Defying the Appropriation Police

If you’re in the fic biz, you’ve probably gotten fish-slapped with the concept of Cultural Appropriation. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s not been browbeat with this latest politically correct dogma, let me give you a quick definition. Cultural Appropriation — as used by those who push it — is when a person assigned to an Oppressor Identity writes about, or employs character(s) from, an assigned Victim Identity.

I remember (way back in the stone age of the 1990s) how people were hot about inclusion: deliberately salt-and-peppering books and stories with women, non-Caucasians, and non-straights. This trend continued for about a dozen years, until the includers suddenly began to be attacked for “doing it wrong.” The inclusion was deemed “inauthentic” for various reasons, usually relating to questions of voice, protagonist positioning, and research.

And when I say voice, I mean the semi-tangible cadence and quality of how a given character in a fictional work “reads” to the audience — ergo, how this individual sounds in your head when you’re going through the book or the story. So, even if your hero is from a Victim Identity, if (s)he doesn’t sound like (s)he’s from that Victim Identity, boo on you. Make it double-boo if you’ve given Victim Identities only to the ensemble, not the leads.

Protagonist positioning has to do with a character’s relationship to the hero (or heroes, or heroines) of the piece. Put too many Victim Identity characters into supporting or antagonistic roles, and you’re going to get a pantsload of verbal buckshot from people who’ve made it their business to police this stuff. You must not only write Victim Identities as the heroes, you must write them with correct voice to boot.

Research is when you’ve failed to sufficiently enhance your characters or your setting with enough details that objectively match the culture(s) or the time period(s) in which your story happens to be set. So, even if you’re doing Victim Identities in your lead roles and you’re getting the voice(s) right, if your details — say, for instance, a mythic medieval Chinese Dynasty story — don’t reflect extensive reading and note-taking, for that specific time in that specific place . . . you’re still doing it wrong.

Are you ready to throw up your hands and quit fiction-writing altogether? Who needs to tip-toe through that much of an ideological minefield?

You are not the only one. In fact, more and more writers are mustering the courage to push back against the mantra of Cultural Appropriation. Precisely because fiction-writing of any type or sort is, by its very nature, borrowing from the world around us. To include when authors who are assigned (or self-assign) Victim Identities, tell stories about or which include characters from designated Oppressor Identities.

Yes, gentle reader, Victim Identity authors get it wrong too.

Somehow, this isn’t ever the problem we’re talking about though; with Cultural Appropriation. As per usual, with the doctrines of 21st-century Political Correctness, the “wrong” always flows just one way.

I myself am in favor of scuttling the whole concept of “wrong” — especially when applied to science fiction and fantasy. With SF/F, we’re not just talking about people both past and present, we’re talking about people past, present, future, alternate past, sidewise present, hypothetical future, extrapolative future, and so forth. To include people who aren’t people at all: alien life forms, or humans who’ve changed so much, they might as well be aliens by our current standards and sensibilities.

There is literally no way to “get it wrong” in this context, because you’re not writing a historical drama set in Feudal Japan. Writing a book like Shogun necessarily ought to involve extra effort, just because a book like Shogun — written wholly in make-believe mode — ceases to be Shogun. And becomes something else.

Science Fiction and Fantasy don’t necessarily have the same restraints.

Consider the all-time classic bestseller of the field: Dune. Set ten thousand years in the future, Dune doesn’t have to accurately or correctly reflect any extant identities or cultures, because none of the identities and cultures that currently exist in 2016 A.D., existed in 8016 B.C. And it’s unlikely that, even with our miraculous digital mass storage and preservation of music, movies, television, and books, that the culture(s) and identities of 12,016 A.D. will have much relation to our present culture(s). Artifacts of our present culture(s) may persist, but we — who we are, in this decade, on this planet — will not.

So, how can Dune get it wrong? Too few women in leading roles? Too many men occupying pivotal parts in the story? The roles men and women play — being sexist or misogynistic?

But wait, why should a hypothetical society set ten thousand years in the future, have any relation to 21st-century A.D. concepts of gender equality, or affirmative action? These concepts themselves are only a couple of hundred years old, at best. The vast bulk of human history reflects societies where gender and ethnic and sexual stratification not only existed, but was commonplace.

