Thinking of Things at the Start of Something New (28/6/11)

I should mention Alt.Fiction in passing. Plenty of other blogs are already singing its praises, so I’ll not go on at length. As a first-timer, I was impressed by the venue, the programme, the organisation and the number of authors in attendance. Thanks to those who put in their time and effort to make this happen, and yet another huge sorry for those who showed up to the reading that got cancelled at short notice. I blame, well, me, mostly. Roll on Fantasycon.

To business then. Kingdom X has conquered kingdom N. Protagonist is an X but settles among people N. Kingdom X develops a bad attitude towards its conquered minions. Protagonist stands up for the N people around him and becomes a reluctant leader within an uprising. It’s not exactly a story you haven’t heard before, although I already changed to X and N from A and B to avoid upsetting anyone who might think that the use of A and B was intended to imply that B is somehow inferior <sigh>.

So here’s a little thought-experiment going: If this was a traditional medieval Europe fantasy setting, then Kingdom A would look like (say) Denmark and Kingdom B would look like (say) some bit of Germany, and everyone would be racially and culturally much the same and pretty familiar. Which would be safe and probably the most commercial thing to do, but perpetuates the whiteness of fantasy and isn’t remotely progressive.

I’m interested in alternatives. Is there a version of this story that’s both progressive and commercially viable? Or has there been?

2 Responses to “Thinking of Things at the Start of Something New (28/6/11)”

  1. Anne Lyle says:

    I think the problem with the scenario is that in movies at least, it’s been done so many times from the X = white, N = PoC/alien perspective (Dances With Wolves, Avatar, etc). It’s assumed that the Western audience need a white protagonist with whom to empathise, which limits you to allegorising/commenting on real-world colonialism.

    It would be interesting to see this with the roles reversed, but a simple X = black, N = white switch might be too obvious. I think it would be less contentious to do it with X = alien/non-human, but then you face the problem of a protagonist who is hard to empathise with – you might have to have a human PoV as your “Watson” to the protagonist’s “Holmes”, so to speak.

    Come to think of it, that’s sort of what I’m doing in my forthcoming trilogy, although I’d never framed it like that before…Thanks for the insight, Steve!

  2. Stephen says:

    White man saves the primitive natives from the tyranny of another white man? Urgh. Suspect you’re right about how to make the reversed role work.

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