I don’t have the link, but my husband recently read me bits from an interview with or article by one of the screenwriters for the upcoming Doctor Strange movie, wherein the screenwriter referred to the character of the Ancient One as “Marvel’s Kobayashi Maru.” This is, of course, the character that recently got whitewashed by casting Tilda Swinton in the role; the screenwriter’s piece argued that it’s a situation in which there is no good solution. To wit:
1) The Ancient One is, right out of the gate, kind of a horrible racist stereotype. Mystical Asian master teaches white man the ways of magic! Yyyyyyeah, when that’s your starting point, you’re already in trouble.
2) Okay, say you don’t whitewash the role; you cast an Asian actor and just accept the fact that you’re going to perpetuate the Mystical Asian Master stereotype. The character is canonically Tibetan; you cast a Tibetan actor. Congratulations: you have just walked into a minefield, and its name is “Tibetan/Chinese politics.” China says “screw you, we’re not showing that film in this country,” and you lose out on one of the biggest markets in the entire world — a market which is pretty much necessary to make a film of this kind profitable.
3) Okay, okay, so no Tibetan actor. Cast a Chinese man instead! China’s happy! . . . at the cost of supporting China’s imperialist attitudes toward Tibet and erasing Tibetan identity.
Each one of us probably has an opinion as to which of those three options (whitewash the role and dilute the Asian stereotype; cast a Tibetan actor and eat the massive financial and political hit; cast a Chinese actor and erase Tibet) is the least of the available evils. But the fact remains that none of them are straight-up good options; up to that point, I agree with the screenwriter’s argument.
But I also look at that, and then think about the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
If you can’t win, then change the rules of the game.
For example: I’ve been told that in some versions of the Doctor Strange canon, the hero is Asian instead of white. I haven’t been able to track down a citation for that, but it doesn’t have to be previously true to be an option now; instead of whitewashing the Ancient One, racebend Doctor Strange himself. Then you may still have your Mystical Asian Master, but he’s not teaching a white man his secret ways, and you have a headlining superhero who’s a man of color. It doesn’t solve your Tibetan/Chinese political problem — plus you have to decide what ethnicity your Doctor Strange will be, which potentially carries its own complications — but it does help mitigate the problematic nature of the Ancient One himself, and his relationship with Doctor Strange.
Or my sister’s suggestion: cast a Tibetan actor as the Ancient One . . . and then re-film those scenes with a Chinese actor for the Chinese market. Sure, it’ll cost some money, but not nearly as much as losing out on the Chinese market. You’re still kind of complicit in China’s relations with Tibet, and you haven’t solved your “Asian master teaches a white man” problem (unless you combine this with the above), but it’s a potential compromise.
Or — and this is my preferred solution — get rid of the problem entirely, by getting rid of the Ancient One.
Jettison the inherently problematic baggage you inherited from previous versions of canon and come up with something better. Sure, the fanboys will wail and gnash their teeth — but whatever, they can suck it up. They already understand that there can be multiple different canons, sometimes with wildly divergent stories for how the hero got his powers; let this be another. Give Doctor Strange a different origin story, one that isn’t founded on a horrible racist stereotype. Change the rules of the game. Play something better.
I think the screenwriter did a good job of outlining the dimensions of the box they were stuck in. I just wish he and the director and the producer had realized that they didn’t have to be in the box — that they had the power to bust out of it entirely. It would have been better than the route they went.
(And Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi? There is no goddamned excuse.)
Actual number of html pages on my site: 351.
Assuming I didn’t miss any.
The good news is, I intend to remove some of the cruft, and doing that will reduce the number to 267. That’s more than 20% less! . . . but it’s still a lot. Doing the transfer is going to take bloody forever. I am sorely tempted to pay somebody to do it for me (this is a service my site designer offers), except that I know this is also my big chance to tidy everything up: change the organization, fix broken code, add information I left out before, remove stuff that’s out of date. So I plan on doing it myself, though I reserve the right to change my mind partway through.
I can do ten pages a day, right? At which point this will only take me . . . a month.
So yes, there is a new site on the way. Just don’t expect to see it any time soon.
(And for the record, the closest guesser was weareadevilcow on Twitter, with 341.)
I’m preparing to do a major overhaul of my site, and part of that process includes taking an inventory of the current site.
Which is rather large.
So let’s play a game! You guess how many pages there are on the site — individual .html files, not counting images and offsite links. Whoever comes closest to the real number will get a prize: their pick of my current inventory of author copies. (In the event of a tie, I’ll flip a coin or roll a die or whatever.)
Get yer guesses in!
Because I was traveling last Monday, I neglected to link to that week’s Dice Tales post at Book View Cafe: Shared Delusions,” discussing the techniques gamers use to help everyone imagine the same thing (or at least a close enough facsimile thereof) while telling the story. This week’s post expands on one aspect of that and talks about “Costuming.”
