‘Historical Accuracy’ and It’s Place in Fantasy/Fiction

historical-accuracy-1Whenever I end up discussing a book, especially if it pertains to LGBT+ or POC representation, I always have someone saying that, to be ‘historically accurate’, these type of people wouldn’t have been around for one reason or another.

Considering that the majority of the books I discuss are fantasy, I figured I would point how how ‘historical accuracy’ makes no sense for defending a books lack of diversity.

Historical accuracy is, of course, how close a book is to the actual world and its events.

Fantasy is, obviously, “the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.” (Source).

Historical accuracy pertains to the real life and history. That, in essence, extends to contemporary, historical fiction, and any type of fiction that would take place in this current, real world. Horror, dystopian, sci-fi (sometimes), romance, etc.

But why not fantasy?

Because fantasy is completely the product of the author’s mind. They create the world, the characters, and the society. Adding in minorities such as POC, LGBT+, and disabled people are completely up to the author. That being said, it’s the author’s own homophobia, racism, ableism, etc, that would have stopped them from adding in minorities.

I recognize that some fantasies do lean on history quite a lot, but accuracy still isn’t to blame for missing these important people. They didn’t just pop into existence in the 21st century-no, they were alive, and they definitely existed.

I recognize that it’s extremely unlikely to eventually get all books to have some sort of representation, which is pretty sad. But having none, and using excuses, such as what I’ve been discussing, is extremely damaging. Including rep can also be hard, with all the research that it includes to not be offensive. But the fact that some people would write something, without researching anything is not a good way to be writing. Would you write an entire book about the Roman Empire, and not research it?

In a sense, it shows a lack of care. Mainly because ‘historical accuracy’ can’t work for excluding these minorities because they still existed. Having no representation is bad. Having inaccurate or offensive representation is even worse.

What I’ve been trying to say, at least, is that you can’t use excuses for your inner phobias and -isms. Because it’s your own fault for being a bad person. It’s your own fault for being homophobic, racist, sexist, ableist, and everything else that I undoubtedly missed.


I’ve been having plenty of rants and discussions about this, over the course of a few weeks. I had a twitter rant:

And the discussion post that I wrote for a book analysis blog for a certain series, that also sparked the response from the person who called me a troll:

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(I guest wrote the post, under the name “aseikh”. @raanalysis is the blog, and had nothing to do with the discussion. The blacked out name is the person I was discussing with until they called me a troll in another post.)

And let’s not forget the person who called me a troll:

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I’m not trying to throw this person under the bus or anything, mainly because it’s their own opinion and if they want to be rude is their own problem. I just wanted to point out how a certain book, made obvious above to be the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, had a distinct lack of representation and was actually quite sexist, and this person went on a rant of how it didn’t matter because the book in question was based off history in England.

So, all in all with what I was trying to convey with this post, is this: I understand not every book can or will ever have minority representation. But if someone points out that a book doesn’t, then you can’t have the excuse be ‘I was being historically accurate’.

What do you think? How do you feel about historical accuracy and how it affects representation in novels?

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5 thoughts on “‘Historical Accuracy’ and It’s Place in Fantasy/Fiction

  1. This is such an important discussion topic, and one that needs to be shared widely. It has the potential to completely change fantasy as we know it, from the stereotypical straight-cis-white-male genre that it’s largely been up til now. And hurray for that change! It can’t come soon enough.

    I 100% agree with you that writers shouldn’t blindly excuse their fantasy novels’ lack of diversity with an, “Oh, but it’s historically accurate.” Like you said, fantasy is FANTASY, and it’s totally within the author’s power to tweak their worlds to make room for people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, etc. And we need that representation badly; we need as much representation as we can physically get.

    I’ll admit that I don’t believe that a book’s lack of representation automatically means the author is racist/homophobic/etc., though. It definitely can, of course–there are, unfortunately, plenty of racist/homophobic/etc. assholes in the world.

    Like you said, the lack of diversity in a book could be a sign that the author is lazy, not creatively inquisitive, or possibly afraid to step outside of their comfort zone for fear of doing it wrong. Personally, I believe that authors don’t necessarily have to believe, say, white people are better than people of color, or that LGBTQIA+ people are going to hell, etc., in order to be lazy, uncreative, or hesitant to step on readers’ toes.

    Obviously, all of those types of writers need to be pulled out of their complacency/lack of creativity/fear. There is, and will continue to be, damage caused to readers and society by this kind of lack of diversity.

    But I like to think that these writers might just need to have their eyes truly opened to the importance of diversity in fiction, and realize that the extra work really is worth it. I hope they’re writing in ignorance, or in fear of doing more harm than good by doing diversity wrong; that they aren’t inherently bad people harboring terrible prejudices. Because if these writers are writing in ignorance, lack of creativity, or fear, that can be fairly easy to remedy via discussion and education; if they’re truly sexist, racist, homophobic, etc., it’ll be significantly harder to bring them around to our side.

    All that said, I’m not exactly surprised that some of these writers, upon being challenged and having their eyes opened to the issue, instinctively respond with defensiveness and lashing out. That’s a shitty and immature response, and I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with people like that.

    So: thank you for writing and sharing this! It’d be amazing to see this topic spread throughout the book-loving communities; the more people talk about it, the more likely it is that writers and publishers will take notice, and start thinking critically about what they’re writing and publishing.

    (Oh, man, I’m sorry I wrote an epic reply. Please take me and my excessive rambling with a grain of salt.)

    Like

    • No, this is completely okay!! In fact, this is an amazing response, thank you so much! This topic is hugely important to me, considering how much fantasy I read and how often I hear this excuse. I truly do hope its from ignorance, but there are always those who aren’t ignorant but just don’t care.

      I feel like my short response is really inadequate for you’re response. I was actually considering making more posts on this topic, such as how this applies to genres like historical fantasy and things reluctant authors can do to feel more comfortable including diversity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, whew. Glad I didn’t bore you to death/waste your time!

        You’re right, there are definitely tons of writers out there who just don’t care, and that’s a damn shame (to put it very, very gently).

        No such thing as an inadequate response! And I think expanding this topic into multiple posts is a great idea, if the inspiration strikes you. I’d love to read them–and I know countless hesitant writers could benefit from a handy guide to approaching diversity in their work. =)

        Liked by 1 person

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