1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Theme Is this a little too politically sensitive to write about?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Aug 19, 2016.

    In my fantasy, I was thinking of having a subplot involving a people whose island nation suffered a horrific calamity -- famine, followed by a volcanic eruption. Hundreds of refugees flood into Alkoria (the setting of the fantasy) inciting political controversy with many people having different opinions on what to do with the refugees. Mishu befriends a refugee and is in the ‘let them all in!’ camp while people she knows disagree, some saying they're too different to be allowed in, others saying they'll destroy the country economically due to the sudden influx of people. There's one scene where she is mugged by one refugee and her friend callously asks her, “Still think they should be allowed in?”

    If this sounds similar to the refugee crisis in Europe, then you are correct. And therein lies the question: do you think it's too politically sensitive right now if I included this into the story? I would like to include it, but I'm not sure what the appropriate angle is without coming off as naive and clumsy about something I really have no clue about. Is it better to just scrap the idea? Thoughts?
     
  2. IcyEthics
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    IcyEthics Member

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    I think there's no problem with writing about it. Heavier political themes can make a story 'heavier' in a good way, to get some actual moral questions into your story. However, if you plan to go into without a deep understanding of the situation in Europe, you might colour your story in such a way that indeed does come of as naive and clumsy. The fact that it's such a current event does weigh down on the story choice a bit, in that there's an expectancy to handle the subject matter carefully and respectfully. I think deepening out the conflict besides the two sides of "all-in," or "all-out," is definitely the way to go. Creating this moral conflict with the thief might be too much of a simplification for that part of the plot to have good depth. Characters can definitely think in an 'all good' or 'all bad' way, but the story itself will benefit from showing the deeper sides of the positives and negatives.

    Don't scrap the idea if you're passionate about it! Read up on it, and discover the nuance, and how your personal setting will influence that.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Thanks for the response. I planned to have all my characters have different opinions on what to do with the refugees. The thing with the thief is not the central moral conflict, it's just one of the many aspects of it that Mishu will have to deal with. I plan to have her wrestle with what the logical thing to do is (ie, economics and things of that nature) versus what her heart tells her (ie, let them in.) She starts off a bit naïve about the whole thing and throughout the story she obtains a better understanding of the whole situation as she investigates further.

    I agree, if the story analyzed the deeper aspects of all opinions rather than a simplification of "I'm right, you're wrong, end of story!" it'll be much more powerful.
     
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  4. IcyEthics
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    IcyEthics Member

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    I'm curious as to the catalyst event you're using. In Europe, the general understanding is that the refugees will have to return at some point, but with a famine and a volcanic eruption that might not be the case.
     
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  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Oh. Apparently I did not think this through. If I had it that the island nation was in the middle of a war, it would make the whole parallel to the refugee crisis too obvious. Maybe the refugees who left their island nation do intend to return once the famine ends and the rebuilding ends. Maybe some come to plead with the Alkorian government to send food and aid to their land? At the moment, they're just trying to save as many of their own people as possible with the intent on going back once the famine ends.
     
  6. IcyEthics
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    IcyEthics Member

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    You could actually use that to add another layer of conflict. Some refugees aren't intending on returning, and some people willing to welcome them are opposing longer residence. The volcano could be used as a factor in that. Volcanoes go hand in hand with fertile soil, so an island struck by famine might have a good chance at coming back with such fertile grounds, so there's no reason for them to stay permanently, which is where other more personal arguments could come into play.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's a really good point, and it could complicate things even further. Those who wanted the refugees to come could be split among themselves, with some -- like you said -- saying they ought to return once their island nation heals. I could even have refugees quarrel with each other on whether they should stay or return for whatever personal reason.
     
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  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Had another thought: What if, in the middle of the crisis within the book, certain Alkorian bigwigs decide to basically pull a Donald Trump and enact a forced removal of the refugees back to their homeland? Maybe there can be multiple splits within the bigwigs themselves? Hmm...
     
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  9. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi @Link the Writer ,

    There are a number of strands; in the UK one of the factors behind Brexit was that immigrants are perceived as causing unemployment in those already in the UK, because the immigrants are prepared to work for lower wages. The fact that a lot of those immigrants are EU-legal (e.g. from Poland - in my last job we had to have all company documentation translated into Polish) blurs the lines between economic migrants, who come to the UK looking for a better quality of life (or to be able to send good money back home), and humanitarian migrants who want nothing more than somewhere safe to live. This resentment of "job-stealing" migrants cuts across ALL lower-paid workers, regardless of whether they are from traditional British stock, or are themselves fairly recent immigrants.

