NEON YANG (they/them) Profile picture
Apr 29, 2018 16 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I wanna talk about ~historical accuracy in worldbuilding for a bit, particularly in secondary world fantasy. Because it’s something that’s come up in discussions w/ friends lately and it won’t let my mind go. So. A mini-thread!
Big secret: I did absolutely ZERO historical research for the world building of the Tensorate series. Like none. I just sat down with my notebook and a pencil for a couple of days and pulled the whole damn thing out of my ass.
.@crashwong asked me what kind of research I did for the series and I was like “errr haha sorry NONE ACTUALLY I just low-key based it off all the terrible Channel 8 historical fantasies/dramas I used to watch as a child???”

And she was like OH THANK GOD
I feel there's extra pressure for #ownvoices authors to do the research when drawing from their cultures so that it’s AS ACCURATE AS POSSIBLE

And that’s great if you WANT to do it, BUT

I'm opposed to the idea that this is the only way to do ~diverse~ secondary world fantasy.
For me, that's p counter-intuitive. I use secondary-world settings as a tool to build social structures that are different from the ones I’m familiar with, so I can pick things apart, or you know… just have fun with stretching human interaction.
I’m not here to teach a history lesson. I’m here to tell a good story with interesting characters. That’s all I want.
I'm p sure the people behind the mid-to-no-budget Chinese fantasy dramas that formed the background of my childhood didn't do a scrap of historical research either. They were just there to have fun, and fuck things up.

So am I!
I think this is a problem when people expect #ownvoices fiction to also be an educational tool about the culture(s)-slash-marginalizations of their authors.

But here's the thing, I'm a storyteller. Not a tour guide. I wanna make shit up. Sometimes ALL of it.
I want to write things that maybe reflect my thoughts and experiences and worldview, but most importantly I want them to reflect how I FEEL.

And that's often incompatible with ~accuracy.
I think a lot about the class I took in college where we analysed Bollywood films. That class taught me about the difference between cinematic realism (prized by Western cinema) and emotional realism (the Bollywood aesthetic).
It means that it doesn't matter how much about the real world you get wrong or throw away, as long as you get the emotions RIGHT. The emotional truth is the core of the story, the part that dictates how everything else goes down.
And that's really my aesthetic when it comes to storytelling. Emotional verisimilitude >>> real-world accuracy. I want to tell stories about families and complex relationships and characters that make sense in their contexts.
I'm sorry I can't tell you which dynasty of Chinese history I drew my worldbuilding inspiration from. The answer is NONE because I am shit at Chinese history and p unapologetic about it.

I just have my aesthetics, and a story I want to tell. That's pretty much it.
Does that make me a better or worse storyteller? Frankly, I haven't a fucking clue. But I know what works for me, and I do it.

Thanks for listening, y'all.
OK this thread blew up a bit! SINCE WE'RE HERE...
THE BLACK TIDES OF HEAVEN is a Hugo & Nebula award finalist, & it and its twin THE RED THREADS OF FORTUNE are on the Tiptree honor list!…
THE DESCENT OF MONSTERS, book #3, drops 7/31!…
Also please read the addendum to this thread so that things don’t get lost in the context!

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