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Thread: Cultural Appropriation Prize

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  1. #14
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    This place is not a place of honor.
    Quote Originally Posted by slhuang View Post
    Wait, what?


    I'm a genre writer too, and we are not streets ahead, we are not less terrible, and elves are not diversity.

    Or have you not noticed that all the elves are white?

    Genre has enormous problems. Did you miss Racefail 2009? Did you miss the blowup about the SFWA bulletin in 2013? Did you miss the racist, misogynistic assholes who've been trying to take over the Hugos the past three years? And those are just the biggest ones; SFF has new ragemaking stuff happen every month or so like clockwork. How/what we write intersects hugely with our own world and our own life experiences -- yes, even in genre -- and critical analysis of the cultures created in SFF worlds shows there is a lot lacking before we can make the least claim of being less terrible.

    We write societies based on medieval Europe with all white people, and then claim historical accuracy (false, and also, DRAGONS?!).

    We write societies with white elves and white dwarves and white halflings and then there's that one exotic barbaric land across the mountains with the dark-skinned humans.

    We make up imaginary societies with no queer beings, no disabled beings, and monolithic cultural values with no in-story explanation; the only reason being that we're bringing our own real-world biases.

    We write stories that are all white men (or white elves, or white dwarves, or male aliens) and only a sprinkling of women or POC, in societies that are supposed to be equal. We give those women and POC terrible, stereotypical roles.

    We assume Western cultural mores and don't conceive that even within our own real world there are cultures with value systems of varying priorities in ways that are just as valid, so we portray anything that doesn't fit into Western values as new, exotic, alien, inhuman.

    Want to learn? Start with this essay, and then google. There are many people in SFF talking about this. MANY. We have huge problems in genre, and we are not less terrible for including elves, ffs.
    I think my extensive participation in the discussion of those issues here over the past decade or so is ample evidence that I haven't missed anything. I am aware of the parlous state of representation in general across all genres, and that speculative fiction has many of its own hills to climb. I'm not sure how what I posted got interpreted as saying genre is somehow perfect (of course not, it's terrible, only better as a class than the racist and exclusionary lit establishment? No I can't prove that, it's just a gut feeling based on how diverse the authorship and how aware the readership in general seems to me, so I'll withdraw it) and I wasn't remotely saying that elves are a substitute for having racial/sexual/gender diversity in your fiction (c'mon, I've railed against that kind of idiocy on this forum myself, I'm sure), but in reflection I'm probably making my point poorly if I'm relying on my priors, so apologies.

    So: yes, artists and writers should do their best at inclusion, but if their best is being even MORE terrible Mr Burns-style, by thieving wholesale from the indigenous and treating diverse characters as spice you add to your middle class suburban white sauce to make it taste worthier, then maybe they just shouldn't.

    Yes, I still think TPTB in the lit bunker would be well served to look at how other genres are dealing with their own representation issues, before trying out the great white saviour routine as if no one else on Earth has ever thought about the problem. Saving the cultures by appropriating the cultures! How perfectly imperial. Get out of the goddamn house. And no, it's not necessarily specfic with the answers, either. Romance and kids/YA lit, maybe.

    Yes, I still think SFF might be a suitable sandbox for some artists to experiment with diverse perspectives if they want to, without being appropriative or abusive. Depends on the execution. No, it's not a substitute for actual diversity, but it might be safe practice. (Mind you, when I see alleged literary leaders act the way they did up top, my cynical side wonders if the best we could hope for from them would be some sensitively realised elves.)
    Last edited by Albedo; 05-20-2017 at 05:34 AM.

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