I realize that there are very serious issues going on here. But the sight of William Sanders digging himself in deeper and deeper has reached the point now, with his attempt at extorting money for the privelege of getting stories off his website, that it's also quite hilarious. He doesn't seem to have hit fandom wank yet, but he really should. Fandom wank was made for William Sanders.

PS. For the benefit of those not following the story, William Sanders edits an sf magazine called "Helix." He recently rejected a story in a letter which fulminated against Muslims in a crazy, offensive, bigoted, and totally unprofessional and also rabidly nutty manner. The author posted it. Outraged ensued. Several writers asked to remove their stories from the website. Sanders responded by writing them crazy, offensive, bigoted, and totally unprofessional and also rabidly nutty letters. (Paraphrase: "Your story sucked! I only published it because you're Asian-American! Neener neener dumpling!")

Then he demanded that they all pay him $ 40 if they wanted their stories gone. Context can be found via [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, [livejournal.com profile] ktempest, [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, and many more.

PPS. I shouldn't even have to say this, but don't even bother saying that Sanders was referring to terrorists, not Muslims in general. "Sheetheads" is an offensive religious and/or racial epithet even if he was referring specifically to terrorists (a defense which Nick Mamatas neatly debunks somewhere which I've lost.) For example, if you refer to Jews as "kikes," it is not a defense to say, "But I only meant that one Jew who held up a bank!" Even in that context, it is still a bigoted slur.
It seems that yet again, a major sf anthology is coming out in which all but one contributor is male, and all are white.

Arguments over market forces, subconscious and unconscious racism and sexism, affirmative action, the personal guilt of any given person vs the collective guilt of society, and the vagaries of fate as they pertain to putting together an anthology may be made elsewhere; there are lots of venues! If you wish to argue those issues, here or here would be good places.

What I would like to do here is a little different. I am not sure whether some editors really are unaware of the existence of many female writers and/or writers of color, or whether they merely claim to be. But let's make it easy for them, shall we?

Here is a convenient post listing current authors of gender and/or color who have been known to write sf and/or fantasy and/or magic realism short stories. Editors, should be uncertain whom to solicit to get fantastic stories that are not by white guys (sorry, white guys!), just check the post and comments here, and then feed the names into google. I am certain that many of the authors will be pleased to hear from you.

One could also email the list to any editors whom one happens to know are putting together anthologies. Just a thought.

Off the top of my head: Sherman Alexie, Steven Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Lois McMaster Bujold, Emma Bull, Pat Cadigan, Suzy McKee Charnas, C. J. Cherryh, Ted Chiang, Susannah Clarke, Pamela Dean, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Diane Duane, Tananarive Due, Doris Egan, Jewelle Gomez, Barbara Hambly, Nalo Hopkinson, Nicola Griffith, Diana Wynne Jones, Nancy Kress, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Yoon Ha Lee, Ursula K. LeGuin, Megan Lindholm, Kelly Link, Marjorie Liu, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Moon, Haruki Murakami, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Tamora Pierce, Nisi Shawl, janni Lee Simner, Vandana Singh, Sherwood Smith, Megan Whalen Turner, Jo Walton, Leslie What, Connie Willis, Jane Yolen, Banana Yoshimoto.

(Yeah, yeah, good luck getting Yoshimoto or Murakami, but what a coup if you did!)

Please check my list before you suggest more, so we don't overlap.
It seems that yet again, a major sf anthology is coming out in which all but one contributor is male, and all are white.

Arguments over market forces, subconscious and unconscious racism and sexism, affirmative action, the personal guilt of any given person vs the collective guilt of society, and the vagaries of fate as they pertain to putting together an anthology may be made elsewhere; there are lots of venues! If you wish to argue those issues, here or here would be good places.

What I would like to do here is a little different. I am not sure whether some editors really are unaware of the existence of many female writers and/or writers of color, or whether they merely claim to be. But let's make it easy for them, shall we?

Here is a convenient post listing current authors of gender and/or color who have been known to write sf and/or fantasy and/or magic realism short stories. Editors, should be uncertain whom to solicit to get fantastic stories that are not by white guys (sorry, white guys!), just check the post and comments here, and then feed the names into google. I am certain that many of the authors will be pleased to hear from you.

One could also email the list to any editors whom one happens to know are putting together anthologies. Just a thought.

