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Getting into Other People's Stories

To me, one of the strangest things about the reactions of some of the SF&F fans to Racefail (one summary) and Mammothfail (one summary) is their complete lack of willingness to try to put themselves in the shoes of the fans of color who have been hurt and angered by these incidents.

Think about it: we're talking fans of a genre that considers it a pleasure to read or watch works that put the reader into the minds of fantastic or alien creatures. Whether you're talking about Vulcans, Kzinti, and Atevi, or or elves, dwarves, and youkai, science fiction and fantasy readers like to get inside different types of minds.

Or at least, they say they do. But if that is the case, why do some of them find it so hard to get inside the heads of members of their own species who happen to have a different life-experience? If you're going to get involved and excited about the troubles and tribulations of fictional beings, the least you could do would be to make the same effort with your fellow human beings in this world we share - and not greet each exclamation of pain and dismay with "I don't see why that's a problem" or "It's just a story - stop whining."

Here are some stories to get you started. Some of them may be familiar, but perhaps others of them may be new to you:

  • Stories of Native American children and parents, and their encounters with the usual U.S. school curriculum and "classic" U.S. children's books, among other things
  • Many, many stories by people of color the world over are reviewed and tagged for you at 50books_poc, so that if SF is your passion, you can find that, and so on.
  • The Remyth Project, in which people of color take back the myths that other groups have appropriated and use them creatively.
  • The justly famous essay Shame, in which African American writer Pam Noles takes us back to her fantasy- and SF-loving childhood.
  • I Didn’t Dream of Dragons, in which the Indian-born author remembers, with love and pain, the effect of reading Western mainstream fantasy during her childhood.

And throughout the day today, at the newly created community Fans of Color United, you'll find many more stories posted.

Stories are important. Stories, in fact, are life. Read. Learn. Grow.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
And write!

Lovely post. I don't understand the whole "it's only a story!" rubbish. It's like Plato hatin' on poets all over again. It didn't work then, why the hell should it work now?
May. 18th, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
And that line is even more stupid, because it's only a story when someone gets upset. All other times, it's the greatest thing known to man and how dare you not bow down before it's wondrous visage.
May. 19th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)

So true!

May. 19th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
I hate that, too!

"It's just a story!"

May. 19th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)

The fanboys in particular often have that dichotomy where they love their stuff beyond all reason, but dis anyone else who has an emotional reaction about anything else.

May. 20th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
You see that pattern so, so often amongst fanboys of a different stripe in the wars over sports mascots -- their emotionally defensive resistance to squee-harshing and change of the way things have always been is utterly right and proper, of course, but their opponents are utterly hysterical and over-sensitive.
May. 20th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)

Yes ... but these are people's lives, dammit! (I know you know that all too well - that was a reflexive reaction.)

A huge part of it is just lack of empathy ... you get these INTx boys (or a few ISTx - even worse, I think), they were picked on growing up because they were geeky, and now they feel successful and think everybody's problems are of that level - just a phase, you can get over it, etc.

They aren't comfortable with feelings to begin with, and now that they have their egos pumped up to a comfortable level, it just isn't worth imperiling that self-image for someone else. Especially if that person is only an abstraction somewhere on the Intarwebs.

And besides, any argument is worth winning at any cost.

May. 20th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
Yes ... but these are people's lives, dammit! (I know you know that all too well - that was a reflexive reaction.)

And meanwhile the aghast fanboys are snapping back "But this is BASEBALL! (Or football, or Star Wars, or whatever other sacred cow we have the unbearable gall to question. I'm not sure which sort tends to be worse -- the geeks who are used to having a chip on their shoulder from feeling like they have to defend their genre love to sneering mundanes, or the sports freaks who are used to massive amounts of mainstream cultural reinforcement that by gum, their obsession is absolutely 100% NORMAL and manly important and worthy of all exaltation, and anyone who disagrees is probably some hysterical PC chick who just doesn't have the balls to see how AWESOME it all is...)

And besides, any argument is worth winning at any cost.

Eeeyep, especially if you can do lots of failsplaining in the process to demonstrate at great length how Other People are Being Wrong on the Internet and interrogating the text from the wrong perspective...
May. 19th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)

I'm glad it spoke to you! And you're absolutely right.

May. 18th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
Word OP. Thanks for the ReMyth link, I hadn't seen it before.
May. 19th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)

I'm glad I could help that way! (I'm still reading through everyone else's offerings.)

May. 19th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
And you were worried? :D
May. 19th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)

I always worry! "Do what you're best at," I always say ... I did find one error that I had to go back and correct.

(Still not sure about the voice/tone.)

May. 20th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
But if that is the case, why do some of them find it so hard to get inside the heads of members of their own species who happen to have a different life-experience?

Ah, but the aliens and robots and dragons and elves never, ever do anything to harsh the squee, like criticizing how they're portrayed or raising uncomfortable issues of real-life injustice. And just look at how slow and incomplete a process it's been to increase portrayal of female characters as three-dimensional people rather than a couple of stock figures...
May. 20th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)

Of course ... but again, this is a group that prides themselves on forward thinking!

The problem is, of course, that I'm preaching to the choir here - the people who need this will never read it, and the people who are reading it don't need it.


(And I don't know that I'm that persuasive, anyway.)

May. 20th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, I guess I have just enough of a lifetime of cynicism and low expectations built up at this point that I'm mostly past surprising. Although I will confess to a bit of eyebrow-raising at the irony of how much foot-eating has been going on from folks who are supposedly professionals in that whole matter of shaping and selecting words and playing with ideas...
May. 20th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)

Indeed ... also, enough time has passed since the time I became old enough to recognize these issues existed that now there's no denying the fact that I'm well into middle age - and it's still happening! Grrrr! Why aren't these guys evolving/growing?

I think in many ways I will be naive until the day I die.

May. 20th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
Naive? Maybe, or maybe just more hopeful and idealistic than a bitter pessimistic cynic like me can ever hope to manage. It's balance! :)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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