It might be that way in the future too. Or it might be that way in a fictional fantasy Earth where dragons are real, and wizards wield magic wands. Or a parallel timeline where all of the European monarchies still reign, controlling a globe filled with colonies. Or an alternate history where the Enlightenment occurred in Classical Greece, or Pharaoh’s Egypt.

In fact, caste societies are ready-made canvases for drama. Thus a feudal interstellar dynasty, replete with dukes and barons, not to mention slaves and concubines, becomes instantly tangible. The author doesn’t need to laboriously erect a believable framework for the war between House Atreides, and House Harkonnen. The framework is baked in, and we (who are not that distant from feudalism ourselves) intuitively grasp the meaning and import of Paul Atreides’ journey through that universe.

The “perfect” imaginary society, is a boring imaginary society. Just look at Star Trek. If the entire franchise had been set on Earth — and Earth only — it would have been like watching over a thousand episodes and a dozen feature films all focusing on Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but without the town drunk, nor the foolish deputy, nor the occasional genuine criminal drifting through, to cause trouble. Star Trek Earth is a paradise. But paradise doesn’t make for good storytelling. Which is why the U.S.S. Enterprise was out there on the frontier. Getting a piece of the action.

So, almost every story must contain at least some form of unfairness or injustice. Otherwise, what have the protagonist(s) got to work against?

Moreover, consider the fact that no person — however effectively (s)he embraces a given Victim Identity — has the exact same experiences and outlook as another person. Slice it fine enough, and two people from the same Victim Identity (or Oppressor Identity) are going to necessarily be different.

Want proof? Pick a random sample of two dozen women, and put them into a room. Show them a scenario to which a “real woman” must react, and ask them all to submit their conclusions.

You’re liable to wind up with half a dozen to a dozen (or more) different responses. Because even though they’re all women — ding, ding, Victim Identity — they are individuals first. Informed by individual upbringing, belief systems, religion, traumatic events, and driven by different motivations. Thus there is no single answer to the question of what would a “real woman” do in scenarios X, or Y, or Z.

Therefore, there is no right answer.

And this is true for any other Victim Identity, and Oppressor Identity too.

Perhaps the entire concept of Victim Identities, and Oppressor Identities, is faulty?

I certainly think so.

Just like I think the concept of Cultural Appropriation is faulty too.

I think Cultural Appropriation was invented purely by people who have grown so comfortable and easy in their lives — like Star Trek! — that they must invent some kind of drama, to fill their attention span.

So we have authors being accused of “stealing” culture, and telling stories they’re not “authorized” to tell.

Given the fact culture cannot be copyrighted, how can anyone “steal” what is rightfully in the public domain? Also, from whom does an Oppressor Author receive written permission: to include character(s) or culture(s) from the Victim Identity sector? Is the hall pass obtained from Victim A every bit as good as the hall pass from Victim B or also from Victim C?

What if Victims A, B, and C, are in dispute? Over any aspect of what it means to be a Victim? What if some people in categories A, or B, or C, don’t see themselves as victims at all, either small-v or caps-v?

What if the person from whom you’re seeking a hall pass, is unlikely to ever give you one? Or, as often as not, give you one, but with an asterisk on it: to be rescinded at any time for any reason, just because I feel like it.

Look, there’s a point at which you, the author, simply have to have the courage to not care if somebody complains.

I know that’s a very scary thought, in the era of the internet — where complaining has become a life-wrecking, big-money spectator sport. We inhabit a time when complaining has become a career: professional activism. Journalism isn’t about discovery and dissemination of facts, it’s about lobbying for a particular kind of politics, and enforcing a particular ideological paradigm. Nobody who ever writes a book or story, can ever hope to please everyone in that kind of toxic soup. No matter how well you do your book or story, some asshole on the intarwebz is gonna bitch about it.

Thus, refusing to apologize — in that atmosphere — take’s chutzpah. A willful disregard for the opinions of the complaining class.

But people also respect chutzpah. The field of SF/F used to (once upon a time) pride itself on chutzpah — on thumbing its nose at convention. At the rule-setters and rule-makers. At accepted dogmas and doctrines which were uncritically embraced.

