When writing stories I can’t help being conscious of the people represented even in my fantasy and futuristic landscapes. It’s hard to find female protagonists in popular media, harder to find ones who past the Bechdel Test, and even harder still to find women of colour.
I like to find artwork that, to me, represents the kind of mood or look of my characters. I’m bored of white European fantasies/sci-fis, and so for NaNoWriMo I’m challenging myself to go beyond what I’m familiar with. I want to see more stories about characters from a variety of non-white cultures, and I believe it’s lazy to say ‘I shouldn’t write such characters because I’m white’. Culturally diverse representation is starting to grow in multimedia, like in the new “Star Trek Discovery” series or the “Walking Dead” video game, but so very slowly.
When I try to search for elves, wizards or knights who are not white—let alone non-sexualised women—it takes me HOURS. For every seventy images of a pretty white elf, there might be one elf of colour. Fantasy seems to be a terribly white-washed genre. In part, it’s cultural assimulation—it’s what we’ve grown up to imagine and believe is beautiful/best/most magical.
I want to stretch my own imagination and stretch the imagination of others. Part of writing is to research, and I’ve discovered so many fascinating facts about medieval Bulgaria, Turkey and Arabia. My favourite fact to whip out at parties at the moment (no joke) is this: did you know that in roughly the 7th Century, Volga Bulgarian noble women could not marry until they had proven themselves in war? I mean, it’s bad that Bulgaria was at war frequently enough for it to be a prerequisite to marriage, but still. It’s time to change the erasure of warrior women throughout history by bringing their stories back at least through fiction. It’s a big ol’ world and there’s so much more to imagine other than differing versions of fantasy Europe.
Have you found fantasy PoC images of elves, wizards, and knights? Do any artists spark your imagination? Who are they?
Feature image by Eleonor Piteira