mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The old neighbourhood

Of course there *is* one slight problem to all this mainlining Pratchett. All the main characters are white. Which is fine, but a bit disorienting as a steady diet because it's not what I'm used to nowadays.

I mean, it is what I'm used to nowadays if you look at my recent English reading, but that doesn't feel quite as WTFy, if only because if I'm reading books set in England during the Napoleonic wars I've pretty much decided to read about white Englishmen. It's still nice that Jack's crew comes from all over, even if it's the underdecks that does. (For that matter I'm also incapable of following the mid-east politics in The Ionian Mission and Treason's Harbour and remembering who's who in the Arabian peninsula. I treat it like the ship's terminology, which isn't explained either: OK, fine, that ship is abaft of the starboard beam and OK, these three local leaders are trying to edge each other out for reasons which remain obscure to me, and I hope neither of those facts is important. What amazes me is that *Jack* can keep the issues straight.)

But my English reading is usually interleaved with Japanese manga, to say nothing of Woxin and wuxia watching, and I just feel odd now that that's not there. Should return to the geisha world of Kurotsubaki where I was last week, a place where Susa-no-o will show up at the heroine's wedding and dance while reciting Yakumo tatsu. (I mean, she got married at his jinja. What do you expect?)

Fact is, I don't actually want Characters Of Colour in my reading any more than I want gay characters. Both terms reference this-world thinking, and specifically NAmerican thinking, and I find this-society thinking reductive, adversarial and unsatisfactory as a model for how humans actually work, let alone how they should work. Yes I know reductive and adversarial is how things get accomplished here, by defining a group and going to court to ensure that group's rights. It's how we got gay marriage, by and large- but I don't think it was Charter challenges that made most straight Canadians go 'shrug' over the issue. (So shrug is it that no one's bothered to update wikipedia to mention that Canada as a whole legalized same-sex marriage three years ago.) Legal attitudes make bad social attitudes, says the lawyers' child, because the law is a very blunt if-a-then-not-b instrument and human beings are far more complex than that. Alas, over here the legal approach is becoming a reflex.

For my not-gay-just-same-sex needs I have the realms of yaoi-ppoi manga. Not-people-of-colour-just-the-people is a bit harder to come by, at least in my own language.

I want something that isn't the mainstream white-as-default, but I also want it not to be anything special. Leguin does it, and a few other fantasy writers (I don't read SF, where I think there may be more examples?); but even the fact that their non-this-world characters are brown or yellow becomes a big deal simply by the rarity. (One exception, I guess, could be ancient Egypt. All of Pauline Gedge, all Paul Doherty and Lynda Robinson (dear god, do you realize how many mysteries are set in ancient Egypt? Yeah, and how all the modern ones are about western Egyptologists argh.) But otherwise to get that no-big-deal variety I guess one must stick to not-western and/or not-English-the-language; and not, as with Pratchett, an English-the-country fantasy that deliberately references real-world. Pratchett's a satirist, shou ga nai; satire references this-world by definition and Pratchett is (among other things) getting his digs in at modern-day England.

Ah well. Someone has to, I guess. And meanwhile I can wait for nojojojo's books to come out.
Tags: history, o'brian, pratchett, reading

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