Thursday 7 November 2013

WSADF contributors round robin interview Publishing recently put out an anthology titled We See a Different Frontier, which includes sixteen science fictional or fantastic stories about colonialism, told from the perspective of the colonized. We have brought together almost all of the contributors (authors, editors, etc.) for a circular interview; each participants answers a question, and then in turn asks one of the next in line.

Aliette asks Djibril:

For me, We See a Different Frontier is an important watermark in genre, presenting the perspective of the third world/the colonised instead of the usual (white) Anglo-American hegemony. As someone who lives in the UK, how do you relate to this hegemony, and what do you think should be done to counter its effects?

Djibril al-Ayad:

In the UK we're used to hearing people say that focusing on underrepresented voices is like some kind of politically correct affirmative action, at best patronizing and at worst “reverse racism” (sexism, mutatis mutandis…). This lets people ignore and normalize the dominance of white, straight, Anglo, male voices, such that anything near equity is seen as dominance of the other.

I relate to that hegemony in part by belonging to it—I have white, Anglo, and American all in my make-up—despite being a few kinds of "other" in the mix. Seriously though, I'm not a writer who can bring the perspective of the colonized into his fiction, so my job with this anthology was to shut up and let the voices of people more able to tell these stories be heard. The fact that I also massively enjoyed myself in doing so, and the stories were also wonderfully entertaining, mind-blowing speculative fiction as well as underheard colonized voices (beautiful as well as useful, in the terms we like to use in TFF), is all icing. As editors, readers, organizers, nominators and judges, and as writers, we should all do more to publish, promote, buy, encourage and recommend these voices and the wonderful fiction they write, as often as possible.

Djibril asks Shweta:

I believe you've written several related steampunk stories set in the same alternative Indian history as “The Arrangement of their Parts”. Is there a narrative thread through these stories? Have you considered collecting them in a single book eventually?

Shweta Narayan:

It’s more of a narrative tapestry that they’re all part of. I’m not good with single threads, even within one story!

I’ve considered collecting them, but I need more stories before I give it serious thought. This is the fifth story in the setting to see publication, and I only have one other written so far.

Shweta asks Ernest:

The way you tell “Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus”—with gleefully flawed characters and tongue firmly in cheek—strikes me as important as well as entertaining. How do you navigate other people’s stereotypes, and other boxes they might want to put your characters in (like the desire for uncomplicated heroes)?

Ernest Hogan:

The way you describe the style of “Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus” tends to be my standard approach to writing fiction. I’ve been rejected a lot because of it. I originally wanted to be a cartoonist—and cartooning is all about stereotypes and distortion. I try to push stereotypes into grotesque exaggerations that hopefully will put some dents in people’s perceptions. I also try to keep it fun, the story really took off for me when I started thinking of it as a spaghetti western.

Ernest asks Silvia

I’ve found that being an Irish/Chicano makes me an alien no matter where I am, and is probably what attracted me to science fiction. Was “Them Ships” inspired by your Mexican/Canadian experience?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

I always draw on my youth growing up in Mexico when writing stories, but in the case of “Them Shapes” I was interested in exploring social differences. Most of the heroes we read about are from the upper classes. You don’t have very many homeless people battling zombie hordes or inner city children facing against demons. I guess one of the exceptions in movies would be The People Under the Stairs, which has a young African American boy. Candyman takes place in an African American area, but it’s really the story of a white woman. So I wanted to look at a protagonist who does not belong to the upper crust society and for whom the social upheaval may not conjure romantic notions of Hollywood escapes. It’s very well and grand when Brad Pitt is going to save the day, but what about all the times you are not Brad Pitt and you are reverently screwed, one way or the other?

My story is about that. The poor, in any urban environment, are in a way aliens. I’m not sure how they’d react to extraterrestrials, but this is my take on it.

Silvia asks J.Y.:

I understand that you are a journalist. How has your experience writing non-fiction influenced, helped or hindered your fiction writing?

J.Y. Yang:

To be honest, I tend to separate my fiction writing from my professional writing, mostly because they are just so different. Because of the constraints of the paper I work at, my non-fiction writing tends towards the technical; I don't get to flex my creative writing muscles as much as I would like to. In fact, sometimes I think it's the other way around—I try to sneak in some of the skills I'd use in crafting fiction into my news articles (with limited success: most of my literary flourishes tend to get cut at the editorial level!). Perhaps the biggest influence my work has on my writing it that it forces me to stay connected to global issues and gives me some cool ideas to play with sometimes. My personal beat is sci/tech and there's a lot of nifty biotech research going on where I live, which is always delightful.

