Open Thread: The doom of this age or: Let this be the dawn of an epic fantasy era that has representation for everyone

(written by Lonespark, except for the title)

[Link to the music video of “Last Goodbye”, the song that marks the end of Cinematic Middle Earth.]

I love these books and these films. They were the soundtrack of my childhood. They helped bring me to my faith. They have shown me visions of magic and courage. They have made me so many wonderful friends. They have made memories for me with my family, my friends, my beloveds, old and new…

And I hope they are the end of an era. I hope we never again have to choose… to choose between epic fantasy awesome, and representation for everyone. We need awesome that embraces cultures and people from every corner of this badass, fantastic world.

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]


42 thoughts on “Open Thread: The doom of this age or: Let this be the dawn of an epic fantasy era that has representation for everyone

  1. froborr November 25, 2014 at 10:06 am

    I’m working on it. (Trigger warnings: racism, body image issues due to internalized racism, child abuse and neglect)

    I’m not good at names, so for each culture in the setting I randomly picked a real-world culture to use as a source for personal and place names (hence the odd mix of Welsh and Polynesian names in the above, there’s two distinct ethnicities present). Otherwise I’m deliberately avoiding direct parallels to real-world cultures… which of course means everything ends up with parallels to multiple real-world cultures. *shrug*

    Also relevant, I’ve started reading my first Tamora Pierce books–I’m reading the Circle of Magic series along with Mark Reads. I am REALLY liking it.

  2. storiteller November 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Not epic fantasy, but SFish, Liar by Justine Larbalestier is fantastic. Whole cast of color, an absurdly unreliable but fascinating narrator, and layers upon layers of meaning.

  3. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I have heard of that. I first heard of it in the context of the cover being whitewashed. 😦
    I have also been directed to Tu Books and specifically the book Killer of Enemies.

    I don’t have a problem with the term “fantasy,” but I guess “speculative fiction” covers all SFF and related hard-to-pigeonhole stuff.

  4. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Also it took me a while to figure out what an “S-fish” was…

  5. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Maybe we could do another thread nominating works we’d like to see given the Middle Earth (and Marvel?) cinematic treatment. I’d say we could do it in this thread, but the threads always seem to quickly.

    I’ll throw out a few, then reiterate if we get another thread:

    Avatar: The Last Airbender and probably The Legend of Korra. These have the advantage of having only POC roles. I’d love to see live action, but some kind of stop-motion-CGI-magic could be cool too. The distinction is probably becoming less relevant, as demonstrated via ME/Marvel, etc.

    Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I would so very much love to see this redone for a new generation, and the scope is certainly big enough for movies.

    From the “all our characters are awesome, but none of them are white people” file:

    Brown Girl in the Ring by Tananarive Due. Probably lots of other things by her, but that’s the only one I’m sure I’ve read. This one has the problem/opportunity thing where it deals with a religion practiced by tons of people on several continents…

    Similar thing with The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, although the orishas themselves don’t appear; religion is a background thing tied to the power structure.

  6. alexseanchai November 26, 2014 at 11:01 am

    The Summer Prince what now? I have heard the name “Alaya Dawn Johnson” in an approving manner…I should not add more books to my to-read list, I really shouldn’t, the books for my QTPOC Arts and Activism class next term (and only that class, as it’s the only one posted a booklist so far) are going to cost me $150 already…

    (I mean, I could buy them used. And in one case I plan to buy it used because a thirty-dollar difference in new and used prices. But I want to support the artists, and buying a used book doesn’t do that.)

    I don’t have anything to add to this really, I haven’t been reading much that isn’t fanfiction or Directly Pertinent to something I’m working on. *eyes library pile guiltily*

  7. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm


  8. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    The other awesome Alaya Dawn Johnson thing I am always mentioning is the Spirit Binders series. It is fantastically amazing and you should all go read it RIGHT NOW.

    It is, AFAIK, tragically not complete, which is a horrible injustice. It’s a Pacific Islander fantasy world with spirits and witches and fantastic female characters. Nice handling of diverse sexualities, too…

    There is a character who is blind who can see spirits and see when in the spirit world, which I think is potentially problematic, but there is also a deaf character who is important and interesting…YMMV on whether she gets fridged… I need more people to read these books so I can have discussions about them!!!

  9. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    So, being the Hobbit fanatic I am, I watched that video again. I think it’s a really good example of a well-done video. And I don’t believe it has a single POC human in it. So yeah. That is some BS that can die in a world-ending cataclysm or something.

