Friday, September 20, 2013

It's Easier to Write a Story About a Queen

So I read's article on "Diversity in SFF", which was a twitter thing, then an articles about what's going on on twitter thing, and then a blogs about articles about what's going on on twitter thing. There's a fun Russian nesting doll effect with social media. Anyway, I got linked back to it by a minority writer complaining that it was a very white take on the whole thing, and it would have been awfully nice for them to have asked some minority writers to contribute to the discussion, which seems to largely be a fair critique of the tenor of the article section of this media social media turducken. So I skimmed the article and then skipped down to the comments.

I read internet comments on most articles. They're not generally informative, and often it's an exercise in endurance, but I think they're valuable, especially on articles dealing with touchy social subjects. Once you filter out and throw away the "Obama=Hitler", "liberal media attack dogs", and "fox news is a pile of lies" comments, you're generally left with at least two interesting sets of voices- the people who are actually affected by the subject of the article but would not have ever been asked to write it, and the people who genuinely don't understand why the thing the articles poses as a problem should be considered a problem (I don't mean trolls, I mean people who really don't get it and are transcribing their thought processes as they try to make sense of it). And generally, I like reading both of those for a good sense of perspective.

One of the comments on the Tor article struck me. It was about class more than race (which is a thing that happens in these debates that is both good and bad) but here it is: "First, how much of diversity of character roles has to do with the fact that it's much harder to come up with dramatic plots for waitresses than queens?"

And the question here, I think, is: is it? Really? When you think about it?

I mean, it's not impossible to apply the "person who is in line for my job wants to kill/incapacitate me so they can have it" plot to a waitress. It's a very different story, and the people who would murder a queen and a waitress respectively in order to replace them are very different people, but you can do it. Waitress lends itself really well to crime plots- the person who stumbles onto the clue to a conspiracy and suddenly knows way too much. There's probably more room for a waitress to have romance and romantic triangle plots. The "clever solutions to save the business" plot is not that markedly different from the "cunning diplomat/ruler" scenario where you assess the tools at your disposal and use them in clever ways toward a stated end. Mystery and poisoning plots are both equally easy. The "anything to save my starving/dying husband/child/mother" plot comes much more easily to a waitress than a queen, although I feel like Tsar Nicholas II proves you can do it no matter how rich you are. The unequal status and forbidden love plots have a different role for the waitress, but she can absolutely be the center of them, and you really CAN tell them all from her side. 

Which is the thing here, I don't think it's actually harder to write waitress fantasy plots, nor are any of her plots necessarily less dramatic. I think we've just been conditioned to think the waitress isn't important and the queen is. 

Part of this is the epic fantasy trap that everything has to be giant armies that will annihilate the world (or sometimes just country or city, but usually the world). I think sometimes at book length the genre forgets how to tell personal stories, and I think that's a shame. Frankly, I do get bored by sieges, in the same way I no longer have all that much patience for "will-they-won't-they" romantic tension (unless there's a genuine chance they won't, but how often does that actually happen?). To an extent, I have to assume that actually is what readers want, because it does keep selling. 

But I'm also a reader.

And I would love to read a waitress book. 

1 comment:

  1. "And I would love to read a waitress book."

    Had you considered writing it? :)