Geek Girls Rule! #598 – Fic Ethics

Vacation was great!  I will post some links to the GGR Instagram, and the few pics I took on vacation.  We were out at Pacific Beach for 5 nights, in a yurt.  We spent a lot of time walking on the beach, “car gaming.”  The Car Game is a co-operative story we tell each other as we drive.  And since the drive to the beach is 3+ hours, we frequently come up with a brand new game each trip.  Then we continued to play as we walked, and again on the way home.

But I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.

I’m still listening to the audiobook for Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor.  It’s a long one.

It is a beautifully, lyrically written book.  Very evocative with engaging characters and a compelling story.

However, I will not be writing any fic in this world for many reasons.

1. White people (a white person)/colonization are unapologetically the villain(s) of the story.

2. The cultures of the story are based on extant Nigerian/African cultures.

3. I am the whitest of pasty ass white girls, and I do not have the experience or knowledge to handle this world in a sensitive manner.

4. I would be terrified that what I would write would inadvertently attempt to humanize, excuse, or rationalize the actions of the evil, awful acts committed by the colonizing white culture.

These are things we should all take into consideration when writing fic of works we enjoy, or at the very least, if we were to publish it.  I mean, if you’re writing it for yourself and yourself alone and you will never show it to anyone, I can’t stop you.

But before you proudly post this to AO3, think really hard about the things that concerned me above.

1. Is the story based in a very real culture, especially one with living members or descendants?
2. Are you a member/descendant of that culture?
3. Who do you identify with in the story? If it’s the villain, what is your goal with the fic?
4. If you identify (consciously or not) with the villain/villainous forces, are you trying to humanize, excuse, or rationalize their actions?

Now, I definitely do not consciously identify with the villain(s) of Who Fears Death? But again, I am a pasty ass white girl whose people think ketchup is a spice.  As such subconscious/unconscious racism is kind of baked into my DNA, no matter how aware and alert to it I try to be.

So yeah, I probably fuck up way more than I am aware.

In some cases, the humanization of villainous elements is a neutral or even a good thing.  I mean, look at the LOADS of white produced media that demonizes POC.  That is definitely a case where some humanizing the villainous is probably a good idea, or more to the point, taking a good hard look at who the villain really is: the POC living their lives in their world, or the white invaders fucking everything up and killing and enslaving people.

In the MCU, because much of Loki’s villainy is directed primarily at other white presenting people, I feel less icky about explorations of his motivations and the supplying of tragic backstories (ymmv).  This of course brings up the screaming lack of diversity in many of the MCU movies, but I digress.

Now what I will do with the Who Fears Death? fandom, is likely read it, boost it, and support the original works by Ms. Okorafor by recommending them to whomever will listen.  I will nominate her works for awards that I can nominate her for.

I am enjoying the hell out of the book.  It is a hard, really hard, deeply emotionally troubling read, and I suspect that parts of it are hitting differently for me than for someone who is not, in fact, a white person, raised in a very white culture, with limited engagement with works by POC over the course of her life.  And that’s ok.  I read to experience a lot of things I don’t have lived experience with, and to learn from them.

I’m going to state this plainly: this is not a work you are going to enjoy if your knee jerk reaction is “Not all white people,” when institutionalized or subconscious racism is brought up.  Or maybe you will if you’re clueless enough about it that it doesn’t even register.  Who knows?

But if you’re willing to engage with the work on its terms (as much as you’re able), I highly recommend it.

Now I did not, at first, consciously recognize much of the above.  I was running down a list of media I’d been consuming and trying to sort out if I wanted to fic any of it.  And Who Fears Death? sprang to mind, and I immediately decided no.  Then I stopped to think about why I decided that, why was my gut reaction? “Yeah, probably shouldn’t?”

So, that is where this post came from.

And yeah, I probably fucked something up, but that’s ok.  If I did, and if you have the time and resources to let me know, go for it and I’ll do my best to learn and stop fucking up.  That’s what ally-ship is.  It isn’t never fucking up, because you’re going to fuck up.  You’re human.  It’s gonna happen.  But it’s how you react to that fuck up that matters.

If you like what you read here, or want to help fund my search for more POC authors/creators, please consider donating using the link at the top right of the page:  Keep Us Geeking, or checking out my Patreon.  Thank you!

Also, if you’d like to see what sort of fiction I write when left to my own devices, please feel free to check out my fiction Patreon, Nothing Nice Comes Out of My Head.

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