I'd appreciate if anyone can help let me know if my story is offensive

Bee22

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As someone who is ethnic Chinese here is my 2 cents:

Write it. But do your research - really make sure you know the historical background and context. China and Japan have a very long history of animosity and feuding. For example: read about the Rape of Nanking and Japan's actions around the Pacific Rim during World War II to learn exactly why there is so much animosity and why a child who is both Chinese and Japanese would be in a difficult position because of their ethnic mix. My grandmother will always treat Japanese people with suspicion because of the terror and carnage they inflicted on the Chinese population across China, the Mekong Delta, and Southeast Asia during World War II.
I would do all the possible research I can. But I really don't want too many political historical issues happening here and since it would have some dystopian themes set in the future. I understand and have knowledge of the conflicts that happened between China and Japan and about all the atrocities that the Japanese have taken part in doing to the Chinese during WWII and even the conflicts that occurred before that in history. even if this is set in a dystopian/future I might lean away from having both corporate countries integrated and just pick maybe only Chinese.

Look at how R.F. Kuang handled the whole Chinese vs Japanese thing in her book THE POPPY WAR - she's a historian specialising in that area and even she fictionalised the ethnicities (though it is clear who is who).
This I also thought of doing, making them fictional ethnicities like the demon side being not a real race, but it might cause too much disbelief.

Then write out your story - and make sure you treat all characters like people instead of falling back on stereotypes.

Once you've written a draft that you are ready to have others beta read, make sure you get sensitivity readers well-versed in Chinese and Japanese cultures to go through it. Run it by friends who have Chinese and Japanese heritage - they may be able to spot some negative stereotypes that you may not be aware of if you aren't Chinese or Japanese. Because if you are not Chinese or Japanese, you are going to have blindspots.

And contrary to what K2 says, I'm going to point this out:

There are no "vast swaths of people who will 'make it a point' to be offended". If people from the ethnic groups you include in your story point out to you certain things that misrepresent their cultures - listen, please. They are making the effort to do this because it's bloody irritating when authors and other creators (especially if they are White) just use our cultures as a widget to make their stories "different" or "exotic". If they are making the effort, then take it in good faith. It doesn't hurt to listen and take notes. It might even help improve your portrayal of various characters etc.

Nobody is saying you can't set your stories in our cultural worlds and settings, but most people who object to a particular element or portrayal in your story are saying: "Do it with respect and care, please."
I want to avoid stereotypes as much as possible if any at all! Meaning avoid them completely. Let's say if i make this an Chinese family who started out as like a secretive peaceful warrior organization (like the Wakanda version of Black Panther) and one of them in the group becomes corrupted, turning it into an assassin-like organization that still remained hidden but the new corrupted leader wants to expose it for more power and enters a super corrupt international tournament run by corrupted sponsors in the US. The Chinese guy wins becoming the champion winner and claiming right to take over the company tournament as now the new tournament sponsor. But since this guy is corrupted and carries the demon traits passed down his family line since ancient times has turned it into a more powerful organization, carrying over his old style organization that was assassin-like making it more powerful than before. And the next big tournament this Chinese guys son who is the MC would enter this tournament also carrying the demon traits and be the one to face his dad in combat and probably the only one strong enough to defeat his father.

I would have the son (MC) just Chinese or mixed Chinese with a quarter of American or British. Because I know that there are British that have lived in parts of China before, His mother could of inherited Chinese/British descent.

Please let me know if any of this sounds stereotypical or racist. Since you are ethnic Chinese. I would really love your opinion on this basic concept of mine.
 

Venusian Broon

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I just thought it would be unique if a Japanese corporates son/daughter got together with a Chinese corporates son/daughter and then merged both companies together and having both martial arts styles combined and culture would be fun. Sorry if that does sound offensive, I hope it doesn't.
I don't know if it's offensive (it's not to me), just that perhaps - unfortunately, because of modern history between the two nations - someone of Chinese or Japanese culture may say 'yeah right, that would never happen. No way.'

