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  1. #16
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    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!
    I thought the point was that the author of The Wind-Up Girl wasn't foreign to the culture he's writing about, and how do you know that he was trying to write for you?

    It's an antiquated view of globalism to require things to still be "foreign." Especially in the age of the Internet. It's also a very white man's view, is all I'm saying. Why don't you just use the word globalism?

  2. #17
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I thought the point was that the author of The Wind-Up Girl wasn't foreign to the culture he's writing about
    Bacigalupi isn't Thai.

    and how do you know that he was trying to write for you?
    Well, apart from pure Bayesian inference based on the fact that I bought it, there's my guess that America is the primary market for his books... ;-)

    It's an antiquated view of globalism to require things to still be "foreign."
    Kat, come on. What does it mean to "require" something to be foreign? Now I don't even know what you mean.

    It's also a very white man's view
    See, the race thing is what I think is outdated here. People don't get a thrill from foreign cultures because the inhabitants are nonwhite (I hope)...I mean, a book set in Russia, with Russian characters, and focusing on the (real or imagined) idiosyncrasies of Russian culture would fit perfectly fine in my definition of "New Exotic". In fact, McDonald has written "New Exotic" books set in Turkey and Brazil, both of which are largely populated by white people, one of which may soon join the EU.

    Besides that, I would never claim that nonwhite protagonists like Pham Nuwen, Louis Wu, or Hiro Protagonist are "exotic" in any way.

    'Tain't about race.

    Why don't you just use the word globalism?
    Because that's about economics, when these "New Exotic" books play up the idiosyncrasies of the local culture. In fact, the Thailand of The Windup Girl is economically de-globalized and isolated, and the India of River of Gods seems less affected by international trade and global culture than the India of 2010. So globalization is not what these books are about at all...it's simply my hypothesis that globalization in the real world is one driver of the popularity and acclaim of these books.

    So, come up with something else.

  3. #18
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    I am with nquixote on this one. I don't think New Exotic is inappropriate in any way, and even if it were about race, then so what? Gratuitious PC is gratuitious.

  4. #19
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    So, come up with something else.
    I don't see the need to come up with anything at all. I'm fine with calling them cyberpunk. You're the one who wants a new name. And the word "exotic" has a lot of racial baggage to it, especially for women. And you may feel that it shouldn't and you may not care if it hurts someone else's feelings, but what I'm pointing out is that if you want people to start using the term that you coin, you might want to be a little more sensitive to the fact that just because you don't think that word is bad in this context, others might not agree.

    It's an antiquated view of globalism to require things to still be "foreign."

    Kat, come on. What does it mean to "require" something to be foreign? Now I don't even know what you mean.
    It means that you, white American, should be familiar with brown cultures because of increased globalism now and they should no longer be foreign to you. That they don't have the lower status of being mysterious, little known cultures -- exotic -- just because you can't be bothered to know anything outside of your own culture.

    You're making the argument that someone in Thailand might not know about U.S. culture and therefore U.S. culture is exotic to that person and it's the same as an American not knowing much about Thai culture. But it's not because of the different countries' status in history and currently. I don't know much about Danish culture either, but are you saying that a futuristic novel set in Denmark you are going to classify as the New Exotic? Is a story set in the U.S. part of the New Exotic because the book gets sold in Japan? Or are you sticking to brown cultures like Thailand and India -- developing nations? Is the New Exotic futuristic decay stories about mainly brown people? And don't you think that might seem a little discriminatory to non-whites, that it's the non-white cultures that are in the New Exotic and not anything else? Especially when non-whites and mixed race people make up a significant portion of the U.S. population?

    If a bunch of white people want to call SF set in brown cultures the New Exotic, no one is going to stop you. But it might not be interpreted the way you mean it. So I'd suggest, again, picking another word. Or just using cyberpunk.

  5. #20
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Well, Kat, I think the term "brown cultures," which you keep using, is infinitely more insulting than the word "exotic"...

