Brandon Sanderson14 April 2011                                                

Yes, Delta has free twitter again on this flight. I will try my best to get work done. Why is it so much more tempting while flying?

LUCKERS

Wanna have a detailed conversation about something? We already did sexuality in the Wheel.

LUCKERS

Seriously, its 4am here, I'm feeling loopy and sad not to be at JordanCon... I'm go for anything.

LUCKERS

Reverse the normal vibe. Ask me questions. :P

JENNIFER LIANG

Bad Luckers. Go to sleep, let him work.

LUCKERS

Hush.

BRANDON

Well, we could get into how timid a lot of us fantasy writers are about writing black viewpoint protagonists.

BRANDON

It is noticeable to me. I don't think it's intentional bias, and if it is, it's worry about doing something wrong.

BRANDON

But you see a lot of black side characters (in film too) but few black leading men.

LUCKERS

Interesting point actually... a form of reverse-racism. The fear that you are going to step wrong.

BRANDON

Yes. You can read up on something called "Racefail" in the sff community from a few years back, if you want.

BRANDON

Google it. You'll find some interesting points along these lines.

LUCKERS

I did so, and yeah I see what you mean.

BRANDON

I do wonder if it also has to do with not having racially integrated kingdoms (as makes sense) in fantasy.

BRANDON

So, if you want to tell a story about one kingdom, it naturally follows that you end up with a lot of people of the same race.

BRANDON

Then, you add someone else to be racially diverse—but that person you add becomes, by nature, the outsider.

BRANDON

Which, of course, only reinforces the bias, despite attempts at being diverse. It's a tough nut to crack.

LUCKERS

That does make sense—though I like RJ's futuristic blending of races. Sharan, Tairen, Seanchan—the blend has no meaning.

FOOTNOTE—TEREZ

I'm not so sure this is completely true; it's probably quite significant that the Empress of Seanchan, an empire despised mostly because of slavery, is a black woman (not because it's significant in the WoT world, but because it isn't). It might also be significant that the only other known slavery of the WoT world is in Shara, which parallels Africa in many ways, including the dark-skinned natives. The dark-skinned Tairens are unique in Randland proper for their feudalistic serfdom.

LUCKERS

For myself, I write fantasy set in modern times—I touch on race heavily but have avoided aboriginal issues.

LUCKERS

Which wasn't intentional.

JAMES POWELL

Often, when reading a book, I don't know what colour a character's skin is—it's rarely described.

JAMES POWELL

I suspect this is to do with "white" = "default". The best exception I've seen is @neilhimself's Anansi Boys.

LUCKERS

I don't think it's white=default so much as caution about giving offense...at least on my part.

JAMES POWELL

I often wonder if having *one* black character (amid a load of white characters) is worse than having none.

LUCKERS

It's funny, I never realised but I have no black characters in my book, and thinking about it it's likely...

LUCKERS

...because I've no idea how to write an aboriginal viewpoint. I lack the insight—though that's wrong in itself...

LUCKERS

...because there will be many black and aboriginal people with an upbringing similar to mine.

LUCKERS

Tokenism, and the perception thereof, is an issue. Brandon's revelation of a gay character in Towers of Midnight received...

LUCKERS

...some very... heated... attention based on this.

JAMES POWELL

Yeah, but the revelation of a gay anything causes heated attention somewhere ;)

LUCKERS

This is true. My high school graduation was no exception. :P

JAMES POWELL

Oh aye? Did you ask for a Gay Diploma? ;)

LUCKERS

Made out with a guy on the dance floor... it was rather dramatic, but easier than explaining.

BRANDON

Yes. Tokenism is a real danger. And it's tough to do these things without stepping into this trap.

BRANDON

On one side, you have GLBT readers emailing me and asking sincerely to be better represented.

BRANDON

Then, you have RJ saying to fans "Yes, there are gay characters. It just hasn't been right to mention it yet."

BRANDON

However, when the time is right to mention one, how do you keep it from feeling just like a token nod?

