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Posts Tagged ‘Science fiction’

One of the topics I thought was interesting was the types of characters one sees in fantasy and science fiction, that is that they are mostly white. While I’ve not read ‘all the fantasy’ out there, there are a number that I’ve read that do. Some exceptions to this are NK Jemison and Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin among others. My Dragon Wine series features people of mixed race. This is because it’s a post apocalyptic world and because of the destruction people intermarried to survive, so only a very few people would be all white or all black or Asian etc. My main protagonist Salinda is brown skinned and of mixed race. I didn’t consciously try to make my characters non-anglo it was just the result of the world setting.

Today I’ve invited Patty Jansen to the blog to talk about her use of non-anglo characters. Take it away Patty.

Patty Jansen

Patty Jansen

When Donna asked me to blog about what inspires me to use non-Anglo characters, my first thought was: do I need inspiration for that? They’re part of society, part of my life. They have pasts, and because I write SF, I’m interested in their futures. They’re people.

If we can say one thing about the future, it’s that it won’t be “more of the same” of what we have today. It has never been that way in all of humanity’s messy history. History is made up out of interwoven strands that sometimes don’t make sense until you understand the context.

Far too often, science fiction tells the author’s view of the future from a one-sided perspective, usually American, white and male. In my fiction, I strive to make it less monolithic. There are many segments of society whose histories deserve to be pondered on, extrapolated and told.

The majority of people in the world are non-Anglo. I use them in my fiction in hopefully the same way they are used in Harry Potter. For example, nowhere in all of the seven Harry Potter books is it mentioned out loud that the Patel twin sisters are Indian. Of course you can see that they’re Indian. Their name gives it away. So why point at it when it’s not a plot point, as if saying “Hey, LOOK! I’m using a non-Anglo character!!” That sort of pointing out, when done to any minority character, just annoys the crap out of me. As if minority characters are only allowed in a book when they’re a plot point. What rubbish.

Non-Anglo characters play an important role especially in my ISF-Allion interlinked series of novellas and novels. In this world, the future goes like this:

When various problems (disaster, wars, lack of money) forces western countries to scale down the space program, a group of normally disenfranchised people picks up the ball and runs with it: a conglomerate of applied sciences students who study in western countries, but who come from the poorest and most repressive/repressed countries and societies in the world. This group would never have gotten off the ground without two people: the brains and drive of Fatima “Ally” Al Alamein and the financial backing of heiress Marion Gluck. The company they form is Allion Aerospace, the name a combination of their names. They are the first to put a person on Mars. That person is Chandra Lee, a woman, half Indian, half Chinese, not a drop of western blood in sight. The company with a 90% female workforce operates on a shoestring budget (relatively speaking) and makes huge strides because it attracts smart people for whom even the risk of dying in a Mars mission is better than their current lack of opportunities. Within a short time span, Allion has a huge work force, space bases and some ingenious hardware.

Meanwhile the western countries and their International Space Force are forced to do a huge catch-up mission. Their mantra is big and cumbersome, and when they can’t find enough people to crew their huge space stations, they resort to “resettling” people from the poorest, dilapidated cities in the world at that time. They are the people from low-lying areas (Jakarta, Bangladesh) and victims of desertification in India/Pakistan and Africa. Parts of the world that, even today, white men in power do not care about. Here we have colonial behaviour all over again.

These two groups of non-Anglo characters end up on opposite sides of the spectrum. The Allion women, mostly Africans, Indians, Chinese and Arabs and their high-controlled, high-tech environment, versus the raw hardship of the displaced mining workers. While the ISF methods sound akin to slavery, Allion has some very “interesting” ideas (not in a good way) about what constitutes a human being and also about free choice and privacy. There are no angels in this world.

Shifting Reality is a novel that takes place on a giant space station at Epsilon Eridani, amongst second and third generation forced migrants from the slums of Jakarta. Seventy years after their forced departure from Indonesia, they’re no longer Indonesian, but they’ve morphed into something else through circumstance and the tyranny of distance.

I did a lot of reading to construct this society. It is not faithfully cultural and was never intended to be. But there are plenty of weird, quirky and mostly just plain different customs that have morphed into a multi-pronged, diverse Indonesian-based cultural melting pot. There are the political groups, the gossipy block associations where ground-level politics happens between men who want power and old women who hold said power, there are the gay and transvestite bars, there are the religious hypertechs, where men and women both wear face veils, who abstain from “pleasure” and who are a fertile breeding ground for unusual technological, uhm, solutions, including hacking, spyware and other illegal stuff. While the cliché has us see Indonesians visit temples, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and my characters adhere to the Indonesian brand of Islam which is fairly relaxed and has a good deal of traditional stuff thrown in. Did you know that the spread of Islam to Indonesia dates back to the 1400s?

I wanted to construct a possible future culture that was not based on western ideology and western values. Because often when writers use non-Anglo characters, they still operate in an Anglo cultural framework. I’d encourage other writers to think beyond their borders. Not only is not every person who matters in the world Anglo, not all cultures aspire to be Anglo either.

