Monday, June 1, 2009

Meeting My Imminent Replacements

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Yesterday, I had a pleasant afternoon, talking with a local writers group (shown above). I asked if the group had a name and, after some hesitation, was told, "Universal Dominance Collaborators," and then, in a lower voice, "or more conventionally PhillySpecFic." So I think it's a case of not really having a formal name, but only a common determination to write better. (And, since I just now misplaced my notebook somewhere in the room, I may have gotten the names wrong anyway.)

One thing I found particularly engaging was how extremely interested they all were in methods to avoid imbuing imagined races with old racial stereotypes. To somebody of my age, this is remarkable, because I can remember when the stereotypes weren't relegated to the subtext at all -- they were right on the surface. So the thought of somebody saying, "Yeah, we have Jews and African Americans in our country club. But no orcs!" strikes me as genuine progress.

Musing it over afterwards, I formulated my thoughts into two rules:

1. Writers should be extremely sensitive to avoid stereotypes, not only regarding race, gender, age, and ethnicity, but in every other possible category as well: People from California, white guys who chew gum, bocci players, women electrical engineers, members of their own families . . . Not for reasons of "political correctness" but simply because it's our job to record the world as it is, rather than as we were told it is.

2. Readers should cut us all the slack in the world, and always assume the best of our intentions.

And right now I'm off to D.C.! I'll report back on the experience soon.

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4 comments:

haengbok92 said...

Thank you so much for visiting us and sharing your dynamic presence and insight with our group! Your visit was a true delight, and I feel very inspired now as I jump in for my next story. (I'm totally writing a hard sf story with spaceships next) You were incredibly generous with your time and energy and I really appreciated your thoughts on stereotypes, developing non-humans, and your insight into the field.

Again, thank you and best of success in your future work and travels.

Hugs from Vash (the girl with the braids)

S said...

Ha! Yes, yes, our wonderful name. I believe at one time, the group _was_ called something like "The Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dark Fiction &/or Horror Universal Dominance Collaborative and Workshop" -- credit Vash for that -- but at this point we just call ourselves, uh, the name of our mailing list.

Thank you very much for coming to share your thoughts, insight, and experience with us. We are very lucky to have such marvelous and prominent SF writers in Philly (I think the New Yorkers sometimes get confused about how this can be), and we benefit enormously from your generosity when you're willing to make the time to spend an afternoon with us. Thank you again!

- Susannah (second from the right in front)

Sonja said...

Thanks for meeting with us on Sunday. It was nice of you to make yourself accessible and to teach us about the sci fi world. (Maybe you could help us think of a name? I think we need one!)

By the way, are you entirely sure that orcs don't belong to country clubs? I thought I read somewhere that Fuld and Skilling have orc blood in them, and they probably would have belonged to country clubs. But then again, sometimes the newspapers get the facts wrong when they're covering the orc beat.

best
Sonja

Barbara A. Barnett said...

Ditto all of the above. It was very generous of you to share your time and thoughts with us, and I'm sure my fellow workshoppers got as much out of it as I did.

~Barbara