There is a wonderful near paradox going on in the world.
People want to be entertained (told stories) but a vocal minority want to own and filter these tales through an ever-changing counter intuitive sluice gate of some nebulous moral revivalism.
Can a black man be the murderer?
Yes, why not?
Can a left-handed ginger woman from Glasgow with a lisp ever be the killer of children?
Again, yes why not?
The rebuff, such as it is, seems to stand and quickly fall on the premise that the author is appropriating black men and or ginger women – notably if they are neither!
Does this marginalise or steal agency from ginger Glaswegians or black men, not if the character is fully rounded, how can it?
I’m sure James Herbert was never actually a dog – yet he wrote Fluke!
If the accusation is the regurgitation of lazy stereotypes – then against the writer the complaint would have merit, but only that the character was poorly formed, not that the subject couldn’t exist – there is an important difference!
Fiction is an invented narrative, it may contain truths, but it reflects imagination more than it is a verbatim mirror of society.
Characters, and the scenarios the envelop them may have resonance, but they are still first, and foremost, products of imagination designed to turn pages.
There are exceptions to this, satire makes deliberate reference, as too does historical fiction, but mostly, mostly, fiction is just that – a tall tale interestingly told.
Although bizarrely science fiction and fantasy seem to get a free pass – the myopia against fiction and appropriation in these cases doesn’t apply – which when you consider 9/10 females in these genres are large breasted Amazonians forever wearing skin tight catsuits you’d have thought they’d be target number one – seemingly not.
Where was I?
Ah yes, if my protagonist is an Irish female, am I, as a male stealing the agency of Irish women?
Am I attempting to act as a conduit for the female experience?
No, I’m not, I’m just witing a tale with what I believe to be an interesting character – nothing more, and nothing less.
Am I being sympathetic to my characters plight, not coat tailing tried tropes and cliches – I sincerely hope so!
I am not debating the need to elevate marginalised voices – nor indeed the requirement to avoid promoting any sort of ‘isim’, but we must stand as a vanguard against restrictions on the creative.
What is bad should be called out on an individual basis and treated accordingly.
But we must passionately avoid censoring creativity to please a god who doesn’t care and who is now in all likelihood angry about something else!
A fictional body of work should stand and fall on the tale being told, and not the chromosome mix, Melanin quotient, or sexual orientation associated with the name on the jacket.
For if it doesn’t, if we refuse to allow the story to be told, then how will anyone ever tell tall tales?