  6. #21
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    As an interesting aside, here are instances of use of the word "exotic" to refer to The Windup Girl, gleaned from a quick Google search:

    From an interview with Bacigalupi by Electric Velocipede:
    Interviewer: For me, one of the most striking things about the novel was its setting, at least in part because Iíve never been to Thailand. Everything seemed so exotic and therefore, mysterious. I was as much swept up in the setting as I was in the plot and the character interaction. Have you ever been to Thailand? How much influence did that have (or not have) on creating this book?

    Bacigalupi: Iíve been to Thailand several times. One of my early trips stuck with me enough that I couldnít get it out of my head. When I was thinking about writing the book, I set it in Thailand, and then tried to move it elsewhere because I was daunted at the task of writing about a country where I didnít have enough grounding. I ended up doing a lot of research, spending some more time over there, and honestly, still feeling like I didnít have enough grounding. But, you know, writing is an act of hubris. So I went ahead anyway.

    From SF Signal's review:
    Here's my biggest reservation about the novel, the bit that I may not be able to overcome. When you choose an exotic third world country as your setting, you have to deal with the modern-day baggage that it brings along with it in the mind of many (ignorant) Westerners--like me.

    From Orion Magazine's review:
    There are many more characters in this exotic and richly rendered novel, and their constantly divided loyalties and cocoons of lies are entrancing and moving.

    From PragPro:
    Set in Thailand, Bacigalupi creates an exotic and dangerous scene in which the main character, the American Anderson Lake poses as a spring factory manager, keeping his true identity as a calorie man a secret from the locals.

    From Silver Goggles:
    I know this makes for an awesome story, but I hate it when authours do that to the culture they are writing whilst not belonging to it. It is one thing to do it for a dominant country like Britain or America, because there will be many, many positive depictions of them to compensate for other purely negative depictions. Thailand does not get much exposure by way of literature, and most of it either show how exotic it is, Other-ing the country. This is where the setting fails to engage me.

    From Ratracerfuge:
    Not only does this story take place in a strange new future, it also takes place in one of the most exotic locations in the world, Bangkok Thailand.

    From Geek Life:
    The world of this story should be doubly alien to most of us, and that could have been a problem. Itís set both in an exotic culture and a very different future. However, Bacigalupi creates such a convincing world that we are immediately immersed in its intrigues.

    I could go on, but this post is getting rather long, and I think I've proven my point: some people like the exoticism of The Windup Girl, some people dislike it, but pretty much everyone recognizes that it's a core feature of the novel - including Bacigalupi himself, who does not repudiate the interviewer's use of the word, but simply acknowledges that a certain amount of hubris is required to write books like this.

    Thus, I rest my case on use of the term "New Exotic".

    (As an aside, I just bought copies of the book for a couple of Thai friends of mine...we'll see if they are annoyed by the attempt by an American to write about Thai culture. I asked them if they were offended by the term "exotic," and they laughed...)
    Last edited by nquixote; September 4th, 2010 at 03:22 PM.

  7. #22
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    As an aside to your aside, I'd kill to be labeled as "exotic" ^_^ A person should be intensely boring to be offended by this particular term.

  8. #23
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I don't like using the term "brown cultures" either, but I got sort of forced into it trying to explain to you why it could be a problem. One of your quotes also lays it out a bit, which you seem to have ignored:

    "When you choose an exotic third world country as your setting, you have to deal with the modern-day baggage that it brings along with it in the mind of many (ignorant) Westerners--like me."

    White women are not described as exotically beautiful. Non-white women are, and not all of them are happy about that. If you're simply using the word exotic, in most contexts, it's not a big deal. But if you are labeling a bunch of novels the New Exotic because of their setting -- if you are using the term to define stories, what you are saying is that white culture gets to define other cultures, gets to set the rules. White culture is the standard, the normal, the top. Other cultures are the other, the lesser and are defined by their relationship to white culture by whites, (the one that everybody should know and is therefore not exotic.) Your Thai friends laughed because Westerners are always calling their culture exotic. They don't really have much choice about it, do they?