By all means, do your research. Strive for that moving target known as authenticity. But more than that, reach down inside yourself and tell the stor(ies) only you can tell. Because you are a unique reality filter. No other person on the planet, nor any other person in history, has experienced the universe in quite the same way you have. This will inform your stories far, far more than trying to check boxes or avoid shibboleths. Because you are not merely the sum of your demographics. Nor are you merely some role somebody else assigned you, because of your demographics. These things play a part in who you are, but they are not the end-all be-all of you.

And they are not the end-all be-all of storytelling either. No matter how much certain special snowflakes may scream and shout about it.

Because good storytelling — bold tales, told boldly — speaks for itself.

Dune is not the all-time genre bestseller, because it is obediently inclusive of the proper types and kinds of Victim Identities, all arrayed in a correctly-proportioned menagerie of weighted and measured representation. No. Dune is the all-time genre bestseller, because it tells the story of a young man — a prince — cast unjustly from his rightful inheritance, hunted, hardened, made potent by trial and travail, so that when he ultimately returns to seek justice, he’s not only fighting for his own honor and survival, but the honor and survival of an entire misbegotten people.

That is storytelling. Timeless enough, that it’s lasted well beyond the life of its originator, in the hands of generation after generation of eager readers.

And this is the point of the whole damned enterprise, you see? To tell a story that captivates an audience. In the way only you are equipped to tell it.

And if you “get it wrong” according to somebody else’s calculus? Even Dune is not without its nay-sayers. In fact, there is no book or series known, which does not have critics. Criticism will ever be with us, like the poor. You can’t hope to evade criticism.

What you might hope for, is to make them criticize you for the right reasons. Because you’ve written passionately from the heart. And told a story worth remembering. And you didn’t keep looking in your rear-view mirror — for the Cultural Appropriation Police, and their red-white-blue lights flashing at you.

All else is merely a matter of craft. Of skill. Of finding the right combination of setting and plot and characters, that makes peoples’ imaginations light on fire. You focus on these things, and don’t worry about Cultural Appropriation . . . you just might latch on to authorial immortality.

62 Comments

Filed under BRAD R. TORGERSEN, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING: ART

62 responses to “Defying the Appropriation Police

  1. This is odd for me but I actually feel worse for left leaning authors than I do for the right leaning ones in the publishing world as it currently is and as it seems to be going forward.

    Back when I started sharing my work it quickly became obvious that I was a conservative and that lens was applied to my work (not enough female characters? Proof of evil! Female characters that challenge male characters? Proof of Evil because of ascribing nagging to females. Female characters that love and support their males? Proof of evil. Bad black guy? Proof of evil. Good black guy? Proof of evil. No gay people? Proof of evil.) even when that wasn’t in any way, shape, or form actually present in the work. But when you look hard enough and tilt your head at the right-Sorry, LEFT angle, whoops there’s the evil.

    The advantage I had was knowing that most of those criticisms were down to my perceived politics and not the actual work so I could shrug and move past them and wrestle with the actual problems. Essentially, they had no power over my work or point of view that I didn’t grant them myself, and since I refused to grant any then I was free to write what I wanted.

    The poo flinging monkeys will fling their poo at their enemies whatever their enemies actually do so we enemies never have to worry if we are responsible for the poo coming our way. I think right wing authors are waking up to that reality and are now beginning to refuse to hide and no longer care if they get attacked. Heck, I’m pretty sure that getting attacked from the left gets you more net sales in total because of the support you get from the right.

    Is it annoying? Yup. Is it an actual threat? Yup, since they still are gatekeepers or have access to gatekeepers. But is it as crippling as it once was? I’d say not even close.

    But left wingers? They have to bow down because if they don’t their careers will be ruined. They don’t have a support system outside of the support system that is the current system. The current system turns on them and what are their choices? Stop publishing/writing? Or join the bad people on the other side?

    “But the bad people are bad! And I’m not even sure they’re people!”

    There’s also the fact that because of these questions you know what to expect from a story written keeping all of these unwritten rules regarding appropriation in mind. They are predictable. They are cliché even as they strive to avoid cliché. They do not dare. They tread lightly. They bore when they should inspire.

    How do you sell that?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      They sell it by telling us over and over again how bold and fresh and diverse the stories are, of course.

    • julieapascal

      The Requires Hate brouhaha in a nutshell. And when the goal is power, it only works on those over whom you hold power.

