Xenofiction

Hello humans and other literate beings! Today’s post is about XENOFICTION. I’m going to cover the quick who, what, when, where, why, and how of this often underappreciated genre. So, let’s get started!

What

Xen- , according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the prefix that means “a guest, stranger, foreigner” and/or “foreign, strange.” For example, xen-o-phobia, is the “dislike of or prejudice towards people, cultures, and customs that are foreign, or perceived as foreign” (OED), or (in other words), a deep hatred for anything and anyone that is “foreign”. Often, xenophobia is treated as a synonym for racism and bigotry. Remove the phobia and add fiction and you get something new! Fiction is a genre of writing where the author(s) essentially makes things up (like the Hobbit or The Priory of the Orange Tree). Xen-o-fiction, then, is the fiction of the foreign, stranger, or guest — or more specifically, it is the novels, books, poetry, etc. told from the perspective that is outside of what counts as “normal” human experience.

For example, this blog may be seen as a larger xenofiction piece. Because I, the person currently writing this blog, am a dragon. A literary dragon. From my perspective, personally, all human writings are xenofiction. The following are examples of xenofiction literature written by humans.

  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
  • The Bees by Laline Paull
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
  • Dragon Champion by E.E. Knight

Who

Who were the founding authors of xenofiction? Well… that’s a tough one. For as long as humans have told stories, people often imagined what it would be like to be in another’s shoes or hooves. By the very nature of fiction, writers must share perspectives outside of themselves. Some of the earliest forms of xenofiction were the major religions of the days — where the Sun can have daughters and sons. These were collectively written in the air through oral traditions. Fables often took the form of xenofiction — trickster foxes and vain crows; lazy grasshoppers and industrious ants. Even the mother of science fiction was able to incorporate the viewpoint of another: Frankenstein’s monster got to tell his side of the story through Mary Shelly.

The who as far as authors go isn’t half as important to xenofiction as the who of the characters.

Who is telling the story? Is it a human being like you or is it something else? If the narrator is not human or if the narrator’s perspective is not human, that is xenofiction.

When

Xenofiction isn’t an official “word” yet. By this, I mean, it hasn’t been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary or any other “official” English-language organization. Therefore, pinning down when it was first coined is a bit tricky. Wikipedia does provide a source from 2006, a book called Places of Imagination: A Celebration of Worlds, Islands, and Realms. Christopher Harter, Anthony Tedeschi, and Jodine Perkins are credited as the authors.

Where

Xenofiction is written anywhere on earth and the stories take place anywhere that human imagination can reach. You may write from the perspective of a sentient slime mod that controls a whole planet in a totally different universe than the one we are in now. Someone else in Botswana may write about a diamond becoming a diamond and all that it sees throughout its long existence. The locations are endless.

Why

Why seems like a silly question when it comes to writing but it is still a good one to consider. Why is this story better told from this perspective? Why this location? Why this time period? The why is important for both the author and the readers to know. The best part is the why can be different for everyone involved in the creation of a story. For the author, the why may change throughout the writing and editing process. For the reader — the why may change depending on the context they bring to the story. That’s the magic of storytelling — it is a collaboration.

How

The first step to writing a xenofiction piece is to become very introspective and extrospective. Introspection involves understanding yourself and your internal world. Extrospection goes the opposite direction — outside. You must understand yourself before you can understand others (xeno). You can practice this by imagining what you would do if you were X, X being anything not human. Imagine, for example, what the world would look like from the perspective of a hardcover book left outside in the rain. What does the rain feel like when you are a book? What can you see as a book or can you only feel? Go through all senses and build on the story from there.

Invitation

Now that you know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of xenofiction, give it a try! Share a link to your own writing down below and/or comment with a short xenofiction piece.

Happy writing, my friends.

Advertisement

One thought on “Xenofiction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s