    Jackson’s ME is really freaking white, and there’s no reason for it. Because dragons. And also, black people and brown people and various other peoples who might or might not be considered white in some places today were a thing in historical Europe and in the sagas, etc. that inspired the author…
    Also… DRAGONS.
    And a production that includes several awesome Aboriginal actors… as the bad guys. Who are another species. Except for that one kid on the elephant and some random extras, I guess? Jackson et al do really love their orcs and goblins and you can tell and that’s cool, but doesn’t excuse any of the other crap.

  10. depizan November 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    It’s not just fantasy that’s got representation problems. I keep hearing unfortunate rumors that John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o are going to be playing alien characters in The Force Awakens. Which isn’t inherently bad, or wouldn’t be, if that didn’t leave most of the not-in-makeup cast white. Again.

    I’d liked to have seen Star Wars sequels that had more POC characters than the original (and prequels). And by more, I mean lots more.

  11. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    That is almost inherently bad, because…yeah. And…hell yes. Nu Trek and Star Wars are dead to me, largely for this reason.

    Star Wars certainly has fantasy elements…

  12. depizan November 26, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    It’d be fine if one still had a visibly largely POC cast. Though, yeah, the long history of casting POC, especially black people, as aliens in sci-fi and fantasy films makes it a bit hinky no matter what. (Unless maybe the entire cast was POC and you were careful about not putting more of the black cast members in makeup.)

    Being mostly white is not a fantasy element Star Wars needs.

    How about Star Wars sequels where one of the main characters (and the only kid of the original characters who is a main character) was Lando’s daughter? And at least half the main cast was female? And most of the characters were POC? And that was all perfectly normal in-universe?

    Yeah, there might be a main female character in The Force Awakens*, but I’m not holding my breath with it being helmed by JJ I am more sexist than the 60s Abrams.

    *Why was it asleep? You’re not telling me the entire first two trilogies only happened because the Force dozed off, are you?

  13. lonespark42 November 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    “JJ I am more sexist than the 60s Abrams” lol

    I didn’t mean whiteness was a fantasy element, just that Star Wars (and I can speak only of the movies) is the kind of epic that to some degree straddles SF/F, like Fantasy in Spaaaace… “long ago and far away…” but then there was a blood test for the Force, so IDK.

  14. depizan November 26, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Oh, no, I didn’t think you did. But that is, unfortunately, one of the traits it shares with heroic fantasy. A trait neither should have. (I still think there’s enough description of hobbits as “brown” that casting them as POC could have even been defended as canon. *sigh* Come on, movie makers, be more inclusive!) Failed snark on my part.

    But, yeah, Star Wars has a lot of Fantasy in it. (And the Force was better off without blood tests, at least in my opinion.)

  15. Only Some Stardust November 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    I heard a rumor the new Force movie would be about Luke’s son and daughter, so one female main, and that the old cast (Leia, Luke) would be returning, but then again it was just a rumor, from, like, ages ago. 😛 If it does worse than New Hope on the female front I’ll scream.

    It would be cool to have Old Leia kick ass though.

  16. alexseanchai November 26, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    lonespark: QT = queer and trans.

  17. christhecynic November 27, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Star Wars had, fairly explicitly, space Nazis. Space Nazis are not now, nor have they ever been, a bad enemy to have.

    But then it failed both metaphor and reality when the main good guys, not to mention the vast majority of the good guys in general, were both fantasy metaphoric equivalent of white (i.e. human) and actually fucking white. And also literal guys.

    After The Empire Strikes Back Mark Hamill was openly dismissive of the idea that Leia would turn out to be the other potential Jedi because it was too much burden to place on one person to be both the last hope for the galaxy and the only woman in the galaxy. Then Return of the Jedi happened.

    Even when we reach the very end of the series, apart from robots, who isn’t a white human in the main cast? Lando, that guy we only sort of trust, and Chewie, the sidekick to the guy who wasn’t even a part of the rebellion for most of the movies.

    Star Wars had so fucking much untapped potential, which seems to be a running theme with everything. Good works are ones that have partially tapped their potential while leaving the vast majority untapped, bad works are ones that have tapped even less of their potential.

    A modest proposal, in two parts:
    1 If non-humans are your metaphor for human minorities, your humans should be at least as diverse as reality. Perhaps more-so given that your setting with non-humans isn’t constrained by reality and thus there’s nothing saying that there even is a majority amoung humans, thus completely equal representation of various groups isn’t any more unrealistic than your non-humans.
    2 The good guys, whoever they may be, should have a solid non-human representation amoung their ranks* otherwise, by your metaphor, they look a hell of a lot like racists.

