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Kaidonni
04-10-2015, 11:41 PM
I've had an idea that I've been mulling over for a very long time, tweaking here and there and rethinking, and recently felt I was contriving it far too much and decided I'd go back to one of my earlier versions.

It revolves around a society of were-foxes (half human/half-fox when in were-form). I've figured out part of their reason for existing in the first place, and it involves fox spirits akin to Kitsune and Hu Li Jing.

In the version of the idea I'm running with once again, the were-foxes will be White (not completely as I outline below, but their culture will be somewhat European-esque). I haven't got everything figured out, but I do know that in their recent past, a fox from a distant land arrived and saved them from a powerful enemy, and the manner in which they were saved is what made them were-foxes (still haven't figured out how they were saved). This fox was actually a man trapped as a fox, and he came from a PoC culture where fox spirits are common - I'm going for the PoC saving White people approach. The fox spirits are integral in him being trapped as a fox himself, as he was the son of a fox and a woman. He inherited great magical abilities, but also had to assume the form of a fox for five days every month (basically like Bisclavret, who had to turn into a wolf for five days every month), and in order to turn back he had to put on the last set of clothes he had worn. Obviously he was bound to end up trapped as a fox! A lot happens in his homeland with a powerful country invading, and he's at the centre of the fighting. Not entirely sure how it pans out, but at some point a long time after this invasion and his attempts to save his homeland, he decides to journey to another land due to visions or dreams he has had of a possible future there, and how he can influence it; it revolves around how his actions in the war cause great suffering for the fox spirits of his homeland, and how he can redeem himself.

In saving the ancestors of the were-foxes, he also inspires the rather normal foxes of that part of the world to achieve their true potential, so magical foxes have started to become more common there, although they aren't as powerful or common as the fox spirits from his homeland (this is where he redeems himself, creating a whole new population of fox spirits where there were virtually none). This in turn leads to a culture surrounding worship of foxes; in the real world, a notable equivalent is that of the worship of Inari, and I am settling on the idea that this fox has had communion during his life with a divine being who communicates through foxes.

I'm probably being too vague - a little paranoid perhaps about sharing too much of what I've got down - and I can provide more detail, but based on what I've provided so far, are there any serious issues with this? I don't imagine the were-fox culture as white-washed, in fact due to the rather Mediterranean area I imagine they live in, I can see great potential for there being other PoC who are were-foxes - not just White people would have been saved by the fox - and there'd also naturally be PoC living in the area who aren't were-foxes. To be completely clear, it is secondary world fantasy and not our world, but all the same I know and feel it'd be wrong not to have PoC around regardless of whether the geographical areas are analogous to the Earth's or not.

Amadan
04-11-2015, 12:03 AM
"Is this problematic?" and "Will some readers call this problematic?" are two different questions.

At first glance, I'm thinking the fact that Mighty Whitey "inspires the rather normal foxes of that part of the world to achieve their true potential" is going to get you hammered.

Kaidonni
04-11-2015, 12:19 AM
Actually, it isn't Mighty Whitey in this instance...I probably need to dig out my actual notes and put them up, and I was fearing confusing people with how I type things up.

It's actually the PoC who inspires the foxes where the white people live. I'm afraid to put my notes up because I'm very specific with the backstory.

Before I go any further, I'd like to clarify that up to this stage, I've been imagining the fantasy world in a prograde rotation - the reverse of the Earth's. This means climate is reversed in either hemisphere. I've put the European/White-inspired cultures in the east and the Asian-inspired cultures in the west. A bit lazy, but I was sticking to the climates and cultures from the real world in where I placed them. I can of course change it, but as far as what I've typed in this post is concerned, the PoC live in the west and the White people live in the east. I plan to flesh it out in far more detail and not be so lazy, but it has acted as a placeholder for the time being. I might even change it, but I won't go in to all of that.

To put it far more clearly than I did in my first post, but without going too far into the details, in the west fox 'spirits' are quite normal. One of these fox spirits and a human have a child together. This child - named Eqjium - inherits his fox father's magical talents, but at a price - he also must assume the form of a fox for five days every month, and to return to his human form, he must put back on the last clothes he has worn, or face being trapped as a fox forever. Obviously, events unfold so that he is trapped as a fox by his enemies. Eqijum is not White - he and his people would resemble Asians, and their culture would also not be White, but Asian-inspired. Not that any stories actually centre around events in their part of the world - this is largely backstory as to the origins of the were-foxes. Any story takes place centuries after Eqijum's life (which lasts about a thousand years). Nonetheless, this backstory is important due to how important Eqijum is to the were-foxes.