    There's also the fact that a lot of migrants may have a different religion, and will almost certainly have a different culture; there have been instances of British women "flashing a bit of flesh" and being perceived, and treated, as whores. There's been a bit of a furore recently because unemployment amongst Muslims is markedly higher than among other groups; this may, of course, be because educational/linguistic skills are not on par with their competitors in the jobs market, rather than being an anti-DAESH backlash against all Muslims.

    I've heard tales of how many migrants are surprised and dismayed to discover how cold and rainy the UK is...have they never seen a Hollywood movie about the UK? And I've heard of some migrants to Finland being so dismayed at the lack of the bright lights (perhaps they were expecting New York?) that they turned around and went back.

    As far as the bigwigs "pulling a Trump"...you're writing fantasy, aren't you?
     
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  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Yes, I'm writing a fantasy.

    And thanks for the info. Just as I suspected, this is a very tricky, sensitive subject that needs to be handled with extreme care. Careful research is required.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    In addition to research, do take the time to think about all aspects of the issue as deeply as you can. You are not actually replicating Europe, so you are free to do anything you like with this situation—so research might actually muddy the waters a bit. Ask yourself some hard questions as well as some informational ones.

    What was the attitude of Alkoria towards the country the refugees come from, before the 'disaster?' That will impact, especially if there was emnity between the two countries beforehand. On the other hand, if they are very familiar and friendly with one another (perhaps many Alkorians went there on holiday?) then the attitude will be different as well—maybe the objections might simply be down to numbers. Unless, of course, there was a bit of 'superiority/inferiority' built into the relationship.

    Are there misconceptions about the refugees? About the people? About their religion, language, intentions? You might push the envelope a bit as well. Make one side a traditionally warlike nation (think North Korea.) If some horrible thing happened in North Korea, and they became refugees, what would the attitude be? On their part as well as on the part of the nations accepting the refugees? There might be a big of eye-opening on both sides. Or vice-versa. If Alkoria was like North Korea, what would they do? Would they even allow refugees?

    What is the Alkorian living situation before this happened? Are they a prosperous country? One that's on the brink of a recession, or in a recession? That will also impact.

    I'd say look away from the present reality, and think up your own set of permutations to this problem. If you think deeply enough about this, and explore your individual characters as fully as possible, the lessons will 'take.' If you start to look like you're preaching, though (and that's what it might look like if you stick too closely to today's reality) you might risk losing some readers.
     
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  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be careful about making Al-Korea too like North Korea...with muslims?
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This comes under 'thoughts: other' rather than 'thoughts: PC'...

    Unless the level of technology in your fantasy world is more or less the same as ours, it's very unlikely that hundreds (or even dozens) of survivors will flee the volcanic island. With no long-distance communication, no one would come to help them escape. With no advanced warning, everyone would be caught off guard. And with the only boats being those that belong to fishermen, most of them would be out during the day and therefore unable to help people escape. Or if the eruption happens at night, again everyone including the fishermen would be caught off-guard sleeping in their beds.

    The only people who would escape would be those who by pure chance were close enough to a big enough piece of flotsam so they could stay afloat. And depending on how far off the coast this island is, they'd be in some stage of starvation by the time they reached land.

    But if you're going to 'magic' them off the island, then all bets are off.
     
  14. IcyEthics
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    If the catalyst events made the area unsuitable for a longer period, than it's very possible for a larger refugee situation to play out. The direct eruption might not be what drives the people away, it may be the long-term effects: forest fires, smoke clouds, crops dying, infrastructure breaking. These do drive people away. Also, there's a lot of ships besides fisher boats, there's no reason only fishing ships should be in the harbor. Another approach to the volcano could be that the inhabitants are expecting it to erupt, already sending waves of people seeking refuge, for a disaster waiting to happen, but that hasn't happened yet. There's a plethora of reasons why the volcano could still be a valid catalyst to a storyline like this, especially combined with a famine.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    The OP asked for thoughts. Those are the thoughts that went through my head. If you guys wanna debate them, go ahead. I'm done. :)
     
  16. Mckk
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    Timely and relevant pieces make for good pieces, so I wouldn't worry about it being too sensitive. Writing can offend but sometimes that's part of the purpose.

