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Continuum panel wrap: Writing diversely

I was lucky enough to convene the Continuum panel on Writing Diverse Genders, Sexualities and Cultures with Trudi Canavan, Louise Cusack & Gillian Polack. Chatting to some audience members later in the bar, we agreed we probably needed something more like 4 hours than 1.

So to cover off all the stuff we DIDN’T get to, I wanted to share some of the research & reading that we either shared before the panel – or mentioned during the panel:


Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward’s “Writing the Other” eBook (ESSENTIAL READING): http://www.writingtheother.com

Nisi Shawl on Appropriate Cultural Appropriation: http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10087

Paula Stiles on Why Multiculturalism Makes You a Better Writer: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/04/guest-post-paula-stiles-on-why-multiculturalism-makes-you-a-better-writer/

Terri Janke, “More than Words – Writing, Indigenous Culture & Copyright in Australia”: http://www.asauthors.org/lib/ASA_Papers/ASA_Writing_About_Indigenous_Australia.pdf

Australia Council for the Arts, “Protocols for producing Indigenous Australian writing”: http://www.austlit.edu.au/images/documents/Writing.pdf

Lauren Beukes on Writing the Other: http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/guest-blog-lauren-beukes-on-writing-the-other/

Jennifer DuBois on Writing Across Gender: http://www.powells.com/blog/guests/writing-across-gender-by-jennifer-dubois/

Kate Elliott, “It’s Amazing The Things We Know, That Are Actually Wrong”: http://aidanmoher.com/blog/2012/06/articles/its-amazing-the-things-we-know-that-are-actually-wrong-by-kate-elliott/

Angry Black Woman, “Writing the Other Shout-Outs – June 2010”: http://theangryblackwoman.com/2010/06/03/writing-the-other-shouts-outs-june-2010/

Tamara Kaye Sellman on Writing the Other in Magical Realism: http://www.angelfire.com/wa2/margin/pracmagicS04.html

Zachary Jernigan, “Writing About Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy” part 1: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/05/writing-about-race-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy-part-1-of-a-roundtable-interview/ and part 2: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/06/guest-post-writing-about-race-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy-part-2-of-a-roundtable-interview/


And something I’ve come across since the panel, that I recommend: Anneli Knight, “Creating Indigenous Characters that Ring True – and not ‘blowing a foot off’”: http://aawp.org.au/files/Knight.pdf


If you have other links you recommend, please feel free to share!


11 responses to “Continuum panel wrap: Writing diversely”

  1. Hi,

    I went to your panel session – it was an excellent discussion. Thanks for these links, they look like very useful resources.


  2. Oh, cool! You should’ve said hi. :)

    Hope you find the links useful – I sure did.

  3. You were talking to a few people and I thought “that’s OK, I’ll say hi at a better time”. And then I couldn’t seem to find a better time. And then suddenly it was Monday and you’d left!

    It was my first con – I wasn’t so good with the time management…


  4. I’ve been going to cons since 1999 & I’ve never gotten any better with the time management.

  5. Hi Deb,

    I was hoping to catch you at the con to talk about some of the issues that were raised at this panel, but didn’t get the chance to.

    I found some of the discussion around one of Trudi Canavan’s characters problematic. This particular character was referred to during the panel as a transsexual character, but my take on it, based on Trudi’s description of the character, is that this is not an appropriate description.

    To me, being transsexual means having a mental map of one’s sexed body that doesn’t match one’s physical body, and not being able to function properly as a result of this. Nothing about this character suggested this was the case for them. In fact, I don’t even know what it would mean to have a mismatching mental map of one’s body when that body can change at will anyway, as seemed to be the case in this fantasy world.

    I feel like Trudi’s character was actually an example of genderswap in fiction, not a representation of what it’s like to have transsexualism.

    The thing is, in discussing the representation of cultures and sexualities there was lots of talk during the panel of the work and research one needs to do to be able to portray differences authentically and respectfully. Whereas genderswap in sf and fantasy is done all the time, often by authors who know nothing about transgender and transsexual experiences, who do no research into gender diversity, and who don’t even write the characters with any intention of portraying a gender diverse character, and yet the characters get read that way and end being taken as representative of the real lives of people who are perceived to be “genderswapping” in real life.

    I think genderswap stories can be an interesting and useful way of exploring issues of gender stereotypes and norms. But most genderswap stories are not about transsexual people and they’re not representative of that experience. Authors generally don’t write them that way and for the most part don’t research them that way either. I feel that talking about them as if they were is disrespectful.


  6. Hey Gene – thanks for taking the time to comment. I put my hand up for this panel specifically because I’m aware of all the -isms & shortcomings & knowledge-blanks in my head, so I’m very glad to receive feedback that’s instructive.

    The distinction you make between fantasy gender-swap & genuine transsexual people makes sense. I can’t speak for Trudi & haven’t read the book in question, but I’ll pass on your comments.

    For my own benefit, would you have critical thought/essays you can point me towards – or some *positive*, insightful fiction I could read to expand my understanding of transsexualism? I’d appreciate it!

    I apologise to you & anyone who was offended by our panel. I know I am stumbling about as I try to improve my own desperately white-western-middle-class-sexually-normative understandings & will try to do better & better each time!

  7. I haven’t read the book in question either, so my take is based solely on what Trudi said at the panel, and I may have gotten completely the wrong end of the stick.

    Cheryl Morgan has a good critical essay on Changing Images of Trans People in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature that you might find interesting, if you’ve not already seen it?

  8. Thanks, Gene, I appreciate that starting point: I’ll check it out.

    Cheryl did very gently point out to me recently that my only attempt at a transgender character was a ‘bit of a cliche’, so I’m determined to write better next time. I don’t want to exclude transgender characters (that would be EVEN MORE of a cliche, imho, to pretend no one exists except people-like-me), but I don’t want to cop that criticism again, either. :))

  9. Hi Gene. Deb pointed me in the direction of your comments. I am very sorry that I got the terminology wrong and if you are offended I apologise. I really wish I’d had the room in the plot to develop that character – I’d have done the research and it would have saved me the embarrassment of making a gaff in a panel!

  10. Hi Trudi,

    My thanks to both you and Deb for being so receptive to my comment.

    Like I said, from the sounds of it I don’t think your character is problematic, but I did feel that the way the discussion of the character was framed during the panel was a little.

    No offense taken, I just thought it was worth suggesting a different way of framing things.

  11. Definitely worthwhile, I’d say. Thanks for taking the time, Gene!

    Have followed some of Cheryl’s links from the article you sent & done some very educational reading today (not that I’m claiming I’ve addressed ALL my shortcomings yet, mind…).