Feb 22, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane


A few interesting things I’ve read lately:

Some of the earliest evidence of prehistoric architecture has been discovered in the Jordanian desert, providing archaeologists with a new perspective on how humans lived 20,000 years ago.

Excavations at the site of Kharaneh IV are providing archaeologists with a new perspective on how humans lived 20,000 years ago. Although the area is starkly dry and barren today, during the last Ice Age the deserts of Jordan were in bloom, with rivers, streams, and seasonal lakes and ponds providing a rich environment for hunter-gatherers to settle in.

….“Inside the huts, we found intentionally burnt piles of gazelle horn cores, clumps of red ochre pigment and a cache of hundreds of pierced marine shells. These shell beads were brought to the site from the Mediterranean and Red Sea over 250 km away, showing that people were very well linked to regional social networks and exchanged items across considerable distances.”

Prehistory is in danger of becoming my next love.

On the SFF side of things, Ekaterina Sedia has translated a ToC for a (sadly) non-existent collection of intersectional feminist essays about Harry Potter from Russian fandom. It’s amazing. Essay titles include:

Hermione Granger on Liberal Feminism

Ridicule of Victims of Violence as a Form of Demonization: Moaning Myrtle

Good Homosexual is a Well-Educated White Men with No Sexual Liaisons: Albus Dumbledore

Ariana Dumbledore: Murder of a Disabled Person as a Social Necessity

Flitwick and Hagrid: Ethnic Minorities Will Always Clean Up After You, or Uncle Tom in Hogwarts

Professor Vector, or Anonymity of Women in Mathematics

…I could just go on quoting these. Go read the rest! They’re just as excellent.

I was also linked to an older blog post written by Sedia, in which she talks about the exoticism of foreign languages as they’re depicted in popular media. You know when two characters will be speaking a foreign language, translated for the reader’s benefit into English, but the author will inexplicably drop some of the other language’s words into the text, not because they’re untranslatable but because they’re ~decorative~? Yeah, that is a form of Othering.

This is really making me check the ways I write non-English languages (and, for that matter, other forms of English, which is a related issue I’ve been thinking about recently after my own reaction to an American’s mangled attempt to write Brit English).

On the subject of giving thought to serious issues (or not, as the case may be), the World SF blog talks about some of the recent idiocy on the part of Bakker, Watts and Rothfuss, and also quotes Jesse Bullington being thoughtful and acknowledging the position writers are in:

It wasn’t my intention to offend, and the source of the offense was in the (attempted) service of writing something that played against stereotypes of what a black heroine could be…but that doesn’t invalidate said reader’s emotional reaction to what I wrote. The bottom line is I’ll never be able to undo the hurt that I caused her, however inadvertently, which, yeah, is a shitty feeling, and one that I have to own–and acknowledge that my having my widdle progressive author feelings hurt is a good deal less sucky than encountering awful stereotypes about yourself on the page, the screen, etc. on a regular basis.

Ekaterina Sedia speaks similarly at Maurice Broaddus’ website:

Finally, I do realize that my insight is limited, and the book is really much more about the immigrant experience – something I do know about first-hand. And this is something I spoke a lot to my friend about. He was very supportive of the book, but he also said, “You do realize that some Zimbabweans will not like this book because it was written by a white woman.” And yes, of course I do realize that, and you know what? It’s a valid position. I think it’s an important thing, to accept that you won’t have a unanimous approval, and to not be hurt about it. Westerners writing about other cultures either seek validation or just default to “haters gonna hate so screw them, I’ll write what I want” positions. So for me, I think it’s important to do one’s best, but not expect that everyone will love you for it. I mean, I myself am wary when Westerners write about my culture, so who am I to expect a different treatment?

All food for thought.

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