    On a different subject, but related, I’m wondering if other people find themselves falling into a similar not-good mode of thought as myself.

    Since there’s such a big thing of “default character == cis hetero white guy who is probably a least culturally Christian” I find myself thinking about diversity in fictional characters not so much in terms of character traits but in terms of breaking out of the mold.

    The problem is that breaking the mold requires only one divergence per character breaking the mold, while character traits are largely independent of each other and thus naturally lead to intersectionality.

    If I’m not engaging in meta-cognition (thinking about how I’m thinking) I will, left to my own devices, never come up with a character who is, for example, a black trans lesbian who happens to be a Buddhist. I wouldn’t come up with a black trans lesbian. I might not come up with a black trans character.

    I’d come up with black characters and trans characters, but ones who are different from the damned shouldn’t-be-default-but-is default character in more was than possibly-gender and at most one other thing I’d be woefully short on.

    Do other people have this problem, or is it just me?

    * I don’t just mean main characters here, in fact the background characters who are little more than living props to give the impression this is a movement not a dozen or less agitators, are vitally important.

    If the only POC in your show, and I’m no longer just talking about fantasy and sci fi here, are in the main cast then the implication is that only exceptional POC are worthy of inclusion.

    If the only POC in in the general ranks of your good guys are in the main cast then it makes it seem like your good guys (looking at you SHIELD) buy into the idea that only exceptional POC are worthy of inclusion in the good guy club and for all other tasks there’s a white guy for that.

    You can replace “People of Color” with “Women” in the above and get the same results.

    A lot of other minorities are ones you wouldn’t know about without more detail than simply showing them (though it’s totally possible to have two people of the same gender being affectionate in the background, certain gender non-conforming practices, especially clothing related ones, might be visible at a glance too.)

    In settings with nonhumans the same is true of them.

    Chewie and that guy who sat next to Lando in the final battle may have been important, Admiral Ackbar certainly had a position of power, but most of the fighter pilots, commandos, and such were all human. Makes one wonder how the hell the admiral even climbed the ranks since the ranks don’t seem to accept his kind.

  18. depizan November 27, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Do other people have this problem, or is it just me?

    Given that we’ve all had “main characters are white heterosexual cis men” shoved down out throats by mainstream media, it’s a wonder there are people who don’t have this problem. (If there are.) It’s painfully easy to default to what we’ve all been taught to think is the “default.” So we just have to keep working on it until there is no “default.”

    Lando, that guy we only sort of trust

    One of the reasons I’d vote for his daughter being a main sequel character if I were making them. Not only are black female main characters in fairly short supply in epic movies, but Lando came to the Rebellion the way a lot of people must have – the Empire came in and fucked everything up for him. Shifting future mention of him away from “that guy we only sort of trust” to very explicitly one of the heroes of the Rebellion (which he also is!) seems like a good move.

    Makes one wonder how the hell the admiral even climbed the ranks since the ranks don’t seem to accept his kind.

    Considering that they just gave ranks to Han and Lando, perhaps the same happened with Ackbar? ??? (I will say that the extended universe stuff – now Legends – did a heck of a lot better at including at least non-humans and women in stuff. Was still kinda short on the POC, though.)

    I can’t swear this is true, but there’s a photo set going around tumblr of women rebel pilots who were cut from… I can’t remember if it’s just A New Hope or the original Star Wars movies in general. I have no idea why they were cut, but leaving them in would’ve helped a tiny bit. Still need more POC, still need aliens (and a better term for non-humans in the Star Wars universe), of course.

    I do wish it were much easier to avoid the “If the only POC/women/etc…” bullet points as a writer. Those are very important points, and I do think they’re important even in text. It’s just hard to figure out how to get across inclusive crowd shots and such in a story.

    But I am trying to get away from “all the people the main cast interacts with are white dudes” thing at least. Though sometimes avoiding other problems leaves me back at white dudes. Bad tropes and unfortunate implications make things complicated.

    *contemplates some sort of weighted dice chart for bit parts*

  19. Only Some Stardust November 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    i mostly don’t, yay me?

    It helps to establish, rather than a character, a group of people, a culture, and then draw the character from that group where they are at least in some way ‘normal’. Throwing people together as a kind of stew / minority kitchen sink can look like its own kind of tokenism if it isn’t done naturally – that is, in groups. Look at Avatar the Last Airbender for what I mean; Toph is a blind Earthbender, and it doesn’t come off as tokenism or a ‘yay lookie how inclusive we are, both earthbender and blind!’. Zuko is deep down a good kid, but he doesn’t come off as the one exceptional Firebender.

