Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Readercon race-related panel brainstorming

So one of my Readercon panels is called "Guess Who's Coming to Fairyland" and is described thusly:

Many fantasy and SF novels struggle with an issue that, at first glance, looks downright old-fashioned: interracial marriage. The races are non-human, and some of their problems are unique; for example, in Cheryl Brooks's Cat Star Chronicles, the near-extinct Zetithians must breed with other species or die out. Others face very familiar concerns such as being rejected by their families or peers. Their risk-taking is often rewarded with the birth of children who display enhanced or unusual abilities--though those children have their own concerns about not fitting in. How do these themes reflect and interact with real-world tensions around race, marriage, and culture?

I've been meaning to ask you all to poke at my thoughts on this, and I just send the mod an e-mail, so now I can simply cut and paste:

The e-mail read in part:

Specific to the idea of being special in fantasy because of cross-species ancestry, I intend to say that it is particularly problematic as a race metaphor because the idea of biracial specialness has a lot of really icky roots:

  • tends to be very objectifying (highly focused on appearance; discussed in terms more appropriate for plant or animal breeding, a.k.a. "if I hear the term 'hybrid vigor' I am going to turn into an enormous brown rage monster");
  • rarely gets applied to people with African descent (see: the one-drop rule), thus reinforcing racial hierarchies;
  • often comes with undertones that brownness ought to be diluted / there is something wrong with people pairing off within their racial groups.

What am I missing?

Basically I feel like this is a fantasy that unconsciously attempts to compensate for the awkwardness that well-meaning white Americans feel around/about non-African-American mixed-race people, by creating some compensation for those people not fitting in boxes, or perhaps more charitably (and non-exclusively), expresses a feeling of well-meaning etc. that mixed-race people ought to get cookies for demonstrating that interracial relationships can work (not that people enter into interracial relationships thinking that kind of thing, or that mixed-race people had any say in the fact of their ancestry). But I don't have a lot of first-hand experience, yet, and I want to hear other people's thoughts.

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Tags: cons, cons: readercon, cons: readercon: 2012, race

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