Showing posts with label Kevin Tipple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Tipple. Show all posts

14 August 2018

Not Like Us

by Michael Bracken

Hanging out with Kevin Tipple
at The Wild Detectives shortly before
Noir at the Bar-Dallas,
August 2, 2018.
About a month ago, as I write this, I dined with an early career writer who shared his experience during a recent writing workshop’s critique session. One of the authors who workshopped this writer’s story criticized him for cultural appropriation because he—a middle-aged white male—wrote about an older black woman.

My immediate response was a flippant, “If you aren’t creative enough to write about people who aren’t like you, you aren’t creative enough to write.”

I’ve thought often about that discussion, have not changed my opinion, but realize I may not be the person best suited to make the argument. After all, a lifetime of both male privilege and white privilege likely colors my viewpoint.

WRITES LIKE A WOMAN?

Several years ago, Bev Vincent experienced a similar dilemma, which he describes in “Apparently I Write Like a Girl,” when an editor rejected one of his stories, stating, “It’s quite a challenge for a writer of one sex to explore writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. Bev Vincent has not done a convincing job.” Bev is male and the protagonist of his story is male. The editor saw his byline, falsely presumed his gender, and savaged Bev’s story based on that false presumption.

I had a similar experience many years ago when an editor rejected one of my stories because it had a male byline and a female protagonist, and the editor expressed her belief that no writer could successfully write from the opposite gender’s perspective.

WRITES LIKE A WOMAN!

I’ve never presented myself as other than what I am—a middle-aged, middle-class white male—yet I’ve sold more than 350 stories with female protagonists and at least 100 stories in which the protagonist differs from me in some other significant way (ethnicity or sexual orientation, for example). In most cases the acquiring editors matched my submissions’ protagonists more closely than I did.

AND NOT JUST LIKE A WOMAN.

For an interview published in The Digest Enthusiast #8, Richard Krauss asked, “In ‘Professionals,’ Out of the Gutter No. 2 (Summer 2007), the narrator is a gay prostitute. In ‘My Sister’s Husband,’ Pulp Adventures No. 27 (Fall 2017), the narrator is a middle-aged woman. How do you ensure your characters act and speak authentically, with respect to their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.?”

Part of my response described how I develop characters: “The key [...] is to build characters from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Regardless of our gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and whatever else divides us, we share many commonalities. We want to love and be loved. We want to feel safe and free from fear. We want to be happy and healthy. We want to be appreciated by our families and respected by our peers. The list goes on and on.

“If we build characters from the inside out, the characters will ‘speak’ appropriately and more genuinely than if we build characters from the outside in and rely on stereotypes.”

BUT SHOULD WE?

Where is the line in the sand that we dare not cross when writing from the perspective of a character unlike ourselves? I don’t believe such a line exists, and if it does, I hope a rising tide washes it away.

Rather than limiting ourselves for fear of offending others, we should instead strive to create characters out of whole cloth, making them as authentic as our skills allow, and we should strive to improve those skills with each story we write. We should not be accused of cultural appropriation simply for writing about those who are not like us, but should rightly be called to task if fail to do the job well.

And those who critique our work should not make presumptions about our work because of who wrote it, but should instead judge the work on its own merits. A piece of writing succeeds or fails within the context of itself, not because the fingers on the keyboard were male or female; old or young; gay, straight, or bi; black, white, or any other shade of the rainbow.

We all benefit by reading and writing about characters that are not like us.

John Floyd and I have stories in the third issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine, the only writers to have fiction in all three issues. I’m uncertain how many stories John has upcoming in BCMM, but I have three in the pipeline, so we’ll likely share space between the covers several more times. Fellow SleuthSayer Eve Fisher also has a story in the third issue, so order your copy now and get a SleuthSayer three-fer.

19 August 2015

Five Red Herrings VII

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Critiquing a Grand Master.  If you are a fan of the late great Donald E. Westlake you owe it to yourself to take a look at The Westlake Review.  The blog's owner, one fredfitch, explains that his mission is simple: "Reviewing every book Donald Westlake ever wrote. Because I can."  

And these are not reviews in the sense of should-you-buy-it three-and-a-half-stars types.  No, he wants to discuss the  themes, the context, how it fits into Mr. W's ouevre and so on. As I write this the most recent work under the microscope is Comfort Station, in which Westlake, under a pseudonym, applies Arthur Hailey's Airport or Hotel style pomposity to the vibrant humanity of a public restroom in Bryant Park.


I don't know the author's real name; Fred Fitch was the luckless hero of God Save The Mark.  If you have read the Dortmunder chronicles and the Parker saga, you need this site.


 2.  E-book Mindfulness.  I'm guessing that most of you buy e-books from time to time.  But how do you do that?  Here are a couple of hings to think about.


When I want to buy an e-book my first choice is Kobo. You can purchase a Kobo reader if you want, but I read mine on my iPad.  I assume they work on the other tablets.  The reason I prefer Kobo is that they have a deal with the American Booksellers Association.  I go to the  website of my favorite independent bookstore, click on Search for E-books, and when I buy something part of the money goes straight to that bookshop.  My way of helping them stay in business.

If Kobo doesn't have the book - not all publishers play nice - I  buy a Kindle edition.  But I don't go directly to Amazon to do so.  There are others out there who have deals with Amazon, you see.

Kevin R. Tipple is an excellent book reviewer who also aggregates a lot of news about our field at his website Kevin's Corner.  His family has accumulated some horrific medical expenses for reasons  you can find on his page.  So I go to his site and click on the Amazon button there.  When I buy a book he gets a sliver of the dough.  It doesn't raise my price and I would rather he get it than the company one bookseller I know calls SPECTRE.

Before I found out about Kevin's case I used to buy my Amazon books through the Wolfe Pack page.  This is the official organization for Rex Stout fans and I was happy to put a few cents in their coffers when I bought an e-book.

I'm not suggesting you should make the same choices as me, but I do suggest you think about your e-book choices.  And let me know what you think in the comments.

3. To make you wonder.  I have mentioned Wondermark before.  It is probably my favorite webcomic, a steam-punk-friendly combination of Victorian book art with modern problems.  Here is one of David Malki!'s (yes, he includes the exclamation point in his name) recent comics that seems relevant to our website's subject:


And here and here are two more.

4.  I'm from the government and I am here to help you.  I may have mentioned a few hundred times that I am a government information librarian.  One of my colleagues, Daniel Cornwall, has created a guide to government information specifically for all the writers out there.

Here are a few random samples of the questions he offers to answer for you:

+ What are guidelines for reports of possible criminal activity involving foreign intelligence sources?
+ What are the symptoms of inhalation anthrax?
+ What are some of the relationship complications of pretending to be dead?
+ How can I find a name so rare, that it was only given to five or so babies in 1980?
 
Get your facts straight so readers like me don't whine at you!

5.  My two pages worth.  B.K. Stevens had (at least) two brilliant ideas this year.  One was to join SleuthSayers (yay!).  The other was to start her exciting new blog The First Two Pages.   Each week a different writer steps in to explain what he or she was trying to accomplish in the very beginning of a book or short story.  I am delighted that this week it is me, talking about my new novel GREENFELLAS.  Thanks for the opportunity, B.K.!