There aren’t too many black people in ‘Lord of the Rings’, unless you count the orcs. And you can’t get much more rural white folks than the hobbits. The ruling classes are all white, too, and very western medievalish. The taverns are full of tankards and boring folk music and landlords who could be on retirement from the Wurzles.
Okay, well, ‘Lord of the Rings’ was published in the 1950s when England itself wasn’t too far away from the same demographic. Let’s move forward, then, to the modern day’s most successful fantasy – surely that will be a long way from the three Ws? ‘Game of Thrones’ – hmmm . . .
What about a modern children’s fantasy best-seller? ‘Harry Potter! Um . . . well, actually, it’s even more three Ws-retro than ‘Lord of the Rings’ being in effect Billy Bunter with wands.
Which seems to suggest that if you want to sell high fantasy, you need to stick close to the three Ws. USA and UK publishers themselves, let’s face it, are the embodiment of the Worldwide Westernish Web. They will tell you loudly to your face that they are always looking for something different, more ethnic, more diverse but their vulnerable eyes will be imploring you not to make it too different, and let’s please have most of the ethnic/diverse concentrated exclusively in one of the secondary characters who, say, marries an underage white princess; he’s muscular, non-English speaking (so we don’t know at first that he’s actually more like us than we thought) and seems rather rough and ready (for lots of sex), who gets killed off fairly early on (leaving her to rediscover her whiter roots, only now with a touch of dark (in more ways than one) which will make her all the more alluring and exotic(ish) to her next round of white suitors), but who under all the make-up is really quite white, who can be played by an actor with authentic but not-too deep ethnic roots who will scrub up nicely to a whitish demographic for TV interviews.
Before we go any further, it’s only fair to note that the wider world has probably moved closer to the three Ws than it realises. This is largely the fault of US movies, which have cornered the world market in flash bang crap. An awful lot of money goes into producing films that admirably give huge respect to the world-wide appetite for mindless, loud, logic-free, hokum. Which means that the world – watching from a semi-prone position of ‘hey, it’s just a bit of fun’ with brain wide-open and no cultural back-bone – now believes that if it ain’t WWW, it ain’t proper crap. Meanwhile, books have moved ever closer to the movies so before you realised what was happening, your chances of reading a story about a black fantasy hero who doesn’t drink because he can never find a booze house with a name that doesn’t start with ‘Dragon’s’ and end with ‘Head’ are about the same as Hermione getting into rap music (although rap is of course often aimed at the three Ws, if only by way of providing anti-parent material for young white males who want to spend a few years on the (not-too) dark side before settling down to make a living).
Of the three, wimpish is possibly the most difficult to understand, not least by the author, but you needn’t worry too much since its strengths and weaknesses are so well embedded in the average three Ws mind that it will tick away nicely undetected in the background like a self-realisation bomb that could go off at any time but won’t because, well, this is fantasy.
In short, the typical three Ws person thinks they’re superior to anyone else but they don’t realise it or want to know that they do. In fact, they like to believe they are tolerant, diversity-loving and open-minded. And they are, just so long as their daughter doesn’t want to marry a non-three-Ws guy (or girl). The truth is, the contradiction between what they think they are and what they actually are represents moral weakness and inability to act when it counts (other than in a negative, initially guilty later ‘healed by time’, manner). Because they can’t say, “I don’t want you to marry a black and/or working class guy because I believe his culture, education and intelligence are inferior to ours” their ability to observe and understand human behaviour on its own terms is far more limited than they realise.
So, while wimpish might be the hardest to understand, it’s the one W you have to make sure you get right. If you write a black character, for example, he can be cool, sarcastic and resourceful but he must never, ever be simply better than your white characters. He must not be better at understanding what’s really going on (even though in real life he probably would be) because what’s really going on is not the preserve of the oppressed whose lives depend on reading and understanding the many and largely unconscious moods of their masters and owners, it’s the natural birthright of the privileged because it’s who owns the most, whether in terms of land or publishing companies, who’s right.
Your largely three Ws cast, therefore, must ultimately hold the moral and intelligence upper hands. You can give spirituality to your ethnics because, of course, the modern three Ws person knows that religion is for the ignorant. You can even give them bigger dongs, too, because everyone knows it isn’t size that counts at the end of the two suns day, it’s rights of entry.