I haven’t read Laurie Forest’s The Black Witch, so I don’t have an opinion on its merits. However it’s still worth a couple of links.
For those of you who, like me, never heard of the book until just now, it’s the story of Elloren, a woman in a magical world who accepts her people’s racist, homophobic attitudes without question, but over the course of the book, she changes. Despite the change, a number of people found that the racist parts outweighed the uplifting ending. Which Vulture’s Kat Rosenfield says is creating a PC storm on twitter where people who’ve never read the book are outraged by it even though the book is anti-bigotry. Foz Meadows says it’s more complicated than that and as usual, makes a good case.
I think this is a subset of something I’ve talked about before, the difficulty of getting readers invested in unlikable characters. But when the character’s bigoted, that’s tougher and, as the controversy demonstrates, potentially way more offensive. As Justina Ireland says, stories about racists finding redemption are targeted to white readers and white feelings;i t’s not surprising if non-white readers react more to the racism than the redemption.
I suspect the same can be said of characters who start out anti-gay and get a clue, or about raging sexists. To say nothing of the raging sexists who are presented as acceptable protagonists without changing their views. (Hathor Legacy offers another example).
•Speaking of diversity, here’s former Doctor Christopher Eccleston talking about diversity in the arts.
•Here’s Meadows again, on why she couldn’t finish volume 1 of Saga due to sexist and racist elements. I love the series, but I do think her criticisms are fair.