Not long ago, I wrote a post called Rape Culture in Fandom in which I called fandom out on the rape-y tropes in fan fiction. I’ve had some interesting conversations about it. What I kept thinking most often, though, was that I didn’t want people unfamiliar with fandom to think that it’s all bad because of my post. In fact, fandom has raised my awareness of social issues more than almost anything else. It has also brought me great joy. So I want to share with you five important lessons I’ve learned from fandom.
1. Characters of different races are not interchangeable.
I have a friend who determines the genders and races of the characters in the stories he writes by generating numbers based on the demography of whatever the setting of his story might be, then randomly assigning these to the roles he’s already come up with.
My friend is coming from a good place. He wants to make sure that women and people of color are in every part of the story and its setting, without allowing his own biases to determine what role they should play. But his strategy doesn’t work, because races can’t be randomly assigned to characters. Their roles in the story are necessarily shaped by gender and race.