Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Memo to fellow SF writers:

Okay, fellow SF writers: Asian-Americans have been a part of America's rich tapestry since before their contributions to the railroads in the mid-1800s. They are us. They are totally normal Americans. Get used to it.

What does "get used to it" mean? It means that you be extremely careful in describing Asian-American female characters using the following words and/or references: exotic; inscrutable; dragon lady; or any martial arts metaphors. When you hit all four in less than ten pages, I will put the book down and gape like a fish. Why? Because the technical term for this is racist bullshit.* And if it's because of a character's viewpoint rather than the authorial viewpoint, you need to show us that fast, lest everybody run screaming from the racist bullshit.

When I pick up a Kim Stanley Robinson novel -- published in this decade, for heaven's sake -- I am totally not prepared for that sort of thing. It caught me completely off-guard. "We need to fix climate change!" -- that I expected. "This inscrutable dragon lady would be a great person to work on that problem!" -- uh, no. Nononono. Seriously, just -- no.

I'm going to give this book a chance to get past this, but it's a worse mismatch than "think of these characters as if they were movie stars!" for me to have such a relentless message that I am to think of this character as foreign and other -- even though she's clearly "good other" rather than "bad other." There is a lot of getting past to be done here. Uff da.

Seriously, "exotic"? No American in ordinary American clothes is exotic, whether her ancestors were from Yokohama or York or Yola. Just -- not.


*You do not get bonus points for avoiding geisha and porcelain doll references; that avoidance is elementary civilized behavior.
Tags: bookses precious, what five

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