That actually gave me an idea. Maybe I could base it more on Chinese and Persian mythology since they actually have a history together? If that's true I kind of like this idea? Maybe I could have this corporate ONLY be of a Chinese family that has corruption in it with one side of the family consisting the demon traits through Mesopotamian demon that traveled East centuries ago? Did any Persian history travel to Japan? Or just China?
When the Sassanid Persians were pushed out of modern day Iran by the Arabs at the start of the 6th Century BCE, they retreated to the far east of their empire, but were pursued. In desperation they tried to find any allies, and found the Tang dynasty in China. Here's some more detail:


If that's a bit too ancient for you, the Chinese over time also sent a number of expeditions west (see Chinese exploration - Wikipedia) . Perhaps the most famous, that's closer to modern times, are the maritime expeditions of Zheng He that between 1405-1433 explored and visited as far West as Arabia (Zheng He - Wikipedia)

As far as I'm aware no Persians ever 'officially' made it to Japan in a similar way that history has recorded as above. However that's not to say individual Persians - Zoroastrian or Muslim - had contact with the Japanese. Who knows? It's certainly possible.

But my story wouldn't have anything to do with political issues, or any common racial themes and stereotypes that are about Chinese and Japanese. It would all be pretty much fantasy and science fictional events happening. I just wanted to merge two companies together with a strong combative martial arts system and militant force. Would it still have something offensive about this? :(
I don't know your own background and knowledge, so I'll put it this way. If I, were to write a story about the Japanese or any other real culture, even in a fantasy setting, I should be rightly lambasted for repeating tired tropes and incorrect generalisations about these cultures (believe me, you can still put these in even if you think you are fastidiously avoiding 'political issues' and stereotypes) that perhaps have been or are being circulated in my own society.

That's not saying I shouldn't write such a fiction, but I should be aware of said limitations and remedy them as best I can. Anyway learning about other cultures and their history is great fun and fascinating. :)
 

Bee22

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Thanks, I appreciate it :)

So do you think it would be more interesting if I made the story revolving around a Chinese corporate martial arts family with demon cult-like traits? Or make them Japanese instead?

If I make them Chinese and have the antagonist father Chinese and the mother Chinese/Caucasian, making the son (the MC) a quarter Caucasian would this come off as making the MC white washed?

And if the son (MC) was left as a baby by his mother to be raised at some himalayan monastery in Tibet would this be an issue? Because of the Chinese-Tibetan relations and political problems they faced?
 

Venusian Broon

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Thanks, I appreciate it :)

So do you think it would be more interesting if I made the story revolving around a Chinese corporate martial arts family with demon cult-like traits? Or make them Japanese instead?

If I make them Chinese and have the antagonist father Chinese and the mother Chinese/Caucasian, making the son (the MC) a quarter Caucasian would this come off as making the MC white washed?

And if the son (MC) was left as a baby by his mother to be raised at some himalayan monastery in Tibet would this be an issue? Because of the Chinese-Tibetan relations and political problems they faced?
I think you've got that there might be pitfalls and issues to be aware of in some scenarios. I recognised areas that were problematic for me as well before I started.

But, I think that's fine, it's always good to question your writing. i.e. would Character A would really do this, or does my portrayal of this society make sense etc.

But! Before you start going mad and questioning absolutely everything, I think I would advise you to pick what excites you most and is most interesting for you and move on and get cracking. (Even if that means a bit more research - I personally wrote hundreds of thousands of words just putting together the universe I was writing about, before I started properly! But that's just me, you don't have to do that :))

When you've finished a beta reader could pick up if it's not working or is problematic.
 

Brian G Turner

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I just thought it would be unique if a Japanese corporates son/daughter got together with a Chinese corporates son/daughter and then merged both companies together
I suspect that's now how the corporate world works - though a stock broker once warned me that listed Asian companies tend to invest heavily in each other, which means adverse performance with one company can directly affect a whole string of others.
 

sknox

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I gotta ask: why have you made these choices for your story? You're obviously at least somewhat aware of the issues you might raise. Why not make one side be elvish and the other orc? Or one side German and the other side Polish?

