The Heavy Metal Matador (rydain) wrote,
The Heavy Metal Matador

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The Pittsburgh Principle

I turned a corner in NaNo Land. A subplot fell into place. My word count is caught up after a long weekend of friends and family visits. Acts II and III are still largely ?????? lines in the underpants gnome model of novel writing, but I have enough outline and scene sketches to keep me trucking.

The title of today's topic occurred to me when I was looking for references about Chinese urbanization and industrialization to help with my early planning. I found two excellent references - Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang, and The Concrete Dragon by Thomas Campanella. I also found a book that I was damn glad I looked up reviews for before purchasing it. I won't dignify said lump of textual horseshit with a reference, but I will say that a review likened it to a general overview book about the United States that spent all its time on crime rates, economic disparity, and the failures of for-profit health care. Yes, we have all those issues. Yes, they hit too many people terribly hard. Yes, they should be acknowledged when relevant to a narrative. But no, they don't represent the gist of American life for everyone all over the map.

In case it's not obvious by now, I grew up in the Steel City. People joke that it's a perpetual '80s time warp filled with clones of Carl from Aqua Teen Hungerforce fame. It also has the perception of being a post-industrial wasteland. Yet Pittsburgh is a historic and scenic city with its own unique quirky cultural melting pot. Its infamous dialect - which I still maintain a fair amount of after a decade in central Pennsylvania - reflects a cornucopia of influences from various European immigrant groups. If we didn't have awesome employment and housing in State College, I'd be quite happy to move back.

I would expect to see that feeling and interest captured in a work of fiction, giving a balanced impression of the city's character while being honest about its challenges. And I think of what I would expect from an acceptable portrayal of Pittsburgh as I work within the comparably unique, historic, and friendly setting of Nanjing. Of course, there's the added necessity of avoiding the exotification and marginalization of Chinese culture as commonly seen by the West. The Pittsburgh Principle doesn't cover every nuance of such, nor the related problems of Asian character stereotypes. But it does help me conceptualize the Platinum Rule as applied to a setting, which helps alleviate common outsider fears of touching on troubles at all. After all, the implication of a setting as Happy Nice Nice Paradise Land is problematic as well.
Tags: nanowrimo, writing
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