gaudior: (be the change)
Usually, in discussions of cultural appropriation, a white writer will say something along the lines of, "But you're saying that if I write anything about other cultures, you'll accuse me of cultural appropriation! If that's so, maybe I should just write about nothing but white people!" The usual (and, I think, sensible) response to this is, "There are worse things than trying and getting it wrong, the most important of which is not trying. Do your best, and use the criticism you get to do it better the next time-- if you're a professional writer, you'd better be able to handle the fact that not everyone will love everything you do without taking it personally."

This makes sense to me. But it also makes sense to me to create a basic set of guidelines and list of writers who have written about other cultures very well and respectfully, for two reasons. The first is that this will be an easy answer for people who raise the question spuriously and rhetorically-- one can just link them here. The second is that for people who ask the question because they are genuinely confused and want to write skillfully and respectfully about cultures not there own, it seems useful to try to set out basic guidelines and examples. To this end, I would very much appreciate others' suggestions for additions and revisions to these lists.

It is worth noting that I am far from the first person to write guidelines. My favorite is Nisi Shawl's essay Appropriate Cultural Appropriation which clearly and eloquently describes how to write well about cultures not your own; her use of Diantha Day Sprouse's metaphor of Invaders, Tourists and Guests is particularly useful. Elizabeth Bear also did a set of guidelines in her essay whatever you're doing, you're probably wrong. A number of similar posts were compiled by Micole and Rydra Wong here,, and they're definitely worth a perusal. I have not, however, found a compiled list of good examples of books and other media which do it well, so I hope that that may be a useful contribution to the dialogue.

Basic Guidelines. )
List of Books and Authors Whom I Believe Write Well About Cultures Not Their Own. )
gaudior: (Default)
Because I'm curious...

Writers on my flist-- how do you make time to write? And how do you get yourself to keep writing consistently?

Myself, I find that it works to have a block of time each day which is for writing-- I use "on the train between my jobs." It's about an hour, and it's relatively free from other stuff I could be doing. But I've also found that my motivation to keep writing is much higher as I'm getting toward the end of the book, such that I have little trouble getting myself to sit down and write even at times other than my scheduled time that day, if I miss that time. (Whereas before, I would often have days where at my scheduled time I was not in the mood/tired/hungry/too interested in reading a book/etc, and skip them.)

But how do other people do it? What works well for you?

--R
gaudior: (Utena fight)
So, a little while ago, [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo posted the following link. It leads to an essay arguing that slash is anti-feminist. I disliked the essay in general-- I found the author, Dissenter's, sarcasm obnoxious, and I was very unimpressed with her disabling all comments except from people with whom she agreed.* But I think that it did make a number of interesting arguments. cut for (relatively old) theory. )More importantly, I think that any generalization about slash and why people write it is just that-- a generalization. So exceptions can be found to it, because we're talking about human creativity, and that's all about exceptions. What Dissenter has pointed out, I feel, is not the flaws in slash, but the flaws inbad slash. She's right that, in badly-written slash, you do find a fair number of things like weepy "feminized" non-consenting bottoms, bitchy or nonexistant female characters, etc, and she's right that these things are problematic. But I think her mistake is in assuming that these are features of all slash.

So... I've come up with a rating system, based loosely on her essay, of "how feminist your slash is." Because I believe that we can find a whole lot of stories which subvert the patriarchy in all kinds of fun ways.****

So: The Feminist Slash-Rating Scale

Give the story one point each if:

*the pairing do not fall into easily-visible "top/bottom=masculine/feminine" roles. Especially if they don't have a clear top and bottom.

*the female characters are fully-developed, admirable and three-dimensional, not "vapid, stupid, cold, calculating, grasping, unfairly demanding, physically disgusting, and generally lacking in any desire at all except for an overwhelming need to get married and have children."

*the female characters have sex drives, and are in no way condemned for this

*the sex is chosen and enjoyed by both/all parties, not forced on the bottom by the top.

