This week: Exotic LocalesEdited by: Robert Waltz
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I've got an image of me at the bottom of my garden sitting under my silver birch tree reading, while everyone else had gone somewhere exotic.
Beware the ends of the earth and the exotic: the drama is on your doorstep wherever the slums; are, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.
If the arts are held up solely as a means of social insight, fantasy is denied the chance to be commonplace and reality the chance to be exotic.
Let's get your inevitable jealousy out of the way first:
I'm writing this from the island of Maui.
That's right. Let the hate flow through you.
Now, true, Maui is part of Hawai'i, and Hawai'i is just as much a part of the US as New Jersey is (only cleaner, but what state can't say that?). Still, coming from Virginia, it's quite different, so it got me started thinking about the idea of the exotic.
Clearly, what's ordinary and what's exotic is partly a matter of perspective. It's not enough to be far away; to someone from California, for instance, London might seem more commonplace than Tijuana, as the languages and customs are similar.
As writers, we generally strive to be understood by an audience. Our audience is, generally speaking, people of a similar background and culture as our own. But as writers of fantasy or science fiction, we often find ourselves writing about places and people completely different, be they on another planet, Fairyland, or an undersea kingdom.
So the question becomes, how do we translate an exotic locale into something to which the reader can relate?
The answer is finding common ground. No matter what odd (to us) customs an alien race has, you can find points of convergence with our own - the way they communicate, a desire for peace or war, curiosity... something. Start with that, and build from there. Comparisons lead to contrasts: "They build ships for crossing the water, but theirs have hexagonal sails," for instance. Or "They build houses, but in the trees."
The more differences they have, the more exotic they will seem to the reader - but too many differences, and you're leaving the realm of the exotic and reaching the idea of the completely alien. Which has its place, but it's not necessarily a place we'd like to visit.
Tropical islands, though - they're places we'd like to visit. Unless they're inhabited by evil robots bent on destruction.
Some fantasy for your February pleasure:
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Last time, in "Food" , I discussed the idea of exotic cuisine.
BIG BAD WOLF : Sometimes peoples' tastes are for, shall we say, other than the usual unusual foods. Then again, those fantasy creatures have their own preferred foods, and things might be very different there anyways, especially in stories that deal in the fetish known as Vore. Feel free to contact me there on that subject - got an item that deals with that topic in general.
"It's a cook book!" - al la "To Serve Man", The Twilight Zone.
Now, see, you've backed me into a corner, here. If I say I don't know what vore is, it would reflect poorly on my knowledge base. If, however, I say I know exactly what it is, then I reveal myself as a pervert who peers into the darkest corners of the internet. Let's just say I've heard of it and leave it at that, eh? ...except perhaps to say that there's certainly a time and place in fantasy / science fiction writing for taboo references. Heck, they got away with it several times in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.
RainbowFish : Food is my go-to cure for writers block. Whenever I have no idea what to write, having my character sit down for a good meal is always fun and flowy!
That is good, but of course, I think it's best when it furthers the plot, reveals character, speaks to the theme, or all of the above.
TopsyTurvyMumsy : Well then . . . yeah, you SHOULD have worked in syzygy. I'm disappointed and expect to see it in a future newsletter.
Also, been there done that with writing food while hungry. I wanted to give my culture's cuisine an exotic, slightly sub-continental feel (without actually being Indian cuisine) and . . . well let's just say Clay Oven was pretty happy with me while I was writing that story.
Yes... there is always the danger of the writer being distracted by their own writing. A common malady for writers of food, travel, and erotica... or so I've heard.
Well, that's it for me for now. Back to the deep blue Pacific and warm sands of Hawai'i for me! Until next month,
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