Patty Jansen is an author of 15 novels and numerous short works of science fiction and fantasy. Find out more about Patty’s fiction here. Find out more about the novel Shifting Reality here. Patty is also on twitter and Facebook and talks about writing, photography and other random things on her blog Must Use Bigger Elephants.

ShiftingRealityprint

 

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As I mentioned in my previous post about the Canberra Writers Day, the Aurealis Awards were on in the evening. Usually my involvement with the AAs is as an event. I go because it’s a fab evening. I get to see friends and network with the industry. I also get to see the people win awards, some of whom I’ve never heard of so in that case it’s a discovery.

This year I was a judge in the Graphic Novel category and I was…wait for it…the trophy chick. I said to Nicole wouldn’t it be fab if I was your trophy girl instead of some young beautiful thing…and she fell for it. The downside to being the trophy girl is that you get to stand through most of the award ceremony in very uncomfortable high heels and my post may reflect some of that pain and maybe a photo of sore feet.sore feet

So the venue at University House turned into a charming venue for the awards ceremony. First there was the cocktail party where we all got to mingle (but not sufficiently for me to get around to everyone I knew or meet new people. Sorry Thoraiya I didn’t even get to say hello properly). I managed to get a glass of bubbly in before the fun began (because I was a dutiful person who went to rehearse with the presentation).

So a few snaps from the cocktail party. Alan Baxter and the lovely Rochelle Fernandez. Alan has a trilogy coming out with Harper Voyager, coming July. I have a book coming out with Harper Impulse under Dani Kristoff (http://danikristoff.wordpress.com for details). BTW I wasn’t out to take photos as Cat Sparks and Mr Fitzgerald were doing that.

Alan Baxter and Rochelle Fernandez

Alan Baxter and Rochelle Fernandez

 

So here is the room, the Great Hall at University House done up with lights.

University House, Great Hall with lights for the Aurealis Awards Ceremony

University House, Great Hall with lights for the Aurealis Awards Ceremony

Here is a piccie of the candelabra that was next to me. They were placed around the room with real candles. Nice!

Candelabra Great Hall, University House, Canberra

Candelabra Great Hall, University House, Canberra

 

 

Then there were the two fabulous MCs, Sean Williams and Simon Brown who were very funny and who created fantastic tales of intergalactic woe and time spinning tales about the presenters.

Sean Williams and Simon Brown, Masters of Ceremonies Aurealis Awards

Sean Williams and Simon Brown, Masters of Ceremonies Aurealis Awards

And so there were a few surprises in the winnings. Having been a judge I know how close it is to decide the winners so if you were short listed you are amazing to be there.

The ceremony went off without a hitch. (As trophy girl I did not drop anything or confuse the names, even though I didn’t have my glasses on-that’s because Nicole Murphy is so organised).

Some of the winners

 

Ally (Allyse Near) with her two awards- a tie for Young Adult and for Horror novel. Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Oh no. Not a good photo!)

Allyse Near, Aurealis Awards April 2014

Allyse Near, Aurealis Awards April 2014

 

 

 

Joanne Anderton, best collection for The Bone Chime Song and other stories

Joanne Anderton, Aurealis Awards April 2014

Joanne Anderton, Aurealis Awards April 2014

 

 

Kaaron Warren best SF short story, Air, Water and the Grove.

Kaaron Warren, Aurealis Awards 2014

Kaaron Warren, Aurealis Awards 2014

 

Jackie Ryan-tie for best graphic  novel

Jackie Ryan, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

Jackie Ryan, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

 

Mitchell Hogan for best fantasy novel, The Crucible of Souls. This was a wow moment for me. It was self-published and his thank you speech included editors I knew and I realised I’d been down a similar road to him with my own fantasy novel (and got nowhere). It opened my eyes quite wide. Well done you, Mitchell. Fabulous.

Mitchell Hogan, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

Mitchell Hogan, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

 

A photo of Liz Grzyb-who tied for best and anthology for the Year’s Best (with Talie Helene). The awards are in the boxes.

Liz Grzyb, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

Liz Grzyb, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

 

A shot of the wonderful Nicole Murphy looking on at the end of the ceremony. The mastermind behind the flawless awards ceremony.

Nicole Murphy, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

Nicole Murphy, Aurealis Awards, April 2014

 

 

Now for some of the crowd, Keri Arthur and gang.

Leife Shallcross, David Versace, Keri Arthur and  Rob Porteous. Aurealis Awards, April 2014

Leife Shallcross, David Versace, Keri Arthur and Rob Porteous. Aurealis Awards, April 2014

 

Liz’s fab shoes, which I snapped later at the after party. They are  Fluevogs. Want! That’s it from me. Don’t forget to come along next time.

Liz Grzyb's shoes, Fluevogs

Liz Grzyb’s shoes, Fluevogs

 

 

 

 

 

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