Even though Eqijum defeats his enemies, it is only after a war that devastates his homeland and the populations of foxes that live there (he escapes from his enemies shortly after he is trapped as a fox, so they decide the best way to track him down is to kill any and all foxes in the land). He also loses his family and, never able to return to human form, takes up a simpler life in a temple. After many centuries, he begins to receive visions of another part of the world and of events that will take place there. He begins a journey to the east so he can figure out his part in these visions.

In the east, foxes with magical abilities are extremely rare and therefore when encountered, seem quite remarkable to the people who live in that part of the world. This area is basically the equivalent to Europe. When Eqijum finally reaches the place of his visions, he is there at the wrong time. He decides to find a secure place to enter into deep meditation for a long time, and many years later is discovered by a young boy. He befriends this boy and over the years becomes more and more involved in the affairs of the societies of that part of the world. Eqijum eventually goes on to save this boy's people from a powerful enemy, and although I haven't figured out how yet, they people become the first were-foxes as a result of whatever Eqijum does to defeat their enemy.

The people he saves would be a mixture of White and PoC in a Mediterranean/European style setting. Eqijum also encounters one of the few foxes in the east to possess any magical abilities, and he is able to teach her things and inspire her and the other normal foxes to recognise and achieve their true potential. It's a case of a PoC saving the White people and inspiring the 'European' foxes. Many apologies for not being as clear in my first post - I'm certainly not doing the White person saving PoC or inspiring the 'Asian' foxes.

I decided to incorporate the fox spirits because I felt it was the least contrived path to explaining why Eqijum was trapped as a fox in the first place (mixing up the tale of Bisclavret with Asian fox spirit mythology). Just cursed didn't really work for me. Upon including the fox spirits, I felt it was right that he was a PoC himself, as the foxes in European mythology and folklore have been along the lines of normal foxes that you often find in fables (read as talking foxes, humans in fox suits), or Renard the Fox, with none of them possessing any magical abilities. I wasn't about to just give White people fox spirits, it felt wrong. If they were to get any, it had to be by another means, and I felt a PoC's actions would be the most appropriate reason the White people had fox spirits in the first place. It did seem natural that Eqijum's actions could inspire the foxes of the east to be more than just simple-minded creatures.

From the earliest ideas I had on my were-foxes, I automatically imagined their savior as a PoC, and it has stayed with me ever since - I have no intention of changing that part.

Also, apologies for changing the post significantly. I hope I put across the same basic idea that you responded to below.

Amadan
04-11-2015, 12:28 AM
In that case, I think you may be overthinking whether every last detail is "kosher."

Is there some detail in your setting and story that someone inclined to do so might pick out and call appropriative? Almost certainly. You cannot escape that sort of criticism. The fact that you are writing Asian-inspired fox people mixing it up with white characters will be sufficient for some.

As long as you're making a good faith effort, and have a few people you trust giving it a good reading so you're confident that any glaring Unfortunate Implications are spotted, you need to just go with what you want to do and accept that there's no way to get a 100% Appropriation-Free Seal of Approval.

Indubitably
04-11-2015, 06:26 AM
Just skimming, but "POC inspiring White people journeys" is also a common problematic trope, the point being that POC are support in White-centered stories rather than agents of their own. Are you actually using Japanese or Chinese names or mythologies?

Kaidonni
04-11-2015, 11:42 AM
I don't quite get the "POC inspiring White people journeys" reference since it's the PoC - Eqijum - who is actually journeying around in the backstory and is responsible for the existence of the were-foxes, and any story would actually be set centuries later and focus on the results of his actions in the east. Of course, I might be misunderstanding what you mean, and if I am, many apologies - I don't like assuming I've understood someone in case I'm getting it wrong and about to make a big mistake.

