Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation by Shannon Wright

A Place For Commentary on Cultural Appropriation

Today NPR published my piece on why “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible.” I was inspired to write this article by a recent NYTimes op-ed on the matter that floored me with how the writer misunderstood the topic, conflated it with other issues, and in general did not take into consideration or seem to know about any of the many articles and posts and books that already exist talking about cultural appropriation. It’s frustrating because that often seems to be the case. That’s why my piece has so many links to so many other essays as well as to resources.

It’s been a while since I submitted a piece to NPR, and so I didn’t know that they no longer have comments (I did do a little cheer when I saw). However, some folks are super not okay with not being able to scroll to the bottom and tell me how wrong I am! And thus my Twitter mentions, the Inbox on the Writing the Other account, and comments on unrelated posts here are full of folks offering me their thoughts.

Since this is the case, I thought a post giving folks the opportunity to scratch that itch was in order. Ta da! However, since this is my blog, I have rules, and you’ll have to be bound by them.

First time commenters are always moderated.

If you’ve never participated in discussion here, then your comment will not appear below automatically. It goes into a queue, and an admin has to rescue it from the queue. Since many folks who will rush here to argue with me do not often do so in good faith and/or can’t resist wallowing in racism or misogyny as they type, I will not be looking at the mod queue, someone else will. They will let your comment out if it doesn’t have those issues. If it does, they’ll delete it and I won’t see your words.

Side Note: Someone is moderating the email address my contact form goes to as well, so I won’t see anything deemed to be mired in bigotry there, either.

Before you argue with me about cultural appropriation, read all the links.

I put a ton of links in that piece for a reason. Cultural appropriation is a complex topic that can’t be 100% covered in one 1000 word essay. So I gave all readers the opportunity to delve deeper into it via other great essays. Click every link in that piece and read what’s behind it and click all the links in those pieces as well. Only then should you come here to ask questions or make objections.

“But I don’t have time to read all that!” you might say. “I have a life to lead!” Okay. But if you don’t have time to read up on the subject you don’t have time to argue with me about it. Go do something, anything, else.

Don’t argue with me on points I haven’t made.

If you see something in those links that you want to fight about, fight about it with the person who wrote the article. The person who made that point. Not with me. I’m not the avatar of all people who have written about cultural appropriation ever. Don’t expect me to answer for them.

If you can follow these guidelines, you can submit a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

P.S. Sorry for the disjointed nature of the comment responses below. My theme doesn’t support threading as of yet, but I’m trying to fix that now.


Top Image: “Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation” by Shannon Wright. Find more of her work on her website, twitter, and instagram.

 

me with Delany, Diaz, and Liu

Discussions About Diversity In Science Fiction

me with Delany, Diaz, and Liu

NPR Books and Code Switch ran several great pieces for Black History Month this year, including the Hidden Black History one I talked about the other day and this one on letters and black history that I also wrote. My bud Alaya Dawn Johnson also put together a fantastic post wherein she interviewed some great Black science fiction writers about their impact on the genre and on shaping the future.

To the extent that science fiction is the literature of ideas, of plausible futurism, of extrapolation from social trends that can help us locate ourselves better in the present, we have helped to make science fiction more relevant than ever. Afrofuturism was a hugely important phenomenon in the black community, but George Clinton or Sun Ra never got invited to a World Science Fiction Convention. Last year, the groundbreaking musical artist Janelle Monae, whose work is strongly inspired by afrofuturism, received an honorable mention for the prestigious Tiptree Award for her album The Electric Lady. The lines are converging; we are rewriting our futures.

Please read the whole thing, it is well worth it.

And if you’re interested in such things, last week I was on the Marc Steiner Show talking about Octavia Butler (it was the anniversary of her death) and the state of Black science fiction. My fellow panelists, Ytasha L. Womack, adrienne maree brown, and Jason T. Harris, were a delight to converse with and big props to the host for keeping the conversation lively. When you have an hour listen to the podcast.

My Faves: Time Travel Fiction and Media

Fans of NPR’s Weekend Edition may have caught a familiar voice when listening to the segment on time travel fiction. I had a great time talking to Petra Mayer about time travel, a topic near and dear to my heart. Yes, I am still writing a novel with time traveling twins (same world as my story in Diverse Energies). Now that all of NPR knows about it I guess I should finally finish.

In the mean time you can enjoy my best-loved time travel books, stories, and other media!

“It’s All True” by John Kessel (contained in his collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories)

I mentioned this during the time travel panel at ReaderCon. In this story, a future society has invented time travel and they use it to go to parallel worlds, travel back in time, get famous people from the past, then bring them forward in time back to their own timeline. Thus avoiding changing their future. I swear this makes sense. The story centers around one guy’s attempt to convince Orson Wells to come to the future.

the freedom maze and kindred

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman and Kindred by Octavia Butler

I mention these two together because they share a basic premise (but are very different in sensibility as well as plot). In both, a person from modern times is thrown back into the era of American slavery, ends up with people who are her ancestors, and has to live as a slave for some portion of time. In Kindred the person is a grown woman who is pulled backward in time multiple times. In The Freedom Maze the person is a young girl who is actually white, but because she’s very tan is mistaken for a mulatto. She stays in the past for weeks and it’s unclear whether she’ll ever get back home. Both novels explore modern perspectives on the past in interesting ways.