  2. Ignoring the Grievance Guards is the only way to go. We’ve truly reached the point where no body of work is safe from the Cultural Revolution-style insanity going on in the creative industries. The most slavishly-PC moviemakers or writers are only one Twitter post away from having a mob descend upon them, baying for blood. Rabid feminist woman and champion in the fight against the patriarchy? Make a comment involving a black man and none of that matters: it’s time for a self-criticism session, Comrade, for counterrevolutionary racist thought. African-American actress portrays African-American character in a movie? Too light-skinned for the role: everyone involved in the movie is found guilty of white-washing the story. Write a novel about an alt-hist North America where no humans arrived before the Europeans? Guilty of erasing all the native peoples. The crime is genocide: the penalty is abasing yourself and admitting all your sins, starting with being the wrong skin color to dare even hint at such atrocities.

    (None of those are made up, btw).

    Against that sort of Orwellian thought-criminalizing, the only possible defense is a big f-you. Trying to engage those nutjobs in any but a counter-trollish way only empowers them.

    And the saddest thing: all the casually-thrown charges of racism and sexism have basically made it easier to be sexist and racist, because the charges are no longer taken seriously by a large (and growing) percentage of the population. Because when Pravda is actually telling the truth, how can you tell?

    • TRX

      > Ignoring the Grievance Guards is the only way to go.

      Yeah, but the urge to tap the side of their fish tank and get them spun up is almost irresistible…

  3. Many years ago I worked in a junkyard and I rapidly learned that it is simply not possible for a junkyard to obey the law and also stay in business. Virtually every fluid and a significant portion of the solid components in an automobile must, by law, be recycled or stored in some cost-prohibitive way, and the process documented.

    The overhead required to be in compliance with the EPA regulations would drive the price of a used alternator over the price of a new one–and a good way towards the replacement cost of the car itself.

    So why are there still junkyards in business? The magic of Selective Enforcement. The city, or county, or state authorities in charge of enforcing the federal laws (the LAHJ, or “Local Authority Having Jurisdiction”) knows that the junkyard is, in general, a positive good for the community. They pay taxes, utilities, and wages. They allow low income workers to keep going to their low income jobs, so the rich folks don’t have to clean their own pools.

    So the LAHJ doesn’t particularly want to shut down the junkyard–but he knows damned well that he could, pretty much at will. Furthermore, the junkyard owners know it, too.

    So the junkyard owners quickly learn that if they want to stay in business they need to be nice to the LAHJ, in the sense that Reba McIntyre used the phrase, “just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, they’ll be nice to you.”

    This doesn’t always means anything so crude as a shoebox full of cash, it’s usually more… civilized. You donate to the local Sheriff’s reelection campaign. You donate to the Sheriff’s favorite charities. If the Sheriff has a no-account cousin who needs a job, you’ve got a new parts puller who doesn’t get a lot of supervision. If the Sheriff’s wife needs some work done on her personal vehicle… well, you get the idea.

    That’s the same basic strategy of the Outrage Brigade. No one can be in compliance with their demands. What’s more, the high profile traditionally published authors know damned well that they are vulnerable, and spend a huge amount of time being nice. John Scalzi’s blog is a prime example that I have read, I’ve no doubt that other high ticket authors do much the same thing.

    The substance of the demands is irrelevant. “Inclusion”, “Diversity”, “Sensitivity”, “Fairness”–these are all code for “Nice little career you’ve got here. It’d be a real shame is something happened to it. Now, I’ve got a buddy who writes real purty, and if you was to give her a little help, maybe we could overlook these code violations for another month…”

    The only way out of that trap is to deny the authority of the Outrage Brigade. (An option, sadly, not open to junkyard owners.) Fortunately, they invariably overplay their hand to the point where the absurdity of their accusations undermines any pretense of moral authority.

