another person’s story. That person doesn’t really exist. But the stories you tell do exist in the real world.

What do your stories say?

  • Are your stories whitewashed? If so, what does that say about the world you’re creating?
  • Do you use any kind of racial stereotyping, even of fictional races? If so, what view of race does that support?
  • Is anyone regarded as evil simply because of their race – for instance, orcs or goblins?

Look, not every story is going to be “about” race, nor should every story be that way. But understand what you’re including in your stories. I’d suggest asking similar questions of the stories you take in, whether they’re being read or watched.

And here, I find… I’ve failed. Right now I’m in the (hopefully) final revision of an epic fantasy novel. I created multiple human, elven, dwarven, goblin, and other cultures. But when I picture the humans… they’re all white. They’re all different cultures, sure, but apparently my fantasy world has no place for a black person. Again: I’ve failed.

It’s time for me to do better.

It’s time for all of us to do better.

We are the stories we tell, and so often the stories we tell are just remixes of the stories we’ve taken in. Racism isn’t always loud; often enough it’s quiet and unseen by us white folks. We’re blind to it.

Let’s use these moments to see what reality we’ve hidden from ourselves, and let’s use this moment to also evaluate the stories we tell and take in.

Yes. Genre fiction has a lot to do with race.

Let’s pay attention.

Published by Jon

Jon lives in Kentucky with his wife and an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Trust me.)

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