Off the top of my head: Sherman Alexie, Steven Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Lois McMaster Bujold, Emma Bull, Pat Cadigan, Suzy McKee Charnas, C. J. Cherryh, Ted Chiang, Susannah Clarke, Pamela Dean, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Diane Duane, Tananarive Due, Doris Egan, Jewelle Gomez, Barbara Hambly, Nalo Hopkinson, Nicola Griffith, Diana Wynne Jones, Nancy Kress, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Yoon Ha Lee, Ursula K. LeGuin, Megan Lindholm, Kelly Link, Marjorie Liu, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Moon, Haruki Murakami, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Tamora Pierce, Nisi Shawl, janni Lee Simner, Vandana Singh, Sherwood Smith, Megan Whalen Turner, Jo Walton, Leslie What, Connie Willis, Jane Yolen, Banana Yoshimoto.

(Yeah, yeah, good luck getting Yoshimoto or Murakami, but what a coup if you did!)

Please check my list before you suggest more, so we don't overlap.
Found in Mariposa on the counter of a general store; I have no idea where the deli is, but presumably elsewhere in Mariposa.)

[Poll #881926]
Found in Mariposa on the counter of a general store; I have no idea where the deli is, but presumably elsewhere in Mariposa.)

[Poll #881926]
This is Part II of a post on casting. Please take a look at Part I if you haven't read it already, as I will refer back to it.

Today I’m looking at the different types of stories, and how the type of story interacts with the type of casting. Again, I am specifically discussing visual media, though some of the issues are applicable to the written word as well.

I am assuming here that a multiracial cast is a desirable outcome. This does not mean that a monoracial cast is necessarily bad. Some types of stories and settings demand them: most of August Wilson’s gorgeous black history cycle, for instance, or a movie set somewhere where absolutely everyone is white, perhaps a small town in Utah. However, for the purposes of the discussion, I’m going to assume that we’re talking about works that don’t fall into those categories. (If the race of every character is essential to the story and written into the script, there are no race-related casting decisions to discuss.)

I am also not going to attempt to cover every possible type of story, just a few that highlight particular issues in casting.

Remember what I wrote about choice? That every single tiny detail in a TV show, play, or movie was the result of someone's (usually the director's) conscious choice to put it there? That every detail has a reason for existing, and is supposed to convey something to the audience?

That goes for casting too. Actors are cast very deliberately, to convey qualities that the director wants to be conveyed. The way they look is a big part of that, as is the way they speak and the audience's prior knowledge of them. (Some roles play off of a star's existing image; some roles are cast with an unknown so the audience will have no preconceived notions about the actor, but will only see the role.) So when you see a movie that is entirely white when nothing in the script demands that, it's because someone decided to make it that way. If you see a movie that is multiracial, it's because someone decided to make it that way.

Contemporary dramas, historicals, remakes of old racist stories, and fantasy and sf )
This is Part II of a post on casting. Please take a look at Part I if you haven't read it already, as I will refer back to it.

Today I’m looking at the different types of stories, and how the type of story interacts with the type of casting. Again, I am specifically discussing visual media, though some of the issues are applicable to the written word as well.

I am assuming here that a multiracial cast is a desirable outcome. This does not mean that a monoracial cast is necessarily bad. Some types of stories and settings demand them: most of August Wilson’s gorgeous black history cycle, for instance, or a movie set somewhere where absolutely everyone is white, perhaps a small town in Utah. However, for the purposes of the discussion, I’m going to assume that we’re talking about works that don’t fall into those categories. (If the race of every character is essential to the story and written into the script, there are no race-related casting decisions to discuss.)

I am also not going to attempt to cover every possible type of story, just a few that highlight particular issues in casting.

Remember what I wrote about choice? That every single tiny detail in a TV show, play, or movie was the result of someone's (usually the director's) conscious choice to put it there? That every detail has a reason for existing, and is supposed to convey something to the audience?

That goes for casting too. Actors are cast very deliberately, to convey qualities that the director wants to be conveyed. The way they look is a big part of that, as is the way they speak and the audience's prior knowledge of them. (Some roles play off of a star's existing image; some roles are cast with an unknown so the audience will have no preconceived notions about the actor, but will only see the role.) So when you see a movie that is entirely white when nothing in the script demands that, it's because someone decided to make it that way. If you see a movie that is multiracial, it's because someone decided to make it that way.

Contemporary dramas, historicals, remakes of old racist stories, and fantasy and sf )
Welcome to International Blog Against Racism Week!

If you would like to participate, here's what to do:

1. Announce the week in your blog.

2. Switch your default icon to either an official IBAS icon, or one which you feel is appropriate. To get an official IBAS icon, you may modify one of yours yourself or ask someone to do so, or ask [livejournal.com profile] oyceter to do so as she has agreed to make a custom one for everyone who asks, or go to her LJ and take one of the general-use ones she put up.

