Historical Accuracy

The Tweet below has been making the rounds, and with it has come a lot of knee-jerk defensiveness and willful misunderstanding.

[Tweet by @Merman_Melville: “i think it’s very funny that the house of dragon guys are like ‘we want to reflect the misogyny of the time period’ the time period is the twelfth of makebelieve. it’s the 149th year of sir gooby the dragonfoot. it’s the eighth age of targabargabor. it’s literally made up”]

Responses I’ve seen have ranged from, “Stop telling us to remove conflict from the story” to “But misogyny is part of every human society throughout history” to the more generic, “The woke police are ruining everything!”

Look, the genre police are not going to break your fingers and kick your puppies and throw you in author jail for one thousand years because you wrote about sexism and misogyny and violence against women. The fact that these stories continue to get published and made into popular television series should tell you you’re safe to keep writing your fantasies about violence against women, Mister Author Guy.

But for the love of Cheez-its, don’t try to dodge responsibility for your choice by hiding behind “historical accuracy.” Especially when you’re writing your made-up story in a made-up world. A world where you made up the history.

Even when you write historical fiction, you’re choosing which parts of that historical setting to include. You know how [Popular Grimdark Story] has graphic depictions of violence against women but not, say, graphic descriptions of menstruation? It’s because the author picks and chooses what to write about, what “historically realistic” details to include and exclude.

A lot of writers — mostly men — like to choose to write about sexism and misogyny and violence against women. A fair number do it badly and gratuitously, with little real understanding of what they’re writing about. And these days, it tends to feel pretty unoriginal. Is it any wonder some readers have grown tired of it and prefer more original writing?

Don’t worry, y’all still have plenty of freedom when it comes to choosing what to write about. But could we please GTFO with the excuses and take some damn responsibility for the choices we make as storytellers?