    One thing you could do, is, for instance, simply make the entire main cast women (there are certainly enough stories with all male casts) or a minority (I almost called women a minority x_x Hollywood you mess with my brain >_>). Then including other under-represented folk, with more than just the one of tokenism, would automagically give you black trans lesbian buddhists, or whatevs. Don’t just have one or two gay/bi people, go ahead and make most of the cast queer.

    Inclusive crowd shots actually aren’t that hard; just spend as much time describing your crowds as you do your scenery (some authors realllyyy love their scenery!), or mention some of the travelers your characters pass by: ‘They walked by two men kissing while a toddler played with a wooden horse in a carriage next to them.’ ‘They elbowed their way through a sea of dark nand* pale faces to get to the center of the crowd to make the announcement, Foobar apologizing

    *nand = logical AND, one is true but not both; the faces are not simultaneously light and dark, some are light and some are dark. Of course, some might be pale brown / medium.

  20. depizan November 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Unfortunately, some of us suck at description. I will never be a high fantasy writer. But I can still try to incorporate things like you suggest.

    *sighs at the lack of proper cultures in the Star Wars galaxy*

    (For multiple reasons, since it’s the world I fanfic in.)

  21. Laughing Collie November 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    On Ana Mardoll’s site, Lonespark asked folks to come over here and comment on the Tolkien books and movies. This is my first comment here, so I hope this is acceptable: I have a 3-part blogpost I wrote some time ago about Jackson’s (because it’s sure not Tolkien’s) “Two Towers” movie. I hope it is of interest!

    “Why I don’t like Jackson’s ‘The Two Towers’ parts One, Two, & Three.

  22. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t think I have the problem Chris mentioned in terms of most intersectional marginalizations… Maybe I used to, but now all my characters want to grow up to be Janet Mock. Or Yeine Darr or Deka Arameri or Bright Itempas or Glee mortalfrakking Shoth. Or the OT3 from The Summer Prince. Or Idris Elba’s Heimdall. (or any of the awesome characters from the Xenowealth series… or any of the other awesome POC characters from the Steam-Powered anthologies…)

    Actually I don’t think I’ve had this problem since I was an adult, since in my adolescence they all wanted to grow up be Capt. Kasidy Yates (points at avatar), or Dr. Bashir or Ben Sisko or his kid or his dad. (Which isn’t to say some didn’t also want to be Spock, McCoy, Chekov, Leia, Han Solo except gay and part reptile, The Phantom of the Opera except Vikings and fantasy Vietnam…)

    I don’t know that my kids have the problem as much as some, since they love AtLA and Legend of Korra and Kaijudo and Big Hero 6… But they don’t have the same thing I did where they can also spend time with awesome diverse people in their daily lives…

  23. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    And yet I’m sure I do have things I just don’t see. I think I can be really bad in terms of thinking about ableism… Sci Fi is interesting in this regard, since societies constructed much differently obviously defined ability and disability differently.

    Class is also a thing that requires fleshing out for a fully realized world…

  24. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    And to amend what I said about my kids: I grew up with a lot more racial/ethnic diversity. But no class diversity. And I never even knew LGBT etc. people existed! Whereas my kids know kids with two dads or two moms or a mom and two dads or just a dad and lots of things with step parents and trans*/genderqueer folks…

  25. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Oh, Laughing Collie, I am reading your posts, and you make excellent points and yay.

    My thing with Tolkien’s woman characters is that most of them are awesome (although Arwen was pretty underwritten…) but there’s only ever one of them. I mean, they’re all exceptional, whereas the men can show diversity in Gondorian dudes or Hobbit dudes or Rohirrim dudes or even wizard dudes. Graaaah. and boo.

  26. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    And now I want Tauriel and Galadriel to hang out and talk, or team up and kick butt, or something.

  27. lonespark42 November 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Arwen too, why not?

  28. Only Some Stardust November 28, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    The Force Unleashed trailer is out!

    And the probable main characters we see areeee:

    A Black Man and a young White Woman!

    I for one am feeling very, very hopeful here.