*the characters actually deal with homophobia or the other social consequences of homosexuality in their context

*the characters think deeply about what this relationship means for their sexual and/or gender identities.

*the primary pairing is femmeslash (and is about the characters as people, not just for lezbeyun pr0n).

*the characters are actually canonically gay.

*the original source was written by a woman.

*the author plays with the characters' gender(s) in an interesting way (i.e., doing something other than simply recreating a heterosexual relationship).

*the characters raise a child together (without one of them simply being rewritten to take on the traditional feminine/mother role).****

Two points if the author is consciously addressing and playing with any of the issues raised by the above.

My own fic, Mercy of the Fallen, only scores a 5 or 6, depending on your interpretation of cannon. I think [livejournal.com profile] askerian's Teamworkverse gets a 6. The Sith Academygets 10 points, muchly because it gets a number of two-pointers because of its parodic playing with genre. E.E. Beck's extremely brilliant Vorkosigan fics, A Deeper Season and What Passing Bells****** together score 8 without any playing with genre at all, just because it's that good.

...but I'm actually surprised to realize that the fics I like aren't scoring higher. Hm. Can anyone find something that scores a perfect 11, or better? Does such a fic exist? If not, can people find other fics that score high (or, conversely, explain to me ways that the scale's no good)?

Yay, feminism.

--R

* because, in her words, "Clearly I am not in agreement with those who think slash is radical/progressive/feminist. Clearly, those who do think slash is radical/progressive/feminist are not in agreement with me. Going around in endless circles about whether it is or it isn’t does not, in my book, constitute a constructive or informative discussion." I find her dismissal of the idea that anyone (including her) might have logical or persuasive arguments, and might have something to teach each other... problematic.

** New Battlestar Galactica this week! YAAAYYY!!! Starbuck and President Roslin and SQUEE!!!

***I cannot overemphasize how strongly I disagree with the idea that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not feminist.

****And besides, I'm almost done with my dissertation, and I want recs! Now!

****I'm not including two of Dissenter's criteria-- a slash pairing breaking up to marry women, and authors who defensively insist on their own heterosexuality and get very upset if anyone mistakes them for a lesbian-- because I've never seen them. I'm sure they exist, but not in the slash I read. Have other people seen these things?

*****I'd been planning to rec these anyway, because they are SO GOOD. Seriously, it felt like getting a new Vorkosigan book, and I've really been missing those. It's Miles/Gregor slash, but it works.
gaudior: (hostility)
At some point, I decided recently, I want to write a book entitled something like Psychoanalytic Concepts in Plain English. And it will explain all of these interesting ideas in human terms, words of one syllable, such that they stop being abstract and actually make sense.

One part of it, I think, will be to have lots of quoted passages-- from memoirs and fiction and such-- that demonstrate each concept.

This one will be for 'transference.' )

It is possible someone has already written such a book. In which case, I hope someone points it out to me before I do too much work on this one. Grin.

--R
gaudior: (hostility)
I totally need to write this article in a few years when I've had more experience and clients.

But who the hell will publish it? )
gaudior: (Default)
I like it, tho. And in celebration, I shall do... well, not exactly a meme, but I ganked the idea from [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo: seven things I should like to NEVER SEE IN A WORK OF FICTION AGAIN.

1) Taking an otherwise undeveloped and neglected character and giving him/her a tremendous amount of character development immediately before killing him/her. So that we get to be all sad about a character death, and it gets to be all dramatic, without actually losing any of the main characters. This feels cheap to me. If you're going to develop someone, develop him/her-- and then keep him/her around so we get to see what happens next. If you're going to kill someone, make it real.

2) Obligatory romance. I like a good love story as much as the next rabid shoujo fan (i.e., quite a bit). But that means that I see love as something which is complicated and unpredictable, and each romance is unique. A "love interest" shoehorned into a plot which is really about something else loses all of the power of love, and doesn't really add much. (The converse of this is that I dearly love stories in which (straight) men and women are friends-- or in which queer characters of the same sex are. Love is awesome, as is sex-- but it isn't everything.)