J.Y. asks Fabio:

As someone who writes fiction in multiple languages, do you find you have different approaches to writing depending on which language you are writing in?

Fabio Fernandes:

Yes I do! When I write in Portuguese, not only the language comes naturally to me, but also the tools in the writer’s toolbox are a bit different. (While I'm writing this answer to you, I notice I'll still have to think more on that subject, and perhaps to elaborate better on it later, but for now let's say that the English hammer is not quite the same as the Portuguese hammer, even though both are beautifully made to nail things down.)

That said, writing in Portuguese usually involves the creation of a more disjointed narrative, because we borrowed a lot from French culture in the 19th and 20th Century (a trend that has been slowly changing for the past two decades) and so we are prone to jumps and starts, so to speak. That accounts for a more elliptical text, where the story is all there in a general way, but sometimes you deliver it in drops and the reader must make an effort to bridge the gap to better understand what's going on. Now, this doesn't mean at all the story is enigmatic or impossible to understand. It's just that you don't usually tells the reader everything. We tend to meander.

Now, writing in English, it's like I'm rewiring myself or getting another toolbox in my writer's shed and rethinking things all over again, in order to get a more straight way from point A to point Z. I still find it hard, but it's been very rewarding to me—and, after the Clarion West experience (where—what a wonderful coincidence!—both of us were classmates this year), I think the whole effort became less conscious, more natural.

Fabio asks Dinesh:

Your story “A Bridge of Words” focus powerfully in the difference between languages and problems of understanding, along with what might happen with a society when its means of communication are somehow lost or substituted for other culture’s. Having been born and raised in India, a country with more than twenty official languages and one of the oldest cultures of the world, how does it feel to live in North America (I understand you’re living in Mexico) and how does the changes in language and culture affect you in your daily life?

Dinesh Rao:

As an Indian, living in Mexico is not too different from India. The main difference I see is that India somehow managed to hold on to centuries of tradition, whereas in Mexico, the local culture has been almost entirely assimilated into a European-based culture. Yes there are local festivals and distinctly Mexican approaches to traditional christianity but by and large I feel the absence of a diversity that should be present when compared to India. The temples here are monuments, rather than living structures. When I arrived here, I came with the vague ambition of learning Spanish and a local language, but since I learn best by conversation, it was impossible to pick up a local language: there are very few speakers. Given that there are 85 languages recorded in Mexico, it is quite disheartening to realise that for all practical purposes, there is only one language here: Spanish. Of course, this is a generalisation, there are large pockets of indigenous speakers.

One advantage of growing up surrounded by many languages is that learning yet another one is not too difficult. My mother tongue, Kannada, has most of the sounds that I use in Spanish and hence I have had little trouble with pronunciation. Since I work in a university I am constantly communicating in Spanish and it has been a very thorough immersive experience indeed. I have noticed, however, with time, Spanish is slowly colonising my mind, especially in English, when I catch myself using words in the Spanish order rather than the English order, which speaks to the immense flexibility of the brain in processing languages.

In terms of culture, the aspect I miss the most is the sense of large festivals. Here, if you exclude Christmas and Easter, the closest analogue is the Day of the Dead festival. This festival curiously enough utilizes large amounts of the same flower we use in India, and this adds to the festive feeling. I enjoy participating in the ritual of setting the altar, and decorating, which ironically enough, I never quite participated in while in India. Only when one is a stranger do the things-taken-for-granted become special. The immigrant experience is quite different in Mexico for an Indian compared to places that have large pools of Indians such as the US or the UK. I have heard/read that it is quite possible to maintain a higher degree of connection to the home country there. Whereas in Mexico, there are only a few Indians, which is odd for me given the almost instant sense of familiarity that one feels living here.

In terms of fiction set in Mexico, it was 3 years before I wrote anything set here, mostly because of the eternal problem of an outsider writing about the country. I cannot believe that one can get the feel of a place with just a few visits, and unless there is a tremendous amount of research involved, I believe it is hard to produce a setting that will not seem off in some way. I try to base the stories around an Indian protagonist, and see if I can generate a combination of perspectives.

