13.33: Reading Outside the Box

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with Kristie Claxton

Kristie Claxton joined us at WXR 2017 to talk about reading outside of the spaces where we’re comfortable and familiar. Specifically, we focused on how to learn about people who are not you by reading stories by and about them.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Who are you? Answer that, and then go on to read  things by and about people who are not you.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, by G.S. Denning, narrated by Robert Garson

6 thoughts on “13.33: Reading Outside the Box”

  1. I liked where Mary mentioned culture changing over time. Important note to aspiring writers: this includes your own culture!

    For example, Boom Comics has a well-regarded series of Power Rangers comics that are quite good, as such things go. But there are scenes with the Ranger teens texting each other on smartphones, (complete with modern, recognizable emojis,) and side characters running podcasts and Web video shows about the Power Rangers. Which would be just fine… except that this story is set in the year 1993! Nothing about the setting has been changed to explicitly indicated that they’re moving the stories forward in time 20 or so years, so it’s a bit jarring to run into blatant anachronisms like that.

  2. While on the Writing Excuses Retreat, Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard sat down with Kristie Claxton to answer the question, “How can I know when I’m reading about a different culture, that what I’m reading is accurate and respectful and well done?” It’s not easy, but the five of them discuss how to tackle reading outside the box of your ordinary reading, to find out just what is going on in one of those other boxes. Read all about it, in the transcript available in the archives and over here


  3. Any advice for those who for personal emotional health reasons need to avoid certain trigger topics?
    My personal need is to avoid sex scenes.

    [For all the people calling “prude” : Reading fictional accounts consistently mess up my libido badly enough that it affects real sex life. I have a marriage to maintain. With children depending on it’s stability. And that is worth way more to me than figuring out how other people think. So this is not a joke. I cannot afford to read sex scenes.]

    I assume there are people who who have other trigger topics that they need to avoid. The trouble is, in my own sphere, I can usually accurately identify safe books. I apparently can’t do this when facing “other.”

    Of the very short list of titles that I’ve tried, all of them have sex scenes dripping from them. Does this suggest that anything other than speculative or young adult or midgrade white American fiction will always have sex scenes? Did the recommendations I found come from award list and tend be more literary/ hard subject topic bias? Is there anyway to find “safe” books to read or do I just have to opt out unless I can find a gate keeper?

    1. Non-fiction and fairy tales are usually (but not always) safe. Children’s books are great too.

      I can’t handle sex scenes either. While I avoid most books with them, I have found that when I notice such a scene starting, I can usually just skip to the next chapter without missing much. I do the same for scenes with graphic violence, because they give me nightmares.

    2. I have been and AM dealing with exactly this. I believe you have to first wait until your “calling” involves writing about sex scenes. My latest project involves writing about Many cultures I was indoctrinated to look down upon. Eventually my life journey led me to like Them more than I did my own culture. I haven’t necessarily Changed my “home culture,” but I’ve learned to CARE about the “others.” I’d grown up with warnings that if I associate with XYZ then I’ll eventually “grow numb to them.” Well, that numbness is exactly what I needed.

  4. It’s interesting to listen to this after Black Panther has come out, because I went in with a similar mindset as Howard.
    They really didn’t do it right, and largely, I think, because it was American filmmakers making a film about Africa without knowing much about it, and showing their biases very clearly. Even if I hadn’t heard about Ryan Coogler, I could have guessed he was black and American. Or at least, to me it was clear, maybe because I’m neither but know both to a higher degree, having had friends and family from both my whole life.
    It’s a step forward, but a small one. They should listen to Writing Excuses! :)

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