    • Dog breeders (and increasingly, other livestock professionals) are now in the same situation as junkyards. Anything they do can be deemed a violation, or “cruelty” or “neglect”. (Frex, In Oklahoma, having automatic waterers in a kennel is neglect under a new set of regulations intended to make large kennels impossible to maintain.) And when your property can be confiscated without recourse and often even without a warrant, you can’t do anything but keep your head down and comply with any bullshit that’s imposed on you. And if you are deemed a violator, you will be heaped with all manner of undeserved accusations, some of them manufactured outright, to ensure that they win, you lose. (“Humane societies” and “rescues” have been caught redhanded creating “evidence”. Kennel busts correlate with the rescue market’s demand for “adoptables”, not with actual conditions in the kennel. Rescues routinely lie about where their inventory came from, because tearjerking means profits.)

      Remember this next time you hear a big news story about some terrible “puppy mill” being busted for “neglect”.

    • snelson134

      And this is why this country is going to split apart, peaceably or otherwise. When a significant percentage of the country isn’t allowed to live there, they will have to fort up and break off.

  4. Honestly? I look at the whole “cultural appropriation” thing and go “Frankly I don’t give a d***.” Bravery? Hardly. It’s a low tolerance for stupidity. Every culture has mixed and matched from another. The spectacle of someone attired in a cultural mix, made of materials developed whom who knows where, usually speaking English, which didn’t even exist 2,000 years ago, and who eats foods from all over the world, is almost too pathetic for words.

    It’s also pretty danged racist. A white woman’s not allowed to wear dreadlocks? By what law? What does it say about someone who’s complaint is based on skin color? And we’re supposed to take “cultural appropriation” seriously? Uh-uh. Toss it on that garbage pile over there. Yes, the one with “master race” on top.

    BTW, if you want to have fun, the next time a SJW gets strung out on Orson Scott Card, ask them about Dune. Then ask why Frank Herbert, who has a homosexual as the villain in Dune, gets a pass.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I notice some hand-wringing types upset that Card has a new TV series in the works. They liked him until they learned about his politics, meaning the fact that Card has the same opinion of gay marriage that Obama and both Clintons used to have.

    • Oh yeah, every time I see one of these Cultural Warriors ranting, they’ve got on display all manner of culture appropriated from … generally the people they’re trying to police. Hey, if we can’t, you can’t either; your nearest identifiable ancestors lived naked in the bush and practiced genital mutilation. Off with those clothes, and here’s a stone knife. Hop to it. And by the way, no more schools for you; your ancestors were all illiterate, so you’re not allowed to read either.

      It’s like some social schizoid disorder, where it’s all about being the center of attention while being immune to any sort of criticism. We’re all expected to gather round in awe, but with our backs turned so we don’t see the flaws.

      • Uncle Lar

        Stone knife! Oh hell no. You stole that from someone else. It’s buck nekkid, rooting in the grass for bugs and natural indigenous veggies. And don’t you dare try to make it easier with that pointed stick either. You probably stole that idea from Ug over there too.

    • Patrick Chester

      I was going to put something in about SJWs being afraid of Herbert pulling out their heart plugs, but I think that was something David Lynch threw into his film and not from the original books. 😮

  5. “And we’re supposed to take “cultural appropriation” seriously? Uh-uh. Toss it on that garbage pile over there.”
    Ayup.
    My historicals deal with German immigrant settlers – I’m not German. The comedy series deals with a huge number of Hispanic-Americans. — to the amusement of several of our neighbors who say they see some of their older relatives in some characters.
    Empathy and imagination are what gives us the ability to write about people who are not of our own tiny sub-grouping. We don’t need no stinking badges of approval from the social justice vigilantes.

    • TRX

      There’s a British sitcom called “Citizen Khan” that centers about an immigrant Pakistani family and their mosque. Mr. Khan is bigoted, racist, and sleazy. Think of “All in the Family” except with Muslims instead of New Yorkers.

      There was massive butthurt from the British SJW community while the immigrant population mostly thought it was riotously funny.

    • Joe in PNG

      The outrage brigade worked hard to pull any and every Speedy Gonzales cartoon from the tv.
      Guess where Speedy is super popular?

      • There was no outrage. Turner Broadcasting was afraid there might be outrage. I’m not certain if the issue was “outrage” or having a “Hispanic” triumph over the “gringo” cat.

        So Speedy, pushed aside by the “gringo” bides his time, spreading his word to other disenfranchised cartoons, plotting his revenge. One day, he says, their voices will be heard. Viva la Revolution! Arriba! Arriba! Andale!”

