GUEST POST: On Black Elves by Constance Burris

I am THRILLED to have Constance Burris here with a guest post today! I loved her book, Black Beauty, and I have her book Coal high up on my to-read list. Constance is a fabulous, thoughtful writer. Take it away, Constance!


 

I’m a thirty-something-year-old black woman, and I wrote a novel with elves, dwarves, and dragons living the fey realm. Then I really went off the rails and wrote a prequel where magical elves interact with poor, black urban youth in the human realm. For me, this was my way of inserting myself (poor and black) into the (lily-white) fantasy I’ve been reading since kindergarten.

Like a lot of people, I love stories with fey– elves, dwarves, giants, and trolls. But I was never able to see myself in any of the heroes until I stumbled across The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. As a black nerd, I hungrily devoured any fantasy where I could see myself reflected back. When I discovered Drizzt, a dark-skinned elf, I dark elf trilogyfell in fandom. Yes, the dark elves were still considered evil, and thus it fell into the dark skin equals bad stereotype, but Drizzt was dark-skinned and good.

Eventually, I found the RA Salvatore forums where I could talk with other fans about Drizzt all day every day.

One day, while conversing with who I thought were my people over the love of Drizzt, the topic of who should play him in a movie came up. That’s easy Wesley Snipes, yo! He was popular (at the time) and he had the dark black skin color that would match perfectly with Drizzt.

WesleyAh lawd, all hell broke loose. How could I possibly indicate that a black man could play the role of an elf? What the hell was wrong with me? According to the forum, elves do not have such negroid features like a wide nose, thick lips, or kinky hair. Are you crazy? Elves are tall and slender with straight noses and thin lips. They have Arian features.

Needless to say, I was trolled and bullied out of the forum.

The experience stuck with me.

I decided to write my own story with black elves. To stick with the original canon, I made all of the elves white except for the main elf, who by way of shapeshifting, chose to be black. She still has Arian features. But in Book 2, I will have my negroid elf. He (or she) will have a wide nose, thick lips, muscular build, and kinky hair. I will take these elves that were never intended to look anything like me and create them in my own image.

I’m writing the books I want to read with characters that look like me and mine.

So I want to give a shout out to the bullies in the RA Salvatore forum. Your racist hatred inspired me to write and finish my first book. Good looking out.

For fun, here is the post I wrote when I tried to pitch my first novel to a literary agent.


 

Constance is an environmental engineer by day and a writer of black science fiction, fantasy, and horror by night. You can find her first book COAL here and the prequel BLACK BEAUTY here. She blogs at www.constanceburris.com/blog.

 

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