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Over-thinking, or legit issue (regarding social awareness in my writing) (1 Viewer)

The Green Shield

WF Veterans
Potential Trigger Warning about race?
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So recently Twitter got into a war over the fact that there's a lack of diversity within the publishing world, ie that white authors write about POC/cultures and get praised for it while the POC from that culture get ignored because they're apparently not 'legit'.


That got me thinking. I'm writing high fantasy and while none of my characters obviously borrow from real-world cultures (meaning there's no transplanted Japan in my story -- none of my characters are meant to be any real-world ethnicities), there are characters whose names you'd find in, say, Eastern culture like 'Mishu Jerni' or 'Albius Hak'.


Either I'm just noticing a potential issue with my story, or I'm wholly misinterpreting the discussion, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes by having half-assed versions of real cultures in my fantasy and be just another white idiot thinking he can just yoink random bits of cultures from our world into his story.


So, what do you think? Overthinking once again or is this a legit thing I need to look at?
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
So recently Twitter got into a war over the fact that there's a lack of diversity within the publishing world, ie that white authors write about POC/cultures and get praised for it while the POC from that culture get ignored because they're apparently not 'legit'.
This is why I don't do Twitter.

Publishers want to publish books that sell. Writers do 'immersion research' -- immersing themselves in the culture that they'd like to write about -- in order to be authentic. Someone from a particular culture would already know the culture so the writing would automatically be authentic. Since this is highly desirable I don't really believe that there is this race difficulty in publishing that Twitter seems to think is there.
 

Xander416

Senior Member
I think you're overthinking it. I'm pretty well-read in history, but I never would have taken a name like "Albius Hak" as anything but made up. The way I see it, somebody in the world somewhere is going to be offended by something I do just through the course of my daily life no matter what I intend or how I try to mitigate it, so why worry about it? It's not like I'm out committing hate crimes.
 

The Green Shield

WF Veterans
Twitter is a complete cesspool. Don't do that to yourself.
It is, I don't doubt it. That said, I can't just ignore legit complaints from Asian authors/readers who go, 'OK, I'm sick to death of white authors appropriating my culture into their work and get lauded for it while I get completely ignored."

I think this will be something I have to keep in mind. Even if the countries Mishu and Albius Hak are from are NOT heavily based on real-world Asian countries, even if they're their own unique cultures with their own unique traditions, perhaps it's worth thinking about if I'm having characters with obvious Asian-like names. Ditto if I have a character with a Middle Eastern-like name, etc.
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
Ignore is the most powerful 21st century word. Ignorance is the most detrimental 21st century word.
 
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The Green Shield

WF Veterans
I think you're overthinking it. I'm pretty well-read in history, but I never would have taken a name like "Albius Hak" as anything but made up. The way I see it, somebody in the world somewhere is going to be offended by something I do just through the course of my daily life no matter what I intend or how I try to mitigate it, so why worry about it? It's not like I'm out committing hate crimes.
Thing is, 'Hak' is a legit Cambodian surname. I know this because one of my friends is Cambodian, named Bonthouen Hak. I did ask him if it were OK to use his surname, and he said yes. He especially liked it when I told him Hak was a badass general.

I believe the lesson here is, research the names. :3
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Right now Joss Whedon, is rightly being pilloried for some very disturbing behaviour. Yet his Firefly series is an amazing piece of work. I can see why the studio cancelled it. The darkly coloured cultural mishmash it is set in is enough to set it apart from the Star Trek universe that all money orientated executives aspire to. A lot, and I mean a hell of a lot, of writing is about culture clashes. About getting out of your rut and seeing the world from a different perspective. Science Fiction is particularly good at this. Don't restrict yourself.

As for the publishing industry, who here has read a book by a writer from an ethnic minority?

Potential Trigger Warning about race?
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So recently Twitter got into a war over the fact that there's a lack of diversity within the publishing world, ie that white authors write about POC/cultures and get praised for it while the POC from that culture get ignored because they're apparently not 'legit'.


That got me thinking. I'm writing high fantasy and while none of my characters obviously borrow from real-world cultures (meaning there's no transplanted Japan in my story -- none of my characters are meant to be any real-world ethnicities), there are characters whose names you'd find in, say, Eastern culture like 'Mishu Jerni' or 'Albius Hak'.


Either I'm just noticing a potential issue with my story, or I'm wholly misinterpreting the discussion, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes by having half-assed versions of real cultures in my fantasy and be just another white idiot thinking he can just yoink random bits of cultures from our world into his story.


So, what do you think? Overthinking once again or is this a legit thing I need to look at?
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
It is, I don't doubt it. That said, I can't just ignore legit complaints from Asian authors/readers who go, 'OK, I'm sick to death of white authors appropriating my culture into their work and get lauded for it while I get completely ignored."
Name recognition is a thing that belongs under the heading 'Marketing' in this wonderful/terrible pursuit of writing and publishing. I was just at the beginning of thinking that I could write a book when I was in a book store and saw a big display for a book titled Star by PAMELA ANDERSON.

Pamela freakin' ANDERSON.

