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  1. #1
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    My review: The Windup Girl vs. River of Gods

    From Cinefugitive:

    New Exotic sci-fi: The Windup Girl and River of Gods


    Science fiction stories are generally extrapolations of current trends. With the relative decline of the West and Japan, writers have begun to think about the possibility that the future might belong to Somewhere Else. The most popular choices for that Somewhere Else are countries that are just now on the upswing of their S-curve of economic development: Southeast Asia, Latin America, South Asia, or the Middle East.

    Generally, I approve of this trend (which I will call “New Exotic” sci-fi). A Venetian sci-fi writer in 1450 (if such existed) would have been prescient if he had imagined the world of 1850 “belonging” to England, France, or Germany; a British sci-fi writer in 1850 would have been prescient to envision a 1920 in which Japan and America were the “wave of the future.” So it makes heaps of sense for us to postulate that in 50 years, it might be India, or Brazil, or Turkey, or Thailand driving the frontiers of technology and global culture.

    But there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. The right way is to recognize the historical fact that no country reaches the tech frontier without undergoing serious social changes. The faint echoes of samurai and cowboys in the Panasonics and Googles of today are just that – faint echoes. Writers who realize this will try to preserve some element of the spirit of the old in the form of the (imagined) new, rather than trying to cut-and-paste.

    This is easier to explain with examples.

    A prime example of what I consider a successful New Exotic vision is 2009′s blockbuster debut novel, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. Set in a somewhat-near-future Thailand, The Windup Girl envisions a world where oil has run out, the seas have risen, gene-hacking has run wild, and civilization has declined markedly from its giddy heights (This is a great setup, and very much at the forefront of another movement I like to call the Declinepunk movement, which includes books like Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock). Thailand, as one of the few nation-states to survive the eco-collapse, is a global leader by default.

    Bacigalupi’s future Thailand has some marked similarities with the modern version – the kingdom is still riven by competing rioting factions, for instance. And in some ways, it has retrogressed; the eco-collapse has driven many people toward superstitiousness. But in many ways, Bacigalupi’s Thailand has transcended the shackles of cultural history. Its relative economic success springs from a combination of gene-hacking tech prowess and draconian environmentalism. Its political fault lines are no longer between farmers and city-dwellers (as in the current “red-shirt/yellow-shirt” split) but between environmentalists and free-traders. Most importantly, people’s prejudices and assumptions and allegiances are driven as much by the memes of the future – gene-hacking, isolationism, etc. – as by the tropes of the ancient past (Buddhism, etc.). The characters talk about future stuff as if it has been happening for a long time. That’s change you can believe in, so to speak.

    For an example of a book that I think doesn’t fulfill the potential of New Exotic sci-fi, I’d cite Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, another recent and much-lauded work. Set in 2047 in a politically fragmented India, its vision is more of a traditional Gibsonian cyberpunk one – AIs, virtual worlds, robots.

    That part is fine. But what annoyed me about River of Gods was that culturally and economically, the India of 2047 looks a lot like the India of 2007 – or, even worse, like the India of 1977. Caste – already fading slowly to irrelevance now – has returned with a vengeance, or is assumed to have never left.. Hindu fundamentalist mobs continue to burn and pogrom Muslim neighborhoods (despite the fact that the last instance of this, in Gujarat in 2002, provoked plenty of reforms and self-conscious national soul-searching). References are made to chai-wallahs serving tea in call centers (in an age of robots and AIs, no less!). The tough, dynastic woman leader of the state of Bharat is a pretty direct copy of Indira Gandhi. Scions of rich Indian families continue to spend their youth in the United Kingdom.

    Taken together, this just seems like sloppiness, with dash of old imperial British arrogance. In a future in which India is at the forefront of both artificial intelligence and energy technology, one would expect the culture to have evolved beyond the religiously hidebound, caste-segregated, politically immature society from which the British Empire withdrew in the 20th century. And indeed, visitors to modern India will see that caste, fundamentalism, and old-style politics are slowly fading in importance. It’s a safe bet that 2047 will see an India that Lord Mountbatten would scarcely recognize…but McDonald is not bold enough to envision that India.

    (Of course, I should mention that I’m exaggerating the difference between the books. Bacigalupi drops far too many historical references – the Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya is especially flogged to death – and McDonald avoids certain old-India relics like arranged marriages. But the difference is there.)

