"Woke" Critique received-Vent

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mountaingirl24

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Posting here to vent-hope this is okay. (no worries. no names or places will be directly named)

I wrote a piece and had it critiqued by a writing forum. It is a piece inspired by mommy wars, the role of Target in moms' lives with Aliens thrown in.
As a mixed woman who has a mixed partner, my characters are BIPOC. Period. That is how I roll. I grew up scrounging for stories that were BIPOC or even mixed and now that I am telling stories, I want to write the stories I didn't have.

I understand my piece is niche and since it is a sci-fi piece, I suspected a lot of the critiques would be from straight, non-BIPOC men and I would have to sift through the feedback with this in mind. And as with any feedback, some of it was helpful, some of it was not, but there was a particular one that completely missed the plot and point. I know I shouldn't let it get to me, but the critique insisted that my "woke" themes were problematic, especially since sci-fi/fantasy is supposed to be escapism, and "we" receive this message enough in our daily lives.

First off-I understand people escape to books and stories, however, the reality is that most stories, especially sci-fi and fantasy are reflected of real-life s**t.
Second off-as a BIPOC bi-sexual woman, I am not being "woke". I am me. And my stories do and will continue to be from a POV that others will consider "woke". But it is my everyday life. I think that is the most frustrating. The critiquer must be reading the worst stories or lives under a rock and doesn't understand what they read.

Thank you for letting me vent. If anyone wants to commiserate and post their experiences, please do.
 

lizmonster

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Yeah, I tend to discount anyone who suggests SFF "shouldn't" be political. The entire point of the genre is political. Anyone who says otherwise either hasn't read much SFF, or hasn't read anything that doesn't reflect their own very narrow worldview.

So commiserations on the crit, and I absolutely understand your ire. But that critter has told on themselves, and now you know who they are.
 

Maryn

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My critique group's long-time policy is that any critique whose writer just doesn't get it (when everyone else does), hurts your feelings by criticizing you rather than your writing, or is otherwise clearly objectionable gets deleted. It also gets no space in your head.

Pardon my language, but screw that critic. Delete so you cannot revisit it, ever.

Maryn, real sure on this
 

SWest

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... my stories do and will continue to be from a POV that others will consider "woke"...
Well, you get the Clap from me! :greenie

:Clap: :Clap: :Clap:

When crits don't help you improve craft, gently watch your brain spin a bit, but ultimately move on with your work. Thank you for writing stories that escape the same-old, same-old dominant culture. You know, actually SFF, and stuff.

:e2flowers
 

Brigid Barry

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Flabbergasted is all I can say. Everything else has too many self-imposed asterisks. I agree with above posts and you that they were completely out of line, delete/ignore, and hopefully someone in the group clues them in.
 

ChaseJxyz

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Art can be a lot of things. It can be fun to consume, it can be difficult to consume, we all want different things at different times, and that's okay. So saying that all spec fic "should" be escapism is like saying all music should be happy and upbeat. It's missing the entire point of art, that each piece is different and can evoke different feelings among different people.

People like that are, frankly, incapable of understanding the point of art. Now you know to ignore this person from here on out.
 

CWNitz

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the critique insisted that my "woke" themes were problematic, especially since sci-fi/fantasy is supposed to be escapism, and "we" receive this message enough in our daily lives.
The entitlement here is incredible. If he wants an all-white, all-straight cast in his sci-fi novel, he can go and write it himself.
 

Jazz Club

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Yikes. To this guy, non-white characters are a 'message' 'we' get too much, not just, you know, actual people living actual lives who might want to be represented in novels occasionally. I know, it's so much to ask 🙄🙄

Everyone else is right, this is the kind of crit you can safely ignore. It isn't even anything to do with your writing craft. Ironically, although this critter thinks you have a politcal agenda, he's actually shoehorning his own political agenda into his writing critique.

If it makes you feel any better, I expect to get similar complaints when I send my novel to beta readers, only they'll be complaining about me harping on feminism and class issues, probably. I'm having fun trying to predict exactly what they'll say, like buzzword bingo.

