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Midweek Mingle: Just Do It

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So, most of what I tend to post in the Midweek Mingle, at least when it comes to fiction, is fairly focused. One thing or one very small group of things to work with to help out with QUILTBAG+ inclusivity. Blah, blah, blah, you probably know the drill by now. I’m going to keep doing that, too, but this week is a bit of an aside. Not a departure from the topic, but a departure from the format, I guess you would say. Also possibly a copyright infringement on the good people at Nike, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose.
When it comes to writing QUILTBAG+ characters—or really any characters from an under-represented group—there is a lot of pressure to get it right, make it work, get everything perfect. We do that so as not to offend actual people from said group, whatever it might be. With that comes a problem that needs addressing, because I know people who want to be inclusive, but don’t think they can.
One of the authors I know was chided for having a homogenous cast and told to be more racially inclusive (I realize it’s not the same, but inclusivity is inclusivity.). She was told to go find friends who weren’t white. Of course that’s a problem. Ethnicity is not a good grounds for a friendship. Another author? So paralyzed by the fear that she would say something ‘wrong’ in her M/M romance that she had it vetted for political correctness three times, and still isn’t confident that it’s okay.
I’m going to give you one more story before I get to the point (although I think the title really said it all.). I was at my local SF/F convention one year, along with some good personal writer friends. One of them did a two hour book signing, and one of the books she had was an anthology of wuxia/steampunk crossover. She wrote a story set in 1800s Hawaii for it, and so she had a very foreign culture to deal with.
Wouldn’t you know, they sat her next to Nisi Shawl. If you don’t know who she is, then seriously: stop reading this and go find her articles on cultural appropriation. It’s what she’s known for, and for good reason. She’s brilliant at writing ‘The Other,’ whatever that might be in a given situation. So eventually, the conversation turns to books. My friend says that she’s sure she did it wrong and misappropriated the culture.
And of course, Nisi Shawl comes back with the perfect answer, and the answer a lot of people need to hear, at least when they’re setting foot in the possibly murky waters of inclusivity and appropriation and all that jazz: what matters is that she tried to write it. She tried to expand and push things. Whether it was done ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ wasn’t the biggest issue. She did it and she cared enough to want to do it right, to realize that it actually was a different culture that deserved respect. I’m going to assume that, if you chose to read this, you’ve got the second part down. You want to be more inclusive.
So here’s the first part: go write it. The fact that you are capable of seeing it as an issue of respect or disrespect means that you’re probably going to put the time into trying to get it right. And yes, there may be missteps along the way. So what? Writing and publishing is all about seeing which land mines kill you on the way to your goal, and which ones only graze you. It’s the same with any art-turned-business.
Let yourself make mistakes along the way, as much as it might suck to have to do that. Mistakes are how we, as authors, are going to learn to mingle.

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