Eqijum is a very important figure to the White people and PoC he saves, and is at the centre of their religious belief; it was remarkable to them for a man trapped as a fox - yet alone a fox possessing magical abilities - to become involved in their affairs. I'm thinking he doesn't even actually do anything to transform them, but because of his actions they style themselves after him, i.e. they deliberately transform themselves because it represents a part of their saviour's existence.

I haven't used any Chinese or Japanese names as I'm keenly interested in conlanging. The only mythology I've used so far is fox spirit mythology, mainly focusing on the abilities that foxes in Japanese and Chinese mythology possess, such as shapeshifting and long life spans. Not sure if it'd make it into any story, but I've also looked into the seducing people tropes of fox spirits, and I am aware of the sexist implications in the stories where a female fox seduces a man; personally, I'd keep the seducing element of the fox spirit, but have it done by both male and female foxes. I've also entertained the possibility where they don't end up killing their victim, but instead the removal of the human's life force transforms the human into a fox themself, and they end up cursed so they can't communicate their plight to anyone. Most of these humans also lose a great deal of agency, and live their much shorter lives out as foxes without any possibility of gaining any magical abilities or the long life span enjoyed by fox spirits.

The main issue might come in what divine beings the foxes are connected to (i.e. a god similar to Inari), and whether the White and non-Asian PoC were-foxes in the east have any knowledge of such a being and how they perceive and worship him/her. In the fantasy world, the original fox spirits would be where Eqijum comes from anyway, not where the White people are. The idea there was he inspires the normal foxes of the east to be more like the ones in his homeland.

I should have taken more time on my original post, I rushed it out completely and feel stupid for that now.

backslashbaby
04-11-2015, 11:03 PM
I don't quite get the "POC inspiring White people journeys" reference since it's the PoC - Eqijum - who is actually journeying around in the backstory and is responsible for the existence of the were-foxes, and any story would actually be set centuries later and focus on the results of his actions in the east. Of course, I might be misunderstanding what you mean, and if I am, many apologies - I don't like assuming I've understood someone in case I'm getting it wrong and about to make a big mistake.

Eqijum is a very important figure to the White people and PoC he saves, and is at the centre of their religious belief; it was remarkable to them for a man trapped as a fox - yet alone a fox possessing magical abilities - to become involved in their affairs....

It was the only thing I noticed, too, but it just depends on how you handle it, imho :)

Eqijum is not an important figure to his own culture, right? Doesn't he just kind of leave them after the war and go to save another culture? The question would be why he isn't working for his own culture and their needs? Why save another instead?

I think the fox angle may help that (all foxes are really his culture, too, if I understand it right). And the fact that there are PoC in with the white culture he's saving, so make some of them important folks, even if they aren't the majority of folks.

Just make sure that he cares about his own ties as much as the new, unrelated culture, or it'd be strange, imho (and like white people are just precious that way, lol).

There could be other ways to handle it, of course, but the general idea is to make sure that you don't have a PoC divorced from his own culture and working for another like that's a very good and fine thing. He should at least be really crushed by not being able to help his own people, imho.

Kaidonni
04-11-2015, 11:28 PM
It was the only thing I noticed, too, but it just depends on how you handle it, imho :)

Eqijum is not an important figure to his own culture, right? Doesn't he just kind of leave them after the war and go to save another culture? The question would be why he isn't working for his own culture and their needs? Why save another instead?

I think the fox angle may help that (all foxes are really his culture, too, if I understand it right). And the fact that there are PoC in with the white culture he's saving, so make some of them important folks, even if they aren't the majority of folks.

Just make sure that he cares about his own ties as much as the new, unrelated culture, or it'd be strange, imho (and like white people are just precious that way, lol).

There could be other ways to handle it, of course, but the general idea is to make sure that you don't have a PoC divorced from his own culture and working for another like that's a very good and fine thing. He should at least be really crushed by not being able to help his own people, imho.

I haven't decided when he'd leave his own culture. He might well have saved them and then just left because of the price he had to pay for it, he might have been banished, or he might have stayed for a long time but kept to himself.

However, to be entirely honest, regardless of whether Eqijum is successful or not in freeing his homeland, it has always felt contrived to me for him to journey to another land. At the moment I'm revisiting a number of earlier ideas I've had, and that was just one of them. It was an attempt to explain why he was trapped as a fox in the first place - I saw potential in the idea of 'fox spirit and woman falling in love equals child who has to regularly turn into a fox'...I seem to accept that more easily than some sort of curse or magic back-fire.

