Why Diversity Matters

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 in General Chaos | 2 comments

The subtitle for this post is: And Why Your Story Doesn’t Suffer Because Of It

Since around September of last year Diversity in SFF has been a conversation a lot of people are having. I have some rather strong opinions on the matter that I might have mentioned on this blog a time or two.

Most of the time, it’s hard to get people to care about more equal representation in fiction, especially genre fiction. We tell stories about aliens and artificial intelligence, isn’t that diverse enough? I have heard so many variations of “It’s the story that matters” and I shake my head every time. The common argument is that using diverse characters gets in the way of the story and makes it somehow hard for some people to relate to your character. Here’s the flipside of that. Is there a real story reason your main character has to be a straight white guy? If there isn’t, shouldn’t you change it in the interest of making the story better? In fact, isn’t the story made more interesting by making your main character someone you don’t expect? Let’s take an example, just for laughs.

Let’s say we’re going to rewrite Robin Hood in modern times. We could make Robin a white guy, just like the original story. He runs around stealing from the rich and giving to the poor because someone in a position of authority killed his family. I don’t know about you guys, but I really don’t feel the need to tell that story again. You know what I do want to tell? A story about a Mongolian girl who turns a gender biased system on its head and becomes a hunter. When someone she cares about is killed in an accident caused by a greedy company executive, she vows to avenge their death by bringing down the corporation. The bones of the story are the same, but isn’t the second version more interesting? Yes, you do have to do a lot more research to make an authentic story about the Mongolian girl. I didn’t say this was the easy path. It’s certainly not, but it is the right path.

Why is it important? Why does it matter? Because Art is a reflection of Life. Our world is magnificently diverse. There are all kinds of people. So many different kinds of people that it makes my head spin to think about it. Why shouldn’t they all get stories? The Mongolian girl who became a hunter despite the fact that girls don’t get to be hunters? She deserves a story. The Filipino boy who wanted nothing more than to become a model? She deserves a story. The dancer who lost a leg but doesn’t give up on dancing? She deserves a story.

Everyone in the world deserves a story. Don’t you want to tell it?

2 Comments

  1. Bravo! Well said. Did you read the Jim C. Hines blog posts (or his ebook anthology of those) on this topic? More awesomeness!
    Ebook: http://www.jimchines.com/2014/04/invisible-is-live/

    Posts: http://www.jimchines.com/2014/03/guest-post-roundup

    • Thanks for the links, Mary! I hadn’t seen those.

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