Yes. I write medieval fantasy. Am I probably biased in even fathoming the creation of this post? Probably.
There’s a decent bit of websites out there that seem to cram it down your head that making your setting be medieval is extremely generic. Do they have a point? Of course they do. The vast majority of fantasy takes place in the “Merry” Middle ages, and on occasion the uses of the settings can be quite repetitive. These websites would often advise you to avoid creating such settings in the first place. After all, the world is a diverse wonderland with countless cultures. Middle-eastern, Chinese, Japanese, African, Persian, Indian, etc. But there’s one glaring issue with all this advice.
Almost no one is listening.
At least in my opinion they aren’t. Fantasy set in European cultures is still the predominant form of fantasy. Yes, those evil white men are taking over the industry with the hopes of perpetuating racism, sexism, bigotry, and other bad things that will make me feel good about myself for calling them out. As you can see, I have more than a few issues with what these writing advice websites are putting out.
1. It’s diverse and more creative you say. I couldn’t care less, I say:
So yeah, there’s this whole school of thought that seems to be interested in forcing an author to do what the reader thinks is creative versus what the author himself thinks is creative. And this my friends, is an immensely dangerous way of perceiving one’s creative craft.
The second that you start trying to impose your own ideas into other people’s fantasy, even through subtle means, is the second you ruin fantasy for many people.
To my knowledge, most that start creating works of fantasy are people who would like an escape to some degree. People that want to venture off far into their very own minds. People that want to make worlds of their own.
Worlds of their own. Do you see the italics I put on those last two words? Let me zoom in a little more if you still don’t understand. Their. Own.
What kind of world do I live in where I have to clarify this? This is something should come as natural to all human beings! And no, I’m not talking about people who say that you should try to experiment with different settings every now and then (although the people I’m speaking about tend to pretend this is what they’re doing) I’m talking about those that say medieval fantasy is tired and boring. Because that’s an opinion and not some common consensus in the writing community.
Medieval Fantasy had not ceased to be popular and most people whom read it certainly just care for the stories. Lord knows that some people might be better off experimenting with some new kind of fantasy setting. And you know what? Good on them. Just don’t try to claim that medieval settings should automatically be considered boring by everyone!
2. Muh gender equality
I actually understand why many people complain about this. All of us want to attach ourselves to some kind of character in the stories we tell. When we see heroes in flicks and books we want to imagine that we are in their shoes. And while I personally don’t care about the heroes gender in order for me to identify with them, some people find it important. Yet again, it’s still no excuse to complain about gender inequality to authors.
For starters, if I want to create a world with more male than female characters, then guess what? It’s my world and my business. See, the italics are showing up again. This won’t be the last you see of them.
That is honestly the only argument that you need to listen to. If you still need more convincing beyond that, then you should ask one of your more mature friends how entitled you are. You might lose a few of them.
But if you are still not convinced, then let me argue this from the perspective of medieval times, which get the most flack for male-centric settings. Women were usually inside of the home raising their children back then. They would tend to the house while the men farmed or went off to war. I’m not even a history student and I can tell you that much, seriously, do a little research to medieval family life.
And no, it wasn’t because they were a bunch SEXIST, MISOGYNIST, PATRIARCHAL, pigs. In a medieval social structure, it was practically necessary for somebody to stay at home. And since men tend to be stronger and buffer than women they’re probably better suited to be out in the fields and sweating. Go ahead, call me a sexist. It’s just the truth, my friends. Women and men were viewed as having two separate roles in the societies in which they operated. It wasn’t that women were not valued (that depends on which time or area of the middle ages you go to) it’s just that they had a different role. A role that people realized their civilization would crash and burn without.
Let’s suppose for a moment that women did all the roles of men in the
middle ages. In fact, let’s focus on war. There are misconceptions in how this scenario could play out. If both the mother and father went out to war, the HURRAY FOR EQUALITY! Oh wait…
Who’s going to take care of baby Richard while he’s back at the village? Who’s going to feed baby Richard? Who’s going to tend the garden while the man is gone? The boys…well maybe if they’re a little older. And back then infant mortality rates were not
Of course, you can always say that it’s fantasy and that the author is free to make whatever decisions that he wants. If he wants a lot of warrior women, then go ahead. But if that’s the point that you want to make, then you should shut your mouth in front of people whose worlds offend you.
3. *snobbish voice* If only this Western European fantasy setting had more people of color *pretentious cough* only then would I be able to enjoy it
No, honestly, shut up. Your stupidity is the mental equivalent to an STD.
You see, perhaps if you had payed attention to even the basic differences in the climates of the world’s regions, maybe then you would know that skin color is not arbitrary. Race is not something that you get just because and don’t pretend that you don’t know otherwise. You know this to be the truth yet you still whine like a banshee.
Individuals with darker skin tones have a tendency of appearing in hot climates and temperatures. The reason that there are so many Africans in Africa is not because somebody just went over there and coated them in oil. And you know this. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.
Western European fantasy settings are usually in temperate regions, which lead to easier trade between nations, more bountiful harvests, and overall better resources. And people there are probably going to be white. And no, it’s not because they painted themselves or because they chose to keep Africans out of the land. (With the exception of muslim invaders. But that was because they came to rape and pillage, like most outsiders.)
Just let people write the things that they wish to write. If they want to write what you would consider to be “whitewashed” fantasy then fine. If they want to make a world in some culture that isn’t medieval for the sake of being snowflakes, then fine. Just let people right. Don’t force people to put more women in their work even if they don’t want to. Don’t force people to put more men in their book even if they don’t want to. Don’t force people to include colored folk in their books even if they don’t see a need to do so. And don’t force people to include white people in their work if they don’t want to. Just write.