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Thread: Racism Disguised as SciFi

  1. #1
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    Default Racism Disguised as SciFi

    I'm not even sure how something like this can be taken seriously, because even by my standards it's ridiculously unveiled racism. The whole concept, science, and everything about it is 3rd rate self-published crap. If anything it hurts the concept and credibility of SciFi, which hasn't ever been that high.

    HTML code:
    http://www.savethepearls.com
    About the Book

    Would you betray your loved ones—and maybe your entire race—to avoid a horrible death?

    In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman’s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. The clock is ticking: if Eden doesn’t mate before her eighteenth birthday, she’ll be left outside to die.

    If only a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class would pick up her mate option, she’d be safe. But no matter how much Eden darkens her skin and hair, she’s still a Pearl, still ugly-cursed with a tragically low mate-rate of 15%.

    Just maybe one Coal sees the real Eden and will save her-she has begun secretly dating her handsome co-worker Jamal. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she is thrown into the eye of a storm-and the remaining patch of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land.

    Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction to him. To survive, Eden must change-but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty-and of true love.

    Acclaimed writer VICTORIA FOYT blends equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this captivating dystopian novel set in a terrifying future, which is all too easy to imagine.


    Here's a review about it that hits the nail on the head:

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    http://requireshate.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/down-with-coals-save-the-whites-victoria-foyts-revealing-eden-pt-1/

  2. #2
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    I think what ends up happening is that people have a hard time separating themselves from what they’re writing. Most of these “let’s be deep and flip things around” books are a train wreck. Hell, I like Kim Stanley Robinson and I’m terrified of reading “The Years of Rice and Salt.” Writing a book with a primary character based on your own culture is hard enough. Writing a book where the protagonist is an entirely different and actually existing culture is impossible to do without the author impressing his/her own cultural values onto the character. Liz Williams, Paolo Bacigalupi, John C. Burdett (Moon knows who this is, I threw him in just to get her ranty), and almost anyone who thinks they “get” another culture enough to write as someone in it fall into this fail group.

    Hell, I love Aliette de Bodard’s novels, the detail, the characters, the way everything is researched out, they remind me of updated, fleshed out Ellis Peter’s “Brother Cadfael” novels or Judge Dee stories in a fantastical Mezo-American setting. This is a good thing, because if I found the prose boring I’d say Umberto Eco More importantly, she does everything the authors listed above failed to do: detailed research based upon actual facts not “I backpacked through Thailand for a month so understand them enough to write as one of them.”

    However, at some point, she made the decision to impress partial modern European values on a dead society she had no direct experience with. Can I point out where? Nope! If I can’t point it out, how do I know it happened? She’s a modern European person who can write enjoyable fiction with characters readers can identify with so there’s bound to be cultural contamination in there somewhere. End of story.

    This isn’t a criticism of her books, her values, integrity as an author, or anything. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy her work, respect her as an author, and a historian for the amount of research she did while managing to humanize a society that has been de-humanized by Western culture since first contact. Best of all, she did it in an easily digestible form. To restate, I am not criticizing the best new author I’ve read in quite a while! I don’t think that “cultural contamination” affected the book in any way, either. She’s an example of how to do this sort of cross cultural writing the correct way.

    My point with this is just that it’s hard to break away from who you are at a level as intimate as writing. Novelists have to impart a portion of themselves into the work to give it some sort of soul. If they didn’t, we’d all be reading works resembling scientific journals, and even those boring articles contain humor specific to their field at times.

    “Write what you know”. Even people who write about their own cultures have a hard time being impartial to their culture and tend to focus on either the negatives or the positives, depending on the message they want to get across or their experiences. Tolstoy is a prime example of this, does a good job of expressing the duality of Imperial Russian culture, but had a definite slant in his works.

    Don’t get it twisted around and think I’m defending Hoyt, because I’m not. I’m agreeing with the fact that deep down she’s horribly racist, in denial about her racism, and far from the sharpest tool in the shed if she felt that this book would be accepted by anyone. She’s had to put part of herself into a book that is a ridiculous caricature of racial interaction, tolerance, and any understanding that people of one race can find people of another race physically attractive. Worst of all and entirely unforgivable, she’s made a complete mockery of science fiction’s ability to broaden mental horizons by questioning if all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

  3. #3
    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Writing a book with a primary character based on your own culture is hard enough. Writing a book where the protagonist is an entirely different and actually existing culture is impossible to do without the author impressing his/her own cultural values onto the character.
    God, that is the truth, and traps me in worry when it comes to writing anywhere even slightly outside of my own background, unless it's historical or fantasy. Actually seeking out people who are part of the culture you're exploring will help, though. If Hoyt's attempts to deconstruct racism had been sincere instead of some bizarre attempt to make a weird masturbatory "oh, poor white women, oh, sexy beastly black men" novel, she could have talked to people who actually suffer from racism and have them read her manuscript and listen, carefully, to their input.

    I'm not sure if black face, skinny blondes being an oppressed minority, and seventeen year old white girls desperately needing to get a black man in order to survive could ever possibly not be racist, though. My mind boggles at someone not seeing how all of the problematic elements there. Is there the risk of imprinting your own cultural background onto everything you write? Yes, definitely. A teensy bit of self-awareness could at least avoid the most horrifyingly bad bits of enshrining the woes of pretty blondes in a world where POC are in power, though.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    I read the review and it has saved me from reading the book.

    For fiction like this, the setting has so little to do with the ideas being promoted. If there had been some exploration of the setup, or reasoning behind it then it would be an interesting piece. Instead it appears to have included all the worst tropes and traits that can be thought of jammed together in a blender and present as something which we should be interested in reading instead of the racist tripe it is.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

  5. #5
    Porosity Caster parzival's avatar
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    I have not read the book, and I didn't make it all the way through the review, but I think the reviewer may be attributing to malice what is probably just stupidity. They seem to be implying some latent white supremacism to what she wrote. That really put me off the review.
    My guess is that it's more likely she was intentionally trying to point out the absurdity of it. The problem is that she's mixing both the race 'reversal' and this absurd labelling, while exaggerating all the elements. It inevitably is not going to work. Especially so when she most likely doesn't understand the cultural problems she's attempting to criticize? satirize? explain? It all sounds like an offensive mess, but misinterpreting her motives as in line with people who really hold worse opinions doesn't really help.

  6. #6
    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    I'd seen the preview video a while back and thought it a bit WTFy. The book seems to be particularly badly written, with the author not seeming to have put any thought into the implications of the racial biases she seeks to explore. This lack of follow through on the ideas makes them seem all the more racist, even if that genuinely wasn't the intent of the author.

    I do think your cultural background probably can be, with much work, removed from a story and it still be engaging.

    Has anyone here read any of the Noughts & Crosses series? I've not read it but I stock it as some schools locally have it selected for study. They seem to be a solid, altogether far, far, more successful treatment of racism through the method of role reversal. It probably helps that the author in this case, Malorie Blackman, is black.

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