Court is a drama teacher and avid storyteller, currently working towards her MA in Writing. She has a head full of unwritten essays and a fondness for synonyms.
Authors & Authentic Perspectives
An increasingly important conversation in the book industry is that of diverse representation, both in the characters and stories we promote, and in the authors whose work we publish. Central to this discussion is the question: who has the right to write? Can a neurotypical author write from an autistic perspective? Can a white American write about the experience of growing up Chinese-Indian?
A key part of this discussion also comes down to authenticity: the effort and care put into representations of particular cultural groups and their experiences. Take, for example, Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ (2003) and John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ (2006).
Both of these texts received great acclaim in relation to their representation of Asperger’s/autism and the holocaust respectively, to the point that both have been included in school curriculums and other education programs since their publications. However, both authors have publicly stated that they did minimal research into the experiences they wrote about, choosing to focus more on the narrative at hand than the accuracy of their work. Does this diminish the texts’ cultural influence/importance? What responsibility do authors have to ensure authenticity (and accuracy) in their works, especially when they’re not part of the community they’re writing about?
Pennames, Pseudonyms and (Mis)representations of Gender
Many well-known female authors have published their works under male-presenting or gender-neutral pennames; Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), The Brontë Sisters, J.K. Rowling. In the male-dominated world of literature, it was a way to have their works heard. In more recent times, however, we are seeing an increase in men publishing under neutral or female-presenting names. Todd Ritter, who published "Final Girls" under the name Riley Sager, Dean Koontz who published as Deanna Dwyer, Ian Blair as Emma Blair, and so on. There have been arguments that these are to create a neutral approach to the story, or to simply distance the author’s personal life from their work. However, many people have expressed dissatisfaction with this, saying that men’s voices are already dominant, and it’s not right for men to take up more space by publishing under a female pseudonym.
This topic asks: is it alright for an author to disguise or misrepresent their gender in their name? Does that thought apply only to men writing under female names? And if it is determined to be acceptable, does that effect similar discussions around ethnicity and heritage?
Assassin’s Creed and Feminine Freedom
As the Assassin’s Creed franchise continues to grow and explore more of the world, so too has its options for players expanded… Sort of.
For example, Kassandra has a male lover and a child in the ‘canon’ of Odyssey (Legacy of the First Blade), no matter if the player turns down male lovers and plays her as a solely sapphic character. In Valhalla, there are certain times during the game where a female Eivor will be presented as male. In earlier games, the female playable characters received even less recognition; Evie is only playable for ~30% of Syndicate, and Elise was initially designed to be a playable character in Unity, but that was scrapped by Paris Editorial.
Why do the Assassins Creed games have such a hard time allowing the player to play as females, and to then not have their gender be a limitation or a core aspect of their narrative? The company needs to have a linear narrative, thus the character has to do certain things so the desired story can exist. However, particularly when it comes to female characters, this often contradicts the player’s desired narrative choices for their character.
The Battle for Artistic Freedom: Fanfiction and Copyright
The Tolkien Estate recently changed their copyright, stating that under no circumstances may a person “create materials which refer to the characters, stories, places, events or other elements contained in any of Tolkien’s work”. Close on the heels of this announcement came the importing of The Library of Moria fanfiction archive into the Archive of Our Own network; an archive with a legal team that works to protect the content hosted there.
This isn’t the first time that an author or estate has laid down the law regarding the creation of fan content under the arguments of copyright and protecting the integrity of the original work. Authors like Anne McCaffrey and Anne Rice have well-remembered conflicts revolving around fanfiction of their books – but what is the future of fan works in a world of cease-and-desists, DMCAs and fiercely-protected copyright claims? The majority of fanfiction and other fan work is created and consumed for free out of a passion for the source material. Is it an estate or author’s right to ban the creation of any and all fan content in the name of ‘integrity’?
The Draw of Elf-Dwarf Romances in Tolkien Adaptations
In all JRR Tolkien’s lore, the Elves and Dwarves are diametrically opposed races. However, in the filmed adaptations of his works, we see an emphasis on the developments their positive relationships.
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