Posts Tagged ‘writing the other’

More on the SF Workshop at IIT – Kanpur

July 17, 2009

Being late and hurriedly written, this account is somewhat incoherent.  Re-writing it would take too long in my current state of time-zone zombied-ness.  My apologies.

For the first part of the report on the workshop, see here.

The workshop students continued to produce some wonderful work during my week.  Perhaps the best short, in-class writing exercises came from our discussion of SF and the Other, in particular the Animal Other.  We reviewed and discussed the science on animal emotions (which is to say, surprise, surprise, animals like mammals and birds and possibly others, have emotions!), and shared personal anecdotes about our own experience with animals.   The exercise was to write from the point of view of an animal.  We got some great responses, and I was interested to note how many people had picked insects.  No cutesy disneyfications — very cool stuff.

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As Others See Us: More on Writing the Other

May 23, 2009

In my last post I commented on how writers can fall into the trap of either misrepresenting or leaving out other cultures and peoples.  Here I want to talk about issues that may arise even when Western writers write sincerely about another culture, when they do their research and perhaps even visit the country.  (more…)

Some Thoughts on Writing (or not writing) the Other

May 22, 2009

There have been some fascinating and important discussions on the net regarding cultural appropriation, racism and racial-cultural “disappearance” in science fiction.  I’ve not kept up with these very well, only because I have been insanely busy, but many people have been extremely articulate and intelligent about these subjects.  Racefail 2009 is summarized here.  The “disappearing” of Native Americans in Patricia Wrede’s book, The Thirteenth Child, came to my attention when I read Jo Walton’s review and the numerous comments.  What stunned me was that the non-existence of the Native Americans in the book was mentioned only casually by the reviewer, who apparently did not realize how problematic this was until people commented (upon which, to her credit, she acknowledged her error).  The author herself decided quite airily to do away with the Indians, as quoted here. This sort of casual blindness is not indicative of how evil the person is (and I am convinced that neither the reviewer nor author intended any kind of racism) but how pervasive racism is as an institution, and how easy it is, when you are part of a privileged group, to simply edit out of existence whole peoples and their tribulations.  May I never, ever, be so blind about any race, class, religion, caste or (for that matter) species.  I would hate to be in Patricia Wrede’s shoes right now.

I’d like to make two comments about writing the Other that might be useful to those contemplating such a thing (“Other” of course being a relative term).  (more…)