  6. Airboy

    Entertainment providers have a economic necessity to be…… entertaining enough to earn a living.

    Not entertaining to everyone. Just entertaining enough to make a living.

    Worrying about critics who don’t buy your work, and will never buy your work, is ….. insane.

    If an economically viable group with entertainment dollars is not being satisfied, there is a market opportunity to provide entertainment enough to earn a living. Think say ….. Baen.

  7. I have several snarky responses to the Cultural Appropriations Brigade, which I will probably never use, because they will most like just create more bad feeling, but for entertainment purposes:

    1) Where did you get your education? You were cheated: maybe you should go ask for a refund Once upon a time, being familiar with other cultures was considered a good thing. If you think the notion of asking for a refund on your education is silly, so is the whole idea that cultural appropriation in fiction is bad.

    2) It’s fiction. I made it up. Any resemblance to the reality you live in may or may not be intentional.

    3) If you think I have inappropriately stolen an idea from another culture, I will gladly appoint you my personal representative to take it back.

    4) Your application for a position as censor is duly noted. Unfortunately, I’m not hiring.

    • Airboy

      “4) Your application for a position as censor is duly noted. Unfortunately, I’m not hiring.”
      Excellent point.

  8. It’s tempting to think that we’re trapped in here with them, and thus have to take this stratospheric idiocy seriously. What I remind myself constantly (having recently retired from 30-odd years in traditional publishing) is that publishing as an industry is thrashing around like a snake with a broken back, and ten or fifteen years from now will look like nothing I ever saw working in the business myself. Key to the change is that skill wins. I don’t have to beg anyone’s permission to publish, nor do I need to beg retailers to shelve my books. I don’t need to tie up a bunch of capital to print and warehouse a book. What this all means is that I can tune the screechers out, because they can’t stop me from writing what I want and getting it to my readers. At some point, the print fiction business will contract so much that the screechers will be trapped in here with us, we who have been quietly training the reading public to demand more than just grim, badly written message pie.

    Wait ’em out, I say. Don’t even waste time laughing at them. Their age is passing.

  9. aacid14

    The brigaders tend to take a valid idea (if you are writing about something real, making stuff up throws readers) and go all out. Plus the brigaders tend to run purely on the swpl style stereotypes as opposed to reality.

  10. Uncle Lar

    If cultural appropriation were a real thing then of course no male author can ever write a story from a female perspective. So there, now everyone”s happy.
    But wait, just maybe the converse would also be true, and female authors are forbidden from writing from a male perspective. Most excellent, at long last we have reached equality and total fairness.
    And from this point forward the only thing published is dictionaries. Let the readers pick through them for their own stories.

  11. This is why I happily wear tracht and dirndls, as well as more American-style clothes. Because I like it, it looks good on me, and I’m appropriating the heck out of Bavaria and Austria. H-ll, between 1936-1945, my distant relatives were forbidden from wearing it, lest they be mistaken for Aryans instead of Jews. All the more reason to enjoy. And believe me, I’ve never had anyone ask to see my pedigree before allowing me to try on and purchase dirndls.

  12. I’m of two minds about this. That may be because I don’t really know the limits of Cultural Appropriation. Does it extend to the idea of the Noble Savage? That seems to me to be an ultimate example of CA; that idealized person, living in harmony and peace with nature? Never existed, although it’s been tried, over and over, to recreate that environment.
    Does it extend to portraying people from Georgia as being ignorant racist inbred moonshine guzzlers? I got kind of tired of that sometime in the 70’s, when I realized that the way television portrayed Atlanta newspaper editors was taking a good looking Yankee actress, and giving her a thick accent with plenty of “y’all” in her speech. First, NOBODY talks that way in Atlanta, and second, shut up.
    I hate those sorts of things, and if the concept of CA covers that, I’m for it.
    On the other hand, I love Walter Mitty. Pocketa-pocketa! The guy has SUCH a blandly tedious life, he HAS to escape. If ending cultural appropriation means that nobody can ever ever escape by imagining themselves on a beach, far, far away, then let’s take it out and shoot it in the head. I NEED to escape from time to time.
    If we are talking about me pretending to be a Hell’s Angel, I guess that would carry it’s own penalty phase in it.
    How about: Copyright Your Ethnicity? Under CYE, only card-carriers get to do a specific list of things, including wear costume items, dance specific dances, eat copyrighted food, speak the language, or carry cultural-specific weapons.
    Until it’s the law, get off my lawn; come back with a warrant.