    Part of the difference between The Windup Girl and River of Gods is a result of book structure. Bacigalupi has four main points of view; McDonald has nine. Since the books are of comparable length (The Windup Girl is a bit shorter), this means that Bacigalupi has about twice as much page space with which to turn each character into a non-stereotype.

    But part of it – and this is just my guess – is that Bacigalupi just knows his subject country a lot better. He has spent quite a bit of time in Thailand; he has seen the battles between the red-shirts and the yellow-shirts up close, he has seen the whorehouses and the foreign carpetbaggers and the monks. He knows the country well enough that he feels comfortable extrapolating how it might change.

    McDonald, on the other hand, has not (to my knowledge) lived in India. And anyway, he has, to date, written sci-fi books set in Africa, India, Brazil, and Turkey; his knowledge of most or all of these places must be limited to what he has read and seen on TV (Bacigalupi’s only other novel is set in his home country, the U.S.). Reading the back cover of Brasyl, I see pretty much exactly what I expect – the characters are a Catholic priest and a telenovela producer. Yawn. This is travel fiction.

    Moral of the story: Limited knowledge of a country’s present will lead to limited extrapolations of its future. If you think Country X is going to be pushing the boundaries in 2050, go live in Country X, meet the people, visit the companies, see the tiny little green shoots of the changes that will engulf it a few decades from now. You won’t get that knowledge from history books or BBC special reports or National Geographic photo spreads.

    New Exotic sci-fi is a cool trend, and one that is hopefully here to stay. But authors need to dream big; the leading countries of the future will bear as much similarity their current selves as America bears to the days of cowboys, wildcat oilmen, and sewing circles.

  2. #2
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Okay, I'm torn here by a desire to let you run wild with new terms for things (because hey, why not?) and that nagging aspect where I'm going why is this a "new exotic"? What exactly is new about it or all that exotic? Is it just the more Third/Second World, Asian setting? (which isn't new, but having more books hit it could certainly be considered a nucleus of interest at the moment. Understand, I'm interested in both books, which are supposed to be good.) And is calling that "Exotic," something of a colonial word, the best choice perhaps?

    And I just can't get behind Declinepunk because that is cyberpunk. Cyberpunk deals with technological societies that are in decay. Certainly, these guys are reinvigorating cyberpunk, but unless they are presenting a really hopeful picture of the future emerging from revolution, (hopepunk,) or are having them build houses for the homeless (HabitatforHumanitypunk,) I don't see this really deviating from the themes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson.

    I do get what you're saying about Wind-up Girl having a more believable view of future development than River of Gods. I think you have a point about the Indian society as drawn. However, I don't feel the caste system is currently irrelevant in India at all. The lower castes, the untouchables, etc., have made enormous strides but they are still fighting for their political and at times literal life and the situation for women varies from hopeful to appalling. I've been reading a few novels about India by Indian writers that don't have quite that rosy a view of its development, and while the technology is rapidly changing things, it's very uneven. And the entire world, not just India, is burdened by fundamentalism, of multiple types. India is just so large, what would perhaps be more believable to me is an India that has broken up into several different countries by 2047, some of them being the economic powerhouses of the world, others not and collapsing, much like India and Pakistan are now.

    It's always been a difficult thing to do, and SF has often erred on the side of a conservative, closer to home view of what's going to happen. I'm reminded of all those near future novels of the 1980's where the Chinese were running the world and running it as communist overlords out of Orwell. And I'm reminded of the medieval maps of Europe that show not the countries that we know today but dozens and dozens of smaller countries and a few large empires that no longer exist.

    How does Thailand end up the global powerhouse when the seas rose in The Wind-Up Girl?

  3. #3
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    How does Thailand end up the global powerhouse when the seas rose in The Wind-Up Girl?
    I'm not sure just how powerful Thailand really is in the book, but they have quite a bit of autonomy because they have their own independent seedbank.

    In Bacigalupi's world, genetic engineering has altered not only people and animals, but also plants and more specifically crops. The Calorie Companies are essentially the food companies of today (think Kraft), but grown far more powerful because they control the genetic codes of crops that are resistant to genetically engineered viruses. Part of the plot of The Windup Girl involves an agent of one of the Calorie Companies trying to gain access to Thailand's seedbank.