    But take a look at that. A book written about Thailand and another about India you want to label the New Exotic. Is that label going to cover books written by Thai authors about the U.S. -- an exotic culture to them as you argue? Are they allowed to use New Exotic for books set in Western countries, or are only you allowed to use it for cultures you, the white guy, deem exotic -- i.e. the developing world which is overall not white? Remember, fiction is global, sold all over the world, there's a huge SF market in India, but you're suggesting using a term that is only applicable to Westerners and primarily white ones. You get to decide, they don't. Which is sort of the history of the world. It's not edgy, it's just oblivious egotism.

    Many people will have no problem with the term. But some will. If you say well screw them, well that's kind of business as usual. You could pick another term, but if you feel that the best way to describe these novels is by their relationship to white Western culture, go ahead. Developing countries are used to that viewpoint from people in the developed world.

    I'm sorry to be harsh about this; I really don't care that much. I don't think you're a bad person, etc. I just think you're being kind of clueless, and you're creative enough to come up with another term that has less baggage attached. I will drop it however, as it is wandering off the thread topic, which is the comparison of the two novels, whatever people call them.

  9. #24
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    I don't understand why this forced "global" thinking. WE - me, you, nquixote - are members of Western world society. Why should we act in a completely fake PC manner with the sole purpose of not offending some extremely sensitive person from an "exotic" country? Is the term "exotic" derogatory? No, it isn't. It just means "alien, interesting and aluring in some way". Why should it matter to me that the Thai don't view themselves in such a manner, if this is the way me and most of the other Westerners see them?

    As for whether they should call literature about us "exotic", my answer is - it depends. If it is literature based on their own concepts and traditions, then sure, why not? But I get the feeling you don't mean that. And if they write something based on modern Western tropes, structure and themes, then no - I don't think so. Terminology is define by the people creating the tradition. If a Thai writes a Western-style book about Americans, then it couldn't be labeled as "exotic". Sorry if that seems offensive to the Thai...

    And to be honest, I think that globalization - being a Western invention - has turned our culture into something so mundane everywhere in the world, that however alien it might be to some people, I doubt anyone would consider it "exotic".

  10. #25
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Well, Kat, I'll let you have the last word on it, since I think I've said pretty much all I need to say in my previous posts.

  11. #26
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Yay, Windup Girl won the Hugo!!

  12. #27
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roland 85 View Post
    I don't understand why this forced "global" thinking. WE - me, you, nquixote - are members of Western world society. Why should we act in a completely fake PC manner with the sole purpose of not offending some extremely sensitive person from an "exotic" country? Is the term "exotic" derogatory? No, it isn't. It just means "alien, interesting and aluring in some way". Why should it matter to me that the Thai don't view themselves in such a manner, if this is the way me and most of the other Westerners see them?

    As for whether they should call literature about us "exotic", my answer is - it depends. If it is literature based on their own concepts and traditions, then sure, why not? But I get the feeling you don't mean that. And if they write something based on modern Western tropes, structure and themes, then no - I don't think so. Terminology is define by the people creating the tradition. If a Thai writes a Western-style book about Americans, then it couldn't be labeled as "exotic". Sorry if that seems offensive to the Thai...

    And to be honest, I think that globalization - being a Western invention - has turned our culture into something so mundane everywhere in the world, that however alien it might be to some people, I doubt anyone would consider it "exotic".
    I could go into a whole thing about this, but as I said, it's off topic enough.

    Wind-up Girl tied with China Mieville for the Hugo, (which in no way diminishes the accomplishment.)

  13. #28
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    And The Windup Girl is the 20th book to win both the Hugo and the Nebula!

    I think The Windup Girl might end up redirecting near-future sci-fi in much the same way Neuromancer did.

    I should write a big rant about that.

  14. #29
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    So, come up with something else.
    Instead of new exotic, I'd call it neo-orientalism.

  15. #30
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Instead of new exotic, I'd call it neo-orientalism.
    LOL, so New Exotic didn't take, I take it? If you call it neo-orientalism, how are you going to include the Russians? There are Asian aspects in their culture and racial country make-up but they're more on the European side unless you throw in the whole former Soviet Union. And what about Africa? How about eco SF?

    To my shame, I have not managed to read either of the two books yet. I wanted to buy Wind-Up Girl when I was in a bookstore on a trip recently, but they didn't have it. So maybe for the end year holidays. Did you read Ship Breaker?

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