It's good to discuss this even if I don't go with this version of the idea, as it gives me things to watch out for with other story ideas and any other version of my were-foxes. The only stupid question is the one I don't ask (and also the question I rush).

I wasn't actually going for the all foxes are his culture angle... Thanks for pointing that out to me, it's something to have a think about.

Kaidonni
04-12-2015, 01:16 PM
Just skimming, but "POC inspiring White people journeys" is also a common problematic trope, the point being that POC are support in White-centered stories rather than agents of their own. Are you actually using Japanese or Chinese names or mythologies?

I was having a dumb moment yesterday as I thought you were referring to the White people journeying - d'oh! Light bulb this morning during breakfast. I think I can see what you mean now - there's a danger of PoC only being in the story as a vehicle to inspire the White people.

After what backslashbaby said regarding the idea that all foxes are Eqijum's culture, I think I might be a not-so-contrived reason for him to journey - to try teaching the lesser foxes of the world to be more than simple animals. Doing this eventually results in him reaching the other side of the world, but he isn't specifically travelling to the other side of the world to do something ever-so-specific there. He just ends up there in the end, and one thing leads to another. I'll have to think about it some more.

Indubitably
04-13-2015, 08:16 AM
I was having a dumb moment yesterday as I thought you were referring to the White people journeying - d'oh! Light bulb this morning during breakfast. I think I can see what you mean now - there's a danger of PoC only being in the story as a vehicle to inspire the White people.

No prob. :) Thanks for acknowledging a mistake. It sounds like your ideas are still evolving, and they're going down an interesting path. I like the notion of the were-fox progenitor traveling and being an important figure to all cultures. Then it makes more sense that your characters relate to him through their own particular lens.

I asked about the names and mythologies because it would be appropriative to use existing names and mythologies and simply replace faces of color with white ones. However, it sounds like your story is influenced loosely by those mythologies? Like backslashbaby said, give your characters of color important roles. That communicates above all that you are interested in and value the people, not just the culture. All of these are just suggestions, of course.

Kaidonni
04-18-2015, 10:31 PM
No prob. :) Thanks for acknowledging a mistake. It sounds like your ideas are still evolving, and they're going down an interesting path. I like the notion of the were-fox progenitor traveling and being an important figure to all cultures. Then it makes more sense that your characters relate to him through their own particular lens.

I asked about the names and mythologies because it would be appropriative to use existing names and mythologies and simply replace faces of color with white ones. However, it sounds like your story is influenced loosely by those mythologies? Like backslashbaby said, give your characters of color important roles. That communicates above all that you are interested in and value the people, not just the culture. All of these are just suggestions, of course.

The forum gobbled up my previous reply, and I was stupid enough to not copy and paste it into a word document just in case... It's not like I have an excuse, I'd tried opening Absolute Write in another tab and the connection kept timing out - a little later, I just clicked post and the deed was done, not even using the back button did any good. D'oh!

I've been giving my ideas a great deal of thought, especially the one involving Eqijum's journey that eventually takes him to the other side of the world. Still a lot to work out.

I was never comfortable with just copying and pasting Asian fox mythology and folklore. The shapeshifting is one of the most interesting elements, and I think there's a great deal of flexibility in how I can approach it. Being a fan of Star Trek, and knowing how shapeshifting was explored through the Founders, it gives me a good idea how I might be able to make the foxes in my work different; both in how they change their form and the limitations of this ability, and also in how humans perceive foxes that do this.

I'm also considering different reasons for why foxes develop magical abilities. Not that there's anything wrong with the reasons given in Chinese and Japanese belief - sometimes I have felt it's far simpler and natural than any system I might come up with, but I like exploring the alternatives and coming up with my own explanations (within reason...at some point, I just end up over-thinking things!). I'm currently looking at an idea where the phases of the moons and the time and place of a fox's birth might influence whether that fox develops any abilities, and how powerful that fox might be able to become. It also ties nicely into why Eqijum had to regularly turn into a fox before he was trapped that way, and why he had his powers.

Indubitably
04-20-2015, 01:19 AM
Oh, I like the moon phase idea! Astrology has been so important to so many cultures, with naming and other things.