xenophobia

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life—

Well, maybe not; but I guess there’s a first time for everything. I submitted what I hoped was a humorous contemporary horror story to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and it passed their first round of readings. I was optimistic that it would pass their second and third rounds as well. I mean, who doesn’t like a funny yet creepy story every now and then?

Australians, apparently. Andromeda Spaceways is based in the land down under and I, unfortunately, did not know my audience well enough. They found my story offensive—yet it had nothing to do with the horror elements. No, it was because I had named a little boy in the story “Oslo.”

“Calling a Scandinavian kid ‘Oslo’,” they said in their rejection letter, was both “ignorant” and “offensive.” “It smacks of xenophobia or deliberate ignorance from the part of the characters—not even attempting to get a foreign name right.”

The main characters in my story are first-graders living in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. They don’t really know much about Scandinavians. And maybe they are a little “xenophobic”— but only in the way that kids are often unsettled by the unfamiliar.

Regardless, I must confess that I was an ignoramus. I had no idea Scandinavians were the national treasure of Australia—besides Koalas and Cockatoos. According to the Australia and New Zealand volume of the LIFE World Library (published in the 1960’s), “The immigrants most liked by the Australians are those from northern Europe, Germans and Scandinavians; these people are felt to be energetic, reliable, and loyal.”

If only I had known! Now, in hindsight, I can put myself in their editorial shoes and imagine an Australian writer submitting a story about a little Mexican boy named “Tijuana.”

Horrific.