Dash (spacehawk) wrote in exp_horizons,

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Cultural Appropriation

This conversation has probably been held many times before, about cultural appropriation and speculative fiction, but I feel the need to chime in with my own two cents. We are a speculative fiction magazine. We like stories which are imaginative and creative. But we are also committed to increasing the authentic representation of under-represented cultures and peoples. This is not a contradiction.

It bothers me as an editor and as a human being when I see authors NOT of a certain culture (usually white authors in my experience) inventing customs, traditions, beliefs and mythologies and attributing them to people from that culture (always PoC cultures), consciously, and intentionally. I know I am preaching to the choir here about why this happens, that these white authors feel they are somehow entitled to do this (the "I have the right to write anything I want!" argument, to which I respond, "Yes, but I have the right not to publish it and to tell you why"), and that these white authors have absolutely no concept that what they are doing could be a problem to anyone, and why that might be. (One author told me he completely invented the customs/traditions/cultural significances in order to "honor" the PoC in question, since he felt bad for them, so poor and oppressed. Huh? I have even heard the "explanation" by one such author that the plot of one such story was a metaphor for how white people fail to understand the spirituality and culture of the PoC in question- oh the irony there, given that the story reached its conclusion via the creation of a mythological monster completely invented by the white author and attributed to the PoC culture in question- in the name of creative freedom!)

When white-invented monsters of PoC cultures eat white people (despite the warnings of the locals!), we are no closer to achieving authentic representation of PoC in speculative fiction. We're backing up several steps and undergirding the principle that white people have the final say how PoC cultures can and should be represented in fiction- as determined by what those white people, and their readers, would like to see those cultures have and be. And if those readers would like to see the Giant Flying Man-Eating Squid of Ghana, then so be it! (It only eats white tourists who ignore the warnings, though.)

Seriously, people. Do your friggin' research. Yes, it's easier to make up some "exotic" creature or custom of some "exotic" people, but this is a) lazy writing and b) cultural appropriation. And cultural appropriation is not cool.

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