Blog Archives

Writing Diversity

I’m very big on diversity in writing, particularly when it comes to fantasy and science-fiction.

Our dominant, mass-media-driven culture is keen on portraying “normal” (=”good and right”) in very restrictive terms. (I’ve talked about this elsewhere.) With humanity still struggling with our tragic history of hatred and bigotry and many of us trying our best to get past that (unfortunately, far too many seem quite content to wallow in it), value judgements disguised as entertainment only undermine the slow climb towards equality.

That said… “political correctness” kills creativity.

Before you lynch me or stop reading, please understand. I’m not advocating that you portray prejudice and bigotry and hatred and all the countless “isms” as good things. In fact, our job as writers is to challenge the “isms” and show what the alternatives can be. Writing should show and celebrate the amazing and endless variety that occurs within humanity – and explore what can lie outside of that, when we’re playing with the supernatural or extra-terrestrial or otherwise non-human. Read the rest of this entry

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Anthropomorphization

anthropomorphize: 1. To endow with human qualities. 2. To attribute human characteristics to something that is non-human. (from wiktionary)

I live with four cats who are a fundamental daily part of my life. I know I’m guilty of anthropomorphizing them sometimes, although I make a serious effort to understand them on their own terms, and it’s more often teasing than for real.

I’m the admin of a lolcats (and other lolanimals) site, which is heavy on the sincere animal lovers, but a deliberate part of the game involves reading human facial expressions, body language, motivation, thought processes, and/or other interpretation into photos of cats (and other animals). This is, however, a game, and many of the regulars are fascinated by the realities of animals.

Assuming, of course, that one isn’t writing something deliberately playing with the idea… as a writer, anthropomorphizing animals is simply unforgivable for multiple reasons. Read the rest of this entry

Assumptions: Culture and Technology

Along the same lines as my previous post about assumptions, but of a different kind:

Why is it that fantasy fiction is, with overwhelming frequency, set in a thinly-disguised version of Dark Ages, or possibly Renaissance, Western Europe? There are exceptions, of course, but this has become a kind of industry standard.

Even if there’s no sign of Christianity as such, basic Christian values as understood in the modern mainstream Western world (not the same values as understood in actual medieval Europe) are prevalent. Men have careers and literally wear the trousers; women stay home to mind the fourteen kids and cook the meals in long skirts, although they may have access to limited career options. Charity may be present, but shaming of single mothers or same-sex relationships or non-monogamy may also be present if acknowledged as possible at all. If you’re creating a world, rather than using a historical time period per se as your setting, then why swallow this whole instead of experimenting? I’m not suggesting anything as heavy-handed as having the men stay home with the kids and the women all have careers; it’s not a feasible idea, anyway, biologically. Why not make at least small changes in the social structure? It makes it genuinely your own world, instead of a generic medieval setting. Whatever aspects you want or need for your particular story, great, by all means keep them – but do it as a deliberate and conscious choice, not by default, and take a good look at the other aspects of the society that you might be able to play around with. Read the rest of this entry

Assumptions: Gender and Sex

Everyone has basic assumptions about the world around us. We have to; they’re a part of how we keep functioning.

When you’re writing, however, and especially if you’re writing speculative fiction of any sort (speculative fiction is an umbrella term for fantasy, science fiction, and anything else that doesn’t fit precisely into either but is nonetheless outside “normal reality”), it’s a good time to take a look at your own assumptions. Speculative fiction is, after all, about transgressing the normal rules. I’m not going to try to give specific instances of these, mainly because there are so many I’ve long since lost count and I’d rather not single out individual works from a long list.

A personal pet peeve is the assignment of gender to absolutely everything. Beings of kinds that have no sexual reproduction nonetheless are treated as intrinsically either males or females, no reason for this offered, and Western society being what it is, that tends to then colour everything else associated with that being. Read the rest of this entry

Right brain + left brain = magic

Everyone’s perception of the direct process of creativity is going to be unique to them. I experience it in terms of two halves working together – right brain and left brain, for lack of any terminology that works better.

The story itself, the content, often feels like it comes from outside of me; I’m just watching the events, writing them down as rapidly as my hand can move. Characters and setting are there, waiting for me to tap into them, and once I tune in properly, the characters go ahead and do their thing. Friends have many times heard me muttering dire curses on a character who simply refuses to do what I would prefer that they do. The pure raw material comes from the creative and holistic right side of my brain, which immerses itself in the emotions and experiences and sees the story as a unified whole.

That’s wonderful, and intoxicating, and that side has strengthened over a lifetime of encouragement although it was pretty vivid even as a child. Maybe it just never had the chance to curl up and go dormant. However, it isn’t enough to make a writer. Read the rest of this entry