There has been a huge discussion over on LiveJournal about race and cultural appropriation, and one thing I’ve noticed is people saying, “Well, if I just wrote about [what they are], then it would be boring!”
Which made me laugh, because none of the things they put in the brackets sounded boring at all … unless they wrote mainstream, which puts me to sleep.
Seems to me that writing about what you know about, with a bit of tweaking to make it not exactly you, might be just what you need.
Take Tobias Buckell, for example. He grew up in the Caribbean. If he had said, “I can’t write about what I know, that would be boring!” then his whole damn freaking awesome series wouldn’t have come about.
Now I know what you’re thinking: the Caribbean is WAY cooler than, say, Hoboken or Seattle or Dallas. But no, it isn’t. Because if you honestly write what those places and people are like, someone from somewhere else is going to find that interesting.
And Tobias didn’t just write about Caribbean people. He wrote about Caribbean people in SPACE, with aliens and immortals and interstellar wars and blowing shit up.
If he had written it mainstream … well you see where I’m going here.
(apologies to mainstream writers … it’s just not my thing)
I say this as I prepare a story set in the Los Angeles basin. Just so happens it’s in the future. Most of the LA basin is underwater due to global warming, gangs run the place, and our heroine is wheedled into working for a guy obsessed with finding his way off Earth.
But it’s LA, I grew up around there, and I’ve driven that damn basin so many times I could practically do it blindfolded. That doesn’t mean someone might not be interested in what it might be like, a hundred or so years from now. Especially if it involves blowing things up. 🙂
So the adage to write what you know still seems right on.