Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Chosen One*

*But only if male, cisgendered, and white.

[It's been a while since I last posted and I have no excuse. I'll sum it up as LIFE and leave it at that.]

Instead, here's what I want to talk about: The Chosen One trope.

It occurred to me today that often, when this trope is used in a story, it refers to a male protagonist. Usually young (10-18), always--as far as I can recall--heterosexual cis-gendered, and frankly, usually white.

The kid learns that their normal life is a fraud/to keep them safe/about to change irreversibly, and they have been chosen to defeat a great evil. Harry Potter was far from the first, and nowhere near the last.

It's not to say girls/women can't be protagonists or heroes, but more often, they seem thrust into the role through circumstances. Katniss just wants to protect her little sister. Sabriel just wants to find her father.

What I do find more is the role of female protagonist as "Not like the other girls." You see it a lot in romantic comedies. Debra Messing's character, Cat, from The Wedding Date: not the first woman to hire Dermot Mulroney as a date, but the first to make him fall in love. Katherine Heigl's Jane in 27 Dresses is like many women in her love for weddings and desire to help friends, but she's the only person to make James Marsden's Kevin see the love and romance is weddings and marriages.

It feels like a way to simplify their characters. Why, out of all the other women these men meet, are these the ones who get through to them? Why, they aren't like other women! Of course! How aren't they like other women? Uh, well, they sing? You know what? Just trust us on this.

But that's not the only place. You can find the trope in fantasy books as well, but they take a different approach.

Alanna is the only girl who wants to be a knight in Tortall and poses as a boy to do it, and later, Kel is the first girl to become a knight since it was allowed through royal decree. Daine, in the same world, is the only Wild Mage. October Daye is a changeling who has one foot in the fae world and one in the human world, the first person to really befriend the Luidaeg, who doesn't like anyone. Cat and Beatrice in Cold Magic have their own special (slightly spoilery so I won't mention specifics) traits that set them apart from everyone else in their community.

But rather than being called Chosen Ones, and beyond their special something that separates them from other women, they are heroines through the choices they make and the circumstances of society around them.

It makes all of these characters even more complicated--sometimes they make the wrong choices and have to deal with those consequences. Sometimes they want to do one thing, but the rest of the world is working against them because other forces have their own motivations and goals. The characters are complex and the worlds are complex.

On the one hand, it'd be nice to see more female Chosen Ones. But maybe the answer is more to get rid of the Chosen One trope for males. One of the fan theories (almost canon? actually canon?) that's always intrigued me is the idea that Neville could have been the Boy Who Lived. He was born around the same time, his parents suffered because of Voldemort, and if Voldemort had thought it was him and gone after his family, the books might have turned out differently in some very interesting ways. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of the villains choices, but how could it have been different if there wasn't the label of Chosen One hanging over Harry's head?

Anyway, those are my thoughts today. I'll try not to wait so long to post again.

Books/Series referenced:
Harry Potter: The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Katniss: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Sabriel: Sabriel/Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Alanna: The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Kel: Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce
Daine: The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce
October Daye: The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Cat and Beatrice: The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cake or Death: Con Edition

I have recently found out about a great organization that has set out to help sci fi and fantasy fans of color attend SFF conventions: Con or Bust.

From their "About" section: Con or Bust is a non-profit "whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited by geography, type of con-goer, or con; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves."

Con or Bust has been around 2009 as a response to Racefail09, which was about the lack of characters of color in fiction, and whether non-people of color have the right, responsibility, and/or ability to write COC. Reactions were varied, and many of them were passionate, some angry or defensive, but it broke wide open the discussion.

A side issue was the dearth of POC sci fi and fantasy writers. Linked to that was the lower numbers of convention-goers who were POC.

So Con or Bust decided to do something about it. Since then, they have made it possible to make donations, and also hold an auction (full of awesome stuff!) in order to raise funds that are then used to send fans of color to various SFF conventions.

The auction for this year opens on February 10, and closes on February 23. (Keep in mind timezones, folks).

Some of the offerings:

A poem written for you/about by Jane Yolen. (Yeah, that Jane Yolen!)

A custom, handspun, handwoven scarf, your choice of color

A custom, Police Box bag or laptop/iPad case

A manuscript critique up to 10,000 words by Lynne M. Thomas, or a fiction critique up to 10,000 words by Yoon Ha Lee (who also has a short story collection Conservation of Shadows available as a separate bid)

Pillow cookies from one person (cookies wrapped in brownies, anyone?) and a New Orleans care package from another

Books, many many books (including The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliot with a copy of "The Secret Journal of Beatrice Barahal"; multiple series by N. K. Jemisin; the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant; signed ARCs of A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents; an illustrated, hardcover, gift edition of Stephen King's The Shining; and many, many more).

This is only a sampling of the auctions on the first two pages. The auctions for this year are already up to page 4.

So please, take a look, ogle the wonderful, and get ready to bid on the 10th, and/or spread the word about an organization doing a lot of good.

Monday, February 3, 2014

White Privilege

The past handful of days, the concept--and reality--of white privilege has been bouncing around my small corner of the internet. It's been even more prevalent for my friend and fellow writer, Xen.

As a response, he posted this reference guide for dealing with white privilege when you encounter it. He says it so well, I got his permission to post it here, so I hope and encourage everyone to read it and to think about their own behaviors and the privilege they might be benefiting from without even realizing it.

Xen Sanders on 'white privilege':

A handy-dandy reference guide on what to do when offering advice regarding white privilege and how to deal with it in society:

1. Look in the mirror. Are you white?***

2. If the answer is yes, please sit down, observe a respectful silence, listen to what people of color are trying to tell you, and remember that you are not in any way, shape, or form qualified to advise on this subject. If you think you are, please see step three.

3. Google "white privilege." Educate yourself about what it is. Do not get defensive; do not automatically assume it cannot be you because you just don't like the idea. You are not being attacked right now. You are not an awful person. No one thinks you're horrible. No one hates you. And no one is calling you a racist for enjoying white privilege, so don't worry about that, either; let's get past that right now and work past that defensive knee-jerk reaction. If you see signs of white privilege in your life, it doesn't mean you're a racist at all. It just means society subconsciously favors you, and you've never even been aware of it. That can change, but please don't expect sympathy or congratulations for realizing your privilege.

4. Look in the mirror again. Still white? Yeah, that's not going to change. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with being white, just as there's nothing wrong with any other color. What can change is you, and how you respond to the people of color--if any--in your life. It is never okay to tell people of color how they should feel about race issues. I'm sorry, it's just not. It's never okay to presume to speak for us, either. We are intelligent, well-educated people. We can speak for ourselves; the harder matter is actually getting people to listen when it doesn't impact your life if people who aren't like you don't enjoy the same privileges you do, and when sometimes listening involves an uncomfortable and embarrassing level of self-analysis. Also? You don't have to shout louder than we do to be an ally. Sometimes the best you can do is listen, ask questions, and try to empathize, even though you can never understand because it's not a life you've lived. We wouldn't expect you to. But we do expect you to realize that--that you do *not* understand what it means to live life in the role of a person of color, and no amount of advocacy will change that, and any claims that you "get it" are false and offensive.

Check your privilege. Check yourself.

Show a little respect, and we'll be happy to give it back to you.

***If the answer to #1 is "no," disregard #2-4, and just do your best to educate, advocate, and not bite the heads off your white friends if they need to be told over and over and over again because they're just not getting it.

Here's the link for his post: Xen Sanders' facebook status on white privilege 

And here's his website: Xenarchy