    Hope that helps.

  4. #4
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Okay, I'm torn here by a desire to let you run wild with new terms for things
    Too late! I did! Wheeeeeee!!!

    (because hey, why not?) and that nagging aspect where I'm going why is this a "new exotic"? What exactly is new about it or all that exotic? Is it just the more Third/Second World, Asian setting? (which isn't new, but having more books hit it could certainly be considered a nucleus of interest at the moment. Understand, I'm interested in both books, which are supposed to be good.) And is calling that "Exotic," something of a colonial word, the best choice perhaps?
    YES! That was what I was getting at. "Exotic" is my name for sci-fi written by an author from one (usually developed) country that takes place in another (usually developing as of the books' writing) country. I guess that writing fiction set in another culture - especially when much is made of the different-ness of that culture - is a kind of literary colonization. Edward Said would certainly think so.

    The "New" comes from the fact that in books like The Windup Girl and River of Gods, there has been sort of a "reversal of fortune," with countries that are now poorer managing to get ahead of America, etc. in some dimension (in River of Gods, India is the leader in AI; in The Windup Girl, Thailand remains a nation-state when America has fallen). I theorize that this envisioning of a reversal of fortune was strongly influenced by the unprecedented robust economic growth that the developing world has experienced in recent decades (hence, it is "New").

    And I just can't get behind Declinepunk because that is cyberpunk. Cyberpunk deals with technological societies that are in decay.
    Sure, maybe. But in Neuromancer, or Schismatrix, or True Names, or Snow Crash, or the Ware tetralogy (or in River of Gods), technology is marching (or racing) ahead even as some elements of society are left behind; the mean increases while the median falls.

    In The Windup Girl (and, so I hear, in Julian Comstock), global technology actually takes a massive downturn due to the exhaustion of natural resources.

    That is a big distinction. Perhaps "declinepunk" is not the best word for it, but then again, "cyberpunk" is a pretty cornball term as well.

    I don't see this really deviating from the themes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson.
    See above. I think there is a big difference between predicting widening inequalities within an advancing civilization, and predicting the decline of civilization overall.

    Gibson's, Sterling's, and Stephenson's worlds are all places that one might like to live, provided one was born into the right place. Bacigalupi's world is not a world in which anyone from the present day would choose to live...

    I think you have a point about the Indian society as drawn. However, I don't feel the caste system is currently irrelevant in India at all.
    Today I asked an Indian grad student friend what caste he was from. He said he thought he was probably from "the merchant one," which he said was "the second-highest, right above warriors." I asked him what that caste was called; he had forgotten. (FYI, the merchant caste is the Vaishya caste, and it's actually the third-highest, right below the warriors.)

    In contrast, the people in River of Gods know the names of sub-castes, and try to marry within them.


    The lower castes, the untouchables, etc., have made enormous strides but they are still fighting for their political and at times literal life and the situation for women varies from hopeful to appalling.
    Yes, the Dalits (untouchables) are the only people for whom the caste system still matters. Sadly, River of Gods does not contain any Dalits.

  5. #5
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beniowa View Post
    I'm not sure just how powerful Thailand really is in the book, but they have quite a bit of autonomy because they have their own independent seedbank.
    Yep, the way I read it, Thailand isn't a global powerhouse at all. Instead, they're an autonomous and relatively prosperous nation because of their seedbank. They don't need to deal with the Calorie Companies for food, but they're still very vulnerable to all the new diseases (a mutating strain could take them out any minute). They're also pretty much surrounded by sea, now (I think, I'd have to check, though), and since oil has become rare, travelling takes longer, which gives Thailand's isolational politics the edge. (Tight control on who can enter, etc.)

    The Calorie Companies practically run the world, and appearing on their radar isn't a good thing. There's constant reference to a tragedy that happened in Finland; we never learn what exactly went on down there, but it's a safe bet that they had a seedbank, too, but it was destroyed in a conflict of some sort. Basically, what this suggests is a world of reduced communications, with islands of relative prosperity, that will fall one after the other to the Calorie Companies, unless they manage to keep their prosperity a secret or, failing that, to ward them off physically.

