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I was having a conversation with friends while I was on holiday, and the subject of transgressive fiction came up.

“I had a great story idea a while back,” I said. “It was full of drama and conflict, and I was really in love with it.”

It was also one of those wonderful stories that arrives fully blown—a story that writes itself and only asks you to take the time to make it live.

“You did finish it, didn’t you?” asked my friend.

“No,” I said. “It was transgressive fiction.”

So what was the problem? It was set during the US Civil War and happens from the African American point of view, while I’m pretty much white-bread American. That mean’s I’d be putting word in the mouths of slaves and ex-slaves and projecting feelings that don’t come directly from my own cultural heritage. In other times, it would have been fine for me to write a short story or a play about Reconstruction. I mean, look how well Margaret Mitchell did. But in the current climate, I’d be certain to step on someone’s toes with this story. It’s cultural appropriation, and social commentary about issues like slavery and the Holocaust are very touchy. Even if I spent the time to write the story/play, what editor would feel safe publishing it?

So, my judgment has to be that this is an unwriteable story. Regardless of the richness of the idea, it’s just not worth the effort to put it on paper (er, Word document).

I’m still in love with it though. It does exist, still hanging there in the back of my consciousness, just waiting to be born.

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