She might not be a big name now but she had lots of name recognition at that point as an actress and for her looks, honestly. Blonde bombshell all the way. She was smart enough to take her name recognition, her brand, and capitalize on it. The books are ghostwritten by someone who could see at least some guaranteed sales because of the name.

Why do I mention this?

All of us have the name recognition problem unless we're a celebrity. Notice how many actors and politicians (especially disgraced politicians) and political commentators write books. It's not all because they had a burning desire to write a book it's because they're pretty sure that they have enough brand recognition to sell some books.

So is it racial prejudice if an unknown Asian author (I'm not even trying to make a determination if their work is good or if it sucks though that should be a consideration as well) has to battle to get representation or a contract or get enough attention to sell books? Or is it the fact that they're participating in the same marketplace toiling up the same hill as the rest of us?

Just because I might complain about something that I think is happening doesn't mean it is and I don't think I'm alone in that.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
It is, I don't doubt it. That said, I can't just ignore legit complaints from Asian authors/readers who go, 'OK, I'm sick to death of white authors appropriating my culture into their work and get lauded for it while I get completely ignored."

I think this will be something I have to keep in mind. Even if the countries Mishu and Albius Hak are from are NOT heavily based on real-world Asian countries, even if they're their own unique cultures with their own unique traditions, perhaps it's worth thinking about if I'm having characters with obvious Asian-like names. Ditto if I have a character with a Middle Eastern-like name, etc.

Why do you give a crap what anyone says online? Honestly, answer the question. What some whiny idiot says doesn't matter. Just write what you want to write and avoid the morons.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
It is, I don't doubt it. That said, I can't just ignore legit complaints from Asian authors/readers who go, 'OK, I'm sick to death of white authors appropriating my culture into their work and get lauded for it while I get completely ignored."
Maybe the problem is your writing unnamed Asian authors. Assuming it's because the writer is a different color is WAY weird, as 99% of the time, you've no idea what the race of the writer is.

I've no problem with people writing other cultures, so long as it's respected and well-done. Robert Downey Jr., performed in black face for the majority of the film "Tropic Thunder". The vast majority of black people enjoyed it. Why? Because he did a damn good job being a black guy. The problem is often the caricatures, steeped in silly stereotypes, that pisses people off. Honor the people and culture and it won't matter. Oh, and stay away from the "white savior" trope. It's gross and massively overdone.

I think this will be something I have to keep in mind. Even if the countries Mishu and Albius Hak are from are NOT heavily based on real-world Asian countries, even if they're their own unique cultures with their own unique traditions, perhaps it's worth thinking about if I'm having characters with obvious Asian-like names. Ditto if I have a character with a Middle Eastern-like name, etc.
So what if the people are transplants from a different country? They were born and raised in their adopted lands, and thus, behave as the people do. Would the names heavily influence their behaviors or cultural identification? Heck, our daughter's name is Indian in origin, but we are clearly not Indian. We liked the name and it's meaning. So don't put too much value on the names.
 

apocalypsegal

Senior Member
The thing is, you can throw a pillow and hit someone who is going to hate your book, who will think you "stole" their culture in writing it, or whatever might stick in their craw that day. All any of us can do is be honest when writing characters that are not ourselves. A woman can write about men, men about women, whites about blacks, blacks about Asians, on and on. Be respectful, avoid stereotypes -- black men are pimps, basketball players, drug addicts, or rap singers -- (though some are indeed one or maybe even all of those things, not every single one), women are weak, or ballbreakers, Asians are all super smart, Jews are moneygrabbing crooks, whatever it may be.

It's actually easy to write about anyone, if you take the time to research, to get to know people, to understand that at the base, we are all human beings, we want the same things, we celebrate or mourn the same things. Get out there and meet people. Talk to those with a different culture, who grew up poor or rich, religious or not, pretty/handsome or not. As a writer, knowledge and experience are your best tools.

And for the record, Twitter is almost always in an uproar about something. Non-representation in anything has been around a long time, and many of us have been working hard to make that change.
 

Henny

Member
Twitter is toxic to me

Potential Trigger Warning about race?
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
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So recently Twitter got into a war over the fact that there's a lack of diversity within the publishing world, ie that white authors write about POC/cultures and get praised for it while the POC from that culture get ignored because they're apparently not 'legit'.


That got me thinking. I'm writing high fantasy and while none of my characters obviously borrow from real-world cultures (meaning there's no transplanted Japan in my story -- none of my characters are meant to be any real-world ethnicities), there are characters whose names you'd find in, say, Eastern culture like 'Mishu Jerni' or 'Albius Hak'.


Either I'm just noticing a potential issue with my story, or I'm wholly misinterpreting the discussion, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes by having half-assed versions of real cultures in my fantasy and be just another white idiot thinking he can just yoink random bits of cultures from our world into his story.


So, what do you think? Overthinking once again or is this a legit thing I need to look at?


I dont do twitter anymore

Too much toxicity for me in there, I can't get to write my thoughts peacefully, I thought It was a good outlet but. Nah, I tried tumblr instead. I suggest you try it. Tumblr became my online diary now.
 

