1. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    How far to go with racism metaphors?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jones6192, Apr 29, 2011.

    Here I go again, bothering you all with another one of my hairbrained story ideas that I'll probably never finish. But if I could get an idea of what works and what doesn't, it might just give me the inspiration to finish it.

    Basically, I had a concept for a futuristic detective thriller, where the protagonist is an alien private investigator. See, in this future, a pod containing alien survivors of a huge cataclysm on their world came to Earth, and the aliens were given sanctuary on our planet and made citizens of Earth. Now, many years later, there is a similar situation to the treatment of African-Americans in the 60's, where they were looked down upon, treated poorly, and had very little rights.

    My story is intended to explore themes of racism and prejudice in the guise of a Blade Runner-esque thriller. Would you guys like to see my brief outline of the story, to see what I'm talking about? It's hard to explain, as the story is quite intricately plotted. Bottom line, though, is that I'm worried that if I go overboard with the whole aliens-as-black-people metaphor, will I offend African Americans? Will people accuse me of using their plight as a tool for writing yet another sci-fi actioner?

    I just happen to think that science fiction just HAS to have some major moral message in it, otherwise it betrays the very point of the genre: to make you think about our world and how we live in it. Like I said, I really want to just show you all the synopsis, so you have a better clue as to what I'm rambling about. Any thoughts on this delicate issue?

    And yes, I'm aware that this topic has probably been talked about before...:confused:
     
  2. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Let me put it this way: are you genuinely writing it as a reflection on the plight of the African American minority and the civil rights movements of the past century, or are you really just using it as a tool to get more readers? If the former is true, go for it, and who cares what people think of your motivations? (I would however, advise not to be too transparent with your metaphor; make it more subtle.)

    My current story has themes relating to the cultural stigma and oppression of the gay community, so I don't think such themes are out of place (though, being gay myself, I can get away with it much more easily :D ).

    And by the way, you're looking for "harebrained" :)
     
  3. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    It all depends on how you treat it. I can't give you the minority point of view, but what you've got going reminds me of a distopian Alien Nation or a optimistic District 9.

    It probably depends on what steriotypes you hit. If the aliens aren't acting strictly like any minority we know, just are being treated the same, it would probably come off as less potential to piss someone off.
     
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  4. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    I speak on the behalf of all African-American people when I say this:

    No.
     
  5. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    You should definitely exlain this more, a one-word answer isn't terribly helpful. As far as I'm concerned, the civil rights movement, at least the specific one most people tend to think about, despite being generally centered around a single minority, was a phemonenon that affected culture in a much broader way, and it opened the door for other minority rights movements (hispanic and gay rights being the two that most affect me personally), and so it can't owned by a particular racial group or minority.

    I think Smoke hit the nail on the head here; so long as you don't use racial steriotypes to make your metaphor, I see no problem with it.
     
  6. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    If it seems like you're pushing an agenda, it's bad. If the agenda is negative or opposed to conventional wisdom, then it's a poor rhetorical device and people may reject it outright. If your agenda is well-meaning and 'good', it'll still be the kind of thing people get dubious about and you won't end up doing justice to your message/agenda anyhow. People don't like agendas in fiction, even when that agenda is something they believe in.

    Meaning, write the story and draw on things, but realize the second the reader gets a whiff of any sort of 'see, see, I'm making a point' sort of symbolism or overt meaning, you'll lose them, because these days people typically want a story that holds meaning if they choose to look for it, not a moral that contains a story if they choose to look for it.
     
  7. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Alright, I'll go into detail. Jones6192 said that he's wondering if people, particular African-Americans, will be upset with him if he wrote a sci-fi thriller based on something that has happened fifty years ago. My answer is no BECAUSE, though he might be using it as a tool, it is a helpful tool that will make people remember what the African-Americans have gone through all those years ago. It's probably GOOD that he uses this, though it's with completely different types of people. And writers make parallels with history all the time; it's really nothing new if he does it.

    For example, take into account the end of the Harry Potter series which dangerously resembled the Holocaust or the Hunger Games which reflected the horrors of colonialism. It's done not only for the writer to have something real to write about, but it's for readers to reflect on these events. As long as Jones puts the racism in a negative light, I definitely see nothing wrong with him using it.

    Now look at what you made me do. Ranting is bad for my skin, you know.
     
  8. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I think any racism is not racism (but instead story) in a book as long as it's a character speaking or narrating. If the racism stems from actual racism or opinion, then it's racism. I've read racism in stories, but I knew it wasn't coming from any author's or publishing house's agenda. It was just the character. (It also took place in a pre-Lincoln era.)
     
  9. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Wait... so you meant "no" as in "no, people will not be upset with you"? I took it to mean "No. Just don't even go there."

    This is why answers often need to be more than a single word long :p
     
  10. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Oh, sorry. Thought I was being clear @_@

    I meant no, people will definitely not be upset. He has nothing to worry about. Well, unless you want to look out for people that look for reasons to rant over silly things, but, I mean, that's a totally different story altogether...
     
  11. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    I would like to make it clear that the current story I've come up is definitely not telling the reader that 'this opinion is the one you should have.' I've carefully structured it so that by the end, you can make up your own mind about the issues. This was kinda one of my goals: to make a story that acts as a kind of Rorshach test, in that your reaction to it tells a lot about what kind of person you are.

    It's actually funny that some of you brough up the possibility of me using the theme just to attract readers, because it's just the opposite: this is my heartfelt statement about these issues, but I've wrapped it up in a science fiction/hardboiled detective novel skin to bring in those who otherwise wouldn't read a long essay on human rights.
     
  12. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Didn't mean to imply that that was your agenda. I hardly think someone brash enough to use a story to promot racism would come onto the boards and asking for advice on how to handle it. But I just wanted to point out what I thought was an acceptable use or an unacceptable use.
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I think you can show racism towards the "other" beings, without annoying races that actually have been victims of racism.

    Show the stupidity, the ignorance, the generalizations that the bogots make.

    Show how it hurts society, or "race relations."

    No matter far humans advance, people of all races will continue to be bigots.
    Beleive some race is inferior to theirs(racism), or believe that a race believes itself to superior to another.(reverse racism.)

    Be careful not to use old racist statents to the new racism, use the old to create the new, based on the alien quirks.

    Bigots use how a minority got into "their" society as a offensive slur and exagerate minor flaws of some of the minorities.

    one group swam a river to cross a border earned a name for Mexicans.
    some people are spend thrifts, that earned a stereotype.

    Think of bigot terms today and change them to meet your societies needs.
    Once changed they will not have the volitility they originally had.

    example:Elves call humans round ears.
    How many round ears take offense to this?
     

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