Writing the Other: Taking a Lesson from Les blanches exotiques

Writing NotesI’ve been following Les blanches exotiques for a few weeks now. It’s usually hilarious (to me) because it’s so damn spot-on. It also flips the discrimination narrative in a way that, I think, fits N.K. Jemisin’s criteria. (Go read her bit about “flipping the scrip”, really.)  Or as they put it:

“The key is to use exotic to describe white as non-mockingly as possible and as often, so that exotic can stop meaning non-white essentially. Non-mocking meaning, non-mocking to white girls ability to be exotic, because when we mock white girls ability to be exotic we reinforce the logic of exotification.”

And for the most part, it works.  Really, really well.  It highlights how the dominant white western culture “others” people while showing how strange white western culture can be.1

For us writers of speculative fiction, we have to be exquisitely aware of this sort of thing when our characters meet a new (alien, fantasy, whatever) culture.  There’s two posts in particular that might provide you some perspective… and maybe some ideas.   The click through and read this illustration of a high-caste exotic white man. The description is both hilarious and spot-on.

The second one is what prompted me to write this:  “Exotic Whites and their Disturbing Practices of Human Sacrifice“.

They celebrate crucifiction[sic]! I know they say they don’t actually *practice* crucifixion, but there are *multiple* big crosses on hillsides in virtually every white community. You expect me to believe they build them but never use them?

Take that concept.  Play with it in your fiction.  Subvert expectations.  And remember that to someone who isn’t in the group, every cultural norm can seem exotic, silly, or even sinister… while still being something that just is everyday life to the people who live there.

And the ball did pass through the uprights, and it was Good.
And thus we celebrate the day the Titans were dragged down into the Earth to be imprisoned until the stars are right….

Yeah.  See what I mean?

1 See? I almost did it there, by using “we” and “us” and “ourselves”. Because I’m a white male, and I have this default assumption that the people reading this are also white male. Sneaky, sneaky stuff.