These exercises are particularly aimed at writers who are white Americans; most of them may not seem especially unusual for writers of color or writers from other countries.
Note that although there's overlap in these suggestions, they're separate things; it would be possible to write a story, if you're so inclined, that matches any one of them without matching any of the others.
- Write a story set on Earth, in the present or future, somewhere other than the USA. In the story, don't mention words like "American" or "USA," and don't include any characters from the US. (If you must mention the US or Americans, don't mention them more than, say, twice.) Don't explicitly draw attention to the absence of America and Americans in the story.
- Write a story set on Earth, in the present or future, in a place where English isn't commonly spoken (could be in any country, including the US), with all of the dialogue in the story being in a human language other than English. It's fine to have the dialogue appear in the story in English, "translated" from some other language, in the standard way this is handled in stories; I'm just saying that from the characters' points of view, they're not speaking English. If you don't speak the language they're talking in, try to learn a little about it and about the local culture that speaks it, so that the dialogue is plausible for locals to be speaking.
- Write a story containing at least four human characters, in which none of the characters are caucasian. Don't explicitly draw attention to the absence of white people in the story.
- Write a story containing at least two caucasian human characters who are aware of their own cultural backgrounds. You may find Mary Anne's discussion of non-generic white characters useful.
As usual, Nisi and Cynthia's Writing the Other may be helpful.
(Wrote most of this a month ago, neglected to post it.)
This entry was partly sparked by a couple of submissions that matched some of these criteria, which pleased me, and partly by discussions with Kate B and Mary Anne around the end of Readercon, and partly by a long-ago discussion with Fred B in which he pointed out that most of the stories we publish are set in English-speaking countries.
I'm sure that someone is going to claim that this entry is proof that SH is biased against white characters. Standard disclaimer: we have no quotas; I'm sure most of the stories we publish will continue to feature white Americans, many or most of whom are ethnically generic. And this entry isn't so much a call for submissions to SH as a suggestion for an exercise to try. (And I lay no claim to originality here; I'm sure others have proposed similar exercises in various contexts.)
Still, fwiw, I personally would love to see more good stories that reflect a wider range of character backgrounds, settings, and languages.