Tuesday, May 28, 2019

some thoughts on writing the 'other' and the mob mentality of identity politics versus fiction

Prompted by this article here, derived from a lot of stuff I've been thinking about for the last two decades.

1. It's not possible to write a book that appeals to everyone.
2. It's not possible to write a book that portrays everyone in a positive and affirming light.
3. If you don't like this book, there's another one you will like.
4. There might be less of a brouhaha over "writing the other" if there were more "others" getting published.
5. No culture is a monoculture (this is the inverse of intersectionality, but no one seems to notice).
6. Publishing is, by and large, a monoculture.
7. Just because your subculture (or the one you want to read about) isn't mainstream, doesn't mean there aren't books out there for you to read and enjoy. Go find your tribe and promote it instead of whining about why someone isn't bringing self-affirmation to your inbox/doorstep.
8. It would be great if the gatekeepers of publishing (agents, first readers, editorial assistants) were more diverse.
9. It would also be great if the people who tally up the supposed metrics of which editors publish people of color/queerness/ability actually had accurate data to work with, because their assumptions are wrong.
10. Don't assume someone's experiences based on their appearance.
11. Own voices are great. Allies are also great.
12. Writing only characters that match my personal background and experience is erasure, which is tenfold less cool than writing the other and making a few mistakes.
13. Writing the other in a lazy or cliched way is probably still not as bad as erasure. Hard to calculate that one.
14. You must research the shit out of any subject you choose to write about that you don't have first-hand experience with. Relying on the words of other fiction writers is not research. Have at least three primary sources. Ideally two of them should be live people.
15. Trying to write a book that will appeal to everyone, pass everyone's virtue standards, and still be entertaining literature is probably impossible. You will make yourself crazy if you try. Accept that no matter what you write there will be a bell curve of responses to it. If you can't keep the perspective that 10% of readers are going to hate your book no matter what, you probably should just write for yourself.