Dinesh asks Rahul:

One of the things that struck a chord in your story was the conflict between decisions made for the good of the individual and those made with the larger community in mind. Do you think such individual-biased decisions are given more weight or looked upon more favourably in the western world as opposed to, say, in India?

Rahul Kanakia:

Hard for me to say, I don’t know much about political attitudes in India. I struggled with how to answer this question, because I don’t think there’s any homogeneity regarding peoples’ perceptions of individuality in the West. Some people hold very much to the idea that nations can only succeed if their people have a shared identity and shared responsibility. Others, very sensibly, feel that too much community-feeling leads to people being subsumed into the group and results in excess nationalism (which in turn can lead to war, authoritarianism, etc). Regarding what you as a human being are supposed to do with your life, I think it’s unquestionable that people in the West have a lot more freedom of choice than in India. You’re supposed to follow the career that you love and marry the person that you love, etc, whereas in India there’s a much stronger sense that your familial responsibilities will impact your career and spousal choices. What I don’t know is how this impacts political life. Do people in India feel like they should not do what they want, because it’s best for the country? Or do they feel, instead, that they should do what’s best for their family, even if it is at the expense of the country. I imagine that, just like in America, there’s considerable heterogeneity re: these attitudes.

In America, it’s interesting that both political parties are divided on the importance of personal responsibility. For instance, regarding the situation in my story (a family sells its farms’ water rights to a municipal water district, just contributing to the downfall of the county in which they live), you can very easily imagine a libertarian Republican who would applaud it as the free market allocating water to its most efficient use and you can imagine a populist Republican who would revile it as a family of outsiders who’s destroying the integrity of this small-town community. Similarly, you could imagine a Democrat who applauds the government coming in and talking water decisions out of the hands of small landowners, and you can imagine a Democrat who sees it as a monumental overreach.

Rahul asks Joyce:

As someone who writes within the context of American SF, I’m personally very aware that my audience is primarily white Americans—for better or worse, the success of my work depends on how well it appeals to people who belong to the dominant culture of the country where I live. Who do you see your audience as being? And how does that affect your writing?

Joyce Chng:

Good question there. Who do I see my audience as being? At first, when I started writing, I thought it was global, that means, to everyone. But as I progressed, I realized that the publishing industry was/is US-centric or Western-centric—and my audience became narrower. At the same time, I write in English and I also thought my writing would appeal to people who would understand the English language. Pretty much the Anglophone world.

My education is primarily based on the British education system. So, technically, my first language is English (or to be more specific, the Queen’s English). These days, I toggle between British English and American English. When I submit my work, I have to be aware of the type of English I am using. I have people telling me to use the English language I was taught in. But in a way, my writing is written to appeal to people who belong to the dominant culture (the US, the UK etc).

As a person whose country is postcolonial, I guess I am struggling with the fact that I write in the language of the dominant culture of the readers. A part of me feels that I should write in Mandarin Chinese… but then again, Mandarin Chinese has been imposed onto us and our original languages (called ‘dialects’) have been neglected. My generation has grown up unable to speak our original languages. It has been a profound loss. Luckily, there is some change: people are starting to reclaim what they have lost.

(Note: Of course, I wish there were more readers in my own country. But alas—there seems to be a disdain for local writers, including local SFF writers!)

Joyce asks Lavie:

Can you tell us more about your story and what inspired it? How does being Israeli influence your writing?

Lavie Tidhar:

For “Dark Continents” I actually drew on my other (my secret!) identity—being a naturalised South African, by accident, and having lived and travelled across South East Africa for a some years.

I have an obsession with David Livingstone, the missionary (he was a terrible missionary! He only ever converted one person) and explorer—and in his relationship with his two servants, Susi and Chuma, who were with him when he died—they famously cut out his heart to bury under a tree, and then carried his preserved corpse some 1500 miles from the interior to the coast, and then by ship to England. It’s the sort of thing you just can’t make up. And I don’t like making things up when I don’t need to—reality is so much weirder. So the story is about editing and remixing African colonial history, starting with Cecil Rhodes walking into the Ndebele camp during the 1897 War (which in our history resulted in the end of the war), and getting progressively weirder from there.