3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of a race that isn't yours, portrayals of race on TV, review a book on the subject, etc.

Basically, the idea is that by fostering open discussion right now, future discussions will be less fraught and everyone will feel more comfortable talking about the subject.

There are a number of discussions going on at the moment regarding the portrayal of race in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I cannot comment on that movie, because I haven’t seen it. This post is about multicultural casting in general, by which I mean both the issue of writing roles for and casting minorities (as opposed to not writing about and casting them), and how doing so may or may not be done in a stereotypical manner.

My intent is to demystify the process by which dramatic media (plays, TV shows, and theatre) end up with the casts that they end up with, and in which minority actors end up playing memorable and unique characters, or are forgotten in the background, or play embarrassing stereotypes.

Once I get past the introduction and begin to discuss methods of casting, I will touch upon all the relevant issues: artistic, practical, and political.

(I will discuss similar issues in prose fiction in a different post.)

This is a subject which is quite complex and interesting, both artistically and politically, but which tends to generate discussions in which more heat than light is shed. However, I hope we can get past our natural defensiveness regarding a touchy subject, and actually talk about the issues at hand without insulting each other or resorting to straw-man arguments like, “You’re saying that a movie is racist unless 51% of the cast is black.”

I have faith that all my regular readers can do that. However, posts on touchy subjects tend to attract drive-by commenters. In the Pirates debate, I was particularly startled by several totally non-sequitor anti-Semitic remarks like it's like some of the Jewish people thinking that all white people are neo nazi supremecists because EVERYTHING in some way comes back to anti-semitism. and our teacher was so Jewish even the Jewish kids thought she was weird. Not to mention the astonishing display of chutzpah by the latter commenter, who attempted to prove that she was not only not racist, but had been oppressed more than anyone ever, by claiming that her ancestors had been oppressed by slaves.

Given that, let me give fair warning to anyone who might drive by: any comments along those lines will not be deleted, but will be mercilessly mocked and preserved for all eternity, so little children who pass by will cry out, “Dear God, what is that thing?!”

Before I start, I will address a couple of points in advance, as they will certainly be brought up in comments if I don’t, and they tend to drown out discussion of more interesting issues.

(Note that I am mostly referring to American media, because that's what I'm most familiar with. The default for a hero in India, say, is not a white man, but an Indian man. If you are not American, please mentally substitute locally discriminated-against groups where appropriate. Also, while I am primarily talking about racial minorities, much of this is also applicable to women and non-racial minorities.)

1. Why should a movie have to put in a minority actor, solely for the sake of having a minority?

Why should the default be that everyone is white? Seriously: why?

If the story is intended to be realistic, most places and eras were not entirely white; if the story is fantasy, then why must an entirely made-up world be inhabited solely by white people?

2. Movies and TV are just entertainment. Please don’t ruin my light entertainment by forcing it to make a political statement by casting minority actors.

Why should entertainment be any less entertaining because there are minority actors onscreen?

Why shouldn’t minority audiences be able to enjoy light and fluffy entertainment that shows people like them, and isn’t spoiled for them by the inclusion of insulting stereotypes about them?

Finally, racial stereotypes, like non-racial stereotypes, are boring and predictable. If you avoid them, your work will be more entertaining, not less.

3. If you’re white and you write about minorities, you get criticized for stereotyping. If you leave them out, you get criticized for that. You can’t win!

Yes, this is a touchy area. Minority writers also get criticized no matter what they do. (If a minority writer writes about her own group, she may be criticized for making them look bad, or look unrealistically good, or by failing to address every possible angle, or of locking herself into a ghetto. If she doesn’t write about her own group, then she’s contributing to the lack of portrayals of that group.) Also, no matter how well anyone writes, they will get at least one bad review. No one is immune from criticism, nor should expect to be.

But if you make a good-faith effort to be inclusive and not be stereotypical, some people will appreciate it. Also, you will be helping to change the climate that causes so much criticism. A big reason why roles for minorities attract disproportionate criticism is that minorities are disproportionately underrepresented onscreen. Write more good minority roles, and eventually the sheer mass of them will cause each individual one to be less weighted.

4. But the movie just happened to be cast that way. No one sat down and decided to be racist, it just coincidentally happened that the Jewish characters were all greedy, the Hispanic ones all spoke in bad English, the Asians were sexless geeks, and the white characters were articulate, smart, sexy, and heroic!

