Archive for May, 2009

As Others See Us: More on Writing the Other

May 23, 2009

In my last post I commented on how writers can fall into the trap of either misrepresenting or leaving out other cultures and peoples.  Here I want to talk about issues that may arise even when Western writers write sincerely about another culture, when they do their research and perhaps even visit the country.  (more…)

Some Thoughts on Writing (or not writing) the Other

May 22, 2009

There have been some fascinating and important discussions on the net regarding cultural appropriation, racism and racial-cultural “disappearance” in science fiction.  I’ve not kept up with these very well, only because I have been insanely busy, but many people have been extremely articulate and intelligent about these subjects.  Racefail 2009 is summarized here.  The “disappearing” of Native Americans in Patricia Wrede’s book, The Thirteenth Child, came to my attention when I read Jo Walton’s review and the numerous comments.  What stunned me was that the non-existence of the Native Americans in the book was mentioned only casually by the reviewer, who apparently did not realize how problematic this was until people commented (upon which, to her credit, she acknowledged her error).  The author herself decided quite airily to do away with the Indians, as quoted here. This sort of casual blindness is not indicative of how evil the person is (and I am convinced that neither the reviewer nor author intended any kind of racism) but how pervasive racism is as an institution, and how easy it is, when you are part of a privileged group, to simply edit out of existence whole peoples and their tribulations.  May I never, ever, be so blind about any race, class, religion, caste or (for that matter) species.  I would hate to be in Patricia Wrede’s shoes right now.

I’d like to make two comments about writing the Other that might be useful to those contemplating such a thing (“Other” of course being a relative term).  (more…)

An Essay on Drowning

May 22, 2009

Since I am too lazy at the moment to edit my two draft posts waiting in the wings, I am going to post an essay I wrote some years ago about language.  I wrote it as a blog post during an early and mostly unsuccessful experience with blogging, at a time when my stories were just starting to be published.  I still stand by what it says, although it is somewhat fancifully written. 

I’m posting it because I have been thinking of SF written in India in different languages and the tension between English and other Indian languages (and yes, by now English is an Indian language) and the nastiness of language politics often obscuring the real issues — all this partly as a result of an email conversation with SF Hindi writer and fan Dr. Arvind Mishra (who also very kindly directed me to a marvelous device: the Google Hindi transliteration tool जिसकी सहायता से मुझे अब हिंदी में लिखने का  मौका मिल रहा है).

While I ponder the implications of that conversation I thought it might be fun to post the aforementioned essay (very minimally edited).  It appeared some years ago in a very interesting Indian ezine (will post link when I remember what it was called).  So here goes. (more…)

First Week of Summer Break

May 15, 2009

This is the end of the first week of my summer break, where every year I plan to do amazing things: write deathless prose, discover the meaning of existence, get ready for all my fall and spring courses in the next academic year, and generally save the world.  Since none of that actually materializes, this time I’m keeping to modest weekly goals. 


Something to be excited about… an SF workshop in India!

May 5, 2009

Quite a while ago the intrepid Anil Menon, along with academic and critic Suchitra Mathur at IIT-Kanpur and yours truly came up with the idea of holding an SF workshop in India.  With the enthusiastic encouragement of our friend Jaya Bhattacharji and others, we got it in shape, with Anil and Suchitra being the key organizers.  Until fairly recently, though, we didn’t know if we were going to have any applicants, but now it is pukka, as we say in India.  Eighteen people have been selected based on their submitted writing samples.  Most are not established writers but all have promise and enthusiasm.  And — amazingly — about 50% are women!  The show starts in mid-June.  So here we go!