The final remix brings it back to another of my obsessions—the so-called ‘Uganda plan’, where the British offered the Jews a homeland in British East Africa. It’s a theme for Israeli writers in some way—a What-If that never happened. And I was curious at looking at both possibilities of it (which I think some reviewers seem to have missed, alas)—the one where it is played similarly to the current situation in Israel, and another which is an idealised version of it. Africa isn’t a ‘place’—it’s a huge continent, and I only know a small part of it (and that part has undergone so many changes since I myself lived there), but it’s a part of me, and it used to be a big part of me for a long time. I don’t visit it very often in fiction, but I can never fully let it go, either.

Lavie asks Sunny:

How did you become interested in post-colonialism, and what inspired your story for the anthology?

Sunny Moraine:

Short answer: I started a PhD program in sociology and it was all downhill from there. Long answer: I encountered postcolonialism in a contemporary sociological theory course and it was one of those times where a great many things make sense that didn’t before, where the entire way one looks at the world is subtly altered. I had been working in that direction in my own personal study of genocide; in the modern era, most genocide is obviously inextricable from the violence of colonialism. But in the theory course I read Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and that tied so many things together. I then encountered Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony and Arturo Escobar’s Encountering Development, and at that point simply seeing things that I hadn’t seen before became an imperative toward using fiction to work through some of what was seething around in my own privileged head.

“A Heap of Broken Images” is a story I’ve been trying to write for a while. As I said above, I have a long-standing interest in genocide that—I believe—comes from a fascination with the social and psychological processes that push people to horrifying extremes of behavior. But what I kept coming back to, especially when considering events like the genocide in Rwanda—which primarily inspired the story—is how ultimately inexplicable it is. You might be able to at least sort of understand it on an intellectual level, but your heart will always cry out in bewildered despair, and the more people seek answers, the more all the answers they find seem hopelessly inadequate. At what point do explanations become justifications? Where is justice at all? Ultimately, I thought, maybe there is no understanding. Maybe there’s only the wounded and those who did the wounding, and both have to find a way to exist in a world that contains such evil and such agony. In a world like that, perhaps the only possible justice can be the one side facing the other without fear, and the other side forcing itself to return that gaze.

Sunny asks N.A.:

Your story deals very powerfully with memory and the violence done to memory by the systematic eradication of culture and language—a horror that we see over and over throughout history. What led you to write about this specific kind of colonial violence?

N.A. Ratnayake:

I am an educator in an public school. Few careers are so precariously placed at the interface between the state and the individual. I think a society's underlying attitudes about race, culture, and national identity tend to float to the surface when we look at how that society educates its youth, particularly youth of minority and immigrant backgrounds.

The eradication of culture and language is, I think among the most sinister forms of violence. It isn't violence in the colloquial sense of the term; that is, it isn't physical harm or physical pain that is inflicted on a material body. Linguistic and cultural violence cut at something deeper: identity, and the collective soul of a whole people. The target is intimately tied up with our sense of who we are, how we define ourselves and how we view the world.

As Allan Bloom reminds us in The Closing of the American Mind:
“The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.”
Through the normalization of one culture's language comes subsequent normalization of religion, aesthetic, ability, race, and intelligence around assumptions which become harder and harder to question because more and more people take them for granted—including those oppressed.

I think our society has come a long way in many respects, but there is much left to do. I hope stories like those found in We See a Different Frontier help us stay vigilant towards injustice, even when it is subtle. I also hope that these stories remind the speculative fiction community of its role, even responsibility, to provide visions of a more inclusive and just society through our work.

N.A. asks Sofia:

The backdrop of your story seems to be set in a very turbulent world. I love how your descriptive sensory language both moves the character arcs forward and, at the same time, gives us a sense of a people’s past. What roles do you see myth, legend, and superstition playing in how a people define themselves? What brought these elements together as you were forming your characters in this story?

Sofia Samatar:

I suppose I see myth, legend and superstition as forms of belief—so their role is central to how communities define themselves. Beliefs provide default explanations for events, and tools to figure out how to respond. Recently I taught a course on Africa (yes, it was on all of Africa—I didn’t design it), and there was an anecdote about a South African woman whose family maintained she had been killed by witchcraft. The woman also had diabetes. My students in Wisconsin all insisted that the diabetes had killed her. They couldn’t accept the witchcraft explanation at all. Now, I’m more of their view, so I’m not criticizing them, just pointing out that the belief in science—the insistence that no matter what, there MUST be a scientific explanation somewhere—defines the identity of our shared community. It enables us to make sense of things together.

