Does it even matter what inspired this? The sad truth is that all this has happened before, and will happen again, for as long as agents keep repping racist books and publishers keep buying them.
There’s hope for change, in that the massive outpouring of criticism in this instance has persuaded the publisher to move the release date so that the manuscript can be revised, and the attempts to destroy Justina Ireland’s career have been unsuccessful — but this is an extreme case, and meanwhile, how many microaggressions are slipping through?
The world doesn’t need another white lady with an opinion here, so instead, I have made a bingo card for use whenever a pasty-faced writer responds to a call out.
|I am definitely not a racist.||How can it be racist, when it was inspired by Tolkien/Lovecraft/[insert vintage (racist) author here]?||It’s diverse ‘cos some characters are ambiguously brown.|
|Ninjas count as Good Representation, right?||Some of my friends are People of Colour!||This polite criticism sounds an awful lot like BOOK BURNING to me.|
|It’s pretty racist of you to talk about the racism in my writing.||FREE SQUARE||I understand diversity because I’m descended from several different kinds of western Europeans.|
|I’ve listened to Lemonade, I’m totally woke.||Why are you being so divisive and unkind?||That’s a nice publishing career you have there. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it…|
|I know all about racism, because I’m of Irish descent.||I had no intention of writing a racist novel.||It’s fantasy inspired by other cultures, with no basis in reality whatsoever.|
(This is, of course, a form of whistling in the dark, created in the hope that, when someone calls me out for writing something problematic, I can take it with professionalism and good grace, and do the defensive self-pitying part offline and in the privacy of my own home.)