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.

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics


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?

  • You probably know this, but The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has been absolutely excoriated, not just because its author didn't do any research, but because the whole plot absolutely never would have happened, even under the best of circumstances. I haven't read Curious Incident, but I would imagine it's received similar treatment. If you're going to write this topic, I might pair one of these books with a couple that got less intense reactions (whether or not they actually deserved excoriation, which is another topic altogether). – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
  • I think this is a topic that is worth exploring, but it's also a very broad one. There are so many different takes on it and different cases worth examining. I feel that choosing a specific group/identity to discuss authenticity in writing would probably be best. – AnnieEM 2 years ago
  • All writers face the same problem of trying to describe the lives of others with the thoughts of their supervisors. But I still think it's irresponsible to express your feelings without knowing someone. – Bruce 1 year ago

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?

  • I really like this topic! Definitely a discussion to be had about how the book market has arguably shifted away from cis white male voices, towards more diverse perspectives. When women chose male / gender neutral pen-names in the past, it was tied to the public not taking women seriously as authors. Men have always been taken seriously as authors... so why the sudden shift? – SBee 2 years ago
  • I like this topic, too! I don't think I really have a solid opinion; I want to say a person should be able to write under the alias of their choice but that can complicate things when people are looking for specific authors. For instance, would it be fair for a white man to be on a list specifically for Hispanic writers? Of course not, but what if they're using the surname of someone they admire or simply love the meaning behind the name and impersonating another ethnicity was never their intent? This makes for a topic that can prompt a lot of other scenarios, too. What if the "man" happens to be a closeted transgender woman? What if they're writing about a topic such as romance and are afraid that female readers will skip over them because of their gender? (Although this was never a problem for Nicholas Sparks!) This makes for a very intriguing topic! – emmywrites98 2 years ago
  • This is just my opinion (as someone who writes under a pen name). But I feel it should not matter. I personally would want people to judge me for the quality of my writing and not my personal life, as my personal life is not their business. I have never been a big fan of how people put so much weight on a persons gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. when discussing the quality of their work. I can acknowledge that there has been discrimination in the past (and that there probably still is discrimination going on even today.) and I see why some feel they need to write under a pen-name. But, when I choose a book to read, movie to watch, or game to play, I personally do not care what combination of chromosomes the creator has. I do not care how much melanin they have or what parts of the human body get them sexually excited. I care about their ability in the field they choose pursue. Many of my favorite artist (Yoko Taro, Banana Yoshimoto, coolkyousinnjya, and Aimer) have hidden their identity at some point in their career.Some of the artist I listed have revealed their identity (like Yoshimoto and Aimer), but it does not change my opinion of their work. It would not matter to me if they were writing about other races, genders, sexualities or cultures (which both coolkyousinnjya and Yoshimoto have done). What would matter is how well they portray topics outside their personal experience. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • I love this topic and I hope to see it get picked up! I would love to see how a writer tackles the aforementioned issue of authentic identities; do pen names lend authority? What are contemporary examples of successful pseudonyms? What does market research say about pen names and their effects on consumers? – jessamross 2 years ago

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.
More recent assassin’s creed games have allowed players to choose which gender they want their player character to be; such as choosing between Kassandra and Alexios in Odyssey, or choosing how they want Eivor to present in Valhalla. These characters’ stories, however, are frequently defined by their womanhood and their importance severely limited by production decisions.

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.
This topic would examine the roles of RPG companies vs players in determining the female characters’ narratives and ‘playability’ in Assassin’s Creed. Should players just accept that their character’s decisions are always limited by the company’s desired storylines, or should companies be working harder to have inclusive storylines that honour the players and their choices?

  • I've never played Assassin's Creed myself, but I think this is an interesting topic, and one I've seen discussed in regards to different games. There are a number that have male and female character options, but the game assumes the player will be male (sometimes leading to dialogue or scenes having funny implications). I do think that a player's character decisions will always be limited to some extent by the framework of the story and gameplay mechanics around them, since you can't have everything. But that doesn't mean that companies shouldn't have more inclusive storylines, especially if you're trying to give players options that are ultimately unsatisfying. – AnnieEM 2 years ago

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’?