  29. depizan November 29, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Maybe Disney has someone standing by to smack JJ Abrams with a rolled up newspaper every time he suggests something sexist. *crosses fingers*

  30. christhecynic November 29, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Various things:

    It’s the Force Awakens. See, it’s just been asleep all this time. Like the chair.*

    The Force Unleashed is a video game series that I’ve never played but I have a minor interest in because a) it’s the successor to the the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series (but not in a plot kind of way) and b) unfinished stories bug me and the The Force Unleashed trilogy only has two installments and apparently only will have two installments. (If your series is cancelled you can at least release an outline of the rest of the plot or something, but no.)

    Based on that trailer it looks like the main three will be a Black Man (storm trooper), a White Woman (on a speeder), a White Man (X-wing pilot). But that’s based on the trailer alone and in truth I’d want a lot more than one short trailer to base who the probable main characters are going to be.

    I also note that the black man is cast as a storm trooper. I know well, see above, that there’s no reason a person of color can’t be a space Nazi, but it still seems kind of weird to have the only person of color in the trailer be a stormtrooper.

    If one cares about demographics, a different trailer lists actors’ names. I have looked up who they are to translate:
    [edit] can’t get the damn blockquote tag to work
    ——A Black Man
    ——A White Man
    ——A Hispanic Man
    ——A White Woman
    ——A White Man
    ——A Black Woman
    ——Co Starring:
    ——A White Woman
    ——C-3PO Chewie R2-D2
    ——With: Gollum
    ——And: A White Man

    I may have to turn in my fandom card because I had to look up the names of the actors for C-3PO, Chewie, R2-D2, and Gollum to know who the hell they were.

    The reason I listed “Gollum” instead of “A White Man” for Andy Serkis is that Serkis does primarily (exclusively?) motion capture stuff. Thus we can be pretty sure he’s not going to be playing a human. The same is true of the actors for C-3PO, Chewie, and R2-D2. Everyone else we don’t know until we see them.

    There was a time when I thought that nothing could be so awful as to eliminate my desire to see more Star Trek. JJ Abrams proved that wrong in a single movie. I fear for Star Wars, but I’ll give the movie a try.

    THE BOOK: The Haggunennons of Azizatus Three have the most impatient chromosomes of any life-forms in the galaxy. Where as most races are content to evolve slowly and carefully over thousands of generations – discarding a prehensile toe here, nervously hazarding another nostril there, the Haggunennons would do for Charles Darwin what a squadron of Arcturan Stunt-Apples would have done for Sir Isaac Newton. Their genetic structure, based on the quadruple-striated octo-helix, is so chronically unstable, that far from passing their basic shape onto their children, they will quite frequently evolve several times over lunch. But they do this with such reckless abandon that if, sitting at table, they are unable to reach a coffee spoon, they are liable without a moments consideration to mutate into something with far longer arms – but which is probably quite incapable of drinking the coffee. This, not unnaturally, produces a terrible sense of personal insecurity and a jealous resentment of all stable life-forms, or “filthy rotten stinking samelings” as they call them. They justify this by claiming that as they have personally experienced what it is like to be virtually everybody else they can think of, they are in a very good position to appreciate all their worst points. This appreciation is usually military in nature and is carried out with unmitigated savagery from the gunrooms of their horribly beweaponed, chameleoid death flotilla. Experience has shown that the most effective way of dealing with any Haggunennon you may meet is to run away… terribly fast.

    FORD: Great!
    ARTHUR: Terrific!
    TRILLIAN: Thanks a million, Zaphod.
    ZAPHOD: Well, hey don’t look at me. I mean –
    TRILLIAN: What do we do?
    FORD: The Book says run away.
    ZAPHOD: Uhh, how do we get the automatic pilot on our side.? Box of choccies and some sweet talk? Any ideas, Marvin?
    MARVIN: If I were you I’d be very depressed.
    ZAPHOD: Earthman?
    ARTHUR: I go along with Marvin.
    ZAPHOD: Ford?
    FORD: Well, I always find that the prospect of death contracts the mind wonderfully.
    TRILLIAN: Ya know, I’ve just thought: there is a chance.
    ARTHUR: What chance? As far as I can see you might as well lower haystacks off the boat deck of The Lusitania!
    TRILLIAN: No, no, think about it. The second-in-command assumed that the admiral, Zaphod, and I were the same person not because we looked similar, but because we looked completely different!
    FORD: Hey! Y- yes!
    TRILLIAN: So if…
    FORD: Right! Right! I’m with you. If the second-in-command can be a shoebox, the admiral can be anything. A- a paraffin stove, a- a water bison, an anaconda…
    ZAPHOD: Terrr-rific! I’ll root around for the water bison. Trillian you see if you can find the jar the admiral keeps his anacondas in.
    FORD: Look, can it Zaphod! It could quite easily be something mundane: er, a screwdriver, that cord of wire, the chair itself!
    ZAPHOD: Yeah. Hey, you know that’s a really neat chair – could’ve been made for me. It’s got the two headrests, dig?
    FORD: What tho- those two great furry things?
    ZAPHOD: Yeah.
    FORD: Oh, they look ridiculous.
    TRILLIAN: It was very uncomfortable. I prefer something with far longer arms.
    ARTHUR: But which is probably quite incapable of drinking coffee.
    ZAPHOD: Hey, errrr, what did you say, Earthman?
    TRILLIAN: Did you say headrests Zaphod? They look a lot like eyebrows to me.
    ZAPHOD: That chair is scratching its leg.
    TRILLIAN: It’s just been asleep all this time.
    FORD: Arthur! For god’s sake get back here quick!
    ZAPHOD: Yeah stand up when you sit on the admiral, primate!

