So I thought I’d start my contributions to the blog with some stuff that came out of SIWC16.
Daniel José Older was our f-bomb droppin,’ supremacy-smacking firebrand keynote at SIWC16 this year, and also ran a couple great workshops. The first, Writing the Other, covered the really important topic of ‘diversity’ in writing, what that means exactly, and how those of us with privilege of various sorts can do to not replicate harm on underprivileged groups when we write.
Luckily he’s done a piece on Buzzfeed that sums the 12 points from that workshop: https://www.buzzfeed.com/danieljoseolder/fundamentals-of-writing-the-other?utm_term=.oo2vv1XR0#.wsE11n4Qp
All of us have some privilege – are we White? able-bodied? male? cis-gendered? straight? from the First World? – and so I think we should all take some time to really consider how to tackle writing any characters that don’t reflect us and our own experiences and particular place in the world.
And not, as Daniel (and many others) points out, just for touchy-feely PC-ness. Because writing people different from us, in the way they too often are – stereotypical, sloppy, cardboard cutouts – is simply bad writing. Respecting our craft means doing the work of getting a real idea of what different characters would be like, feel, and experience in our worlds. And differences in race, gender, class, sexuality, and so on make people’s lives different, make them react differently, make them make different decisions, trust and fear different things, carry different knowledges.
Those of us who write SF or fantasy already need to consider this if we are writing ‘new races’ (elves, aliens, whatever). It’s a simple logical extension to ask the same questions in Daniel’s 12 points for those ‘new’ groups, as well as the human ones we already have.
I think everyone can take something useful away from these 12 points, no matter what the genre, characters, setting, or worlds you are writing.