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thoughts from eastercon 2012 part one

I'm basking in post-Eastercon energy. This journal has been slowly reviving, but I thought it was about time to push it into full resurrection. This was my third con and I don't know if that's what made this con stand out for me as being the best Eastercon I'd been to so far. While I still felt the imbalance, being one of the few brown people in a dominantly white populated con, there was a vibe going on that made me feel like my opinion mattered (or maybe I was being more courageous this con than I was in the last ones I'd gone to).

aliettedb roped me onto the non-anglophone sf panel which she was on.Lavie Tidhar was on it and Nir Yaniv and lord knows I absolutely admire these three writers and their work. It was quite interesting to finally meet a Dutch novelist. Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a young Dutch writer who has published a bunch of novels in the horror genre.  I've never read him, but it was nice meeting him and finding out how Dutch publishing works. Myra Caakan, a german sf writer whose body of work is all in German, was also on the panel, and then there was me. Filipino sf/f writer who has yet to complete her first novel.

The interesting thing and at the same time the frustrating thing about the panel was how it seemed to revolve mainly around translation. I do feel that if we are to have more diversity in the field and if we want SF to live up to itself as being an inclusive genre, it is important that we get to read fictions that are being produced in countries that are not our own. Someone in the audience suggested that mono-language people should learn a second language--which I think is always a good idea, but it still doesn't address the problem of imbalance.

Aliette mentioned a pathetic statistic of 3% of books published in English being books translated from other languages and that 3% includes technical manuals. It's an apalling number and while we may open our mouths and say "it's sad that we aren't getting all that diversity", the reality is that publishing is a commercial thing more than an art thing and translation costs money. I think that publishers also want the sure thing. So if a non-English language novel does really well in its country of origin, an English language publisher would be more inclined to take a bet on it and invest. The non-anglophone writer has a lot of hurdles to overcome before getting to the point where he or she gets published in English.

Being a person who has made the choice to write in English, I thought to mention how the colonial mindset influences our bookbuying habits in The Philippines. Well, not only that, but there is also the fact that the majority of the bookshelves in a bookstore are crammed with books written by writers from the English speaking nations. How can a Filipino writer compete? And is it even worth competing when the few ways to gain recognition as a writer in The Philippines comes from either winning a major literary competition, gaining a reputation as a writer of "literary" things or getting your stuff published abroad (meaning the US or the UK). I guess, this all ties back to how ingrained colonialism is in our culture that we tend to think that since it's been published or made abroad, then it must be really good.

I came away from the panel feeling that we hadn't quite gotten down to the meat of the matter. There was still a lot of ground to cover, but we just didn't have sufficient time. I also had to think it would have been interesting to find out just how different our narratives are and I did wonder if any of my fellow non-anglophones ever felt the pressure to conform to an expected narrative.

The good thing about the panel is that it made us think of things that need to be delved into further. It also made me feel somewhat hopeful about the future of non-anglo writing in the sf and f field. Anyway, there's still lots to write about and think about and among the good pay-offs is me resurrecting my online self and going back to writing as much as I can whenever I can.

** I think it's important to mention here how the tireless advocacy efforts of charlesatan have gone a long way towards bringing our speculative fiction to the attention of readers.


Apr. 10th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Interesting... Of course, the nice thing about a small number of translations is that the successful stuff is usually very good. I can hardly read French, but thanks to only having access to their greatest hits, I think a couple of French writers are the best in the world.

I guess my problem is that I see silver linings in every cloud.
Apr. 11th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, it all depends on specific instances I suspect--I still have nightmares about Stieg Larsson, personnally (I don't speak Swedish, but I refuse to think this is the best thing Swedish literature has to offer).
The translated stuff tends to be bestsellers in their home country; but like all bestsellers there's good and everything in between...

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