  6. #6
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    YES! That was what I was getting at. "Exotic" is my name for sci-fi written by an author from one (usually developed) country that takes place in another (usually developing as of the books' writing) country. I guess that writing fiction set in another culture - especially when much is made of the different-ness of that culture - is a kind of literary colonization. Edward Said would certainly think so.
    Yes, but non-white readers and authors might not agree with that take on it. Calling Asian cultures "exotic" may come across as more condescending and belittling any worth in those cultures. Something like Pan-Global might be more workable.

    The "New" comes from the fact that in books like The Windup Girl and River of Gods, there has been sort of a "reversal of fortune," with countries that are now poorer managing to get ahead of America, etc. in some dimension (in River of Gods, India is the leader in AI; in The Windup Girl, Thailand remains a nation-state when America has fallen). I theorize that this envisioning of a reversal of fortune was strongly influenced by the unprecedented robust economic growth that the developing world has experienced in recent decades (hence, it is "New").
    Again, that's not really new. The decline of America as empire and the rise of non-Western nations was very popular in the 1970's and 1980's, which is also when cyberpunk developed into a movement from previous dystopian books. It's basically been assumed for some time now that this will happen and it's influenced Earth-set science fiction for several decades.

    In The Wind-Up Girl, the world may mostly be a mess, but if you work for the agro corporations high up enough, you are experiencing advanced technology, etc., and live well, just like in other cyberpunk societies. The dystopian decline with a bit of apocalypse is still in cyberpunk's purview if critical technology still controls the globe, in this case gene hacking. Cyberpunk deals with dystopia, decline, dissolution, technology, rebellion, youth and sometimes renewal. It also started the trend of putting punk after another word to name things. The Wind-Up Girl is often being called biopunk, i.e. a descendant of cyberpunk focused on biological and/or nano technology, but otherwise, same themes. Maybe it's all going to have to be called simply dystopian SF, but that can be misleading too.

    In contrast, the people in River of Gods know the names of sub-castes, and try to marry within them.
    Yes, but there is the possibility of fundamentalism resurgence. While in general, increased technology produces cultural change that is progressive in countries, it is not at all guaranteed. Nativist politics and power wars can produce a regression, not progression. Look what happened with Iran when they had their fundamentalist revolution and got rid of the Shah. The ladies returned to burkas, despite what oil money could buy.

    I'm not saying that I might not have the same problems with it that you had. I frequently find near future or alternate world scenarios too static. But India has problems and a lot of them are big social ones from old ways. I think they will be the major player in the future, but I would not count on them to be completely invulnerable to fundamentalist control. I hope they will be, but a future in which they are not is not entirely implausible to me.

    Of course, I'm talking about all this without having had the chance to read either book yet.

  7. #7
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Yes, but non-white readers and authors might not agree with that take on it. Calling Asian cultures "exotic" may come across as more condescending and belittling any worth in those cultures. Something like Pan-Global might be more workable.
    It's not that I think those places are exotic (so "exoticist" might be a better word). It's that part of the appeal of books like these are that they present a foreign culture to readers. Readers are entertained by the differentness, strangeness, novelty of the cultures as portrayed; they are exotic. I don't think that's (necessarily) condescending or belittling; someone in another country could write a novel set in America and it would be equally "exotic" to fans in that other country. Japanese writers do it all the time.

    Of course, I think there is potential to be condescending and belittling with this type of fiction. Playing up the foreign-ness of cultures that are far less strange and different than back-home readers assume is sort of a colonialist exercise, even for Bacigalupi who does it well. I think an Indian person might certainly be belittled at River of Gods' portrayal of India as a caste-conscious religiously fundamentalist society. But I don't think I am being condescending by pointing out that exoticism is part of the mass appeal of novels set in foreign cultures...whatever that says about we who like to read the stuff.

    To sum up: the label "New Exotic" means that fans find it exotic.

    Again, that's not really new. The decline of America as empire and the rise of non-Western nations was very popular in the 1970's and 1980's, which is also when cyberpunk developed into a movement from previous dystopian books. It's basically been assumed for some time now that this will happen and it's influenced Earth-set science fiction for several decades.
    Sure, but the set of countries that are predicted to rise to prominence has changed, I think. William Gibson postulated Japan as the global leader when he wrote books in the 80s, but in the 80s that was hardly going out on a limb. The idea that India could pass the U.S. in technological prowess is not new, but it has gained a lot more credence in recent years.