  • Whoever decides to write about this topic, I highly recommend they look at Japan's doujinshi (self-published) community. Many fans will self-publish their own fan-faction of popular franchises, and it is not that big of a deal. Even when the content is NSFW no one makes that big of a deal. It is even encouraged by some creators. The artist for Dragon Ball Super Toyotarou actually started out as a Doujinshi artist for Dragon Ball and was eventually chosen by Akira Toriyama to continue the Dragon Ball series officially. I think it would be interesting to see a compare and contrast of these two different approaches to handling the fan-fiction community. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • There is also something to be said about the idea of commissioning fanfiction. The idea of paying someone to write about other copyrighted characters and franchises is debatable and interesting when it comes to trying to figure out whether or not doing so impacts the artists integrity or not. Is it wrong to pay someone that is not affiliated with certain works to make something with the same characters or even the same universe? – Belle 2 years ago
  • Fanfiction is just as much creating as an original story. I think people underestimate fanfiction and fanfiction writers. Sometimes they can create much more amazing things then canon, something more fleshed out and with less holes. In a way fanfiction writers are creating their own world just with familiar characters. – amalhameed 2 years ago

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.
In The Lord of the Rings, the camaraderie between Gimli and Legolas is a core element of the films, and there’s a not-insignificant amount of fan content created about the possibility of a romantic relationship between them.
In the more recent Hobbit trilogy, a romance was added between Tauriel the elf and Kíli the dwarf prince; one that didn’t exist at all in the book (as Tauriel herself was a new addition to the narrative).
It seems likely that the new Amazon Rings of Power series will also explore dwarven-elven relations (if not relationships) as well.
What about Tolkien’s stories and worldbuilding has people consistently drawing these two sides together? Is it just the appeal of an opposites-attract narrative?

  • I think this is an interesting discussion as it could also be examined for the dichotomous attitudes to racial representations present in both Tolkien's work and the interpretations of his work. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 2 years ago
  • This is such an intersting aspect of this series to explore. I personally have not read Lord of the Rings, though my brothers are big fans and I know a bit about this compilation of stories from them. I feel like one of the most powerful things about Tolkein's stories is how they create such fantastical, adventurous tales with roots in very human emotions and ideals. In a way, I think the connection between dwarves and elves is a representation of how people from all walks of life can share the same path, share comrodery and stregnth and joy through trying times. One of the greatest gifts in life is good company, and there is something hopeful and endearing in these connections between dwarves and elves-that differences don't have to be a divider, they can open our eyes to new perspectives, and help us grow for the better. – mmclaughlin102 2 years ago

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Latest Comments


Really interesting article! I think the connectivity in comic books are their greatest pitfall – as you said, trying to follow storylines from one piece of media but having to connect it to one or more other storylines from other parts is complex and makes it easy to lose engagement or momentum. I think the MCU pulled this off well – enough easter eggs for longtime fans to feel spoken-to, with enough context and revitalising that new fans could also engage easily.
The issue of the MCU’s ‘natural end’ with Endgame is also interesting – as an MCU fan my interest dipped significantly with the introduction of the multiverse. I’m just not someone who loves crossovers that much, but I do think that the multiverse was a very clever way to keep things feeling (at least moderately) fresh. However, I wonder if, like comic books, it’s going to get harder and harder for new fans to engage with the timeline and connectivity as a whole as more and more movies are added to the collection.

Continuity and Connectivity in Comic Book Movies

Lots of varied examples, very nice!
I think it’s also interesting to consider genre here – the *purpose* of these male characters in each story (as romantic interests, warnings, or villains) plays into our expectations from them. Snape is never intended to be read as a romantic lead the way Darcy is, and so the way their masculinity is portrayed and perceived (through the lens of our POV characters Harry and Elizabeth) will be inherently different.

Men Written by Women: Dreamboats or Brutes?

Interesting! As a fan of Star Wars who never delved into any of the books, I’m now really keen to give them a go – thank you for opening my eyes to them!

Star Wars Publishing Is Taking An Exciting Plunge Into The Unknown

Great article – a thorough and well presented insight on a man whose work I’m now motivated to become far more familiar with!

Demystifying Franz Kafka

Such great and varied examples all the way throughout this article! It’s interesting how many of these qualities we come to subconsciously value as readers/viewers/consumers without really understanding *why* they make the works so good. Really well articulated, Michel!

The Pillars of Outstanding Stories

Fantastic article! I think your observation that “the heroes of contemporary fantasy are defined by their relationship with the supernatural; they are heroes because of the supernatural presence in their lives, not always because of some unique inner quality” is particularly interesting. Seeing the ways contemporary authors and readers interpret and respond to different qualities in heroes (and the different definitions of what makes a ‘good’ story hero) is always fascinating.

Fantasy Writing and Classical Antiquity

I didn’t grow up with Filmore but this article has definitely convinced me to give it a watch. Well researched and well articulated!

Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!

A very interesting read! It’s interesting to compare the ways in which women expressed themselves between in the 18th C and now – despite a lot of progress, we still face similar issues when it comes to social expectations. It would have been nice to have a little more variation in the subject of the contemporary poems, and a stronger link back to the initial subjects towards the end of the piece, but overall it was an insightful comparison of poetics.
An aside: I noticed the poet is referred to as Shay Alexi Stewart/Alexei Shay/Shay Alexi inconsistently throughout – is this due to changing pennames? Lovely poem nonetheless.

Poetry and Feminism in the Eighteenth Century