Playing Around with My Race Card

Myth 150Would you believe it if I told you that I ended up writing another review for The Bridge on the River Kwai meant to go up today? Luckily, I caught it in time and managed to keep it from going live. In order to make sure I have something to put up today, though, I thought I’d think out loud for a little bit instead. Top 100 reviews will continue next week with Sunset Blvd, which is a whopper of a movie.

One of the things I’d like to do with my writing for this year is open it up beyond furry fiction. To be honest I haven’t really read much in the way of sci-fi/fantasy stuff for a while now, and I’m just getting back into it after an extended absence. Maybe it’s because of whose recommendations I follow, or maybe it’s because of the market, but the landscape seems to be drastically different from what I remember. Before, sci-fi/fantasy was always about going somewhere else and having adventures. There were different worlds, advanced societies, alien cultures — or fantastic realms that people fell into through various means. Now, there seems to be much more focus on bringing the fantastic home with us; modern fantasy whispers to us about the supernatural lurking in the corners of our homes, in the alleys of our cities, right under our noses. Even the other worlds that we occasionally visit remind us of where we live with just a bit of top-spin.

What makes this interesting to me is the fact that there’s an unprecedented opportunity to spin our modern fantasy into all kinds of different cultures, something that a few people are already doing. Ken Liu’s “Paper Menagerie” won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards in 2012, introducing us modern fantasy fiction with a Chinese influence. With the push for more diversity in genre fiction, I’m hoping this is the beginning of a wonderful trend — using fantastic elements to introduce the peculiarities, perspectives and wounds of minority cultures to a broader audience. It’s an amazing opportunity to use stories to foster a better understanding between folks like myself and, well, the “established” genre community, let’s say.

This is a trend I definitely want to be a part of, especially using anthropomorphic fiction to explore themes of race and culture, where your origin is an inextricable part of who you are no matter how much you try to leave it behind. It’s also an old wound of mind that never quite closed properly — when I think about my mother and my family back in Baltimore my heart beats fast and my chest gets tight, and I can never bring myself to reach out to them. Writing stories about where I come from under the mirror of sci-fi/fantasy forces me to think about and contextualize my own experience, putting it into a perspective that helps me to deal with it and explains to a lot of other people what it’s like to be a gay black Buddhist who grew up in inner-city Baltimore.

A lot of my flash fiction on the blog will probably come back to these themes as I noodle around with my history and mine it for stories. What about my experience is universal? What about it is unique? What’s worth sharing, and what needs to be ironed out before I throw it out there?

And what do you folks out there think? Is this an idea you’re curious about at least? Is this something you’d want to participate in a conversation about? What have you always wondered, but never had the opportunity to ask? More than anything, I see this as an opportunity to engage. And I welcome it.

One thought on “Playing Around with My Race Card

  1. I never quite know what to think about these trends, really, because my history is Wonder-Bread-American. I’m a Western European mutt with just enough Amerind to have bad teeth. It’s not enough to claim membership in any tribe anywhere, and even if I were to do so, it would probably look worse than default appropriation. I don’t really have a history that isn’t the Generic Fantasy trope, and so I’m left with either the dominant paradigm or the manifestation of new myths out of whole cloth.

    That’s not to say I’m not enjoying the latter, but it’s harder to sell new myths than it is to sell the repackaging of old ones.

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