1. Excellent article, lovely. I read “Representation – Why does it matter” section and made a note in my workbook “rethink flamboyant description”, then continued reading and got to perform a mental fist-pump in solidarity with you.

    1. Author

      Ha, that’s great! Thank you for your comment, I really need that kind of feedback. It’s one thing to discuss this with your students in lecture halls and seminar rooms, but another thing entirely when addressing the actual producers of fiction.

  2. I’d be interested to see opinions on the line between cultural appropriation vs. positively representing a demographic that you (as the author) are not a part of.

    Also, disabled protagonists. The main protagonist in my forthcoming multi-POV novel has a neuromuscular disease. One editor’s assistant (who has not read the novel) admitted that she didn’t think the story could possibly be exciting, with a main character in a wheelchair. I pointed out that this is SFF, and the disabled character gets a hoverchair, and there’s plenty of fast-paced action. She was still skeptical. I suspect this is a problem that I’ve run into before, and will run into again, where readers have preconceived notions about what a disabled character (or X type of character) can plausibly achieve.

    There also seems to be a trend where authors completely erase their character’s marginalized identity in an attempt to portray them in a positive light. I read a recent best-selling novel with a transgender character. Nothing about this character seemed different. If the author hadn’t explicitly told readers *this character is trans,* readers would never guess. Sort of like how Rowling mentioned that Dumbledore is gay. Well, it never really shows up in the series, and it never really seems to be a part of his identity.

    1. Author

      Hi Abby,

      These are some great topics! Cultural appropriation as a term is used in multiple ways, and I very much like the idea of writing a post to clarify what it is exactly, including some pointers on how to avoid it. It wasn’t on my list yet, so thank you!

      Disability is another topic that is absolutely overlooked, both within the academic field as in fiction. Disability Studies is coming up as we speak, and I personally can’t wait for (dis)ability to be picked up more in the literary field. I already have blogs on gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and class planned, but I’ll add disability. If you could point me towards some good examples of novels that do include disability and do so in a constructive way, that would be great  I had to think of the X-Men immediately, but that’s about it.

      That last point is so tricky. Of course, it would be great to reach that moment in which our differences truly no longer matter, but in this day and age, that is simply not the case. Our differences do matter, they do influence us, how we are treated, etc, and I can’t help but wonder whether doing diversity implicitly actually means we, as writers, dodge responsibility in any way. Definitely something to think about 🙂

      Thanks again!


      1. On an SF series that shows a disabled character (or at least a character with a significant disability) is the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. Her character, Miles, suffered serious damage from a poison gas attack while he was in the womb, that leads to lifelong bone and other problems. The society he lived in wanted his mother to abort him, then his grandfather tried to kill him, and later he has to fight to be respected and valued in a society that wants men to be strong warrior-types. He has all sorts of adventures, and although technology will allow him to overcome some of the limitations, never all of them or the prejudices that go with them. It’s a great series!

        This is an awesome topic, Mariëlle, and a great post–I’m very excited for the rest. 🙂

        1. Thank you, Nicole! That sounds mighty interesting. I’d be curious to know whether there are also good examples in non-sf–what does it say about disability if we can only write about it constructively in an otherworldly, much more technically advanced, setting? Does it imply there is no hope for those disabled in this day and age? I’m just wondering out loud here… And thank you for the compliment! I honestly have no idea whether writers want to hear about this, so this really helps 🙂

      1. He is, Edward, but he does live in a society in which technology is advanced enough his disability is not that big of a deal. Not as big of a deal were he to live in the actual world. I’m still looking for constructive examples outside of the sci-fi realm. He is also a majority character in all other respects: he is white, he is male, he is interested in the opposite sex, he is educated, he is wealthy. I’d be interested to look at characters who take up a minority position in more than one way.

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