    But yes, things that are labeled "new" are not, in general, mostly "new". Still, the label serves as an indicator that there has been a resurgence in a certain subgenre (e.g. "New Space Opera"), so I think it's useful.

    In The Wind-Up Girl, the world may mostly be a mess, but if you work for the agro corporations high up enough, you are experiencing advanced technology, etc., and live well, just like in other cyberpunk societies.
    Come on, Kat, you haven't even read The Windup Girl! It is most certainly not even close to the same. Louis XIV lived well for his day, but he didn't have a flushable toilet. The bigwigs in The Windup Girl live like medieval warlords (I won't give any more spoilers), and life is nasty, brutish, and short even for the high and mighty (though far worse for the poor).

    The dystopian decline with a bit of apocalypse is still in cyberpunk's purview if critical technology still controls the globe, in this case gene hacking.
    That's a rather broad definition of "cyberpunk"; as I understand it (and as Neal Stephenson understands it), cyberpunk has something to do with information technology.

    Cyberpunk deals with dystopia, decline, dissolution, technology, rebellion, youth and sometimes renewal. It also started the trend of putting punk after another word to name things. The Wind-Up Girl is often being called biopunk, i.e. a descendant of cyberpunk focused on biological and/or nano technology, but otherwise, same themes. Maybe it's all going to have to be called simply dystopian SF, but that can be misleading too.
    I mean, coming up with subgenre names is always an embarrassing exercise. I have also heard the term "salvagepunk" being thrown around.

    But I stubbornly maintain that there is a qualitative and interesting difference between books that postulate a continued upward march (and even exponential increase) in human technological prowess (e.g. Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Schismatrix) and books that postulate a general technological decline (The Windup Girl). These are not the same kinds of futures. One is what you get from reading Wired, the other is what you get from reading The Oil Drum.

    (To point out just one important difference, the former type often leads to a Singularity, as happens in Neuromancer and True Names. In The Windup Girl, there is no possibility that a Singularity will happen anytime soon. This is not an irrelevant difference.)

    Yes, but there is the possibility of fundamentalism resurgence. While in general, increased technology produces cultural change that is progressive in countries, it is not at all guaranteed. Nativist politics and power wars can produce a regression, not progression. Look what happened with Iran when they had their fundamentalist revolution and got rid of the Shah. The ladies returned to burkas, despite what oil money could buy.
    True, and fair enough! But River of Gods never spoke of such a regression; it acted as if the caste and religion stuff had just always been there.

    Anyway, I appreciate that you are skeptical of new terms being tossed around, but I think that something like "New Exotic" (or perhaps "New Exoticist") is needed to label the new wave of foreign-culture sci-fi. And some term is needed to describe the "post-peak" future that is starting to replace the "onward-and-upward-to-the-Singularity" kick that near-future SF was stuck on for a couple decades.

  8. #8
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    A very good essay (I wouldn't call it a review tbh)! I haven't read River of the Gods, but I have read both The Windup Girl and McDonald's The Dervish House, and I was monstrously underwhelmed by the latter after all the hype. It had exactly the problems you describe in River of the Gods (plus many others...).

  9. #9
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    To sum up: the label "New Exotic" means that fans find it exotic.
    Yeah, that's exactly the problem that some non-whites are going to have with the term -- that a bunch of white American SF readers think such cultures are "exotic." Let's put it this way, I agree that there is a nucleus of books dealing with Earth decay with a center in non-West countries. And I agree that you could call that group something. But I don't think New Exotic or Declinepunk work very well. Come up with some new ones.

    True, and fair enough! But River of Gods never spoke of such a regression; it acted as if the caste and religion stuff had just always been there.
    Well that could be problematic because India really is in transition. I guess I'll have to see if it doesn't work for me.

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    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Yeah, that's exactly the problem that some non-whites are going to have with the term -- that a bunch of white American SF readers think such cultures are "exotic."
    Are you implying that all Americans, or all American sci-fi fans, are white? Perhaps you didn't notice that the guy who runs Cinefugitive is Asian-American...

    And here's what I think: if people from Thailand have a problem with American readers enjoying The Windup Girl because it presents Thai culture as exotically foreign, well then, that's a perfectly legitimate gripe! Exoticist fiction, even at its best, is mildly exploitative (even when the "exotic" culture being portrayed is a domestic one, as in 70s-era "blaxploitation" films). Wouldn't it be a little bit dishonest for me to provide cover for authors like Bacigalupi and McDonald by refusing to mention that aspect of their novels' appeal? Am I expected to show solidarity with my fellow American white people by hushing up the very real fact that they are writing exoticist fiction?