It is quite possible that no one decided to be racist. However, movies do not descend from Heaven, untouched by human hands.

Every single thing in a movie is there because someone decided to put it there, and they decided to put it there for a reason. The choice to put a vase of flowers on the table, the choice to make them roses, the choice to make the roses red: there was a reason for all of that, whether thematic, plot-related, character-related, or because they harmonized visually with the heroine’s dress. And a human being also deliberately chose to either write in characters of a certain ethnicity, or cast them that way.

Now, it may be that no one thought of the implications of the greedy Jews, etc. Maybe they made the Jews greedy because of an unconscious assumption that Jews are greedy, not an active hatred of Jews. Or maybe they live under a rock and had never heard that Jews are frequently stereotyped as moneygrubbers. However, the result is the same. This is why it’s good to be aware of the implications of the choices we make. If we don’t ever question our assumptions, we may end up making statements we don’t mean to make, and be boring and stereotypical to boot.

(This doesn’t mean that you can never write a Jewish character who’s greedy, but that you should be aware that it’s a stereotype and have a reason for doing it anyway, and execute that reason well.)

5. What, I’m not allowed to enjoy anything unless it passes a political correctness litmus test?

Not at all. It is perfectly legitimate to have differing opinions on whether or not a work is racist or otherwise offensive, unless it’s something like Mein Kampf.

Also, we all love works which contain opinions or representations that we disagree with, whether it’s film noir where every woman is either an evil whore or an innocent victim, or a charming romantic comedy with a bit of vicious anti-Semitism thrown in as comic relief. It is perfectly possible to love a work and still be capable of seeing and discussing flaws in it, whether those flaws are artistic or political.

I will now discuss several different methods of casting, with particular reference to the various iterations of Star Trek.

Black Klingons, Asian Computer Geeks, and Lt. Al Giardello )
Welcome to International Blog Against Racism Week!

If you would like to participate, here's what to do:

1. Announce the week in your blog.

2. Switch your default icon to either an official IBAS icon, or one which you feel is appropriate. To get an official IBAS icon, you may modify one of yours yourself or ask someone to do so, or ask [livejournal.com profile] oyceter to do so as she has agreed to make a custom one for everyone who asks, or go to her LJ and take one of the general-use ones she put up.

3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of a race that isn't yours, portrayals of race on TV, review a book on the subject, etc.

Basically, the idea is that by fostering open discussion right now, future discussions will be less fraught and everyone will feel more comfortable talking about the subject.

There are a number of discussions going on at the moment regarding the portrayal of race in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I cannot comment on that movie, because I haven’t seen it. This post is about multicultural casting in general, by which I mean both the issue of writing roles for and casting minorities (as opposed to not writing about and casting them), and how doing so may or may not be done in a stereotypical manner.

My intent is to demystify the process by which dramatic media (plays, TV shows, and theatre) end up with the casts that they end up with, and in which minority actors end up playing memorable and unique characters, or are forgotten in the background, or play embarrassing stereotypes.

Once I get past the introduction and begin to discuss methods of casting, I will touch upon all the relevant issues: artistic, practical, and political.

(I will discuss similar issues in prose fiction in a different post.)

This is a subject which is quite complex and interesting, both artistically and politically, but which tends to generate discussions in which more heat than light is shed. However, I hope we can get past our natural defensiveness regarding a touchy subject, and actually talk about the issues at hand without insulting each other or resorting to straw-man arguments like, “You’re saying that a movie is racist unless 51% of the cast is black.”

I have faith that all my regular readers can do that. However, posts on touchy subjects tend to attract drive-by commenters. In the Pirates debate, I was particularly startled by several totally non-sequitor anti-Semitic remarks like it's like some of the Jewish people thinking that all white people are neo nazi supremecists because EVERYTHING in some way comes back to anti-semitism. and our teacher was so Jewish even the Jewish kids thought she was weird. Not to mention the astonishing display of chutzpah by the latter commenter, who attempted to prove that she was not only not racist, but had been oppressed more than anyone ever, by claiming that her ancestors had been oppressed by slaves.

Given that, let me give fair warning to anyone who might drive by: any comments along those lines will not be deleted, but will be mercilessly mocked and preserved for all eternity, so little children who pass by will cry out, “Dear God, what is that thing?!”

Before I start, I will address a couple of points in advance, as they will certainly be brought up in comments if I don’t, and they tend to drown out discussion of more interesting issues.

