Recommends: Friday Fiction

I like writing exercises, but I rarely find any that really tickle me. After seeing Gela's Fun With Descriptions this week, I'm now thinking that my problem isn't with the exercises, it's with needing to see someone else do something awesome first and then following. Without that, it seems like I'm left flailing. So I thoroughly enjoyed this week's Friday Fiction, I look forward to seeing more, and for the record this was my favorite one:

Once upon a time there was a quiet, unassuming country where the people tried to be pleasant to each other, with the usual exceptions of awkward relatives and overbearing neighbors, and where a stranger was just as likely to encounter a friendly smile as elsewhere in the world.

Heh. I like interesting ways to describe places as "sort of average, but in a good way". 

29 comments:

Ana Mardoll said...

I am going to take this open thread opportunity to announce that I am DONE WITH ABNA JUDGING! Woohoo!

depizan said...

Many conga rats to you!

Ana Mardoll said...

Like the ones in Coraline? :D

Ben E. Hexapodiaasthekeyinsigh said...

Good job!

*Spies the words "open thread"*

****

Slightly related to the description thing:

A big problem I have with D&D and with M(edieval) E(uropean) F(antasy) in general is the proliferation of non-humans* that nevertheless look, essentially, like humans (almost always white humans, which is Another Problem that is Closely Related but, in my opinion, not Exactly the Same).

Here are a few standard MEF groups:
-Humans, the diverse people
-Elves, the skinny humans with pointy ears
-Dwarves, the short, stocky, bearded humans
-Orcs, the barbaric greenish-grey humans (who all have strep)
-Halflings, the short humans with pointy ears

None of the non-humans mentioned above look exactly like humans, but they're all really close. You could basically forget they don't look precisely human, and it wouldn't be a serious problem. This is, to me, a serious problem. I think there is a need to move away from these "human-but-not" descriptions because there are some very strong racist (in the "between humans" sense) undertones to this kind of description. "These people look really similar to you, BUT THEY'RE A DIFFERENT SPECIES!" You know. What I've tried to do is give my other species a distinctly non-human look, while maintaining a basic humanoid form and enough similarity that they would not differ significantly from human-normal in terms of what they can do. What do other fantasy people do? Do you think I'm overreacting to a non-issue?

*I'm going to try to avoid using the term "race" here, but I might miss some uses. It does not usually (intentionally) refer to race, the human social construct. In FRPG jargon, it is equivalent to "species".

Ana Mardoll said...

No, I don't think you're overreacting at all. I think you see this a lot, too, with Science Fiction alien races.

I'm not sure what the answer is, maybe some stronger cultural cues? I suspect it's less a case of authorial racism and more a case of writing only what you know, but the end result is problematic.

Ben E. Hexapodiaasthekeyinsigh said...

Cultural cues can help, but then you run into an issue I like to call "monoculturalism", which is related, but different. Here's where I'm more willing to bash sf; authors (though not necessarily screenwriters) usually have the mental budgets to come up with people who don't look human, but they usually wind up making every nonhuman species have one single culture (or two, if they want to make a point about planetary unity). I was trying to focus purely on the visual aspect, which I don't think sees a lot of discussion. The visual problems are, in my experience, more prevalent in fantasy.

JonathanPelikan said...

I've been slowly adding blocks to my novel, and was wondering about this mythical 'forum' I see mentioned occasionally. Would this be the kind of place one could post a block of text they wrote and get other people to read it, or just talk about writing, etc?

(Ah yes, 'forums'... we have dismissed that claim... so excited for Mass Effect 3.)

Ana Mardoll said...

They're here:

http://www.wishfulwriters.com/forums/

And I totally do post blocks of text, ha.

Gelliebean said...

Eeeeee.... thanks for the mention! You can't see me, but I'm totally squee-ing right now. :-D

Will Wildman said...

What I've tried to do is give my other species a distinctly non-human look, while maintaining a basic humanoid form and enough similarity that they would not differ significantly from human-normal in terms of what they can do. What do other fantasy people do? Do you think I'm overreacting to a non-issue?

I wouldn't say 'overreacting', since you appear to be quite happy to shape your own works to be more like what you think is missing. I would save 'overreact' for people going on some kind of crusade to browbeat others into not writing about humanoid elves. This strikes me as an area where more diversity can only be a good thing. I vary in my case - I haven't written about nonhumans in a while, but I have great affection for orcs and elves, while still also wanting to write that story with the 15-foot lanky ancient nameless things and the big cuddly-except-you-would-die 'forest shark' people and the tiny luminous butterfly symbiote people and so forth.

Also in the pile of 'stories I keep revising on the conceptual level and haven't yet hit on the writeable form yet', I have one where the human kingdom is reconstructing well after that devastating civil war a few centuries ago that led to the mutually-agreed exile of the elves from their combined society, and the elves have built up enough that they're thinking it's time to carve out a bigger section of nominally-human-owned lands, and everyone on both sides is Fantastically Racist until, shocking twist, it turns out that the elves are humans that infused themselves with a ton of hereditary magic (or, from the elves' perspective, humans are elves who never gained inborn magic). If I really wanted to torque that world, I could put the Orc Civil Rights storyline in it, too.

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