    I can't deny that the word "exotic" felt a bit weird to write, but I concluded that it was honest, and so I wrote it.

    Come up with some new ones.
    Hmm...I may, if I feel like it. You should comment on the original article!

  11. #11
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Interesting comparison, but I was slightly bemused to see no attempt made to investigate McDonald's relationship with the countries in question. Whilst others have commented on the more dubious aspects of McDonald's Lonely Planet approach to SF and this is certainly an area that requires further exploration, I found the assumption that McDonald had just seen these places on TV and bashed out a book to be somewhat lazy.

    McDonald spent significant time in each country researching each book in turn (at least he did for RoG, Brasyl and The Dervish House, not sure about the Chaga series). Some have argued this is not enough to be able to write authoritively about each country in question and that may be true (although many other authors have set scenes, chapters and entire novels in cities and countries they've never visited with no problems), but they certainly haven't tried to belittle the work he actually did do for each book by suggesting he was just an armchair traveller.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    Interesting comparison, but I was slightly bemused to see no attempt made to investigate McDonald's relationship with the countries in question. Whilst others have commented on the more dubious aspects of McDonald's Lonely Planet approach to SF and this is certainly an area that requires further exploration, I found the assumption that McDonald had just seen these places on TV and bashed out a book to be somewhat lazy.

    McDonald spent significant time in each country researching each book in turn (at least he did for RoG, Brasyl and The Dervish House, not sure about the Chaga series). Some have argued this is not enough to be able to write authoritively about each country in question and that may be true (although many other authors have set scenes, chapters and entire novels in cities and countries they've never visited with no problems), but they certainly haven't tried to belittle the work he actually did do for each book by suggesting he was just an armchair traveller.
    Yes, I exaggerated...

  13. #13
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    Well, I never felt the slightest tinge of Turkey from The Dervish House, so whatever research he's been doing there was completely wasted on me...

  14. #14
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    Are you implying that all Americans, or all American sci-fi fans, are white? Perhaps you didn't notice that the guy who runs Cinefugitive is Asian-American...
    No, I'm implying that white people thinking brown people's cultures are "exotic" has a lot of racial baggage to it. In particular, the culture is only exotic to white people because they keep themselves ignorant of other cultures, and find it fun and exotic to hear about the primitive, inferior brown cultures. It's like grabbing a black person's dreadlocks and saying "those are so cool." Or more accurately, it's about the colonial white person going to the exotic brown culture to have sex with the natives fantasy. The word exotic becomes condescending, domineering and racially charged.

    Which may or may not be what an author is going for, but to be slapped with the label when you aren't isn't something I think an author would enjoy. It's not honest either -- as exotic is relative to where you live in the world as you pointed out, and these books have international audiences, exotic isn't going to be accurate. Unless you want to get into lots of fights over the word and get your motivations called into question a lot, I'd suggest picking another word with less baggage, is all I'm saying. It's equivalent to calling the Asian-American who runs Cinefugitive Oriental; it's not necessarily going to be appreciated. It's a matter of whether you want to be inclusive or exclusive of readers. Exotic is not an inclusive word.

    I certainly wouldn't accuse McDonald of being an armchair tourist, but even with research, future predictions can seem sort of static, more akin to the current world than a likely future. But sometimes that's interesting in a story. So again, for me, I'd have to see how it played out and if it didn't work for me or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    No, I'm implying that white people thinking brown people's cultures are "exotic" has a lot of racial baggage to it. In particular, the culture is only exotic to white people because they keep themselves ignorant of other cultures, and find it fun and exotic to hear about the primitive, inferior brown cultures. It's like grabbing a black person's dreadlocks and saying "those are so cool." Or more accurately, it's about the colonial white person going to the exotic brown culture to have sex with the natives fantasy. The word exotic becomes condescending, domineering and racially charged.
    Hmm...well, I think this is a fairly antiquated view of globalism, but...if you can think of a word or two that means "a story set in a culture that's foreign to both the author and the primary audience," I'll happily use it!

    the Asian-American who runs Cinefugitive
    As it happens, his name is Peter...

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