Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recommended reading: two totally badass essays on marginalization in SF/fantasy

As you might have guessed from my post on writing the damsel in distress, I'm not really comfortable writing about big issues - when it comes to sexism, racism, religion, or anything that raises people's hackles, really, I get flustered. I write about these things best through fiction, and when asked to address them directly, my answer usually tumbles out as something on the level of "Sexism bad, tree pretty." So I have a deep admiration for people who can write beautifully about these subjects.

One of those people is LJ user rawles, whose post "Now that we've got that clear, and you know that I'm not here..." addresses the Uhura/Spock relationship in the new Star Trek movie - the fan backlash, the presumption that putting a strong female character in a romantic relationship lessens her power, and the continued dearth of strong black female characters on the screen. To quote: "OMG. A black girl is fucking Spock."

That essay reminded me of Catherynne M. Valente's "Let me tell you a story" post, which in addressing the RaceFail debate attempted to explain why it's so important that characters of marginalized race/gender/sexuality/class/etc. are positively portrayed in genre fiction. "Stories," she writes, "teach us how to win through, how to perservere, how to live. [...] This is what stories do. They say: you are worthy of the world, no less than these heroes." And if there are no heroes like you in the stories you take in?

I think these two essays are saying the same thing in two very different ways: that seeing that reflection of ourselves in the fiction we take in is vital - perhaps especially in genre fiction, which deals in stunning heroics and symbolism. I'm familiar with Cat's search for heroes like myself in stories and with rawles's "OMG A [BI/LESBIAN] GIRL" gut reaction when I actually find one (Hi, entire female cast of Torchwood). They both put it into words a helluva lot better than I could.

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