As a result of a couple of recent conversations, I’ve been thinking lately about historical fantasy, and the extent to which historical norms may limit a writer’s ability to include diverse characters - whether we count diversity in terms of race, gender, orientation, or other (unspecified/name your own).
You will be unsurprised, Gentle Reader, to hear that I consider this argument (these arguments, really, since there are a number of them) a cop-out. Whether it’s deployed in the service of fantasy drawing on historical inspiration (“The Middle Ages were just like that!”), whether it’s used to support the whiteness and straightness of alt-history and steampunk, or whether it comes into play in historical fantasy where the fantastical elements are part of a secret history.
Naming no names of those who’ve disappointed me, so as not to get bogged down in discussions of niggling details, I want to talk about why the use of these arguments is a cop-out, giving historical examples. (And since I’m an Irishwoman, my historical examples will mostly be from northern Europe: I’d really appreciate if people with a wider knowledge of world history chose to chime in with a comment or two.)
Continue reading: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/09/sleeps-with-monsters-cop-out-arguments