Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In a Nutshell: Why Firefly is Cultural Appropriation

As you may know, the whole 10 Unpopular Opinions thing is going around Facebook right now. One
Asians pictured: 0
of mine was that Firefly (great show! love it!) is cultural appropriation (and makes me cringe while I'm loving it! we have a complicated relationship!). I've gotten a lot of flak about this one from (all white, all male as far as I can remember... not an accusation, just a fact of my personal experience) people over the years... it's probably my most unpopular (SFF-related) opinion ever, other than that Revenge of the Sith is the worst Star Wars prequel (but I digress).
I've given the whole spiel about why Firefly is problematic (still one of my favorite shows! such a complicated relationship!) on countless panels and during countless one-on-one conversations with fellow geeks, so when one of my Facebook friends commented on my post asking me to explain, my in-a-nutshell response was pretty much locked and loaded.

And so that I'll be able to copy/paste it in the future instead of typing it all out again, here it is on the blog:

The issue with Firefly is that it features Chinese culture -- Chinese clothes, Chinese language, Chinese decor, etc. -- but no Chinese people (there are maybe 3 random extras who appear to be East Asian). And it's no better behind the scenes. So basically they took all the cool Chinese stuff but didn't want any actual Chinese folk on their show.

IF the show had featured Chinese (or at least East Asian) cast members and had a decent number of Chinese (or any kind of Asian) writers and directors behind the scenes, this would not be an issue. But why having any actual Asians in a show about a world that's 50% Asian? *eyeroll*

It would also be less of an issue if Asian Americans were regularly represented in the media. But Asians are severely underrepresented (especially Asian *Americans*), so to take their culture without hiring any of their people in visible roles (I say visible because I don't know who did the visual effects, set dressing, etc) is just a slap in the face. (Also, slightly off topic, media originating from Asia -- martial arts films, anime, etc. -- doesn't count as representation for Asians in *America*)

Et voila!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My NaNoWriMo Fail

It's no secret that I've been struggling to get any writing done these days. Lord knows I've whined about it on this blog (and Twitter) enough times. I've spent the past several months trying to pinpoint a cause... that the day job has made me too busy, that I agreed to too many extracurricular activities, that back-to-back shockers in October and November (one personal, one political... the latter is probably obvious for anyone even tangentially aware of U.S. politics and the former is, well, personal) threw my mind into an anxious/depressed state that left me unable to be productive.

NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month for any novs out there--always exacerbates the awful feeling of being a writer who's not writing, whether due to time conflicts or writer's block. It's tough to see all those inspirational memes floating around social media, plus all your writer friends boasting about banging out thousands and thousands of words per day. Not that there's anything wrong with either--those who are being productive have every right to celebrate. It magnifies one's sense of inadequacy.

Me trying to write
This past November's NaNo was supposed to be a reset of sorts for me. I'd been blocked for ages, but had come up with a plan to get back into the groove. And it worked... for about a week. I got the first half of my NaNo goals done and then just... stopped writing. And I couldn't blame time conflicts this time, since I used the time I'd set aside for writing to binge-watch silly TV shows. My goal wasn't even to write a full novel... it was to write 15,000 words in two projects, for a total of 30,000 words (and I've been known to write 50-70k in a month, so this was a laidback goal for me). But all I got were 15k for the first thing and a page for the other. Yep, a single, lonely PAGE. And though I had plenty of time to turn that page into more, just thinking about writing anything prompted a gut response of "NO." The same kind of silent but visceral response your subconscious gives you when you see a spider or something else you just would not want to touch.

While in this pit of despair, I found this Medium article that included a quote from the great Ursula K. Le Guin: 

“Don’t try to go against the flow, to work when work seems futile. Let it be. Let the block stay uncarved, or the word be unwritten — until it wants to take shape, to speak. What nobody in America teaches any more is how not to act, not to keep busy, how to wait … My guess is, you need to be still while your strength is gathering; and when it has gathered, you will know the direction you need to go — and you’ll go on there.”

Man, that was just what I needed to hear. And after seeing that, I thought back to all that time I spent not writing before launching a career of sorts... how I went from being an avid dreamer in middle/high school, churning out multiple novels that shall never be spoken of again, to not writing a single word for about six years during college and the years framing it. And how, when I did dive back in around summer of 2011, six years' worth of ideas congealed into a book that basically flew out of my head in the span of about two months (it became ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES). 

And I came to realize that, while I could beat the words out of me if I absolutely needed to, knowing that's where my head was at was causing the "NO" reaction.

While I don't plan to stop writing for another six years (especially since I've got deadlines for two things), it was good to remember that not writing, that failing at goals, is all part of the process.

Here's hoping that, when I get my act together again, what comes out will be awesome :-)