My story is set in an imagined, colonial-era Yambio—that’s the town in South Sudan where I taught high school for three years. The language in the story is Zande, and the characters have Zande names (Pai-te means “no problem, things are ok”; Minisare means “I am alone”). The folk hero Ture and the divination practice used in the story are also Zande. So what brought the different elements together as I was writing the story was the act of imagining an alternative, yet quasi-historical Yambio.

Sofia asks Benjanun:

Recently, we had a very brief conversation about diversity in science fiction and fantasy—specifically, about works translated into English and works of non-Western authors writing in English. Can you say more about this? Do you think SFF readers too easily assume that “international SFF” equals “translated SFF”? Is this a conversation that’s even happening? And how do you think this anthology contributes to that conversation—or, maybe, how might this anthology get that conversation started?

Benjanun Sriduangkaew:

I get the impression that foreignness is associated with ‘translated’ sometimes (often?) but haven’t been in the field long enough to judge either as writer or reader, but I do see the translation award cited when talking about international writers which confused me a little! That perception’s hugely different from literary fiction, where it’s generally accepted (even expected) that ‘international’ can definitely mean works written originally in English rather than translated; the wealth of Indian, Middle Eastern and Chinese authors speak for itself. With as many international contributors in this anthology as there are I hope we’ll contribute to that conversation for the better.

Benjanun asks Gabriel:

Weretigers! They’re such a folklore staple in many Asian cultures—could you tell us why you picked a weretiger in particular? And from one bubble tea lover to another, what sort of tea do you prefer with your tapioca pearls?

Gabriel Murray:

They are, at that! I grew up hearing weretiger stories now and then as part of my mother's spooky-story repertoire; I think animal shapeshifters are an interesting and somewhat cross-cultural fear, the idea of an impostor and a predator walking among us without our knowledge. The wolf's lost much of its terror for a lot of Westerners, but the tiger continues to be an object of fascination and fright: and Orientalism, actually. Westerners tend to associate the tiger with the mythological "Orient." I'm sure we can blame our old pal Kipling and his Shere Khan for some of that, but the association transcends just The Jungle Book, I think, and is linked to multiple Asian countries in stereotype. As a character remarks early in my story, big cats are supposed to be beautiful, mysterious, heartless, and deadly in the Orientalist mind—and frankly, so are Asian people. Humans as especially tricky game animals. It's some powerful bullshit. So as a symbol of a biracial teenager's fear and self-hate regarding his Asian heritage, it's pretty potent. And as a "half-caste" in Anglo society, so is the idea of being an impostor.

And it's all about the Earl Grey. No, the jasmine. No, the taro? No, the Earl Grey! Gah!

Gabriel asks Rochita:

The final line of your story "What Really Happened in Ficandula" is very significant: "History has taught them all they ever needed to know." How did you learn about the incident that inspired this story? Do you find that the predominance of Western colonialist historical revisionism has had any effect on your reading or writing?

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz:

One of the books I was reading as part of my personal research was written by an American missionary. Perhaps it was written with good intentions, but I found myself cringing each time at the patronizing tone of the book and the way in which the Ifugao were presented as being ignorant savages. The seed for this story came from an account in that book of the beheading of two American archeologists.

I don’t think I’ve written an angrier story. It says the things I wanted to say: how these deaths were on the heads of those archeologists. If you sleep in a sacred granary, don’t expect to wake up in the morning. Also, what kind of archeologist doesn’t pause to think about the culture they intend to visit? What kind of arrogance makes a man think that they can enter someone else’s territory with impunity? There is also the fact that these men couldn’t speak the language and yet they went there without an interpreter or a guide.

And yet, in the accounts I’ve read of this particular event, the narrative is so patronizing towards the Ifugao. It’s said that this is because they were ignorant and didn’t know anything about the world outside.

The retribution for the beheadings in the story is much more intense than the factual retribution, but I don’t really know to what extent I can trust those “historical” accounts since none of them originate from the place itself.

As to your second question, it pains me to see how we are still subvervient to the colonialist narrative. When I was at school, anyone who spoke critically of America or of the establishment was considered a leftist. You had to be very careful not to be called leftist or anti-American and so even asking questions about history was something that had to be done in a very discreet way. Growing up in that atmosphere, I accepted history as it was without question—however, one of my highschool teachers told us that there are many things not included in history books. At that time, she didn’t say very much about it, but she just reminded us that we should always question history and look for counter-narratives.