3) A single gay character. Marvel comics are particularly guilty of this one: the story about a whole lot of straight people who have one (1) gay friend/team member/co-worker/etc... who is apparantly the only gay person in the universe. So there are some gay jokes, (which are okay because they have a gay character, doncha know) and maybe the gay character has Angst because s/he falls in love with a straight character... but s/he never does anything actually gay. Because there's no-one to do it with. So these characters do not date, have sex, have kids, or do anything else except give fashion advice and snark.

4) A "smart" character who appears to be a person of average intelligence who has swallowed a thesaurus. These are supposedly genius characters who don't actually do anything intelligent, who don't come up with intelligent plans or profound thoughts or clever jokes, but are "the smart guy." So they spend all their time in labs spouting incomprehensible technobabble, and they never say anything that doesn't have polysyllables. In X-Men, you can always tell that the writer's actually good because all of a sudden Beast becomes capable of using slang. Because, like, smart people do that, too. They just happen to be smart.

5) Monocultures. If you have an alien species, you had better give me a damn good reason for it if they all speak the same language, all have the same religion, all look alike racially, etc. It's like "the jungle planet,"-- planets are big, and they have multiple ecosystems. I would accept the answer that the planet is a hive mind, and so don't have different cultures because they never have enough distance separating them for such things to develop. But otherwise...no. If you don't have time to go into all the cultures, that's fine, but don't pretend they don't exist. (Star Trek, I'm looking at you.)

6) Female characters in historical settings who have modern sensibilities. I am a feminist, and proud to be one. But I know damn well that the way I'm a feminist is a product of my culture-- and particularly of birth-control technology and superior medicine and food-production techniques. In my culture it makes sense to have casual premarital sex, to treat anyone with a brain as equally able to do almost any kind of work, to value work done outside the home which brings in money more than work done inside the home which doesn't, etc. This just wasn't usually the case in pre-industrial times and places.

And the thing that people tend to miss is that this doesn't mean that most women resented it all the time. Because frankly, if it's 1300 Europe, everyone's life sucks, and everyone is stuck doing things that are difficult and unglamorous, and their best hope is heaven. I'm pretty sure that "women's work" was not seen as nearly as unimportant as people see it as being now-- because money was not, always, the major motivating force in people's lives. Survival was. Power and respect were not tied to work in exactly the same way they are now. In other words, not every single little girl wanted to run away and become a knight. I am eternally grateful to The Privilege of the Sword for the fact that the woman who learns swordfighting didn't want to-- she wanted to be a proper lady, becuase there was nothing wrong with that.

I realize that this makes it tricky if you just want to curl up with a nice fantasy novel that feels comfortable that you don't have to think about. But honestly.

7) Ignoring Christianity in settings where it's really, really present. I realize people worry about being banned. I realize that generic "gods" are easier to talk about than what you grew up with/what you grew up in opposition to. But sometimes you write American Gods, and you leave out Jesus almost entirely, and you spend an entire book talking about how Americans are so secular and this is no good country for gods, when in fact, it is an excellent country for one god, and he's won. And that's just lame.

...Hm. In looking over the list, it seems to mostly be annoyed at people for not thinking enough.

I'm cool with that.

--R

PS: VACATION!
gaudior: (sable)
This... is a sequel to my long Yami no Matsuei fic, Mercy of the Fallen. Except that this is not actually a good story. My beta-readers gave me useful suggestions as to how it could be made a good story, and I will totally use them at some point, but I just don't have the energy right now, because it involves a great deal of plot, which this just doesn't have. But I'm posting it anyway, because I kinda like it, and I think it's kind of a fun character sketch-- what do these characters look like eight years later?

Better. )
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