Comment over there!
The recent brouhahah over Stephen Fry saying asinine things about trigger warnings has given me an idea.
I’m going to add something to my website. I don’t know yet how I’ll arrange it in terms of code and presentation, but I’m going to provide content warnings for my fiction. Because I’ve had parents email me asking whether my book would be suitable for their kid (my inevitable answer: depends on the kid, and I don’t know yours, but the book contains XYZ), and readers asking whether my book contains a particular type of thing because they just don’t feel able to deal with that right now. So why not make that information publicly available? Yes, spoilers — but nobody will force you to read the content warnings. They’re there for the people who want them, and everybody else can go their merry way, exactly as they’re doing right now.
It will take me a while to write all this up (because I want to include my short fiction, not just my novels), and like I said, I need to figure out where I’ll put it on my site and how to code it (if you’re there to check the warnings for Work A, you won’t necessarily see all the warnings for Works B-Z). But apart from the labor involved, I see no reason not to provide this information. Also, I figure it would be good to ask: what kinds of things do you think it would help to see warnings for? I’m thinking major common ones, rather than trying to pin down every little thing — triggers can be very idiosyncratic. I’m also thinking of the kinds of things parents worry about, which aren’t so much triggering as inappropriate for kids at certain ages. So far I have:
- Non-graphic violence
- Graphic violence
- Sexual violence
- Major character death
- Mild profanity (i.e. “damn,” “hell,” etc)
- Strong profanity (i.e. “fuck”)
- Mild sexual content (i.e. reference to sex, but no direct depiction)
- Drug use (not including tobacco, but including alcoholism)
- Mental illness (PTSD, depression, etc)
- Psychological abuse
- Harm to children
- Harm to animals
I’m not including things that haven’t actually shown up in my fiction, e.g. graphic sexual content [edit: also domestic abuse, torture, parental death], and obviously people’s boundaries for things like “non-graphic violence” vs. “graphic violence” differ. But if you can think of anything major I’ve left out, do let me know. (I’m also probably going to include special notes where necessary, e.g. “In Ashes Lie covers a period of plague in London, and gets quite grim and detailed about that event.” Because I don’t generally think I need to warn for illness, but I feel that’s one of the most horrific things I’ve ever written, and people might want to know it’s coming.)
Basically, I can go on providing this on a one-at-a-time basis — which requires people to do things like ask me “is there sexual violence in this book?,” thus possibly disclosing their own history in a way they would rather not do — or I can just put the info out there. I think the latter is the better way to go.
EDIT: good lord, self, have you written anything that doesn’t have non-graphic violence? (Answer: yes. But not at any length above novelette.)
It’s been just two days since the release of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, and already I have stuff I should link to!
First of all, I’m up at Tor.com with a nonfiction post titled “Learning to See Through Photography”, where I talk about how I went from taking really crappy pictures of my camp friends to displaying selling prints at Borderlands.
I also set a land-speed record for time elapsed from drafting a post to it going live on someone else’s site: around midnight I started writing a requested post about dragons (riffing off the panel I was on this past FOGcon) and sent it off to my UK publicist at about 1:30 in the morning. By the time I went to bed at 3, it had already been posted to SFF World! Talk about quick turnaround . . . .
And I know I linked to this before, but I should mention again that “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” went live on Tuesday. You don’t need to have read the Memoirs to understand the story, nor does it contain any real spoilers.
But! Speaking of Borderlands!
This Saturday, at 3 p.m., I will be doing a reading and signing. It will be lonely without Mary Robinette Kowal — come keep me company! :-) (And come see my pretty photos on the wall!) After that, I’m doing two other tour stops in the immediate future:
Monday, April 11th, at 7 p.m., I will be at the Powell’s Bookstore in Beaverton, in the Cedar Hills Crossing mall.
Tuesday, April 12th, also at 7 p.m., I will be at the University Bookstore in Seattle — in company with a certain artist. So if you want to get your books signed not only by me, but by Todd Lockwood, this is your chance to do both at once!
Further plans include Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego for their “birthday bash” on May 7th, the Bay Area Festival of Books in June, and in between those things, my Very First International (Non-Convention) Appearance at Les Imaginales in France. I don’t know whether any of my European readers will be able to make it there, but if so, I’d love to see you!
Ladies and gentlemen and other courteous people, it’s finally here, the day you’ve been waiting for —
— the day Clockwork Phoenix 5 goes on sale!
What? That’s not the day you’ve been waiting for? But it has my short story “The Mirror-City”! Oh, wait, I know, short stories —
— today is the day you can read “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review”!
What? Not what you were thinking of, either? But it’s a Lady Trent short story! Surely you want to read her infamous dispute with Benjamin Talbot, about his —
— oh. Ohhhhhhhh.