(Note that I am mostly referring to American media, because that's what I'm most familiar with. The default for a hero in India, say, is not a white man, but an Indian man. If you are not American, please mentally substitute locally discriminated-against groups where appropriate. Also, while I am primarily talking about racial minorities, much of this is also applicable to women and non-racial minorities.)

1. Why should a movie have to put in a minority actor, solely for the sake of having a minority?

Why should the default be that everyone is white? Seriously: why?

If the story is intended to be realistic, most places and eras were not entirely white; if the story is fantasy, then why must an entirely made-up world be inhabited solely by white people?

2. Movies and TV are just entertainment. Please don’t ruin my light entertainment by forcing it to make a political statement by casting minority actors.

Why should entertainment be any less entertaining because there are minority actors onscreen?

Why shouldn’t minority audiences be able to enjoy light and fluffy entertainment that shows people like them, and isn’t spoiled for them by the inclusion of insulting stereotypes about them?

Finally, racial stereotypes, like non-racial stereotypes, are boring and predictable. If you avoid them, your work will be more entertaining, not less.

3. If you’re white and you write about minorities, you get criticized for stereotyping. If you leave them out, you get criticized for that. You can’t win!

Yes, this is a touchy area. Minority writers also get criticized no matter what they do. (If a minority writer writes about her own group, she may be criticized for making them look bad, or look unrealistically good, or by failing to address every possible angle, or of locking herself into a ghetto. If she doesn’t write about her own group, then she’s contributing to the lack of portrayals of that group.) Also, no matter how well anyone writes, they will get at least one bad review. No one is immune from criticism, nor should expect to be.

But if you make a good-faith effort to be inclusive and not be stereotypical, some people will appreciate it. Also, you will be helping to change the climate that causes so much criticism. A big reason why roles for minorities attract disproportionate criticism is that minorities are disproportionately underrepresented onscreen. Write more good minority roles, and eventually the sheer mass of them will cause each individual one to be less weighted.

4. But the movie just happened to be cast that way. No one sat down and decided to be racist, it just coincidentally happened that the Jewish characters were all greedy, the Hispanic ones all spoke in bad English, the Asians were sexless geeks, and the white characters were articulate, smart, sexy, and heroic!

It is quite possible that no one decided to be racist. However, movies do not descend from Heaven, untouched by human hands.

Every single thing in a movie is there because someone decided to put it there, and they decided to put it there for a reason. The choice to put a vase of flowers on the table, the choice to make them roses, the choice to make the roses red: there was a reason for all of that, whether thematic, plot-related, character-related, or because they harmonized visually with the heroine’s dress. And a human being also deliberately chose to either write in characters of a certain ethnicity, or cast them that way.

Now, it may be that no one thought of the implications of the greedy Jews, etc. Maybe they made the Jews greedy because of an unconscious assumption that Jews are greedy, not an active hatred of Jews. Or maybe they live under a rock and had never heard that Jews are frequently stereotyped as moneygrubbers. However, the result is the same. This is why it’s good to be aware of the implications of the choices we make. If we don’t ever question our assumptions, we may end up making statements we don’t mean to make, and be boring and stereotypical to boot.

(This doesn’t mean that you can never write a Jewish character who’s greedy, but that you should be aware that it’s a stereotype and have a reason for doing it anyway, and execute that reason well.)

5. What, I’m not allowed to enjoy anything unless it passes a political correctness litmus test?

Not at all. It is perfectly legitimate to have differing opinions on whether or not a work is racist or otherwise offensive, unless it’s something like Mein Kampf.

Also, we all love works which contain opinions or representations that we disagree with, whether it’s film noir where every woman is either an evil whore or an innocent victim, or a charming romantic comedy with a bit of vicious anti-Semitism thrown in as comic relief. It is perfectly possible to love a work and still be capable of seeing and discussing flaws in it, whether those flaws are artistic or political.

I will now discuss several different methods of casting, with particular reference to the various iterations of Star Trek.

Black Klingons, Asian Computer Geeks, and Lt. Al Giardello )
For those of you who haven't been reading the journals in question, there is a conversation going on that started with a post about a panel on cultural appropriation at Wiscon, and spun into a number of heated debates circulating around that and related topics. Here's a round-up of links.

Cut for people who are sick of all this. Contains juicy details of how casting is done for American TV.

Read more... )
For those of you who haven't been reading the journals in question, there is a conversation going on that started with a post about a panel on cultural appropriation at Wiscon, and spun into a number of heated debates circulating around that and related topics. Here's a round-up of links.

Cut for people who are sick of all this. Contains juicy details of how casting is done for American TV.

Read more... )
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