Past Tense” and “Trials and Tribble-ationsStar Trek: Deep Space Nine

Some people will try to tell you that the best Star Trek episode about time travel is “The City on the Edge of Forever”. I don’t mind telling you that those people are wrong. As with so many things Star Trek, DS9 has the best episodes using this story vehicle. My ultimate favorite is, of course, the tribble one where the crew of DS9 travel back to the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” and have to blend in with the original Enterprise crew. It’s awesome on so many levels from how seamlessly the effects crew blended the footage from TOS with the new footage to moments like this:

However, “Past Tense” has stayed with me all these years for a different reason. DS9 was often very social justice oriented, and this episode was chock full of it. For once, when Star Trek people ended up in the past on Earth it was not in the 20th century. Instead, they land in 2024 (still in San Francisco, though) in a dystopian America that is sadly not that hard to imagine. People who are poor, sick, or just undesirable are cordoned off into ghettos. And not just ghettos in the urban sense, but actual ghettos with walls and fences and an inability to get out where people have to fight over food rations and only get a place to sleep if the local gangs think you’re okay. It’s terrifying and not that far off the mark. This episode aired about 20 years ago. 2024 is 10 years from now. Think Star Trek will prove prescient?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

This series didn’t get a chance to flourish fully and it ends on what could be a cliffhanger or what could seem like a satisfying end given that we sort of know what happens after. The second season dragged in the middle for sure, but overall this is one of the best entries in the Terminator franchise, right up there with T2 and way better than T3 or what weird one with Christian Bale.

The main characters in SCC don’t do much time traveling themselves. What I loved about the time travel elements is that the war between Skynet and the humans takes place not only in the future but across both the relative past, the future, and the present. Several people and Terminator models are sent back in time at different points for specific and long term missions. And each time a person or group of people are sent back, it changes the future. So that woman you knew in the resistance and see again on the street might not be the exact person you knew, but a version of them.

And even when they strike a blow against Skynet, be it by destroying tech that will lead to it or getting rid of a Terminator come to kill someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean Skynet won’t still rise, it’ll just rise at a different date. All these elements are key to the plot, and kudos to the show for making all of this relatively straightforward and understandable. It’s not just some jumbled timey-wimey mess.

I am always looking for more time travel fiction to add to my to-read pile. Rec me some in the comments, if you would!

Reading, Reviewing, and ‘Rithmatic

I’ve been bad about updating this blog with new and exciting news about myself. So here’s some news.

Last week my review of the new Octavia E Butler eBook Unexpected Stories went up at NPR Books. I really enjoyed the book and my only sadness is that there aren’t more new stories to read. Go read the review and then go buy the book.

This week I am back on io9 posting roundups of my favorite short stories. Now it’s weekly instead of monthly, so I can talk about more stories I love.

Now that I’m reviewing for NPR and doing the story thing on io9 folks have been asking me about sending review copies and such. I have a policy! I’ll also post this on my About page, but here it is in case you’re curious:

NPR has pretty strict conflict of interest rules, so if we’re friends or I know you well or if you have published me I can’t review your book or an anthology/collection you’re in or you edited. It’s sadface sadness, I know. I can suggest books to my editor who will then pass them on to a reviewer without conflicts and that is okay. If you do not know me, you can certainly ask if I’d like a review copy of your book/anthology/collection. If I’m interested, I’ll pitch it to my editor. I cannot make the final decision on whether I can review something for NPR, so I may have to say no.

The io9 posts are not strictly reviews and I’m not claiming complete objectivity. The stories I mention are the ones I personally like, and that may include stories by people I know. I pick stories from the magazines (and sometimes anthologies) I read and that mostly includes free online ones. But if you have a print mag, or an eBook version of your zine with extra content, or an anthology you’d like me to read in case I like a story enough to mention it, please do let me know! Me agreeing to read does not guarantee you’ll get a mention, just so you know.

All that business aside, I’m very much enjoying reading more again and highlighting excellent fiction where I can. I’m still looking for a place to write about other media, especially when the Fall TV season starts up again.

Fiction n’ Things

Fiction: The Plagiarist by Alex Rose.  Very interesting piece this week.

Thing: In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re back to doing an author spotlight for every story that goes up.  The lovely Ellen B. Wright has been in charge of those and is doing an excellent job of taking them beyond the standard questions I’d been asking before.  Very interesting stuff, particularly from this week’s author.

Fiction: Nine Sundays in a Row by Kris Dikeman. Fellow Altered Fluidian Kris has a story up at Strange Horizons this week. Check it out.

Thing: I just said “oh noes” on national radio.