Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nothing is created in a vacuum: On Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child.

I and it looks like many other sf fans will never read Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child. Why, you ask? Put simply, Wrede has written an alternative history of the settlement of America - with a few speculative twists. What are the speculative twists you may be thinking? Aside from the traditional speculative tropes, for whatever reason, Wrede has decided to reimagine an America sans Native Americans.

When I first read the summary of this on, I was speechless, dumbfounded and incredibly uncomfortable. In one sense, I attempted to give the author some leeway. Perhaps Wrede felt that she didn't want to navigate the intricacies of the immigration invasion of America, so she side stepped them. But side stepping by obliterating Native American existence - is like genocide by omission.

Here's the problem. Nothing is created in a vacuum and audiences do not read in one. To write about colonisation is fraught with danger. Wrede has in fact (perhaps unknowingly, perhaps subconsciously) written a white washed and racist text. To reimagine America as devoid of its Native occupants is precisely as many would currently choose to have American history written and read. It is disenfranchising to Native American people, and IMO reflects authorial laziness.

What is the point of reimagining colonial history - without actually putting any thought into how you will treat the indigenous occupants?

I am not American. My reaction to this is highly influenced by the Australian history wars, in which there are many calls for an essential white washing of the Australian invasion.

For an thought provoking write up, visit: Maunderings & Ponderings


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