If the answer is that there are culture-specific points you intend to make, then I'd say you are indeed creating a minefield for yourself. Not that it cannot be navigated. But if the story isn't *about* cultural issues, then why make culture an issue? And if it is about cultural issues, why not write a contemporary or historical drama? That way the cultural issues are real.
 

RJM Corbet

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When the Sassanid Persians were pushed out of modern day Iran by the Arabs at the start of the 6th Century BCE, they retreated to the far east of their empire, but were pursued. In desperation they tried to find any allies, and found the Tang dynasty in China. Here's some more detail:


If that's a bit too ancient for you, the Chinese over time also sent a number of expeditions west (see Chinese exploration - Wikipedia) . Perhaps the most famous, that's closer to modern times, are the maritime expeditions of Zheng He that between 1405-1433 explored and visited as far West as Arabia (Zheng He - Wikipedia)

As far as I'm aware no Persians ever 'officially' made it to Japan in a similar way that history has recorded as above. However that's not to say individual Persians - Zoroastrian or Muslim - had contact with the Japanese. Who knows? It's certainly possible.
Wow! Good stuff. Thanks
 

The Bluestocking

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I don't know your own background and knowledge, so I'll put it this way. If I, were to write a story about the Japanese or any other real culture, even in a fantasy setting, I should be rightly lambasted for repeating tired tropes and incorrect generalisations about these cultures (believe me, you can still put these in even if you think you are fastidiously avoiding 'political issues' and stereotypes) that perhaps have been or are being circulated in my own society.
Yep - exactly. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier: if the writer is not of the culture/marginalised social group that they are writing about/incorporating into their story, they will have blindspots when it comes to avoiding stereotypes and generalisations.

It can be mostly avoided by doing one's homework - Research! Talk to people from that culture/social group! After the WIP is done - run it by sensitivity readers and people from that culture/social group!
 

Phyrebrat

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I gotta ask: why have you made these choices for your story? You're obviously at least somewhat aware of the issues you might raise. Why not make one side be elvish and the other orc? Or one side German and the other side Polish?

If the answer is that there are culture-specific points you intend to make, then I'd say you are indeed creating a minefield for yourself. Not that it cannot be navigated. But if the story isn't *about* cultural issues, then why make culture an issue? And if it is about cultural issues, why not write a contemporary or historical drama? That way the cultural issues are real.
I asked that too (but it was ignored).

Reading the responses to the advice you’ve been given and in light of the absence of you explaining why it’s important, I’d bus make a total volte face and say you’re on thin ice.

It’s maybe harsh to hear but I think it comes across as you want to write these cultures because you’ve objectified them as cool. Until you can answer honestly to yourself why you’re wedded to using these, I’m afraid you’ll stumble, and write something simplistic if not offensive.

pH
 

The Bluestocking

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This I also thought of doing, making them fictional ethnicities like the demon side being not a real race, but it might cause too much disbelief.
You might want to check out:

1. THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang
2. UNDER HEAVEN by Guy Gavriel Kay
3. The DANDELION DYNASTY saga by Ken Liu
4. JADE CITY by Fonda Lee

All are acclaimed SFF books and series, all have several things in common:

1. They are based on Chinese culture and history
2. At least 2 of them fictionalise the ethnicities and yet everyone KNOWS that they based their stories on Chinese history/culture.
3. All the authors did their damn homework. Guy Gavriel Kay is famous for doing extensive research. Fonda Lee told me herself that she read a ton of books on Chinese gangs etc before even setting pen to paper (and she's ethnic Chinese like me).

I haven't seen any one of the books and authors listed above being criticised as inauthentic or unbelievable or offensive.

Honestly, you would save yourself a whole lotta grief if you:

1. Created fictional ethnicities with their basis in Chinese and Japanese heritage.
2. Make sure you create them mindfully and after extensive reading and research so that your fictional ethnicities/tribes/gangs/social groups clearly have Chinese/Japanese roots but side-step toxic stereotypes.