ETA better add in the interests of fairness that none of my alpha readers has complained yet. Just in case they're reading and think I'm being snarky🤣
 
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Jazz Club

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It’s pretty incongruous that someone who is reading and writing Sci-fi, which is generally full of aliens, strange worlds and other cultures, wants his escapism straight, right wing , white and male. He needs Fox News to get into the sci-fi market.
But there's a bit of a tradition in sci-fi of the lantern-jawed straight white male hero marching into the middle of all the alien cultures and taking over. Probably that's what this critter wants to read!
 

kinokonoronin

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If anyone wants to commiserate and post their experiences, please do.
I am interested in hearing more experiences. I don't have one of my own, probably in part due to the fact that I rarely describe skin color (or more than a few physical characteristics of my characters in general; e.g. strong chin, woolly hair, tall with squarish shoulders, etc). So despite the fact that I've been writing largely POC protagonists from my very first project, I think white beta readers have just read past all my hints and assumed all the characters are white (yes, even canonically Arabic-speaking Tariq). It's amazing how much whiteness American readers are capable of assuming if you're not explicit.

Being mixed-race, I just can't even begin to care what peoples' opinions are on the diversity of my casts. I have at times been made very aware that growing out an afro is a "political statement": if that's my critic's ilk, they probably lack the critical thinking skills to tell me anything useful about my work. Some people just have hair that grows out into an afro: I'm going to be one of those people, I'm going to write about those people, and yes, I'm going to hide pencils and pens in my hair because I can. You don't like it? I didn't ask. Go tie your manbun on someone else's lawn.
 

Norsebard

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:hi: Mountaingirl24 - well, that s**ks, frankly.


I haven't experienced anything quite like that, but I did receive homophobic 'fanmail' from a reader of an XWP Alt. (femslash) fanfic once upon an eon ago which is sorta ironic considering I'm a white, het, Scandinavian-style National Conservative fella.

(Oh, and in case you need to compare that to something you're familiar with, I'm thinking / guessing that's roughly akin to the LibDems in the UK, and somewhere between the Republicans and the Democrats in the US :) )



CWNitz said:
If he wants an all-white, all-straight cast in his sci-fi novel, he can go and write it himself.

Yes, or read one of the 101487+ books like that that already exist. :LOL:


Norsebard
 

NickyRainbow

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I'm sorry you had to deal with that. Sounds like this is very much his problem and not yours, so I wouldn't waste the headspace on his useless 'feedback'. What a bizarre and limited reading list he must have!
 

Tiger1b

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All art is political, but SFF in particular began by interrogating and deconstructing social norms.
Thank you. I think I understand. I can see how changes in dimensions, planets, eras, etc. allow all manner of politics and social "norms" to exist where they might not in the here-and-now. I'd truly never thought of that.

Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin come more to mind.
 
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lizmonster

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Thank you. I think I understand. I can see how changes in dimensions, planets, eras, etc. allow all manner of politics and social "norms" to exist where they might not in the here-and-now. I'd truly never thought of that.

Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin come more to mind.

Shelley and Wells both wrote social commentary.

Any fictional society, whether fantasy or some projected future, is a reflection of the author's perspective on human culture.
 

ChaseJxyz

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Thank you. I think I understand. I can see how changes in dimensions, planets, eras, etc. allow all manner of politics and social "norms" to exist where they might not in the here-and-now. I'd truly never thought of that.

Science fiction and fantasy is also known as speculative fiction. Every story is based around a "what if?" What if magic boarding school was a thing? What if we colonized the stars? What if reality tv, but, like, a killing game?

So when you craft these types of stories, you have to make stuff up, and to do so, you need to draw on reality. Reality is, inherently, political, and when you create "good" and "bad" things, you're still basing them on reality in some way, and your politics come through. A future where all the colonies and space stations are owned/operated by English-speaking countries is, uh, saying something! Even if you don't think it is, as the writer or the reader, but it IS saying something.

A lot of the time, people use tropes without actually thinking about what they mean. Fantasy stories where a country will be saved when A TRUE KING rules, from a blessed/fated lineage, is just the divine right of kings bs. Sci-fi where people who get more cybernetic augmentations are "losing their humanity" is abelist and transphobic.

Also keep in mind just because the writer doesn't mean to make something political, it can still be taken as such, because that's how everyone ended up reading it. Farenheit 451 was meant to be "kids are always on they damn phones!! read a BOOK!!!!" but instead everyone read it as "censorship is bad!!!!" Which is way more of a political statement, even if Bradbury didn't mean to do that. Body horror, as a genre, wasn't meant to be so evocative of the trans condition buuuut it sure as hell is read that way.
 

Iustefan

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Sci-fi where people who get more cybernetic augmentations are "losing their humanity" is abelist and transphobic.

