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Accuracy in Inspiration

Posted: March 19th, 2013, 4:12 pm
by dios4vida
For the very first time, I'm basing my new WIP on actual cultures and places. It isn't in any way supposed to be alternate fantasy or an accurate representation of said histories; I am merely using them as templates to build my world upon. The culture I'm looking at is at least 200 years dead. The place is mostly just for reference, but some of the myths regarding the island are utterly fascinating and would work very well with the fantasy country I'm building.

My question is, given this is a fantasy work completely independent from this world, am I free to use this information however I choose? If I use enough of these facts that they're recognizable but I have obviously planted my own myths alongside the true history, would that be considered offensive?

Re: Accuracy in Inspiration

Posted: March 19th, 2013, 6:54 pm
by polymath
Some readers will thrill at their discovery of an underlying inspiration. Some readers will shout, "Cheat!" Some readers will delight in a credibly and logically and consistently organized milieu they have no prior knowledge of. Me, I'll go with the flow, basing my appreciation on how artfully executed the narrative is.

Every writer borrows inspiration from wherever he or she may. There is no ownership of ideas. As a writer, I will start with perhaps a real-world inspiration and slant it, spin it, tear it to shreds and piece it back together in a newly or at least freshly imaginative way. Cubicle politics, for example. Why have cubicle maize rats run the obvious gamut of pecking order? Instead of power locations, next to power brokers, rest rooms, water cooler, exits, vending machines, coffee bars, or away from overseers' prying eyes, try for something intangible but profoundly meaningful like proximity to windows. This is cubicle office milieu, the workplace culture.

On the other hand, malapropriation of cultural identity is a heated and contentious ongoing public debate. Malapropriation in essence borrows cultural identity and turns it to propoganda purposes: intentional, incidental, or innocently. An artful and acceptable cultural identity appropriation practice avoids indicting or dehumanizing or demonizing entire culture groups, focusing instead on specific and individual personas who obviously do not represent entire culture groups. This goes to a broader writing principle. When writing, write with specificity.

Re: Accuracy in Inspiration

Posted: March 22nd, 2013, 11:23 pm
by sophiarosehips
I too struggle with how to represent cultures. I think dealing with cultures in fantasy is very tricky, because the stories I loved growing up often emphasized the "exotic," and that's one of the things I loved about them, but I've learned since to be very wary of exoticizing cultures. Check out my blog post touching on this, and the dialogue it engendered:

http://sophia-martin.blogspot.com/2012/ ... lpunk.html

Re: Accuracy in Inspiration

Posted: March 24th, 2013, 5:37 pm
by Kristina
I think it can be a tricky balance to find. However, you seem to already be aware of that. In which case, go for it!

Re: Accuracy in Inspiration

Posted: April 4th, 2013, 5:55 pm
by JohnDurvin
Another tip: make sure the culture is actually extinct. Do a web search for a "___ heritage" group, maybe even get in touch with them. I mention this because a friend of mine once went to an Indian pow-wow (a sort of heritage festival for any and all Native American groups, for those of you outside the US) and there was this angry-looking guy in a loin cloth and a mohawk walking around that nobody seemed to know anything about. Finally it came time for a big roll-call of tribe members, and the dude turned out to be Aztec.