Gentle reminder to creators of worlds that white supremacy, while it is currently dominant in our world and seems all-encompassing, is neither inevitable nor "natural." It isn't even all that old. It arose under extremely specific historical circumstances, and can go away when circumstances change. To posit white supremacy as some kind of inevitable default without those specific circumstances is to give white supremacy more power than it has by unquestioningly imposing our current assumptions on worlds where the background conditions don't exist. It's incoherent worldbuilding and comes close to saying that white people are naturally "superior." I understand that authors want to explore real-world issues in their works, but it's ineffective if the integrity of the work is compromised.

race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

An excellent example of exploring racism without going straight to white supremacy is the #BrokenEarth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, where race supremacy exists but the "master race" is not white in Earth terms. The people considered genetically superior, the Sanzed, are bronze-skinned and tall, and phrenology has entered people's thoughts with characters judging people based on how much Sanzed blood they have. Even the protagonist is casually racist at times (toward a character who'd read as white in Earth terms lol), showing the all-encompassing power of these systems.

Of course, it's very clear that the blood quantum stuff is bullshit and this race's so-called superiority is based on their being the denizens of a powerful genocidal empire, not any natural advantage.

So yes, it's completely possible to explore racism without making white supremacy the default or centering white characters. Choosing to do either is a choice, not an inevitable mandate.

Show thread

race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@ljwrites Or, as is commonly done in phantasy settings, coding humans (often white) as default or ”supreme” species and using other species as supplements for ”lower races”. I don't remember too many worlds where the default species was something else than humans, if humans existed in the said world.

re: race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@Stoori @ljwrites By the way I know several nice books where humans exist but are absolutely not the default species, if you're interested?

re: race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@IngaLovinde @ljwrites I'd love to hear!

re: race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@Stoori @ljwrites

* Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor. The first book opens with protagonist being one of the few humans accepted into a coolest university in the Universe; most of the people there are not humanoid.

* A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. The book opens with protagonist being the first human ever to be invited to work at a research facility / major node of galactic FidoNet; most of the people there are not humanoid; while most of the plot happens not in this research facility, the humans are not even the primary species to the plot, and not the only secondary.

* Xenogenesis series by Octavia Butler, humans are just yet another species that destroyed itself, and while there is no default species, Oankali (who encountered a lot of similar species) are much closer to being one than humans.

* Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. While humans make a bit more than a half of the original crew, IIRC they are explicitly mentioned to not be a default species, and quite a lot time is spent dealing with other cultures (in a good way)

And as a bonus:
* Orthogonal series by Greg Egan. While it does not fit "if humans existed in the said world", I just could not help but mention it. The plot is set in a world with alternative physics, and as a consequence, alternative biology, from which an alternative and quite interesting social interaction emerges (and we witness a huge social change over the three books; I cannot say more without spoiling it).
It's just that I've seen too many other books which go like "what if humans but cats? They behave just like humans, they're indistinguishable from humans, but they walk on four feet, are covered with fur, and have tail and ears!".
And Orthogonal gives you an absolutely different yet so well-fleshed species.

re: race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@IngaLovinde @ljwrites Thank you! Lots to read on this list. :)


re: race & racism in the Broken Earth trilogy 

@Stoori @IngaLovinde @ljwrites I agree, thanks!
I'm not sure it exactly fits in this list, but I would also add "The City in the Middle of the Night" by Charlie Jane Anders. Inhabitants of that world are regarded by the humans as dangerous animals, but they turn out to be a different species of beings resisting colonization and genocide. I also really like the way Charlie Jane Anders writes different kinds of relationships.

· · Web · 0 · 0 · 4
Sign in to participate in the conversation

Welcome to, an instance for discussions around cultural freedom, experimental, new media art, net and computational culture, and things like that.