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Some Recent Articles Of Interest

Articles and blog posts, as brought to my attention through SF Signal, who on Feb. 8 linked to every story in our latest issue. (Yay!)

N. K. Jemisin on why RaceFail was the "Bestest Thing Evar" for SFF

Ah Yuan on the importance of diversity

N. K. Jemisin on writing a "post feminist" character


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 18th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Race blindness
I never heard of RaceFail until I looked at the articles linked here, and did some reading on the discussion. What an eye-opener. Coming from Singapore, where people are acutely aware of race but primarily in the sense of knowing what is and isn't appropriate (like being aware that one shouldn't offer pork to a Malay-Muslim or wear black when visiting a Chinese family on a festive occasion, and things like these are the main reasons why anyone notices race at all) - I realized again, reading some of the RaceFail threads, how uniquely privileged the society I live in is. Yet at the same time, Singapore has produced no outstanding, internationally known SFF writers, and the most successful type of fictional work produced by local writers is the sort which leans toward the overwhelmingly cultural - similar to Steinbeck's, Hemingway's, etc, work in its culture-specific focus.

It seems so much like what some of the RaceFail participants repeatedly brought up, the insistence that one cannot write about a culture without being part of it. Perhaps the extremity of racial and cultural sensitivity here (and I consider it extreme, but in a far more benign way than most other places, with sensitivity meaning passive sensitivity to nuance rather than active prickliness) has ingrained that into our local artists. In much of the creative work here, particularly work by more "amateur" writers, there is a constant self-consciousness about race - visibly wanting to have a Caucasian character yet compromising with Eurasian, wallowing in the Chinese-ness or Indian-ness of pure Asian characters - and inevitably leading to either stereotyping or tokenism. (Example: "Eurasian" here is either a distinct culture of its own or a commingling of the parents' cultures, yet the "Eurasian" definition in local SFF so often turns out as nothing more than a convenient way of giving a character interesting hair and eye colour.)

I don't know what causes it. One would think, with people so in touch with racial sensitivities here, that it would be EASY for us to write unselfconsciously about Asian characters. Is it that same post-colonial mentality that even today has people here assuming the "straight white male" stereotype? Overexposure to American fiction? A lack of confidence in the value that Asian cultures might assume in SFF? Or even a general jadedness with what we have here and a belief that the grass is greener on the other side of the Pacific?

I confess to falling into the colour-blindness trap myself; much of my own SFF work is hanging out there in the race-free zone. And wrestle with it as I may, I can scarcely think of how to introduce race into it without taking on that self-conscious veneer that is so obvious, and so embarrassing. Perhaps this is the price we pay for being conversant with so many cultures at once; having to pick, and choose, and compromise, and finally lacking the maturity to deal fairly and unjudgementally with them all.
Feb. 18th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Race blindness
Thank you for your very thoughtful comment! I think perhaps this could be a post of its own! I would like to see how others weigh in on this.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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