You’ve been waiting for the publication of In the Labyrinth of Drakes.
Well, I have good news for you, ladies and gentlemen and other courteous people. Today it goes on sale in both the U.S. and the U.K. A part of me does not quite believe this; surely you had it in your hot little hands ages ago? I mean, I finished writing the thing more than a year ago — how is it possible that it hasn’t hit the street before now? But such is the way of the publishing world. It’s out at very long last, and I heartily encourage you all to run out and buy it from your nearest respectable bookseller.
With this, we conclude our Five Days of Fiction. But of course I have one more question for you all . . . and one more prize to give.
In honor of the day, the question is this: if you could spend the rest of your life studying one type of creature (be it mythical or real), what would you choose?
I’d probably go for faeries — which is a bit of a cheat, since that’s a flexible enough term that it encompasses a huge variety of creatures. But it’s the folklorist in me; I’d love to see the entities behind all those legends. A part of me wants to say dragons (if mythical) or cats (if real) . . . but I know the truth; I don’t deal well enough with the biological realities of an obligate carnivore to really want to follow them in person. On the page is good enough for me. :-) Faeries, though: that’s more of an anthropologist’s job. That, I can do. (Assuming I don’t accidentally step wrong and find a hundred years have vanished or I’ve turned into a tree.)
And yes: one lucky respondent will receive a signed copy of In the Labyrinth of Drakes. :-) Let us see what menagerie our guests have assembled for us!
Today we turn our thoughts to the worlds in which the stories take place. Your question, should you choose to answer it, is: which fictional world would you most want to live in? With the stipulation that you get to choose what type of person you’ll be in that world; you won’t be J. Random Starving Peasant. (Because let’s face it, most fictional worlds would really suck if we were J. Random Starving Peasant there.)
This might not make the top of my actual list of Fantasy Retirement Destinations, but I have a very deep fondness for the World of Two Moons, aka Abode, which is the setting for the Elfquest graphic novels. Being an elf there doesn’t guarantee you a happy life — you only get to live forever if nothing kills you first, and since the time period for the main story is pretty much the Neolithic, there are quite a lot of hazards that might get you — but even a nasty, brutish, and short life as an elf tends to be at least a century long, and in the meanwhile, you’re my favorite type of elf in pretty much any story, anywhere. I love the different tribes, their different perspectives on the world . . . all of it.
Which is why one lucky respondent will receive a copy of the first Elfquest graphic novel! Let us know your favorite world in the comments, and in the meanwhile, here’s the guest answers!
~ I want to live in Iain M. Banks’ Culture. A space-faring utopian society that actually works? Bring it on! — Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series
~ Iain Banks’ Culture, because no one is a starving peasant there, unless they want to be. — Sean Williams, author of Hollowgirl
[editorial note: okay, we’ve got a little theme here . . .]
~ That’s a tough one. Overall, I think it’ll have to be the Discworld. — Juliet McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass
~ The Discworld. I’d live in Ankh-Morpork. Daughter of a minor merchant, teaching herself witchcraft and sometimes making a muddle, which she would then need to clean up while attracting as little attention as possible. — Alex Gordon, author of Jericho (coming out tomorrow!)
[editorial note: aaaaaaaand another theme . . .]
~ Middle Earth, if I could be an Elf. Amber, if I could be one of Oberon’s children. — Alma Alexander, author of Empress
~ Well, damn. Struggle as I might, I can’t find anywhere I’d rather live than Middle Earth. I am a cliche, apparently. — Chaz Brenchley, author of Bitter Waters
[editorial note: theme number three!]
~ I’m going with the standard boring answer of the Star Trek universe, because it’s basically a post-scarcity paradise for writer slackers like me. I wouldn’t be one of those high-achieving Starfleet assholes, either. I’d write books (or holodeck adventures or whatever) during the day, and replicate myself some world cuisine at night, and live easy. — Harry Connolly, author of The Great Way
~ Also impossible to answer, but let me pick Cat Valente’s Fairyland for the moment. — Pamela Dean, author of Owlswater (due out later this month!)
~ Pern. But only if I can impress a dragon and completely overhaul the rampant sexism. Which I will do. With my dragon.
Seriously, though. There are many worlds I might want to visit, but the idea of having a psychic link with another sentient being such that I would always have that shared, unconditional love? Yeah. Sign me up. — Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven
~ Does any writer not name their own world? Probably a few. But I would take a manor overlooking Veridon any day of the week. — Tim Akers, author of The Pagan Night
~ I think it would give me great joy to live in one of Patricia McKillip’s nested worlds, the ones that are full of music and riddles, secret libraries and ancient manuscripts, ink-stains and books, books, books. — Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes
~ Harry Potter, as long as I could be a wizard. — John Pitts, author of Night Terrors (due out on April 11th!)