1. notleia says:

    For my weeb dweebs: Crunchyroll sponsored an anime-ish project (depends on how you define “anime”) called Onyx Equinox that is a fantasy version of pre-Columbian Central America, but is super not-for-kids for reasons about lots of blood and what happens to get humans to leak all their blood at one time. It seems…good? based on the couple episodes I watched, but the downside is that it’s somewhat undermined by its budget of about two shoestrings.

    Secondly, Imma use this article as a jumping off point to talk about the dance in characterization between how people actually act and how people should act (that “should” does a lot of heavy lifting). Christian fiction tends to lean hard into the “should” category, to the point that it stomps over any trace of verisimilitude. On the other end of verisimilitude at the expense of likeability is works like 1984, but that is why it is Important rather than Popular (and how verisimilar it is is up for debate.)
    TL;DR: it’s the reason why Jane Austen has kept and gained clout over Sir Walter Scott even if he was more popular at the time of their contemporary publishing. Jane Austen wrote characters, while Scott wrote tropes (even if most of them were noble tropes). And once those tropes fall out of fashion, his plot-muppets (I hesitate to call them characters) seem less noble and exemplar and more quaint, irrelevant, or cringey.

  2. Jay DiNitto says:

    I’m struggling with understanding the issue here. Is it that Christians should be careful to include de-stereotyped non-Christian beliefs in their stories? I can see that, although you’re saying that it happens already, just not on the popular evanjellyfish stories. The literary world at large is awash with sympathetic non-Christian characters. It’s all you really read about. The bigger issue is the cartoonish depiction of religious authority figures and religious belief in secular stories, though that’s not something this post address. That issue is really out of our hands, and we shouldn’t expect those writers to contradict the world inside their heads with pleads of “being fair,” because no one cares to play fair except for evanjellyfish.

    • notleia says:

      Lol, I might have to steal “evanjellyfish,” but in my experience, they don’t have problems about complaining about much of anything, they just generally take the passive-aggressive route. They still have plenty of stinging cells.

    • So I’m taking more of a reader’s perspective here than a writer’s perspective, but I am arguing that it’s valuable to read stories with “de-stereotyped non-Christian beliefs”–particularly Christian stories. Unfortunately, as you said, secular fiction does often depict Christians in cartoonish and non-stereotypical ways, and that’s a problem!

  3. Tim says:

    I’d be curious as to how this conversation intersects with the cultural appropriation debate. Many of the Goodreads reviews for The Seventh Sun are very negative regarding Forbes’s handling of Mesoamerican culture and characters, in great part because she’s a white author and her own culture/beliefs are evident in the story (which many argue disrespects the culture that inspired her work). Yet at the same time, as your article just mentioned, Forbes may make some Christians uncomfortable (in a good way) causing them to relate to and sympathize with people who believe something that is clearly false and destructive (which is a much stronger foundation for evangelism than mockery of cartoonish unbelievers). Cultural appropriation is a massively complex topic (I wrote my senior paper on it, and I still don’t claim to know where to draw the line). I don’t know if you want to open that can of worms in the comments section–feels like an article of its own. I’d be interested on your thoughts, though!

    • notleia says:

      Heck, this is my jam, I’ll throw my two cents in.
      Some amount of that criticism is inescapable, because she is a whitey from a dominant culture who manipulated a real minority culture to suit her own ends. And that is okay, that she is being criticized because of it.
      But it’s possible that she may have been able to escape some of that criticism if, maybe, her research into Mesoamerican culture showed in a well enough light or if she was respectful enough of the culture (which is such a moving target I wouldn’t count on it). It may be that the narrative voice is super condescending about Yemenia’s understanding of blood sacrifice even if it admires her integrity towards her duty, I dunno.

    • I intentionally avoided getting into that debate in this article since that’s a separate issue I don’t feel particularly well-qualified to talk about in a full article. In brief, though, I thought that certain accusations were overblown while others were legitimate criticisms. Since the story was set in a fictional world, I wonder if the worldbuilding would make more internal sense (and avoided many of the cultural appropriation charges) if it had used completely fictional gods instead of trying to depict real gods people worshipped in a secondary world and merge different cultures together. I think there’s legitimate critiques to be raised about that story choice–though I don’t think it should deter from everything else that’s great about the story. I was, however, peeved by some of the reviewers who said it was cultural appropriation to depict human sacrifice as being evil (as the book does). While cultural appropriation can be a real problem, the trampling of human rights should be condemned no matter what culture does it.

What say you?