Or better yet - maybe just focus on one ethnicity to base your story around which has the added bonus of avoiding the minefield that is Chinese/Japanese politics. I can tell you as someone who is ethnic Chinese that there have been enough civil war, household feuds etc in my culture to tell stories for eternity. And Chinese mythology is huge and wide-ranging too - not just all the Monkey god/king.

My own stories and books have both Chinese and Japanese characters and figures but they are set in a fictional Afterlife which is freakin' cosmopolitan and diverse. I still needed to do my research on the history behind the mythological characters I'm writing about even though many of them come from the traditions I am familiar with - and THEY ARE NOT REAL (unlike the Sino-Japanese war and feuds). Never have been... yet they live and breathe on my page like real people.

And when I wrote Baron Samedi, I did research - again - and wrote him as a complete person, ran it by a fellow author who happens to be a Black man and he helped with correcting some little bits of stereotyping that slipped out. Small things like replacing sunglasses with normal glasses etc. He was very happy to help me with it and I in turn learned more about stereotypes about Black Men to which I have a blindspot.

It takes time to get it right but representation matters so taking 30 minutes to do extra research, talk to folks etc is worth it.
 
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Bee22

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But! Before you start going mad and questioning absolutely everything, I think I would advise you to pick what excites you most and is most interesting for you and move on and get cracking. (Even if that means a bit more research - I personally wrote hundreds of thousands of words just putting together the universe I was writing about, before I started properly! But that's just me, you don't have to do that :))

When you've finished a beta reader could pick up if it's not working or is problematic.
I agree with everything you said. In fact I was thinking of first making this idea into a comic-style book cause it might be easier to do for now.

I gotta ask: why have you made these choices for your story? You're obviously at least somewhat aware of the issues you might raise. Why not make one side be elvish and the other orc? Or one side German and the other side Polish?

If the answer is that there are culture-specific points you intend to make, then I'd say you are indeed creating a minefield for yourself. Not that it cannot be navigated. But if the story isn't *about* cultural issues, then why make culture an issue? And if it is about cultural issues, why not write a contemporary or historical drama? That way the cultural issues are real.
Which is why I'm thinking of switching over to just having the MC just Chinese and his corporate family and antagonist father JUST Chinese and focus mainly on that, with some Persian history surrounding the demon/angel inheritance but of course the Chinese MC and family having Chinese demon mythological traits. There won't be any political discussions in my story of races/cultures/etc. I want this story driven and be mainly about this family and the MC and how this demon traits was passed down from a fallen angel thousands of years ago to the MC's family clan. Is this really going to be a racist/political debate just because I would choose to have the story revolve around Chinese protagonists, demons and angels, Persian mythology and Chinese mythology?

Yep - exactly. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier: if the writer is not of the culture/marginalised social group that they are writing about/incorporating into their story, they will have blindspots when it comes to avoiding stereotypes and generalisations.

It can be mostly avoided by doing one's homework - Research! Talk to people from that culture/social group! After the WIP is done - run it by sensitivity readers and people from that culture/social group!
Which is what I plan to do! I just want to get the simple concepts down for the outline of my story so I can get a good idea of what direction I want this headed in. So far I got the MC Chinese, his family clan Chinese and some Persian/demon history altogether. I just need a head start so then I can get into my research and figure everything out!
 

Bee22

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I asked that too (but it was ignored).

Reading the responses to the advice you’ve been given and in light of the absence of you explaining why it’s important, I’d bus make a total volte face and say you’re on thin ice.

It’s maybe harsh to hear but I think it comes across as you want to write these cultures because you’ve objectified them as cool. Until you can answer honestly to yourself why you’re wedded to using these, I’m afraid you’ll stumble, and write something simplistic if not offensive.

pH
I'm not ignoring you :( I'm sorry if it seems like I did.

It's not because I think these cultures are "cool" it's just that I like certain aspects of certain cultures and I feel this could have a really interesting plot and since I don't believe it is done often, not to my knowledge. (Chinese half-demon breed MC from a Chinese family clan that got this demon/angel breed passed down from ancient Mesopotamian history with an evil corrupt championship father, clean cut dressed in the finest suits attire like the Devils Advocate that is running a tournament as a CEO head with Lucifers blood running through him while his scruffy son MC who was abandoned at a Himalayan temple? How is this racist? Please help explain it to me :( I know I'm not a very good writer and will do my research but I will do the best if you can point out the flaws I have going so far :(
 

Phyrebrat

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Don’t say you’re not a good writer. Say you’re not as good as you can be ;).

