Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on unfortunate implications in SF

Here's the 'next' from the earlier 'more on that next'. For those who are interested, a rather demanding one year old can tie up enough arms to prevent typing for over twelve hours a day. This is partially a request for feedback, partially me thinking out loud. I appreciate any and all comments, critiques, and suggestions, but I don't really expect any.

That said, as noted before, one of my characters is a big, tough, masculine, gay, black man in a community where the last two but one (gay and black) are each enough to make him an outcast, or a victim of prejudice. Between the first two (big and tough) he's become second-in-command of that community. He's more or less happy in that spot because he's in got an unrequited love for the leader of the community. Not a character that I'd be embarrassed about.

Now for what happens to that character.

In the scene where he's introduced, he's taken by surprise and Colson's Law. He's a secondary character, which means his lot in life is to be beat about a bit, so I'm not too upset about this scene. It's certainly not something that would have been one whit different had he been some other race or orientation. Plenty of other characters get manhandled in that fashion; the character doing the manhandling is tyrannical and from a culture where casual physical violence is beneath the radar. Personal judgement: possibly unfortunate slapstick, but not as problematic as, say, the name Abdul.

The next scene where he makes an appearance is as one of three guys drafted as ammo mules. Now, this one could be taken the wrong way, but the qualifications for being one of the ammo bearers was being really strong, really big, a combatant, and running afoul of the main characters. Every character that matched all of those requirements got drafted, so I'm not upset there. There's some question of whether someone will be upset by a character of obvious African anscestry is being used to carry stuff, but two others (Mongolian and Irish) are being treated the same way. The Mongolian is a member of an elite monastic order. The Irishman is a mentally handicapped (environmental factors) but good natured hunter who has become more or less an adopted clan member of one of the main characters. Really, Abdul's involvement here isn't a racial slur; it's a comment on his size and strength. Personal judgement: no orientation implications, possible racial implications, but again less problematic as the name.

Finally, there's the scene that I reread and, frankly, shudder. In a large firefight, Abdul becomes the focal point of an illustration about courage. A man can be capable of dealing with enormous danger calmly, but faced with the unknown, he can still be intimidated. Abdul has been in more fights for his life than he can clearly remember, but they all involved muscled powered primitive weapons. The firefight he's in is firing off terrain changing explosions multiple times per second, and flechettes are flying like rain. He keeps going, but he's getting shocky. The main character realizes both that he's going tharn and the reason for it (fear of the unknown) and shoots him, once, in the calf. The suit he's wearing seals and anesthetizes the wound, so what he gets is a short stabbing pain followed by numbness. Now that the danger is made real, rather than being an unknown, he settles down and completes the mission. During the point where he's going all shocky, I was writing him as stuttering due to fear. The problem is that on rereading it, it doesn't sound like a fear shudder. It sounds like a bad 'old south on the plantation working in the fields' accent. Like I said, I'm shuddering. Personal judgement: a man being fearless in a known situation can be afraid in an unknown situation, no matter their race or orientation, but the accent Has To Go. Poste Haste.

In conclusion, my thoughts are that I need to change his name and how he sounds when near breaking. The feedback I'd like is whether I'm horribly off base, just about right, or somewhere in between.

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