Xander416

Senior Member
It is, I don't doubt it. That said, I can't just ignore legit complaints from Asian authors/readers who go, 'OK, I'm sick to death of white authors appropriating my culture into their work and get lauded for it while I get completely ignored."

I think this will be something I have to keep in mind. Even if the countries Mishu and Albius Hak are from are NOT heavily based on real-world Asian countries, even if they're their own unique cultures with their own unique traditions, perhaps it's worth thinking about if I'm having characters with obvious Asian-like names. Ditto if I have a character with a Middle Eastern-like name, etc.
What's the alternative, then? Have nothing but characters matching our own individual race populating our works? Sounds like an easy route to being deemed racist. I include characters of all races on all sides of the moral spectrum because it's an accurate depiction of the world we live in, not because I want to "appropriate" their cultures. If someone takes issue with that, it's their problem. This toe stepping around race that people are being forced to do these days has degraded into outright madness.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Potential Trigger Warning about race?
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So recently Twitter got into a war over the fact that there's a lack of diversity within the publishing world, ie that white authors write about POC/cultures and get praised for it while the POC from that culture get ignored because they're apparently not 'legit'.


That got me thinking. I'm writing high fantasy and while none of my characters obviously borrow from real-world cultures (meaning there's no transplanted Japan in my story -- none of my characters are meant to be any real-world ethnicities), there are characters whose names you'd find in, say, Eastern culture like 'Mishu Jerni' or 'Albius Hak'.


Either I'm just noticing a potential issue with my story, or I'm wholly misinterpreting the discussion, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes by having half-assed versions of real cultures in my fantasy and be just another white idiot thinking he can just yoink random bits of cultures from our world into his story.


So, what do you think? Overthinking once again or is this a legit thing I need to look at?

The author who wrote Memoirs of a Geisha is a white American, and he wrote a novel set in Japan and it became a best seller. So perhaps a lot of people don't care therefore?
 

Xander416

Senior Member
The author who wrote Memoirs of a Geisha is a white American, and he wrote a novel set in Japan and it became a best seller. So perhaps a lot of people don't care therefore?
The problem is that today we're stuck dealing with a culture of perpetual victimhood where anything and everything in regards white people's interactions with minorities is seen as some kind of slight against them. Tettsuo's question here, at least from my interpretation (Tettsuo, if I'm incorrect, please feel free to clarify) seems to boil down to whether or not it's acceptable to simply include Asian or Asian-inspired people in his story, the whole idea of which I think is downright absurd.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
The problem is that today we're stuck dealing with a culture of perpetual victimhood where anything and everything in regards white people's interactions with minorities is seen as some kind of slight against them. Tettsuo's question here, at least from my interpretation (Tettsuo, if I'm incorrect, please feel free to clarify) seems to boil down to whether or not it's acceptable to simply include Asian or Asian-inspired people in his story, the whole idea of which I think is downright absurd.

And honestly, more people need to be willing to tell those people what to go do with themselves, graphically, rather than caving in to the identity politics machine. Authors are not beholden to the mad ramblings of the clueless crowd. People can write what they want. The fact that people still ask about this shows that we're not getting the word out.
 

vranger

Staff member
Global Moderator
What's the alternative, then? Have nothing but characters matching our own individual race populating our works? Sounds like an easy route to being deemed racist. I include characters of all races on all sides of the moral spectrum because it's an accurate depiction of the world we live in, not because I want to "appropriate" their cultures. If someone takes issue with that, it's their problem. This toe stepping around race that people are being forced to do these days has degraded into outright madness.

"Cultural appropriation" is just another of many pieces of sociological nonsense thought up by people who have nothing better to do, and evidently no time to think at all. If white Americans didn't appreciate Mexican food, there would be far fewer viable Mexican restaurants in the USA. Oh, but the faithful would say, "Cultural Appropriation" is when a non-Mexican opens a Mexican restaurant. (That's a lie, because I see the accusation made in many other situations, but that's what they say). Again, nonsense. If this is valid, the rest of the world can stop wearing Western clothing, serving Western food in their own restaurants, operating factories to MAKE Western clothing and myriad other products for their own profit ... and on and on. But guess what? I have YET to complain if people in China or Japan or Palestine or Uganda want to wear Western clothing. It doesn't threaten or insult me in any way.

A new Mexican restaurant recently opened in our town. Half their menu is Mexican, and half their menu is not. Should I go picket them and charge them with "cultural appropriation"? Certainly not, because I have a lick of sense, AND respect for them to serve whatever pleases them that makes their business a success. What is called "cultural appropriation" is virtually ALWAYS "cultural APPRECIATION", which is a compliment, not a slight.
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
There's a weird meta-argument to be made that if it's coming out of your mouth, it's inalienably your story, no matter what you are drawing from. The concept of 'my culture' is a strange one. As a young American, I struggle with it due to our intense social isolation. Culture could be seen as the kind of thing where contact implies ownership. Ideas are held nowhere but the mind; once they're there, there is no getting them out. No, I'm not going to have the same conception of the Kimono as a Japanese woman born in the 1920s. But I am going to have a conception, and I'm perfectly capable of writing about that.
legit issue
tell us more, dissenting opinion
 

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