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Okay, so I’m sure I’ve seen other people talk about this, but I can’t find a link to any articles on this topic. Maybe I’m just not thinking of the right key word to find them, but since I’ve run into some people making this argument in several different contexts, I wanted to address it.

There is an idea that the only fair way to view people and works from the past is to take into account the time period that they were living in. This is a version of the idea that we can’t judge people or works from the past by “modern standards.”

When applied to oppression, this is a deeply toxic idea that is all about prioritizing the comfort of privileged people over an honest acknowledgement of the harm done by oppression.

Human suffering that happened in the past was not lessened by the fact that some of the people living in that time and place considered it normal. The racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist stereotypes in a novel don’t impact readers less just because they were written in the past.

Oppression has always been wrong. It hurts and kills people. We can and should judge it, because judging it means that we are fully seeing the humanity of oppressed people and recognizing their suffering.

This isn’t easy. It can hurt to really take in how much suffering, injustice, and cruelty have happened in human history. For those who are privileged, it is hard to recognize our own personal connections to this history, whether it was things our ancestors did, or simply a history that we are benefiting from right now (whether we want to or not).

It’s a lot to process and it’s okay for that to be hard. What is not okay is hiding from this struggle by using arguments like “you can’t judge past people by modern standards” to pretend that past oppression was less bad than it actually was.

In talking about this, I do want to recognize that there are things we can learn from understanding the historical context that people lived in. But we can’t understand this historical context without a full understanding of the oppression that was happening. If it was a time of brutality, oppression, and suffering, then we need to acknowledge that and the suffering it caused.

And it is crucial to keep in mind that every time and place in history has multiple perspectives in it. The privileged perspective about what is right and wrong isn’t the only perspective. Oppressed people have perspectives too. Even if we don’t have records of these perspectives, they matter and it is important to not erase them by pretending that the privileged perspective is the only one.

For as long as there has been oppression, there have been people struggling against it. We don’t know all of their stories, but they worked hard to make change happen. And that work has continued for generations and played a crucial role in shaping our “modern perspective” about oppression. Even as I write this, the work of fighting oppression continues and the “modern perspective” is changing. Because if you really think about it, this “modern perspective” isn’t a universal perspective either. It’s just the current mainstream privileged perspective of oppression, a perspective that is continuously being challenged by oppressed people.

We all have an ethical duty to recognize the full humanity of oppressed people. Doing this requires us to admit the harm that has been done in the past, and the harm that is currently being done. We can’t argue that harm away or lessen it by the fact that it was considered normal by some of the people in a certain time and place. The fairest thing we can do is acknowledge that suffering and center the voices and perspectives of oppressed people.

 

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Graffiti that says, “Black Lives Matter.”

 

This is a time for listening and action. Action can happen in both big and small ways. This is a list of ways to help that includes petitions, calls and texts, places to donate, and safety info for protestors:

List of ways you can help in English.

List of translations.

 

Here are some anti-racism resources for white people:

Twitter thread covering “the best ways white people can work for racial equity

Educate yourself list

This extensive list was compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein.

Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers

 

Follow black artists and activists:

Twitter thread by Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services about podcasts to support: “Here are some shows that are headed by Black creativity, magic, rage, horror, and joy. Black storytellers, in their full and glorious range, matter. I’m not linking their @’s., but rather their Patreon/funding platforms bc PAY THEM”

Twitter thread by RPG Casts of black people in the tabletop role-playing game community to follow and support: “We need to uplift the black voices in our TTRPG community. Full stop. Not only today. Every day. Here are some folks you should be listening to.

 

Here are some places to donate to:

“Split a donation between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers”

“Support these orgs fighting for racial justice”

This list of bail funds updates when they reach their funding goals.

List of bail funds for protesters across the united states.

Black Visions Collective is a Minnesota organization whose mission is to transform their communities for Black lives to not only matter, but thrive. They build movements and advocate for policies to dismantle systems of violence and oppression.

Louisville Community Bail Fund is an organized effort by Black Lives Matter Louisville to collect funds for cash bails for people competing with the criminal justice system in financial hardship. Beyond bailing out community members, they also provide care and support after their release.

Campaign Zero strives to bring an end to police brutality and violence through holding agencies accountable for improving their relationship with local communities. Their efforts include pushing forward fair police union contracts, limiting use of force, and demilitarizing our police.

Rolling Stone also has a large list of organizations.

 

For those wanting some hopeful art to listen to during self-care time, I recommend Flyest Fables. For those who want to experience art that digs deeply into different aspects of oppression, I recommend the audio dramas Black Friday and Null and Void. (All three of these have transcripts on their websites.)

Flyest Fables: “Flyest Fables is an interconnected fiction anthology.” These hopepunk fables by Morgan Givens are a new hopeful mythology with deep roots African American histories and culture centered on the empowerment of people with intersecting identities.

Black Friday: “Every Friday a strange phenomenon turns white people into black people. America freaks out.” “Black Friday is an eight-part series written, produced, and directed by Tycho Newman.”

Null/Void: “Null/Void is a science fiction audio drama about a young woman, Piper Lee, whose life is saved by a mysterious voice named Adelaide. After uncovering a malicious plot, Piper and her friends must defend their small town from a family of ruthless billionaires who wish to exploit and destroy it. Piper must fight to save her home and discover the true identity of Adelaide.” Null/Void is created and directed by Cole Burkhardt.

 

Please take care of yourselves and each other! <3

 

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Aster portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Aster Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Aster Is

Player:                               

Gender: Man.

Manner: Quiet.

Goal: To help.

