Two or three days ago, the forward-thinking geeks of twitter were set all abuzz by this article, wherein readers are treated to George R.R. Martin’s giving of answers directly from the handbook of oblivious white man talking points when he was confronted by fans about the lack of diversity in the hit show Game of Thrones:
“Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America,” he said. This is also known as the, “There’s room in my fantasy world for dragons and zombies and dread priestesses but not meaningful nonwhite characters” excuse.
Another of his answers was: “Well, Westeros is the fantasy analogue of the British Isles…” or, for you laypeople, “I just modeled my world on ancient Europe, which was totally full of white people.”
Now, to be fair to GRRM, there are a lot of different places and people in his novel that don’t make the cut to the show. There are also some characters in the books that got–I don’t know–reverse racebent (and agebent) when they finally popped up on screen. Still, there is a concerning lack of meaningful melanin in either spot, and these same excuses only serve to increase the fatigue of exclusion that many fans of the show–and of SFF in general–feel.
The purpose of this post, however, isn’t to pile on George. Instead, here’s an alternative.
A few months back, an anthology of fantasy stories was published. This anthology arrived on the scene fairly quietly–but it has groundbreaking potential. That anthology is Griots: Sisters of the Spear, and it’s massively important, especially in the wake of this conversation surrounding George R. R. Martin’s remarks on fantasy and diversity within imaginary worlds.
There are seventeen stories in Griots: Sisters of the Spear. All of them fit snugly into the Fantasy (or, more accurately Sword and Soul) genre. All of them are set in worlds created by thoughtful people (many of them nonwhite), and these worlds are filled with nonwhite characters that are multidimensional, have layers of (not just magical) power in their worlds, and are badass in their own rights. Also, all of the stories feature women as main characters, slaying monsters, having meaningful and powerful interactions with other women, and being generally awesome.
A lot of us are sick of the same few stories, sick of the same convenient types of stories, and for sure sick of fantasy worlds where the only real heroes are white men and the occassional non-white, non-male heroic sacrifice. In Griots, you can find several stories that will fulfill your need for awesome Women of Color kicking ass in richly populated fantasy worlds.
And no, I’m not just pushing this anthology because I have a story in it.
Well, maybe a little.