  31. Only Some Stardust November 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    >_> Yes, well, I guess my optimism got the better of me; I mentally auto-headcannoned that the guy was just in disguise and not reallyyy a storm trooper. Because all the storm troopers have been white xenophobes so far, I mean, it’d be really weird stylistically? Altho I guess they are only xenophobes against nonhumans.

    Oh gawd I hope the only black guy isn’t the (hench) villain.

    And I like Star Trek, but why oh why did they have to ruin Kirk’s character? I mean, I know the joke is he seduces lots of women, but, he’s supposed to be actually seductive and respectful, not a frat boy. I think people (or directors) just don’t understand that promiscuous people can be respectful of their partners?

  32. christhecynic November 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Him being in disguise as a storm trooper would be significantly less wrong than having the only black man be a storm trooper. Of course the larger problem is “the only black man” (that we know of.)

    My personal take on what was wrong with nu-Star Trek is very long but the short version is:

    In the nu-Trek Kirk is an asshole (for no damn reason) and the universe contorts to serve his whims. He never puts in an effort, he gets everything he wants. Those he dislikes (even if for indefensible reasons) will be laid low by fate, coincidence, space-time, and such. Any setback is temporary and exists only so he can have a bigger triumph later. Any time that anyone else is able to shine (Uhura, Sulu, Chekov) and/or be happy it’s in spite of him rather than because he’s a team player.

    In the Original Series Kirk was far from perfect (“I’ll go around the universe and Kirksplain to everyone”) but a lot of the things big things he did that made him look like a jerk were complete desperation moves motivated by the fact that it was his job to keep his crew alive and something (like say the local god) was trying to blow up the Enterprise. He just tended to offer up post hoc rationalizations of the form, “Me toppling your civilization to save my crew was totally for the best for you. Seriously. Bye-now.”

    Furthermore, the universe didn’t feel like it had to coddle him. It kicked him when he was down all the damn time. The main cast would survive, everything else was up for grabs. There were plenty of times Kirk didn’t get what he wanted even if he worked his ass off for it, when he did get what he wanted it was a product of said working his ass off.

    He was privileged up the wazoo, but he never got a free ride (just discount tickets, with an option to upgrade to first class.) Hell, the first episode Kirk ever appeared in had Kirk completely helpless as his best friend (better even than Spock) turned evil and eventually needed to be killed to save the galaxy. Outcome: Friend dead, Enterprise limping home, nothing of value accomplished, Kirk depressed. All the sads.

    I don’t actually like down endings, I could do without them entirely, but it does provide a useful contrast:
    —Original Kirk works hard constantly and there’s a decent chance that at the end of the day he’ll have lost everything but his life, ship, and command crew (non-main characters subject to death.)
    —Nu-Kirk never puts in an effort and always gets exactly what he wants (and while other people might recognize he’s an asshole, they still have to serve him.)

    Yes, that is the short version.

  33. Laughing Collie November 29, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Oh, good! Thank you, Lonespark — I wasn’t sure if what I’d written was the sort of thing you were looking for. I’m glad you liked it!

    Re Tolkien’s women: I read the trilogy when I was 8 or 9, I think, so a lot of the subtexts went over my head. I do recall feeling a bit disappointed that there weren’t any significant protagonist women for me to identify with. I also recall, early in the series, being excited about eventually meeting the Rohirrim, the horse people. I’d been raised around horses, after all, so I knew women could easily be as good — if not better — riders as men.

