The panel was about writing from the point of view of cultures you didn't belong to. It was a cool panel, and Nisi was the stand-out in terms of insight and compassion. It was a little jarring, as it sometimes is, to listen to people whose lives center around things (like writing fiction) that I can't quite see as real.
I didn't have anything to read written from another point of view, so I decided to read something from "7" about dangerous ground. The idea that sometimes you step into a new place where the rules, particularly the rules about violence, might be very different. How do you know? How do you learn the rules? How do keep from making a fatal mistake while learning the rules?
As I read, part of my mind was racing. I could be very wrong, but reading it felt like no one, ever, had put this stuff into words before. How to specifically read a room. The patterns your eyes must follow. When violating space is a violation and when it is a cultural norm. How to pitch your voice, your attitude. Where your gaze rests.
There have been masters of this skill- Lt. Sir Richard Francis Burton comes immediately to mind. Any skill I have would be rudimentary compared to his... but did he ever write down how he did it? He documented how he mastered languages in as little as two months, but not, as far as I know, how he could blend in with a foreign culture and not be spotted.
It's nothing new, lots of people do it from cops to method actors to taxi drivers... but there was an undeniable rush of creation in writing the words. Maybe it's false and the knowledge is so common it has never been written. Or some author that I've missed but everyone else knows well has already covered it...
But it didn't feel that way. It felt exactly like the first time I made a fire by friction, taking two pieces of wood and from them drawing forth an entirely new, living flame. I see why writers get hooked.