How not to increase diversity in your freelance writing pool, part 1.5.

[Author’s note: I’m out of “the office” today at a Hunger Games movie marathon, so this is a short, supplementary post. If this had gone up at a magazine site, I guess this would be a sidebar for Part 1.]

So yesterday I mentioned briefly that one of the questions on the application was “have you read the recommended background material for this game?” Let’s take a look at the suggested reading.1

(Each of these links will go to Amazon, however I do not have an affiliate link attached and I am making no money off of this if you choose to buy any of these books.)

There are four writers on this list. That means that 25% of the authors suggested are women. That’s actually pretty high for a list of background reading so I’ll give some props there. That looks like a really great number…until you break it down a little more. There are 8 recommended books. If we weight each of the books the same, that means the number of recommended women written books drops to 12.5%.

All of the authors on this list are white3, making clear that the guiding philosophies are going to involve a very Western, Eurocentric take on fantasy. In response to a call for diversity, the application is telling me right up front that I should expect to have to “tone down” my cultural differences (gender, ethnicity, economic background) to make my voice fit a very white, male viewpoint.

One of these books is not available via Amazon (the easiest way to shop) which means wanting your writers to read it is again putting a barrier to entry on them, but I’m willing to bet that reading the other seven would be enough so I’ll mark this as neither a positive nor negative point.

Reading the descriptions of these books it becomes clear that even the ones that might touch on multiculturalism rely on a Campbellian Monomythic frame. This is a frame that has been universalised even though it is a poor tool for telling fantastic stories outside of the Western tradition of a Great Man of History. Even in the Tanith Lee book, from what I can tell, the “focus” character is male. The implication is again given that if I work with a mythic tradition outside of the Monomyth Cycle, I should expect to have my voice quieted and/or my work rejected.

While I don’t feel this list is good or bad on its own merits, as a response to a call for diversity I find it disheartening. I would have loved to instead see the line editor ask something along the lines of, “What is your background with mythic traditions? Can you name any works that have been influential on your writing in those traditions?” Or even to expand the question about the recommended reading by asking what themes and motivations from them make them good background reading for Exalted, and what makes them flawed.

Really. Anything but the implication that to be good at being a “diverse voice” in Exalted I will have to sneak it in around the canon of old white guys (and gal).


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  1. After this post was scheduled, but with little time until it would go live, I have left the following texts out of this review: The Histories by Herodotus, The Iliad by Homer, and Volsungasaga which had no listed author. 

  2. The Spanish edition is the only one I can find an Amazon link to. 

  3. To the best of my knowledge. Corrections gracefully accepted.