    You can perhaps imagine my crashing disappointment to discover not only that Rohirrim women did not ride — but that the culture couldn’t even really be called “horse people.” They weren’t constantly mounted or nomadic! They lived in cities — and not even cities that were full of mounted people!

    Even more annoying to me was Éowyn’s story. To me it looked like: she breaks out of the Rohirrim gender role for women with a beautifully stirring speech! She performs acts of valor and bravery no man could possibly imitate! …aaaand then she just tamely goes back to being a good Rohirrim broodmare, ba-bai, don’t let the door hit her on the ass on the way out, the end. WTF?!

    So while on the whole I liked the series, it was not the life-changer for me that it was for many. I didn’t — couldn’t — believe in a world where women could be either only temporary tokens… or invisible drudges.

  34. depizan November 29, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I was assuming that the black guy would be a defected-from-the-bad-guys good guy.

    But that’s probably because I like that sort of thing, and because I tend to assume anyone not holding a Bad Guy sign in a trailer is a good guy. (Person with the ridiculous red saber in the trailer? Totally holding a Bad Guy sign.)

    And the clones – the original Stormtroopers (in a manner of speaking – they’d all been replaced by normal recruits by the time of the Original Trillogy) weren’t white. … You know, I can’t remember if we ever saw any Stormtroopers out of armor in the Original Trillogy. ??? The non-Stormtrooper Imperials we saw were certainly all white.

    I hadn’t considered that having a PoC as a defector from the bad guys might be problematic. *sigh* It is very hard not to stumble into problematic things as a writer. (Though, not counting villains, my fics have exactly one white person…and he’s pretty much a sidekick. I hope that helps. I want to be inclusive, not a disaster.)

  35. christhecynic November 30, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Person with the ridiculous red saber in the trailer?

    The only thing I find ridiculous about the saber is that the way it’s presented seems to be meant to evoke, “Oooh, big deal,” instead of, “They finally added a fucking cross-guard.”

    I mean, how did we get to, “Blades come out of both ends!” before we got things like:
    Sword with crossguard
    Normal dagger
    Sai / parrying dagger

    The fact that saber blades (presumably) have to to be straight severely limits the types of real world bladed weapons that could be lightsaberized, but sticking shorter blades at the the hilt makes a hell of a lot of sense.

    A sai could, presumably, only be approximated, and the approximation would likely be three blades coming from more or less the same spot, just at different angles, which is basically the design of a trident parrying dagger, hence me listing them together.

    A much better approximation of the sai could be made using five blades (three forward facing, two cross) but the sheer complexity of the configuration of the emitter bits needed to do that would make it fairly absurd unless the Star Wars universe already had a well developed sai tradition that at least some Jedi were willing to go to great lengths to preserve in the energy sword age.

  36. christhecynic November 30, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I can’t find it now, which is disappointing, but there was once a really well done (if painfully depressing) piece of short fiction that was done in the form of submitting a triple bladed light-saber to a museum. This one, unlike the one in the trailer, was not a practical design, and thus presumably one of a kind. Hence why it made sense to submit it to a museum.

    The story, basically, went like this (recall: depressing):

    A father and daughter Jedi team were going off to rescue their son/brother (respectively.) Before the mission the daughter (the one writing the text accompanying her gift of the triple bladed light-saber to the museum) came across her father adding two extra blades to his saber. They were smaller than the main one, and parallel to it. It gave the hilt a sort of trident design.

    This is obviously a very bad design since a glancing blow against the main blade would be channeled down between it and a secondary blade and end up cutting the support attaching the secondary blade to the part of the hilt that was actually being held.

    So the daughter asks, “WTF?”

    And the dad responds with something like: “The only light-saber users there will be you and I and the enemy. When one of the secondary blades gets cut off there’s a good chance a member of the enemy forces will pick it up, especially since you and I will know better.

    “When they try to turn it on: BAM!” Demonstrates that, when activated separately from the main saber the secondary blades kick into high-powered short-lived reverse, which is intended to kill whoever tries to use it.

    Daughter says nothing but is left with serious WTF? feelings. In retrospect she thinks this should have tipped her off that her father would fall to the dark side.

    In battle the modified saber does actually prove more effective than a normal one for a bit (better parrying force, able to make more difficult blocks) but soon gets hacked to pieces as expected.