LUCKERS

On the other hand, from the perspective of a minority that has only very recently received airtime...

LUCKERS

...seeing anything is kind of... well, nice. I can remember being young and avidly watching Dawson's Creek...

LUCKERS

...for the characters who, by today's standards, are very much tokens.

LUCKERS

Avoiding a token nod: by not making it the main point. But even so, if he's the only one, he'll be seen that way.

LUCKERS

For all that she's a bad guy, Galina's lesbianism was the perfect non-token introduction.

LUCKERS

Lord of Chaos Chapter 53, her attentions to Erian....

BRANDON

I'm curious. Did you ever read Rose of the Prophet? If so, what did you think of the gay character?

LUCKERS

Haha... you asked me this last time—but no. It's on my list now, but hard to find in Australia.

LUCKERS

She's also Mormon, no?

BRANDON

I liked them as a teenager, but haven't read them in years. If I remember right, however, the gay character...

BRANDON

...falls into the "safe gay friend" category that you see used so often in film, though he has a lot more depth.

BRANDON

The gay man is a major viewpoint protagonist, but his sexuality is very subtle. [Tracy] Hickman is LDS, but not Margaret [Weis].

PETER AHLSTROM

And Tracy Hickman is a guy.

LUCKERS

Really? *goes red in the face* I've been referring to him as a her for YEARS.

LUCKERS

Have you read R. Scott Bakker's The Prince of Nothing?

BRANDON

I keep meaning to read it. I think I even bought a copy. But I haven't yet.

LUCKERS

It's awesome. I raised it because it has a very poignant depiction character confused about his sexuality.

LUCKERS

Here's a question based on 'subtlety'—like the depiction of the black character, can an overly camp character work?

LUCKERS

In one of my early drafts I had a camp gay man, and I was accused of homophobia... it's kind of the same point...

BRANDON

As an aside, I really wish "homophobia" hadn't stuck as the term of choice in these matters.

BRANDON

I guess "homoinsensitivitia" didn't have the right ring to it.

LUCKERS

Fear of singularity in sexuality. Sounds like Star Trek jargon.

FOOTNOTE—TEREZ

This point came up in the flamewar that followed Brandon's revelation about the gay man on Dragonmount (referenced earlier by Luckers). I think that the connotations of the word are independent of the word itself, and would have likely stuck to whatever word we might have used instead of 'homophobia' (because 'phobia' itself doesn't always have connotations of hatred). In reality, there are many degrees of homophobia ranging from squick to hate, but those on the squick side tend to resent the word being applied to them as it implies a socially unacceptable prejudice.

RI SCOTT

On the gay character question, why do you think fantasy, in general, so badly underrepresents the LGBT community?

RI SCOTT

It's one thing that deeply bothers me about a genre I love so dearly.

BRANDON

If I had to say, I'd guess it's not intentional. It has more to do with what I posted earlier—authors not wanting to do it wrong.

BRANDON

That, mixed with the desire to create sympathetic characters—and the most simple way to do that is create someone like yourself.

RI SCOTT

I always wondered if there was any marketability concern—that books would sell less with major gay characters.

BRANDON

Maybe. But most writers/editors I know don't think that way. They write the book they want to, then figure out how to market it.

LUCKERS

I've had so much fun hanging out with you tonight, but its 5:30 in the morning and I need sleep.

LUCKERS

Have a blast a JordanCon. I'm really sorry I'm not there to meet you in person.

BRANDON

Ha. Good night, then. Sorry I've been a little distracted this time.

BRANDON

Remind me again. You're over in Australia, right? If so, what city?

LUCKERS

Sydney. Same as Linda.

BRANDON

I'll be there next year, if I haven't mentioned. You, me, and Linda need to hang out when I come.

LUCKERS

We will do this. I'm definitely going to be at JordanCon 2012 as well. Still, sad... have fun on my behalf.

FOOTNOTE—TEREZ

It turned out that Brandon was planning on going to Australia during JordanCon 2012 (so of course Luckers changed his plans).