Archive for A long time ago

Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

(Editor’s note: what follows is a “reprint” of a piece that was originally posted on TheForce.net’s Literature forum in 2012. As such, it may occasionally come across as a conversation-starter more than a standalone work. Comments are welcome both here and in the original discussion thread, where the conversation continues—116 pages and counting as of this writing. – Mike Cooper, 7/8/13)

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This won’t be new information for many of you, but now that the new forums are up, I thought the launching of Diversity 2.0, so to speak, would be a good opportunity to sum up the conversation thus far, in particular all of the great statistical work done on the temp boards.

The foundation of this essay, and the ensuing discussion, is the belief that the Star Wars Expanded Universe has a responsibility to present a diverse galaxy of characters, and that with some notable exceptions, this responsibility has been largely neglected.

Following from that are a few more precise assertions:

  • There are too many white human men. While passionate and fair arguments can be made for any number of specific “minority” groups being given a larger role–aliens, people of color, women, LGBTQ, the disabled, and so on–the one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that more white human men (hereafter referred to as WHMs), of standard body type and orientation in particular, are helpful to no one, and only by making their long-held “default” status painfully obvious can anyone else hope for a fair shake.
  • Ignorance is bias. Which is to say, when presented with a divisive issue, choosing to disregard it still constitutes taking a stand. To ignore race and orientation is itself a biased act, not a neutral one. The images above are of the Jedi Council from Episode I and the leadership of the New Jedi Order as of the early Legacy Era. It is my position that no clearer evidence of a problem exists than in these two images, wherein the WHM ratio is essentially inverted.
  • Lastly, it should be understood that this situation stems from the accumulation of numerous decisions, policies, and cultural trends–over a period of decades–and cannnot be laid at the feet of any specific author, editor, or even publisher.

The primary goal of this manifesto is for you, the reader, to look at those two images and see a problem. The goal of this as a discussion thread, then, is to break down the can of worms that follows from that.

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The nexus of fandom and logic

“Nexus” – get it?? –>

Heh. Anyway…

Introduction

I should start, of course, with the famous caveat that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. In the nebulous world of polling, people’s feelings are one of the hardest things to quantify, and even if that were not the case, the fact remains that I am by no means a statistician. There are always mitigating factors – one or two of which became apparent to me as this experiment went forth – that could, and do, prohibit me from making any absolute declarations as the result of my survey. My goal, then, was simply to probe an area of fandom I felt could stand some probing, in the hopes of starting up a conversation I felt was worth having. I’ve been wrong in the past (once or twice), and I could be wrong now.

To recap, requests were posted on both TheForce.Net’s Books and Comics pages and the Jedi Council forums for Expanded Universe fans to complete a survey that involved rating certain books and comics, as well as certain plot elements, on a 1 to 10 scale. The order of these ratings was random, but the selection was very careful and very specific – aside from a handful of red herrings, the vast majority of the plot items were “paired” with their respective book/comic, and vice-versa. The idea for this was as follows: I’ve always sensed, from extensive conversations with other fans, as well as fan news articles and reviews, a degree of variation between how much we like the events depicted in a Star Wars book and how much we like the book itself. While I’ve been keeping an eye on other related factors, like how long ago a book came out, and the amount of people who’ve actually read the item versus the amount familiar with the plot, the central question has always been “do we like the books more than we like the plots, and if so, what does that mean?”
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Mike’s 20 Most Memorable EU Moments

Back in August, Star Wars Insider published the definitive Top 20 memorable moments in all of the Expanded Universe.

At least, how they saw it.

The article was accompanied by more than one request for readers to send in their own top moments, so I started up this blog in order to do just that. It may have taken me another two months or so to actually do it, but what can I say – this baby clocks in at almost 4,700 words! I have a sneaking suspicion that even the official article isn’t this long. In any event, here goes…

20. “The Empire will always strike back.” – Force Heretic I: Remnant

Sometimes it takes nothing more than a good talking-to to make a moment great. Readers have loved Gilad Pellaeon longer than almost any other EU character, but what is perhaps his greatest moment was not given to us until a couple years ago, near the end of the New Jedi Order series. Vong commander B’shith Vorrik scores a resounding victory at Bastion against Pellaeon, now Supreme Commander of the Imperial Remnant’s forces, then moves on to Borosk, snapping at Pellaeon’s heels. Thanks to added support from the Galactic Alliance, Pellaeon calls Vorrik’s bluff, and – while directing the battle from a bacta tank, it should be noted – picks up a transmission from the Vong command ship for the sole purpose of gloating. Taunting the disgraced commander as he flees the system, Pellaeon utters a line twenty-three years in the making: “You may win the occasional battle against us, Vorrik, but the Empire will always strike back.”
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