It can’t just be anti-transhumanism? I don’t see how it’s necessarily ableist or transphobic, although I see how it could be.

Honest question, since I am often skeptical of the transhumanism sold and preached to us by a lot of people in Silicon Valley.
 

ChaseJxyz

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It can’t just be anti-transhumanism? I don’t see how it’s necessarily ableist or transphobic, although I see how it could be.

Honest question, since I am often skeptical of the transhumanism sold and preached to us by a lot of people in Silicon Valley.
Even if the AIM is to be anti-transhumanism, it's catching other people in the crossfire.

Transhumanism is about "human enhancing technologies." Any sort of aid for a person with a disability is a human-enhancing technology. Your grandma getting a titanium hip replacement is transhumanism, because titanium has a ton of benefits over bone. Pace makers, dental implants, cochlear implants, etc. Some of these assistive technologies allow "super human" abilities/powers. A work that says that the human body shouldn't be made more powerful/capable than what nature designed it to be is implying that this also applies to people who aren't "normal," aka disabled. Disability already makes society perceive people as less than human and less deserving of rights and public access. So when a work says that cyborgs shouldn't have the same rights as "100% pure" humans, how are people who already don't have the same rights supposed to feel?

As for trans people...man. People shit on cosmetic surgeries all the time, because you don't NEED bigger boobs or a straight nose or a decent hairline to be happy. Of course, if you were born with a cleft lip or ambiguous genitals, we gotta fix that, we need you to be "normal," but if you were born with small boobs or no boobs at all, well, you just gotta live with that! All gender-affirming care, if we want to be purely pragmatic, is cosmetic. Our bodies work perfectly fine as-is, there's no ticking time bomb that needs to be removed. But it IS "medically necessary" because of the immense mental and emotional suffering we go through otherwise. Because of the very-high rates of suicide and self-harm and substance use issues we go through otherwise. These totally healthy, normal, natal structures do lead to physical harm.

Our bodies don't look or work the same as natal bodies, and for a lot of cis people, that's terrifying and unacceptable. You're DISFIGURING yourself! You're removing perfectly healthy tissue and organs! You have these big, horrible scars! You're infertile! You can never go back if you change your mind! Why would someone want to be with a person made of silicone and plastic and hacked together by a surgeon when they could be with a REAL, NATURAL human? Gee, I wonder if these same arguments are used by anti-transhumanists!

Like you, I am not really all for the current transhumanism that is being peddled by silicone valley. But that's more because they want to forcibly cure neurodivergence and also Elon Musk's brain fitbit is causing the monkeys to kill themselves. And I do not trust that motherfucker to make a car that won't kill me when I'm biking, I'm not letting him anywhere near my brain. A lot of trans people work in tech, so we are fully aware of the limits and follies of tech. So none of us are going to get our clipper card embedded into our palm anytime soon. But we sure as hell will be first in line to get cat ears lol
 

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It can’t just be anti-transhumanism? I don’t see how it’s necessarily ableist or transphobic, although I see how it could be.

Honest question, since I am often skeptical of the transhumanism sold and preached to us by a lot of people in Silicon Valley.
The issue, I think, ends up being framing. If a narrative is expressing as a True Fact of Life that someone who gets, for example, an atrophied arm replaced with a working prosthetic can only do so by giving up a part of their essential humanity, then it definitely feels as if the author is saying that using mechanical aids as a disabled person is, to some extent, surrendering their humanity. Which, as a necessary corollary, means that people with disabilities are placed into a choice between being more self-sufficient or being _human_. Likewise with gender affirmation surgery (or new, gender congruent bodies) and trans people. The narrative is basically positing a universe where there is no way to be who you truly are without being less human than a cis person.

There are a lot of ways to explore issues relating to critiquing transhumanism and techno-fetishism that don't fall into that trap! The 'give up your humanity' thing tends to be a lazy treatment of the issue, IMO, anyway. A book can talk about the dangers related to having to tie your body to a capitalistic and exploitive society, for example - this is already an issue with RL implants and the more sophisticated prosthetics. If the company decides to go bankrupt, or sell their assets to someone else, or move into a new line of work, your body can suffer from mechanical parts that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (and major surgery) to repair if broken...and no one finds that repair work profitable anymore.
 

Iustefan

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Great responses! Thank you. I typed up some thoughts as well, but after working through them, I realized I just agreed with what you guys wrote, and didn’t add much.