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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Language, Gatekeepers, and Readers

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, with no good organization. So first I'm going to cheat by linking to a summary of the current discussions regarding Long Hidden rather than try to provide my own.

On that anthology? I'm one of the backers. I think it was the second thing I backed. It's the kickstarter I am the proudest to be a part of. I love love love that this is a thing. That it's now out in the wild. That people are talking about it, responding strongly to it. 

On the importance of language? I'll go on a related tangent. The first Worldcon I attended had an editors panel about scifi from other countries. Which sounds cool, but was actually a group of editors patting themselves on the back repeatedly for forcing British and Australian writers to convert their already well selling works into American English for my supposed benefit. Cheering each other on for altering entire settings to map more easily onto American cities and American cultures because we all know that what we want to read is what we already know. They aren't just translating language, they're translating culture so us dumb readers don't have to worry about being challenged or experience anything new. And if this is the attitude they're taking in "translating" the successful works of other markets, I don't even want to think about what they're doing to American authors who dare not conform to their narrow view of the English language.

Some audience members expressed...surprise and exasperation about this. They were told that the market didn't exist, and when they pointed out that they were this supposedly non-existent market, were told it was too expensive in terms of production to make books nobody (because we are nobody!) would buy without being first "translated."

I asked if e-books didn't give them a simple/nearly cost free way of providing consumers like me with the original versions and was told (not making this up) that they would still have to pay for the translation into American English. Which is exactly not what I asked. (Even in my white, middle class American English, the concept was so foreign that they had to translate it to a question they could understand, losing all the content in the process. Cue bitter laughter) I clarified that my question was about accessing the works in their original language with a minimal cost to the publishers. After insisting again that those readers don't exist,one of the (white, male) panelist sneeringly suggested that I should try amazon.co.uk because obviously paying the cost of the paper book twice over in shipping is a viable option for the average reader, right?! Fucking gatekeepers, deciding that what I want out of other viewpoints is a reflection of my own. 

And let's be clear here, their stated definition of American culture is a lie. We have a variety of dialects and a variety of cultural experiences all of which are marginalized by the concept of a single American culture and dialect that our media needs to conform to. The dominant dialect is not the sole dialect.

But this attitude? Seems to be slowly changing thanks to anthologies like Long Hidden, and vocal writers and reviewers, and self-publishing reaching a market traditional publishers don't think exists. 

SFF is often a difficult love to have. Its a fractious beast, at times overeager to punch me in the face when it isn't ignoring me completely. I'm so happy to see conversations like this happening at all. So very happy.

And, this, my small contribution to the discussion? I am a reader. I buy most of what I read. I am the market.
Throw dialects at me. Keep translations from other languages as close to the original as you can rather than pander to what you think my expectations are (don't change settings, don't add gendered pronouns when translating from a language that doesn't use them). Challenge me. Surprise me. 
Knock me the fuck out of my comfort zone.