Backstory: Everyone in Aster’s village knows that he sees ghosts, but it still makes the other villagers uncomfortable when he talks to people they can’t see. Everyone tries to be nice about it, but their discomfort shows. So Aster would rather be out in the woods with his pet, Daisy the ghost donkey, by his side. That is why Aster transports supplies for the Crossroads Wilderness Keepers—he gets plenty of time out in the wilderness. Continue Reading »

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Rowan the Centaur Witch

Rowan portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Rowan Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Rowan Is

Player:                               

Name Pronunciation: ROW-uhn

Gender: Nonbinary.

Manner: A facade of seriousness with excitability underneath.

Goal: To study unusual magic.

Backstory: Rowan grew up in a research outpost in a remote area. Their parents were part of a small team that was studying unusual magical phenomena. From a young age magic has fascinated them, and their goal is to become a magical researcher like their parents. Now they have completed their training and are just starting out on their own. They can’t wait for their first mission. Continue Reading »

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Dalmar portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Dalmar Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Dalmar Is

Player:                               

Name Pronunciation: DAL-mahr

Gender: Woman.

Manner: Assertive and practical.

Goal: To preserve wildness.

Backstory: Dalmar grew up in the druid town of Icy Spring deep in the heart of the Frozen Wildwood. As a child, Dalmar was always out roaming through the wood. Even though it was a dangerous landscape of ice, snow, steep slopes, and unstable rock, Dalmar had a special connection to the land that kept her safe. As an adult, Dalmar took on the role of scouting the deep wilderness to track and study the rare and dangerous creatures found there. Eventually this led her to work with the Crossroads Wilderness Keepers in their research, conservation, and reintroduction efforts. Dalmar is now a community elder and a grandmother, but she hasn’t slowed down one bit. She is, and will always be, a fierce defender of wild places and creatures. Continue Reading »

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Ort portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Ort Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Ort Is

Player:                               

Gender: Man.

Manner: Friendly and open.

Goal: Innovation that helps others.

Backstory: Born into a family of barrel makers, Ort showed a talent for carpentry at a young age. So he was apprenticed to a master carpenter at the local temple and raised to be a cleric of the God of Craft, Culture, and Community. Ort worked hard, but as his skills developed, so did his restlessness. Unsatisfied with doing things how they had always been done, Ort was always experimenting and trying new things. When he became a master craftsperson at the age of thirty, Ort immediately took advantage of the opportunity to travel to different temples, teaching, learning, and innovating. Continue Reading »

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Kai portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Kai Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Kai Is

Player:                               

Name Pronunciation: kah-ee

Gender: Nonbinary.

Manner: Awkward.

Goal: To protect.

Backstory: Kai grew up on a small kelp farm in the coastal waters of the southern Circular Sea. When the pirate Alex Barrow stole the Storm God’s Staff and wreaked havoc across the entire coastline, Kai knew that they had to do something. But when Kai’s first attempt to defeat Alex Barrow failed, they realized that they needed help. So Kai turned to the Deity of Fate and prayed for their assistance. Now Kai is a victorious hero and the Champion of Fate. But as they tour the land and ocean, reluctantly making speeches and meeting people, they realize how complicated it can be to have your prayers answered. Continue Reading »

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Misty portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Misty Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Misty Is

Player:                               

Gender: Woman.

Manner: Cheerful and friendly.

Goal: To help others.

Backstory: Misty has always felt close to the Otter Goddess. Since she was a pup growing up in the gregarious Floating Village, the goddess’ blessings of bounty and joy have surrounded her. But bounty is meant to be shared, and now that she has devoted her life to serving the Otter Goddess, Misty has been called to go out into the world and help others. And as Misty sets out to do just that, she is filled with a fierce determination to bring as much generosity and joy into the world as possible. Continue Reading »

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A photograph of a red brick building that has a black wrought iron sign with the word "ask" in bold white letters.

A photograph of a red brick building that has a black wrought iron sign with the word “ask” in bold white letters.

I have a monthly Q & A series on the Mythcreants blog that is goes up on the third Monday of each month, where I answer reader questions about portraying disability. I wanted to share the most recent articles in this series with all of you.

This Q & A is the most recent one: How Can I Respectfully Subvert the Magical Cure Trope? This short Q & A article touches on the storytelling challenge of subverting oppressive patterns without turning away readers who experience that form of oppression. From there is goes into some disability specific aspects of representation.

How Can I Make a Villain With a Disability Work? This Q & A is about portraying disability respectfully in speculative fiction and key challenges that are specific to representing disabled villains.

How Do I Avoid Stigma Around Schizophrenia in My Writing?  This Q & A focuses on how to address the impact of stereotypes and  stigma when creating a positive representation of disability.

How Quickly Should Characters Adjust to a Disability? This Q & A is about figuring out how quickly side characters should to adjust to a main character’s new medical technology.

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Xylem portrait by Jessica Kuczynski

Download Character Sheet: Xylem Character Sheet

You can find the other premade characters here.

 

Who Xylem Is

Player:                               

Name Pronunciation: ZAI-luhm kwin-tik

Gender: Man.

Manner: Calm around animals and nervous around people.

Goal: To have a career working with animals.

Backstory: Xylem is a nineteen-year-old gnome who grew up in the bustling city of New Capital. His parents were prominent botanists who tried to share their love of plants with him, but they quickly realized that Xylem’s passion was for animals. Then when Xylem was nine, a fire at the New Capital Research Gardens killed both of his parents. His aunt, Stella Quartic, tried to raise him as best she could, but she was busy working three different jobs. After that Xylem found it increasingly difficult to fit in with the other neighborhood kids, so he retreated into spending time with animals, especially Waffles, his enormous part-mastiff dog. Continue Reading »

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