Possibly related questions:
- Should I add racism in my book's world or have my world have no racism?
- Is accurate human nature required for good writing, even in fantasy scenarios, or with fictional species?
In fantasy, we've become accustomed to having a lot of different races; let's think about all the familiar elves, orcs, trolls, goblins, dwarves and whatnot. All share in common having two legs, two arms, one brain and the ability to use it to some extent. The classic definition of fantasy race also implies human-like sentience.
Admittedly, most of the times all those races could be summarized by "it's human, but with those x additional characteristics". Elves are prettier humans with longer lifespans. Orcs are sturdier humans with greenish skin. Dwarves are smaller humans who dig holes ... you get the point. As cliché those races might be, it can be fun playing around with the concept.
I was experimenting with a short novel - a third fantasy, third thriller, third steampunk thing - and I stumbled upon the issue of including racism. My setting is a industrialized capital where a lot of racial types coexist, not without conflict. I wanted to have a noir, gritty atmosphere; my main character being a bit biased himself. I wanted to portray prejudices.
It makes sense to have racism in this setting. It felt realistic, it added depth to the characters, and it helped getting the story going and giving the reader a good grasp of the worldbuilding.
All well and good, until one of my beta-readers said, as a compliment:
"It's somewhat similar to Bright, only a lot more times better."
Now if you're not familiar, Bright is a Netflix movie where orcs and elves live among humans in a modern Los Angeles. It has been heavily criticized for a variety of reasons. It seems that the movie is trying to draw a parallel between the in-movie racism and the real-world racism.
This ends up poorly, and what a surprise. Making parallelism between a fictional fantasy race and a real, ethnic group of humans comes at the cost of misrepresentation (at least), offending someone (probable), bad writing (likely) and gross justification of racism in general (at worst).
Yet talking about racism in a fantasy setting is still worth it; it's an interesting theme, and still has potential to grow.
All considered, my question is: