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Friday, July 03, 2009


Hear the conversation...

Been a bit of radio silence this week, for various reasons; however, following the panel last week, if you click here, you'll hear a recording of said discussion! (You may also hear brass instruments playing in the background from time to time; this is because there were other meetings in the building, including a concert.) If you want to identify me, I'm the voice that begins by talking about the 'Nine Parts of Speech' poem. It's very peculiar hearing my own voice recorded; I don't sound like that in my own head.

It was very pleasant meeting my fellow panelists, all of whom were nice people. While there, I also met a delightful woman who told me about her work at the following charity: Reprieve, a truly admirable organisation that campaigns for the rights of prisoners, including those at Guantanamo. I strongly advise everyone to check them out - and, if you can spare it, consider making a donation.

Several questions came up. Does Britishness affect one's writing? How so? Do you think of yourself as a science fiction writer? (Guess what I said about that.)

Anyway, have a listen if you're interested, have a look at Reprieve, have a good weekend.

You do sound a bit different than the voice I hear in my head when I read your words, but not quite as different as I thought you would.

The discussion as a whole was fascinating to me, particularly is seeing how America is perceived from the 'outside'. Yes, it is true, the Civil War is still going on in a way and people do write a heck of a lot of alternate history about it. (On the other hand, people making a big deal about being Irish or English or Scottish is oddly amusing to me, since over here y'all would just be considered white people with interesting accents.)

I definitely agree with you that genre only really exists for the convenience of bookstore shelving and you should write what wants to come out of you and not worry about labels.

Thanks for the link! I enjoyed listening.
people making a big deal about being Irish or English or Scottish is oddly amusing to me

I hope not in a contemptuous way. The point is, we're not 'over here': we're in our original countries, which have a tremendous history of conflict. What's meaningful in one context may not be meaningful in another, but that doesn't mean the first context isn't serious business.

Anyway, thanks for listening and glad you enjoyed it.
I guess my point was that 'race' (as I've seen the term used in that context, maybe not in that discussion in particular, but elsewhere) means something else entirely here in the South and it's an interesting contrast. Certainly not intended to belittle the very real conflicts that are still being played out in some ways.
We don't use the word 'race' to describe tensions between people here, though. Generally we're more specific - we just talk about 'Protestant paramiliataries' or whatever. When talking about Scottish or Welsh nationalist drives, the word is 'devolution' or 'independence'; when talking about Protestant-Catholic clashes in Northern Ireland, the word is 'sectarian'. They're about nationality and culture rather than race.
I'd come across the term 'race' (particularly regarding the Irish) bandied about as if it were a common notion, though not anywhere recently. I'm glad to be corrected on that misconception. (I'm sure you get annoyed enough with ignorant Americans assuming that the UK and England are interchangeable terms.)
I think the Irish were considered a separate race a couple of centuries ago (which is one of the reasons the conflict contains so much bitterness; the British did see them as an inferior people). Now, though, it's not the case. It is basically a conflict of ethnicity more than religion - the Protestants are descended from English and Irish immigrants who got allocated land the Catholic locals had previously owned, so religion is a marker of ethnicity - though if you want to identify who's who, names are a quicker guide (you're not going to find Catholics called Smith or Protestants called O'Kelly). But 'ethnicity' itself isn't a word people would use to describe it; 'community' is more likely.

It's not unlike the racial divides in America, in that both are divisions between groups of people who have a troubled and bitter history between them. Race is one line along which such divisions can be drawn, as is religion or nationality; they're all sad cases of the same thing, which is basically Us against Them.
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