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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. 11th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
It was a good con and I thought it was the best out of the three I'd gone to. Plus, I finally got to meet you. That was absolutely fantastic. :)

I think this con made a very real effort working towards inclusivity and gender parity, but yes--as it tends to happen with these things, there are always moments of fail...but we keep going forward, right?

As to the language in which we write, I really don't know to what extent the rise of China and India will influence that. English has established itself as a dominant language, I think it will take a very long time before another language overtakes it.

Various shades of profane--where can I sign up for that one?
Apr. 11th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who's written SF for the Chinese short story market, and according to him, their SF market is decades behind the English market in terms of story complexity and plot lines. (In English his stories read almost like fables. Short and simple. Not a lot of character development.)

ETA: I should point out here that this is information I've gotten from -one- writer, so it may not actually reflect the truth. It may just be the magazines he sells to...

Edited at 2012-04-11 04:22 pm (UTC)
Apr. 12th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC)
Uh. What I've seen of the Chinese short story market (mainly through Ken Liu's translations in Clarkesworld, which is again not very many data points) doesn't really give me that impression. It's actually quite wonderful stuff with a very different focus.

Isn't English one of the official languages of India though? I'm not sure whether they'd want to disseminate that or Hindi as they rise to global domination. (I have little experience, but my understanding was that those Indian states who didn't have Hindi as a first language would much prefer English as a common language, so that everyone would be in the same boat... Again, what I got through 6 weeks of being a tourist in India, so might be totally off here).
Apr. 12th, 2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
That's the problem...we don't have a wide enough base of data for Asia!
Apr. 12th, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC)
There's a significant enough population that writes in English in India. Probably something like the case here in the Philippines. I suspected it by using a leading question in the now-deleted Ashok Banker interview.

But writing in English doesn't solve the problem, not really. It's distribution and dissemination.

Or even considering US SF&F, I just realized the other day how Hawaiian literature isn't represented much in the genre (and that's a US state).

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