You’re not helpful, Friday!

July 11, 2012

If I knew I’d be getting such lovely responses, I’d get into the reviewing business much sooner. (I would’ve linked it, but the blogger in question sadly deleted it.)


At the same time, though, I think there can be something dangerous about reviews like these (especially about the Deathless review). They can dissuade authors from stepping out of their own comfort zone (granted, some authors should be dissuaded, but certainly not all). And in a publishing world that is made up largely of middle-class, heterosexual, white characters, when you cut into authors for stepping into someone else’s experience and getting it a little bit (or a lot) wrong, you only perpetuate that status quo. If you tear into people for trying, there’s no incentive for the privileged to step outside of the confines of what they know, and what you end up with is the over-representation of white, westernized characters which only helps to normalize things like racism and exoticism and ethnocentricism. And is that really what you want?

I really like the idea that discouraging authors from exoticizing the experiences of others apparently only helps to normalize racism and exoticism. Who would write about poor unrepresented us, if not the western writers? It’s not like we have authors of our own or our own literary traditions, including SF traditions.  
What is said here is basically the following: No one will be interested in your experiences, if they are not processed through the western viewpoints. And if you dare to complain about how you’re represented, your critique ceases to be useful.
Why, thank you.
What I’m trying to say is that maybe the solution to cultural appropriation is to not just rip someone apart, but to point out what’s wrong, the harm they might have done, and then graciously teach them how to do it right.
Yes. Because the point of our whole existence is to be stepping stones in your learning process. To teach you to become better people. We just have to make sure you don’t stop feeling good about yourself even for a second, and you’ll learn.  But if you fail to feel good, then you won’t learn, and it would  be so much  not your fault. We don’t want that to happen, do we?
Why, thanks again.

Did you grow up in Russia?

July 11, 2012

Did you grow up in Russia?

No further comments.

Deathless – Catherynne Valente

July 6, 2012

First of all, I’d like to point out that Deathless is a beautifully written and brilliant book. The amount of research that went into it is enormous, if not unprecedented. Despite everything I’m going to say below, it’s one of the best books I read in 2011.

Yet, I need to write this.

In many reviews Deathless is called authentic. It’s not. It’s an outsider perspective that inherently cannot be authentic. Of course, the majority of readers would be also outsiders, but nowadays a writer cannot count on this. (If they do, they’d look just as ridiculous as Bardugo.)

I wouldn’t want to discourage outsider writers, but no matter how well you research your book, the insiders will have drastically different reactions to it. No, they won’t be the same. I’m not the only insider out there. There will be other insiders that may disagree with me. (Hint, we don’t think the same.) But there will be a fair number of people asking the same questions.

Read on…

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo – It’s Ravka, dammitt!

June 13, 2012

According to Amazon reviewers, I’m supposed to feel so much better that Bardugo wasn’t writing historical fiction.

“It’s Ravka, not Russia, stupid!” Don’t worry, your language and culture weren’t butchered for the wrong reasons. It was done for our entertainment, so chill.

Shit, I was beginning to worry.

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

June 11, 2012

Shadow and Bone

I must say I haven’t seen such a ridiculous book in a long while.

The book is praised for “authenticity” and “originality”. It so happens that there’s nothing authentic or original in this book. Leigh Bardugo’s understanding of Russian culture fluctuates around zero. Her sources, by her own admission, are a few books by western authors. Yet she’s not ashamed to count reading them as “research”. She’s not ashamed to sift through our images, symbols, and language and appropriate them to brighten up a generic fantasy setup and mediocre writing style.

There’s not a single concept, not a single detail pulled from Russian culture that retained its original meaning and value.

Not a single one…


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