I suppose this is the position from which I look at historical accounts. From where is it coming from? Who is writing it? And how do I know the source is to be trusted? Because my own knowledge is flawed, I also wonder to what extent my narrative can be trusted.

Rochita asks Ekaterina:

We keep having these discussions on diversity in SFF and around the need for non-Anglocentric narratives, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing writers from non-european and non-US traditions?

Ekaterina Sedia:

Readers who are from Anglocentric traditions. Their frame of references do not align with those of non-Anglophone writers, and thus the narratives that are coming from a different perspective feel wrong to them. Elsewhere, people tend to read a fair amount of translated books, and in those the abandonment of own prejudices is pretty much required; but I think Anglophone readers have so many narratives written for then, centered on them, that the necessity to develop the ability to get out of one’s own head is not really there. Same as with the language, really—if you speak English, you don’t need to learn another language, while learning English for a lot of other people is often a necessity. So I think there’s often a disconnect between an Anglophone reader expectations and the writers from other cultural backgrounds, and different narrative traditions: their stories feel wrong somehow, and thus many readers who want to read about cultures will choose an outsider narrative written for the cultural outsiders over an insider narrative, which is often more work. So this is why, I think, we often see the discussions about diversity in SF often quickly becoming about Anglophones wanting to write about non-western cultures, and in their most cynical iteration about Anglophones who want to know how to write about other cultures without being yelled at by cultural insiders/get their work translated into other languages. It tends to be very one-sided, IME.

Ekaterina asks Carmen:

What has inspired the concept for your cover art?

Carmen Moran:

When Djibril and Fabio approached me, they already had quite a clear idea of what they wanted: a spaceship taking off from a planet. There were a few ideas thrown about, and everyone liked the idea of making it a gambiarra-style contraption—from what I remember Fabio wanted it to look like it could have been built in someone's backyard, but still be functional. As the sketching went on, they also asked me to include some biopunk additions, a term I actually hadn't come across before, and struggled with a bit! I happened to start reading Iron Council by China Mieville round about the same time, though, and that really helped some things click into place inside my head. So, there was quite a lot of back and forth, and detailed discussions about pretty much every part of the illustration.

Carmen asks Aliette:

My feeling, which may be super-naive, would be that art, music and storytelling are things that happen regardless of whether there is an audience. Whilst all points of view are probably represented in [science] fiction, it just so happens that the writers with the greatest reach tend to be western, simply because there is a capitalist framework in place to push them, for the purpose of making the largest possible amount of money, as opposed to pronouncing any kind of judgement on the quality of non-western writing. What's your opinion on this? Would you expect Harry Potter (or the other examples you give in your preface) to have been less successful had they been written by a non-western author, even if that author had access to western-style publishing, because of his/her heritage?

Aliette de Bodard:

I think the answer is a bit more complex than a capitalist framework, though certainly that framework exists and is powerfully effective at pushing its underlying (mainstream) Western values. There are a number of factors today (and economic considerations are one of them) that make it possible for the Western way of thought to dominate, and to be seen as valuable even in non-Western countries. I will always remember how my relatives in Vietnam insisted on buying Lipton tea for me because it was a posh and expensive thing to offer, whereas actual Vietnamese tea (which tastes much better!) was devalued. The corollary of this is that Westerners can get through life without having to empathise with someone else’s point of view or having to imagine life outside of the hegemony (and, to some extent, this is worse if you’re a member of the hegemonic bit of US culture, because you can easily live in an environment tailored for you without once having to step out of your comfort zone). Everyone knows about Shakespeare and the Bible; but not about classics like The Tale of Kieu or Dream of Red Mansions, despite their importance in their home culture.

My feeling (but I can’t answer for anything but my personal opinion and experience) is that had the Harry Potter books been written by a non-Western author and steeped in non-Western culture, they would have been much less successful on two fronts: one, they would not have “spoken” to the hegemonic culture and thus been devalued (though there is a possibility they would have been seen as quaintly exotic, which might be more commercially successful but no less dehumanising); and two, they might not even have been valued within the author’s own country!

Many thanks to all the authors, editors, artists, critics, etc. for asking and answering these questions. If your interest is piqued now, you can acquire the We See a Different Frontier anthology from Amazon, Wizard's Tower, or all the usual bookstores.

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