Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing the Other, Writing Oneself

I just suggested a panel for next year's Wiscon:
Writing the Other, Writing Oneself.

This is yet another cultural appropriation panel. I want to discuss the issue from the point of view of writers. Can one write about other cultures? How can it be done respectfully? Maybe it would be better and safer to simply not write about people different from oneself, if one is a member of the dominant culture. But this is constraining. One is denying oneself so much. There is also the question of minority members writing about dominant culture. Are there any problems in doing this? It's not cultural appropriation, according to the academic definitions, but it is writing outside one's experience. Is one true to oneself when doing this?
I didn't include another obvious topic: why does one write about the other?

When I was going over my third novel, I realized how much there was about nonwhite cultures: a black magical kingdom based very loosely on West African kingdoms and a group of Anasazi who escape the great drought into another world -- and then are preyed on by dragons. I wanted to write a fantasy that was not the typical faux Tolkien, faux medieval Europe mishmash. This was back in the 1980s. I wrote the novel more or less in a vacuum. No one was talking about cultural appropriation. As far as I remember, no one was complaining that the fantasy worlds were too white. (I'm sure someone was complaining. But not around me.) Now I want to think about the topic of using other cultures.

Having said the above, I now wish I had written more about the black kingdom and Father Lucien Dia, a Catholic priest from Senegal who discovers that he actually a magical creature from another world. And I wish I had done more research.

13 Comments:

Blogger Russell Letson said...

There are enough "oughts" and "ought nots" in art without piling on those generated by, um, others whose primary pleasure seems to come from defining what, uh, other folks do with their imaginations.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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6:45 PM  
Blogger wasirdenature said...

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4:09 PM  
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2:11 PM  

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