The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Locus Roundtable on ::ahem:: Non-Western SF

Locus recently held a roundtable entitled ::ahem:: Non-Western SF to support the We See A Different Frontier anthology.

 

Are we happy with the panel? No. But we’ll save our comments for a future blog post.

 

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:

Fabio sent in a question for the Locus Roundtable, and folks got busy deconstructing it. Siobhan Carroll, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Cecelia Holland, Terry Bisson, Marie Brennan, Guy Gavriel Kay, Brit Mandelo, Russell Letson, Rachel Swirsky, Alan Beatts, E. Lily Yu, and Karen Lord all discuss the following:

SF is the literature of the imaginary. How can the imaginations of writers from outside the Western narrative contribute new perspectives to this literature?

Siobhan Carroll

SF is the literature of the imaginary. How can the imaginations of writers from outside the Western narrative contribute new perspectives to this literature?

I think I get what Fernandes is driving at, but I might as well start by worrying at the question.

1) If SF is the literature of the imaginary, surely all imaginations contribute to it regardless of where they’re located? Or are we merely identifying “SF” (the genre) with the North American and British publishing houses that publish “science fiction”? Can there be no such thing as Indian SF, for example, or do the productions of these authors only “exist” when translated into English and distributed in Barnes & Noble?

2) Is there a monolithic “Western narrative”? If so, on what is it based? Who participates in it? Are we talking about a historical narrative or a literary one? Is the “Western narrative” reducible to the history of Western Europe? To the British Isles? Does it include literatures not in English? Or does “Western narrative” merely = the cultural history of Britain and the United States?

3) Given the role played by the “East/West” axis in the Cold War, does Russia and Eastern Europe participate in this “Western narrative”?

4) Does the “Western narrative” encompass former European colonies?

5) Is there an “Eastern narrative”? A “Southern narrative”? Is there a “Northern” narrative?

How can the imaginations of writers from outside the Western narrative contribute new perspectives to this literature?

6) Are we talking about living writers or dead writers? Would the Vedas-inspired fantasies of a 19C British orientalist count as a “contribution” from outside the Western narrative? Or are we thinking of contemporary “non-Western” (not Anglophone? not British/American/European?) writers who write SF published in English translation in the U.S.A.?

I think Fernandes is driving at the latter. But I think before diving into an answer it might be useful to hammer out what we’re asking.

I guess I also think the hoary old “Western narrative” needs to be interrogated. Not only do we have the legacy of Oriental/Occidentalism to consider, but the 20C Cold War East/West binary also underpins this phrase, tying “Western” (I think) to “‘developed’ nations recognized by the U.S.A. as its non-subject allies in a communist/capitalist ideological conflict.” By that measure, is China Mieville, for example, a “Western” writer or an “outsider”?

But I’ll leave that question to a future roundtable. Personally, I’d like to talk about the SF influence of writers who hail from outside the United States and the Anglophone Commonwealth, and I’d like to talk about writers who are alive and making their own contributions to SF.

 

May 2, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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