I’ll have to have a think about how to explain it in simpler terms but I’m on the hop at the moment and on my phone.

To be honest though, I’m not sure I can come up with something clearer. I’ll have a bash in a bit though.

And despite all the hard work you’re here trying to get it right at least. That’s a great start.

Still, maybe you should try an easier subject matter and save this sorry when you have got a bit more experience.

(y)

pH
 

Bee22

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You might want to check out:

1. THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang
2. UNDER HEAVEN by Guy Gavriel Kay
3. The DANDELION DYNASTY saga by Ken Liu
4. JADE CITY by Fonda Lee

All are acclaimed SFF books and series, all have several things in common:

1. They are based on Chinese culture and history
2. At least 2 of them fictionalise the ethnicities and yet everyone KNOWS that they based their stories on Chinese history/culture.
3. All the authors did their damn homework. Guy Gavriel Kay is famous for doing extensive research. Fonda Lee told me herself that she read a ton of books on Chinese gangs etc before even setting pen to paper (and she's ethnic Chinese like me).
I will look into all of these I promise!


Honestly, you would save yourself a whole lotta grief if you:

1. Created fictional ethnicities with their basis in Chinese and Japanese heritage.
2. Make sure you create them mindfully and after extensive reading and research so that your fictional ethnicities/tribes/gangs/social groups clearly have Chinese/Japanese roots but side-step toxic stereotypes.
Can I use any references for some characters based on the 8 Immortals in Chinese mythology?

Or better yet - maybe just focus on one ethnicity to base your story around which has the added bonus of avoiding the minefield that is Chinese/Japanese politics. I can tell you as someone who is ethnic Chinese that there have been enough civil war, household feuds etc in my culture to tell stories for eternity. And Chinese mythology is huge and wide-ranging too - not just all the Monkey god/king.
That is what I want to do. Chinese family and MC. But I want to connect the demon heritage passed to their Chinese ancestral clan through Mesopotamia and Persia, is that ok? What are some other Chinese mythologies I can look up? I wanted to add some Monkey King inspiration. Is Quilin good to research in Chinese mythology? What about anything related to a crane?[/QUOTE]
 

dannymcg

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Chinese half-demon breed MC from a Chinese family clan that got this demon/angel breed passed down from ancient Mesopotamian history with an evil corrupt championship father, clean cut dressed in the finest suits attire like the Devils Advocate that is running a tournament as a CEO head with Lucifers blood running through him while his scruffy son MC who was abandoned at a Himalayan temple
But where are the FTL star-fighters and the 40ft robots with laser eyes?
(Seems to me that you're leaving out major plot elements)
 

Bee22

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But where are the FTL star-fighters and the 40ft robots with laser eyes?
(Seems to me that you're leaving out major plot elements)
No no! That will all be included! It takes place in the future afterall and the story is still about this ultimate tournament with the most baddest and most badass star-fighters, monsters, golems, robots, cyborgs, sorcerers, wizards, cybercops, super soldiers, witches, werewolves, zombies etc. I just want to have the main base of the story of who is running the show and it would be one of the last carries of the fallen angels blood who happens to be this Chinese champion who inherited it from his family clan and is now the head of the CEO behind the curtains that the tournament sponsors have picked and selected to run their tournament and if the winner can defeat him then they would become champion! So the Chinese family clan's story would revolve heavily around the main plot. And his son who grew up in a Himalayan village in Tibet as a warrior monk would also have the demon heritage passed down to him and probably the only one strong enough to defeat his father as they are both literally sons of Lucifer cause of their angel blood.
 

Bee22

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And the anti hero in the meth lab to save his family. Don’t forget that. Everyone should have Walter White in their fiction. Even if he’s called Barbra.

pH
But if I add any drugs, won't it get controversial :(
 

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