  13. It’s so limiting to write about characters that have to be these carbon copies of yourself. I’m not an auto biographer. I want to write an array of diverse characters. That said, I don’t speak for other ethnicities. Hell, I can’t even speak for ‘all women’ because it’s freaking presumptuous thinking I can speak for half the planet’s population. Yet, there are people that do this.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      A friend of mine is not a feminist because she took exception to people presuming to speak for her (among other reasons).

  14. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I’ve been reading so much translated Chinese pulps that Chinese idiom has gotten into my English.

    I’m not Han, nor do I understand any of the Chinese dialects.

    I’m not allowed? That comes across as that ‘blood is culture’ bullshit, which is racist and undermines human rights.

  15. Brad said: “And if you “get it wrong” according to somebody else’s calculus?”

    I think a hearty “Fuck off!” is in order, for all the little busybodies trying to police fiction. I do it wrong on purpose just to get their knickers in a twist.

    Don’t like it? Stop reading, is my advice. That’s what I do. I read the cover blurb on the latest Hugo winner and that’s as far as I was willing to go.

  16. FradB

    It’s all button pushing by people who have got really good at coming up with new emotional buttons to push, Alinsky style.

    You aren’t going to win this argument because the people pushing it don’t care about winning this argument. They just want to keep the pot boiling. Something else will come along when people get tired of arguing appropriation.

  17. John R. Ellis

    I actually recently encountered someone who used to love DUNE who sadly concluded they could no longer enjoy it because there weren’t enough female characters in the book, therefore it’s automatically and innately stupid and evil. -.- Because the single panel a lesbian cartoonist wrote as a punchline three decades ago, taken wildly out of its original context is now an IRONCLAD LAW OF STORIES. Because the SJZs said so, that’s why!

    …I could muster some pity. There’s that, at least.

    • Sam L.

      Yes, the Bene Gesserit are all a bunch of inconsequential women. I just HATED that part.

    • Joe in PNG

      Did the person read the expatiated version? The version I’m familiar with has Jessica and Hara having a long conversation about Alia, which passes the useless test in question- and that’s just off the top of my head.

    • Ah yes, the insipid Bechdel Test, which is indeed a (new, Left-wing) iron-clad law of all fiction, for all time. (chortle) I have seen that damned thing dragged out of the mud and propped up as if it’s some kind of bulletproof argument, so many times, I wish I had $5 for every instance. I’d be a rich man.

  18. I suspect, if there is any sort of rule of thumb, it is don’t be a jerk. Do some basic research, skip gratuitous insults (deliberate is different), and write a great, fun-to-read story.

  19. Oh well, if you insist I can give you written permission to use a sauna. Since I am a bona fide Finn I presumably have that right… Also, to use Finnish swear words. 😀 (Should I charge for that? It might become a nice new revenue source, maybe… how many people in USA like sauna?)

  20. “What you might hope for, is to make them criticize you for the right reasons. Because you’ve written passionately from the heart. And told a story worth remembering. And you didn’t keep looking in your rear-view mirror — for the Cultural Appropriation Police, and their red-white-blue lights flashing at you.”

    This. This is the most important. Story trumps everything.

    Cultural Appropriation is one of those fictions created to accuse and blame and nothing much else. In my eyes, it shares the same status as “mansplaining” and “white privilege.” Modern day humanity is a smorgasbord of adopted and assimilated cultures. As writers, our first duty is to tell an awesome tale. The process involves delving into the minds of our characters, whatever their cultural and ethnical backgrounds may be, and to do so truly (I’m channeling Hemingway here). To now limit that process because it might offend someone somewhere does a disservice to the story. In fact, it offends my storytelling process.

    And the reason I believe this is because the alternative will result in even more absurdity.

    • Well said. I was traveling yesterday and am late to this party. But as others have said, I’m going to write what I darn well please. Anyone who doesn’t like it can go hang.

  21. Mark

    Regarding the perfect society of Star Trek: The great part of DS9 was that it showed lots of cracks and rot in that perfection. The Federation was entirely too human..