kutsuwamushi: (don't make me come back there)
There has been a lot of discussion on [community profile] metafandom about Patricia Wrede's new book, which Jo Walton summarized thus: "This is an alternate version of our world which is full of magic, and where America ('Columbia') was discovered empty of people but full of dangerous animals, many of them magical."

I don't like it either, for reasons that other people have rather eloquently pointed out. Patricia Wrede is, like it or not, the cultural heir of a genocide. The beneficiary. Writing the victims out of existence, when their descendants still struggle for recognition and rights, is problematic to say the least.

Our colonial history is presented as a heroic adventure. Columbus, pilgrims, cowboys, pioneers. The Little House on the Praire. We learn about Native Americans as well - but as supporting characters, or worse, props. The national myth that many of us have instilled in us as young children is one of discovery, exploration, and settlement. That history is about the victors.

It's natural that some writers are drawn towards it. Re-imagining myths, especially ones that are part of your own cultural identity, is one of the oldest storytelling traditions.

But in no way does that mean it's okay to create a world where Native Americans never existed, freeing the Americas for your white characters to explore and populate without any resistance or raising uncomfortable issues about your own history.

There are other ways to write that magical exploration story. There are other re-imaginings. The first, and most obvious, is that white people don't have to be the protagonists.

That isn't as obvious as it should be, unfortunately.

God, I have so many ideas for stories I will never get around to writing as a result of this whole thing.

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kutsuwamushi

August 2012

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