Monday, July 03, 2006


An interview I did awhile back.

It also deals with the idea of cultural appropriation.

Q: Do you feel that practically speaking, writers from countries not
normally associated with spec-fic markets need to emphasize on their
own countries' myths/folklore in order to provide some kind of
diversity and succeed in the international marketplace?

A: What I don't like to see, frankly, is the colonization of other countries by the West, especially the US and the UK. It's not so much that they need to emphasize their own myths/folklore as to not put aside their own unique experience and way of looking at the world because they think they need to adopt an American/European model to succeed. What you don't want to do is lose your uniqueness.

That said, I also do not believe in any way that writers of one culture cannot use the folklore of another culture. This is, quite simply, silly. A writer's job is to lie effectively and to empathize and to find a way of making universal our human experience. There is no such thing as cultural appropriation when a writer does something well. All the rest is just bad writing.



At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Vera Nazarian said...

Yup, you pretty much sum up my thoughts on this exactly, Jeff.

It's either bad writing, badly done whatever culture, or it... works. :-)

At 2:08 AM, Blogger banzai cat said...

Good one, Jeff. Will check out the long form of the interview but I think you've pegged some words of wisdom, especially for non-western speculative fiction.

Hmmm... must ponder on this on my blog some more.

At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vera--totally agree!

Banzai--if you do, let me know and I'll link to it.


At 11:42 PM, Blogger skinnyblackcladdink said...

my experience, and what bugs me about the literary ambience where i'm from, is quite the opposite of the "colonization" Mr. VanderMeer talks about. round here, the literary "establishment" seem to insist that the only writing that has any value is the kind that has a distinctly local (i.e., Filipino) flavor. the problem with that thinking is it fails to recognize good writing for the simple fact that it doesn't "feel" or has no element of "locality."

At 1:21 AM, Blogger banzai cat said...

I gotta clarify, the Philippine literary establishment does concentrate on localization but primarily as an aspect of literature dealing with social realism. More of "art as propaganda" rather than "art for art's sake" kinda issue. ;-)

At 7:43 PM, Blogger skinnyblackcladdink said...

yes, but even the "art" in Philippine literature is being bullied into a forced "imitation of Local reality"... the establishment's preference for "localization" does, in fact, go beyond mere "propaganda", and even in the absence of any "socially relevant" points of contention, the establishment has an obvious bias for writers who inject a local flavor in their work.

this isn't a bad thing, per se; only that it shuts out other great writers who don't happen to have that kind of touch in their writing. who, i might add, may nonetheless put forth issues that are relevant not just to the local experience specifically, but to the human experience in general.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger banzai cat said...

Hehe I smell a good debate here, man. Let's leave poor Jeff's comment board alone. ;-)


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