    Then the person they’re supposed to be saving, having gotten free in the confusion, picks up one of the severed secondary blades (intending to help his rescuers in the fight.) It works exactly as intended, killing him the moment he tries to activate it.

    His own actions resulting in his son’s death causes the father to topple to the dark side.

    At some point later, the daughter recovered all of the pieces of the short lived triple bladed light-saber, restored them to working order as they had been immediately before the battle, and then stuck a blaster into each emitter housing and pulled the trigger. (One at a time, using three blasters would just be silly.) The outside of the saber looked mostly fine, some discoloration around the emitters, but it was effectively a paperweight.

    And then she donated it to a museum along with a short explanation of the unique weapon’s history.

  37. depizan November 30, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    They finally added a fucking cross-guard.

    I am rather hoping it works that way in some fashion. Though for that to be effective, you need one sided blades. (So far as I know, actual cross-guards do not feature sharp edges pointed toward your hands.) But I am perfectly willing to accept one sided lightsaber blades if that will give us a cross-guard that is not just a new danger to hands in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

    (I have often thought that if one wanted to become wealthy through investment in that universe, you’d invest in a cybernetic replacement hand business.)

  38. christhecynic November 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I am rather hoping it works that way in some fashion. Though for that to be effective, you need one sided blades.

    Obvious solution that they WILL NOT USE: have a more traditional cross guard a bit closer to the hand than the cross guard blades.

    The traditional crossguard protects the hand from the saber cross guard, the saber cross-guard blocks incoming light-saber strikes.

    And then you get to have an unnecessarily long, coolness-attempting start up sequence:
    1 Main blade extends.
    2 Cross guard blades extend (do not cut off your hands right now, they are vulnerable)
    3 metal cross guard snaps out (now your hands are safe again.)

    There’s no reason that they couldn’t have one sided blades, but I think that any of the technology necessary to do that would lead down a rabbit hole that one probably can’t afford to go without having Star Wars explode into “What the fucking fuck?”

    But, there might be a solution that doesn’t even require the film makers to do intelligent things for it to work.

    The idea above was based not on keeping the blades from your hands (a traditional metal cross-guard would be sliced right through by the blades, that’s why a blade cross-guard is a good idea) but instead keeping your hands from the blades (unlike the saber blades your hands can’t go through solid objects.)

    Now Star Wars tech is capable of making all manner of force fields (look at the shape of the one surrounding the second Death Star, for example) so there’s no reason they couldn’t have one that stopped your hand before it reached the blade cross-guard and thus saved you from being sliced by what is supposed to be protecting you.

    And, since shields in Star Wars are invisible (see: IT’S A TRAP!) there’s no reason you couldn’t just assume that a protective shield is there to prevent any unfortunate hand-cross guard interaction.

    Since the shield would only need to stop your hand (it would be static relative to the hilt and thus relative to the cross sabers) and not do the more impressive feat of stopping a light-saber from cutting, the rabbit hole is avoided.

  39. depizan November 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Of course! That makes perfect sense. *smacks forehead* Why didn’t I think of that. I am just going to assume it works that way now.

    Aaaand the villain is apparently the first person in the galaxy to make some attempt to keep their hands. Ah, well, at least someone is trying to.

  40. lonespark42 November 30, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    (I have often thought that if one wanted to become wealthy through investment in that universe, you’d invest in a cybernetic replacement hand business.)

    I need to read the story about the rise of this business.

  41. froborr December 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Re: Kirk seducing lots of women: One of the interesting things I’ve learned by reading Vaka Rangi is that, if you pay close attention, Kirk actually seduces very few women into having sex with him, and doesn’t even actually try that often. If you pay attention to how Shatner plays the character, he plays Kirk as trying to confuse or distract women, usually as part of a ploy to save his ship or sow dissent among his enemies, far more often than he tries to seduce them, even though the actual scenes are often written so that the lines sound like a seduction attempt. (This comes up as part of Vaka Rangi’s extended argument that Kirk-on-paper is yet another Manly McSquareJaw space captain familiar from so many B movies and Golden Age science fiction stories, but Kirk-as-played-by-Shatner is a deliberate rebellion against and subversion of that cliché, at least when Shatner doesn’t just give up in the face of a particularly awful script and phone it in.)

  42. lonespark42 December 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Hmmm. I can kind of see that. TOS Kirk annoys me, but that is probably because those golden age entititled hero types annoy me and because he’s surrounded by other awesome people I wish would get more respect and screentime. To his credit he tends to recognize the awesomeness of his crew and friends and lovers.

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