Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second novel of the Gentleman Bastard series.




The bolded sections represent quotes from the criticism he received. All the z-snaps are in order.

Your characters are unrealistic stereotpyes of political correctness. Is it really necessary for the sake of popular sensibilities to have in a fantasy what we have in the real world? I read…

I am appalled to find that Scott Lynch’s novel about magic-wielding pirates is unrealistic.

Thank you, Cory Doctorow!

I cannot reblog this hard enough. 

This is one of the things I love the most about speculative fiction. Because speculative worlds can (or even should) be different from the one we live in, you get to switch out some of the things that really suck for a totally different set of things that really suck. Like, no one in their right mind would argue that the world the Gentlemen Bastards live in is idyllic. It’s full of murder and brutality and creepy magic. But there’s absolutely no reason that our everyday prejudices should carry over. 

The way I see it, a lot of modern speculative fiction takes one of two approaches towards real-world bigotry. Either it plays it up, painting a picture of how incredibly rough life can be if you had the misfortune of being born outside the dominant social group, or it levels the playing field, showing an alternative to the injustices we often take for granted.

I think both of these are valid and valuable, and both make for some really good storytelling. But I’m especially a fan of that second approach. It’s important to present readers with worlds that do things differently. It’s important to have pirate captains who are women of colour, and bisexual swordsmen, and schoolgirls who banish the dead, and all the rest of all the things. I’m not even talking about representation, and people being able to identify with characters that ring true, which is a whole other super important issue. But so much of the inequality that runs through everything springs from assumptions and stereotypes that most of us have without even realizing it. It’s like the fact that most people will think of a man when they hear “Doctor”, and a woman when they hear “Nurse”. It’s easy to fall into discriminatory ways of thinking, even without malice, when the same tropes and cultural cliches repeat themselves over and over in our lives and in our media. 

I’m a big fan of books as fun, and I love and value literary adventure and entertainment. Writing speculative fiction doesn’t in and of itself carry with it the responsibility of addressing social issues. But it does offer a fantastic opportunity to do so, and – maybe in a way no other kind of fiction can – to add a lot to our social vocabulary. The more we get characters like Zamira Drakasha, the more we get tons and tons of cool people that stand out from the usual stereotypes, the richer our concepts become, and – I think – the less likely we become to discriminate against people who don’t fit the image in our heads, because the image in our heads becomes more and more complex and diverse and realistic and interesting. And if this isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second novel of the Gentleman Bastard series.

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