    However, the worrying part isn't that - the worrying part is your own admission that you have no clue about any of this. What is your message and how have you come to this message? What is it based on? Also, if your story was supposed to reflect anything of the current crisis, then lots of research probably wouldn't go amiss. If you don't wanna come across as privileged or naive, then you're gonna have to research.
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    First, can I just say I'm very glad I made this thread? I thank you all for your responses. :)

    Thank you for the advice. It's very easy to for me to get so muddled in research for my fiction that I forget that I'm not actually trying to replicate our world to the letter. It's fiction, and because this is a fantasy...

    I imagine most Alkorians have a mix relationship with the people of the island. Some feel them too 'primal' as they stick more with tradition despite their tech matching the Alkorian tech. It honestly depends on who you ask: some like the islanders, others hate them, think them inferior, or just plan don't give a shit about them. And considering Alkoria is about to be ground zero of a global war...yeah, that would raise tensions by a lot. Having a sudden influx of refugees would definitely give them a headache they likely wouldn't want to deal with.

    Don't worry, Alkoria is nothing like North Korea with magic.

    ...Wow, that'd be a scary thought. :supershock:

    The technology level is Industrial-age, with magic, so there was warning that the eruption was about to happen and an Alkorian governor whose city was the closest to the island (well, in terms of miles) was granted permission to open his gates to refugees during the initial period of the famine shortly before the eruption.

    The famine is what drove most of the refugees initially, but the numbers began to die down until the eruption. Then, suddenly there's a huge influx of survivors coming into the mainland due to the eruption and the aftermath.

    You are correct, Sack, that without the magic elements and their Industrial-level tech, those poor islanders would be very, very, very much screwed. Even assuming that the distance between them and Alkoria matches the distance between the southern tip of Wales and the northern tip of Portugal...they'd be very screwed indeed. =(

    Bingo. I'll have to figure out the message and do research because let's be honest: I don't live in Europe, so I don't have first-hand experience with the whole refugee crisis going on over there. If I write like I know what I was talking about and the story carries it in an awkward, clumsy, naive way, I can very much get that Europeans would be pissed. I would.
     
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  18. Shadowfax
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    1/ Industrial-age as in during the Industrial Revolution? c. 1850-1900? Because understanding of geological phenomena was no more than a twinkle in some mad scientist's eye. Ever heard of Krakatoa? As far as communications...The first working telegraph was built by the English inventor Francis Ronalds in 1816 and used static electricity, but it wasn't until 1837 that a railway used one.

    2/ Why between Portugal and Wales? And you appear to be suggesting that it's the shortest possible ferry crossing; trust me, it's not! In fact, Portugal doesn't really have a Northern tip, and Wales doesn't really have a Southern one!
     
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  19. theamorset
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    How does the flood and refugees and different opinions fit in with the rest of the story?
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    :) No, I didn't mean to do that, for obvious reasons. I just meant to consider what kind of a country Alkoria is ...and what its own character is likely to do in these circumstances. I meant maybe to think of something other than 'us' with a different name as the host country.
     
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  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you create a new set of circumstances WITHOUT consciously trying to parallel the current situation ...and this is totally a fantasy ...then you're not going to piss anybody off because it's not realistic. That was my point in my earlier post. Make it up. Get as far from the current political situation as you want. You don't need to worry about being PC if you're talking about countries that don't exist except in your imagination, and deliberately DON'T draw parallels if you can help it. Just try to empathise with both sides of your own conflict as much as you can. Don't worry about how Syrian refugees feel, or how Nigel Farage and Co feel about them. How do YOUR characters and countries feel.
     
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  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    1/ Wow. Clearly I need to brush up on my history regarding the Industrial Revolution. o__o To think I used to be a history buff.

    2/ I was talking more about distance, but looking at a map, yeah, it isn't exactly a short ferry ride from Wales to Portugal. *note to self: learn measurements and size proportions!*

    I'll have to figure out how it weaves into the rest of the story, as this idea is relatively new.

    Thanks again. :) My mind instinctively jumped onto "Oh dear, what if they notice a parallel, etc..." without thinking it through logically. Mishu isn't trying to protect Syrian refugees, no one's a Nigel Farage-expy. I just need to develop the conflict, empathize with how each individual feel about the whole thing and make it work within the context of the larger plot.
     
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