gillpolack: (Default)
[personal profile] gillpolack
Those of you who've done my history and world-building courses may have noticed me talking about how our cultural inwardness and ethnocentricities place unintended curbs on our story-telling. Here's another approach (not done for writers, but for rather more basic research reasons), using anthropology and psychology: http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135/#.US6kCBaVnHt.twitter

The bottom line is that not all stories are about us, or should be about us. The bottom line for this research (if one extrapolates for writers) is that US story models (which are very popular in genre writing) represent something very interesting indeed, but not as representative of wider humanity as many believe. There are more ways of telling stories out there than we think, and more choices characters can make.

What's really interesting is that the psychology of this research seems to suggest that we create our own societies (they were specifically talking about economies) from material familiar to many spec fic writers.

Some of you know (hopefully very few) that my initial research interest (many, many years ago) was how speakers of the vernacular wrote about history and the past ie how they structured their worldview using their literature and how that fed into itself and created a strong sense of self in time. I was influenced by ethnohistory in my approach, for Greg Dening taught me in Honours year, and his is the sort of teaching that never gets shaken off. The article didn't surprise me, then, for these researchers and I had some overlap in how we approached the study of humanity. I love it that a complex, porous place where disciplines are merging is developing and, with the merge, our understanding of humanity blossoms.

What I love particularly, is that fiction writers have the power to read and learn from the scholars working in this complex, porous place and take the blossoming and bring the new understanding into the community, with interpretations of the different ways of seeing and doing and thinking that present books and characters that move us from the US end of interpretable existence* into wider fields. More blossoms can bloom, for the understanding will spread.

There's been lots of talk of how science fits into speculative fiction, but this type of study is just as important for any genre that claims "We're the one that asks 'What if?"



*Please, do this! The finding that so much of our understanding of humanity is based on studies of US undergrads, frankly, terrified me. What worried me, additionally, was that I wasn't at all surprised. Credible sources and their cost both count in some disciplines.

ETA: Sorry - the first paragraph faded mysteriously, but I've put it back. My TV is currently doing the same. It's all very odd.

Date: 2013-02-28 08:14 am (UTC)
cmcmck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cmcmck
'books and characters that move us from the US end of interpretable existence'

Oh yes!

Date: 2013-02-28 05:20 pm (UTC)
cmcmck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cmcmck
Well, you and I are historians, so we have to say these things! :o)
Edited Date: 2013-02-28 05:20 pm (UTC)

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