On Seeking Cultural Consulting
One of the puzzlements for a white writer in this age is how to walk the line between writing works that are too Eurocentric and appropriating the culture of a group you don’t belong to. I’ve pondered this for years while my writing hovered semi-safely in the Continuation Universe, a far-future setting not strong connected to particular Earth cultures—though its bones are very Western. Lately, however, I’ve started writing short stories that engage directly with real societies. To that end, I’ve begun to reach out for cultural consulting services, an emerging best practice for writing outside one’s own demographic groups.
As I write this, I’m in the midst of negotiating to obtain consulting from Tribal groups near my home town. Oh my. Butting up against indigenous experience never ceases to be humbling. And I don’t mean “humbling” in the sense we use today of feeling honored by our inclusion in awesome group, no. I mean “humbling” like being rudely knocked off the pedestal of my privilege and brought up against the reality that no matter how aware, respectful, and progressive I attempt to be, I remain drenched in my own self-importance. They don’t trust me. They are not impressed that I want to learn. They are not impressed that I want to pay. My people have already taken too much. My family owns ten acres of their land. Yet they have expressed some willingness to meet with me and further assess my motives. That’s an open door, a start. I hope—I believe—it can be the start of something good, though with every step I stumble as if it were the first.[Edit: The day after I sent this out to my mailing list, I got a very nice, encouraging call from a different Tribal organization, the moral being don’t overgeneralize, I guess. That means of gotten responses from three out of three places I contacted, which I am really grateful for.]
BookPod Interview Is Live
Thanks to Ben and Sarah Nadler for the chance to appear on their Bookpod podcast, where I read from and discuss my first novel, Perdita, a far future eco-sci fi tale of pro-tech and anti-tech forces tangling over how to address a dangerous new technology.
Book Rec: Ninefox Gambit
I want to recommend Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. The far-future sci-fi military adventure novel is not new. It’s from the ancient days of 2016 and is the first in a series. But if you missed the initial hype of its Hugo and Nebula nominations, consider checking it out now. It has perhaps the strong worldbuilding from an Asian sensibility that I have ever seen. In fact, the only other book that comes to mind with such nuanced and plausible far-future worldbuilding based largely on Asia is Dune, which focuses on Muslim and Hindu influences. Lee focuses on Korean and Confucian influences, both deeply and creatively.